Lou De Stout would rather be funny.
After all, he’s the Bard of North Dixie Highway, the guy who comes up with all those funny messages you see on the sign outside of Harry’s Banana Farm, one of Lake Worth’s venerable watering holes.
“Cremation, the only time you’ll have a smokin’ hot body.”
Coming up with messages like that is Lou’s gift. But he has taken a serious turn this week, a turn he intends to maintain for several months.
“I don’t want people to forget,” Lou says.
Those kids who were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February are still on Lou’s mind and they’re crowding out the mirth.
“I got a kid in high school too, and I send him out with a backpack every morning,” Lou, 64, says.
So the man who crafted such bar sign gems as “If masturbation is Satan’s typewriter, I’m a damn novelist,” and on the day after medicinal marijuana passed, “It’s a miracle, I woke up this morning with glaucoma” is for the first time not looking for a laugh from the passing traffic on Dixie Highway.
Lou participated in one of the local “March for Our Lives” events last month, and afterward he began to worry that one of the key messages of that march — the call for a ban on assault weapons — would just grow faint over time.
“School will get out and soon it’s going to be summer, and we’ll all be talking about the cone of death from the hurricanes and how much the Marlins stink,” Lou says. “So I decided, I want to use my sign to honor those kids and teachers who died in Parkland and keep the awareness of them until the elections in November.”
So Tuesday morning, Lou climbed the ladder outside the bar, and moved around the detachable black letters to spell the first of 17 messages that would greet northbound drivers on Dixie Highway in Lake Worth from now until the midterm elections.
“Alyssa Alhadeff — 14 Honor her life, ban assault weapons”
He’s going in alphabetical order. One Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victim at a time. Each name up there for two weeks. Then the next.
“I’m hoping it won’t make what happened fade away,” Lou says.
It will be bracing at first for drivers to see something that somber on Harry’s bar sign.
After all, last week, when Melania Trump was spending time at Mar-a-Lago without her husband, Lou put up the following message on the sign: “Hey Melania: Don Juan’s out of town. Wanna pet my Easter bunny?”
I ask Lou how he will be able to stay so serious until November.
“We can’t be serious 100 percent of the time,” he says. “I still have the other side of the sign to put up stupid s**t.”
So if you want somber reflection as you pass Harry’s Banana Farm, you need to be driving northbound on Dixie Highway.
If you’re looking for a laugh, Lou still has you covered until November, as long as you’re driving south.
After putting up the first Parkland message on Tuesday, Lou moves his ladder to the other side of the sign and puts up the kind of message you’d expect to see outside Harry’s.
“Retirement, it’s like high school but your parents r never home.”
Lou is philosophical about his double-sided messages.
“I want to do something,” he explains, “but I don’t want to totally lose my sense of humor.”