05/10/13 Human Interest
Every afternoon about 4 p.m., Karen Heaton walks through her house, out the back door, and stands at the top of the wheelchair ramp.
Waiting for Donnie.
By then Heaton, 63, has bagged all the dirty diapers, spread new changing pads across the sheets and smoothed the blankets on the king bed she shares with her son. She has cleaned his back-up feeding tube, sterilized the syringes, charted a cabinet full of medications. She has washed the clothes, vacuumed and propped body pillows around the gym mat that fills her living room floor....
04/15/13 Human Interest
LARGO — On the day of her party, she took extra time doing her hair. She blew it all the way dry, combing it between her fingers, adding a double shot of spiking gel.
Slowly, she twisted the scarlet and bleached-blond streaks into thin peaks, 3 inches tall, fanning above her forehead. She calls the look "Woody Woodpecker."
Sometimes, when she's feeling wild, she adds orange streaks. But not now....
03/25/13 Human Interest
INDIAN SHORES — Every evening, when the sun starts to slip behind the high-rises, the people at Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club pour onto their porches.
Carrying plastic chairs and sipping Cokes or cocktails, they line all eight floors of both condo buildings.
"Hey, Bill! We're ready!" someone called on a recent night, as a warm breeze wafted off the gulf.
On the second floor, a woman in a turquoise sweater stepped out of her screen door. "Just a few more minutes," she called. "We're waiting for the sun."...
03/02/13 Human Interest
PLANT CITY — The queen was late.
By the time she pulled into the new RaceTrac, hundreds of people already packed the parking lot for the grand opening.
The high school marching band was tuning up, the Budweiser Clydesdales were huffing in their harnesses, and the queen's court was waiting beneath a balloon arch. The four teen girls wore what the queen wore: ruffly red sundresses, white jackets with strawberry sequins and the mandatory lipstick they called "old lady red." ...
02/28/13 Human Interest
He sailed from Puerto Rico, searching for new land. He wore striped pants. He named Florida. On that all of the accounts seem to agree.
But other aspects of Ponce de León's story shift with time.
Was he searching for gold? Hunting slaves? Longing for youth?
Was he brave? Was he cruel? Was he duped?
In the last century, especially, as we have come to better understand and appreciate native cultures, the tale's telling has changed. Now the hero seems merely a man....
SAN ANTONIO — Father Leonard Plazewski started tweeting on Sept. 8. Because the pope told him to.
He tweeted about a wedding at which he was officiating. He tweeted about the Pastoral Council at Christ the King Catholic Church in South Tampa, where he is pastor. He tweeted about grading religion tests, going to the dentist, getting a new iPhone.
After one week, the 47-year-old priest had posted two dozen messages....
12/21/12 Human Interest
Halfway down the winding path to picnic shelter No. 5, Glenda Goodman parked her daughter's stroller in the shade. "Okay," Glenda, 22, whispered to her baby. "Are you ready to go meet your aunt? I guess she's your great aunt?" Glenda wasn't ready. All morning, at the Tarpon Springs restaurant where she works, and during the hourlong drive to Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, Glenda had been rehearsing questions in her mind: What was my mom like? How did she meet my dad? Why didn't they ever get married?...
12/07/12 Human Interest
FROSTPROOF — Saturday night, while the high school band was marching and Santa was waving from a flatbed and his elves were handing out stuffed animals, someone snuck into the town's nativity scene and stole baby Jesus.
A public works employee, walking back to his car from the parade, noticed the empty manger and called his boss.
"We'd like to think it was some kid walking by who picked up the doll, maybe their parents didn't even notice," said public works director James Keene. "But it couldn't be just that because of the donkey."...
12/04/12 Human Interest
GULFPORT — When the students filed into the fellowship hall Tuesday morning, their elderly guests were waiting — each sitting alone at a round table.
The middle schoolers split up, three kids joining each senior citizen. They pulled out their worksheets: two pages of questions.
For weeks, the 16 students at Walden School had been studying the 1920s through 1940s. They had read about flappers and F. Scott Fitzgerald, about the stock market and its crash, dance marathons and the Dust Bowl. They had learned to play marbles and jacks....
12/01/12 Human Interest
OCKLAWAHA — Maybe $1 million was too much.
Sure, the house is historic: Here, Ma Barker and her gangster son Freddie made their last stand in January 1935, while a dozen FBI agents peppered the two-story home with machine guns. Bullet holes from the four-hour shootout still pock the walls. Some say blood money is buried beneath the live oaks.
The Tampa Bay Times wrote about the house in September. Sotheby's agent, Mark Arnold, who is selling the four-bedroom home on almost 10 acres, had hoped media coverage would lure would-be buyers. And it did. "I got calls from Germany, England, several from Canada," he said. "Dozens and dozens of people asking all kinds of questions."...
11/30/12 Human Interest
I couldn't wait for my son to get his driver's license.
For the last 10 years, ever since my boys started school, I have been stuck behind the steering wheel, carting them to Little League games and dance recitals, drum lessons and play rehearsals, piano lessons and haircuts and birthday parties.
I live by my watch, always anticipating that moment I have to cut out of a meeting or skip lunch to pick them up and take them wherever they need to go. ...
11/23/12 Human Interest
From a distance, the tree behind the Dalí Museum looks like a willow, its long branches dripping with rainbow leaves.
Come closer and you'll see that it's a Florida ficus, two stories tall, whose thin limbs have been laced with plastic streamers. Slips of paper are knotted along the streamers — gold and crimson, cobalt and teal, a different color for every day of the week. On the back of their admissions wristbands, people from around the world have penned their hopes, do-overs and dreams. ...
11/19/12 Human Interest
The sign she waved at graduation — "Have bachelor's degree. Need job" — didn't help. Neither did the T-shirts she had printed with her resume.
Rachel Barnard, 22, had been valedictorian of her class at Booker High in Sarasota and had received enough scholarships to pay for New College. She had studied psychology and Spanish, worked at a science museum, volunteered at a children's clinic....
11/18/12 Human Interest
Martin Steele had never been to the career center. As a student at New College, he could have visited any time.
Now, two months after graduation, he sat down with the director and told her he needed help.
"Okay, so ... Martin, what kind of job are you looking for?" Cathy Cuthbertson asked him.
"Well," said Martin. Silence swallowed the room. "Ideally I'd like some sort of position that uses my degree?" he said, as if answering a test question. His degree is in English....
11/16/12 Human Interest
First of three parts
The graduates stood on the marble steps of College Hall, looking across the lawn where their professors and proud parents were waiting to applaud.
A balmy breeze was blowing from the gulf across the campus of New College. The students hugged and laughed and snapped photos on their cellphones. Under a pink sunset, with Pomp and Circumstance playing, everything seemed possible....