Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of Tampa Sunsets in 2009: Skywatch #55

This photo was taken on July 31st of Tampa's brilliant sky and sunset reflecting on the Hillsborough River after a storm. The rain is still falling softly and gently onto the water's surface.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of 2009: Boats at Rest on Garrison Channel

This black and white image first appeared on November 22 and was the most commented upon of my Tampa Florida Photo posts of 2009. It was taken just before Thanksgiving from the Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, of the boats at the docks behind the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hilton on Garrison Channel.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Toy for Christmas

No, not the fine sailboat but the camera I shot it with. This scene is of boats at the docks of the Marjorie Yacht Basin on the east channel of Davis Islands.

NOTE: My son gave me a Nikon D80 camera body for Christmas. (He's a generous young fellow!!) I took a couple of days to try, try to gain some familiarity with its digital operation and features. I am excited that the Nikkor lenses that I have had for 30-40 years DO work with this new body. (I have not shot film through the F2 or other misc. Nikons in close to ten years.) It's great they fit and they feel like old friends as I mounted them to the D80 to go out shooting today. BUT, they are not auto in any way so this first effort is not to my crisp standards. I'm learning and will get better.

[This particular shot was taken with the Nikon D80 and Nikkor 105mm, at f22.]

Sunday, December 27, 2009

We Need Them FAST: Amazon Hose and Rubber

The entire wall of the 40,000 square foot Amazon Hose and Rubber Company is covered with an expertly painted Pop art mural. The series of colorful, finely-rendered panels look as though the famed American artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) descended on this busy East Tampa road and did his masterful best. (Visit the Lichtenstein Foundation HERE.) Located on 50th Street in Tampa, Amazon also has facilities in Orlando and Miami and offers hydraulic and industrial hose products (I wonder if their other buildings also feature giant comic-strip panels?)

This monumental-sized mural was the creation of
Vitale Art & Design Studio (visit their website HERE), located across Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. My compliments to the artists who made this building look spectacular and to the company that recognizes how important art is to their employees, customers, neighborhood and our city. If you live near or travel on 50th, look to your right just as you drive north from Adamo Drive/Highway 60 - Careful as this is a very busy commercial highway.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Monster Assembly for Christmas

Yes, even as your kids have families of their own, grandparents can still have all the fun of assembling toys for little ones at Christmas. Usually this involves - OK, it always involves buying something you would have died for as a kid...if such a toy had even been invented, imagined or dreamed of. (My best present at the tender age of 3 or 4 was a Buck Rogers spaceship made out of sturdy cardboard. I'll never forget it!!) This year I had to buy a Fisher Price Power Wheels Craftsman F-150 riding truck for a fine grandson. A Monster Truck. I did want to buy it last year but was convinced he was too young. Yea, right. So I waited. A whole year.
This truck has "Monster Traction™" and can navigate sidewalks, lawns, neighbors' bushes with precision, even concrete lawn statues. It can easily take out moms, grandmothers and small barking, snarling Pekingese who think it's a giant vacuum cleaner. Without a scratch. Believe it or not, it has a real FM radio, truck bed with a drop-down tailgate, Velcro seat belts, folding side mirrors, cup holders (CUP HOLDERS!!), a battery charge indicator light and two and hit things or drive even faster and hit things with more force. (It is currently governed to slow.) It also goes in reverse. CAUTION: This toy can NOT be driven in a home. Got it? Assembly only took forever and requires assistance (HINT: Ask a big strong son with an engineer's brain and an architect's degree to be your apprentice elf and to help lift it in and out of a reasonable size SUV for transport to a safe, open park area or sibling's home to show off your, I mean the grandson's new "toy.")

You should have seen the little guy's expression. Pure joy. Truly, PRICELESS. And he had his seat-belt on and was operating the FM radio before even starting the motor. FM radio??!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

St. Nicholas was revered for his secret gift-giving

The gift from God the Father was his only begotten son. Our Savior Jesus Christ, who was born this day, promises us Eternal and Everlasting Life. A gift beyond comprehension or imagining. A gift we can loudly proclaim to people everywhere.

