Good reads

  1. The rocky history of kids' play

    Human Interest

    When Ben Montgomery proposed writing a defense of Tampa's Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, I didn't expect that it would launch me on a meandering tour of the playgrounds of my youth. Turns out that the hilly and somewhat scruffy park across from downtown was designed by the same landscape architect who transformed the …

  2. Revive, don't raze, Tampa's Riverfront Park

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — This past Christmas we bought for my middle child something called a Spooner Board, which is marketed as a toy for gifted children but is really just a sort of a curved plastic skateboard without wheels. She dragged it to the front yard and tried to scoot around, and was bored in about two …

     Handoutphoto
  3. Tumbleweaves: Stray hair woven into fabric of city life

    Human Interest

    Mark Spence was watching the storm approach when he saw it crawling along 57th Street S.

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  4. The ride never ends, it just gets wet for a bit

    Human Interest

    A reporter driving home from work in a thunderstorm passes four motorcyclists huddled under a highway overpass. She wonders what they're doing out in this weather, so she pulls over. The short answer? They're debating — risk, freedom and the best place for dinner. The usual.

  5. Dispatches from Next Door: Burn survivor's words are the balm that soothe

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — “Joe Versaggi," he said, lightly bumping fists with the young man in the hospital bed. "Burn survivor."

    Joe Versaggi, 71, has always loved to fly. He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and flew on hundreds of death-defying missions that he survived. But eight years ago, the Cessna a friend was flying crashed and left Joe with burns covering 35 percent of his body. He now volunteers at Tampa General Hospital, where he splits his time between driving the courtesy shuttle and talking to the survivors in the burn unit.
  6. For coffee shop owner, every day is a clean start

    Human Interest

    GULFPORT — At 5:30 a.m. Teddy Kehoe opens the door to his dark shop, and the smell of bleach from last night's scrubbing nudges him awake. He pulls the chain on a coffee-cup sign in the window. Steam blinks from the cup.

    Teddy Kehoe, 52, owner of the Gulfport Grind, opened the coffee shop after three years of fruitlessly trying to find a job.
  7. Sheriff investigates claims of 'torture,' killings at Okeechobee reform school

    Human Interest

    OKEECHOBEE — The sheriff's deputies saw blood on the back of Joseph Johnson's shirt. He was 12, in 1959, walking down a Sarasota street after another beating from his stepmother.

    The former Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee, which opened in 1959, is now a privately run halfway house and development center for boys and young men.
  8. 'Marvel Universe Live' features Riverview native as Cyclops

    Human Interest

    Benjamin Aycrigg says he didn't set out to make a career of stunt work — he was just looking for a physical activity to replace football. • The Riverview native, 22, played defensive end and outside linebacker for Riverview High School and Northwestern College in Iowa, but in 2011, he returned to Florida …

    Riverview native Benjamin Aycrigg, who is Cyclops in “Marvel Universe Live,” rehearses for the show. Aycrigg, 22, knows a thing or two about action. He played football and has done stunt work.
  9. For ex-con, there's no glamor in straight life, but it still beats prison

    Human Interest

    A knock on the motel door at 6:30 a.m. wakes Tony Ferrentino. He lifts his 315-pound body a few steps to the door, where a Louisville Slugger leans by the window. His arms are tattooed from wrist to shoulder with dapper mobsters and sprawling, cat-eyed women flashing those parts typically left to the imagination. A …

    Tony Ferrentino in his room in the Bayway Inn, a motel owned by his cousin. Ferrentino is a lifelong criminal, who after spending 28 years of his life behind bars, is trying to remain straight. “Inside I got two dogs fighting all the time.” CHERIE DIEZ    |   Times
  10. For dancer, fairy tale breakthrough masks pain of coming of age

    Human Interest

    By John Pendygraft

    Times Staff Writer

    TAMPA — The dancer spends every day in pain and doesn't dare show it. She knows not to drop her head or grimace when the instructor is looking. Moping, complaining or being injury-prone gives a dancer a fatal reputation. Six hours of daily training is the norm, and …

    Hannah Stanford, 15, poses at the Straz Center, where she attends the Next Generation Ballet school. Stanford will attend the Royal Ballet School in London this fall.