So St. Petersburg has three finalists for the fabulous redoing of its iconic Pier, the current inverted pyramid version apparently now as old school as a geezer in tube socks and sandals.
Each proposal turns out to be a conversation starter in its own right, from the rolling-over silver Wave to the sweeping, looping Lens to the retro spaceship thing called the Eye.
About that Eye.
Maybe, like me, you choked on your morning muffin when you saw it, assuming you are willing to admit to even a passing familiarity with the strip clubs that have made St. Pete's sister city of Tampa infamous. How infamous? Once a group of NFL writers from around the country was on a conference call after one of Tampa's best-known clubs was damaged by fire. Naturally, they held a moment of silence.
You know it if you've seen it: On busy Dale Mabry Highway, conveniently close to Raymond James Stadium, stands another iconic building, one that could be the Eye's little brother gone bad.
The 2001 Odyssey "nude adult club" boasts a similarly eye-catching and kitschy spaceship look, though it does not offer a pleasing open-air pavilion or picturesque preserve for fishing and kayaking as are proposed for the Pier. Then again, the Pier probably won't have Sports Fan Sundays, with a free dance when your team scores.
I guess no one thought to take those architect types around to see our ugliest buildings to avoid accidentally imitating them in their Pier proposals. Given the local landscape, it would probably take too long.
And isn't that just like Tampa? St. Pete tries something arty and innovative, and Tampa trumps it with tacky. As my mother would have said: This is why we can't have anything nice.
I asked St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster about all this. Well, yes, he said, he knows of the 2001 Odyssey from years of driving past it to see the Bucs play.
He sounded diplomatic, politic and — was he laughing a little? "It comes as a complete shock that anyone would equate art with the little flying saucer. It would be an affront to equate (the Eye) to a long-standing but somewhat subject business along Dale Mabry. Subject? Suspect? I don't even know how to define it." (This happens sometimes when you get elected officials talking about the kind of places where dances take place upon people's laps.)
Speaking of which: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who earlier in his career pushed for rules to keep dancers a certain distance from customers and has since learned to poke fun at himself for it, said this about a possible Odyssey-like pier: "As long as they stay 6 feet apart in the space ship, I'm happy." Bada bing.
Poking fun is something of a blood sport around here. Tampa mocks a cylinder-shaped downtown high-rise as the Beer Can, or in the alternative, the Cigar Building. A huge and impressive piece of public art by artist George Sugarman will forever be known as the Exploding Chicken.
Already, the Pier proposal called the Wave, described this week by an architecture professor as having "playfulness yet connectedness," has been less flatteringly called the Coach's Whistle. As we speak, someone's thinking about what to call the Lens.
The Eye? Given what goes on in the spaceship across the bay, how about the Hi, Guy? Okay, we'll work on it.