Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A short conversation about modesty

"Look at this! The bagger didn't put the toilet paper in a bag. Now everybody in the parking lot is going to see me lugging a 12 pack of Charmin to the car. How embarrassing."

"What's the big deal? You don't think everybody uses toilet paper?"

"I happen to know for a first-hand fact that not everybody uses toilet paper."

"That's the most disgusting thing I have ever heard."

"Let's just say there are a lot of people's bathtubs you would not want to eat a meal out of."

"Yet again, I stand corrected."

Monday, May 28, 2007

This weekend in crazy crime

Because you know you love this stuff...

Why Don't We Do It In The Road?

Well, because we'd probably get arrested, dumbass. Like these two world champions:

'One couple's passionate interlude came to an end, quite literally, at the hands of the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office. Deputies arrested Richard J. Augat, 26, and Denise J. Mignone, 44, early Friday on charges of disorderly intoxication and lewd and lascivious behavior. Someone spotted the couple having sex in the parking lot outside the LA Hangout at 16411 N Florida Avenue in Tampa. The couple didn't stop, even when deputies arrived. Two deputies had to pull them apart, said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter.' --St. Petersburg Times

For those of you who've never been to Lutz (pronounced "Loooots"), it's difficult to explain how being there might cause a couple of people in love to be utterly overwhelmed with passion to the point where they completely lose all their inhibitions. It's, uh, a lot like Paris. Yeah.

Brick (dah-da-dah dah) House

'Chango Peeler, 26, of Largo stopped breathing and died in police custody about 9:15 a.m. Friday after several baffling minutes during which he crashed through two glass windows, ran around in his underwear and struggled with a Tampa police officer.
Friday's chain of events began about 9 a.m. after Jim Crank, a member of Zion Lutheran Church, returned home from watering plants on parishioners' graves at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Confronted by a man, Peeler, screaming "Help me! They're gonna kill me!", Crank offered to call police, but Peeler was unmoved. "He was wild. Lord have mercy," Crank said. "His eyes popped out of his head."
Peeler ran toward Crank's porch, and Crank tried to grab him. A man across the street yelled for Crank to leave him alone for his own safety and called police.
To Crank's astonishment, Peeler dove head-first through a window into the living room. He smashed several angel figurines atop the television as he landed and left his shorts at the windowsill, Crank said. As police called to Peeler, he crashed through a rear bedroom window and ran from Crank's house through an alley, police said.'
A man working in the neighborhood waved a brick at Peeler in an attempt to detain him, McElroy said. In the commotion, the brick-wielding man disappeared, McElroy said. --Tampa Tribune

Ok, so we may have lost a nutjob but gained a (albeit, ineffectual) superhero in the process. Metropolis has Superman, Gotham City has Batman and now Tampa has...The Brick Wielder. "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly and lazy lot so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the construction industry, hard, heavy, often reddish in color but not necessarily so...I know! I shall become a brick! Or at least carry one around with me to wave in a menacing fashion."

Back to the flea market

I made a return visit to the good ol' Oldsmar Flea Market this weekend. This time as a buyer, not as a seller (as I've written about before here, here and here). I went to peruse the gamut of goods and services available to the consumer. Because seriously, if you ever need to pick up a couple of pounds of shrimp, a copy of the June 1984 Penthouse, some sunglasses, lingerie, baby food, empty aftershave decanters, a complete set of The Thorn Birds on VHS, some tube socks, golf clubs and a child's bicycle, there are precious few one-stop-shopping options available to you. Plus, where else are you going to see a one-armed mannequin in a camouflage bikini holding a toy M-16? Come to think of it, that may not have been a mannequin.
Anyway, if you go, prepare to be hot. Very hot. There are fans and some of the older, established booths have air conditioners but for the most part, the place is hotter than Satan's scrotum. The heat is so oppressive that I saw one woman at a booth labeled "Nut'n but fun" who looked like she was praying for nut'n but a quick death.
Sure, the people watching is unparalleled at the flea market, but what's the most fun is looking at all the merchandise. You can't say it's all junk because it's valuable to somebody (personally, I'm guilty of intentionally and without duress spending hard-earned, American money on baseball cards of Rob Sperring, Steve Dillard and Mike Lum). But you have to wonder where they got some of this stuff and who they think is going to buy it. For instance, one of many vendors that sells weapons advertised "Authentic Ninja Throwing Stars". Now how on earth did a flea market vendor in Oldsmar, Florida get their hands on something like that?
Setsuko Futaba: I find myself low on funds this month. Have you any suggestions as to how I can generate some cash quickly?
Shichiroji Ogata: Well, under other circumstances I would suggest going to the hospital and selling some blood. However, we are ninjas, and thus, do not bleed.
Setsuko Futaba: I was thinking of going to the Oldsmar Flea Market and selling some weaponry, perhaps these throwing stars.
Shichiroji Ogata: Excellent idea. Pick up some tube socks for me while you are there please.

