05/07/13 Human Interest
Be ready. Pretty soon, billions of cicadas will start crawling out of the earth after 17 years underground and swarm the East Coast, looking to make love. Not with you, probably. This flock of flying nasty has been underground since Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were on the music charts, nursing on tree roots and growing. When the ground temperature hits 64, out they'll come, outnumbering humans between North Carolina to Connecticut 600 to 1....
05/03/13 Human Interest
At the close of the work week, when the stars come out and the Christmas lights twinkle on and the headlights start to race through the pines and past the KEEP OUT signs, you'll find Gary Anton in his pop-bottle glasses and hippy hair-halo rushing around the Bradfordville Blues Club like a monk on Adderall.
This is his place. His and his wife's.
Miss Kim is around here somewhere, too, taking drags off her e-cigarette and telling folks that No, if they don't have a reservation they're not getting in because the joint is sold out, because Rick Lollar, the local boy done good, the white kid with a Cadillac voice and Chevrolet fingers, will be in the hot lights soon and he's going to make the girls swoon and he might just shake the speakers off the milk crates....
04/13/13 Human Interest
MARIANNA — The old reform school on the edge of town is all but abandoned. The only activity is from a few guards who watch the gate to make sure the locals don't cut the razor wire and strip the darkened buildings bare of copper. But in this little blue-collar city a few miles up State Road 276, the shuttered campus, home for a more than a century to Florida's juvenile delinquents, has surged back into conversation....
TAMPA — Sister Anne Dougherty was baking Irish soda bread at home when she saw on CNN the white smoke rising above the Vatican. She didn't recognize the man the cardinals chose to lead the Roman Catholic Church, but she knew the name he had chosen.
For the first time, the 266th pope, former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, would be called Pope Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi....
MARIANNA — After Willie Morris served his time at the Florida School for Boys in 1962, the 16-year-old got a job in Orlando and started tucking away folding money. Then he bought a .32-caliber pistol and a Greyhound ticket back to this little Panhandle town so he could take revenge on the state employee who beat him.
"It was a whole 'nother world up there," said Morris, 66 now, who learned his abuser was dead of a heart attack before he boarded the bus. "It was an angry world, a vengeful world. It was a field day for them to beat you."...
03/23/13 Human Interest
Gallagher might die tonight.
Did you know he is still alive?
He is. Pretty much. Surprise.
He's scheduled to make one last appearance in the Tampa Bay area, the place he thinks of as home, the locale that launched him on a three-decade-plus comedy career highlighted by 14 specials on Showtime. He's back home now, and due on stage at the Capitol Theater in Clearwater tonight, if he makes it. If....
AUSTIN, Texas — "Just open your minds and take it in," Harmony Korine told the packed Paramount Theatre before the first U.S. screening of Spring Breakers here last week, "and see what happens."
What happens 20 seconds into Korine's body-shot of a movie, set firmly around Tampa Bay, is breasts. Perky, beer-covered, bare breasts, filling the screen, bouncing and shaking in slow motion. And then come girls doing bad things with Bomb Pops. And then bongs on the beach. And then more breasts. ...
03/15/13 Human Interest
The little brick house at 5169 10th Ave. N isn't much to look at. But in 1969, a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times walked past the palms and knocked on the door and found the grizzled jowls and red-rimmed eyes of the 46-year-old king of the Beats.
Jack Kerouac, author, artist, cult hero, was watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news, volume turned silent, while Handel's Messiah blared from the record player. He was smoking Camels, drinking whiskey from a medicine vial and chasing it with Falstaff beer in a half-quart can....
03/12/13 Public Safety
Try as he might, Buddy Somnitz can't forget what he saw in 1963 at the Florida School for Boys in Marianna. He was standing on a loading dock, watching a boy about his age try to hide in a field next to the reform school campus. Then he saw a Jeep full of men race across the field toward the boy. One of the men in the Jeep swung a rifle full-force and caught the boy under the chin. The blow, Somnitz remembers, peeled the skin off the boy's face, from his chin to his eyebrows....
When the earth opened Thursday night on Faithway Drive in Seffner and consumed 37-year-old Jeffrey Bush, it set in motion a chain of events for responders who tried first to save Bush, then to recover his remains, then to decide that the hole that killed him would be his final resting place.
In such events, the rescue and recovery efforts should be governed by a set of rules, according to experts in emergency management. The same rules could apply to fires, earthquakes, floods or rescues at sea....
After a two-year search, Florida Atlantic University has finally bestowed a name upon its new palm-ringed, oceanside, 29,419-seat football stadium in Boca Raton, and it's dripping with controversy. The Owls will play football this year in GEO Group Stadium, thanks to a $6 million gift from the charitable arm of the nation's second-largest prison operator.
GEO Group, which reported revenue of more than $1.6 billion in 2011, operates state and federal prisons and illegal-immigrant detention centers with enough beds to incarcerate more than 70,000 prisoners. Move over, Enron Field....
02/17/13 Human Interest
Daniel Alvarez woke up Thursday on a spoil island south of the Belleair Causeway and folded the tarp under which he had slept through pouring rain the night before. The clouds had parted for the morning sun, but he knew there would be storms ahead, so he wanted to get an early start.
He pulled his black hat down on his forehead and tucked the tarp into his 17-foot yellow sea kayak, the vessel that carried him here from Northwest Angle, Minn., the northernmost point in the lower 48, a journey of more than 3,000 miles....
02/12/13 Human Interest
Let us take a moment to pause here in the middle of February, the Goldilocks' porridge of Florida weather, to take stock of our place in the world and engage in communal celebration that we've somehow come to be in this place at this time. Let other states celebrate their seasons; that never quite works here in the land where heat sort of wraps itself around the calendar. But if we're not careful, we'll miss this most subtle of shifts. January is a little too cold and March is a little too hot, but February is room temperature, our entree. This is why we're here....
TAMPA — How many dead boys are buried at the state's oldest reform school, and where are their remains located? Those are the questions that continue to baffle the families of the dead and former wards of the Marianna facility.
On Friday, Sen. Bill Nelson called on state officials to allow forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida to continue to search for the clandestine graves of inmates at the reform school in the Panhandle town of Marianna. He also asked state legislators to fund the university's mission to locate and exhume the remains, and to determine how the boys died....
12/28/12 Human Interest
The crime scenes were a movie theater in Colorado, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a manufacturer in Minneapolis, a mall in Portland. Outside the Empire State Building. At a café in Seattle. The list of mass shootings this year goes on and on.
But without turning to Google, can you name one of those shooters? Until the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Conn., it was as though gun massacres had become so commonplace in 2012 that we stopped paying attention. It took the deaths of 20 children and six staffers at an elementary school to jar us, to get us talking about mental health services and gun laws and all the ways we can try to prevent the next episode of mass bloodshed....