Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ablaze with Fiery Color

Anyone on Florida's Gulf Coast was treated to an indescribable sunset as the entire sky was lit with every color of the golden-hued palette of flaming oranges, reds and brilliant golden yellows. Not that I am totally unfamiliar with slight adjustments to my digital images with Windows Live Photo Gallery - I haven't used Photoshop in a good long while - but this shot came straight from the little Lumix and was burning a hole in the camera's memory card. After almost 100 individual exposures of the fast disappearing sun, I found myself standing alongside the seawall in the dark, my car still running in the street behind me. I hope you agree that tonight's sunset represented Tampa well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Patriot: Tampa Fire Rescue's NEW Fireboat

It's arrived! The long-awaited fireboat, The Patriot, arrived yesterday for Tampa Fire & Rescue. I first posted about Tampa Fire Rescue's older 32-foot long fireboat HERE on May 27th. Along with greatly increased water pumping capacity, the equivalent of nine fire trucks, the new boat, a Firestorm 69 model, can reach 35 knots, weighs 52 tons and is powered by 825-hp diesel engines. MetalCraft Marine of Ontario, Canada built the Patriot and builds a variety of other specialized boats including high speed patrol boats, fire boats, rescue boats, and work boats. The Patriot is the fastest fireboat in the world and will pump 10,000 gallons per minute. It will officially be in service in a few weeks and will be manned by Tampa Fire Rescue's Station 17 crew on Davis Islands. They can respond to emergencies which may arise in the Port of Tampa, Port Manatee and throughout the Tampa Bay shipping channel. The new boat, which cost $3.8 million, was paid for with grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It is a fantastic ship!

I've attached a short new video from FOX 13 television which shows the boat in action as it arrived in Tampa Bay.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Breakfast, a Cuban or Crab Cakes?

This mighty big, handpainted chef probably stands 9-10 feet tall. His platter is also on the giant side and it holds a bit of everything you might find in a quick and cozy roadside restaurant in one of Tampa's hard working neighborhoods; this one is near the docks and marine repair facilities on the west side of the city. The food is so typical of a menu from these parts that it probably hasn't changed much for close to a century: eggs, bacon and toast; a thick, hot and pressed Mixto, or Cuban sandwich; and a plate of crab cakes. Plus, your choice of a Coke or sweet tea. A delectable menu that has something for everyone' taste and time of day. Filling and delicious.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monochrome: On Stilts in McKay Bay

I explored the neighborhood of Palmetto Beach this afternoon and the odd and sadly interesting structures that remain on stilt foundations just off the seawall in McKay Bay. (I've posted about this fascinating place a couple of times before - a funky local bar with a shark, HERE, and an old world gasoline station with a 1930s soul, HERE.) At one time this sagging structure was connected to the land and was a bait house, sold fresh fish or something similar tied to its distinctive location. . The best shrimp in the entire area comes in at dock that are roughly a mile or less from here on the south side of the 22nd Street Causeway. Because of storms or rot, their docks no longer lead to the structures so they sit surrounded by water and inaccessible except by wading out or by boat. I don't know about their ownership, legal status or future, but as subjects for the camera I thought this one was perfect. Sitting out in the water, with the vast Florida sky framing it with the blue and giant white clouds, it was a photograph waiting to be taken.

What i did was shoot it in color and black and white, but that wasn't my intention. My initial shots were for MONOCHROME Weekly. After shooting the image above, I shot a few in color. I was so torn between posting the monochrome without showing the color that I couldn't decide which I liked best. So, I've posted one of the color images at Tampa Florida Photo HERE. Which do you prefer of this particular subject.

I am so grateful to
for presenting me and other photographers with the challenge each week of really seeing the world around us in black and white. I appreciate the vast difference between the two and love to search around me for images that scream monochrome - they just ;look best that way. Finding a scene like this one was unexpected and problematic. I'd be interested to know what you think.

If you love your world in black and white, be sure and visit some of the world's most interesting places and experience the incredible photographic artistry of
Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Power vs. Sail: Feeling the same wind in your face

There are those on the water who sail and those who use an engine - outboard motors or inboard marine engines (gasoline or diesel). It's been this way ever since the first mariners put an engine on a sailing vessel and never again worried about how hard the wind blew or in what direction. Each has its unique benefits and attraction to different people. The best way to learn how to handle any watercraft though is to take sailing lessons. First. This scene is at the jetty that juts out from the Davis Islands Yacht Club... definitely home to those who prefer to sail. The Doral 245 Sunquest powerboat in the foreground (both a bowrider and a cuddy cabin), from a Canadian boatmaker that had its beginnings making canoes, is right at the mouth of the basin and is heading back out into the bay. The sail markings on the sailboats tell me this is a large group of students from the St. Petersburg Yacht Club who appear to have sailed across the bay and may be preparing to return. It was a gorgeous day to be out; it was a bit hot but a good wind was blowing - a relief whether you were under power or tacking into the wind.

