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Florida of the Day: Carole Baskin’s “Hey, all you cool cats and kittens!” masks

You can now buy masks from Big Cat Rescue (yes, it’s here in Tampa, and yes, I’ve been there) featuring Carole Baskin’s catch phrase, “Hey, all you cool cats and kittens!” online. Sardine oil not included.

Alas, there are still no sexy Tiger King-themed halloween costumes.

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This joke about Tom Brady’s overpriced immune system vitamins is just begging to be told

Tom Brady has been in Tampa only a few weeks, but he hasn’t wasted any time transforming into a Florida Man. First he gets kicked out of a park that was clearly marked closed as a pandemic measure, then he walks into the wrong house with his duffel bags, ready for a training session, and now he’s hawking non FDA-approved vitamins at $45 for a bottle of 60 pills whose ingredients are pretty much the same as Emergen-C.

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Pre-pandemic photos #3: Thirsty Thursday at the new New World Brewery

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Seminole Heights’ seal, which depicts a two-headed alligator“The Thirsty Thursday Throng” is Seminole Heights’ regular weekly gathering at a local bar to conversation, camaraderie, and craft beer. We were regulars at this event, at least until staying at home became the smart play.

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Our usual venue is Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café, but we occasionally shake things up by getting together at some other place in the neighborhood. That was the case the last time we got together in person (Thursday, March 12th), when we decided to gather at New World Brewery’s  new location. They used to be in Ybor City, but had to relocate when the spot they were on got turned into condos. Ybor’s loss is Seminole Heights’ gain, and in the process, they got a nice large space, and it’s a quick Lyft or bike ride away from our place.

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We’re looking forward to getting back together with all the local (ir)regulars, and if you’re in the area once things get closer to what passes for normal, we’d love to see you there!

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Produce Wagon: A new gem in Seminole Heights

Wide-angle photo of the Produce Wagon from its left side, with Fabiola in a lawn chair behind the wagon, a large oak tree and house in the background, and Joey’s light blue bicycle on the right.

Produce Wagon. Photo by Joey deVilla.
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Seminole Heights’ seal, which depicts a two-headed alligator

“Is that new?” I wondered when I first biked past Produce Wagon at the corner of E. Crawford and N. 13th Avenue a couple of weeks ago. The red wooden wagon with the cheerful sign is only a few blocks from our house, and I’d been biking right by it for a few days. Yesterday, I went there when they were open (at that location, they’re open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.).

Wide-angle photo of the Produce Wagon from its right side, with Joey’s light blue bicycle in the foreground, and their whiteboard price list to the right.

Produce Wagon. Photo by Joey deVilla.
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I was greeted warmly by Patti Mars and Fabiola Garcia, the proprietors. I asked them if they’d just started because I hadn’t seem them before (we’ve been in our new house for a year now), and since their wagon and sign looked pretty new. Patti told me that they’d only been running Produce Wagon for a couple of weeks, but that Fabiola comes from a family with three generations’ experience in selling produce.

Closer-up photo of the Produce Wagon, showing its basket of apples, strawberries, eggs, mangoes, oranges, mushrooms, and bananas.

Produce Wagon. Photo by Joey deVilla.
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According to this Patch.com article, Patti and Fabiola had been thinking about opening a produce stand for months, but couldn’t find the right location at the right price. They shelved the idea until they heard an NPR report about how people aren’t eating as much fresh produce because they’ve been going to the grocery less often due to the pandemic. That’s when they decided to resurrect the produce stand idea and provide a way for people in the neighborhood to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Their produce comes from the wholesale markets east of here, which they pick up twice a week, very early in the morning.

I picked up some dinner fixings from them: zucchini, mushrooms, a vidalia onion, and a can of coconut milk. They also have cans of red, green, and Massaman curry paste, which I’ll keep in mind, as the nearest Asian grocery store is a couple of miles away. They’re understandably a little pricier than my usual produce market, Bearss Groves, but they can’t be beat for convenience and the opportunity to get to know another neighbor. I think I’m going to be a regular!

Produce Wagon’s whiteboard price list.

Produce Wagon’s price list. Photo by Joey deVilla.
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Produce Wagon is currently open at these locations and times:

To find out where they’ll be and what they’re selling, check out their Facebook page.

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At the Sulphur Springs River Tower Festival, Tampa felt like Toronto

The warmly-dressed guitarists and bassist from 'Have Gun Will Travel' playing onstage at River Tower Concert in evening.
Seminole Heights’ seal, which depicts a two-headed alligator

Take a look at this scene from an outdoor concert that took place Saturday night, and note what the musicians from the alt-folk-roots-rock band Have Gun Will Travel are wearing. From left to right, one guitarist is wearing a leather jacket and hoodie, the other guitarist is wearing a jean jacket, and the bassist is wearing a flannel shirt (a.k.a. “Kenora Dinner Jacket”).

