Lake Worth Is the Coolest City in South Florida

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That "One Human Family" bumpersticker? The one you see around that's inextricably linked with Key West, that speaks to that city's eccentric, tolerant personality? It might just as well apply to Lake Worth, a similarly quirky, gay-friendly pot of many ethnicities where social/political lines -- if they aren't non-existent -- are at the very least transparent, and their implications argued. Gawd, are they ever argued -- to the point of absurdity (we'll come back to that).

First consider this: Four or five or more nights each week you can hear live music coming from the various and varied venues of the burg, like Propaganda, Speakeasy, or Coastars Coffee Bar. You can stroll or stumble at your leisure, within a ten block area, along sidewalks of unhurried pace, sampling reggae or blues or jazz or hip-hop or an especially tasty indigenous form of freak-folk, gutter punk jive exemplified by bands like Everymen, the Darling Sweets, Bonnie Riot, and Vive le Vox. Music. Lake Worth knows its music.

See also: Ten Best Places to Drink in Palm Beach County

Then consider these: the annual Gay Pride Day Parade, the annual Street Painting Festival, the annual Reggae Festival, the Bamboo Room's Blues Brews and Barbecue Festival. When the Palm Beach County Arts Council looked for a permanent headquarters, where did they go? Ditto COMPASS, the county's foremost gay rights advocacy, education and community center. And when Earth First! Journal, the radical environmental publication, needed new digs, they came all the way from Tucson. In short: arts, music, peace and love. (The dream of the sixties is alive in ElDub?)

Video by Jason Hanley

Chamber of Commerce types throughout Palm Beach County have long laid the rap that Lake Worth never gets anything done, that city government is a terminal clusterfuck where businesses don't get respect from the obstinately retrograde natives. What about capital "P" progress, they cry?

Screw that. ElDub's stubborn skepticism about developers and assorted other real estate interests has been its salvation, the only thing that's kept it from joining the high-rise parade and get-rich-quick delusions that pave so much of South Florida's landscape. Okay, that may be bad news for those whose homes are about speculation, who dream of the next real estate bubble and retiring in luxury. (Like that's worked out so well anywhere.) But for us reg'lar folks, and especially students and artists and bohemian types (you know, interesting people) it's a godsend. Property values aint the same as human values.

And for all the city's governmental difficulties and screwups, they've still got a municipal beach with fine new casino and amenities, and, most impressive of all, city-owned power and water. When the day comes, El Dub can declare independence, with electricity and good drinking water to survive on.

What's the competition, anyway? West Palm Beach (all props to NoRo notwithstanding), crucified between not-quite-a-city and an afterthought? Boca Raton, a parody of itself? Boynton Beach, where no there is? Delray Beach, a trophy wife's playpen? The bland prosperity of Palm Beach Gardens? Palm Beach itself, with its grotesque and banal self-indulgence? Feh.

Yes, Lake Worth has its shabby, immigrant quarters, and the alcohol intersection at the very heart of downtown can be a depressing display of mullet-headed idiocy on a Saturday night. But on the first point: Dude, poor people have to live somewhere. Unless you've got a cure for common poverty. And on the second: This is America. Deal with it.

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.

Photos of the Invisible Horde at Unit1 in Lake Worth

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