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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

They say heavy rain so get out there wuss, conquer the wet stuff and find incredibly hot colors and cool reflections

Whenever the forecast calls for 70% chance of rain, I pretty much believe it will actually rain. It might even turn into a heavy downpour or storm, but don't go all out and take an umbrella or get ridiculous. It is sunny Florida and bright blue skies will surely greet you if you head out in rain gear, galoshes and a plastic bag pulled tight around the camera. I'm not fooled by those phony 20-30% rain chances around here. They keep weathermen employed but are typically a bust and seldom produce more than a sprinkle and even then only enough to throw nasty wet muck up onto the car and windshield. 70% or higher and I plan to get a little wet as I navigate puddles or flooded-out intersections in search of ideal combinations of rich, deep saturated colors and long reflections in rain-soaked streets. This office building, with its modern walls and angles in bright shades of sun-soaked colors that remind me of Santa Fe, combined all the elements that screamed at me Stop. Now. Take my picture. Hurry, the light is just right. No, dummy, I didn't mean stop in the middle of the street and block traffic. Oh, well. Too late. Hope it was worth it for one silly shot. [* Wuss = a person who is physically weak and ineffectual. Won't go out in the rain to take pictures. Frequently misses out on best photographs.]

This is what's happening right now, this Tuesday, in My World. To see what's happening now at other places, visit That's My World TUESDAY.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Bridge of Quite Different Sighs: Tampa's 83 Year Old Columbus Drive Bridge Is Looking Strong and Sturdy in Black and White.

Tampa has plenty of bridges over the river and bays. Many of them were built several years ago and have been regularly inspected and maintained and a few, such as the Howard Franklin Bridge and Gandy Bridge over Tampa Bay, have had entire spans replaced in recent years. This bridge over the Hilllsborough River at Columbus Drive is one of those that you speed across and never give it a thought. It's so fast and routine that very few even notice they're crossing a body of water. You're only on it for a matter of seconds and then it's forgotten. A swing-type bridge built in 1926, it is an entirely different structure, and experience, when seen from the water. We need to stop once in a while and really look at these places and things from our lives that we might see every day but pay little if any attention to. Yes, admittedly it is old, and may be showing its age and some wear. But it's a fascinating example of design and engineering that is recognized as one of roughly 32,000 Historic Bridges in the United States. It was built right long ago and still serves its purpose very well. Even if we don't pause and take a closer look.
Please visit Monochrome Weekly for other images of our world as seen in black, white and subtle shades of gray.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How cowardly is this bright yellow sign? You're just too chicken to ask.

These carefully arranged letters, spelling out STUNGUNS, arranged so artfully at an angle, are on the side of a squat, one-story block and stucco building not located in a particularly busy location for retail. What draws one's eye to the building at all is the almost disquieting color of yellow. Whatever particular shade or tint of yellow you want to call it, whoever painted it did not want anyone to drive by without noticing his business. Forget fancy electronic signs blinking and flashing, let's get 50 gallons of hideous yellow and dunk the whole place. Yellow cabs would be embarrassed if they had to pick up a fare at this establishment. Smart, savvy marketeers those guys. No one would call them cowards when it came to their decorating sense. Brave guys for sure. The place is empty and closed up so from this sign alone my best guess is that in its most recent past - before or after it was painted this stunning yellow shade? - it was a store which sold firearms and non-lethal weapons such as stunguns. You know the device, right? Similar to early electric cattle prods, they first began appearing for their current use in the 1950's and early 1960's, and by 1976 the TASER stungun was introduced. First classified as firearms, the design was reworked and they were reclassified as non-firearm. (Nowadays I guess one could be used, judiciously, on wild, spray gun wielding painters with gallons of cheap leftover paint that roam our highways and byways painting retail facilities in god-awful colors. I suppose to catch unsuspecting consumers and lure them in hypnotically.) Selling stunguns and similar devices in gun stores and pawn shops makes sense as they are associated with self defense and protection. But from studying this one sign that is all that remains of the business, I can't think of any reason they would go to the trouble to spell out this one product on the side of the building 25-30 feet from the road. Believe me, no one would ever get past the yellow of the entire building to spot the sign. No way.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hey, Mom and Dad, pile the kids in the car. Let's all go buy a trunkload of fireworks. How fun is that!

