Saturday, February 17, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: In praise, protest Tampa shows its small-town ways

Perhaps it's part of Tampa's goofy charm, but there are times when our fair hamlet's parochial sense of a civic inferiority complex makes Mayberry seem like cosmopolitan Paris.

Here are two examples of hoopskirt hand-wringing.

Recently the International Indian Film Academy announced that the 15th annual Weekend & Awards show will broadcast in Tampa in 2014.

This is a really big deal that will bring thousands of people to the area and generate millions of dollars in economic impact. And we'll get to learn that there is much, much more to Indian cinema than Slumdog Millionaire.

Very nice. And that led Francis Vayalumkal, founder of the International Film Festival in Tampa to gush: "It will put us on the map."

With all due respect to Francis Vayalumkal, um, Tampa is already on the map. It's been on the map for quite some time and if you look at a map — there we are.

Over the past couple of decades, Tampa has hosted three Super Bowls, the Republican National Convention, NCAA basketball playoff games and a host of other very high profile events, not to mention the city's annual Gasparilla debauchery and its worldwide reputation as the best little lap dance capital on the face of the planet.

And let us not forget Tampa is home to MacDill Air Force Base, which is also where U.S. Central Command is located and is populated by people who could kill you with their pituitary glands if they wanted to.

So it could be argued Tampa was selected to host an international film festival honoring Bollywood movies precisely because the city is very much prominently featured on the map. Yes, it is true. All those folks way, way, way over there in Mumbai can actually find Tampa on a globe.

But for sheer Dogpatch meets Salem small-town thinking, nothing quite rivals the fretting and sky-is-falling ennui on the part of some South Tampa folks over the impending arrival of a Trader Joe's grocery store that is widely expected to be built near S Dale Mabry Highway and Henderson Boulevard.

Trader Joe's is a quirky, chi-chi, oh so trendy grocery chain much beloved by its customers for its eccentric offerings. Apparently the company discovered Tampa on a map somewhere.

But some South Tampa residents have claimed to be "freaked out," "shocked," and fearful of the impact the store will have on traffic patterns in the area. Let us pause here for a deep sigh.

The train to worry about increased traffic patterns at Dale Mabry and Henderson left that station around 1955.

This is so, so, so South Tampa and its disproportionate numbers of residents who feel they need a passport to travel north of Kennedy Boulevard and decry any minute change as an assault on Junior League sensibilities.

We're simply talking about a cockamamie grocery store setting up shop. It's not as if the Pentagon is relocating to Dale Mabry and Henderson. Really, South Tampa can handle this modest addition to its midst without having to sit shiva over the loss of the current tenant, a Shapes gym.

Dr. Kiran Patel, who owns Tampa by the way, noted the Indian film festival would be a "game changer" for the city. Maybe he's right.

But the real game changer will be the day when some big event decides to come to the city and Tampa reacts as if it is no big deal because, after all, we deserve it and a grocery store chain can announce its plans to open a store here and the citizenry responds with a "Well, it's about &!#$ time!"

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