Thursday, April 4, 2019



Living on and around Nebraska Avenue has been a colorful journey and the denizens here have been sure to bring along their four-footed companions on whatever this all is. We have quite the assortment, and one breed of cat, known as the “Havana Brown” originated right here in V. M. Ybor. The cat is a beauty to behold; dark, small and fierce and so brown as to be almost black. It is related to the Siamese and is a striking animal.

Havana Brown

But, we mostly have an odd breed of cat that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be and they are most typified by my old matriarch, who has since passed on, “Mama”. She was part-calico, part-striped, with patches and colors a-riot. Her progeny are all over this 'hood and have been adopted by the good-hearted folk. When she came to us, she was pregnant with her last litter, and we had her spayed, but her descendants are still here, with all of her colors and patterns. These cats are almost all fixed, and they loll about the streets around Nebraska Avenue, living the lives of kings and queens all. It's fun to walk about the 'hood to see them.

"Mama" standing on my porch, looking for a treat. This animal did not know what she wanted to be, so she was a bunch of everything. Her descendants are still cavorting around here. I miss her, dearly.

There's also a feral colony that I feed and they like to just come in the house and run riot. I'm not too sure where they came from, but I do feed them and they seem to have adopted me. I named one “Chloe” before I discovered he was a male, but he doesn't seem to mind. He enjoys coming in, eating and then sleeping somewhere, until I've forgotten he's in the house and then scaring the hell out of me. He wouldn't let me pet him for the longest time, and now, he likes to make an ass out of himself by rolling all over my feet for treats. So, yeah, his name is “Chloe”. He brought along two younger siblings and they all played “Rodeo” in my kitchen one afternoon, as I was airing out my house on a cool afternoon. Who doesn't love cats romping through the house on a sunny afternoon?

Batch o' newborn kittens. Almost 3 summers ago, I hand-raised 5 newborns up to 5 months, before I toured Japan. I was so exhausted by the 2nd week of feedings. But, I raised and adopted out 5 healthy, beautiful kittens. Their mom had been hit by a car and no one else in the 'hood had ever done this before. Me and my fat mouth.

They may not be that feral; they could be the type of cats that “dine” at several houses and live the life of Riley. This would not be the first time I've been scammed by cats. It's harder for dogs to get away with that kind of nonsense.

All the pitbulls I see around here are happy like this guy. Simba looks like this. He's real happy now that his "family" has been extended. Even if it is just more cats.

Dogs are a lot different anyway, and the dogs of Nebraska Avenue are no different. They are a loyal bunch, and there are many of them here. Because this is the 'hood, the breed of choice is the Pitbull. Or, for some peculiar reason, little tiny anklebiters of indeterminate make. The people who own Pitbulls are very good and kind with them and they are great dogs to have. We had one show up once, when I was at the homeless shelter and he played and romped with several of us, before his panicked owner showed up, looking for him.

The other families that don't have pitbulls have these little dogs, furry and non-furry. There's no in-between or medium-sized dogs here. So, I guess we either go large or small, or go home! Not sure what it says about our demographic here!

The neighbors had a pitbull before they moved and he was such a sweet, biddable dog. I was sad when they moved and he left. The only other dog I currently know, is Simba, who lives upstairs. He's a Pitbull and he's very excited. His sister-cat just had kittens and he is going to help raise them. The mama cat, Maggie, seems fine with this arrangement. Since they all live in an apartment and Simba can't hide the kittens, I'm sure it will be fine.

I just remember growing up, we had a large dog who was very excited when one of our cats had kittens. He “kit-napped” them and we found them all in the garage; he had gathered the kittens inside his giant paws and was guarding them. They were yowling angry, because they were hungry. Simba has no hiding place. He'll have to do his “guarding” right there in front of Mama cat!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019


The question for this month, if you could have one wish to help you with your writing one scene/chapter is a good one. Just starting a foray into fiction writing, I think for me, it would HAVE to be a "first kiss" scene. I don't think I'm so great at writing about relationships or developing characters yet. I'm more able to write descriptive scenes or write rhetorically, since that's what I've always done and I'm most comfortable with that. So, please, Alex, send the Relationship Fairy my way to help me out with that. I know this is one short post, but I'm working on "Cats of Nebraska Avenue" and getting ready to leave the state, so I do hope you understand. I'll be writing something else when I land. I do wish everyone a GREAT #IWSG! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