A short conversation about personal philosophies

"One thing you should know about me is I go for it all the time. The credo I live by is caveat emptor, which is Latin for seize the day."

"Really? I'm not sure that's what that means..."

"Of course it is. It's basic Latin. 'Caveat' means 'at the cave' which is, unfortunately, where most cavemen would be seized by dinosaurs and 'emptor' means 'emperor' who decreed that there should be seven days in a week."

"Well, I don't think that cavemen invented Latin, or that there was such a thing as emperor of the cavemen. I'm pretty sure that caveat emptor means buyer beware. Carpe diem means seize the day."

"No, carpe diem is the money they give you when you travel out of town for work. But buyer beware is a pretty good credo to live by too."

Friday, May 25, 2007


Today, I was thrilled to begin day one of a four-day weekend with a seven-hour visit to my mechanic over in Drew Park to have my car's brakes replaced (and if you know how rare it is for me to get a two-day weekend, you can imagine just how thrilled I was). Normally, brake jobs only take about a quarter of that time (not to mention a quarter of the price) but Jeeves is an extremely rare and unique model of car, commonly referred to as a "shitbox", so special care and handling like this from time to time is to be expected.
Now there is only so much Tetris a person can play on their cell phone (and I play it like it's 1986 and it just came out) so out of sheer boredom I took a nice long walk and explored the neighborhood. I can tell you that I don't know much about Drew but I sure didn't see a park. Unless by "park" you mean "lingerie modeling studio". And by "lingerie modeling studio" I mean "seedy whorehouse". I saw a whole bunch of those. I also saw low-income apartments and some houses but I was struck by how there sure are an awful lot of adult entertainment establishments in a residential area. The marketing slogan for the Drew Park Convention & Visitors Bureau must be "Come for the whores, stay for the houses". Drew Park might be the oddest neighborhood I've ever seen, as it seems to be comprised of equal parts adult entertainment, auto repair shops/small, non-descript manufacturing plants and people's homes, all scattered among each other, with several of each on every street just randomly strewn about with no apparent thought given to placement. This must be the land that zoning laws forgot.
I find it interesting because as long as I've lived here, there has been almost constant hand wringing over the rampant prostitution problems on Nebraska and east Hillsborough avenues. Yet, there's a thriving red light district within walking distance of Raymond James Stadium, Legends Field and Hillsborough Community College that nobody seems to know (or is it care?) about. Maybe it's because these are all professional, licensed businesses where nothing untoward happens (I know ; ) ; ) are the emoticons for wink, wink but what do you use for nudge, nudge?). Or maybe since both the Tampa Police Department and Florida State Highway Patrol have substantial bases right in the heart of the neighborhood, we all rest assured knowing that no illegal activity of any kind takes place there. Or maybe we just kind of like having it tucked away there; you know, close to the airport, hotels and the, um, show bars that cater to (and collect sales tax from) a certain segment of tourists but not on the main drag where the nice people who live here would have to worry about it. But ladies, if you come across hubby's credit card bill and you see charges from a business located on Lois, Alva, Osborne, Hubert or Cayuga, you might want to know the going rate for a brake job before you ask him about it. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Oh my god, I killed my kitchen!

