Thursday, October 5, 2017


This is the current iteration of the bus, and #2 route. There have been many different bus "stylings" over the years.

It's hard to say goodbye to an old friend. It's even harder when that old friend isn't really a person, or a thing, or a place, but a state of mind, if you can call it that. When I found out that our old Tampa Hartline Bus route #2 on Nebraska Avenue was going completely away, I felt sad. I don't know why, because there will still be the sleek, MetroRapid that courses along Nebraska Avenue briskly. There won't be as many stops and it will all be very efficient and time-saving and money-saving, I suppose, but I am going to miss the wheezing blue bus that was full of God-Knows-What. It just always made my day and I've written about this route in several posts.

Missed the movie “Deliverance”? Never fear. It got on the #2 bus every day around 2:30, after the M.D. 20/20 had run out, and it was time to head back down town to the Salvation Army, where dinner was served at 4:30 pm. There'd be a hootenanny, a hoe-down AND a ho down in the aisle, if the driver just didn't give a shit, which most of them didn't as they were pretty jaded by all of this after years of driving this route.                   

This is NOT who was running up and down the aisle, drunker than a coot screaming he was Apache and Geronimo and had a broken leg. Not even close! 

Last week, “Geronimo” got on the bus. I'm not too sure what this dude's deal was, except that I'm pretty sure the real Geronimo didn't sport Nikes, support hose, a broken leg - which he loudly proclaimed he'd just gotten and walked out of the E. R. with - a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey, and a porkpie hat, and proceeded to tomahawk his way up and down the aisle during our bus ride loudly proclaiming he was an “Apache and fuckin' Geronimo!” with a whiskey bottle hanging out of his back pocket. He got off at the local Drunk Park, or whatever it's now called. It's the one place I actually cross the street and pass at a stiff trot, brandishing my cane. They usually haul one or two out of there per day. Whether or not they survive is an open question.

Of course, no #2 bus route elegy is complete without “Shoe Sniffer”. This guy really cracked me up, but he pissed off most of the men on the bus. He was into sniffing shoes, but only men's shoes. When Jim was alive, he came home one day, and said, “Get this. I'm on the #2 bus just now and this guy comes up and asks me if he could smell my shoes. And then! Without even waiting for a yes or a no, he gets down and starts smelling my shoes! And then! He acted like he wanted to lick 'em! I told him to get the HELL away from me! Have you ever heard of such a thing?” By the time I stopped laughing and explained what a “shoe fetish” was, he was just aghast. Well, “Shoe Sniffer” was all over the place sniffing shoes on the #2 bus until he finally got arrested. It was such a shame, because it was so damn entertaining on the bus. You'd hear someone yell “GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!” and just know “Shoe Sniffer” had struck again! Of course, to be fair and honest, if he was into sniffing women's panties, he would have been stopped a lot earlier than he was. Still; just sayin'.                 

This is one of the older "stylings"; a sort of rainbow swirl, that supposedly gave people motion sickness, but I think that's just an urban legend, kinda like those zombie poison trumpet plants, I made up a year or so ago for A-to-Z-Challenge! But the Checkers-of-the-Damned is for real!

Today, I thought we were just going to have a “normal” ride; one where there's just the usual din of 85 people yelling into their cell phones. Why bother using a cell to call the D. R., New York, or Nigeria, when you're screaming loud enough to be heard without the aid of one? I was also blessed to not have that random guy sitting next to me, just shouting out incoherently. I've had that and it always ends in a fist-fight; then, blood, tears and regret, but not mine. Keep your nightmares in your head; I have enough of my own, thank you.

But no, today we had this lovely gentleman get on the bus and he had a little posey bouquet of flowers; just so pretty. Everyone on the bus had to comment on the loveliness of the bouquet and the man explained that he had just purchased it, because he felt kinda blah, it was a blah day and he needed a pick-me-up. We all agreed that that would do the trick. It was a really nice moment, and there are nice moments on the bus, as well as the crazy ones. Alas, this nice moment was not to be lingered over.

At the very next stop, an androgynous person gets on the bus and sits on the opposite side from me and my roommate, but one seat ahead. This person then proceeds to take out their cell and with earbuds in, starts to watch what is just a stage on the phone. There are no people on the stage; there is no action or movement that I can discern, at all. However, this person is singing and miming and gyrating all over the place to music that is. . . in his/her head? Music really in the earbuds? Person hallucinating? What? I'm going for hallucinating, because after several minutes of this, the person jumps up and hollers out “WHAT IS THAT?” I, like the moron I can be, jump up and yell “WHAT IS IT?” Patty my roommate, who is actually sitting in the seat in front of me, looks up at me and says sotto voce “it's nothing”. I fold up like cheap kleenex and just laugh for 15 minutes. We're in the front of the bus, so the whole rest of the bus gets a nice treat of “Idiots' Delight”. I look back and the guy with the flowers is laughing his head off. I am such a dolt.

So, yeah, I'm gonna miss this wheezy old bus, although the MetroRapid will travel the same road; Nebraska Avenue, with fewer stops and will have the same idiots on it, it just won't seem the same. Everyone in town knows about #2. The #1 bus which runs parallel down another major artery just doesn't have the same trashiness and weirdness; nor the drivers. Who can forget Mr. “Safety Last”? The dork who couldn't make a 90° right-hand turn, and had to call the Supervisor when we got so rowdy, because I was threatening to tell the TPD he kidnapped us (they were only 50 feet away working a traffic accident and 2 other buses had made that turn) and it was frustrating folks, man! That was fun and Alex had a great time telling me to stop acting like I was 11. Incompetence brings that out in me.                    

