Life on Florida’s West Coast

More Hogan Drama: the cheaters edition

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Since the Tampa Bay area is basically devoid of real celebrities, the Hogan family saga is what passes for celebrity gossip around here. And since it has been several weeks since our last tidbit of Hogan hijinks, I suppose it was past due for a new Hogan-ific story.

Linda Hogan says the real reason she is divorcing the Hulk (Terry Bollea) is that he was cheating on her with daughter Brooke’s (former) best friend Christiane Plante.

While Linda insists the reason for divorce is as simple as Hulk’s cheating, Hulk himself is not satisfied to let well enough alone. I suppose he’s just not one to put his tail respectfully between his legs and slink off into the beautiful Clearwater Beach sunset. Nope, he repeatedly and often fires back at Linda with accusations that she simply wants to be in the limelight.

Hulk’s lawyer, David Houston, released this statement:
“It is unfortunate Linda Hogan will do virtually anything to keep herself in the public spotlight. We are not going to demean this process nor the family any longer by responding to what amounts to pathetic pleas for attention.”

He can blow as much smoke as he wants, but I agree that Linda is justified with her simple statement about Hulk cheating. That says it all. We don’t even have to get into the fact that the person he cheating with was the MUCH-younger BFF of his own daughter. That’s the tacky icing on the creepy cake, so to speak.

Tampa Bay Rays’ Longoria is American League Rookie of the Year

It’s been an amazing season for the Tampa Bay Rays. They went from being a black spot on our sunny map to the most celebrated team in the region. Tampa Bay Rays apparel can be seen everywhere you go. There is a lot of pride in the team, and a day of celebration has even been named in their honor.

And, even though the Rays did not quite take the World Series, they did win the American League title. And much like a tasty cherry on the top of an already delicious cake, our own Evan Longoria has won American League Rookie of the Year today.

The much loved third baseman won in a unanimous vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. This is the first time in the Rays’ 11-year history that they have had a Rookie of the Year on their roster.

Why Iron Man is Annoying

I know the Iron Man competition is a big deal. I realize people train for the event for years. There are tons of reasons people challenge themselves to the event – to realize personal goals, overcome adversity, compete with other athletes. It’s admirable.

It’s also annoying. Traffic here in Clearwater was tied up for hours this morning and afternoon. I took my daughter to a stage version of Sleeping Beauty down in Largo this morning and forgot factor in the bikes. It was insane. There were only a few places you were allowed to cross Route 60. I could not go south and once I turned West, I could not make a left so I could continue south. I ended up making a U-turn when I saw a clear spot on 60 and it was clear sailing from there. I did look on the Iron Man website for the traffic tips, but I found intersections unavailable way past the times that were posted. I could have just used US 19, but I thought I was hitting the intersections I needed during clear times.

I guess I do not understand how in our economy we can justify events that tie up a good portion of our police force and keep thousands of residents from being able to go about their day. The St Petersburg Times even put out an entire section on how to survive the Iron Man, and it was not directed to the athletes, but rather those of use who had to share our city.

Rays Fever

As we close in on tonight’s World Series game, people around the Tampa Bay area are alive with the excitement that tends to unify a region. It’s funny to think about last season or even the beginning of this season and how people all over the area looked at the Tampa Bay Rays as a colossal joke. You never saw Rays t-shirts being worn. They could not even give away tickets to the game. And now…, now everyone is their biggest fan.

The irony amuses me.

At the same time, I love seeing the excitement in the kids at school. Even at my daughter’s elementary school I can find signs that say “Go Rays!” nearly everywhere I look. At the high school, the kids are more subtle, but the excitement is surely bubbling underneath the surface.

I haven’t watched any of the games, but I do wish the Rays the best of luck,. It would be thrilling to see them win the big one. This is such a young, enthusiastic team. They know they have a lot to prove and it’s been encouraging watching all that pay off for them.

The Windows Are Open

I thought it might be nice to go back to my roots and just write a blog article on one of the many merits of Florida in general.

People ask me all of the time when is the best time to visit Florida. I’ve got a few answers to that question, based on what you want to get out of your trip. In general, though, I would have to say that there is pretty much nothing more pleasant and paradise-like than October in Florida.

At the beginning of this past week, the humidity all of the sudden just dropped off the map. The skies took on that deep blue color that you only find over large bodies of water. The citrus trees let forth more fragrant blossoms and the daytime temperatures cooled off just enough so that shorts are still comfortable, but a cool breeze still baths your exposed skin.

People who maintain one home in Florida and one up north are called “snowbirds”. There is a reason that most snowbirds find themselves back in Florida in October. The white hot of summer is past us, but we still have a couple of months of warm weather ahead. It’s marvelous.

Today I opened all of the windows in the house. It’s cooler than usual right now and a chill breeze is wandering through the house. I can smell orange blossoms on the breezes and in a couple of hours; the night blooming jasmine will join the symphony of fragrance.

