I made my first picture-taking visit to downtown Clearwater since 2002 this afternoon. You can read my previous narrative from then at <http://groups-beta.google.com/group/alt.religion.scientology/msg/fe11934561e4c177?dmode=source>.
The pictures from 2002 are now at <http://www.sanctuaryweb.org/gallery/200210_Clearwater>, and you can see my 2004 pictures at <http://www.sanctuaryweb.org/gallery/20041218_Clearwater>.
A great deal has happened since my last picture-taking trip in 2002. The Lisa McPherson court circus was settled by Scientology before going to trial in Pinellas County and much of the related bad press has long since died down, and the Scientology movement has gone back to its apparent attempts to "clear the planet" and fleece adherents of millions of dollars in the process.
The "Super Power" building remains unfinished and unoccupied, in almost the identical state as it was during my last visit several months ago (when I was just passing through and did not take any pictures). Even the construction warning signs are faded from years of exposure and some are barely readable.
Gas Light Alley, where Lisa McPherson's "memorial brick" is placed, has been allowed to deteriorate into a sad state. Broken benches line the walkway, and Lisa's brick has been defaced beyond repair, to the point that her name is no longer visible on the brick (the brick is located under a bench where apparently Scientologists have been grinding their used cigarettes into it to the point that Lisa's name has been gouged out of the brick by the ashes). It is the only brick in this condition through the entire walk, and the defacement occurred sometime in the several months since my previous visit. I took two pictures to show the defacement, spent a moment to again pay my respects a life so tragically lost, and moved on. The security camera that I photographed in 2002 has been gone for a while (it was gone at my last visit several months ago).
There are new street signs in downtown and some directional signs to help find various city buildings such as City Hall, the library, etc. (none of them list Scientology buildings). These are also new since my last visit and at least add a little character to the area.
Many businesses are gone since my last visit several months ago. I would estimate that about sixty to seventy percent of the buildings in downtown that are not Scientology-owned are vacant with "For Rent" signs in their windows. The former site of the Lisa McPherson Trust, 33 N. Ft. Harrison, remains vacant. It has not been occupied since the Trust disbanded a few years back. The two churches (Calvary Baptist and Peace Memorial) are still there, but I believe that Calvary is in the process of building a new facility outside downtown where they will eventually relocate.
Overall, downtown Clearwater reminds me of a ghost town. The only activity (besides Scientologists walking or being bussed from one building to another) are cars and motorcycles going to and from the beaches. Even the Starbucks wasn't very busy. This seemed eerie for such a beautiful early Saturday evening.
One thing conspicuously missing from downtown are the outdoor newspaper bins with free copies of Flag's local "Freedom" publication. On my last visits, they were placed nearly on every other block. Now, all but one are gone; the one that remains is an empty one several blocks to the east of downtown, where I saw a man scrubbing down a couple of Flag busses in the parking lot of what looks like a Scientology-owned motel.
Along the wall of the vehicle entrance to the Ft. Harrison were banners announcing a New Year's Eve event at the hotel auditorium. "NEW YEAR'S 2005 ... ALL FORCES ALIGNED FOR A CLEAR EARTH ... We are about to launch into the most spectacular year yet in our planetary clearing crusade. You must be here!"
Apparently someone was paying attention and watching, because there were a few places, particularly around the hotel, where earpiece-wearing guys in white collar and tie "just happened" to show up on the other side of the gates just as I would walk past them. A couple of them looked like they could be body doubles for David Miscaviage (scary!).
As I was getting back to my scooter and getting my cold-weather gear on, a conversation started on the sidewalk behind me between a guy wearing a "Flag" letterman-style jacket and a Scientologist woman. He was now working under so-and-so in "Division Six"(?) planning events, and he enjoyed his job because the person he was working with was "*so* theta" (or was that "beta"?) along with other phrases and Scientology jargon that the average individual would have a hard time comprehending. Once the conversation was over he jogged off toward the back of the building I parked next to on Ft. Harrison Blvd about a block or two north of the big hotel/Super Power building.