These are the new green monsters. The seats are hard plastic, with sprayed-on fuzz, or at least, that's what it feels like. They always keep these things at about a jillion degrees below zero too, which is good I guess considering who rides in them. It's also a good way to prevent the spread of colds and viruses during flu season, but I feel like a complete jackass getting on this thing in the summer time with a winter coat, if I'm taking a long trip. But trust me, you'll need it.

Anyway, I wanted to write about the loss of #2. It's been here for forever, I'm guessing, and it might even come back some day. They do change routes and schedules at a whim, but this is a huge overhaul for Hartline. As far as public transportation goes, it's okay; It's not BART or the NY Subway, but it's ours. We'll keep it!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017



Well, we survived Irma and we're one of the luckier areas in Florida, I believe, but I ended up with a brief trip to the E. R. My current roommate went OUTSIDE during the hurricane – I guess to hole up somewhere and smoke a cigarette – and I grew concerned and went outside. Since I apparently have a head made of wood or sawdust, as I told my boyfriend, after the fact, I was hit in the head with flying debris. I then proceeded to lie on the front porch in a driving rain, for God Knows How Long, until someone found me and called an ambulance. I regained consciousness in the E. R. of St. Joseph's hospital, with 6 staples in my head.

The idiots at the hospital wanted to admit me, because my “core temperature was lowered” when I was brought in, but it was coming back up. Gee, ya think? Since I had laid there in the rain for God Knows How Long, bleeding from a head wound (not at ALL serious, by the way) there might just be a slight possibility that my core temperature was lowered and oh by the way, Billie Joe, I take Primidone which is a barbiturate for my essential tremor and my core temp is basically lower, ANYWAY. So, I yawped and barked and got the HELL out of there! I've had enough of hospitals, thank you very much and I am no fan of this one. MY hospital is TGH and they work with me.

Anyway, home I went and the power came back on about half an hour later. Maria is more worrying. My neighbor's mom lives in Puerto Rico. My 'hood is mostly Hispanic and there are still people that have not been heard from that island, whose relatives are here in town. I cannot imagine that uncertainty or worry hanging over their heads. Plus, we have a tone-deaf president who gives out Golf Trophies and flings rolls of paper towels at the islanders; it's embarrassing to be an American. We should do much, much more. What part of this is Donald Trump NOT getting? This is an American Territory with real trouble. Comparing Maria to Katrina is the most fallacious argument I've ever heard and Maria was a “real” hurricane, Mr. Factoid, so shut the fuck up, Donald Trump.

If you cannot do this job and it's obvious now that you cannot, step aside. Or how about this? DOJ, do YOUR fucking job and arrest this man for Obstruction of Justice! Clap him in irons and frog-march him into a jail cell where he belongs and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law, based on the evidence, YOU ALREADY POSSESS! It's only going to get worse, not better! We, the American People, who are taught to think that the Institutions of this country will protect us, are being given short shrift, because the people who are currently manning those institutions are craven gorms, who are afraid to stand up to this nit-wit of a baby-man, lest he throw a tantrum. This is no longer a Democracy, a Republic; it's just chaos. His own Staff doesn't even know what he's doing!

Donald Trump wants to be Dictator of the United States and then, the World. We need to get him and his sleazy family and friends out of the White House and out of our Government. As Americans, we need to take back our system and run it properly and do it legally and without loopholes and/or wads of cash. I'm furious over what has happened to my country and you all should be, too. I'm GLAD the NFL is taking a knee. You know who else takes a knee? George Clooney does, when he prays for this country, every night. You all should, too. I'm out. I'm too goddamned mad at the American public, the media and my own government for behaving this way. Exercise your right to protest and vote, goddamnit! It's your right and your duty!                                         

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


In what has to be the most monumentally perfect end and seque into what has got to be a better tomorrow – and this is being said with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, we are bidding a fond adieu to this third quarter of 2017 and looking ahead to the last quarter of 2017 and heading into 2018, with the hopes that all of this will be far, far better than what has gone before and I must elucidate.

Hurricane Irma, 09/06/2017 01:48 am edt. Marching up the Caribbean to Florida.

After coming home from Japan, which was surely a highlight, it took a while to get back into my normal routine, and as a matter of fact, I'm not sure I ever got there. This is rather a disaster for someone like me. I'm hard-wired to the max and it's difficult for me when I get out of my routine; I get out of sorts and lose my appetite, have trouble sleeping and just generally do not operate at my optimal level best, but I soldiered on.

Things seemed to be settling down into a normal routine, until I had two unfortunate hospitalizations; one in March and one in late July. The one in March was due to some atypical chest pains that were attributed to my essential tremor, which I've grown accustomed to experiencing, but the one in July, was a bit more difficult, as this one was caused by my essential tremor once more interfering with my autonomic functions, by lowering my blood pressure and this time, my heart rate, throwing me into bradycardia and had the unfortunate effect of leaving me with a poor sense of balance and with vertigo. I was also having my usual trouble of keeping weight on. The upshot? Home with physical therapy, occupational therapy, extra food, care of Meals on Wheels and extra vitamin supplements.

My handsome viola, Wolf. He's an Italian snob and it shows in the way he looks and sounds. No wonder he doesn't want to get his feet wet!