A while back, I recounted how I destroyed my oven. Well, after a prolonged period of anguished contemplation over how I should proceed, that dilemma has passed (I cleaned it). However, a bigger, more serious crisis has risen: my entire kitchen is out of commission. The picture featured here is not actually my kitchen (proof: I don't currently own any Pepsi or watermelons); but it's how my kitchen feels to me right now. Here's what happened...
Last week, I made some spaghetti. Spaghetti is a frequent favorite meal of mine because it can be done in the crock pot and it results in mass quantities of leftovers which, if managed properly, can be a huge asset to a single person. In this particular case, I'd made more spaghetti noodles than I had sauce. No worries, I figured, I'll just dump the excess down the trusty ol' garbage disposal. Previously I have fed carrots, celery and potatoes into my disposal, all without incident of any kind. Now, keep in mind I'm talking about spaghetti noodles only in this case. No sauce, no meat, no stray vegetables, nothing but noodles. What, I ask you, is softer, more malleable than cooked spaghetti noodles? Jello or some pudding-esque dessert substance? Ok. But what else? Nothing that can be scientifically labeled a solid, that's what! So the disposal starts out all right, it's making it's regular grinding noise. Suddenly the noise changed pitch and the sink started backing up with disgusting grayish-yellow water. I shut the disposal off and thought "that's odd". What I said was either "shit!" or "damn it!" but really, I was thinking it was odd. I stuck my hand down the slowly emptying drain to see what possible obstruction could be there but found nothing but thick, soggy, mechanically masticated spaghetti pulp. It was like reaching into the mouth of an old man with dentures eating macaroni and cheese. Presuming everything was fine, I turned the disposal on again. This time, the disposal shuddered heavily, shaking the entire kitchen counter. And it made a much deeper grinding noise. Plus, a sickly grayish-yellow waterspout started forming in the sink, which was no longer draining at all, and was in fact, filling rapidly. I turned it off again, quickly, and went and sat down, figuring I'd look at it later because often if you ignore a problem, it actually will go away and solve itself. When I went back, I saw that the water had not receded at all and it was now obvious that the disposal was on the fritz (yes, I tried hitting the reset button...nothing.) and the drain was clogged (yes, I tried plunging it...nothing.). Now, what I didn't mention earlier was that prior to disposing of the excess spaghetti, I had loaded and started the dishwasher. So while I was in the kitchen anyway, I figured I'd unload it. I opened the door and the trapped steam hit my face like it always does when I empty the dishwasher...except it smelled like dishwater. I looked at my dishes and they were just as dirty as when I had put them in. In fact, upon closer inspection they were actually worse. Because now they were all spackled inside and out with tiny particles of shredded spaghetti. "My god", I thought, "my entire apartment's digestive system has the flu!". Well, actually it's just the upper digestive system. Thankfully, the lower digestive system (if you know what I mean) is still in working order. Otherwise, I'd be in a hotel right now.
As it is right now, 75% of my dishes are filthy and I can't use the other 25% because, unless I get really creative with the bathtub, I don't have anywhere to wash them after I use them. I really hope the trusty Cooper's Pond maintenance staff can get this repaired tomorrow. I really don't need another excuse to eat takeout food.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Minor Weekend

