Friday, July 31, 2009

SkyWatch Friday #55

Tampa's brilliant sky and sunset reflecting on the Hillsborough River after a storm. The rain is still falling softly and gently onto the water's surface.

Visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies. It's always an amazing show.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

An unstable foundation for worship

I think this old wood structure was moved to this tiny lot. The brick foundation peers look new so my guess is they wanted to relocate the building to this street and did the preparation work before the move. Now they have to hook up electrical, gas and other utilities, and of course construct a new porch and steps front and back. Overall it appears to need quite a bit of work to the roof, walls and windows. I hope it's worth all the time and effort - even if they got it for free. From seeing the cross above the front door it might have been a small church office or maybe even a Sunday school building. It's only about 500 square feet. It needs a lot of hours and dedication before it can be used again. The project would be perfect for a volunteer team if it is a church that owns it. I wish the new owners great success.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Watery Wednesday: A silent, empty dock

It's not impossible to find a slip to dock your boat in Tampa, if you're here for a short, temporary stay and aren't interested in basic amenities such as water and electric. If you want more permanent space, and this is surprising, there aren't enough. It's a strange and almost unexplainable situation why there aren't more slips - temporary and permanent - in a city nearly surrounded by water. But, strangely, oddly, they are in short supply.

These relatively new and well-designed floating slips look great but are empty. Not one boat. In talking with an experienced yacht broker, who really knows his yachts and our waterways well (and who has his offices across Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg), they built these slips without fresh water and electric hook-ups - a must for decent size boats. They are temp slips (for transient boaters as the city calls them) that aren't very inviting or attractive to many boaters. So while even the sea gulls aren't enjoying the quiet on these temp docks, that were designed without the necessary hook-ups, the monthly rental slips are full. And waiting lists for marina space and monthly slips grow longer and longer. Serious boaters, who have invested big money in their boats, don't dock here. They just go elsewhere. (Note that across the channel are docks for the homeoners's boats on Harbour Island.)

So, my watery scene of this dock is devoid of boats altogether. None of the exciting shapes and styles, sleek designs and nautical flair that could fill this watery scene is there. Our water, sky and empty boat slips will have to do. Now all I need are some of our abundant and colorful waterbirds to fill my frame. Where are they now when I need them?
Click HERE to see other wet and Watery Wednesday images from around the world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fresh, Still-Wiggling Crab Dinner

This beautiful Florida waterbird finally found his sought-after fresh crab dinner. This is unquestionably the just-caught chef's special. (The crab still thought he might have a chance of escape.) The bird was carefully eyeing me wondering if I had designs on his selection but I'd have to wrestle the crab from that beak. No thanks. There were herons, ibis, egrets and dozens of sea gulls working this spot along the bay. You would have thought it was an All-You-Can-Eat Night at a Red Lobster restaurant.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Long, Quiet Shadows of the Sun's Evening Light

Evening light moves quietly over the Marjorie Yacht Basin casting its long, cooling shadows out from the dock and slides over the boats rocking gently at their mooring lines. True Hope II is in for the night and tied securely. It's after 7PM and the tide is out. I came to walk along the seawall - it is so peaceful and quiet - and watch the disappearing sun bring the towers in Tampa's downtown to life. It's always an awesome sight as the buildings each take on a different color and hue and the sunlight drops slowly over the angles and shapes and moves lower and lower into the Gulf. After today's heavy rains it's nice to see a clear sky and wispy white clouds. Streetlights will begin to glow soon and night will fall over the city. Another day is done.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Monochrome Weekly: Ybor's Cigar Factory

This is the original cigar factory built by Vicente Martinez Ybor in 1886. Ybor brought cigar-making to Tampa in 1885 after growing tired of labor unrest at his factory in Key West, Florida. He bought 40 acres of land northeast of Tampa and took advantage of the area's port and later the railroad. It was the beginning of Ybor City's meteoric rise to prominence as the Cigar Capital of the World. Today, it is part of a complex called Ybor Square which contains offices and a restaurant. Cuban patriot and hero Jose Marti came to Tampa in 1891 and in his speeches to the Cuban community rallied support of his homeland’s independence from Spain. His speech on the steps of this factory helped raise money and gained strong support for the cause. The small park dedicated to Jose Marti, that I featured
HERE, is directly across the street.