Praise be to God.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa with a touch of Tampa's Jose Gaspar

Each year in February, Tampa is invaded by Jose Gaspar and his band of pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. Along with several other equally as colorful and fun-filled Krewe's of party-goers and parade participants, the city surrenders to the loud, bead-throwing invaders after a spectacular waterborne invasion of ships, cannons and rowdy swashbucklers.

This Christmas tree ornament represents a Santa with a slight Gaspar pirate-theme...not your traditional Santa Claus but a uniquely Tampa-themed, jolly old St. Nicholas. (He's really a friendly guy under the outlandish garb and equally as generous.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taste of Spain: Tampa's heritage

Tampa's Hispanic history and heritage is actually a wonderful combination of Latin foods, music and language. Spanish, Cuban, Italian, Jewish and even German immigrants all came to Tampa's Ybor City and worked to make Tampa the Cigar Capital of the World. The city and its residents are filled with rich and proud traditions. And delicious food. (Did I already say that?) Tinatapas in Channelside was ready fro diners today and will be there with open arms tomorrow.

Snow removal was not necessary for this really can sit outside. It is perfect winter weather.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Girly Bowling

This giant wall-size mural outside Splitsville in Channelside represent girl bowling at its best. Depending on how you look at it, and your seat at the lane, this bowling technique, refined over the years by girls and women of every age, makes every man feel superior...and more and more in love with the opposite sex. You go girls. Throw that ball however it suits you. We love you even more for your ball handling skills. (Notice that on these near-freezing nights in Tampa - when it threatens to drop into the 40s - establishments provide these effective gas heating units as you can see in the bottom right.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One Big BAD Cookie!

This is a wonderful holiday display at the nearby Williams-Sonoma store, a perennial favorite of mine for kitchen and cooking gifts for the most-deserving Mrs. Tampa DP. I was strolling and window shopping when this gigantic cookie appeared; it must be about 6-feet across, which we all know is silly and impossible. (But it sure did catch my eye.!) If I could find Oreos this size I'd stock up and retire to a secluded island and live out my life feasting on overstuffed sandwich cookies filled with delicious white mush. (Oreo cookies are a personal weakness.)

If you look closely you can make out the reflections of streetlights and windows of the retailer Restoration Hardware in the lower portion of the cookie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hisbiscus and Bromeliad tree at Tommy Bahama

Walking past this window in Hyde Park Village, notice the tropical theme and absence of parkas, mittens, wool scarfs and ice scrapers. Although I love looking at snow-covered blogs, this is more my idea of the perfect winter holiday season. (I admit that I did have a light jacket on because of a mist in the air.) I've done my share of shoveling driveways and trying to get cars to start in below freezing weather. Humbug.

Take note that there are dozens of things in this Tommy Bahama window that would make lots of big boys and girls happy this Christmas. The oversize cigar ashtray is just one attractive looking item that caught my eye. Just thought I'd mention it (in case Santa reads my blog!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Giant-Sized PLAYMOBIL Santa

This huge Santa is proudly welcoming kids to the Learning Express store in Hyde Park Village. He's not an actual retail version of aPlaymobil toy figure but a promotional piece standing at the entrance to attract bright-eyed boys and girls. Each one enter the wonderful store with dreams of sugarplums and stockings filled with fun and imaginative toys. Learning Express is filled with things that the founder thought "should encourage creativity and learning, foster developmental growth, and, of course, be fun." It is a really terrific place to take young ones and watch them explore and play. It is not in any way a typical toy store. It's filled with tons of stuff and NO switches. Just well designed goodies and toys that they will treasure for years. (Visit and learn more about Learning Express HERE.)

I wonder how many kids have either thought this Saint Nicholas at the door is real, or asked mom, dad or grandparents to buy him for them to play with? Come to think of it, it'd look good next to our life-size toy soldier. What do you mean he's not for sale??!! I'll put him on my list that's going to the elves at the North Pole.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adults Only: CinéBistro in Hyde Park Village

CinéBistro opened on Swann Avenue in Hyde Park Village a few months ago and is an interesting and attractive entertainment concept. ADULTS ONLY. ID required proving you're 21 years of age or older. This is not the place to bring the grandkids to or send teenagers for a Saturday afternoon matinee.