I absolutely love minor league baseball. I have felt as long as I have lived here that the abundance of minor league baseball in the area is the single least appreciated resource the Tampa Bay area has. One of my first memories of moving here way back in 1986 was finding a huge stack of coupons for free tickets to a Tampa Tarpons game at the cash register of the Wags restaurant (now a Denny's) by the stadium. I was sure there had to be a mistake. Surely someone wouldn't leave so many valuable (FREE!!) coupons in one place. I grabbed two of them and was blown away when I got to Al Lopez Field that night and found less than 1,000 people there. Anyway, going to the Tarpons games became my thing to do. And while the Tarpons and Al Lopez Field are both loooooong gone, I still go to minor league games every chance I get...which isn't very often, unfortunately. But I found myself with a very rare full weekend off so I went over to Clearwater to see the Threshers take on the Sarasota Reds Saturday night.
You hear a lot of people compare the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg to sisters bickering over who's prettiest. I've always thought of Clearwater as the third sister who, while not as traditionally gorgeous as the other two, is certainly cute in her own right with a great personality, making her actually the most attractive of the three. Although, she's currently pretty heavily involved with a sketchy religion which admittedly takes off a little of the luster, but I still enjoy going to Clearwater. Heck, I liked going there to watch baseball at old Jack Russell Stadium (almost a carbon copy of Al Lopez), but Brighthouse Network Field is simply amazing. For starters, it features an open concourse, meaning you can get up from your seat and go get food or whatever and still see the game. I don't know why every new ballpark doesn't have this feature but they should. Seems like a no-brainer. Secondly, unlike just about every other spring training/Florida State League park, it's open all the way around. If you want to sit in the outfield (on a grass berm) you can. Third, and this is big, Frenchy's operates a full service tiki bar (margaritas!) out in left field. On top of all this, there was going to be free postgame fireworks. So I was all set for a great Saturday evening of minor league baseball in one of my favorite places.
Top of the second inning, I went to get food. Because the Threshers are an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Phillies train there during the spring, they serve Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches there. I had one and I guess it was ok but I think cheeesteaks are overrated. I don't know why Philadelphians are so fond of greasy, cheese-soaked meat on a roll that they made it the signature food item of Philadelphia, but then I consider myself a Chicago guy and I hate doughy "Chicago style" pizza and the idea of hot dogs with pickles and tomatoes on them makes me gag. So what do I know?
In the 3rd inning, I took the long way around to Frenchy's for a margarita and passed the bullpens in left field below the concourse. Both teams share the same space with a waist-high chain link fence separating them. But the Threshers pitchers, displaying an entrepreneurial spirit, had set up their own unofficial, unauthorized in-game promotion. Someone had placed cups of water and written in the dirt "MAKE QUARTER, WIN A PRIZE". The idea being that fans standing on the concourse could throw quarters at the cups and if they made it, they'd win. The more difficult the shot, the bigger the prize. Putting a quarter in the closest cups, pretty much a straight drop over the rail, would win you a baseball. The intermediate cups would get you a Threshers cap. And nailing the far away cups would score you a bat. I asked the bartender at Frenchy's if they did that every game and he said "Usually, but they got shut down the other night. Something about taxes." There had to be at least $30 on the ground while I was there so I could see the money adding up. That's another beautiful thing about the minors though: the players will actually take time to pick up quarters. The bartender actually won the bat (one toss...I'm guessing he practices a lot) while I was standing there and promptly gave it to a nearby kid, which was nice.
From there, I went to the seats along the 3rd base line to watch the rest of the game. Now, I have been to, let's see if my math is right here...about 2 million baseball games in my lifetime and I have never, ever caught a ball. I've never even come all that close. Once, when I was kid, a Cecil Cooper home run into the right field upper deck at old Comiskey Park landed about three rows right in front of me, but that's as close as I've ever come. Until Saturday, that is. 8th inning and Reds catcher Chris Kroski blistered a screaming foul right at me. I stuck my left (glove) hand out and plucked it cleanly right out of the air. Ok, it probably wasn't hit that hard and I juggled it...slightly...but still. My first ball! I got a nice hand from the fans, bowed appreciatively and immediately looked for a nearby kid to magnanimously give it to. Because the thrill is in making the catch and there's nothing more pathetic and ridiculous than an adult catching and keeping a ball. Besides, you get an extra ovation when you give it to the kid. So I graciously offer it to the first tyke I see, and he shakes his head no. What? He's...he's shaking me off? "Here sport. You can have it." "That's ok", he says. "You caught it, you keep it. Good job." What the..? This is my big moment and some brat in a Countryside Dodgers shirt is showing me up! I've waited my whole life to catch a ball and then make the grand gesture of giving it away and this ankle-biting crumb snatcher won't take it! So I actually had to hunt down a small child to take it, by which time the moment had passed and my secondary ovation was lukewarm at best. But the game was good (Reds over Threshers in 10 after the Threshers rallied in the 9th to tie) and the fireworks were great. Maybe not Epcot great but definitely on par with any minor league baseball fireworks I've ever seen. Plus, they didn't play Lee Greenwood or any other tired fireworks standards.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Last American Bad Ass