Buses! The many bus stories I have written over the many years of living here in the 'hood have covered varied facets of life in the streets of Tampa. Everything from a frothing bus ballet, when they all meet-and-greet in the central hub the Metro Bus Center downtown and do a delicate dance of braking and squealing and farting, as the dodge one another on their way to their separate berths. Being a passenger during one of these Stravinsky and Najinsky-inspired Rites of Spring is definitely not for the faint of heart, as metal behemoths dance by on one tire, mere inches from their partners. Yet, somehow, this craziness is repeated on a daily basis with no applause. Drivers all, I simply say, “bravo”. Except for Mr. “Safety First”, whom we shall address soon.

"The Rite of Spring" Ballet. Music by Igor Stravinsky; Choreography by Najinsky caused rioting at its premiere in Paris in 1913. It was mainly the ballet that created the mayhem and that was soon dropped. "Rite of Spring" went on to become a landmark work of Stravinsky, but the chaos and weirdness of Najinsky's ballet never caught on.

It's not only the drivers who are diverse and long-suffering. They are forced to put up with the guy who insists on yelling on his cell-phone to his cousin in oh, say Venezuela, or Germany. He's so loud that the phone isn't really necessary. The fact that he's blargling in some kind of English makes it not on whit better either. Tired of listening to him yammer, I look ahead to see some kid play-acting along with whatever is on the screen of his phone. The 4th wall is truly broken here. To make matters worse, the kid jumps up to look out the window, and I reflexively jump up with him for FOMO. Kill me now. At least I'm not sitting next to “shouty guy”; the guy who just yells incoherently at nothing every five seconds.

Understand, this is just the very worst of the worst on a day on the bus. They're not generally like this. Most of the routes are rather normal, unless you're on the number 32 route, then you're on Psychiatrist Row and it's a grab-bag of looniness. The drivers who drive that route must have done something awful to have gotten stuck there. Once, when I was homeless, I was standing at the 32 bus stop, with my late companion, Jim, and the bus pulled up. We were visiting our Psychiatrist together, and Jim said, “Oh geeze, it's this old crab.” I just busted up laughing. Old crab is right. The time before, it had been pouring rain, and some not very nice people had deliberately soaked us with their car, by aiming for the puddles. Three very sweet women drove by right after those two guys and gave us two umbrellas, but the damage had been done; we were dripping wet.

As we clambered on the 32 bus, the Crab said, “Geeze, you're getting my bus all wet (the floors were already wet, but he just HAD to bitch), this is so rude!” From the back of the bus, one of our homeless compatriots, who was pretty feisty, yells from the back of the bus, “Bitch! It's not because we don't give a shit! It's because we're poor and homeless you numb fool! You're not gonna have to clean this up! Yada yada yada!” As Jim and I shuffled off to our seats. Great. I thanked her later. I'm usually the Mouth of the South. That shut the Crab up for that trip, but he was always snarky. He finally went to another route, or retired. I don't know what happened to him.

Much later, after Jim had died, my pretend-adopted-son Alex and I were trying to get home from the grocery store. We had to take the Nebraska Avenue Rapid Metro Bus, that crosses MLK, Jr. Blvd. Just as we were crossing the street to get to the bus stop, there was an accident in that intersection and it was serious enough to louse up the traffic, plus a Semi died and put out some hazard cones in the south left turn lane on Nebraska Avenue. Now, this did not stop a few intrepid buses from navigating around this treacherous scene and proceeding south on Nebraska to bear passengers to their destination.

However, the bus that Alex and I happened to land in was helmed by Mr. “Safety First”, a clod who never made the bus kneel when I tried to get off, so that I was at high risk of bashing my teeth out on the sidewalk, and never waited until I was seated, before jamming on the accelerator, as if he were trying to launch number 400 into outer space. So yeah, “Safety First” wasn't really an apt title, as we shall see. Said clod decided that he was unable to make his ungainly bus make a simple 90° right turn down a side street, like all the OTHER nice buses did, he was gonna sit there until. . .? Well, first off, we had a guy who had been in some kinda special forces unit over in Iraq and had driven heavy equipment, who OFFERED to drive the binch of a bus around the corner if the driver wouldn't do it. “Oh no! I'm all about safety!” The driver opined. I just goggled at him. “Well, Mr. Safety First! How's about you get on that fancy radio of yours and call someone to come and drive us the hell out of here?” I said. Bus driver dithered around some.