Sometimes I miss living back up near Washington, DC. I suppose it’s the deep of summer that makes me most nostalgic, or when someone up there tells me they just had their first show of the winter. Other than that, I have no regrets about moving to Florida. You just cannot get this kind of perfect weather up north, ever.

Silver Alert for Florida Seniors

We all know what the Amber Alert. It’s the very successful child abduction alert system used when the police confirm that a child has been abducted.
We can now welcome the Silver Alert. It was enacted today in Florida and will function much like the Amber Alert broadcast system, but it is specifically intended to be used when a person age 60 or older with dementia or another cognitive impairment goes missing. It can also be used for people between the ages of 18 to 59 if they have “irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties”.

Florida has a large elderly population and I am very happy to see the Silver Alert finally be put into play. I hear about local alerts concerning missing elderly people all of the time and this system will give law enforcement the tools they need to better communicate across regions and between agencies.

Tampa Bay Rays Loyalty

It wasn’t so long ago that people here in the Tampa Bay area did nothing but complain about the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. That was back when they were still called the Devil Rays, before the days of Evan Longoria (brother to Eva) and other newly lauded players. People dissed them, they were the butt of jokes and it seemed like there was absolutely nothing they could do to sell seats to the games.

Things have changed now. I suppose the locals are fair weather friends. Now that the Rays have made it to the playoffs, people are taking off work and skipping school to watch the team in action just a couple hours from now. Start time is 2:30 pm.

The websites for our local television stations are all decked out in Rays colors, with most of the front page information devoted to the team. Fans have been showing their support this week by getting “Rayhawks” – essentially Mohawks – on the sidewalks outside of Tropicana Field.

Fan loyalty is a delicate thing, though. I have to wonder what will happen in the future if there are bad season ahead.

Heirloom Tomatoes at Publix

What a treat!

This week we found heirloom tomatoes at Publix. They were a hefty $5 a pound, but we picked one each of the available varieties and will save the seeds. It will be fun to try to grow them.

After all the flavorless hybrids I’ve eaten from the local stores, the heirlooms were such a treat. I cannot tell you how much I miss the tomatoes in my grandmother’s garden up in West Virginia. When I went up a year ago for my other grandmother’s funeral. I ate garden corn, tomatoes, and green beans every day for at least two meals each day. I couldn’t get enough.

I’ve been trying some tomatoes on the back patio and they grow and ripen well, but the birds and squirrels keep beating me to the punch so I have not got any actual mature tomatoes yet this summer. I am going to start moving the plants onto the screened porch to see if that works.

Anyway, here is a snap of the tomatoes. Aren’t they pretty? The varieties are Red Brandywine, Gold Medal and Cherokee Purple. According to the stickers, they were all Florida greenhouse grown.

Fickle Fay

Here in the Tampa Bay area, almost everything is closed down for the day. The first day of school is delayed, offices are closed, and people were evacuated from low areas. And throughout all of this, we have yet to feel even a raindrop. In a bizarre turn of events, the hurricane that was predicted to make landfall in our area in blowing across Florida south of us, will hit the east coast and then bounce back across Florida, north of us. All in all, we are like this funny little triangle of land that will totally get missed this time around.

Years before I moved here, a co-worker up north told me the reason that the Tampa area keeps being missed in most hurricanes stems from an old Native American legend that the area is somehow protected by supernatural forces. That is all I have ever heard about that, because despite much searching I have never found anything to back up that story.

Either way, it looks like we are safe.

Faye Welcomes the School Year

We’re excited about school starting this week. Tomorrow is orientation and on Tuesday morning, my daughter will have her first day as a kindergarten student.

Ironically, Tuesday morning is when Tropical Storm Fay might barrel through the Tampa Bay area. Forecasters are saying that tropical storm and hurricane-force winds of 75 mph or higher will probably gust through here Tuesday.

In fact, the Tampa Bay area will probably be put under a hurricane watch sometime today. That means hurricane force winds are possible in the next 36 hours. There is also a chance that the storm will bring with it tornadoes.

As of now, there have not been any school-closings issued for the nearby counties. In any event, I am getting more water run though the reverse osmosis system and into bottles than usual, moving plants and pots off the back patio, charging my cell phone, and making sure there are batteries in my flashlights.

Naked at Tampa International Airport

I’ve not complained about my loss of rights while flying. I’m OK with the fact that I can only take a tiny bottle of shampoo and a sample tube of toothpaste with me on the airplane. I even sucked it up and did not complain about having to pack things in little baggies. I wear sandals when I fly, so taking my shows off will go quickly. I even endure how early I have to get to the airport for a flight these days.,

However, I am finally ready to complain!

Why? Because now it appears that I have to allow a stranger to see my completely naked in order to be allowed to fly. That is a HUGE loss of personal rights.

The Tampa International Airport is ready to “unveil” their new “denuding scanners”. These scanners will electronically undresses travelers by use of electromagnetic denuding rays and send an image to an officer in another room. In the image, passengers will look completely nude.

According to officials, not every passenger is scanned in such a manner. No, those under-educated, loser security officers who herd us through the security lines will have the right to “randomly” select passengers to scan.

