When Joe and I were looking to make the move to St. Petersburg in Florida a couple of months ago, we fell in love with our little cottage for many reasons. A big one for me was that it was within walking distance of the pier. I've haunted it ever since.
Occasionally I'll be running errands and will suddenly find myself heading that way, not stopping until I'm at the water's edge, salty sea breeze whipping my hair into a frenzy. I will sit in the sun and watch the magician's show while eating an ice cream, or pay five dollars to feed the injured pelicans who flock to the pier for safe keeping. The superstitious, gypsy blood running through my veins almost always prompts me to ask Zoltar the Fortune Teller what my luck will be like that week. In a great, booming voice and with much pantomime, he recently imparted his supernatural (ahem, mechanical) knowledge to tell me that I must laugh my way through several upcoming trials. Fortunately, the pier magician chose that very moment to present me with an angry looking balloon lobster, which did indeed make me chuckle.
It's a childlike, magical place. Where elderly couples hold hands and vacationers snap photos to keep in boxes of mementos, perhaps alongside a string of seaweed and their very own fortunes from Zoltar.
Alas, in May the pier will be torn down and replaced with something called The Lens. It's a modern, minimalistic structure that has provoked mixed feelings among the residents of St. Pete. At the end of its lengthy construction, gone will be the fish bait and pelican man, whose family has been caring for injured seabirds in that very spot since the 1920s. Gone will be the quintessential, seaside shops - full of sunhats, glass-blown artwork and oddities that really only have a place on a time-honoured pier. Gone too will be the magician who can make children roar with laughter with a single raised eyebrow atop his wobbly unicycle. Gone will be the best mint chocolate chip ice cream I ever had.
I imagine I'll haunt the pier until then; breathing in the lives of all who have worked and played there. I hope that, in years to come, people will feel as passionately about The Lens as I do the old St. Pete Pier. Who knows? Perhaps Zoltar is the one to ask.