I happened to hear the song "American Bad Ass" by Kid Rock earlier today and I started thinking, who right now is actually an American Bad Ass? I knew right away it was definitely not Kid Rock. Sorry, but some skinny dude in a wifebeater who looks like he should have a sign on his back that says 'Follow me to the methadone clinic' is no Bad Ass, American or otherwise. I thought about it for a while and I don't believe there is one right now. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of people doing some seriously bad ass things on a fairly regular basis, but that's not enough to qualify for the title of American Bad Ass, which to me, is sort of a czar of Bad Assedness, someone that everyone can turn to when something Bad Ass needs to be done. In order to qualify, you should be able to accomplish amazing things in a difficult and demanding job and have done so over a prolonged period of time. Note: I said job, as in something you're paid to do. I don't care how many times you've crashed your mountain bike while doing something 'xtreme', no stupid weekend adrenaline junkie weekend hobbyists need apply. You should have also achieved some level of notoriety because of your exploits and you should also do your own stunts. There are currently no actors who meet this criteria. You should also have done at least one socially meaningful thing. This means no current athletes are eligible. Last but not least, an American Bad Ass should sincerely not give one red rat's ass what anybody else thinks about them. Sadly, this eliminates all politicians, writers and musicians.

No, I'm afraid our last American Bad Ass was Ted Williams and he died in 2002. Actually, now that I think about it, Muhammad Ali more than qualifies under the criteria cited above and he's still alive. But I already looked up Ted Williams' accomplishments so here's some of those:
  • Was named after Teddy Roosevelt, himself a legitimate American Bad Ass in his own time.

  • He was the last man to hit .400. In 1941 with an average of .39955 on the last day of the season, his manager gave Williams the choice of sitting out the season-ending doubleheader which would have locked him in at a rounded up .400. Williams opted to play both games and went 6 for 8, giving him an average of .406.

  • Interrupted his baseball career twice for military service during times of war (World War II and the Korean War). Did he spend his stints posing for publicity photos to induce the public to buy war bonds? No, he flew fighter planes, including 38 combat missions.

  • Hit a home run in his final at bat in 1960.

  • Was a world class fisherman and was inducted into the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in 2000.

  • Chuck Norris was granted a brief audience with Williams in 1998 and curtsied daintily in deference when they were introduced.

The last one (probably) isn't true. But it could be.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Naughty S words!

An article with the following headline from the St. Pete Times came to my attention earlier today (thanks, Denise):

