Tampa

An evening adventure

There were two things I was unaware of when I left the hotel to fin dinner at 6pm: The first was that there was a TB Lightning game at 7pm so in addition to being a Saturday, downtown restaurants were filled with hockey fans (of both teams) looking for a pre-game meal. The second is that was a HUGE event being held in the park across the street from the arena, so I couldn’t use the Riverwalk to bypass the increased pedestrian traffic caused by people trying to get food or into the arena for the game.

I did know that it was a Saturday, and thus my chances of getting into ANYTHING that late without a reservation would be darn near impossible. However, I also knew I was hungry and eating at the hotel restaurant was also not an option (see previous post), but there was a third saving grace to this evening – FREE streetcar service on the TECO line (a line I have ample opinions about).

Still with me? Good, because all the “exposition stuff” is out of the way, I can say I walked all the way from the Embassy Suites to past The Florida Aquarium without finding a decent eatery without a horrendous wait so I got on the streetcar and took it to what I thought was Ybor City… it wasn’t.

“Centro Ybor” is the THIRD stop on the northeastern leg of the route – I mistakenly got off at the first, which is slightly further than their maps make it look. Of course, all the sports bars were filled because they were hosting “watch parties” for the game so my choices were Jimmy John’s, 7-11… or a slightly hidden pizza place behind the main mall with maybe four or five other customers in it.

Touchdo… I mean “goal” – particularly since their NY-style pizza came to $3.50 meaning I get two quarters back for Sunday’s non-free streetcar service (and/or Lynx service later that night). When I returned to the Ybor City station, it was already 7pm. The game had started so the trolley system was considerably quieter so, as not to waste a free night, I got off at Channelside where the tailgating or whatever was going in that parking across from the arena was still going on, now they were listing donors, sponsors and “team captains” (that’s how I figured out it wasn’t a Lightning event, they could pronounce the names on their index cards). The reason I got off there was to get ice cream which didn’t disappoint, but I got back to the streetcar station exactly as it was pulling out.

Screw this, it’s only a two block walk back to the hotel.

It was three, and it felt like every foot of it with the surprisingly cool Gulf winds. Also, it was super bright or pitch black depending on where the arena was to me. The brighter areas had people either arriving late (more than I would expect considering they were already a half-hour into the game at this point) or looking for tickets (I actually thought the large guy standing outside the doors was asking to see my nonexistent tickets for security reasons) while the dark side (the backside of the garage) had scalpers, panhandlers and other shady looking characters.

The point is, I made it back unharmed… exactly as the next streetcar pulled into Dick Greco station. Because, of course, it did…

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Categories: adventures, Channelside\Downtown, florida, Tampa | Leave a comment

How to ruin your own meal

So I had just returned from the zoo and was reorganizing the pictures I uploaded from my phone (for some reason, FB overrided the album I uploaded them to and said “nah, he doesn’t want to upload the to the album he created especially to upload them to. No, what he REALLY wants them put in ‘Mobile Uploads’ because #fuckhim

After getting that squared away, I began planning out yesterday’s post. I had a blank document with no headline… and a rumbly stomach so I went downstairs to the frigid cold lobby (#becauseFlorida) and decided to have a quick meal in the hotel restaurant.

I was seated straight away despite it’s small size and slightly bigger crowd than I was expecting this early – even for a Friday (I was unaware it was also a game night so we got a lot of customers come in wearing “Bolt Blue,” and, of course, they got far better service than I did). My waiter took my drink order right away, and came back about ten minutes with my water, and then took my order. I asked him about various things on the menu, and then ordered a plate of wings and a plain cheeseburger. Pretty straightforward, right? Of course not.

After waiting 20 minutes for my appetizers, my waiter brings them out. They have zero taste, but I’m hungry. He comes back and takes them 10 minutes later and asks if I want any “coffee or dessert.”

“How about the burger I ordered?”

“You didn’t order any ‘burger.’ So, bring the check out then?”

“Damnit, why do I keep forgetting I’m stooped? But appearently, I decided – without my knowledge to cancel my order while I was making it. My God, that is REALLY stupid on my part, but that’s just how us stooped people roll.”