Friday, September 25, 2009

City of Tampa Fire Station Number 8 - Built 1924

Tampa Fire Station Number 8 was built in 1924. When it was new it was located on the far western edge of the city, two blocks east of the city limits, today's Howard Avenue. It was surrounded by California-style bungalows and two story apartment buildings on newly-paved streets. It was a new neighborhood filled with young working dads, stay-at-homes moms and plenty of children who attended nearby schools. Busy Swann Avenue is to its south and Grand Central Boulevard (today's Kennedy Boulevard) is to the north. Over the decades, the neighborhood matured as did the residents and at some time in the 1960s and '70s kids all moved away as did many homeowners as they grew older. The homes grew unfashionable and prices began to drop. At some point the City of Tampa closed this fire station and it was eventually purchased for office space. Except for the tall glass windows in the front, where the original wooden station doors once hung, the exterior probably looks much as it did 85 years ago. I think the rehabilitation and reuse of this historic structure is a very good thing; I would rather it be a residence or offices today then to not exist at all. The best part of this building is the fire station's number and the seal of the city in the center. Interestingly, after several years of neglect and decline as a neighborhood, it has come back and is again a very desirable place to live. Most of the homes and building have been restored and young professionals and families have moved back in. Prices are probably 100-150 times their original selling prices in the 1920s when young, newly married couples, including my grandparents, bought their first home. As little girls my mom and her sister played in the yard of their parent's brand new bungalow, without a tree or a blade of grass, on South Melville Avenue, just a block from this station house.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Far, Far from Home: Carts Abandoned and Afraid

What is it with shopping carts? They have a good life, are well cared for, are cleaned and safely stored away each night. But, even with all the amenities a cart could dream of, a good life, they take off with the first thieving, selfish person who comes along. And in this case, the one cart took another and they're now alone and forgotten, standing wheels up beside the brand new Interstate 275 cutting through Tampa. By my estimate, there isn't a home for these carts within miles. Their story must be a sad one and if I return to this same spot in a few months, they probably will not have been moved. (Is there an organization that cares for and shelters the world's stolen and discarded shopping carts? Does anyone ever prosecute the humans who take them?)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Watery Wednesday #54

If you anchor your sailboat in the basin and live aboard, you have to get ashore every once in a while for necessities. Otherwise, why would you ever leave the peace and tranquility of your own watery world? You're captain of your domain and master of the wheel and deck. Just give me an endless supply of books, gourmet provisions, barrels of fine wine and a wireless Internet connection. What am I forgetting? Oh, my first mate and the Peke. (He's snarling just thinking I'd leave him on the dock. Yes, I will find a life-jacket that fits...he has his yellow rain slicker all set to go.)

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

He's a shrimp. Get over it!

If I ever open my own restaurant, I will have to call it SHRIMP...I'll drop the "& Co." part as unnecessary and because it'd detracts from the shrimp, which will be all that's on my menu. In a thousand different recipes and variations, but none of that & company stuff. There won't be any company to keep my shrimp happy but yours and mine. Eating them will bring them great pleasure. I'm certain. So, we drop the pretense and simply add typical and expected Florida and Gulf Coast sides such as cole slaw, sauce (if you insist), fries, lemon and gallons of sweet tea. Oh, and I guess napkins if you must get fancy. Lots of 'em, too. Now just 'cause there isn't anything but shrimp doesn't mean you'll go hungry. Just imagine a platter piled, I'm saying piled high with fried shrimp. How 'bout 18 or so. Is that a good start or what.

I better stop here before I eat the dog or cat...they are beginning to look a lot like shrimp. A little batter, quick frying and they'll do. Help! I'm going nuts. (Dr. Porter the dog just scooted under the table.) Take me to Shrimp & Company. It's All-You-Can-Eat-Night!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Aircraft hanger competes with the sky

Tampa International Airport is a enormous place with runways, landside terminal, airsides and maintenance facilities, plus thousands upon thousands of parking spaces. The property, with three runways - the longest at 11,000 feet - covers 3,300 acres and is just 11 miles from Tampa's downtown business district. Over the years, as the airport has grown, airlines have built enormous hanger facilities for aircraft maintenance and repair. This is one of two hangars on the east side in the Drew Park neighborhood. It is 140,000 square feet and can simultaneously accommodate two wide body aircraft and two narrow body aircraft. In a word. HUGE! It takes a mighty big, bright blue sky and clouds to overshadow a building this big.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

MONOCHROME: Do Not Cross! Nature battles an impenetrable

A dense canopy of oak trees and Florida fauna crowd this narrow, sleepy creek that feeds into the Hillsborough River. It's a beautiful scene of nature having its way with ever encroaching man and development. Cutting, slashing across the scene is a pre-cast concrete beam that appears to be carrying a pipe. In the pipe? Not a clue. Where's it going? Across to somewhere on the other side. But, it must be very important to warrant this much "protection" against human intrusion or use. So that this concrete bridge is never used as a foot path or short-cut, three somewhat decorative iron fans and fences are attached securely to the beam. The only thing missing is a DO NOT EVEN THINK OF CROSSING sign, in blaze orange or fire engine yellow. What's on the other side? More raw nature.