If you haven't heard of CineBistro, or other theaters like it, it's a specially-designed movie palace which shows new releases such as Invictus, The Blind Side and New Moon, which are playing in multiplexes all over the city and nation. And all three are rated PG-13, so this isn't "adult entertainment" in the tawdry sense of the term. Nope, it's the experience, food, beverage and seating which keeps out the the younger folk. (Very thoughtful.) It's the fact that it's reserved for the older, adult audience that makes this place special and quite alluring. Even romantic.

Here is how Cobb Theatre, which brought CineBistro to Tampa, describes it: "CinéBistro, Cobb Theatres’ extraordinary premium movie theatre and dining experience captured in one unique entertainment venue, is changing the way people watch movies, create romantic moments, eat and socialize." As they say, "Prepared to be pampered " as you leisurely savor delicious foods and drinks from a full bar. You can hang at the bar and socialize for a while if you wish and then take your reserved seats in the theater where you can order from the menu until right before your show starts. Relax in luxurious high-back leather rocking chairs and dine on a fine meal - appetizers, entrees and desserts - with your favorite cocktails and wine as you enjoy the presentation. Try the Pan Seared Scottish Salmon with a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay. Very adult, right?

To learn more about CineBistro in Hyde Park Village click HERE.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blazing sunny afternoon

For all of you living in cold, wintry climes, if you stare long enough at this scene it will melt your ice and snow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Don't mess with the big white bird

The beach was so warm and relaxing this afternoon and there were several birds along the shore. Our Pekingese likes the sand as long as he doesn't get too dirty...he is NOT a waterdog that leaps into the waves or a rough and tumble farm-yard dog who might chase the cows or horses. Nope. He kind of prefers the lazy approach to life and his energy level and snippy disposition seems about right. Even though he is a Florida native, he's not fond of the sand (or grass for that matter) but will sniff around for something new and interesting. A bird? A big white bird? Just sitting there? (Not to worry. They are almost the same size and Porter doesn't have a beak or claws. It wouldn't even be a fair fight because Porter doesn't fly very well.)

No, Porter did not have fresh white bird meat in his bowl of kibbles. There isn't even the slightest chance he could catch this fine bird. But, the thought still crossed his mind. Look at his huge eyes, steely gaze and determined set to his jaw. He is on the hunt!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Matt Larson: Professional Photographer Plays With Toy Cameras

My photo above is of copyrighted work (c) 2009 Matt Larson

Tonight we went to a really fun holiday open house party hosted by good friends who are both extremely talented artists. Matt is the hard-working photographer and career marketing guru while his wife, Rebecca Sexton Larson - Becky - is the accomplished studio artist and museum professional. I wrote about our terrific time tonight at Tampa Daily Photo HERE where I featured Becky's work and bio. The party was a lot of fun. Good food, delicious bourbon egg-nog and terribly interesting people. Nothing is more fun than to be invited to a party. Our hosts threw open their home, every nook and cranny, to show off their work and invite guests to make a purchase...and that is not hard to do. Look at my shot of just the beautifully framed photos spread out under their tree. Every room and surface was displaying their framed and oversized, unframed pieces. Just begging to go home with you. It's very tempting and impossible to resist if you love and collect photography. Matt has enjoyed a long career working with "grown-up" Nikons and other heavy and expensive pro equipment. While he still uses the mega-bodies and bags of lens in his work, he plays a lot with every kind of toy camera made in the world - with fascinating and astonishing results. The shot above is taken with his Apple I-Phone;
one of these brand new images was sold this evening.
Here is an excerpt from Matt's online bio: "A professional newspaper marketing photographer working with toy cameras of all types (Holga, Diana, Polaroid, iPhone, Argus Bean, etc.). Why you ask? Why not. Matt was given a professional Nikon camera and darkroom outfit before he reached age 10. Both his father and bother were avid photographers. He attended the University of South Florida and obtained a B.A. degree in photojournalism. Many years later, he completed his MBA degree at Saint Leo University. Larson admits that his discovery of plastic toy cameras reignited his love for photography and has brought him back to those early years of just having fun playing around in the darkroom and making art."
Visit Matt's blog, ToyCameraPlay, HERE.
Thanks Larsons for a fun and memorable evening. We will be back next year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let It Sunshine, Let It Sunshine ...