Go see more of the world in black, white and grays at Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Big Blue Toes dance to the courthouse steps: Ofra Friedman's FREEDOM

This giant foot belongs to Freedom, a steel wire mesh sculpture of a dancer by the artist Ofra Friedman. The dancer is suspended in a ballet pose and positioned on the front lawn of the oldest building in Tampa that was built for government use. It's a really good place for this piece of art. The building where she stands is still an imposing structure as you can tell from the giant columns. Although it has remained closed and empty since the new Sam M. Gibbons Federal Courthouse opened in 1997, it is well maintained on the outside and still looks like the Federal Courthouse that it was. It was built on an entire city block and once served as our main U.S. Post Office, then the Public Health Service and finally was converted into the U.S Courthouse in 1984. It actually provides a delightful backdrop for this dancer whose toes and fingers point the way up and down Florida Avenue. She is a exciting and eclectic addition to the old building and our downtown.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Skywatch Friday #54

Why do clouds fascinate us so? It's impossible to not see the important part they play in our lives and quite simply how we see the day ahead. To take a photo of a sky and not include a cloud is almost unheard of. We would all admit that clouds are a big deal, and not just for how they improve our photographs. Will it be a clear sunny day? Are storms moving in? Can we picnic today or will we stay inside and read a good book as rain pour down outside? The photographer Alfred Steiglitz experimented with capturing clouds at a time when accurately recording them on the film stock that was then available made it quite difficult. As film improved, and the colors and subtleties of clouds became easier to photograph, he didn't lose his fascination with them. He went on to a celebrated career and continued to successfully photograph clouds throughout his life. He explained himself in an article he wrote in 1923 for the magazine Amatuer Photography. He wrote, "Clouds and their relationship to the rest of the world, and clouds for themselves, interested me, and clouds which were difficult to photograph— nearly impossible. Ever since then clouds have been in my mind, most powerfully at times, and I always knew I'd follow up the experiment made over 35 years ago. I always watched clouds. Studied them. Had unusual opportunities up here on this hillside."
Clouds fascinated him just as they do us today, long after digital technology has pretty much made capturing them in all their inexplicable colors and formations near commonplace. Really seeing them has not changed. After all, we are still humans trying to understand and explain their appearance overhead.

Do visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies. It's always an amazing show.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Colorful History Unlike Any Other: Ybor City in all its glory

Tampa has muralists of all levels of artistic ability, creativity and seriousness. (I well know that other cities throughout the world can also rightly lay claim to some real talented wall artists...even subway cars!) I like discovering these works of art as I wander through our streets and neighborhoods. I've found that if I go out specifically to find one chances are very good I won't even find badly spray-canned graffiti. Many of these handpainted murals are fun and colorful and aren't really meant to engage the viewer or to teach in a serious way. They are light and decorative and most succeed in bringing a smile to our faces. I've posted some in the past that adorn convenience stores, auto repair garages and restaurant/bars. The brighter the color and more attractive the graphic design the better. In most cases the artist (and I hope the owner of the building) is trying to draw our attention and promote the business. Some are in locations that make no sense and are comical and inexplicable at the same time. To me, the sillier and more whimsical the better.

In May I posted a mural, HERE, celebrating the history of West Tampa. Like that large mural in MacFarlane Park, this mural representing Ybor City is treated with respect and even reference for the history it depicts so well. With great color and style the artist presents highlights from the rich history of Tampa's Latin neighborhood. In many ways Ybor City has a far more interesting history than does Tampa. This handpainted piece is facing west so it will be on your left as you enter Ybor through the iron gateway on 7th Avenue at Nick Nuccio Parkway. Tobacco leaves, cigar workers and factories serve as the backdrop and anchors for the painting as workers handroll cigars on the left side, and el Lector, the reader, his arm raised and pointing as he reads to them from a Spanish or Cuban newspaper, is to their right and above. The bespectacled Lector, very important to the cigar workers, was educated, well paid and greatly respected. He kept the factory workers informed of labor issues, world and local events, and even read novels. (Go in close to him to see the powerful way he is painted.) The flag of Cuba flies to his right. Scenes of Ybor in the 1920s show cars of that era and a trolley. Jose Marti, the hero of Cuban independence from Spain, who I featured HERE, is the mustachioed gentleman to the left of center. The entire mural is surrounded by handpainted tiles affixed to the wall. I'm glad I found this one, hiding in plain sight as they say, and will keep my eye out for more. Serious or plain silly, I love my murals.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Watery Wednesday: Evening comes upon us.

