After Irma, look for sign at Lake Worth dive bar for normalcy’s return

Here’s a sign that things are getting back to normal.

“I’m getting a truck today to put up our sign again,” Lou Destout told me Thursday morning.

Destout runs Harry’s Banana Farm, Lake Worth’s oldest bar.

Destout is the unofficial bard of North Dixie Highway, and for decades the sign outside Harry’s has risen on a pole high above the passing traffic as a kind of barometer of the area’s mental health.

Last week, the message on the sign read: “Live Saturday night ‘Irma and the Twisters’ they’ll blow you away.”

And to the casual observer, it looked like Irma did just that.

Only the rectangular frame of the sign remained this week, leaving nothing but daylight where the white board with black removable letters should be.

A message-less Harry’s Banana Farm is a disturbing thought.

“Did the wind take down your sign?” I asked Destout on Thursday.

“No, I took it down myself before the storm,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose it again.”

Two years ago, Destout nearly lost his beloved sign when a liquor delivery truck hit the pole, destroying the message on one of its sides.

“Wanted: Sign repairman,” Destout put on the sign’s remaining side.

Whatever’s going on in the news, Harry’s sign has some wiseacre response.

When charities withdrew their events at Mar-a-Lago recently, Harry’s was quick to pounce.

“We are hosting all cancelled Mar-a-Lago events” the bar’s sign said.

Other highlights include, “We don’t care which bathroom you use, just wipe your hands” and “Obama tapped our phone, found no intelligence.”

Destout looks at the sign as a kind of public service the bar does for the passing traffic, and when he’s in the mood, he’ll put up multiple messages, one of the northbound traffic and another for the southbound drivers.

“More people read this sign than your stupid blog,” the sign once proclaimed.

So it’s reassuring to know that the sign survived Hurricane Irma.

Destout got a box truck to park under the sign on Thursday afternoon. And while his son stood on the top of it to reinsert the panels, Destout pondered what sort of message to send out after the storm.

“I usually think of something when I’m going up to change it,” he said.

You can forgive Destout for being distracted. He has had more than wordsmithing on his mind since Irma knocked out the bar’s power on Sunday.

A generator was able to power the ceiling fans and enough bulbs create what Destout called “mood lighting.” But without a working walk-in cooler and an ice machine, he had to drive every morning to be first in line at Boynton Beach Ice to load up as much business-saving ice he could fit in his Jeep.

“We busted up blocks of ice with a hammer,” he said.

Inside the bar, the temperatures would hover in the high 80s, but the ice would make the beer cold.

“As long as you have cold beer and camaraderie, you’re OK,” he said. “And if you have good air flow, it’s livable.”

So Harry’s Banana Farm, all in all, had a pretty good week after the storm.

“The only thing that hurt us were the curfews,” Destout said. “The bar was packed every night and we had to kick people out.”

At about 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the electrical power was restored to the bar. And Thursday would be the first night without a curfew. Things were getting back to full swing.

All that was needed now was to restore the sign.

Thursday afternoon, Destout settled on his new message. Actually two messages.

He couldn’t decide between a vote of thanks to his loyal patrons during the storm, and another chance to pick on one of his favorite targets, the much maligned Lake Worth Utilities.

So he did both. Northbound drivers got “To our loyal patrons — body odor never smelt so good” while the southbound side got “We’re drinking to Lake Worth Utilities. It’s our last reason.”

Yes, this is as good a sign as any that we’re putting the storm behind us.

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