The random "urban planning" that he had lamented was apparent on my walk to the mall. Old department stores had been carved into cigar shops and investment advisors. A former gas station now housed a divorce lawyer's offices.
City Place Mall's plaza was surrounded by pastel storefronts framed by beige stucco columns inset with cobalt blue tiles. A hot dog cart's onion reek dissipated in the cool salty breeze coming off of the ocean. What was once a church on the corner of the lot was now the Harriet Himmel Gilman Theater, in a literalization of Hopper's (and my) belief in art as religion.
The plaza's fountain was labeled, "interactive," but I got the impression I would be arrested if I came anywhere near it. Sitting on benches by it were two teenage boys who had been sent here from an art class at a nearby school to draw the people milling in the plaza. One boy beginning to get thick black hairs on the side of his pasty face beneath a Tampa Bay Buccaneers cap. His lanky body had a bit of extra muscle, suiting him to be a tight end if he played football for the Bucs.
To my question about West Palm Beach's isolation, he quickly shook his head, and said, "Nah, nah, not at all. People here are pretty close."
"It depends where you go," his smaller Hispanic friend chimed in. His birdlike blink belied a quick mind.
"Yeah, it depends where you go," the first one agreed. "It's real busy downtown but not where I live. Most of the people who live in the neighborhood where I live go downtown to work."
"No, West Palm Beach. Miami is a little too far away."