110 West Palm, FL: Conspiracies

When that crowd scattered, I found sitting alone a scrawny, middle-aged man wearing a frayed oxford shirt, jeans, and sandals. His bulging blue eyes took in the morning newspaper from between a close-cropped mustache and wiry gray hair. When I asked his opinion about the town and isolation, he snorted, "no comment," and said, "I've lived here too long. I came down from Canada for health reasons. You want to see behind the facade of the area, you should go over to Peanut Island to see Kennedy's bunker, built during the Cuban missile crisis. You could grab a boat to Nassau and buy a $300 ticket to Cuba. The Cuban sugar barons are now drug lords. They're ruining Haiti and other Caribbean islands, waiting to take over Cuba again. And our government is subsidizing them, like when they established the drug enforcement agency in World War II as a way for DuPont to assure that their artificial materials were bought when hemp could have been used to make better parachutes." He threw up his long bony fingers and groaned. "I know too much. I've been told not to talk about it."

Yet talk he did. "We live in a communist system in the U.S. We have people in charge who have never had a real job in their lives. And they're the third generation to be this way. 'PPNP': 'paycheck, pension, and no performance.' Look at what happened right over there," he cried, and pointed to a bland administrative building on the next block. That's where the ballots were held for the 2000 presidential election."

"After the O.J. trial," he continued, "a student at my daughter's high school was sent home from school, went home and got a gun, and came back and shot the teacher. It's like the trial sent the message that it's OK to do such things. O.J. only got off because he was a celebrity, and our culture worships celebrity. My wife has a theory of 'reflective glory.' People feel like, if they get close to wealth or celebrity, it will somehow rub off on them."

"So with your views, why are you at this chain coffee shop?"

"I have friends who won't go here and can't understand why I do. But it doesn't bother me."

He took a look at my shoes and said, "You look like a walker. Why don't you walk over to City Place? It was meant to revitalize the area. They don't need the revitalization, but there was a lot of money to be made on the deal. A lot of stuff they do the locals don't like." He pointed over his shoulder to a new corporate high-rise sheathed in black glass. "We call that the 'Darth Vader Building.'

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