Floridian Archives

  1. The last Martin of Gilchrist County (w/video)

    Human Interest


    A traveling day. Nathan Martin is going to town. He is going to have a meal with the woman he loves. He usually hates wearing a shirt, but Vida will tsk tsk if he shows up with chest bare. He also needs to decide what to do about footwear. He hates shoes even more than he hates wearing a shirt.

    Most of the time, Nathan Martin, 72, prefers to go barefoot, like he did when he was a boy. 
  2. How one of the Blind Boys of Alabama regained his soul (w/video)

    Human Interest

    Illustration by Don Morris


  3. A nebula awaits astronomer's eye — and his pro-grade RC

    Human Interest

    He left home before dawn that Saturday, followed two friends in a caravan to the Keys.

    John O’Neill saw a comet flash through the sky and, 20 telescopes later, the amateur astronomer is now a noted astrophotographer. He’s shown at the Science Center’s observatory.
  4. Did Westboro Baptist Church's new hater-in-chief once call Tampa home? (w/video)

    Human Interest

    The recent death at 84 of Fred W. Phelps Sr., founder of Westboro Baptist Church, has left an opening at the top of the tiny congregation notorious for its hate-filled rants about homosexuality at soldiers' funerals. Westboro's new leader, according to news accounts, is Steve Drain, who lived in Tampa and attended the …

    For Steve Drain, the road from Tampa student to Westboro Baptist Church leader included protests at funerals of military service members. He helped Fred Phelps create the “God hates …” signs and produced hundreds of videos for the church’s website, Godhatesfags.com.
  5. Eddie Gonzalez was great police chief, even better party guest

    Human Interest

    Eddie Gonzalez, who died March 14 at 73 of a heart attack in South Florida, wasn't Tampa's longest-serving police chief, but he may have been its most relaxed.

    The packed news conference in the mayor’s office was nearly anticlimactic, a simple confirmation of what then-Mayor Sandy Freedman said she had known for a long time: that Eddie Gonzalez was the right choice.
  1. Living in Florida can be a real pain


    It can begin early if you grow up a little wild and more than a little barefoot in Florida: Something is going to bite you. Something is going to sting you. At the very least, you are going to touch something so horrible, and so repugnant, that you'll be scarred and scared for life. Decades later, while working in the …

  2. Transition from prisoner to mother fraught with tension (watch)

    Human Interest

    Two cars wait beneath the bright lights and barbed wire of Lowell Correctional Institution.

    A trying day: Mary picks Nevaeh up from school, and Nevaeh refuses to put her seatbelt on, climbing into the front seat. It’s frustrating and exhausting for the grandmother, who is raising the girl while her mother is in prison but finds it hard to discipline her. “It is not my place to bring up my daughter’s children,” Mary says.  “This is her life. Those children are her children.  I’m always going to be there for them, but my daughter needs to be the head of her household.  It is not my place anymore.  I want to go out and live some more.”
  3. Meet the world's most marketed 12-year-old basketball player (watch)

    Human Interest

    The photographer from People magazine pointed his camera at Julian Newman. Stripped along one side of the basketball court by the gym's few rows of metal bleachers was yellow tape that said CAUTION.

    "Big smile," the photographer said.

    Julian puts his head in his hands in the locker room after his team lost to University High School.
  4. Time Capsule: Lucy Chambliss, crack shot, 1962

    Human Interest

    The frame. The pose. The toothy grin. And the gun.

  5. Hiking Pinellas' gulf coast, Fawn Germer finds her motivation (watch)

    Human Interest

    I locked my bike at one end of Fort De Soto and drove to the other. Armed with sunscreen, a hat, two GPS apps and one fragile psyche, I was ready. Ready to walk. Ready to reset my life.

    Self-help guru Fawn Germer hikes the beach at Anclote Key Preserve State Park off Tarpon Springs in the Gulf of Mexico. Germer had a bad year but realized she needed to take her own advice if anyone is to take her seriously.
  6. Excerpt: Promoting Florida sunshine, stealthily

    Human Interest

    St. Petersburg has long claimed the distinction of having hired in 1918 the first municipal public relations director in the country. His name was John Lodwick and he had a natural salesman's grasp of how to entice Northerners like himself to a mostly undeveloped point of land on the Gulf of Mexico. Sunshine. His …

    The Municipal Solarium, opened in downtown 
St. Petersburg by the city in 1930, lured sunbathers from around the country.
  7. Debbie and her ring: Reunited, and it feels so good

    Human Interest

    The class ring. It is often one of the first items of value we get when we are young; it is also one of the first items of value we lose — because we are young.

