Tampa

No so happiest place on Earth

This week’s post was going to be a happy column about how this weekend’s reopenings of both Gatorland and LEGOLAND Florida (Winter Haven) and next week’s openings of Universal and the just announced reopenings of SeaWorld Orlando/Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and the Walt Disney World Resort (in phases) meant that live in Central Florida is slowly returning to normal.

Well, it’s not.

The virus remains as dangerous as ever, but so does being a person of color in the United States. Yes, I’ve been the victim of both racial and homophobic discrimination (including assault and property damage) both in Florida and Maryland, but the difference is I’m actually able to type this, George Floyd is not. Neither is Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice or even Freddie Gray.

Sure, I could go into detail about being harassed for doing as little as they did, but having my camera ripped away from me and taunted as it’s broken in front of me is considerably different than being held against the ground with a knee to the throat and dying of asphyxiation as three other officers hold him down. To even compare the two experiences is an insult to the memories of all the victims of needless police violence.

So would equally vapid, ineffective forms of “solidarity” I’ve seen online like changing my profile photo for the day or posting some memes with a viral hashtag. It didn’t heal Paris, and it’s not rebuilding Minneapolis. Such lazy, feel good activism doesn’t do anyone any good.

However, with the massive crowds of people protesting in the street across the country – and around the world – there are now fears of spreading the virus that has kept these same people inside for the past two months, maybe lazy, ineffective means of protest aren’t all bad.

Yes, waving signs in a public place is a perfectly valid form of communication… but so is staying at home and typing from the safety of my sofa. The parks will open whether I’m there to cover them or not…

 

Categories: Advocacy\volunteer, Baltimore, Busch Gardens Tampa, Coronavirus, disney world, editorials, Health, LEGOland Florida, news, Orlando, politics, protests, SeaWorld Orlando, Tampa, Universal Studios, Winter Haven | Leave a comment

Happy International Museum Day

I bet you think this post is about that stupid “stamp rally” in a certain popular video game, but it’s not. As you know, I love going to museums. In fact, I used to review art and science exhibits on a regular basis) as well as zoos and aquariums (I really liked Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, but Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is small and overrated).

What you don’t know is that I used to work for one. I wasn’t a docent. I worked as an intern in the Research Department for the Jay I Kislak Foundation which was in turn creating a new Latin America exhibit for UM’s Lowe Art Museum (part of the organization’s extensive collection was donated to the university permanently upon Mr. Kislak’s death in 2017).

I got a more hands-on approach to artifact handling a year later when I spent the summer working for the university’s discontinued field school in North Port (roughly halfway between Sarasota and Fort Meyers). I was only doing basic “processing” artifacts (washing, sorting and photographing) which, while extremely important in its own right, doesn’t provide any actual “marketable” skills needed to get a contract archaeology job.

I wasn’t upset by this because literally half of the dozen or so participants were on lab duty, but I found it extremely odd that they wouldn’t let me participate in their “Media Day” in the final week. I was a Communications student (Photography and Journalism) for cripes sake!

I now realize this was likely a form of ableism… but at the time it was just “normal” for employers, classmates in group projects (IF they told me about our group sessions at all) and volunteer coordinators to keep me as far “out of sight” as possible (I always thought was just a “fat” thing as this was the University of MIAMI after all).

I have applied to multiple zoos, museums and aquariums since graduation… but none have hired me. I have, however, done two “Archaeology Labs” here in Florida (one in Tampa and the second at UM), have not they led to any more field opportunities? No, and I’ve applied to multiple field schools across the country, but I have either gotten extremely sick at the last minute (2016/2014), hit by a car (2018)… or it was cancelled at the last moment due to either financial (2015/2017) or global pandemic issues (2020).

Maybe someday, I’ll get back to working in a museum again, but as writing this blog has taught me: The more time I spend interacting with people the more abuse I take from them. On the plus side, at least, Blathers doesn’t charge for admission…

 

Categories: Ablism, Advocacy\volunteer, Autism, Chicago, Coral Gables, entertainment, florida, Health, holidays, Illinois, Miami Gardens, museums, South Florida, Tampa, University of Miami | Leave a comment

Photo: Somber statistics

Categories: Coronavirus, florida, Health, Kissimmee, news, North Florida, Orlando, Sanford, South Florida, Tampa, Winter Haven | Leave a comment

Live blog: Michael in Central Florida (3)

9:32am – Woken up by an automated call from my doctor’s office. At least, it isn’t “Rachel from Cardholder Services.”

10am – Tropical Storm/Surge Watches are now in effect for Coastal North Carolina… but have been lifted for the Alabama/Mississippi border region.

11:20am – A still graphic from TWC shows Tampa Bay is out of immediate danger, though strong outlying bands are still expected throughout the day into Thursday.

11:57am – However, NWC office in Tampa says that while most of Central Florida will be “uneffected” by Michael, Tampa Bay can still get “high storm surge, extensive coastal flooding and severe damage to docks, marinas and coastal dunes.”

12:04pm – Eyewall of Michael coming ashore along the coast of the Florida Panhandle…life threatening storm surge and catastrophic winds moving onshore.

12:37pm – Thank you to people calling/texting me, but as I said above, “Central Florida is under no immediate threat due to this storm” (I’m just bored, lol)

1pm – Hurricane Michael intensifies (cat 4) as it makes landfall near Mexico Beach Florida (nowhere near me) with life-threatening storm surge, hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall occurring over the Florida panhandle…

1:09pm – Duke Energy is predicting that at least 100k customers will lose power due to the storm.

1:13pm – Gov. Rick Scott activated the Florida Disaster Fund to help with the aftermath of the storm

1:37pm – Unfortunately, all the news stories I’m seeing now are “live coverage” (which do me exactly zero good, lol) so, I may have to end today’s live blog a bit early…

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

Live blog: Michael in Central Florida (2)

10am: While Central Florida is not expected to see a direct hit (aside from periphery rain/wind), the governor warned that the Panhandle, Big Bend and Gulf Coast cities as far south as Tampa could see dangerous storm surges of 8-12’ as the storm approaches.

Noon: Yahoo News is reporting that Michael is now a category 2 storm.

1:04pmThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Georgia has declared a “State of Emergency

1:45pm – Governor Rick Scott orders mandatory evacuations for 11 Floridian counties.

1:50pmThe Orlando Sentinel is reporting that, with winds of 110mph, Michael is “nearing a category 3 storm” with winds tomorrow topping 125mph.

2:14pm – United Airlines has canceled flights scheduled for Tuesday evening through Wednesday afternoon to three airports in Florida — Pensacola, Panama City and Destin.

2:21pm – Radar on TWC shows small bands of moderate rain are moving through southern Orlando. The sky over SeaWorld is dark, but the steady winds seem relatively calm… for now anyway.

2:39pmOrlando Weekly is reporting that Florida Democrats are suing to extend the voter registration deadlines due to the hurricane.

3:12pm – The Washington Examiner is reporting that Hurricane Michael could cause “13 billion in property damages

4pm – Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for Eastern/Southern Georgia with Tropical Storm Watches in effect for both North and South Carolina (neither of which need this after the pounding they took from Florence).

4:08pmUSA Today is saying Michael could be one of the worst storms on record to hit the Florida Panhandle.

4:28pm – A larger swath of heavy rain has just descended upon Orange County, but Central Florida is still slated to get less than 3” of rain out of this storm (a change from their previous estimate of 1-2”)

5:19pm – The rain band from the previous line appears to have moved offshore as sunlight barely pokes its way through the clouds. Yet, landfall in Northern Florida is still a day away…

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

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…

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 | 1 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 | 1 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

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