“I asked you if you wanted the wings AND the burger, and you said ‘no’ (so buying an appetizer negates the rest of my order?) Therefore, if you want the burger you thought you ordered, you have to actually order it.”

If he simply forgot to put it in, that would be one thing; but not putting it in and saying it’s somehow MY fault makes me more mad. Twenty minutes later he brings it out exactly as I hadn’t ordered and runs off. Obviously, I’m not eating here again.

I’d was going to go out and do something fun tonight, but, frankly, I’ve lost my appetite…

Categories: Autism, Channelside\Downtown, florida, Tampa | 1 Comment

Photos: Ybor City School

Categories: adventures, Channelside\Downtown, florida, Tampa | Leave a comment

Trolley songs

I’m not sure whose idea it was, but for some ridiculous reason (likely financial), the Tampa Electric Company Streetcars only offer afternoon and evening service on weekdays/Sundays. If they want to appeal to “commuters” (which is already laughable given it’s only 2.7 miles long and barely serves the downtown core), they NEED morning service. Let’s not forget visitors (like me); sure, the TECO serves mainly hotels/tourist attractions, but we need to get around too.

For instance, I came to Tampa to participate in the Florida Public Archaeology Lab in Ybor City (the city’s historically Cuban district, and last stop on the streetcar line) at 10am. So, I dutifully got up at 8am, showered, got dressed, had a quick breakfast and was out the lobby door by 9:30am. I specifically chose this hotel because the lobby opened directly onto Dick Greco Plaza (the penultimate stop on the extremely short system).

I waited along with a half-dozen other people most of whom stood around for 10 minutes, got impatient and left – and after 25 minutes (after it became apparent that there was no way I was getting to Ybor City for 10am), I was reluctantly forced to find alternate transportation.

Though none of the five cab drivers lined up outside the hotel was all that keen on taking me on such a short trip, I get one to grudgingly admit that, yes, he “knew where Ybor City was.” It didn’t make him happy about it, but he did agree to take me there (thankfully, I could take the trolley back if need be).

I won’t bore you with the historical information they never gave me, but it was the site of one of the city’s first public schools which was apparently torn down in 1905 and eventually rebuilt as a distillery (which is currently used as a commercial property of some sort). They didn’t really give me a lot of details.

My job was to clean and bag increasingly smaller pieces of window glass, broken bottles and rusted nails. Exciting, I know, but one of the girls next to me (did I mention only six people showed up to this event – SIX) found an old Pepsi bottle (with writing on it), a penny from 1934 (plus another from 1973), a button and some old slate fragments (likely from the school roof).

We got a slight break around 11am as three different sets of 3rd graders ran through the small museum and quickly found where we were working so one of the organizers gave a spiel about how “the museum and the garden we’re standing in were once townhouses for Cuban immigrants who worked in the nearby cigar factories.” She made no mention of archaeology or what we were doing (processing artifacts), but she did explain the site history to a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times who dutifully took our names, ages and hometowns as well as snapping several photos before leaving as quickly as he arrived (once the story is posted to their website, I’ll provide a link to it below).

Shortly after the reporter and third wave of students came through, my table reached the bottom of our bag (the group behind us finished a few minutes earlier), so our facilitator pulled out two bags of larger artifacts and had us wash/clean them.

This second bag took all of 10 – maybe 15 – minutes to get through at which point, she asked us to return our siphons (which we used to keep our artifacts in), brushes and wash out our washing pans. At which point, it was only 11:35am – a full 25 minutes before streetcar service began for the day…

Categories: adventures, Advocacy\volunteer, Channelside\Downtown, florida, Tampa, Ybor Ciy | Leave a comment

Tropical Storm Colin

10:35am – waiting for the weather to get here. I can’t really go anywhere today so I’m staying inside to do laundry (I didn’t plan it that way, honest).

11:55am – Gov. Rick Scott (R) declares a pre-emptive “State of Emergency” for 34 of 67 counties (including Orange).