Then, after a few weeks of that, I came down with a case of strep throat; only my 2nd in my entire life. I knew it was strep, because my gums threatened to run away first. Lovely stuff. This is on top of having had my new cell phone stolen back in May. What a bad summer. The highlight was seeing my old and dear high-school chum of 40+ years back in May. That was 3 days of laughing hysterically over everything. I get to see her again in the spring, along with another cohort of ours, and I can't wait.

So, here we are. It's September 5th, 2017 and what do we have awaiting us? Why one week after Hurricane Harvey, certainly one of this epoch's most destructive storms in terms of human misery and the cost in property damage and just the scope of destruction, we have Hurricane Irma, not just lying in wait, but what has become quickly, a category 5 storm, with winds of 185 miles per hour, at least 3 times the width of Florida, so that it matters not where she comes ashore, we're all at risk. And it matters not whether or not I am ambulatory, or if I have a vehicle or not. I have a valuable instrument, and as long as I'm in a place that is high and dry, it behooves me to stay put. Or rather, it behooves the underwriters of the insurance policy that hold Wolf's policy for me to stay put. Not that I'm tempted to go and grab a boat and go punting through the streets of Tampa anyway. Nebraska Avenue is weird enough, when it's normal out. I can just imagine how bizarre it's gonna be with Irma's impact. Mr. Cigaret and his “Merry Christmas” in July and Abraham singing to the cars will have new audiences to sing to and new patrons to greet, if FEMA and disaster relief need to make their way to our shores. As for me and Wolf, it's highly doubtful that we'll be singing for our suppers, but you never know. Stay tuned. At any rate, when Irma leaves, it's time for this run of luck to change! 

Sunday, July 9, 2017


I started this off naming one of James Thurber's funniest stories, because it rings so true for my own life, which has been an endless series of confusion, pratfalls and just plain idiocies. I could jump in just any old place, and come up with some stupidity or other; either mine or someone who is close to me. Being homeless for eleven months just helped to enrich that craziness.

So, not very long ago, on the 15th anniversary of my mother's death, I discovered through my own pulmonary doctor, that my own copd, which had taken her life, will not take mine. The last symptom, the scar tissue that inhibits exhalations seems to be gone, according to my pulmonary specialist. When I discovered that I had copd, I made it my mission to try and help others – as well as myself – and began going through Clinical Trials; I have been in one trial or another since 2012. To say that this is startling news, really throws shade on how important this is. In the past, the most people could hope for, was that their copd could be arrested, and if the patient had quit smoking – which I did in 2010 – there should be no worsening, although that is not always the case.

My mother had a genetic predisposition to copd, just as she did to essential tremor – although, alas, she was never diagnosed or treated for essential tremor. I just know it from consultation with my own neurologist and discussion with my aunt, who is a terrific observer of such things. Both of these traits show up on the same genetic strand of DNA. And I know this how? By reading my own medical chart. These are primarily the only true medical weaknesses we possess, lest you count the pure bat-shit insanity and pure cussedness on both sides of my family.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, most people who quit smoking don't get worse, but by the time my mom quit smoking it was very late in the game; she had 13% lung function. I had 43% lung function when I started my Clinical Trials, but within 2 years, it had gone up to 90%, however, I still had those damnable scars that made exhalations and true exertions very hard on me.

Well, it had dawned on me somewhere after I did Japan – read “Mr. Bean Does Japan”, after I lost my blind cane - that I didn't have that “elephant sitting on my chest” feeling at all. Me essential tremor was being a mess, but I'm generally a mess and don't pay that any mind; it won't kill me. And then, last Monday, I had a thought (and no, it didn't get lonely and leave), but I needed a hill to try out my thought.     

I had to go to my bank, which is up a small hill facing Nebraska Avenue. I went and got the rent, and then went back down the hill. Then, I ran as fast as I could – I was a runner in high school – back up the hill, and capered and danced around, chortling to myself and just having a fine time. I did this for about 20 minutes, without ever getting out of breath.

I told my “pretend adopted son” Alex about this episode and he said, “You just know someone saw you and said, there goes another Nebraska Avenue loon!” So, we had a good laugh about that.

On Wednesday night however, I pulled an even bigger stunt. I'm a restless sleeper. I always have been and it was a latent sign of my essential tremor. At least, I never sat up in bed and jacked my better 2/3s in the eye, as is the case with my mom, when she gave my dad a black eye. When he said “Ow! What did you do that for?” She was all huffy with her response: “Just be glad you're a fish! You can write on Sundays!” I'm sure untold generations will be pondering the profundity of that meaning. My dad said sleeping with me when I was tiny was like sleeping with a bulldozer. My poor dad.

Anyway, somehow, I'd gotten turned around and was sleeping with me head, where my feet should be. I woke up at some point, thirsty and was looking for my water bottle. I saw it, and reached for it-wtf????

I fell out of the bed, and landed on my head and shoulders with my feet up in the air. I lay there and laughed like a loon for about 20 minutes, feet still in the air, before I recovered enough to pull myself up and get back in the bed, with my water bottle. It is a good thing that I'm still so limber and agile, because there are times I don't have one brain cell in my head.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

#IWSG – July 2017 Check in – Depression Really Ain't All That

I'm not going to start this with the usual organ recital of how I had an essential tremor episode, landed in the hospital, came out and got the Plague that everyone had for about 40 years it seemed, but was closer to 7 weeks and then had my cell phone stolen, and then I went to bed depressed for two months, until I got sick of my own pitifulness and drop-kicked my ass out of bed. We've all been there in one form or another, and my particular pity-part seems to be “I suck, hate myself, never did anything good, am a rotten person and cannot do anything well...” What horseshit.

