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.

courtesy of:theouthousers.com  

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!