Another hot and humid day comes to an end as evening slowly becomes night along Tampa's waterfront. The lights have come up along the Tampa Riverwalk and are just beginning to glow on the bridge to Harbour Island. Diners are enjoying the waterfront patio at Jackson's Bistro at Knight's Point and the yacht Mango Man, out of Tierra Verde, is at its dock for the night. All is well.
HERE to see other wet and Watery Wednesday images from around the world.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fresh and Direct from Out-of-State

At first I was attracted to the hand-made signs which I am such a sucker for. (I could easily do a photo blog of nothing but these very colorful, primitive yet effective vegetable and fruit signs.) But what caught my eye on further reading is this FRESH produce market, in the heart of South Tampa, is boldy advertising - during its Grand Opening - CALIFORNIA cherries and GEORGIA peaches. I realize these items are desirable, especially coming from out-of-state, and they are well known for, but wouldn't a FRESH produce market in Tampa have big signs for something grown locally? I bet the seedless grapes, green beans and bananas come from out of state...or even from another country. Shouldn't they be selling FLORIDA produce from their sweet little market? Just wondering. Makes sense to me. Do they have fresh, in season, Florida-grown Valencia oranges, mangoes, avocados, peaches, nectarines and, one of my all time favorites, blueberries? (I still love the signs. I just know there is a special factory somewhere churning these out by the truck load.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Keys to success and happiness. Out of reach by the thousands.

This large sculpture stands in a brick patio area connected by walkways on the south side of Kate Jackson Community Center in Anderson Playground. It is called Reliquary. It was part of the City of Tampa Public Art Program when installed in 2001. The hundreds if not thousands of keys are now woven together with moss from the overhanging oak trees that surround this cool, private slice of Florida paradise. Palms and philodendrons crowd in close to the quiet space. A key was attached to every one of the tiny, closed hooks when the piece was first installed. Curious kids - big and small - have removed many of the lowest hanging ones but now most are out of reach. Click on the closeup view at left to see the incredible variety of metals, shapes and colors of the keys that make up this attractive and most unusual sculpture.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Monochrome Maniacs: The Sea Gull rules over the sky, sea and fishermen.

My camera and I are often drawn back to this pier for its variety of shapes, colors, people and wildlife. Something new is always happening here and in the park nearby. It's fun and alive. The sky and clouds are always in motion and dance behind all of the man-made elements in the scene until you hope all is in perfect alignment. Shooting in black and white makes the dance take on a whole different, final composition. The gull in flight would be the winner over his hardworking human companions who struggled to land even one fish.

Go see more of the world in black, white and grays at Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

France's Renault R5 or Le Car in the USA: The Extraordinary Car at Under $5000 when NEW. (This one ain't new!)

From 1976 until 1986, over 5.5 million Renault Le Cars were built for the world's small-car hungry consumer. Introduced in 1972, and to the North American market in 1976, the Le Car was the French automaker's first "supermini" model. It was sold in the US by American Motors dealers (remember American Motors? The Rambler?) The extra tiny for American highways Le Car was given its name by an advertising agency that thought it would help sell Europe's best selling car. Known in Europe as the Renault 5 or R5, the French thought the name Le Car was ridiculous because in French it meant "the coach." Oh, great name for a tiny, fuel-sipping small car with a pretty good design. It's 4-cylinder engine worked hard to pump out 55 horsepower. Wow, a rocket ship. That might have had something to do with the Le Car's dismal sales. Plus, just about every car then coming out of Detroit had tons more power, weighed four times more and would totally demolish a Le Car in the slightest fender-bender. This particular used cream puff of a used car may actually be a Super5, the second generation that was offered between 1985 and 1996, but more probably it's a 1983 model or earlier. In any case, it's what used car dealer's call the "point car." It sits at the front most corner of the property, very visible to prospective buyers. It is supposed to attract attention and be a big draw onto the sales lot. From the looks of this car, the dealer hasn't seen much business for years, decades. Ever. It sits all alone on the roof of the oddly-painted block building. No window glass. A good bit of rust showing. Do you think it'll start? Will pigs fly? Oh, go ahead. Make 'em an offer. They'll take your offer to the manager. He wants to work with you. Really he does.

Friday, July 17, 2009

SkyWatch FRIDAY: An award-winning performance by Tampa's clouds and brilliant blue sky.

Hillsborough Bay and the rocky shoreline made for a striking foreground to Tampa's downtown office towers, way across the water in the distance, but the clouds were really the star of this show. They billowed and puffed into indescribable shapes. Tampa's sky was on stage this afternoon and performed magnificently. A perfect day.