(Sing to the tune, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.") When there is no hope or expectation of snow at Christmas - like here every year - the next best thing is to head over and enjoy Mickey's Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and its snowy wonderland. Just think, you can leave all your wool sweaters and Gortex cold weather gear at the Florida border and come dressed in shorts, shirtsleeves and sunglasses.

Sorry about the palm trees sticking up from this Disney billboard. The scene does look like many of your posts showing the real wintry scenes. And real cold temperatures. Stay warm everyone. (Even if you do have to come south to the Sunshine State for some relieve from winter.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Guy's Got to Dry His Feathers

Gray and "wintry" overcast skies are Tampa's norm for the past couple days so it's tough finding even a tiny bit of sun and shadow to help enhance an image. I went back to a series of images from a perfectly hot late summer day and pulled out a bird I found sunning himself and drying his feathers. Tomorrow, I will go out again, with renewed energy and determination, and find something bright, shiny and warm. Hey, it is Tampa. How long can the sky look like it could snow?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wienermobile is REAL!

I can't help but smile every time I have caught even a glimpse of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. Who ever came up with the original idea was a genius. Pure genius. Whether it's being driven down the highway or sitting parked on display, it stops adults and kids dead in their tracks. The Wienermobile is a marketing and promotional extravaganza on wheels. (Now, if I could just drive it for a few minutes...and eat a dog or two. Do you think they serve a cold frothy Guinness Stout?)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Warm weather even in winter: It's near perfect in Tampa

It was a pleasant 75-degrees today with a few tall white clouds. Even into the late afternoon, walkers and joggers were out on Bayshore Boulevard enjoying the weather and holiday lights on all of the homes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Three Graces tightly wrapped in blue

These three maidens are almost ready for their big unveiling in Tampa's new Bern's Park on South Howard Avenue. The park is named in memory of Bern Laxer, founder of world-famous Bern's Steak House (click HERE). Laxer, who died in 2004, founded his restaurant in 1956 and carefully guided it to near perfection. Renowned for its incredible steaks and organic vegetables from Bern's own gardens, it boasts the largest wine selection of any restaurant in the world. (I will be sure and capture the statues after they are revealed.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's A Strong Breeze

The restaurant Bahama Breeze out on Rocky Point sees its share of jet traffic overhead from Tampa International Airport. Plus, its location out Courtney Campbell Causeway in Old Tampa Bay means its waterfront comes alive with sunshine or the rains and strong winds we have experienced the last couple of days.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rain on my Poincettia

It is pouring rain here in Tampa and has been all day. Poinsettias appear magically at our home every year at Christmas time (my dear sweetheart and caroler is responsible I know!) and decorate our home during the holiday season. These are raindrops I tried to capture on plants just out in front surrounded by Christmas lights.

I found the history of Poinsettias so interesting. They are native to Mexico and the Aztecs called the poinsettia Cuetlaxochitl. During the 14th - 16th century the sap was used to control fevers and even used to make a reddish dye. Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, would have poinsettias brought into what now is Mexico City by caravans because poinsettias could not be grown in the high altitude. Interestingly, Roberts Poinsett was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, being appointed by President John Quincy Adams in the 1820's. During his stay he looked for new plants. In 1828, he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers and he took cuttings and brought them back to the United States. Later he named the plant the poinsettia in honor of his discovery.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Buy it on Palma Ceia Golf Course

This rather large Mediterranean-styled home is located on the fairway at Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club. And, it's for sale. I don't even want to guess at the price, but I'm sure it's in the stratosphere. If you're golfer, and have a golf membership at the club - and deep pockets in the middle of this recession - then this could be your absolute dream home. If you answered no to each of these questions, then be content to peek from the drive on a beautiful Tampa afternoon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What is it?

