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Sue Carlton: Tampa is not such a bad city after all

At last, someone who gets us.

Like me, maybe you found yourself a little irked at how Tampa was portrayed nationally as the Bayshore backdrop to a scandal that took down a CIA director.

Socialite? Tampa socialite?

One out-of-town comic said this must mean she orders the filet at Applebee's. Ha.

If you too were a tad offended by jokes of us being Jacksonville south, and also hotter and uglier than the surface of the moon, take heart. Someone who spent time here and talked to actual people post-Petraeus apparently sees us for our weirdnesses, flaws and charms alike.

That's Tampa, South Tampa society, and even our hard-to-explain, beer-soaked tradition of parading pirates of Gasparilla, described as "perhaps the most eccentric — and politically incorrect — civic festival in the country."

Yep, that would be us.

Unlike the drive-by Applebee's snark by someone who couldn't find Bern's with a GPS and a Zagat guide, the piece by Vicky Ward in the March edition of Town & Country details the history and characters that make us interesting, like schmoozy former Mayor Dick Greco, and also our proud tradition of lap dancing.

What Ward saw: The town's relaxed Southern charm, slow pace and balmy temperatures make it a target for those wishing for a wonderful lifestyle without the social and financial pressures — or restrictions — of Palm Beach. And parts of it are just as beautiful, if not more so. Bayshore Boulevard fronts the water and has the longest unbroken sidewalk in the world … the houses on it are genteel Southern mansions that can be had for only about a million dollars. And, oh yeah — there's intriguing stuff in there about Jill Kelley, too.

And do not miss former Mayor Sandy Freedman's quote containing the word "bimbo."

•••

Speaking of what kind of town we are, get ready for round two on bringing a big old Bass Pro Shops and major retail complex to Brandon, with a slightly slashed price tag to taxpayers of $6.25 million for roads.

The debate will be the same: On one side, citizens and business owners who do not want to pay for this and those of us who say sure, welcome, but on your own dime.

On the other side will be talk of jobs and the economic engine Bass Pro could be, and expect a more sophisticated presentation than last time around with Commissioner Ken Hagan front and center.

Bottom line when it goes to the commission Feb. 20: What's Bass Pro here worth to you?

•••

Speaking of people who make up this town, only a former standup comic goes to Tampa General to visit a friend, trips on a rug and blows out his knee. (Old-timey comic drumroll here.)

So if you see 81-year-old Jack Espinosa out and about with a dashing cane, that's the story.

"I told them: I'm too busy to sue," says Espinosa, who thus far has been a comedian, set down his janitor's broom at Plant High to become a teacher, and served as spokesman to Sheriff Walter Heinrich, having known Heinrich since he was a baby beat cop.

Currently Espinosa is finishing his second book following his memoir of Ybor City, Cuban Bread Crumbs. Who has time to worry about a fall? Get ready for it:

"I don't even buy green bananas," Espinosa says.

Sue Carlton: Tampa is not such a bad city after all 02/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 8:57pm]

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