Do visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies. It's always an amazing show.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Water Taxi to the urban rescue: Relax, regain your sanity, and frolic with pelicans and dolphins, too

No, it isn't the Grand Canal or smooth-talking gondoliers poling you through the canals of Venice, but Tampa can boast of many lakes, rivers, channels and bays. (The American flag was a dead giveaway, right?) We're almost surrounded by fresh and salt water and many natives and tourists alike enjoy views from their homes, hotels and office buildings. Florida's boat owners have endless possibilities for enjoying our waterways. Those who are stuck a bit inland, or who don't own a boat, can walk, bike, skate and run along the Bayshore or leisurely stroll with their poochie as he navigates the sidewalk dog shows mornings, noon and night. But, there is a fun and entertaining alternative for anyone who wants to sit back and just enjoy being on the water without doing a thing. The Tampa Water Taxi has several tours available. It can pick you up from any waterside location and take you to restaurants, bars, hotels and attractions. At night, it offers romantic and unforgettable sunset tours. It even has a short lunchtime ride and a longer 2.5 hour Eco Tour that goes up the Hillsborough River and may include Florida wildlife such as dolphins, eagles, pelicans and maybe even an alligator sunning himself (and patiently waiting on his own luncheon snack. Yum. Tourists.) The Tampa Water Taxi is very convenient, inexpensive and gives guests spectacular views of Tampa's downtown, museums, shipyards, aquarium, the Tampa Bay Hotel and million-dollar homes on Davis Islands and Harbour Island. Come on. Why go to Venice. This is a blast. Plus, the gondolas of Venice can't take you to an ice hockey arena or the Gasparilla pirate ship. No way. And, rest assured, Tampa doesn't flood (as often.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Watery Wednesday and a Tampa Cityscape

For Watery Wednesday, I thought I would shoot a simple image that captures the beauty of our city at the point where the Hillsborough River flows into the channel and the bay. Yes, even under drought conditions, and with water restrictions in place, we do have tons of freshwater surrounding us in our rivers and bays - just not underground in our aquafer.

Click HER
E to see other wet and Watery Wednesday images from around the world.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Enjoying a perfectly poured Guinness at your favorite Irish pub? How could life get better? How 'bout a thatched roof?

Four Green Fields is Tampa’s authentic Irish bar. This is the place in Florida’s West Coast to hear traditional & progressive Irish music in a true pub environment. The thatched roof is absolutely real and there isn’t anything like it that I’m aware of this side of Dublin. (OK, some place on this side of the Atlantic also has a thatched roof but I’ve never run across it.) The music is the real thing and it compliments a menu of some of my all-time favorites such as Irish Potato Leek soup, corned beef and cabbage, their Irish stew, mouth-watering, of just caught fish and chips and – drum roll please – shepherd’s pie. I love shepherd’s pie and a pint or two of Guinness. Four Green Fields is very popular and can fill up inside and out. Its patio is busy and fun and when Tampa celebrates Gasparilla, you can’t get within a mile of a seat here. “One Hundred Great Places To Drink Beer In America” in the Sept/Oct. 2008 issue of Imbibe magazine listed it as a winner. Plus, because it is one of the pubs most distinguishing and unique features, along with its fresh, smooth and frothy Guinness, is its thatched roof. Read HERE about its maintenance in January. It’s a fun story in itself.) I give Four Green Fields my personal 5-Stars.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's always Carnival time as the good ship Inspiration sets sail from the Port of Tampa

The Carnival Inspiration, all 860 feet in length, moves slowly down the channel toward the Skyway Bridge and the open Gulf of Mexico. Launched in 1996, Inspiration is a member of Carnival’s Fantasy class. It carries a crew of 920 and 2,052 passengers. This ship is similar to the Legend which I featured just before it sailed on June 21st. The Inspiration has ten decks and sails on 4-5 night cruises from Tampa to the Western Caribbean. It has several pools, restaurants, bars, and lounges, plus lots of entertainment including comedy acts, art auctions, talent shows, Vegas-style revues, piano-bar sing-alongs, and pool games. It amazes me how many shops are on board cruise ships and the Inspiration is no different and features the Galleria Shopping Mall. Of course it has spas, exercise and health center and special kids programs (I guess some kids do enjoy cruising.) First rate casinos include black-jack, slot machines, poker, roulette, and craps tables. (I know this is exactly why many folks enjoy these ships but while losing their money they very well might miss the scenery passing by. Oh, well, it's their money.) I don’t care how many times I watch the ships leave port, it quite a sight. Plus our sky was a beautiful send-off to all the passengers crowded on the decks. Bon voyage.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

SS American Victory lives out her retirement years proudly flying the flag and welcoming visitors at the Port of Tampa