Clash ends in stabbing by sword
As if my interest wasn’t piqued sufficiently, this was the sub headline:
A man confronts his wife and her new lover - sex offenders all - and it quickly turns deadly.
Helloooo nurse!
It looks like what happened was Mr. Willie Tarpley, a one-legged, black belt martial arts expert (I know, yet another story about a one-legged, black belt martial arts expert, but bear with me) found out his estranged wife Jacqueline had begun dating Lee Alexander, a convicted sex offender who was convicted in 2000 of a lewd and lascivious act on a person under 16. Apparently Willie, a convicted sex offender himself, either unable to appreciate irony or simply a hypocrite, took umbrage and went to the home in Brandon he had formerly shared with Jacqueline (also a convicted sex offender), and got one (as in “of many”) of the swords he kept in the garage to confront Lee. Now normally I’d say that three convicted sex offenders going at each other with swords is an idea with no discernible downside, aside from there being no actual guarantee that there would be no survivors and post-event cleanup. Except in this case small children are involved.
Willie went inside, picked up his 14-month-old daughter and menaced Jacqueline with his 42-inch katana, a Japanese samurai sword. Still holding the child, he held the blade to Lee’s neck and threatened to cut off his head if he didn’t leave. He did, but in his understandable hurry to do so, backed his car into Willie’s Corvette in the driveway. That’s when Willie came out and stabbed Lee through the open window of the car. There’s some values for you: Pose a threat to the family and get your life threatened but ding the ‘Vette and you will find yourself actually dead.
Willie claims he didn’t realize he’d actually stabbed Lee, just that he’d jabbed the sword in his general direction to make a point. I’ve never seen an owner’s manual for a samurai sword, but I’ll bet there’s a chapter that covers things like this:
“WARNING: When making flamboyantly threatening gestures towards your foe, be careful not to point too far. The resistance you feel against the stabby part at the end of the sword is probably that person’s skin, bone and internal organs and continued over-gesturing of this type could result in severe trauma. Unless, you know, that’s what you were going for.”
Offered as proof that Willie didn’t realize what he’d done was the fact that he laughed when Lee got out of the car and attempted to run down the street, because everybody knows that nothing is more hilarious than threatening another person’s life when your toddlers are present. Of course, when Lee collapsed in the street a few feet later, the yuks stopped.
And what was fair Lady Jacqueline doing while all this was taking place? No doubt flashing back to better, happier times. Maybe like the prison sentences she and Willie served for the 1987 kidnapping and sexual torture of a woman who had apparently stolen some of Willie’s belongings: “Oh Willie, we had it all back then. Except for the stuff that woman stole, I mean. What went wrong?”

Gosh, you have to wonder, if they couldn’t make it work…

I'm on (in?) The Sticks!

I've been invited to be a regular contributor to Sticks Of Fire, Tampa Bay's pre-eminent blog. Check it out and see if I can screw this up somehow. In the meantime, enjoy the other writers you'll find there and what they have to say about what's going on in Tampa Bay.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Good Grief

At various times in my life, I've wanted to be this generation's Walter Payton, this generation's Bill Murray, this generation's John Lennon and this generation's Bill Veeck. However, more and more I'm resigning myself to the fact that I am going to have to settle for being this generation's Charlie Brown.
The other day at work, Billy and I were looking at our four digit phone extensions, wondering if they spelled anything or not. His spells out "Mr. B.L.", which is pretty cool because that's actually his initials. Mine? It spells out "Mump".
* sigh*

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Where have you gone, Betty Smith?

There's a framed portrait on the wall of the local Village Inn of a woman named Betty Smith, who worked as a waitress there from 1962 until 2006. 44 years as a waitress? In one place? Holy crap! I'm 43 so it's literally impossible for me to conceive of doing anything, other than maybe breathing, for 44 years, let alone doing it one place. The root word of waitress is wait. So Betty waited for 44 years. What was she waiting for? Mostly, for you to decide what you want with your pancakes already! Get a move on, sugar!

Anybody who has ever worked for any time at all in a restaurant and has been committed to an insane asylum will tell you that restaurants are just like insane asylums. But the picture on the wall features Betty in her Village Inn uniform (with apron) with a little bit of a beehive hairdo, little glasses and a sweet grandmotherly smile, which indicates she survived by being nice to people while being tougher than she looks and probably didn't sweat small details. The inscription on the bottom of the picture says "A valued employee". Well, no shit. She probably should have been given her own Village Inn. No doubt Betty saw (and took) a lot of crap from people over the years but I'm guessing it never really got to her. Of course, I could be wrong. I suppose it's entirely possible that on day one of year 45 she just snapped: "You know what, I have had it with this place! 16,071 days of this shit is all I can take!" and stormed out.