If you love your world in black and white, be sure and visit some of the world's most interesting places and experience the incredible photographic artistry of
Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Evening brings quiet to the waterfront

The Tampa Riverwalk beckons bikers, hikers and folks out for a quiet evening stroll through Contanchobee Fort Brooke Park. The dock juts out into Garrison Channel and closes the distance to Harbour Island and some very fine restaurants. That's Amore is on the left side of the circle - the palms encirled with the festive lights mark the circle - and over the bow of the boat on the right side is Cafe Dufrain. I recommend them both and yes, you could tie your boat up and have dinner inside or outside on their patios. After, enjoy coffee and desert while watching the lights of Tampa's skyline. Tonight was especially quiet on the water and the Riverwalk was very inviting.

Friday, September 18, 2009

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 10: Fibonacci is still cool after 800 years

This building, perfectly round in shape - and nicknamed the beer can building by many locals, has always fascinated me and has been the subject of many photographs since it appeared in 1988 on the Hillsborough River at the intersection of Ashley Drive and the Kennedy Street Bridge. Known today as the Rivergate Tower, it is 454-ft (138m) tall and has 33 floors. Designer Harry Wolf based its measurements on the Fibonacci Code, the same numerical code referenced in Dan Brown's blockbuster bestseller book, The Da Vinci Code. Although you'll have to ask an architect or mathematician to explain it - and be prepared for a serious and reverential telling of its significance - at the start of the movie this code was left behind on the floor of the Louvre by the curator, Jacques Saunière, as he looses his life to the albino monk. In his last moments of life, he draws a circle and arranges himself like the figure in Leonardo’s most famous drawing, The Vitruvian Man. He then leaves behind an anagram and Fibonacci’s famous numerical series as clues. Apparently, to those in the mathematical know, the Fibonacci Code is very cool, as is Tampa's round office tower. I just really like it against our sky and as a unique and special part of our city's skyline.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop: Danny Hoch's One-Man Show

I drive by a building from time to time that from the front looks pretty much like every other building nearby: block construction, nondescript and badly in need of some TLC (or demolition). Nothing remarkable. That’s from the front. But the back is another story. There is no back. It’s missing along with most of the roof. A chain link fence surrounds the back and an empty concrete slab is all that remains of a building that must have sat just to the rear. I was approaching from this direction and noticed a big mural plastered inside on what’s left of an interior wall. And I’d never seen it before nor did it make any sense. What did the message mean and who were the assortment of men and women in shadow? Where would the website take me? After shooting the photo and getting on the computer I was relieved to learn it is advertising a one-man play to be performed at the nearby Hillsborough Community College. (What an odd place to put such a large poster for a stage performance; this isn’t exactly a billboard or on a main thoroughfare by any stretch.) This weekend, HCC’s Visual and Performing Arts Series presents a limited run of playwright Danny Hoch’s one-man show. The play, Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop, will be performed as part of the HCC Visual and Performing Arts Series.
Here is what I learned about the play: a lone actor, Curtis Belz, will present eight monologue characterizations – which include “Flip, a good ol’ boy from the Midwest who has come to identify with urban hip-hoppers; Bronx, a sidewalk vendor who gets pinched for selling without a license; and Sam, a prison guard with an anger management problem (evidenced by his beating a prisoner nearly to death).” He will be accompanied by musician Matt Wetherington and choreographer/dancer DeMario Henry. (The show starts tonight and runs through September 19, at the Performing Arts Building of Hillsborough Community College – Ybor Campus.)
The man responsible for the mural is Danny Hoch, actor, playwright and director whose plays Pot Melting, Some People, and this play, Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop have garnered two OBIES, an National Endowment for the Arts Solo Theatre Fellowship, Sundance Writers Fellowship, CalArts/Alpert Award In Theatre and a Tennessee Williams Fellowship. His work has appeared in fifty U.S. cities and fifteen countries. He is a Senior Fellow at the New School’s Vera List Center For Art & Politics and his writings on hip-hop, race and class have appeared in The Village Voice, The New York Times, Harper's, The Nation, American Theatre, and several books. His book Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop, the subject of the mural which simply states “We all made mistakes,” is in its second printing by Villard Books/Random House.
The play is rated R. The location of the mural advertising the play is rated S, for strange.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Alaskan TACOs? What's next, Fresh Nebraska Fried Shrimp?