The SS American Victory is docked just behind the Florida Aquarium in Tampa’s Channel District. She was built in Los Angeles and delivered to the U.S. War Shipping Administration on May 24, 1945. She was named after American University in Washington, DC, to honor the school’s contributions to war training and weapons research during both World War I and World War II. As you can just barely see from the photo, she is 455 feet in length and 109 feet tall. (In her younger days she would do 17 knots.) The ship was assigned to the U.S. Army and sailed to cities on the West Coast to load military cargo. Her inaugural trip was to Manila in the Philippines and then on to Shanghai, China. During World War II, she sailed the world’s oceans and saw the ports in Calcutta, Port Said, Egypt, the Caribbean and South America, including Trinidad, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Following her service during the war, she sailed under the American Export Lines flag to Europe, Russia and the Near East in support of the American Marshall Plan. Over the years SS American Victory earned a reputation and very proud history which also included service during the Korean War and Vietnam. After being placed into our reserve fleet, she was facing the scrap yard. In 1996, one of Tampa illustrious harbor pilots, Captain John Timmel, first conceived the idea of snatching a ship away from the scrap yard and bringing it to Tampa as a museum. The entire history of the SS American Victory and how she finally got to Tampa is an amazing story. (Their website, here, is very well done and has tons of information, lots of historic photographs and the full tale of how the ship actually got to Tampa. It should be made into a movie.) In September 1999, the SS American Victory sailed under the Skyway Bridge into Tampa Bay and arrived at her new port. These ships were vitally important to our winning World War II and then they continued for decades to perform a major role in the U.S. merchant fleet. Tampa can be proud that she is at our dock and open today as a museum. It is a fun tour and only after walking and climbing all over the ship do you even begin to get a tiny inkling of what it must have been like to sail as a member of the crew. Incredible skills and heroism.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cephas West Indian Restaurant in Ybor City dishes up heaps of Jamaican delicacies and a touch of the Caribbean right here in Tampa

As fun and extensive as the menu may be for the Cephas West Indian Restaurant on East Fourth Ave. in Ybor City, nothing can touch the incredible exterior of the restaurant. It is wild and colorful beyond belief. Cepha Griffin owns this Caribbean/Jamaican restaurant and is extremely proud of the reputation he has built. It is impossible to drive by without noticing the place as it literally screams at you for attention. I understand that the Jerk Chicken is very good and that delicious veggies are in abundance and are a big favorite. To experience Jamaica and the flavors of the islands it doesn't get more authentic than this. Located just 3 blocks south of Ybor's 7th Avenue, it is hard to miss. They do have take-out if you're overdressed in black-tie and want to enjoy your soul food, oxtail or curry goat at home. Cepha's is decidedly casual and a delight to both the eye and the stomach.

Friday, July 10, 2009

SkyWatch FRIDAY #52

I have never before taken photographs from Tampa International Airport, but several times it has occurred to me that it might have an excellent vantage point from which to capture the ever-changing sky over our city. Our airport is one of the very best in the nation. 18 airlines serve over 18 million passengers a year. Amazingly to me, there are roughly 260 daily departures with over 30,000 passengers.This airport opened in 1971 and has six beautiful, very modern airsides - all connected by Disney-like shuttles - and 3 runways; the longest is 11,000 feet in length. Of all the airports I have flown through in the world, it is #1. Because today is SkyWatch FRIDAY and, from glancing up at mid-day I couldn't tell if it would stay 90-degrees and blue sky or turn black and pour thunderous rain, I decided to go out and take a look. With that said I drove to the airport and circled up to the top of the main terminal in Short term parking. (The first hour's free.) Tampa is a very large city of just over 100 square miles in size. Our county, Hillsborough, is over a thousand square miles. Pretty big. When I looked through the camera from the top of the airport the city is flat, FLAT, and everything that's interesting to see looks as though it's about 100 miles away. Tiny. But the sky was doing its daily dance of building and changing and moving between black, gray and puffy white. The rooftop also provided several fun elements that came in bright shades of reds, oranges and blues. Plus huge white arrows and directional signs - and WARNINGS - for the directionally challenged. Warning: Do NOT drive off building. (Only kidding about that one.) I had a lot of fun shooting and found enough inanimate subjects to almost convince me to camp out on the parking garage roof and run through my camera's battery life.