12:35pm – Finish lunch, nothing is happening outside yet so I take second load out of dryer, strip sheets off bed and throw them into the washer. Not exciting, but I can’t have a 5-hour gap in this post.

-2:15pm – Tropical Storm Warning issued for Charleston, SC, as outer bands arrive in Southwestern\Central Florida flooding reported along Tampa Bay beaches, and I’m… playing some mindless cow clicker on FB.

-4:57pm – It has started. ‪#‎TropicalStormColin Pouring rain for nearly an hour straight now. I’m not worried, I’m sure at least a few of my friends are pulling for me…right?

-5:33pm – Receive an e-mail from apartment management saying to stock batteries\non-perishable food and stay tuned to local TV\radio for news. Also take furniture off patios\balconies which I immediately did (they were wet, but otherwise undamaged).

-6:55pm – Scott reissues “State of Emergency,” mobilizes Florida National Guard. Also, my FB post from 2hrs ago only has 2 “likes.”

-8:16pm– Weather Channel is predicting 3-5 inches of rain for most of Florida. Storm is expected to make landfall near Tallahassee and make its way to Charleston and Cape Hatteras by Tuesday afternoon before heading back to sea.

-9:29pm – Rain seems to have stopped for the moment, but Reuters news service is reporting the Tampa Bay area is reporting widespread power outages, major street flooding and a lot of people dismissing this as “just” a tropical storm.

10:07pm – The rain is back, winds continue as they were. FB post is up to 5 “likes.”

10:37pmSarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting only “sporadic power outages, minor street flooding and some beach erosion.”

11:04pm – Rain sounds like its stopped again. I can’t guarantee any sleep, but I’m probably going to go to bed now.

11:09pm – Go into bedroom to discover my bed is unmade…because my sheets are still in the washer. I’m up for another hour at least.

11:29pm – I’m pretty sure everything is done for the night. The rain is gone and the winds while still gusty sound like they’ve calmed down significantly.

Categories: florida, hurricanes, news, Orlando, Tampa, weather | Leave a comment

Photos: Festive Friday

Note: As I posted on Wednesday, I spent my birthday at Busch Gardens in North Tampa. Here are the rest of my photos (the GOOD ones anyway) from the trip.

 

christmas-town-sign P1010965 P1010969 P1010970P1010998 P1010982 P1010996  P1010961

Categories: adventures, Busch Gardens Tampa, florida, holidays, photography, Tampa | Leave a comment

Photos: Wildlife Wednesday

Note: I posted yesterday that a spent my birthday at Busch Gardens in North Tampa. Here are a few of my favorite shots from my trip. I’ll post the second set of photos from my visit either tomorrow or Friday.

 

Categories: adventures, Busch Gardens Tampa, florida, holidays, photography, Tampa | 1 Comment

Photo: Birthday button

P1020011

Categories: adventures, Busch Gardens Tampa, entertainment, florida, holidays, photography, Tampa | 2 Comments

travels and travails

I asked the woman at the front desk (same one who checked me in on Friday morning) last night to call an airport shuttle for me for this morning. She insisted on a firm time like I was supposed to know ahead of time what kind of traffic to expect (though The Tampa Bay Times reported that there MAY be a downtown-airport Light Rail line in the distant future) or how bad the line at security will be (I’ve waited as long as 2hrs and as short as 15 minutes). When she pressed me, I ended up choosing a conservative number that assumed the worst of both numbers – 9am for an 11:40am flight.

When I came down this morning at 8:45am, the first thing I saw was the bright white cab sitting in the sunshine. “That’s YOUR cab,” the desk agent said as if I couldn’t see it.

“Wow, I wasn’t expecting it to be here” [as I was 15 minutes AHEAD of schedule].

“ARE YOU CALLING ME ‘INCOMPETENT?!’ YOU gave me a job – ‘call a cab for 9am’ – and I DID IT, and I am VERY good at my job.”

“I did NOT say you were ‘incompetent.”

“You didn’t NEED to – you IMPLIED it. It’s the same thing. Take the receipt – it’s YOURS, and your cab is STILL waiting.”