One has to wonder why Betty never got promoted. As noted waitressologist Mr White points out in 'Reservoir Dogs', waitressing is a hard job. But they do make tips, and Betty looks like the kind of waitress who had people coming to the restaurant and asking to be seated in her section for years and years. The kind of people who would rather wait than be seated in some other waitress's section also known as The kind of people who tip out the ass. Besides, as a waitress, where is there to be promoted to? Cash register attendant? Yawn. And no tips. Hostess? Come now. Is there a less apt named position than 'hostess' in a restaurant? A real hostess should engage you in lively cocktail banter while serving hors d’œuvres and introducing you to other interesting people who are there, maybe playing a little piano. What kind of 'hostess' does little more than find a table that's relatively clean, gives you some menus before handing you off to someone else and then disappearing for the rest of the evening? A restaurant hostess, that's what kind.

I asked the cashier about Betty on my way out. "She was a waitress for a long time. Is she, uh, still around?" "Well, she's not dead, if that's what you mean. She's just retired." I said I was glad and she rolled her eyes and said "people ask that all the time". I was glad not to give her a tip; it's a fair bet her picture won't be hanging on the wall in 40 years. And I hope whenever Betty goes out now, she always gets a clean table, fresh coffee and never has to ask for refills.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Where the streets are insane

I'm convinced that the traffic czars of Tampa Bay are making a concerted effort to drive us all nuts. Consider the following:

  • Kennedy Boulevard is closed just west of North Boulevard for some long overdue resurfacing. However, there's no advance notice, at least westbound, that the road is closed until you encounter the sign that says so. No "ROAD CLOSED AHEAD" or even a "DETOUR" sign a half mile or so in advance. Instead, you drive right up to the closure and the only option you have is to turn right on to a circular dirt road that turns into other circular roads that run you past some storage facilities and the University of Tampa varsity softball field. It's like Wile E. Coyote is in charge. I half expected to see one of the roads dead-end at a pile of ball bearings labeled "FREE BIRD SEED!".
  • I wind up behind a dump truck every day. It doesn't matter where I'm going or what neighborhoods I'm driving through, I am guaranteed to be stuck behind at least one very slow moving dump truck every day. Whether the trucks are full or not, they only go about 30 MPH at top speed on an open stretch of road. Sometimes you'll see two dump trucks pass each other in opposite directions, and they'll both be empty. You'd think if they were actually doing something productive that they'd flag each other down when that happens: "Listen, don't bother going that way if you're looking for rocks and dirt to carry around. I just came from there and they got nothin'". Since they're not being productive, what are they doing? Torturing me, that's what.
  • Consider the intersection of Twiggs and Morgan streets in downtown. I've been driving to my job downtown at least five days a week for more than a year and I always wind up southbound on Morgan and have never, not once, made this light. That's right, I have never just driven through it green. Not one single time in over a year. I am not exaggerating. I get stopped at that red light EVERY...SINGLE...DAY!! How is that even mathematically possible?
  • Red lights in general are designed to reduce your brain to a puddle of pulsating goo. If their purpose is to regulate the flow of traffic, why aren't all of them on sensors and not timers? There's a light at the intersection of Jackson and Franklin streets that will stop you at least 50% of the time, even though Franklin is a pedestrians-only walkway between City Hall and a couple of banks at that point and even on Sunday when City Hall and the banks are closed. How often have you found yourself sitting at a red light where maybe one or two cars pass in front of you and you find yourself staring at the back of the car in front of you, your attention drawn to the red glowing taillights, focusing intently on the intricate pattern of the tailight itself until you see...hey, that's the face of a kitty! And...and it looks like it's winking at you and...Meanwhile, there's drool running down your chin, your eyes are half-crossed and you've just been held hostage for four-to-six minutes during which you were incapable of accomplishing one single worthwhile thing.
  • Then there's the intersection of Morgan and Kennedy. Drivers in the westbound traffic on Kennedy routinely get caught blocking the north-south traffic on Morgan at this intersection, which is within plain sight of the Tampa Police Department headquarters. They don't have to put a car or even a cop on foot there. Just open the window and yell across Lykes Park to knock it off already.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Before I continue...

... I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to sincerely thank a few people. So if you don't mind, I'd like to take a just a moment to say a quick, but heartfelt Thank You! to...