Do visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies. It's an amazing show.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tampa Bay Hotel: Henry B. Plant's 19th century Florida resort retains its Victorian gilt and grandeur after more than a century

My monochrome post on July 6th of the minarets of the Tampa Bay Hotel and the family history and photographs shared by Lois of Tallahassee Daily Photo prompted me to show an entirely different view of the original hotel that is not visible in the photo of the minarets. This scene is taken facing the West Veranda entrance to the original hotel lobby. Guests would arrive here by train rather than on the other side facing the Hillsborough River. The tennis courts and horse racing track were also on this side but are long gone. The Florida State Fairgrounds took the track years ago and and now the campus of the growing University of Tampa has expanded well beyond those original hotel grounds. (We are proud of the university, one of the best private schools in the country.) The other photo - do click to enlarge - is taken from this side (the black and white was from the east) and the bottom shot is of the breathtaking domed ceiling of the hotel's Fletcher Lounge. This is where guests would dine. It is an incredible space and looks just as it did when the hotel opened in 1891. A dinner was held in this room in 1998 to commemorate and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Spanish-American War. We were greeted by re-enactors portraying Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Plant They were entertaining, very authentic and helped to transport us back in time. They used an original hotel menu to recreate an exquisite meal. This is where Lois' grandparents would have dined. The menu and many other items from the hotel are in the collection of the Henry B. Plant Museum. The men were given gifts of Tampa cigars and the women beautiful Spanish fans. I hoped to show you what incredible architecture and decoration greeted hotel guests when they arrived more than a century ago. The place still delivers on its promise after more than a hundred years. (But it doesn't have rooms for honeymooners any longer.)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

It's simply painted steps, a tall cactus and dualing blue trash cans (and rain drops)

Do you sometimes see a combination of design, shapes, colors, and objects that in your mind's eye make for a good composition? And you really can't explain why? This residence, and I think it is someone's home (or studio), is in an old warehouse building buried in the Channel District. The brick on the wall above the awning shows what remains of an old painted sign. It is sandwiched between multi-million dollar projects under construction and several modern, finished buildings that contain apartments, condominium units, office space and even a performing arts theater. There is plenty of empty space in the district for sale or lease and it all seems to be awaiting a turn around in the economy. It is prime for discovery and some pioneering souls have made the decision to go ahead and move in. The entire area is a intriguing mix of the old and the new, the vibrant and the empty, and it's encircled by Channelside Drive, the port and cruise terminals, the Florida Aquarium, the Shops at Channelside, and the city's downtown business district to its west. It is without a doubt a very interesting place to call home and definitely shows tons of promise. It may take awhile to attract the hundreds if not thousands of residents and business owners who could conceivably move here. It is ready and once it explodes it will make for one of Tampa's most desirable and fun places to live and work. (Ybor City is less than five minutes away and the trolley runs nearby.) I love the painted steps of this place; that's probably the thing that caught my eye, but the blue trash cans even seem to belong and anchor a decided place in the finished composition. It just called to me. You explain it. (It must be today's rain popping in and out of the sunny sky.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Wave: Playfully crashing before the blue, cloud-filled sky on Bayshore Boulevard

On Mother’s Day I featured an artwork entitled Family of Man, a sculpture created by the artist Geoffrey Naylor. It is installed just immediately east of Gandy Boulevard in the median of Bayshore Boulevard as part of the City of Tampa Public Art Program. If you take a look at it again, it is a spectacular metal sculpture and Tampa's piercing sun hitting its surfaces has a powerful effect as the light moves through the cracks and around the edges and seams and plays on its polished surfaces. I felt that the subject of family became very clear to me as the artist had intended.

The Wave, another acquisition of the city's Public Art Program within the Arts and Cultural Affairs Department, is an altogether different visual experience. Much more accessible, playful and welcoming, it is located at Bayshore and Rubideaux Street across from Fred Ball Park and the Tampa Garden Club. As you pass it for the first time in a car it does make you look and grin widely as your brain tries to sort out what it is you are seeing. But to enjoy and really appreciate it you must walk around it and literally under and through it as the artist intended. Watch the light as it slides and almost dances over the surfaces and puddles in ringlets on the base below. Scenes of Tampa, of the balustrades along the Bayshore seawall, of the water in the bay, and even Davis Islands, look very different when framed by the Wave. Created by artist Mary Ann Unger (1945 - 1999) and installed in 1989, the Wave is a 15 feet-long by 10 foot high steel arch that to many people strongly resembles a giant Slinky®, the metal, spring-like toy that is known to generations of kids. To be affectionately called the Slinky isn't all bad. It is a term said with a smile and child-like impishness. (Over 300 million have been sold since their introduction in the 1940s, and can probably be found in some office cubicles entertaining big kids.) Unger, best known for her sculptures, received her bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College and her Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Columbia University School of the Arts in 1975. She was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her artwork is in the collections of the Smithsonian's Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Fields Sculpture Garden of the Omi International Arts Center, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. [To see Unger's piece, The Temple, installed in the Sculpture Garden of Lehigh University Art Galleries click HERE.]

