Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Viva Ybor!

Now that I spend a lot of time doing this stand-up comedy thing, I spend a lot of time in Ybor City. Because stand-up comedy happens in bars and taverns and Ybor is where the bars and taverns are. For those of you unaware, Ybor City is Tampa's equivalent of the French Quarter in New Orleans or Rush Street in Chicago. I'm not saying it's better than or even equivalent to, but it is Tampa's party district so maybe I am.

It wasn't always that way. Ybor was originally the first real settlement in the Tampa area, home to thousands of hard-working immigrants from Cuba, Italy and Spain who came here to make cigars. Now it's where people come to get weird. I spend a lot more time there now than I did when I was an age where getting weird is not only acceptable but encouraged. Maybe I'm a late bloomer or just slow on the uptake. That's just how it goes, I guess.

Ybor City is a strange place full of strange people doing strange things. I love it! In Ybor, you'll come across homeless people who will try to sell you a crucifix that they've made out of fallen palm fronds. Great. Religious symbols and yard waste; two things I don't want in my home. Yet, in Ybor City, this is a business somehow.
During my brief-but-anxiety-ridden tenure as a taxi cab driver, my one sure source of revenue was to make sure I was in Ybor at closing time and look for the white girls, sitting on the curb alone, abandoned by their pack, crying. "I am sooooo mad at my friends right now!" Hop in. Clearwater? No problem! What? Sarasota? Even better!
I don't drive a cab anymore but life goes on and so does Ybor.

A few months ago, one of the bigger clubs in Ybor burned down. Why? Because a non-licensed contractor screwed up while trying to mount a disco ball.
At the time, I thought that was a pretty good summation of what Ybor is all about. But then this happened...

A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of dudes got into a brawl outside of a bar in Ybor at 3:30 in the morning. That ended when somebody drove their car into the bunch of brawling dudes and also into the bar innocently minding its business behind them. Here's video of that happening, followed by some observations...

  • First of all, who mounted the security cameras in Ybor, Martin Scorsese? This entire thing is framed and focused PERFECTLY.
  • It's impossible to tell who's on whose side here. It's six or seven dudes, all fighting each other. When are there ever six or seven sides to an argument, all worth defending by getting into a fist fight?
  • Apparently, it's really difficult to stand up when you're wearing red shoes. Or wasted. Or both.
  • My favorite part of the whole thing is how everybody just kind of saunters away after the crash. As though to acknowledge, "well, nothing is going to top that."
  • I couldn't find the particular news report I saw when I first heard about this, which is a shame because I could have shown you the TV reporter who felt obligated to speak on behalf of the chamber of commerce, commenting "This incident doesn't represent what Ybor City is all about." Um, yes it does! It's the most Ybor thing that's ever happened in the history of Ybor. The only thing that could make this more representative of what Ybor is all about is if had been homeless drag queens fighting and not just random bro dudes. Sorry, generations of hard-working immigrants. This is Ybor today. They should figure out a way to make this video into a flag and fly it over the Columbia Restaurant (see photo at the top of this story). That's how representative of Ybor this is.
    Artist's MS Paint rendition of how that would look.
  • The reporter also mentioned that the bar didn't plan on closing for repair. Well, of course the bar didn't plan on closing! Why would anybody even think that might happen? I guarantee they didn't even open late the next day. Slap some plywood up there and open the taps! This is Ybor, baby!
  • The reason Tampa PD made this video available is that at the time, they were having difficulty tracking down the driver of the car, as well as the brawling dudes. This in spite of having the car. Now, I'm not a detective, but...did nobody look up the license plate? Or the Vehicle Identification Number on the dashboard? Or any of the dozen or so (I'm presuming) other ways to track down the owner of a car available to the police, especially when that car is in police possession?
  • Apparently it's harder to solve crimes when the people involved leave the scene before the cops get there. I'll bet this was not received well by all the people in jail to whom it never occurred to just get out of the vicinity. "You mean we didn't have to stick around after we robbed the bank? Well, shit!". So many perfect crimes foiled by criminals inability to plan an effective escape (effective escape = going somewhere else after).

If all of this sounds like I'm bagging on Ybor and that I don't like the place, then I'm not conveying the right sentiment. I love it! The Double Decker Lounge used to host the open mic where I did stand-up for the first 30 or 40 times so it'll always be home to me. Plus, I adopted the owner's cat, Muschi.
As seen when it's time to get up and prepare her breakfast
My friend Amy DeMilo is an Ybor personality, hosting Drag Queen Bingo at Hamburger Mary's and performing at the Honey Pot and other venues.
When not modeling for book covers
I've performed and had lots of fun in other places in Ybor. Such as Liquid, a gay bar that features a stage with a pulsating column of lights throbbing in the middle of it.

You have to navigate high and narrow steps to get up there and I thought about complaining, until I thought about how many people have managed to climb up there wearing 5" heels.

It's important to put things in perspective.

And that's why I can happily say I love Ybor City.


Erin Kane Spock said...

You should try it in heels next time, just to get the gist of the experience.
Stand up intrigues me. I've thought of it, but my charming humor stems from being so FREAKING AWKWARD and that is either a hit or miss and I already have enough reasons to cry. :)
Happy Holidays.

Clark Brooks said...

Pretty sure I couldn't navigate a basketball court in heels, let alone stairs of any kind.
If awkwardness was a valid reason not to do stand-up, nobody would do it.
And Happy Holidays to you too!

Blogger said...

VaporFi is the highest quality electronic cigarettes supplier.