Ybor City has its share of places to eat ranging from the family-owned Columbia Restaurant, with over a century of history and tradition, down to by-the-slice pizzerias that feed the hungry masses at late hours and offer huge quantities of cold brew. They each have their place and cater to diners and partygoers at different hours and days of the week (Ybor really comes alive when many of us are tuning in to the late TV news.) I imagine I could find practically any cuisine if I looked or asked around. As many times as I've walked or driven by Mema's Alaskan Tacos, I've never tried their food, but always questioned the name. Alaskan Tacos?? I've eaten tacos in Mexico, California and practically every state of the USA, but haven't visited Alaska, yet, so I haven't had the pleasure of ordering their tacos. So, looking at their name, you may wonder as I have what it is exactly. If you look online most everything is there along with an explanation for even the strangest place, event and food. So, in looking at food review sites, I found a ton on Mema's Alaskan Tacos. And I found my answer, sought of, in a 2004 post at, from the owners. "Hello! My name is Sean and I am the proprietor of Mema's Alaskan Tacos. This unique Southwestern style of cooking tacos was taught to my grandmother and perfected in Alaska. As I have been cooking and enjoying these tacos all my life, I decided that it would be the perfect food to share with Tampa. We offer five wonderful tacos, each made with top grade ingredients. The beef is made with 85% lean ground chuck. We use boneless chicken breast for our chicken tacos. We buy our grouper fillets and fresh gulf shrimp from local suppliers for use in our seafood tacos. For you vegans out there, we have a veggie taco that satisfies as well as any meat taco. ... See you soon! Sean Godin - President, Mema's Alaskan Tacos"

Then this post followed right after: "I can 100% say that these tacos are THE BEST! I, too, have been eating them all my life. You have to stop by Mema's if you're in Tampa/Ybor City and try an original Alaskan taco. They're not like any taco you've had before - Mema's secret recipe, originating in Alaska and passed down through generations. Enjoy! Shellie Harnetty, Sister of Sean Godin"

It's the definitive explanation I was looking for and straight from the horse's mouth (and his sister to back him up.) No bias there. Blame it all on their sweet grandma. (I know my grandmother didn't perfect her recipes in Juno or Anchorage.)

So, if I wanted my taco filled with shrimp, and not from Nebraska but from more local waters, this is the place. If you want native Alaskan food, I think you'll have to go there and ask around. Happy eating blubber fans!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hot Pressed Mixto: My Cuban Sandwich from Hugo's is perfect

This is a traditional Mixto, or hot, pressed Cuban sandwich. The Cuban, or Cubano, has a history like every favorite food we know and savor. Whether it’s a fried chicken or meat loaf that only mom could make, a special “red sauce” passed down from Sicilian ancestors, pot roast to die for, or a Wiener Schnitzel that only your nana could prepare, our beloved favorite food has a story (and secret recipe.) The Cuban sandwich, known as a Mixto in Cuba, and a Cubana at many restaurants and cafeterias from Miami, to Tampa, to North Bergen, NJ, is a simple sandwich with a proud tradition. And, a history and recipe that is guarded, argued over, fought for and vied for in Cuban sandwich contests that seem to go on year-round in many neighborhoods in Miami and Tampa. We do know that when the cigar industry, Vincente Ybor’s factories and workers, left Key West for Tampa in the 1880s, the sandwich they enjoyed most came with them. Other versions, some even (holding my nose!!) with lettuce and tomato, wound up in restaurants up and down the east coast. And even in parts of California. (The second largest Cuban population the United States is in Union City, New Jersey, which sits beside West New York, where I lived for a time, and the Hudson River - right across from Manhattan.)

While some may debate what exactly goes into a “real” Cuban, a traditional sandwich starts with special Cuban bread. It is not Italian or French. Different and very crispy good. (Cuban bread is made with lard instead of oil.) The loaf is sliced into lengths of about 10 inches, lightly buttered on the crust side and given a coat of yellow mustard. Then roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, and thinly-sliced dill pickles are added in layers. The pork is marinated in a citrus and garlic marinade called mojo* and is slow roasted. Next is Genoa salami. In Tampa, every Cuban includes salami. It became a part of Tampa’s Cuban sandwich recipe because of our meting-pot of immigrants. (Our Spanish and Italians immigrants lived and worked alongside the Cubans in Ybor City's huge cigar industry and give Tampa its unique culture and heritage. And FOOD!) Salami is a must for our Cuban sandwich.

When everything is together in the bread, it’s then toasted – HOT and PRESSED – in a plancha, which is somewhat similar to a Panini press. The entire sandwich is heated and smushed and it all melds together perfectly. From there it’s taken out, cut diagonally, wrapped and a toothpick inserted to hold it all together …ready for its beauty shot before being devoured along with my bowl of black beans.

Hugo’s Spanish Restaurant makes the claim that it is The Official Cuban of Tampa Bay. Claims in Tampa for the biggest, best, most authentic and, of course, best tasting are quite common and all have a ring a truth to them. We do have great Cubans. I am sure that a Cuban sandwich contest is being held right now, as I write this. So, today, I did my part. Hugo’s Cuban is good. One of the very best. Period. But everyone in Tampa has their favorite. Surprisingly, Hugo’s, which is on South Howard Avenue, south of Kennedy Boulevard in the SoHo dining and entertainment district, has been around since the 1970s, long before South Howard had a reputation for anything but Bern’s Steak House. Playboy online, in this month’s issue, just named Hugo’s the best Cuban sandwich, sharing honors with lobster rolls from Nantucket and cheesesteak sandwiches from Philadelphia. Hugo’s is a winner in many food and restaurant contests and is a place you can always count on for their excellent food and great service. Always.