  8. Florida business discreetly serves unique female maskers market (w/video)

    Human Interest

    The company in rural Sumter County that makes FemSkins, life-sized, lifelike, rubber female body suits for men who want to feel like dolls, was featured this year in a documentary on English TV. Ready-made viral fodder, it hit the British tabloids, the Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, Gawker, Facebook, Twitter …

  9. Opening Lines: Behind all the noise, real deal shines through

    Human Interest

    I was sitting in my kitchen last weekend, editing Michael Kruse's cover story on a precocious sixth-grade basketball player, when it occurred to me to do a little field research down the hall.

  1. Can people and bears co-exist? Orlando suburbs test the question

    Human Interest

    Gated, guarded Wingfield North, outside Orlando in Longwood, is a collection of about a hundred houses with pillars and pools and new BMWs parked out front. Golden evening light gleams through the branches of regal oaks draped with Spanish moss. One of the selling points is its proximity to lush woods, coupled …

    One afternoon in Emerald Cove in Apopka, about a month after the mauling in nearby Longwood, a bear in a tree attracts gawkers, including Katalina Valley, 11, taking a cellphone picture, and a TV reporter who stood nearly under the bear.
  2. Q&A with the Gasparilla Music Festival groove masters

    Human Interest

    Next month, the third annual Gasparilla Music Festival will kick off in downtown Tampa. After two weather-blessed and successful years, organizers have added a second day of bands playing on stages spread out over Curtis Hixon Park and neighboring Kiley Gardens. The Times' Bill Duryea sat down with three of the …

    Gasparilla Music Festival organizers John Wakefield, left, Ty Rodriguez and Phil Benito stand at Curtis Hixon Park on Jan. 24, contemplating the third and longer experience coming here on March 8-9. “We’re just a bunch of kids putting on a festival,” Rodriguez says. “When I’m handing in our paperwork to the city, I feel like Wayne and Garth.” 
  3. Dispatches from next door: A new stage in life

    Human Interest

    TEMPLE TERRACE — The young woman gripping the microphone glided onto the stage, her 4-inch black heels thumping the thin carpet. "Check, check, check," she said. "Mike one." That evening in Temple Terrace, she prepared to headline a concert for kids in a church hall no bigger than a double-wide mobile home. It had …

    Gospel rapper Terri Saffold, a.k.a. Terri Vee
  4. Time Capsule: St. Petersburg, 1925

    Human Interest

    Before the Wallenda family took flight, forming human pyramids high above the ground, crossing tightropes strung between skyscrapers and traversing the Grand Canyon, there was the Human Fly. A swarm of them, actually: daredevils who traveled around gaining fame, though not necessarily fortune, climbing tall buildings …

  5. Opening Lines: A Floridian, by definition

    Human Interest

    ‘Are you packing now?"

    The question made perfect sense, and it floored me anyway. My old friend wanted to know if I had a gun on me.

  6. Notes from the Gunshine State: Florida airports make top 10 for confiscated weapons

    Human Interest

    Last year, two Florida airports made the top 10 list for confiscated weapons, according to a Transportation Safety Administration report. Orlando, with 47, and Fort Lauderdale, with 45, came in eighth and ninth place, respectively. Tampa, aspirational as always, recorded 36 seized …

  7. Word for Word: Love finds a way

    Human Interest

    Dear Friend:

    If you want me for your wife, Send me back this bow of white.

    Through a circuitous route, a piece of typing paper, delicate and yellowing, has made its way into our hands at The State You’re In desk. Dated “Leap Year 1912,” it’s decorated with bows of colored ribbon, now faded, carefully hand-stitched to the page with white thread: an anonymous valentine.
  8. When 'House Hunters' meets 'Ghost Hunters'

    Human Interest

    When you're selling a house, there are two kinds of information: the things you want to tell, and the things you have to. The first are features — granite countertops, hardwood floors. The second are disclosures — roof leaks, lead paint. Most folks would place a ghost solidly in the second category.

  9. Florida flies to moon, but we can't fly drones?

    Human Interest

    The State You're In desk would like to express its indignation that Florida, home of Cape Canaveral, home of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, home of more than a few significant military bases, has somehow been left off the list of states approved as a federal testing ground for drones. Maybe someday when we can't …

  10. Excerpt: Hiaasen nails Florida's hurricane denial

    Human Interest

    Right now, the concern about hurricanes centers on new federal flood insurance rules that are sending policy prices into the ozone, especially for homes that aren't waterfront McMansions. But Carl Hiaasen, the "weird Florida" novelist and columnist/watchdog, reminds residents that insurance is the least of our worries. …