Every year as our 4th of July Independence Day celebrations approach, huge tents like this one appear on just about every imaginable empty lot and parking lot in our city and county. (I hope this happens in other places so I don't feel our local governments are the only ones who turn a blind eye - not a desirable condition when discussing fireworks.) Many are operated by a company that has been in business for a couple of decades or more and specializes in these types of temporary fireworks retail businesses. They import all of their fireworks and then wholesale and retail fireworks them all over the state of Florida. I have never bought any fireworks from them or any other stand on the side of the road and I think the last time I did more than watch a public display is when I was a not-too-smart high school kid in South Carolina throwing some powerful little devils such as ash cans and cherry bombs; that was a long, long time ago. Since then, as I've grown older and I think a bit smarter, I worry for every small child I see lighting and throwing something that goes bang. And it's not just on the 4th . It goes on for days (and nights) before the holiday. The neighborhood peace is destroyed by dads thinking it's entertaining and educational to go out and help the little ones actually light these things - 5 and 6 years old love the loud, explosive thrill of dangerous fireworks. Where is the adult here?? Sparklers are always fun (and I know very dull and not explosive) but I firmly believe in leaving fireworks to professionals. Tampa and surrounding cities have a wide variety of public displays each year and the ones near Hillsborough Bay and the Channelside district downtown are always very well done. The tent I shot is typical of a retail operations intended for "consumer sales" which require buyers to sign a legal waiver that they will be used for agricultural purposes only. Scaring off birds or something. Although we have strict laws, apparently you could drive a 16- wheeled semi through the loophole. All the legal mumbo jumbo aside, the tents are perfect subjects for the camera and this one was especially good. On the top of the striped tent is an athletic young lady pulling and positioning the biggest banner into place. I shot closeups as she worked on the tent for almost 30 minutes without falling. She did finally get it straight and roped tight. (I bet she's a full-timer who has done this many times before. Who knew you could climb onto the canvas tents and jump all around.) So now you know. If you want some fireworks that disturb neighbors and carry the risk of blowing off fingers visit any of the several convenient striped tent locations for the best selection. And to look cool and smart, take your very young children along so they think dad (and mom) are real smart shoppers as you cart the biggest box to the car. Please have a save 4th this year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

SkyWatch Friday: Morning Thunderstorms and Power Out

After 17 straight days of temperatures well into the mid to high 90-degree range, the weather forecast for today said, It might rain in the morning and drop our temperatures in to the 80s. Well, yes, it did began to pour rain with thunder and lightning in the early morning hours, well before I saw the sun shine which it didn't do until well into the afternoon. We even lost power for a short while which is always fun. This shot of our downtown skyline only hints at the amount of rain and flooding we had throughout the area all morning (I had to shoot some of our more intelligent drivers navigating flooded intersections. Amazing.) and that is with our continuing drought and tough watering restrictions. Hard to believe we are nearly surrounded by fresh and salt water on all sides, and yet there is so very little water underground. Every bit of moisture from the sky helps and today's rain is most welcome.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ascend the staircase to Florida blue skys: The Palace of Florence rules proudly on Tampa's Davis Islands

I admit that I have been drawn to this building for many years, long before its complete restoration in 2003. The old world look and intriguing towers reminded me of castles I liked to play with as a kid. What boy can resist castles and knights in shining armor (or young damsels?) The Palazzo Firenze (Palace of Florence) was part of David P. Davis' original plan for his ambitious, and mostly realized 1920s dream for the development of the two small islands in Tampa's Hillsborough Bay. Located at 45 Davis Boulevard, it was designed by Athos Menebun. It is understood that its design was taken from the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Looking now at photographs of the palazzo in Florence, it does share many of the elements of the tower and fortress-like design. Built in 1293, the Palazzo Vecchio became the seat of town's government and the home of the Medici family. It has been the seat of the municipal authority in Florence since 1872. It is a gorgeous part of the town's skyline today and a mighty big target when you're designing an apartment building on a near empty, sandy spit of land in the Hillsborough Bay. At the height of the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s, architects were trying to design distinctive and luxurious structures for Davis Islands and they dreamed of a grand design to fit the developer's equally as grand dreams and ambitions. The 600+ year-old design of the Palazza Vecchio fit that dream. This photograph of the tower and exterior staircase show the terra cotta, wrought iron and stucco materials used throughout the building. Rather than Florentine officials and Medicis, Tampa's Palace of Florence features eight apartments in the 3-story building . Completed in 1926, at a cost of $350,000, it was restored in 2003 and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is also received Local Landmark Status. Looking up from this vantage point, one can't help but want to climb the outside stairs to see what is up there and check out the view of the islands, Tampa and the bay. Great spot for watching the sun set.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This Green Iguana serves burgers and beer. No, not iguana burgers!