Any one who has to deal with mental illness goes through this cycle and we know that things will get better. I'm at my best when I'm fighting for something I believe in, or if I have a job to do. Simple stuff; easy-peasy. And I've got the tools to take me to next step.

Anyway, it's time for me to move on to the next step and get on with my life. Symphony rehearsal starts in about 7 weeks and I've been approached by NTI, a company that provides work-at-home jobs for people with disabilities; the extra money will help.

I NEED to start writing again too. When I'm really creative, it keeps the bats out of my brains and keeps me motivated. I'm sorry I just sort of dropped out of sight. Alex Cavanaugh and Juneta Key came looking for me, just as I was climbing out of that hole. Thanks, you two, and to any others who may have sent emails I missed, thanks to you as well! I know you care! I hope everyone has a productive #IWSG month!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Every so often, on a Sunday, the Internet, Cable and phone will go completely to hell, and by that, I mean, it all stops working. For everyone. It doesn't matter who your ISP is, it just goes away, and it's usually for a full 8 to 10 hours and always on a Sunday. It's not every Sunday, and it doesn't happen with any regularity or frequency that we can report on, so we just all sit here, like clams in the dark, until our Internet, Cable and phones start working again, generally around six pm'ish.                   

I tried reporting this outage to my internet provider and they were just as much in the dark and mystified as I was. They had also had several other calls from customers in our area reporting the outage and they had no explanation; everything looked good. It wasn't until we read a little blurb in the paper, that we discovered that the Department of Transportation had purchased several of the older houses in and around the areas of I-275 that they were going to expand and rather than tear down these fine old houses, they decided to move them to other parts of the neighborhood.              

I'm all for the preservation of history and we do sport some pretty nifty old houses and all, but only in or around Nebraska Avenue, would the Government come up with something so cock-eyed.           

Yes, we must expand the freeway, but rather than tear down these old houses, let's buy 'em for lots and lots of money from their owners, (who've skipped off to Key West), and spend lots and lots of money to move them to empty lots that we've ALSO bought from some other people (who fled to Monte Carlo) for lots and lots of money! Then, let's move the houses, but let's move them in the most inconvenient way possible; say, like, by Conestoga Wagons and Oxen, and turn off everyone's Internet, because we're not sure that it's safe to leave it on when we move these here houses, because we're the Department of Transportation, not the Department of House-Moving; I mean, we have to figure out some way to use up all of this money, so we'll get more next year? Right?              

And, another house gets moved in a stately, glacial manner down the Avenue. . .

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Ever'body around here wants to be a gangsta, 'cause it's so fly. Gangstas get to ride in nice, tricked-out rides, they get all the babes, and all the blow they want and all the power and money they can burn through in a week. So, ever'one around here tryin' to be a gangsta. They's oney one problem with this plan, man. Dey ain't got no do-re-mi, so what we have is a bunch a damn idiots ridin' around on tricked-out bicycles, and scooters, with boomboxes tied to their handlebars, blasting ghetto shit to the masses and looking more colorful than usual.

Mr. Pimp-My-Ride

Man, I could write a book about this cat. He lived in my house and he tricked out his bike with tin foil. He worked as a mechanic, but couldn't drive; had lost his license, because of too many DUIs. He also was the proud owner of a "Big Booty DVD that someone stole, watched, and sold to someone else for a joint, who watched it, and then sold to someone else in our house for some pills, and then after the pill guy watched it, he sold it back to this cat for twice what he paid for it and the dude still didn't catch on. We had two houses full of folks like this when I was homeless. It was something new every day. Remind me to tell you about the "columnoscopy" story. It's a gem.

We've even figured out how to make a “boombox in a box” which you carry in your hand. It just supplies the rhythm, and you make up the rap for it. Yes, you too, can be a gangsta, with absolutely NO wheels, now. You just have to have a gadget that supplies the beatz, and you can rap to your heartz content!                

There are some very, very beautifully tricked-out bicycles on the Avenue, that are worth thousands, that the gangstas proudly ride on.

Have somethin' to say? Say it in a rap! Have nothin' to say? Sat that in a rap, too! Just rap it on out there and prance around like a ninny. Never has the 'hood been so colorful or fun! And people wonder why I stay indoors.                

This, and "Mr. Pimp My Ride at the very top, are more typical of what we're likely to see and hear on the Avenue and its environs. People will be happily peddling away, sharing the most god-awful tripe and having the time of their lives. It's fun to watch!

I haven't given in and started wearing headphones on the bus or when I'm on the street for the simple reason that I feel like I NEED to be aware of what's going on around me, either because I might miss something, or because, I suspect, I'm really still bemused by the panoply of humanity that lives here in this area. I never know what to expect, and to be honest? I'm still continually surprised at the things people come up with here in the 'hood. So, let the “gangstas” trick out their bikes and their scooters and have their fun. Let the rappers-in-a-box have at it. It's part of the rich tapestry here on Nebraska Avenue.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Fracas is so appropriate because it is something that occurs with MUCH frequency here and around the Avenue, and they are usually over singularly stupid things that would occur nowhere else on the planet and they generally leave me grinning from ear-to-ear, if not just melted down into a puddle of laughter over the idiocy of the arguments; all fought with the fervor and immediacy of the saving of the Free World kind of passion that we see in the cheesiest of Hollywood Spectacles. Today, I was treated to one of those spectacles and it was priceless.

