Hello, RNC-bound Republicans! Welcome to a town that, despite what you may have heard before your jet's wheels actually hit Tampa tarmac, does not begin at Hooters and end at Mons Venus with some tall buildings in between.
Now we don't want to alarm you folks, but here are a few details about our city you might not know.
In case you didn't notice that big billboard on your way in — clearly put up by some Democrats just trying to be helpful — your host is in fact a mayor who could not be more of a Democrat if he were a Kennedy. (In fact, we wonder sometimes if he thinks he is.) Tampa City Council? Democrats all.
The good news is Mayor Bob Buckhorn could not be happier to have you here. Blue state, red state, who cares — green rules during RNC week.
While you're here, Republicans, you'll be protected by, among a few thousand other law enforcement types, our tough and popular police chief, Jane Castor. Who happens to be a woman, and also gay.
And no doubt you will notice one of our most remarkable buildings, sprawled along the Hillsborough River at the edge of downtown — the one topped by some suspiciously foreign-looking minarets.
Do not worry! It's only the University of Tampa, and really quite harmless, unless of course you are also suspicious of higher education.
These are things of which this city is proud. But there are others we hope you will pretend not to notice, as good house guests will — the dust bunnies under our collective bed, so to speak. Except ours are more like dust pit bulls.
If you happen to head east out of Tampa bound for Mouse Town, you will see a confederate flag flying by the highway. You will see it because it is very tall and roughly the size of Texas, possibly viewable from space. The Sons of Confederate Veterans put it up, despite those who hoped they would reconsider a symbol so potentially divisive and tinged with racist overtones, but no.
So we try to think of it as a flying reminder that the First Amendment protects one and all.
If you happen to be staying in Pinellas County to our west, I hope you packed your fluoride. The tea party helped get it voted out of the drinking water despite things like, oh, scientific evidence and dentists, because what would they know?
On second thought, maybe those two local notes bother some of you less than others.
Speaking of Over There, we apologize if you witness any unpleasant rivalry between Tampa and sister city St. Petersburg across the bay. So what if St. Petersburg has ribbons of walkable green along the water, while downtown Tampa's early goal was clearly to build until no one could glimpse even a slice of it?
Oh, and if you spot a lonely-looking monkey wandering around, well, that's our local mystery monkey, written up nationally this week when out-of-town reporters ran low on snarky things to say about us. (Took awhile.)
Yes, the wild monkey has his own Facebook page and yes, it's a little weird. We like him anyway.
And we hope somebody already told you about the mosquitoes the size of dachshunds and the August heat that can turn a human into beef jerky, assuming that hurricane doesn't hit first.
Enjoy your stay!