This mighty green beast must be 25 feet long. If I had backed away to capture his entire length you would see that he covers half the roof of this popular spot, The Green Iguana Bar & Grill, on South Westshore. The Green Iguana is an apt name for this fun, palm-laden, very Florida-like place. (With that giant monster over your head, what would you call your establishment?) The little lizard perched on the big one's rear leg, you have to look closely to see him, is probably only four feet long. Just a tiny guy. The Green Iguana, around the Tampa area for over 18 years, has six locations in Tampa, St. Pete and right on 7th Avenue in the heart of Ybor City. That's the location I know best and have enjoyed many times while sitting at a table laden with appetizers, mouthwatering burgers and icy Guinness. It's one of the best spots to watch the world of Ybor pass by. (Just get a table out front on the sidewalk; it doesn't get any better.) Their website has a tall-tale that tries to explain their name and its significance. The legend of the Green Iguana begins, "Years have passed since that fateful trip, but the man remembers it like yesterday." I can speak for two locations but I'm sure each one has the same welcoming feel, delicious food, good service and live music that doesn't interrupt but instead adds to the fun of the place. I had never noticed the slithering giant iguana before, believe it or not, I think because he is so big , and on the roof, I missed him as I headed to the food and drink. (That's my excuse, OK?!) He is big! And serves monster burgers that I strongly recommend. The legend that goes with the naming doesn't hint at why the burgers are so good. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rowers are Great Artists, Too: Crew Teams Leave Creative Evidence That They Rowed Tampa's Hillsborough River

The Laurel Street Bridge in Tampa was constructed in 1926 and is a “pony truss bascule style that pivots” from one side of the river's bank. This extremely colorful old concrete building, which houses the mechanical works, lies under and on the west side of the span. (If there are any bridge engineers out there you are welcome to chime in with a more accurate explanation of how it works.) Suffice it to say the bridge is over 80 years old and has seen everything in its day from sailing vessels hauling goods for unloading onto Tampa’s docks to today’s million dollar pleasure craft gliding under its steel span. Of course the traffic on top has been just as interesting and indicative of the vast changes we have seen in automotive design and technology since the first Model A crossed over the river. But through all the years the Laurel Street Bridge has withstood every test we could throw at it, including nature’s wrath of storms, flooding, the constant sun and deterioration caused by pollution in the air and water. The fact that it's still standing is a testament to its design, construction and constant maintenance. I realize I am not showing the entire bridge because the most fascinating parts of all of the bridges that cross the Hillsborough River in Tampa’s downtown are the works of art on the sides and foundations left behind by our friends on college and university (even a few high school) rowing teams. The art may have started to appear as early as the 1940s when the University of Tampa, which fronts the Hillsborough River, began its first crew team. The university crews began arriving back then and are here from January to March each year. Teams come to train from Princeton, Yale, Rutgers, Dartmouth and other colleges. And if you look, they have left reminders that they were here. Year after year. So it isn’t a recent rash of vandalism or overly-enthusiastic graffiti artists come to life. As you study the designs and messages, and before you dismiss these spray-painted and brushed-on tags as graffiti, just know that even the new Tampa Bay History Center (which I featured in yesterday’s post at Tampa Florida Photo) has taken more than casual notice of this artistic explosion on our river’s bridges. On its third floor is a wall-size exhibit featuring one of the bridges and the art left behind by the nation’s rowing teams. Many crew teams come to Tampa to train on our river and channels during the winter months when it is very cold up north. It must be a favorite place for the teams who use the facilities on the riverfront. (It's even hot and sunny at Christmas!) The men’s and women’s teams work very hard to perfect their technique and also find time to enjoy Tampa, Ybor City and our nearby Gulf beaches (if they can escape their coaches that long.) But, apparently one activity they will always find time for is leaving evidence that they were here. These talented kids, great athletes all, have to be fast, creative and in some case, nimble daredevils to hang and suspend from bridges and seawalls to get their design and message just right. It must be visible to every other school’s team that rows by after they leave. Whether it’s called urban art, school insignia or just plain graffiti, it is an important part of who we are as a city and some part of us should be proud that students from many of our nation’s top colleges and universities want to be remembered for having crewed in Tampa. I’m all for celebrating that achievement with them. (Plus, their artwork will always make for great photography.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Not Just a Bunch of Big Black Boxes Down by the Riverfront: The NEW Tampa Museum of Art