This is the building that looks like it would be the "Checkers of the Damned" from my "Hysterical Buildings" post from last year's A-to-Z Challenge.

Firstly, I had to go to one of my favorite places to drown my sorrows; my sorrows being that I had to pay my rent, which is a huge chunk of my “Disability” check, more than 1/3 and while I rusticate on the Tampa Housing Authority List, I'm stuck. I'm better off than most however, so I really can't complain. My needs are few and I'm careful, but the insecurity is real and I can't really save much, so I headed off to Checkers, where my favorite building, the “Checkers of the Damned” lies right across the street. See my post “Hysterical Buildings” from last year's A-to-Z Challenge for a description of that place. I still wonder what it was supposed to be.      

Anyway, as I'm trying to decide what brand of grease I want to chow down on, this cat comes driving through on the wrong side. Checkers and Rallys are known for having drive-thrus on both sides, but they only go one-way. This dude just careened in from the street in his crappy Ram Pick 'em up and started driving the WRONG way thru the drive-thru, and all kinda folk were hollerin' “man, you can't do that! You goin' the wrong way, man!” Dude hollers back, “I KNOW what I'm doin'! I got dis!” Like he's soloin' a jet plane to Mars or some shit. He parks his ass all fat and happy in front of the window, facing the wrong way. The girl goes up and I can't hear what is being said, but behind me I hear “he KNOW what he doin'... He don't KNOW shit. He gonna get his ass run outta der so quick...”

I see a lot of gesturing going on between the dude and the cashier, and it gets kinda hot and heavy, like Italians at a speak-easy or something, then, she whirls around, hair flying, and SLAMS the window and goes off. Dude sits there for a moment, then he kind of wilts and drives off...      

Okay, so it wasn't a full-blown riot, but there was intense muttering for a while. The whole incident was hysterical and Mr. "I Got This" got his comeuppance for being a total cretin.

I can still hear muttering behind me; “Man thinks he GOT dis! He gonna get bitch-slapped. He don't know what direction the sun rises in the morning. . .” Murmurs of assent... I'm just laughing. Pretty soon, the dude in the crappy Ram Pick 'em up, drives up thru the drive-thru the RIGHT way and gets served by the Manager. He's very polite and very chastened. This kind of thing happens ALL the time on the Avenue; so often, that we say, ONLY ON NEBRASKA AVENUE!      

The only thing that would have made this better, would have been a full-on tackle or scrum, by the window, but hey, I'll take my chaos where I can get it!

NOTE: I described this entire incident to a very good friend of mine, who is my co-Leader in my gaming Clan. We've known each other for ten years and he's very familiar with this area and my tales. After I'd gone through this entire narrative, his comment? "And I just know this is a daily occurrence around there, isn't it?" Yup, it is! 

Thursday, April 6, 2017


One of the things that is really popular in this mixed neighborhood, is the cuisine. The people who live around me are from mostly Hispanic countries, and the food is scrumptious. One of my favorite dishes, or treats really is the Empanada, which originate in Galicia, Spain, but is also made in several different countries: Argentina, Colombia, Belize, Cape Verde, Venezuala and even India. The word “empanada” comes from the Spanish “empanar”, meaning to coat or to wrap in bread.     

In spite of the fact that these are fried, the filling is very light and you can eat about a million of them, before you feel full. I love the light, savory taste of the beef, although the chicken empanadas are very good, too!

Empanadas come in a variety of flavors and the dough is usually made with wheat flour and beef drippings. The dough is folded over with meat and/or cheese, olives and then they are either fried, or baked. The best are fried and they are a real treat. During the Lenten season, they are filled with tuna, and are still scrumptious. Empanadas are pretty small, and it's easy to eat five or six in one sitting.

The Nebraska Cafetería is across the street from where I live and next to my VERY convenient laundromat. It's hard to stay out of the Cafetería, when they have so many good dishes there!

I'm not even sure if you can buy them frozen; we've always bought them from the little Honduran Cafeteria across the street, where they're made fresh every day. There are several shops in Tampa that sell Empanadas and they're all good. If you ever get to downtown Tampa, be sure and check out one of the Cafeterias and try a chicken or beef empanada. They also make them for vegetarians!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Today's letter, “D” for dope, can be taken literally as well as figuratively. Dope is something that is so very prevalent on the streets in and around Nebraska Avenue, and yes, the people who indulge ARE dopes. The drugs of choice vary and run the gamut from marijuana to a legal concoction called “spice”, which is manufactured and sold over the counter. The reason it's legal, is that when the FDA analyzes the current witches' brew that is making the rounds, the chemists will change just one molecule and voila! The drug then becomes “legal” again.     

Our drug dealers are a lot slicker with the handoff. A customer will come up, the dealer will say, "Just a second" and head off to the east, to a house where the drugs are kept. He never keeps a supply on his person, so he can't be busted for intent to sell.

This has a two-fold effect. First, the drug is becoming so adulterated that people are just losing their minds when they smoke this shit. I was standing at the bus stop one day, and one user, a tiny woman, fixated on me and came jittering over to me, like something out of the “Walking Dead”. I acted before I would let her get anywhere near me; I took my cane and pole-axed her in her sternum and she went down like a pile of bricks that had lost its support. She kind of laid there for a minute, then got up and, having forgotten about me, tottered off in another direction. It really does make people lose their minds.     