Just try and convince me that young females will not be unfairly represented in that mix.

Two scanners were installed in Miami International Airport in July. Tampa is the second airport in the state to get the machines.

While I am no fan of the American Civil Liberties Union, I am certainly on the same side as them for this issue. They say the scanners are a flagrant invasion of privacy. It does not allow a person to choose modesty.

Some supporters claim the images appear like a mannequin; private parts are not shown in detail. If I wanted people to see me that way, I would wear a beige body stocking.

Star Sightings in Clearwater

Last week one of my friends called me to tell me she was on her way home from Nature’s Food Patch (a health food supermarket) in Clearwater. She had spent quite a while doing her shopping and the whole time she was in the store, so were Hulk Hogan and his daughter Brooke Hogan.

That is about the extent of celebrity sightings in Clearwater, Fl, despite the fact that Clearwater in the world headquarters for the church of Scientology. I know the big celebrities who are members of that group are in town a lot, but you never see them. The Hogans, on the other hand, are in town all the time. They own homes here, their kids went to school here, and Nick is still in jail here in town.

Wrestler Brian Knobs lives locally as well. I saw him in Cheddars on East Bay a year or so ago. He was thrilled to no end that the bartenders recognized him. I just looked at him, chuckled to myself, and sighed that this is what serves as a celebrity sighting in Clearwater.

Of course, Evel Knievel used to live here, but he died at his Clearwater condominium this past November.

Personally, I would rather Clearwater be a mecca for serious authors. I’d be a lot more star struck. ;)

How Family Friendly is Disney Anymore?

We live within about an hour of the Walt Disney theme parks and yet we only find our way over there about once a year. It is not because I don’t like the parks. I love them, especially Epcot. It is because it is just way too expensive to go more often.

For a family oriented travel destination, Disney is sure not wallet friendly. The park tickets are enough to choke an elephant. When you add in hotels, food and gas then the whole things becomes daunting.

If I lived a little closer, I would buy a Florida resident annual pass, but I don’t live quite close enough.

So, I find ways to make the trip worth it. We go each year for the night time Pirates & Princesses Party, but even those once-reasonable tickets have gone way up in price. This year we stayed an extra day at the parks, but that was only because my friend got us all in on an employee pass for one day and the parks were free for us on Saturday.

I’ve just been trying to work it out with my sister how she and I will allocate the funds to take our kids for my daughter’s next birthday. And in the face of all that – Disney has just announced they are raising prices starting today!

As of today (August 3, 2008), The Walt Disney Co. is raising one-day ticket prices. Tickets for anyone 10 and older to Walt Disney World in Orlando will rise from $71 to $75. Tickets for kids 3 to 9 will go from $60 to $63.

Tickets in California are a tad more reasonable. At Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, one-day prices will go from $66 to $69 for 10 and older and from $56 to $59 for children 3 to 9.

It’s not just the one-day passes that are increasing in price. Multi-day and Hopper passes are also going up.

I happen to live here in Florida, but for those who are driving or flying to the area, there is already the high travel costs involved. Hotels are not getting cheaper, and food is decidedly more expensive all around. It seems a slap in the face for Disney to decide they will contribute to the rising costs of American life. Recreation is one thing most Americans agree they can cut out of their budgets. And, it seems most Americans are indeed cutting recreational activities. There will come a time where the Disney parks will primarily serve non-American visitors. Seems a waste of American real estate.

Auctioning Off Contents of Safe Deposit Boxes

Believe it or not, every year there are untold treasures left unclaimed in Florida’s bank safe deposit boxes. If items are left unclaimed for three years and the owners cannot be located after two years of searching, the banks send the items to the state. The state auctions them off and uses the proceeds for funding public schools.

Over 40,000 unclaimed items will sold at an auction at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay on Saturday. The items are estimated to have a value of $500,000.

So, if you are in the market for a Rolex or a pair of platinum and gold earrings or an Australian coin collection, this might just be the auction for you.

The public will be permitted to preview auction items Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt, at 2900 Bayport Drive in Tampa. The auction is set for Saturday at 10 a.m. Registration opens at 8 a.m.

MOSI Rant

I went over to Tampa today with my daughter and my friend Michelle, and her four children. We had some lunch and then our plan was to go over to the Museum of Science and Industry.

My mistake was in not checking out the prices online before we made the drive. Wirth the price of gas, I would have been better off not going at all.

Why? Because the admission for an adult is almost $25 and for a child it is about $20. I stood there and for the life of me I could not justify spending that kind of money for a one-day pass to a museum that is far outshone by the Air and Space museum in Washington, DC – which just happens to be free.

I know that growing up in the DC suburbs spoiled me for almost any other museum. The Smithsonian museums are superior to most other museums and they are free for everyone. However, I suppose I expected to pay some sort of fee today, but I did not think it would be over $15. I was hoping it was closer to $10. When I stood there trying to make myself pay almost $45 for me and my daughter, I decided I would much rather turn around and go home.

I did not have to ask my friend twice. She would have had to pay about $110 for her family to get in.

I don’t think so.

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