The Wave might represent white waves breaking onto a beach, a shell or even the inner ribs of a boat’s hull, but I like having a huge Slinky making its way through the grass of Bayshore's median. Even though it shows no progress during its twenty year "slink," I know it is having a great time entertaining us and making us smile.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Marvel at the minarets of the amazing Tampa Bay Hotel: A study in black and white

The most recognizable icons on Tampa's skyline are the magnificent minarets of the Tampa Bay Hotel. A gentleman named Henry Bradley Plant is solely responsible for dreaming the almost unimaginable. Tampa was a very small town in the 1890s. The population was only about 700 in 1880 while Ybor City, just east of Tampa, was already a larger town, more affluent and a major player in the cigar industry. Thousands of men and women were employed in every aspect of the manufacturing and selling of cigars. After Ybor City was incorporated into Tampa in 1887, Tampa grew to over 5,500 residents. And most made their living from cigars. Into this small town came Henry Plant. A wealthy man who had made his fortune with hotels, railroads and steamships, he planned to build a hotel that would lure visitors and guests who would travel on his railroad from points north. Tampa would be at the terminus and they would step from their train car onto the west veranda and into the lobby of his grandiose hotel. Plant succeeded in bringing a level of luxury to his tropical resort unlike any in the state. (It is still awe inspiring today.) The hotel rose along the banks of the Hillsborough River, right across from the town of Tampa. The hotel's Moorish architecture was as startling and magical in the 1890s as it is today. Open only from December to April each year, the hotel's staff entertained their wealthy guests with every kind of diversion from game hunting, fishing, and boating on the river and bay to horse racing and tennis. The minarets atop the hotel were distinctive and memorable a century ago as they greeted the trains and passengers who must have stood in the lobby in disbelief. Today, the Tampa Bay Hotel, recognized as a United States National Historic Landmark, is part of the University of Tampa and is carefully preserved and maintained to provide a view of our city's and nation's history during the turn-of-the-century Victorian era. Headquarters to the United States Army during the Spanish American War in 1898, the Tampa Bay Hotel welcomed many famous guests over the years. If your curiosity has been tweaked, please visit the Henry B. Plant Museum website. It's a great story. And the minarets, which so proudly represent Tampa, still amaze everyone who sees them on our skyline. (And, yes, you can go up inside them but I'm told it is very hot and humid. ) Please visit Monochrome Weekly for other images of our world as seen in black, white and subtle shades of gray.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Brazilian Jeans Win for Best Tampa Mural

OK, you guessed it, it was my contest and I chose the winner, of which there was only one entry. Brazilian Jeans from Feranda. It was a tough decision but, in the end, she, I mean this mural, won. It was the graphic design. Use of color and crisp photography. Typography. Use of exterior mural materials. All of these individual elements contributed mightily to my awarding this street mural, hidden as it is on a west-facing wall on Platt Street, as the newly-crowned winner. Ever since this company was uprooted from Hyde Park Village I wondered where they had moved. The owner is super nice. Even though I personally cannot wear their clothing, it doesn't mean I can't appreciate its creative use of fabrics, its rich style and good fashion taste - you know my wife isn't buying even one word of this. I'm sure you would agree that we should be celebrating the culture, food and music of our South American neighbor. Come on, isn't this the country that brought us the "Girl from Ipanema" and the movie "Blame it on Rio"?) Every evening as HRH Porter, the Peke, gets walked, he would insist on passing the windows of Feranda Jeans, just to see if any cute, fluffy pocket poodles (his favs!) had been carried inside by their frou-frou owners looking to wear a bit of Brazil on the streets of Tampa. He had missed the store tremendously. (And doesn't know I've found it.)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Teddy loved to celebrate the 4th and because of him we have a lot more to celebrate about. Happy 4th of July America!