Who remembers this scene from behind walls? Or still deals with it? - Joan Perry in Charleston is certainly familiar with this outdated practice and perhaps Lori Skoog, too, living on that wonderful farm in western New York state. (Or still has nightmares about it and is thankful to live in a new condo someplace!!) Living in an "older" house in a historic district certainly has its pluses and great advantages. We wouldn't trade our home or neighborhood for any other, but a surprise such as this one made me pause... and grab a fire extinguisher.

This was supposed to have ALL been removed and replaced almost 20 years ago, so finding this hiding today during a major restoration/repair project was a huge and most unwelcome surprise. And yes, I made a phone call immediately and it will be replaced ASAP. (They promise.)

Can you provide the correct name? (HINT:
It was an early standardized method in buildings and houses, in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1930s.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Valet Park the Horse or Rider?

I don't know if the horse valet parked his rider and is waiting for him to be brought around, or if this gigantic horse is actually the valet.

Either way, $3.00 sounds like a bargain.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Still Stuck Up in the Open Position: Cass Street Bridge undergoing repair

The Cass Street Bridge over the Hillsborough River is still undergoing repair. After a state inspection by structural engineers, it was deemed "structurally deficient." Work on the $1.7 million project began in July and is still not completed. The bridge, built in 1927, is one of five over the Hillsborough River into downtown.

I photographed it before in color - kind of a wicked and wild modern color composition (click
HERE). This black and white rendition is 180% from that one. The minarets of the Tampa Bay Hotel (today's University of Tampa) are visible on the right.

Friday, November 27, 2009

SKYWATCH Friday - Season 4 Episode 20

This is 5:30 this evening as the sun just began to set in the west, behind me, and the skyline is almost devoid of clouds. Our weather is autumn-like and invigorating. After yesterday's Thanksgiving feast, it felt really good to be up early this morning and letting the dry, 47-degree air wake my over-fed body and mind.

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

It's always an amazing show presented by Skywatchers in cities, countries and continents around the globe. .

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kissing Salt & Pepper Fish?

I couldn't make this up. These salt and pepper shakers, resembling kissing fish, stared at me throughout my Thanksgiving dinner today. I have two comments: (1) the pepper worked great (I don't use salt); (2) and the king's crown is a nice touch.

I bet NO one else shared their Thanksgiving meal with such artfully crafted companions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Big, Fat, Juicy Mushrooms

These are not the type mushrooms I want on my plate for Thanksgiving dinner. They've literally sprung up from nowhere in the yards nearby. Like mushrooms do. And they're big...I'd say 4-5-inches across the top. Delicious looking, right??

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Big, Bright Trolleys Ring The Bell

This big, colorful image of one of the TECO Line Streetcar System trolleys fills an entire window of the Tampa Convention Center on Franklin Street. The original photo was taken as the car was boarding passengers at the Dick Greco Plaza at Franklin and Old Water Streets. I'm sure the little girl wasn't boarding alone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What's a Cenotaph? See Apache artist Bob Haozous' Creation

This scene is of a new and unusual installation near the Tampa Bay History Center (shown as the background to this spectacular artist's creation.) It is a "cenotaph," defined as "A monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere." The city of Tampa joined with members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida on September 21st to dedicate this Cenotaph and Ceremonial Space just behind the new Tampa Bay History Center and alongside the Tampa Riverwalk and Garrison Channel. The city’s website,, offers the following description of the cenotaph and Ceremonial Space: “American Indians throughout the Western Hemisphere have a unique and rightful connection to place. The cenotaph and Ceremonial Space in Cotanchobee / Fort Brooke, marks such a place. Once a thriving center for ancient indigenous chiefdoms until invasions in the 1500s by Spanish explorers, and as an early 1800s refuge for Creek (now Seminole) peoples in fleeing south from Alabama and Georgia from invasion by a federal government, this space has been a nexus of alternating peace and struggle. Heavy with the memories of federal wars on the Seminole to force their 1824 removal out of Florida to territories west, this place becomes a meaningful place ground. The cenotaph and Ceremonial Space mark a time of peace and reconciliation with the land as an indigenous place.”