I was torn for today's topic, that's why it's late. I was thinking "bois" or "bakeries" or "badass" me. All I do is yell at the druggies around here and run them off, bleh. "Bus" is so much more fun!

I looked out my window and happened to see some policemans directing traffic in the intersection, not too far from where we were sitting. This was getting ridiculous. We'd been here, like what? Thirty minutes? The buses behind us weren't coming, because the broadcast had gone out that there was an accident, and this guy wasn't doing anything. I started pounding on the windows, yelling “Help! Mr. Policemans! We've been kidnapped by a deranged bus driver! He won't go around the corner and we're being forced to sit here against our will!” The other passengers began to laugh. My pretend-adopted-son Alex was trying to hide. Mr. “Safety First” was dithering even more. I turned to him and said, “Now, you ready to get on that walkie-talkie and call your supervisor?” He nodded and did so. (I guess they get points off for that kind of stuff, but really, this was idiotic.)

Pretty soon, a guy drives up in something that looks like it was made by the Dinky-Toy company and he gets out and gets on the bus to find out what all the ruckus is about. Both Special Forces and I 'fess up, saying we just want to get the hell out of there. The Supervisor looks at us both and doesn't say a word. He yanks Mr. “Safety First” off the bus and they have a chin-wag. The driver then gets back on the bus, fires it up and follows the Dinky-Toy car, around the 90° right turn. We make a slight detour and then, we're back on Nebraska Avenue, south of the still on-going accident scene. I'm home in 2 minutes. As I get off the bus, I turn to Mr. “Safety First” and say, “Listen, d'you mind kneeling the bus, please? I don't wanna bash out my teeth. Thanks.”

Monday, April 1, 2019


This challenge is going to be very different than other challenges that I've participated in, in years past. This year, I am going on a trip of remembrance of my time living here on Nebraska Avenue, thus I'm starting with "A" for Avenue. I'm going to be leaving here and leaving Florida shortly for a new start with a wonderful man and we are going to make a life together in another state. More about that later. I certainly wasn't looking for it, nor was he, I wager, so when it came, we were both bowled over. 

Anyway, "Homeless Chronicles in Tampa" will cease to be, and something else will appear in place. But, on to the "Avenue". Nebraska Avenue is one of the most vibrant, colorful and dangerous places I've ever experienced. I was reminded of this the other day, as some numbskull was tearing up and down the Avenue, belting out his Reggaetone; it was full of life, beautiful, loud, sensual, and annoying all at once. The beat was infectious and I couldn't stop tapping my toe to it, even as I was very glad that this guy wasn't my neighbor.

This 'hood has been like that, since I've been here in 2010, only it's become more so over the years. Chaos pretty much rules here and for those denizens who learn to survive, you either learn to stare it down, or it will eat you alive. I chose to thrive in the environment, and revel in the crazy. I was fortunate enough to experience the "Sharpie Lady", who decided in a fit of DIY that a red and black sharpie were the perfect make-up tools. I survived the two fools who decided in an opportunistic mood, when my door blew open, while I was asleep three Marches ago, to come parading into my house and try to disturb my slumber, that this was a wise move. They lived to regret that move. A stun gun was then in my future. 

But, with all of that, there's the grizzled man on the bus who held a potted flowered plant, gently in his bear-like hands and when we all ooh-ed and aah-ed over it, he said simply "I was just feeling a little blah, today." We all murmured in sympathy; who hasn't been there and we all felt grateful for him having shared his flower with us. 

That's the thing about this place, the lows are really low, but the highs and the good things when they come by are amazing and those are the things I will miss about this stupid, crazy place, most of all. So, this is the first of a good-bye and a love letter to Nebraska Avenue. You've been a great lot of fun!