If you look at the photo, there would be no way you'd guess what you're looking at. Yes, big tall office buildings against the sky. But what is the black thing in the foreground. Well, it's our new art museum that is currently under construction. In 2006, the architect Stanley Saitowitz from San Francisco, CA, was selected to design a new Tampa Museum of Art. It is now well out of the ground and making a strong statement in downtown Tampa's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. It's scheduled to open early next year. The original Tampa Museum of Art, which opened in 1979, sat behind Curtis Hixon Hall, Tampa's convention center, on the Hillsborough River. The building was razed in February last year and is being replaced by this 66,000-square-foot facility. These photographs show it from two angles as it rises up on its Hillsborough River-front location. The round limestone building above right, is the Rivergate Tower and headquarters to the Sykes Corporation. The other office buildings visible from left to right are the SunTrust, Verizon, Colonial Bank and Bank of America. The round building was designed by architect Harry Wolf to symbolize a lighthouse and is a distinctive element on our city's skyline. It's probably one of Tampa's most important buildings architecturally. The new art museum is certainly another interesting and unusual design that came about after a long and at times contentious debate and selection process that resulted in this final design by San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz. The exterior is being covered in pierced aluminum. . You are able to see the construction progress on the TMA WEBCAM. From the WEBCAM view, which faces to the north, the museum is on the left closest to the river and the Glazer Children's Museum, which is also under construction, is on the right. The museum will feature five interior galleries, one exterior sculpture gallery, and an educational classroom. The architect, Stanley Saitowitz, is a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and a principal of Natoma Architects Inc. in San Francisco. He is the recipient of number of awards. His completed projects include the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, the Capp Street Artist Workshop, the San Francisco Embarcadero Promenade, the Coffee Pavilion at Stanford University, the Oxbow Art School in Napa, and several residences. He has taught at a number of schools and has lectured extensively in the USA, and abroad.
His design is tough to visualize from a photograph but it is definitely taking more of it final form as the exterior is being covered. The angle I shot from at the corner closest to the river showing tall downtown buildings rising up behind it obviously provides a stark, but intended contrast. The smaller shot from the opposite bank for the river shows the full width and relationship to the Hillsborough River. As its construction moves along I will update you on its progress and show more architectural details as they are applied.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's Carnival Time in Tampa's Port

There is almost always frenetic activity in and around the Port of Tampa on Sunday afternoon as the cruise ship passengers arrive and begin to board. The Carnival Legend, which flies the flag of Panama, is one of Carnival's "Fun Ships." Three cruise lines sail in and out of our port including Holland America,Royal Caribbean and the Carnival ships including the Inspiration. The Legend is in Carnival's Spirit class and was launched in 2002. It is 963 feet in length, its beam (width) is 103 feet and it carries a crew of 960. A somewhat smaller ship than some, it holds 2,124 passengers on 12 decks and a real plus for many, 80% of of its cabins are on the outside. If fun is its theme, then it should deliver with restaurants, a wedding chapel and 16 lounges. Its atrium is nine stories tall. Just about now we can hear the horns blow for final boarding. The ship, with its distinctive red, white and blue whale-shaped tail of a smoke stack, will sail at 4:00. Although these size ships seem to move like a turtle (or a manatee), the Legend has a 22 knot cruising speed, so it can really move for an 88,500 ton behemoth. From our terminals in Channelside it will sail into the Western Caribbean including calls at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Isla Routan and then return to Tampa - a 7-day cruise. (That always bring to mind Gilligan's Island and its theme song, "Just a Three-Hour Tour.") Sailing now as it is in late June it is before our hurricane season heats up in August and September. Even these ships have been known to change course to avoid the major storms that will visit our state, the Gulf of Mexico and the islands. By my watch it will push off from our cruise dock in 5 minutes...right now! It is always a awesome sight to see them sail.