"Spice" or synthetic marijuana, has been altered so many times, that it no longer resembles the milder form of the original drug it was supposed to mimic. It has horrific side effects, including causing hallucinations, tremors, dementia, and paranoia.

The other problem is that because it is so adulterated, it encourages this kind of behavior in people and the police are up to their ears in arresting people for all sorts of criminal behavior that has arisen from the use of this drug. Along with spice, people are still out there smoking crack, shooting up heroin, and smoking marijuana, which seems quaint, now, in terms of what I've seen on the street.

Once, I was coming home and there was an idiot who was just lying flat out on the pavement on his face. I walked up to him and hollered, really loud, “ARE YOU ALIVE? WAKE THE HELL UP AND GET OFF THIS GODDAMNED PAVEMENT! THIS IS NO PLACE TO TAKE A NAP!” One eye opened, and fixed on me, and the dude slowly dragged himself to a sitting position. Someone else had already called an ambulance. They came and took his vitals, and deemed him fit to stay out on the streets. I scolded him, and told him to go and sleep it off, but not on Nebraska Avenue! Really. Once, another dolt was nodded out at the bus stop, and I poked him really hard with my cane and told him to get the hell out of the bus stop; he could barely comprehend what I was saying.

It's a never-ending battle, out here on the Avenue and what people don't understand, is that even though I'm partially-sighted, I do see all of the drug deals going down and know who is responsible for the flow of drugs and the chain of command. At one time, I remember seeing three drug dealers standing together talking and thinking “How in the hell does anyone make a profit, if they're all dealing? Do they sell to one another?” Beats me how it works, but they stay in business.     

This cat is typical of the type of "customer" that frequents the various drug dealers that ply their trade on the Avenue. Every so often, one of them keels over dead, but generally, I just have to yell them awake.

The police do what they can, but in Florida, it is illegal to take pictures of or record people doing these things, or making transactions, without their consent. So, a civilian's hands are tied and we are left to surveil through the cameras in various businesses around the area. We've had mixed success in that regard, but we've managed to at least, keep them off of OUR street. As long as they stay out on Nebraska, I don't care what they do, unless I'm on the Avenue. If I'm on the Avenue, they don't like to see me coming, because they know I'll raise hell, and NO SLEEPING ON THE GODDAMNED SIDEWALK!  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Nebraska Avenue encompasses a wide variety of cultures and different enterprises in and around its environs. As we saw with Bo's, we have a sort of retro 50's kind of place, that is reminiscent of the old soda shop, minus the juke box and soda fountain. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Ybor City, which is rich in its own history. Filled with Cubans of third- and fourth- generation emigrés, Ybor City was once home to the world's largest producer of fine, hand-made cigars.


This is the original cigar factory that was founded by Vicente Martinez-Ybor. There are several others around, and one burned down a few years ago. One is still in operation and you can tour the museum and watch cigars being hand-made.

The first factory was built in 1886, by Vicente Martinez-Ybor, who moved his operation from Key West to the new company town he founded just northeast of Tampa in 1885. The first cigar factory and holding company was a three-story building and the largest cigar factory in the world at that time. Over the next few decades, skilled cigar makers or tabaqueros would roll hundreds of millions of cigars on wooden workbenches set close together in the building's wide, sunlit rooms.

The skilled cigarmakers had a great deal of economic and social power until the 1930s, for they could always be recruited by other firms. They set their own hours and often left early to dine on Seventh Avenue or visit a club. Their wives were rarely in the work place, as they were part of the traditional social order of Spain and Cuba. Eventually, women began to enter the work force, but didn't hold the top artisanal jobs.

Often, the factories themselves were owned by Anglo or British owners, but the Management and Supervisory duties and all of the day-to-day functions were performed by Cubans or Spaniards. Each role within the producing of the cigars had clear-cut definitions of who would perform those roles, as each role had its own sphere of influence.     

For example, the Spanish handled most of the jobs directly concerned with the manufacturing of cigars; wrapper selector, packers and knife-sharpeners, while the Cubans rolled the cheaper cigars, and Afro-Americans cleaned and did janitorial work. One of the most important and influential positions was that of el lector, who sat on a raised platform – la tribuna – and read the news and other items to the workers as they worked, a practice that had been started in Cuba and important in any labor negotiations, was highly prized and sought after.

The hand-rolled cigar business continued right up until after the Second World War, when mechanization was introduced and with it, began that slow and steady loss of a colorful industry that still, to this day, has one functioning hand-rolled cigar factory. It's on everyone's itinerary for a visit to Ybor City and it's fun to watch the skill and dexterity that it takes to roll and perfect these Cuban cigars. You also don't have to worry about smuggling them in from Cuba!

Monday, April 3, 2017


On the other side of the Interstate, I-275 that is, running parallel to Nebraska Avenue, is our “sister” avenue, Florida, which for some reason, is not nearly as colorful, or junky, or as full as miscreants as we here on Nebraska like to think, although the residents on Florida I'm sure would beg to differ. They do, however, have some pretty neat establishments over there, and while we can boast of our “3 Coins Diner” and our “Ella's”, they do have us beat with “Bo's Ice Cream”.

Distance from my house to Bo's. The route is I-275, which is the delineation between the two Avenues, which are as different as day and night. 

