My adoration for holiday music has ballooned to a Spotify playlist that now totals more than 11 hours.
Nine of those songs make some reference to home, and when I listen to them, I think most of my late mother and father and growing up in Tallahassee.
But now, home is Tampa Bay. My love for the region — not just a single city, but all the good each community has to offer — inspires this annual salute.
Allow me to look beyond the givens — Cuban sandwiches, deviled crabs, sunset vistas — to some specific 2018 observations, a few playful barbs and some new-found features that deepen my fondness. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is here.
You haven't lived in Tampa Bay until you have ...
.... watched your family brave early morning cold and join hundreds of Santa Claus-clad runners at the Jingle Bell Jog at Al Lopez Park.
... endured taunts of Scrooge because you chose the warmth of the car instead of participating in the Jingle Bell Jog.
... taken your company through the Innovation Lab at the Dali.
... seen a group in the downward-facing dog position on the lawn at Armature Works.
... spent an entire day trying to locate the Tampa office of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.
... chosen between the mayor who gave us eight years of leadership or the restaurateur who gives us grilled Parmesan oysters. Survey says: oysters — and Ulele's giant bust.
... girded your heart for the potential departure of the Tampa Bay Rays.
… reveled over the musical prowess of blues guitarist Selwyn Birchwood.
... studied a map for sea-level rise and noted how many Tampa Bay areas may end up suffering from chronic flooding.
... savored the shrimp and grits at Trip's Diner.
... taken the ferry from Clearwater's Coachman Park to Clearwater Beach.
... witnessed the retail/restaurant explosion around Tampa Premium Outlets and said, "Wesley Chapel is one step closer to becoming the next Brandon."
... come to the realization developers are going to build on every remaining patch of grass in Brandon — except the Moseley Homestead. Fight the power, Ms. Julia.
… marveled over the passion some 15,000 people, mostly teenagers, displayed at Tampa's March For Our Lives rally, the largest in city history.
... traveled under the Skyway Bridge in a cruise ship.
... allowed the soothing voice of WUSF-89.7 FM morning host Jessica Meszaros to ease your stress during rush hour traffic.
... cherished the beauty of Safety Harbor's Philippe Park.
...enjoyed a choral concert at the University of Tampa's Sykes Chapel.
... devoured a creme brûlée doughnut at Dough.
... heard Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren say, "safer, stronger Hillsborough" at least 10 times.
... chosen a St. Pete happy hour over the commute home because you know you can't get across the Howard Frankland after 4 p.m.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
… applauded Treasure Island's decision to install a wheelchair beach path to create greater access.
... wondered if the Bucs simply suffer from bad juju.
… pined for the food and memories you created during the 18-year existence of Lee Roy Selmon's Restaurant.
... listened in on a conversation between E.J. Salcines and Delano Stewart discussing Tampa's history.
That's all I'm saying.