*Cuban Mojo recipe: Authentic mojo is made with juice from sour oranges. It still has a little orange taste, but it’s very acidic and tart. Try mixing equal amounts of freshly squeezed orange juice with lime juice. If you live in an area with a large Latin community, you should be able to find bottled Mojo. (The Goya brand is good.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

M&M’S® Peanut Chocolate takes a Wild, Raised Ride: Jak Boys Customs

With all of the different kinds of candy in this big, chocolate-filled world, only two would go with me in enormous quantities when I am marooned on the desert island: Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and M&M'S® Peanut Chocolate candies. M&M'S® Peanut Chocolate Candies, with the makes-a-lot-of-sense tagline, "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand," were introduced in 1954. That's the year that the much-loved (and eaten) M&M characters first appeared, too. While literally wandering around today, camera at the ready, I made a turn and the M&M'S car was dead in front of me. I stopped. Stared. Not believing. Was this really a totally raised - "jaked" - 70's era Chevrolet Impala? Covered head to toe in M&M'S? Yep! All my favorite and delicious peanut characters that I like to down by the handful. Holding on for dear life.

With a little sleuthing I found that the company that is responsible for this transformation is Jak Boys Customs. They have done at least one other M&M'S vehicle, an SUV, plus tons of other wild rides. They have quite a big operation and I bet a great reputation to match. They will customize any car or truck, and will do repairs as well. But from the look of their website, and the vehicles I saw, they are customizing experts and are good at it.
They specialist in adjusting ride heights including hydraulic jacking (like the M&M'S car), air bag lift kits, custom wheels and tires, ground effects, air brush murals, freehand pinstriping, and probably anything you can think of and describe. It's a wild, jacked-up ride for my peanut chocolate characters. Hold on guys. I wonder if I should take the car with me to the desert island? It would have to have a trunk full of M&M'S, of course.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Bridge Tender's vantage point

It was already still and quiet as night as the sun set this evening over the Hillsborough River. This is the view facing north from the bridge tender's house on the Kennedy Street Bridge. This particular bridge was built in 1913, and is the third to cross the river at this spot. When it was built it was named the Lafayette Street Bridge but was renamed in 1964 in memory of President John F. Kennedy following his death the year before. (The President's motorcade crossed this bridge when he visited Tampa on November 18, 1963, just four days before his assassination in Dallas.)

In the distance on the right is the new Tampa Museum of Art, which is still under construction, and the open Cass Street Bridge is straight ahead. After heavy rains throughout the day the clouds disappeared just before the sun began to set. But, the air is still thick with humidity. Looking down at the boat passing under the bridge it occurred to me that the place to be tonight would be out enjoying the much cooler air on the open water

Visit some of the world's most interesting places and experience the incredible photographic artistry recorded in black, white and grays at Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Goody Goody is still GREAT!

Back in the 1920s a barbecue place on Florida Avenue in Tampa's downtown transformed into a drive-in restaurant that thrived all through World War II, then the heydays of the 50s, 60s and right up until its closing in 2005. The days of curbside service, carhops and finned cars cruising the lot had long since disappeared by the time Tampa's famous Goody Goody Drive In Restaurant closed forever. The neighborhood wasn't the same, traffic through the doors had dropped way off, and the property alone was worth well over a million dollars. But unlike so many of my favorite, can't-live-without restaurants that close their doors and it's goodbye forever, never to be seen or tasted again, this isn't the case here. Not entirely. It seems that like with Palios Brothers and other places, the menu items you've grown to love and near die for go into some never-to-be-prepared-again black hole somewhere. But this story has a different, far happier and delicious ending. For a small dining establishment, a lot has been written over the years about Tampa's Goody Goody. I posted a while back about about the Colonnade on Bayshore, my hangout years ago and a place that for generations was a mainstay; it's where you met your friends, dated, ate burgers and fires and formed teenage memories. It has changed but at least the name and place remain even if the food isn't quite as your remember; we do visit from time to time (even if I still miss their burger sauce that's been gone 30+ years.) This isn't a sad tale of a Tampa food tradition that died and your taste bud dreams could never again be satisfied. You've got to admit, it's hard to not feel sadness for a Closed sign on a restaurant that was a part of your life.