The foundation under and around the cenotaph is further described: “A circle formed of bricks is separated into four quadrants, each corresponding to one of the four cardinal directions and possessing a culturally-appropriate color; yellow for the East, red for the North, black for the West, and white for the South. These colors are also found prominently in the flags of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It is a Miccosukee belief that life spins in a circle starting in the east and moving to the north, west, and south. Native peoples almost universally understand the directional colors.” Go to the city’s website for more detail and photographs that show the cenotaph more clearly, HERE.

The cenotaph's creator is the renowned Native-American artist, Bob Haozous. He was born in
Los Angeles, California in 1943, and spent some of his early years in Apache, Oklahoma. After service in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war, he enrolled in the California College of Arts and Crafts where he received a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Sculpture in 1971.He lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a member of the Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache Tribe of Oklahoma. Museums that include his work include: The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, The Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California. Several of New Mexico's museums also have collected his works, including: The Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, The Museum of Indian art and Culture in Santa Fe, The Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe, The Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and The Roswell Museum and Art Center in Roswell. Internationally, his work is in the collections of: The Westphalian State Museum of Natural History in Munster, The Dresdner Bank Collection of Stuttgart, and The Museum fuer Weltkulturen in Frankfurt. In Norway his work is in the collection of The Trondheim Sjofartsmuseum in Trondheim. In 1999, Bob Haozous was selected with eight other contemporary Native-American artists to participate in the exhibition CEREMONIAL at the 1999 Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy. In 2001, Haozous served as advisor and participant in the Native-American exhibition UMBILICUS at the 2001 Venice Biennale. The National Museum of the American Indian's inaugural exhibit "Shared Visions" in Washington, DC selected Haozous' sculpture "Apache Pull Toy." Visit his website HERE. His cenotaph and this Ceremonial Space are well worth visiting and spending time with. It's a beautiful setting to begin with (on the waterfront and just steps from the History Center) but it is so informative about our history and the original native people who inhabited the Tampa Bay area for thousands of years.

WELCOME: Tsutomu Otsuka is the newest Follower of Tampa Florida Photo. He is an award-winning photographer and editor in chief for the Kyoto Photo Press in Japan. His profile states that he uses digital but that he also “loves medium and large format film cameras as Rolleiflex, Deardorff View 8x10,” and other fine film cameras. He freelances and is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society and the Photographic Science Society Japan. His photography is impressive and demonstrates a great photographic talent.
Visit Tsutomu at both of his blogs: Stroll on Kyoto Gardens HERE
and Camera Works Blogger HERE
To learn more about his work and career click HERE.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

MONOCHROME: Boats big and small at rest

This is the scene at the docks behind the Tampa Waterside Marriott Hotel located on the Garrison Channel. Harbour Island is just across the water.

If you love to see your world in black and white, be sure and visit some of the most interesting people and places made possible by Aileni. Go experience the incredible photographic artistry each week HERE at Monochrome Maniacs!

Check out other great WEEKEND REFLECTIONS #9 HERE. James is making this possible through his blog, Newtown Daily Photo. His own reflections image today is awesome.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cracker Cow Camp at Tampa Bay History Center

This typical Florida Cracker family was encamped in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park today as part of the Tampa Bay History Center's newest exhibit, Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition. From 10 am until 4 pm there were cattle, horses, modern-day cowboys who work Florida's cattle ranches, and a camp with tents and ranching equipment. The day began with a cattle drive down Old Water Street to the History Center and that was followed by demonstrations and reenactments of early Cracker life in Florida, crafts and storytelling. Carlton Ward, Jr., author and photographer, was on-hand to sign copies of his new book, Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier. His photographs of a Florida that most people, natives and torursts alike, know very little about, are outstanding; take a look HERE.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Reindeer's Recliner is Off Limits

Don't even think of messing with this reindeer's Santa-red recliner. See that look in his eye as he catches you just glancing its way. It's set up just for him with one side off and is ready for a big snooze after an exhausting night pulling the sleigh.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

UFO / Flying Saucer took root on Earth

This flying saucer is very real looking and has sat atop an adult nightclub in Tampa for over 30 years. It looks every bit as rough in person as my photo captured (this is from the back). Sitting exposed as it is in Florida’s extreme heat and humidity, maybe it's doing better then its designer ever imagined (NO, not a little green man - Finnish actually.) Other then being called the Flying Saucer by young and old alike, it actually started its intergalactic life with a real name from its manufacturer, the Futuro House. It's a perfect approximation of what everyone thinks a saucer from outer space looks like. It’s a round, prefabricated house that was originally designed and built in 1968 of fiberglass-reinforced polyester plastic by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. A bit latter this one appeared and has stayed in place and firmly attached to the building and its own staircase ever since.

