NEBRASKA AVENUE — Some might call it a nightmare, living next to an alley off Tampa's most notorious prostitution drag.
Maggie Council calls it inspiration.
The well-known local blues singer, whose homegrown acoustics have graced the airwaves of four continents in the past two decades, penned an ode to her old neighborhood in her new album, Not in the House, released this month.
Council, 45, insists that every bit of Nebraska Avenue is true — even the anecdote about the 7-foot transvestite turning tricks behind the funeral home.
"I think I read she went to jail after throwing a brick through a cop car's window," Council says.
She saw it all in the six years she spent in Southeast Seminole Heights, where historic bungalows and hardworking neighbors coexist with pawn shops and one-hour motel rooms.
From 1996 to 2002, she and her husband lived on Caracas Street, just south of Hillsborough Avenue and steps away from Nebraska. The alley that separated her house from the 24-hour coin laundry next door was an all-night hub of activity.
Council got so sick of seeing sex, she made bumper stickers that said "I got mine on Caracas and Nebraska" and stuck them on the cars of men patronizing the alley's prostitutes.
She remembers it all so vividly — the pit bulls that broke through the fence across the street, the condoms her son found outside.
It was also a neighborhood filled with artists, Council says, drawn by its character, color and cheap housing. She loved the excitement of living in a melting pot.
Council moved out of the neighborhood in 2002 because her house got too small for her growing family.
Since then, Nebraska Avenue has been repaved and neighborhood "hooker patrols" have helped run out prostitutes. But it has maintained its grit and continues to be home to a diverse mix of people.
"The artists and the homeless and the yuppie pioneers. There seems to be room for all," Council croons, "down on Nebraska Avenue."
The song has resonated with neighbors.
Stephanie Roberts, who moved into Council's old home in 2003, calls it a "musical snapshot" that encapsulates the quirkiness that drew her to Seminole Heights.
As soon as he heard it, David Scott Banghart posted a link to the song on the Seminole Heights blog. He liked the ambient sounds mixed in with the music: a bottle breaking, dogs barking, car horns honking.
"It's reality," he said.
Since its debut two weeks ago, the song has been playing on WMNF-FM 88.5 Community Radio, where Council serves as a board member.
She also works as a grant writer for the Performing Arts Center, and teaches Rock School at the Patel Conservatory. Her 9-year-old son, Ciro, recently took the class and now wants to cut his own album.
Council and her family live farther north in Tampa, in a larger house and in a neighborhood very different from their last.
"It's more peaceful," she said, "but not nearly as colorful."
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 226-3354.