I really enjoy searching out colorful, handpainted murals that seem to adorn every hidden place, wall and garden in Tampa. This one is entertaining picnickers today at Ballast Point. Lt. Colonel Theodore Roosevelt is best known in Tampa and in American history for having recruited a group of volunteers to travel here with their horses in 1898 to join in the war with Spain. The group, the Rough Riders, and many other illustrious men and women from around the world, found a hot, dusty, sand spur welcome at the end of Henry Bradley Plant's railroad line. Passing within feet of our house on their way by train car to Port Tampa, and their embarkation to Cuba, Roosevelt and his men would gain fame that they never dreamt of. Well, actually, the terribly ambitious young colonel very likely did dream big. Very big. His two terms in the White House introduced a new foreign policy and brought conservation to the nation's consciousness. He made land and environmental changes for which we should be forever grateful. Yes, we won the war with Spain, and gained territories and land, and an image of power and prestige on the world stage, but the land that President Roosevelt acquired to create many of our national parks, saved some of the most important and awe inspiring natural resources in our country and in the world - in total 230 million acres.

Thank you sir for making our 4th of July picnics so much better. Without you we'd be staring at the backyard year-round. Tampa loves Teddy Roosevelt like a native son, but we are extremely proud to share his lasting impact and legacy with the citizens of the entire United States. This is definitely Teddy Roosevelt's kind of American celebration. Happy 4th of July.

Friday, July 03, 2009


After the heavy rains and flooding we have had in the Tampa Bay area over the past couple of days, I am actually surprised to see it dry. Except for the darkening and threatening clouds overhead, and black in some places, we have not seen a drop today...yet. This scene is of the small prams and rowboats tied to the dock at the boat ramp. They are left here and only used by the sailors to get to and from their boats that are tied up in the basin. At the moment the water is calm and the boats are playing the lonely game of bobbing along at the dock until an owner decides to going out and sail. Before this 4th of July weekend is over I'm sure the sails on several of these boats will fill with wind. Do visit Skywatch Friday to see the beauty and wonders of the world's most magnificent skies.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Transformers world-over beware: Metal football monsters are ready to attack and block with a vengeance

Dominigue Martinez, born in France and raised in New York, is the driving force behind Rustic Steel Creations. The operation, begun in 2003, is inside (and outside) a 7,000 sq. ft. space that sits smack in the heart of Tampa's Channel District. Sometimes called the dragon guy because of the huge, incredible creature that stands guard out front of the studio on 12th Street, Martinez and his team of creative and talented metal artisans take on every challenge that's thrown at them by the art gallery crowd as well as the builder, architect and homeowner who has big, outlandish ideas for projects formed in metal. I posted a shot of the very tall and entertaining dragon on April 12th, Tampa's Channel District is filled with unexpected surprises. It really draws visitors to the otherwise quiet street. Rustic Steel is filled with positive energy and enthusiasm. I was warmly welcomed into their world and every member of the team, highly-skilled artisans all, exudes a confidence and genuine pride in their combined talents and abilities. A tour of the showroom and studio workshop reveal the wide range of client requests and projects in various stages of completion. Finely crafted railings, by the dozens, were being worked on as I walked through. Machinery and work benches were filled with works in progress and the entire shop area is filled, floor to ceiling, with metalworking machinery for cutting, drilling, welding and final fabrication and finishing. The space is a wild and eclectic collection of projects past and present, utilitarian objects and almost indescribable and unique metal artwork on the walls, hanging from the ceiling and just lounging around. The football player is just one oversize example of the fascinating steel and wrought iron creations they can bring to life. Found objects of every kind and description are reused and recycled into hard-to-believe artwork. Their philosophy, taken from their website, reads, "We believe in making something out of nothing, in turning trash into treasure. Whether we're forging cold steel into decorative art, or transforming found objects into real treasures, we return to this metaphor again and again in our endeavors." If you study football guy, the use of a shiny chrome radiator grill is obvious, but all of the other bits and pieces are harder to identify. A complete inventory of his many parts and their origin would be difficult (by this lay person) but like a scavenger hunt, the closer examination and discovery would sure be fun. Tampa is not the only city that boasts such great talent but we should be thrilled that Rustic Steel Creations is a viable business, perfectly combining our desire for sturdy steel and iron elements in our homes and offices, and our basic and innate human need for right-brain and creative stimulation in our lives. Football guy would like to offer his opinion. He says he is utilitarian. (Who's going to step up and argue with him?)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


There is something sad, lonely and gray about an empty restaurant. Especially one with a popular bar, music and a big outdoor, covered patio area. This place is usually packed and crowded with party-goers enjoying its close proximity to the St. Pete Times Forum and its Lightning hockey games and year-round concerts. (Cirque du Soleil - Saltimbanco is performing there right now.) Catching this place so empty means one of two things: you've either arrived way too early or you should have left long before now. Click here to view all of the EMPTY CDP July Theme Day participants