Thank you so much for showing me what cool really is. When you suddenly stomp on the gas pedal of your little piece of shit Toyota for no real reason whatsoever, unleashing the unholy earsplitting whine that only a maxed-out six cylinder engine can emit, it allows me to grasp how truly inadequate I am. Watching you fishtail away, I look forward to the next time I can bask in your close proximity...most likely, one block away at the next red light. Thank you!

You know, I heard you arguing with the other waitress over who had to wait on me and it actually looked like it got kind of heated there for a sec. I sincerely appreciate you taking the high road, rolling your eyes, sighing heavily and stomping over to my table so I can have some scrambled eggs and bacon. After all, I know you're having a crappy night dealing with a bunch of assholes all the time; you told me so when, in an attempt to be polite and make casual conversation I asked you how you were doing. Thank you!

I want to thank you for sharing the gift of music. Specifically, the gift of heavy bass music. Even more specifically, the shitty, muddled, distorted, shitty, heavy bass music that only you enjoy. Whether it's because you stupidly bought and installed chintzy speakers or you stupidly bought and installed great speakers in your chintzy car, the rattling of your plastic quarterpanels tells us that what you lack in taste you make up for in generosity. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The 'Brero

I went to the Devil Rays game Saturday night, where the theme was the celebration of Cinco De Mayo, which is like Mexican St. Patrick's Day in that everybody pretends to be, and pretends to care about being, a member of a different ethnic group for exactly one day out of the year. A bunch of people from work went and our boss had gotten a suite for us. Now I'm normally not really a suite kind of guy, however I am definitely a sombrero guy, which was the giveaway item at that night's game, in keeping with the theme. I had to have one.
Unfortunately, I was running too late and they had run out of them by the time I got there. I was absolutely crestfallen. However, I don't give up easily and I pride myself on being resourceful. When I really want something important and valuable, be it a tin toy robot or a cheap straw hat, I will ultimately not be denied. I noticed the staff had their own sombreros, so taking a page from the Ed Belfour playbook, I approached a suite attendant named Brandi and said, "Brandi, I will give you one billion dollars for your sombrero". She laughed and declined, which was good because, like Ed Belfour, I clearly did not have one billion dollars nor the ability to get my hands on that much money if called upon to do so. I tried again with an offer of $20 and she said "Oh, you don't have to do that. If you really want it, you can have it". I gave her a business card and said if I could ever do anything for her, she should look me up. That was a pretty easy trade to make since somberero or no sombrero, any time a woman named Brandi ever looks me up for a favor, I'm going to say yes. So I had my own sombrero and it was instantly my most prized and treasured possession, an honor it was sure to hold for at least the next few hours.
Now suitably festively adorned, I felt good about rooting the Rays on to victory (in extra innings) over the Oakland A's. I only had one margarita, very early in the game because I absolutely refuse to drive impaired, but the sombrero helped me feel authentically Mexican enough to cheer in Spanish. As it turns out, I speak world class caliber Spanish and there can be no doubt that my cries of "Arroz con pollo!" and "Diablo frijoles!", "Vios con queso!" and "¿A qué hora es un perro?" helped inspire Ty Wigginton to hit two home runs. That, and the sombrero of course.
Afterwards, a group of us went across the street to Ferg's for chicken wings and more camaraderie. It was fight night in Vegas and Ferg's had the pay per view showing, so I got to witness Floyd Mayweather Jr. enter the ring wearing what? A sombrero! I can't believe a big time boxer was ripping off the Devil Rays for promotional ideas, but there he was. During the fight, we listened to commentary from a man in the back of the room who sounded exactly like Louis Armstrong. I already found this hysterically funny so I didn't turn around to look at him because if I caught a glimpse of anyone standing there wearing a tuxedo and holding a trumpet I would have wet myself. Anyway, Mayweather went on to win the fight, further validating the mojo of the 'brero.
Upon arriving home, I was walking up to the apartment when a woman in the pool noticed the sombrero and yelled out "Happy Cinco De Mayo! Come have some margaritas!", which resulted in Cinco De Mayo lasting deep into Seis De Mayo.

Viva El Sombrero!