Thursday, October 23, 2008

More from Tampa, non-World Series edition

While I've run a lot of Phillies coverage lately, I didn't plan this trip to be part of the World Series hoopala. I'm here for the Freelance Success writer conference. And since I'm a graduate of the University of Tampa, I planned a bit of a longer trip to visit friends my school. Above is a picture of Plant Hall, the historic building that used to be the center of the University of Tampa (the center now is a cluster of gaudy buildings that went up, thankfully, just after I graduated. They are quite ugly -- sorry UT).

Plant Hall is a big, old rambling Victorian hotel with moorish architecture. It's odd, but pretty. Here's some more pictures:

The building does not have central air, believe it or not. When it was a hotel, it stayed closed during the summer. They use a lot of window units now. Will it ever get central air? It's a historic building issue, I think. But it's nice to know that while the rest of the campus morphs into something quite unappealing (at least architectually), Plant Hall stays the same.

I also stopped in at the offices of The Minaret, which is the college's student newspaper. I ran the Minaret from 2000-2002, and I credit it with giving me the skills that made me the writer I am today (and, I should say, I also had breakfast with Dr. Andy Solomon, the paper's long time advisor who played a big role in my writing education).

Anyone who's worked on the paper, especially from the days before the office move, will recognize this:

This is a safe that had been in the old Minaret offices. We didn't use it. We couldn't open it. Why it was even moved is beyond me. But I can report that someone finally -- FINALLY -- got inside. What was in there? Sadly, nothing. We spent a good deal of time trying to guess what was inside. Oh, well.

I was also startled to see my face on the office wall -- well, my freshman face. Someone had posted a lot of old Minaret pictures on the office walls. Someone remind me never to cut my hair short again, OK?

After UT, I headed over to Ybor City, a section of Tampa where I learned to drink (or learned how NOT to drink). It's a lot like Philadelphia's South Street, but with a Cuban Vibe. Only two college haunts -- Full Moon Saloon and Prana -- had the same names, which is surprising because they weren't the most popular spots when I was in school. Then again, I don't know how the bar world works and realize that they change name/image/theme all the time.

It was weird walking down the strip and seeing where I spent all that time and money in college. It reminded me of all those mistakes I made in school and how much I've learned since then. A good thing, right? But there's a part of me that still wants to head down tonight to see how much the night scene has changed. Maybe -- but then I'd go over to Four Green Fields after -- another newspaper staff haunt.

Even as much of Ybor has changed, at least one store is still the same:

This is one of the shop windows at La France, the coolest vintage shop I have ever seen. What do they have? Everything, from vintage and vintage-themed dresses to fur coats to jewelry to hats to purses to sexy vintage underthings to even Ringling Brothers costumes (they bought a bunch from the Ringling family, a group of which was then bought by the producers of Big Fish to create their movie costumes).

How absolutely gorgeous is that dress? Unfortunately, it was over $700, which I couldn't justify spending. But I did find the absolute PERFECT Betty Draper dress plus matching earrings (and for buying accessories, I got 20% off the dress), so I have a Halloween costume now, and a completely authentic, vintage one at that. Thanks to the gals working today...I tried on a dozen different dresses and spent a half hour picking out jewelry. They were fantastic...and patient.

So now I'm typing at you from a Panera Bread in Tampa near Hyde Park (listening to an almost painful employee meeting...I'm guessing they were 'secret shopped' and didn't do that well. Thank goodness I don't work in retail anymore). Hyde Park is another nice part of he city but seems too chain store now in the Pottery Barn/Restoration Hardware sense of the word. Hyde Park used to have a great department store called Jacobsons, I believe. A Brooks Brothers and gym is there now.

Sad to see how some things have changed, but the vibe of the city is very much the same, and its reminds of the things that kept me from moving here after college. It's not just the heat, but the laid back culture bothers me, too. Too many people drive SUVs who obviously don't need them; too many women are addicted to tanning beds (news flash: it does not give you healthy glow); and there's way to many rhindstones used as fashion staple, and too many fake boobs.

Now, this isn't all of Florida, but more than I'd care. I guess I'm an east coast girl.

Game two is tonight, and I'm not sure where I'll go. Our conference includes a lot of Philadelphia fans, so we'll figure things out. But no matter where I'll be, GO PHILS!

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1 comment:

Keith said...

La France is great, we outfit our entire wedding party there.

I have to agree about the new architecture at UT.
Plant Hall is a lovely novelty, while the Vaughn Center is a Mall of Learning. The new halls are all blocky and efficient, I miss Delo and University West, which were freakin' dumps, but at least you knew you were in a historic University as opposed some hotel with Rothko prints everywhere.
Tampa is far richer...Saint Petersburg has a far more welcoming and less snooty/fooby/SUV-Y? vibe...