Bo's Ice Cream has been around since the Eisenhower Administration and it carries some of the finest ice cream anywhere; all of it home-made. When I lived over there on the “other side” I could actually walk to Bo's and order me up some of the BEST homemade pineapple ice cream with real chunks of fresh pineapple in it that I've ever had. It's probably a good thing I'm living over here off of Nebraska now, because, now, I have to take two buses to get my Bo's fix and I have a problem with my sugar and Bo's is certainly not the place to remedy that. Besides their simple homemade ice cream, they offer everything from ice cream floats, to upside-down banana splits and everything in between, and it's all good. Bosanko's favorite treat is the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae; he makes the brownies himself!    

Kenny Bosanko hasn't changed the decor; preferring to keep it retro over the years. The patrons like it that way. 

The owner, Kenny Bosanko's father established Bo's in 1954, when the family moved to Tampa from Ohio. The building was already an ice cream stand in 1954, called Kreme King, but it struggled because the owner didn't keep regular hours, hanging signs that read “Now” or “Not Now”, so it took the Bosanko family time to turn the business around with regular business hours and it's been a going concern in the Bosanko family ever since.

Two big favorites; the soft swirl vanilla, dipped in butterscotch, and the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae, with Kenny Bosankos' homemade Brownies. 

The place on the corner of Flora – the street where I used to live – and Florida Avenue didn't open a drive-thru until 2001 and didn't accept credit cards until 2004, 50 years after the opening of Bo's. Kenny is a last-millennial kinda guy and accepts that. He remembers the days when everyone could leave their doors and cars unlocked, and also remembers the crippling tide of drugs and thievery. That's pretty much gone now, and he has a lot of repeat business from police and firemen and says “There are a lot of radios around; we're pretty heavily armed”.     

Although this isn't the cheapest ice cream in town, it's certainly the best! A sampling of Bo's menus.

At any rate, this place will make any kid swoon, and as to how many days the establishment has ever been closed over its venerable career? Exactly two, and that was during the time in 2004, when Hurricane Charley cut the power to everything in Tampa. But, any trip to Tampa MUST include a trip to Bo's for some of the best ice cream to be found anywhere in the country!   

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge: Announcing: The A To Z Challenge Simulcast Blog!

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge: Announcing: The A To Z Challenge Simulcast Blog!


If this sounds a bit familiar, it's because it is. An area so rich in history and characters, deserves to be written about; preferably as much as possible, because there's so much going on here, the overall feel of the place changes from day-to-day, while underneath, it really remains the same, because the human condition and the basic human response to poverty, disease, disaster and hunger doesn't change much. That's not to say that there's nothing humorous going on here. There's plenty of rich humor to be mined here, and it helps to have a good sense of humor, if nothing else, because it can get strange out here on the streets, and along with the humor, you have to have some smarts to survive.

Less than 2 blocks from my house. Too bad we can't see the "Checkers of the Damned".

I'm here to observe and occasionally, to make sure the bad guys don't always win, and also because I can't really afford to move anywhere else. I have the perfect disguise and can stand right out there in public and watch things happen, and no one ever suspects that I know what's going on. But that's a story for another day, and this is just for the A-to-Z Challenge; more fun little stories, some factual, and some totally 100% “fact-free”. I'll be sure and let you know when I'm posting “fake news” as is the current parlance, like last year's “Hysterical Buildings” and the “Community Garden”. Also, this year, I'm collaborating with my “pretend adopted son” Alex, who does go out and about, much more than I do, because unlike me, he doesn't get into fist-fights with the locals.


And yes, gangstas please. Feel free to drive by and share your crappy music with the 'hood, any old time, day or night. I particularly like that one tune that goes, BOOM. . . BOOM, BOOM-BOOM! YO-YO! BOOM. . . BOOM, BOOM-BOOM! YO-YO! eleventy-billion times in a row and does nothing else, especially through your shitty woofers that broke the day after you installed them and blasted them out of existence! Nothing sounds finer!               

We are going to be sprinkling in stories of some of the “local celebrities” of the neighborhood; people who have lived on the streets around here for so long and survived, that they're legends. Alex has a list of questions to ask, and we'll be telling their stories about why they're living on the street and why they prefer it to living in a more “scheduled” manner. These mavericks don't necessarily get Social Security, or food stamps, nor are they always drug addicts or drunks. They just don't want to be part of the system and we're curious as to why. We've already got a few interviews under our belts. Not all of them wants their pictures taken, so it's possible, they're on the lam. Who knows, and Alex doesn't pry.                                                

I always imagine Alex being something like this, but this is the farthest thing from the truth. This picture actually links back to an article that the UK Independent ran about a guy who was feeding all this sleaze to Fleet Street, yet it was made up of whole cloth. Alex is scrupulous as to detail, and he and I work closely together. He's also from the D.R. (Dominican Republic) and is about 6' 4" tall and can be intimidating.

I'm not going on vacation this April, and won't be traveling again until summer, so I'm looking forward to finishing this and have started writing posts ahead of time; something I've hardly ever done before, but I'm excited about this project for another, secret reason. Anyway, happy A-to-Z'ing everyone! I hope you enjoy this trip down and around Nebraska Avenue!

Monday, March 27, 2017



Young Person's Guide to the OPERA

Young persons today have lost sight of the fact that opera used to be the 19th century's version of “Jersey Shore.” Well, kind of. Persons in operas did all sorts of outlandish things that just were not done in polite company. Actually, this analogy doesn't play out well, because all of the shit that goes on in “Jersey Shore” pretty much goes on in real life. Never mind.