The temperature was about 10° C, which is 50° in Herr Doktor von Fahrenheit’s old-timey system for measuring phlogiston in the atmos-sphere. By Tampa standards, this is downright frigid. By Canadian standards, it’s would be light jacket weather, except for the fact that “It’s a wet cold!”. The humidity for which Florida is known, combined with that evening’s breeze, made it feel considerably chillier, even for me.

Here’s another photo of the concert from farther back.

'Have Gun Will Travel' playing onstage at River Tower Concert in evening.

What also added to the “Toronto in the fall” feeling included:

  • Everyone in the audience bundled up in different ways: winter coats, flannel, blankets, and those baja hoodie things that people used to call “drug rugs”,
  • a conversation with Chris, a local who’d just come from a hockey game and who was still wearing his hockey jersey and describing Tampa Bay Lightning’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets, and
  • the park’s complete lack of palm trees or other sub-tropical flora. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was at Sandbanks Provincial Park in Ontario, and nowhere near Florida.

The event was a concert for the Sulphur Springs River Tower Festival, whose goal was to raise funds to help restore this structure:

Sulphur Springs River Tower rising over the trees at night.

It’s the Sulphur Springs Water Tower, located in Sulphur Springs, a historic district of Tampa that’s just north of my neighborhood, Seminole Heights.

Here’s a drone’s-eye view of the tower:

Back in the 1920s, Sulphur Springs was seven miles north of what was considered to the city of Tampa, and it was an amusement park. People traveled there by trolley to enjoy the spring and pool, do some canoeing on the Hillsborough River, and see the alligator farm “with thousands of live alligators on display.” It was the subject of many a postcard:

The tower was built in 1927 to supply water pressure to the nearby Sulphur Springs Hotel and Apartments (pictured below)…

…as well as Florida’s first shopping mall, Mave’s Arcade:

In 1933, a break in the Hillsborough River dam caused a flood that destroyed the arcade. The park later became home to the Tower Drive-In Theater from 1952 to 1985, when the city condemned the site. Abandoned, the tower fell into disrepair and became a graffiti target. The city purchased the tower in 2005, installed lights to illuminate the tower, and since then have done nothing.

Sulphur Springs Tower is a Tampa icon and landmark. I navigate by it whenever I drive down I-275 or bike around the neighborhood. You might think it’s an imitation of San Francisco’s Coit Tower, but it predates Coit, which was in 1933, a good six years and one stock market crash later. It’s been 30 years since the Tower’s been given any love, and it’s long overdue for some.

Here are some news items about the tower and the festival:

My thanks to Tom Leber for the tickets! I’d also be happy to throw a couple of bucks towards restoring the tower.

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Funemployment Diary, Entry #7: Gulfport

The Great Summer Vacation continues!

Yesterday, Anitra and I headed to Gulfport for some walking around. Before that, thought, we went to nearby South Pasadena, where our dinner destination was Ted Peters, an open-air place that specializes in smoked fish.

They smoke their own fish on the premises, of which there are four different varieties: mullet, mackerel, mahi mahi and salmon.

I had the mahi mahi dinner, pictured above. In addition to a very generous serving of fish, the dinners come with German-style potato salad (complete with chunks of bacon), coleslaw, slices of tomato and sweet onion, a pickle spear, a wedge of lemon and two kinds of horseradish sauce: plain and with pickapepper.

With dinner done, we made our way to Gulfport’s Beach Boulevard:

Beach Boulevard is a Floridian counterpart to Toronto’s Kensington Market: home to a lot of artists, with many houses painted in offbeat colours and housing businesses. Unlike Kensington, it’s close to the water and populated with a lot of retirees.

We decided to get a closer look at the Art Village Courtyard:

Massage, tea and an art studio — none of these would be out of place in Kensington Market:

Although it’s not evident in these photos, Florida gets a lot of sunshine, so a lot of houses here are brightly-coloured. However, in Gulfport, they take it to a whole new level:

Here’s one of the local art shops:

Here’s a clothing store:

And here’s a realtor’s office:

I love these “There’s Something About Mary” apartments that are pretty common round these parts:

Here’s my favourite sign on one of the local eateries:

We went out for a quick look on the pier before the storm came in:

Tanned, fit and rested, that’s me:

On the way back to shore, a couple of great blue herons decided to take a perch on the railing. They’re probably used to getting scraps from people fishing off the pier, because they showed no skittishness around humans. I was able to get some great up-close-and-personal shots of these birds as a result:

We could see the clouds coming in, so we made a dash back to the car, ending our visit to Gulfport. I’d like to see what this place looks like when it’s sunny!

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Funemployment Diary, Entry #6: What I’ve Been Up To

Among other things, Anitra and I took a tour of the WWII merchant marine ship SS American Victory

…went for a walk around Lake Ellen…

…cooked out by the pool…

…ate some good food…

…went out on the town…

…and caught Neil Diamond in concert:

So far, a very nice visit.