Sunday, April 17, 2016


Yeah, yeah; I was going to write about Historical buildings, but there's been so much written on it and it's so boring at this point, what fun is that? I've got some history, but I also have my own take on some of the dwellings, huts, edifices, superstructures, but not ziggurats, and some domiciles that inhabit V. M. Ybor (pronounced ee-bor, not eye-bor, as this moron did, when first exploring the place), and Ybor City, which we are cheek-by-jowl with, and in some confused way, a part of.

So, let's get started with this nightmare. It's on the corner of 15th Avenue, or Columbus Avenue and Nebraska and it has no windows, no doors that I can see and I never see any activity, although I did notice cars parked in an adjacent lot, one evening. It could be anything, since this is a mixed-zoning area. The more prosaic guess is some kind of hum-drum manufacturing of small bits of metal doo-dads goes on here, but I'm not the only one who thinks this is a scary building.


This building doesn't look that ominous in the daytime, but the fact that what windows it did have are painted over, and I can see no egress or ingress, is creepy to me. Mebbe the workers tunnel in, or climb a ladder in the back and enter from the roof. Crappy working conditions, if you ask me.

Two violinists of my acquaintance, who drive me regularly to and from rehearsals and concerts have both commented on the more sinister aspects of it's appearance. Of course, we're usually viewing this at night, when we've been plowing through something like Mussorgsky's “Night on Bare Mountain” and are a bit jumpy to begin with, so perhaps we are to be forgiven for our hesitance to ascribe anything benign going on behind those sinister walls. My best guess? Bad juju as there is a Haitian church nearby and this is where they make zombies with that scopolamine we sell them at the “Farmer's Market Gun and Knife Show”. We have no one but ourselves to blame, when the missing neighbors lurch north and start trying to munch on our body parts.


This is more a case of the building isn't scary, but what's in it is. When you have people who are basically bored and shiftless, you're bound to have trouble.

Now that we've sorted out that mystery, we can go on to something that is truly scary and does truly exist. Take a look at this purple number. It's a supposed “halfway-house”, although I have yet to see a halfway-house with an attached bar that is open during the day. When I was homeless, one of my roomies, who didn't have a screw loose and I would walk to the library with one of the guys who liked to read; safety in numbers, and all that.

The first time we passed on the same side of the street as this place is on, 42 guys all came out and in various states of sobriety, or sanity, cat-called us all the way down to the library. I might mention that there were women who live in this squalor, too, although, I think this was just the prospect of fresh meat. Guys were hanging off the roof of the bar, off the porch and just making all kinds of noise. After that, we either walked on the other side of the street, or even safer, took the bus.


Checkers: Proudly serving you 4-day old grease, heartburn, strokes and heart attacks since forever.

I know that the police go to that place much more often than they ever went to our shelter, and I'm pretty sure that is a place, where you could get ANYTHING, up to and including fissile material to make your own nuke, if you had the brains. It's been that same god-awful color since I've lived here. They've either cornered the market on “Midnight Blue” or it's more than likely paint full of lead, judging from the way the inhabitants act.


Checkers of the Damned. Once you've shuffled off this mortal coil, who says you stop craving those grease-and-bacon burgers, and spicy-oily fries? I think you just change venues and come here for your Happy Meal!

Next on our guided tour is this curiosity. I'm not even sure that this building was ever opened, or why it was painted the way it is, but Alex and I speculate all the time. I personally think that because this is such an old neighborhood and that there are regular paranormal activities going on, that this is probably “The Checkers of the Damned”. We just can't see all the ghouls and ghosts, as they are in the spirit realm. They coast through in their Christine cars and order wormy slug-burgers with crispy toads' feet, and drink minty, or vanilla ectoplasmashakes.

There's a Checkers for live people right across the street, and the ghouls, being Nebraska ghouls, set up shop there, thinking they'd give the other Checkers some competition, and then they went “oh... wait... yeah. We're dead.” and shrugged their little ghost shoulders. I'm sure their service is just as horrible as the live Checkers; the staff flirt and yak on their cell phones and make drug deals. A person could starve to death, or just eat a few meals there and let the cholesterol kill you. Either way, you're gonna end up at “The Checkers of the Damned” sooner or later.   

