Tampa? Tampa is strip joints and traffic jams. Tampa is hardscrabble ports and organized crime. Tampa's raucous and gauche.
St. Pete? St. Pete's languid like an early bird special. St. Pete's old folks biding time until the white light and the fade to black. St. Pete wishes it could have such fun.
Tampa likes its sports, yeehaw, rah-rah, while St. Pete likes the arts. You can walk in St. Pete. Good luck in Tampa. In St. Pete, business means tourists; in Tampa, business means business. Tampa can have the roller coasters. St. Pete's got the sunsets.
Pinellas County seceded from Hillsborough County in 1912. That's a century of across-the-bay barbs. Wrote the Tampa Morning Tribune when Pinellas broke away: "Hillsborough, of course, hates to lose its beautiful child …" You can almost feel the pat on the head. They fought over the airport. They fought over the interstate. They fought over USF. They fought over the baseball team. They still do. The Howard Frankland is a long 3 miles.
The sibling rivalry here is an aquatic version of an age-old tale. Geography matters. Topography matters. Barriers to travel and civil exchange that once were more formidable seep into a place's chromosomal character and persist even after onerous boat rides become relatively quick commutes. After stuff is no longer even true. But newcomers learn fast. Our physical bridges are beautiful, but they do only so much, which at times feels like self-parody, like self-fulfilling prophecy.
Michael Kruse is a Times staff writer.