The following was posted earlier this year at Google Sightseeing by Alex Turnbull: “About 100 of the kits were erected around the world. Suuronen’s aim was actually to design a ski-cabin, one that would be “quick to heat and easy to construct in rough terrain”, and in this respect he succeeded – a Futuro House can be placed on virtually any terrain, requiring only four concrete supports, and thanks to the integrated polyurethane insulation and electric heating system, even in the most extreme conditions it only takes around thirty minutes to achieve a comfortable temperature inside. Despite the obvious awesomeness of these UFO-shaped homes, by the mid 70s they had been withdrawn from sale – although this was mainly due to the 1973 oil crisis, which had sent the price of plastic skyrocketing. Around sixty of the original Futuros have been accounted for over the years, but there are still many that remain undiscovered."

If you want to read more, click HERE to go to Futuro House and, with thanks to Alex Turnbull for his research, click HERE to read his full post on Google Sightseeing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Bear of a Pilgrim

This really is a giant fake bear dressed as a Thanksgiving Pilgrim. I can't explain why he's barefoot but it could be he's trying to make the Native-Americans feel more comfortable around him. (This is a good story behind Mr. Bear but it doesn't have anything to do with Thanksgiving.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Very Last American Convertible

It was over three decades ago that Cadillac, then still the world’s premier luxury car manufacturer (have we really changed that much?) announced that it would build the last of America’s convertibles. It seemed then that with all the changes the industry was undergoing that safety issues would be the convertible’s death-knell. Cadillac was at that time the last American manufacturer of the wind-in-the-hair drop top. General Motors’ Cadillac Division had only built 8,950 convertibles in 1975, so they ordered just 14,000 convertibles to be built for the 1976 model year. The “last of” hype was a big marketing theme that year. The massive, 2-½ ton, 1976 Eldorado was billed as the “Last Convertible” that General Motors Corporation, Cadillac or any American brand would ever build. Period. The 8.2-liter, 500-cubic inch V-8 would power this end-of-the-road behemoth like an ocean liner on wheels. Luxurious as ever, but a giant on the roads, it pulled into every gas station for a fill-up. America's biggest front-wheel-drive car, these 1976 Eldos were almost all ordered with every available option: front shoulder belts, signal-seeking AM/FM stereo, theft deterrent, twilight sentinel, tilt and telescope steering wheel, a hard “Parade” convertible top boot, and leather galore. The stereo system had more speakers then one could count. It was a magnificent ride with tons of power pulling you down the highway. In its day, nothing could touch it – don’t foreign or domestic. I had a red one (not the ’76 model year) with white leather and every time I pulled up to a restaurant or “nightclub” (it was the late seventies and eighties) the valet put the baby right up at the front door. One of those showpieces that they wanted customers to know was frequenting their joint. (Ha!)

Aside from special “preferred parking spots” at places a single guy might frequent in the day, my most memorable time behind the wheel was putting the top down, driving the Eldo to a lonesome beach at night on the Gulf, reclining in the living room size thick leather seats and cranking up the stereo. Stars were overhead, the waves were softly crashing and a perfect companion was sharing the view with me. Ah, it couldn’t have been any better. I was probably wearing a double-knit, paisley shirt with a collar four times too big and clunky shoes. (Yuck! I’m sure glad I don’t live in the seventies anymore.) I am so-o-o glad the “companion” has stuck with me all these years and still puts up with my addiction to odd and unusual automobiles and “classic” car shows. What an understanding sweetheart she is after all these years.

As every American (and foreign) driver knows, convertibles are available from most every manufacturer, world-wide. They’ve all addressed the safety issues that they thought convertibles presented and the joy of driving with the top down will never again go away.