This is how the house looked during it's Roosevelt-Truman-brothel and apparently "Paul's Tourist Home" era. I've been inside this house and up and down and all over it. It's a wonderful house full of nooks and crannies and the trim and original fixtures are marvelous. Some of the rooms are roped off, because they are designated historical sites, where Teddy and Harry laid their heads, and just their heads. At least I think so.

So, now that we've established that V. M. Ybor is full of hysteria, we can also establish that it's full of history – as is anything that is more than a decade old. My dear friend (okay, my “pretend adopted son) Alex, lives across Nebraska Ave. from me in a house that is considered the heart of V. M. Ybor. It has been declared an historical building and anyone who owns it, has to put up with many, many regulations to fulfill the “restoration clauses” of the house. Alex rents a room there and has been there forever.

What's interesting about this house is that Teddy Roosevelt stayed there and used the University of Tampa as his staging area to muster his troops; the “Rough Riders”, for the taking of San Juan Hill in Cuba. Ole Teddy mustered the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, which was one of three such units raised in 1898 to participate in the 1898 Spanish-American War. President William McKinley called for the volunteers, because the American Army was so poorly understaffed after the Civil War.   

The white house as it looks today. It is a stunning house, both inside and out. My pretend adopted son, friend, Alex lives here in one of the rooms upstairs.

Teddy slept in the big white house, while musterin, as did Harry Truman. Truman also has a “Truman White House” in Key West. Truman, apparently, loved Florida. The house also gained notoriety as being one of the finest brothels in the country, but I'm hazy as to when this was, and I'm thinking that it may not have been when Roosevelt or Truman were sleeping there. Or maybe it was and that's why they slept there. Who am I to judge?


One of the many beautiful houses that grace V. M. Ybor. They probably don't have nearly the vivid past that the white house does, but they are pretty. Most were built in the 1920s to 1940s and have gone some kind of renovation. They are typically built "shot-gun" style, with the rooms in a line to take advantage of the breezes, as the homes were built before A/C was a thing here in Florida.

But, the real heart of Ybor, meaning “Ybor City”, and not V. M. Ybor, are the Cigar factories and now, the micro-breweries, which are on the edges of the tourist district. People flock to Ybor City for it's fine Cuban and Spanish cuisine and the night life. I used to play with my string quartet there, almost every night in the tonier restaurants. It's within walking distance from where I live, but it's a world apart.


I love to tell the story about the Washington D. C., national journalist for HuffPo, Jason Linkins, who was sitting in a bar in Ybor City during the 2012 GOP convention. He was tweeting about the pizza and beer he was drinking. I was busily “live-blogging and tweeting” the convention from the comfort of my blogging chair, as if I were at the convention. When we got to the “family values” part of the speech some nameless gorm was making before nominating Mitt Romney, I tweeted, “Yup, some family values. Nebraska Ave looks like a Hollywood Premiere with all them damn stretch limos running up and down. Guys looking for crack 'n' ho's!”

I tweeted that to Jason, and he is one of the very finest iconoclasts I've ever known. He said, “ha ha ha ha ha ha.” We tweeted back and forth a bit, and became Twitter friends; the man knows his political shit! Thus, a years-long friendship was born. I admitted later, I was just making shit up, except the part about the limos. That was true and it was before noon. Guess the GOP wives were getting their hair done, or some shit.

Just more history. Just more hysteria. 'Cause, Nebraska Avenue.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

At least the one house looks nice now.
A bar at a halfway house just seems like a really bad idea...

Viola Fury said...


There are actually many, many fine old houses in this area that have been refurbished and are beautiful. Because of the mixed-zoning laws, you'll find a palatial estate right next door to a ramshackle, burnt-out hut, that's next to a working factory. Because V. M. Ybor does generate so much money, not only with it's industry, but also it's tax base, those laws are not going to change anytime soon. That's one of the reasons this is such a rich motherlode for stories and observations on the human condition. Plus, it does have a long, and storied history. Again, if I can't find the information, Just make shit up, but am wise enough to let everyone know before hand. I truly love this place. <3

Limitless Reader said...
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