After the Goody Goody closed and the entire building was leveled and the lot cleared for development, the owner (and keeper of the secrets) made a deal with a restaurant that is miles away but still on Florida Avenue. The Pine Grove Restaurant agreed to serve Goody Goody's original burgers with their extra special - and secret - sauce. The recipe for the burger, including the exact bun, pickles and sauce, could not altered in any way. And they succeeded. It's not a beauty queen kind of burger, but it has a glorious and proud way of oozing sauce while keeping its bun in place over the onions and pickles. We decided to go there in the pouring rain to enjoy a taste that remains unchanged after seven decades. It's a little unusual for us to go out this far from home; we have just about every great restaurant one can imagine or crave almost within walking distance, but this is certainly worth the long drive. Oh how it delivers. No equivocation. Amazingly, if I close my eyes, I am sitting in the old metal chairs at Goody Goody, unwrapping the burger, and taking bite after sloppy, sauce-filled bite, alternating crispy french fries with slurps of chocolate milk shake. A savory combination of tastes and smells that are hard to describe. It just doesn't get much better on the gastronomic meter. It's a messy burger but every near-historic bite is a little taste of my past. And, that is a very good thing to keep alive.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Skywatch Friday - Season 4 Episode 9

It may rain like cats and dogs sometime today, with rain chances at 60%, but this sky looks like it wants to get in one last big show of blue heavens and billowing stacked white clouds. After days like this, a few dark clouds and rain may be just what we need to cool off a little and let the plants get a good soaking.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oaklawn Cemetery: Tampa's First Public Burial Ground

Oaklawn Cemetery, established in the mid-1800s, is owned by the city and is Tampa's oldest burial ground. It adjoins St. Louis Cemetery, which is owned by the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, and both are surrounded by a stone wall bounded by Harrison, Jefferson, Morgan and Laurel Streets in Tampa's downtown. A fence that once separated the two disappeared long ago. A number of prominent persons from the city's history are buried here including Tampa's first mayor, Joseph B. Lancaster, and 12 other Tampa mayors, a governor of Florida, two Florida Supreme Count Justices, Confederate soldiers, and members of some of Tampa's more illustrious, pioneer families. Vicente Martinez Ybor, the man for whom Ybor City is named, and who brought the cigar industry here from Key West and made Tampa the Cigar Capital of the World, is also buried here. (I posted another monochrome image of the cemetery on August 23. Click HERE to take a look.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Watery Wednesday #52: Just Skimming Along Old Tampa Bay

It's Watery Wednesday and this seabird is certainly enjoying hanging out on the sand of Old Tampa Bay. The Black Skimmer seabird, Rynchops niger, breeds in North and South America and has become very common in Southern California. Northern populations winter in the warmer waters of the Caribbean and the tropical and subtropical pacific coasts. They like to winter on public beaches, even those with a lot of human activity, or sand bars where they hang out with sea gulls and terns. I found this Skimmer with gulls and smaller seabirds at a busy beach on Picnic Island. They get their name from the way they skim across the top of the waters with their lower beak down at the surface to catch small fish. Unlike a lot of birds, their bright red-orange feet are webbed.

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

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rarer than hen's teeth (and drives a lot better)

I know this isn't a Cars for Sale site, and this one isn't for sale anyway. I fell so hard for this car about 45 years ago and could never get it out of my mind...or off my list of cars I must drive and or own one day. (Neither of those things has happened, yet.) The reason I had to post about this particular make and model is its out-and-out rarity. To see even one, ever, is an uncommon occurrence. I found it sitting at a repair garage and screeched to a halt to examine it closer and take a few shots. I am guessing that this example is a 1971 or 1972 - a few were built as late as 1981. In the world of million-seller cars and trucks, they didn't make but a handful. Said to be the "pinnacle of automotive engineering," it is huge in size and comfort. The Mercedes-Benz 600 is a truly unique and exquisite example of automotive motoring in the style of kings, popes and sultans. Wherever in the world one can think of that combines immeasurable wealth, prestige and luxury, a Mercedes Benz 600 was there. (Or still is.) If you want to tour a Mercedes 600 site, click HERE.) If you read my last post, it's funny that the M-B 600 was said to have had the loudest HORN ever put in an automobile. (I wonder if the Mercedes folks ever measured this car's horn against a train horn blaster?)

Production began in 1964 and ended in 1972 (plus the few built into the '80s.) During this time, only 2,677 vehicles were made in total. Because of the “important” passengers that would be in the back seats, they didn’t take any chances with the 600 and installed redundant, dual systems throughout the car. It has dual alternators, dual brake systems, and compressors for air conditioning and suspension. Everything on this car seems to be operated hydraulically. Suspension. Trunk. Windows. Mercedes' first V8, the 6.3L, 6332 cc, M100 engine which developed 300 horsepower, was installed in the 600 and could move the two ton vehicle to 130 mph and probably cruise all day at that speed. It was built to go fast and be as solid as a tank (and weigh almost as much), all the while keeping the passengers wrapped in a cocoon of luxurious and exotic wood, leathers, wool and sumptuous fabrics.

Aside from the Pope and many of the world’s governments, here is a partial list taken straight from Wikipedia of some of the owners of 600s: Coco Chanel, Jason Kay, Hugh Hefner, Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, Aristotle Onassis, Jack Nicholson, Hirohito, Simon Spies, Bob Jane, Elvis Presley, Communist leaders Nicolae Ceauşescu, Josip Broz-Tito, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot, Leonid Brezhnev, Kim Il-sung and religious leader Guru Maharaj Ji.