Traffic was heavy, but I still managed to get to the airport I approximately 15 minutes. The driver wasn’t all that talkative during the trip which is just as well since I’m pretty sure he understood me as well as I understood his heavy South Asian accent.

He pulled up to the U.S Airways curb, bolted out of his seat and around to open the door for me immediately putting his hand in my face. I don’t even know how much I’m supposed to give him yet and he’s already clapping the tips of his fingers against his palm.

“Youuu forgiiit my TEEP,” he said literally blocking the door with his body.

“All I have is $5.”

“AAAEEEIII Tay-git!,” he said snatching it from my hand.

Whatever, I don’t have time to argue with him, I go inside with my empty wallet and find a SunTrust ATM next to the Ron Jon Surf Shop. I put my card in their machine and read the display…

“$2.95? That’s highway robbery!”

It didn’t matter; I wanted to find someplace that had breakfast. There was a Burger King next to the shuttle to “Terminal F” so I went in there. They didn’t have the McCafe coffee I wanted (though the cashier assumed I was talking about Starbucks’ Frappuccino) so I bought a small container of chocolate milk instead.

Security was on the opposite side of the shuttle route, though I found it curious that they had a ticket checkpoint on BOTH sides of the shuttle. Interestingly enough, the line for the TSA screenings was almost non-existent despite it being mid-morning which gave me plenty of time to find a work\charging station which was (conveniently enough) located directly in the center of the waiting area for my gate.

There are two major problems with sitting in the last row of the airplane: Being the last to get on and being the last to get OFF (at least getting on, I can actually move about). Luckily, I was in the 3rd from last row on the second leg of my return trip.

My flight from CLT to BWI was delayed by “inclement weather” that the weather app on my phone said Charlotte wasn’t getting. This also led to severe turbulence on take-off, but once we reached our cruising altitude things smoothed out considerably. The cloud watching for the first half of the trip was absolutely fascinating.

The plane landed in Baltimore at 4:19pm, and it took just over 20 minutes for me to get off the plane. Fortunately, I was entering into Terminal D so it was only a five minute walk to the light rail station.

When I got to said station, the train was already there. I bought a ticket, boarded the train, put my stuff down on the first available spot and then quickly gathered them up again and bolted to the restrooms immediately inside the glass doors.

Naturally, when I came out again, the train was gone.It was a full thirty minute wait for the next one to arrive, but it still beat having to take a damned cab back to Bolton Hill…

Categories: Baltimore, flying, light rail, Tampa, transportation | Leave a comment

A little art goes a long way

I arrived at Tampa Art Museum at noon. I’ll say this for it, for a building that big the museum itself is surprisingly small. In fact, it reminded me of the old Miami Art Museum over at Government Center with its rotating collection of temporary exhibits. TAM split its second floor galleries between two exhibits, but I’m not reviewing either of them (sorry).

After 15 minutes of wandering through their two galleries, I was back downstairs where I decided to try the lunch offered at their café (the one in the hotel, home of the only Starbucks in downtown Tampa, was closed when I left). The food was better than I was expecting it to be, but, more importantly, it was also surprisingly cheap for a venue like this so it’s a double win. J

I left the café around 1pm (it would have been sooner, but the waitress tended to disappear for long swaths of time), and followed the Riverwalk to my next destination…assuming I could the entrance.

I could see the building as it has a large collection of pictures on its side, but the actual entrance to the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts was unmarked…except for a single sign on what looked like the building’s main entrance pointing to an unassuming side door marked only by a doormat with the building’s logo on it.

I wish I could say I was impressed with the museum’s interior. Granted, it’s second floor reception area is bright and airy, but the four main exhibit areas were small and almost felt like dead end hallways rather than actually galleries. Then there are the secondary areas on each floor which the one on the first floor just has ads for past exhibitions leading to the narrow “Member Showcase Gallery” and on the third level it was simply a door blocked off with a sofa.

It took approximately 10 minutes to see the entire museum. After that I went back to the air conditioned room and started packing up my things and writing down my thoughts on the desk next to the air conditioner. A blogger’s job is never done…

Categories: art, florida, museums, photography, Tampa | Leave a comment

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