Anyway, opera was THE form of entertainment back in the days before television and iPods and all of that, so composers and librettists were hell-bent on coming up with some pretty outrageous stuff to keep the hoi-polloi amused. In Italy, Puccini ruled and he wrote some beautiful stuff. Between Puccini and Guiseppe Verdi, Italian opera was well represented.

The Germans on the other hand, had a few problems. One of them was the Kaiser. Kaiser Wilhelm was a bit odd. He, uh decided, much like Stalin did in Russia several decades later, that he would decide what was acceptable for German audiences. Never mind that the Germans had been raised on the Aesir and Ragnarok and were already of a Berserker mentality. There was a problem with his favorite composer, who later became Hitler's favorite composer. Herr Richard Strauss lived long enough to achieve this dubious distinction, but Strauss really didn't give a fig what Wilhelm, or Hitler or Göebbels thought and went on to compose operas that were, ah, indeed in questionable taste.

The other is that for sheer crazy, German opera just can't be beat. Before Richard Strauss, we had Richard Wagner, whose magnum opus is the “Ring Cycle,” 20 hours of mayhem. Incest, death, destruction, war, 20 questions with dragons, trolls, witches, stupid but good looking heroes, Brünhilde, Rheinmaidens, Välkyrie, Valhalla, topped off by Götterdammerüng. A very happy batch of operas indeed, called "Das Ringen der Nibelungen," or "The Ring Cycle." I'll let Anna Russell describe it for us.

This set the stage for Richard Strauss who thought wholesome stuff like Salome, during Kaiser Wilhelm's reign, prior to WW I - and who was a bit of a stuffed shirt about morals in public, but behind closed doors? One of his ministers would drop dead during some bacchanal or other while wearing a pink tutu - would be perfect for operatic treatment. Herr Strauss was an awesome composer, but he had not clue one about anything socio-political during his long life. He thought it was a swell idea to collaborate with Stefan Zweig as his librettist during his stint as Reichsminister of musik for the Third Reich under Josef Goebbels. Herr Zweig was Jewish and living in London. Herr Goebbels was pissed about it and Strauss was lucky not to get a one-way ticket to Dachau.

Well, during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm, who was a notorious blue-stocking, Strauss thought it would be a hella idea to do an operatic treatment of “Salome.” D'you remember this story? Antipas marries Herodias so he can get at her daughter Salome. John the Baptist is locked up in Antipas' prison under the palace. Salome gets a gander at John, as he squabbles over theology with some pharisees and goes all googly-eyed over him, but John spurns her for the harlot-in-training that she is. Antipas wants to see Salome dance, but she's all like, “Ewwww.” Herodias is rather annoyed at both Antipas and John, spiteful bitch that Herodias is, and she tells Salome to dance for Antipas, because Antipas will give her whatever Salome asks for, and she should ask for John's head.

Herodias is sick and tired of Antipas mooning over both Salome and John the Baptist. Antipas is afraid of John, as John is a man of God and keeps saying all this scary stuff from his cistern. So, Salome says, “Okay, A, I'll hip-hop for ya” and does the “Dance of the 7 Veils.”

  This is a more modern treatment, but the staging is so well-done, I chose this.

Once done, she asks for the head of John the Baptist and the evil deed is done. Next comes perhaps the most unbelievably hellish passage in music imaginable, as a huge hand rises out of the cistern bearing the head of John the Baptist. (Unfortunately, this is a bad edit, and you get part of her love/death song to Jokkanaan).

Antipas is horrified, but the nightmare is not yet ended. Salome proceeds to roll around on stage with the severed head of John the Baptist and sings the most glorious song of love that is also horrifying, but beautiful. 

So, Antipas has her put to death by the Roman guards. Curtain falls.

Great stuff! Seriously, this is music I grew up listening to and played, so even though my ears are by no means jaded, one can see why I am pretty tolerant of today's Rammstein-like groups and less than thrilled with precious music like Mozart. I love Haydn. Haydn took chances and is wonderful. Enough digression.

Strauss went ahead and debuted this opera without the Kaiser's approval. The Kaiser's favorite minister later died wearing a pink tutu at some function or another. So much for propriety; the Kaiser had a really bad year; the Archduke Ferdinand of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was assassinated shortly thereafter, and the Kaiser's year was about to get REALLY bad.

I played in Opera Tampa for 12 seasons, so I have plenty of rich material to draw from. We did mostly Italian opera. Maestro Coppola (the same family that produced Francis and Nic Cage) summed it up this way: “Anyone can play a Goddamned German opera. It's just 1, 2, 3, 4. In Italian opera there are so many rubatos and tempi changes it requires so much artistry. You are all here because you were hand-picked. Be proud.” Tyrant. I miss it. Maestro wasn't necessarily wrong, although in his waltzes, Richard Strauss affords lots of rubatos in the Viennese style. You may have picked that out in the "7 Veils." For the record, I LOVE playing Richard Strauss; supremely challenging and he pushes orchestras to the limits. In "Ein Heldenleben," (A Hero's Life" with him as the hero) during it's debut, one of the first violinists complained to him that a certain passage is unplayable. He casually looked over the score and said, "Don't worry, it's unplayable in the flutes, too." It is in the violas as well. Let's end this with one of the funniest Bugs Bunny cartoons ever.

Probably one of the best Wagner treatments I've ever seen. I played with the Warner Brothers Orchestra, after jumping ship from the Disney folks up in Detroit, many years ago. Man, did you have to play your ass off, but it was a HELL of a lot more fun!