African revolutionaries Idi Amin Dada, Jomo Kenyatta and the former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos had four 600s including a Landaulet. Other notable owners include Saddam Hussein, Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Yi, Deng Xiaoping, wife of the first Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai - Deng Yingchao, and the former King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk all drove in a 600.

There is only one other car that I have coveted almost as long and still have never driven or owned. It's a Facel-Vega. Only 2,900 were built from 1954-1964. The best had Chrysler Hemi engines and were said to be the fastest production automobiles of their day. And as cool as any Ferrari but more luxurious and head-turning. (Think Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly on the twisting roads of Monaco.)

I will just keep on dreaming and perhaps one day I may get to drive a Mercedes 600 (or, in my widest dreams, a Facel-Vega.)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Train Horns that BLOW!

Read the copy on this colorful, graphics-covered pickup and then really let the "product" it's advertising sink in for a moment. Got it?? It is a horn that when installed in your car or truck sounds like a TRAIN!! "Train Horns For Your Ride." A TRAIN! As I quickly grabbed this shot at a traffic light, I hoped that the driver wouldn't "train" his horn on ME, just innocently idling behind him. I do remember when installing a Ford Model T horn was a favorite years ago, but the thought of a locomotive creeping up behind you and letting its full air horns go, would give some people a heart attack. The website states, "Don't Blow Your Temper, Blow Your Horn." There are a number of amateur videos on line touting the fun of using the horn out on the streets. In the name of research I watched and listened to a few of them. The horn does scare people to almost to death. It sounds like a train passing in front of you at a railroad crossing, blowing its horn, while you sit and wait. There, you are expecting the horn to blow.

Does it really sound like a train horn? Yes! Can you imagine that blasting you as you hesitate at a stop light or slow to avoid hitting an animal in the road?
Poor smushed roadkill.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Monochrome Weekly: Unexpected Find

It isn't often I go out and discover a completely unknown place. Especially within just a few minutes of home. I may not have been on a particular street or in a specific neighborhood before but I do live in a city that I know pretty well. Today, I literally discovered an area of real natural beauty that is as close to unspoiled as I will find this is as surrounded by roads, houses, buildings and even industry as this place. The camera loved it (in both black/white and color) and if one can ignore and crop for the intrusion of power lines and a glimpse of a building, I could have been standing in the midst of thousands of unspoiled acres in the heart of Florida. The truth is I was standing with my back to anything but "unspoiled." A busy street was a couple of blocks west and railroad tracks had been snaking through here for over a hundred years. This place is hidden away, just off the main drag a wee bit. The waters of Tampa Bay are just beyond the tree line and the water could be tidal. It was a beautiful scene laid out in front of me and the sky and clouds were celebrating. (A loved one lives a quarter mile north of this spot; I wonder if she even knows it's here??)

You must visit some of the world's most interesting places and experience the incredible photographic artistry recorded in black, white and grays at
Monochrome Maniacs!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Don Quixote embraces the eBook

The great Don Quixote sits astride his charger, Rocinante, and has obviously stopped reading from those tasteless books printed on paper and bound in leather. Note that he appears to have switched to the eBook reader, Kindle, or such. No man should be seen living in the past, so he proudly, emphatically embraces the newest technology; the better to explore and discover the vast reaches of the world around him without lugging books...or weighing down his magnificent steed, or even life itself. Heavens no. Quixote is clearly shown here comparing the heavy tome under one arm with the devilish splendor of the much smaller, and smarter electronic device. What his trusted squire, Sancho Panza, may think we cannot tell from the statue. (Although I am smoking a Honduran Sancho Panza cigar as I type this.)

This life-size statue of Quixote stands in the center of the lobby of the SunTrust Financial Centre building in Tampa's downtown. (It is the towering skyscraper with the ziggurat roof design and color display at night.) The statue really must be seen closeup to appreciate its detail and exquisite workmanship. It is just inside the lobby but it is too bad it's not in a more public location so more people can see it closeup.) The artist, sadly, is unknown to me at this time and that's a shame.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The best view at 699 feet is from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Today is the start of the Labor Day weekend holiday and I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of a car I love to drive and point it in the direction of St. Armands Key, a perfect island just over the bridge from Sarasota. It’s not in Tampa so I didn’t take photos but, as some say, it’s all about the journey. In this case, it is about the route I always take. And get a kick out of. It’s south over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

The Skyway, actually named the Bob Graham Sunshine Sky Bridge, crosses Tampa Bay at the southernmost point of Pinellas County and heads over to Manatee County, toward Bradenton and Sarasota. The bridge itself is why I prefer this route over any alternative. It’s a continuous, pre-stressed concrete bridge design with a cable-stayed main span (those are the BIG yellow cables!!) It is 29,040 feet long - exactly 5.5 miles (or approximately 8.85 km). The bridge is a part of I-275, a north/south portion of our national Interstate system that runs east and west and takes me through the middle of Tampa, over Tampa Bay, down through Pinellas County and over the Skyway. An older bridge, built in 1954 in almost the exact location but a little west, was almost destroyed in 1980 when it was hit by a ship. After its collapse, construction of this bridge to replace it began in 1982 at a cost of $244 million. It opened to traffic in 1987. You can see the steel and concrete but what makes it so interesting and almost unique are the really gigantic, yellow steel cables, twenty-one in all, which support the structure. (I don't have a clue how it all works.) It stands 699 feet at the top and has the finest, indisputably coolest view of the Tampa Bay area and Gulf of Mexico, no matter in what direction you look.

