MARY READY: A remnant left in Destin holds out hope

Mary Ready, Ready or Not
Mary Ready maintains that Clement Taylor Park is one of the remnants that keeps Destin special despite overdevelopment.

Admitted. I’ve been very negative lately, especially when I’m discussing what city leaders and developers have done to my town. Thinking about it is enough to make me swallow a cocktail of Prozac and Welbutrin at highest legal dosage with a couple of Zanax thrown in for anxiety. But, like Shirley McClain said in “Steel Magnolias,” “I ain’t crazy. I’ve just been in a very bad mood for forty years.”

When you’re mad all the time, you forget the good stuff that’s still out there. And even if the mayor and city council succeed in turning Destin into little Las Vegas, I trust the Providential promise: “Except the Lord of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom and … Gomorrah.”

OK, Bible scholars, I quoted that out of context, but I like the message.

Destin possesses a remnant of beauty, kindness, and hospitality to inspire hope even for the saddest soul. It’s seen in our natural surroundings, friendly citizens, and family owned businesses. That’s our vestige of consolation.

Locally, the public beaches are still white and lovely. And under a full moon, a romantic stroll on the glistening sands is still relatively safe and free of charge. Driving east over the bridge into town reveals Destin’s breathtaking emerald waters even if you have to look quick before the harbor is blotted out by development.

An awesome summer rainbow occasionally appears at the same vantage point. Clement Taylor Park (when deputies can keep the whackos out) is pretty, serene, and family friendly. It’s also a terrific place to get baptized.

The little park on Beach near Bayou Drive is a quiet and pleasant spot to just sit and think. Our Community Center, fishing museum, and library have some of the friendliest staff you’d ever hope to meet. Not a grump in the bunch. And they can tell you a lot about the OLD and the NEW of our city.

I love the duck pond on Kelly Street where mamas and daddies watch their children feed breadcrumbs to the ducks. And nearby is faithful Ms. Alice in her orange gloves keeping the children safe from traffic at the elementary school.

Yes, we have the big chain retail stores and restaurants, but we still have quirky old Banana Bart’s, overlooking the harbor and built in the 1930’s. My favorite places to eat include locally owned or long-standing Destin traditions like The Donut Hole, Dewey Destin’s, Callahan’s, La Famiglia, Captain Dave’s, Harbor Docks, Lighthouse, Pompano Joe’s, Pepito’s, Louisiana Lagniappe, and Another Broken Egg.

Sexton’s Seafood Market has served the community for more than 30 years. Ace Hardware on Main Street has also been here a long time. It’s a place where employees call you by name, put your purchase on account, and ask about your family. When a beloved Destin resident dies, there’s a tribute to him or her on their sign outside.

For good conversation and great hair, nobody beats long-time businesses like Dawn and Company. La Donna’s, and The Shores Salon. If it’s beautiful flowers and friendly service, Pavlic’s Florist has been in business since 1970. My dogs, Bogie and Cheewee, highly recommend Airport Vet, but several of their furry friends like Village and Barry veterinary clinics. All three have been caring for Destin’s pets for years.

Local charter boat captains still provide visiting anglers a good day’s fishing and will go out of their way to bring back a catch. The Southern Star offers dolphin and sunset cruises that showcase Destin’s natural beauty.

I like the Dollar General just down from the post office. Miss Ida, who’s been there for years, is a dear, funny lady who loves to chat. When my first J-1 students went there several years ago (2005), she saw how hot, tired, and bedraggled they looked. Bidding them a cheery, “Welcome to America,” she bought them a cold bottle of water. Now successful Destin citizens, Nicoleta and Amalia still shop that dollar store because of the kindness they received there.

We have friendly local churches that care for hurting people. They look after our community and support each other’s ministries. Last Easter season’s Crosswalk and the J-1 outreach were testimony to that sweet spirit.

If I’ve left out your favorite remnant of beauty, kindness, or hospitality, I apologize. Let me know, and I’ll mention them in a future column.

My drama queen persona and my love for sentimental poetry make me think of lines by Wordsworth: “Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”

Since much good remains behind in our city, maybe we can find the strength to stand against the insanity that may someday destroy our little remnants.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.