The sunsets are breathtaking. BUT, a word of caution. A driver cannot look anywhere but ahead. Passengers on the other hand can gaze as though they are in a low-flying aircraft. Breathtaking height and vantage point. Drivers, on the other hand, do the darnedest things on the Skyway. Slow, incredibly slow. Nearly stop. Drive like maniac. Then, there are those on the flip side of the coin. There are drivers who are unable (scared near to death) to drive over the bridge at all and can ask for a driver to take the wheel when they are at the toll plazas on the causeways leading up to the bridge. It’s not a scary ride at all, but even if you’ve driven over it a number of times it’s still fun to try and get a look at those cables and the water below. The design is simply outstanding and not only has it been selected as one of the top ten bridges in the world, but car manufacturers have filmed several commercials on the bridge, the last I recall were for Cadillac. Every time I post about the cruise ships that come in and out of the Port of Tampa, they have to pass under the Sunshine Skyway. Its clearance for ships is 175 feet. Seeing its enormous height, and width, it’s astounding that a ship could actually hit a bridge of this size. But, sadly, it happened. Today, at both ends of the bridge are excellent and popular fishing piers that were created from the remains of the original bridge. If you do any driving up and down the east cost of the United States you know of the many tolls one can encounter, especially in our lovely Northeast (and delightful New Jersey Turnpike). The toll to cross one way over the Sunshine Skyway is just $1.00. I think that’s a bargain. (I would pay more to enjoy the fun ride and spectacular view.) There is another route south toward Sarasota, Naples and on to Miami – that doesn’t cost anything - but this is my preferred route and highly recommended.

My day was pretty near perfect. One of my all-time favorite bookstores, Sarasota News and Books, has closed. We reached the door with five minutes left on their going-out-of-business/fixtures sale. That is cause for tears. But, after that, this day became a resounding joy. (I could show you the shots I took of the sunset as we were heading north back over the Skyway toward home but I don’t want anyone to think I would actually operate my camera in the late evening while driving over the bridge. No never.)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sunset over Tampa Bay

The sunset this evening was so attractive that the camera almost left the house on its own. After gray skies and off-and-on rains throughout the day, the air grew dry and still, the water on Tampa Bay grew glassy smooth and the sun began to glide across the earth in all its glory. A scene like like one shot from the Beach Park neighborhood make these homes very desirable. Your boat can be tied up at its own dock just steps from the house and it's about 3 minutes to the deep, open water at the mouth of the bayou. Head south to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing. Skiing. Or just lazy cruising in and out of the many canals. It's faster by boat to your neighbor's dock then taking the car to their driveway. Can't you just imagine having to enjoy this view every day and night. Magnifique.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Aliens MUST have landed

Those wild and crazy guys in Denmark keep designing these incredible music systems. When the uninitiated, non-audiophiles pass this display window, and don't know a thing about stereos, they must think this looks like a scene from Saturday Night Live and the conehead skits (do you remember the hilarious conehead family? ...But, I digress, terribly. Sorry. Back to the Danes.) Bang & Olufssen is an 80 year-old company. Let me say that I have never owned any really high end stereo equipment (that costs as much as some new cars) but this particular brand sticks clearly in my mind.

I lived in Manhattan for a while in the late 1970s and had many occasions to visit apartments all over the island. Stepping into one place, on the lower west side, I spotted something on a table that at a glance I did not recognize nor at first could I even identify. Because of this photo, posted this evening, I went back via Google and found that it was a Bang & Olufssen BeoCenter 1400 made in about 1977. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I had never seen a stereo so over the top, even alien looking. The sound was great, but the design was very "contemporary" for its day, I thought. It cost new just over $890 in the late '70s. (I think my rent then was about a third of that.) This brand new system, and way-out modern Danish design, must cost a fortune, I don't know. The BeoSound 9000 shown here with BeoLab 9 Loudspeakers, according to the company's site, "make the small hairs on your neck stand up and a tingle down your spine." I am prepared to believe them. I bet it's an unimaginable and realistic sound. But now that I know I can buy, today, from a site in the UK a used, like-new 1970s-vintage B & O 2200 system, it's much more likely I will own the older one with a turntable, dual Dolby cassette deck, and square speakers as big as a house. It's in my price range.

Or, I could just wait and in 30 years this new system will be a real bargain

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

BIG, really Big Baby!

The September theme for City Daily Photo bloggers from all over the world is BIG. Be sure and visit the other sites to see how creative and imaginative my fellow CDP bloggers are: Click here to view thumbnails for all participants.