Driving home to Baton Rouge from vacation in Tampa, and blogging from a wi-fi hotspot generated by a Palm Pre, we’re stuck in a traffic jam outside of Gainsville for almost an hour.  An 18-wheeler jack-knifed across two lanes.This makes me think about what I miss about Tampa,  a place I called home for ten years. In no particular order:

1. Disney – Grueling in August, when we usually go, but magical during the cooler weather. (Magical is cliche, but apt.)

2. Orange blossoms – Not only do they smell divine, they smell of divinity.

3. Cuban food – From the dive at the strip mall to the fanciest restaurant,  can’t go wrong with black beans and yellow rice.

4. Concerts and touring companies – Because Tampa is a big city, it gets nearly all the major concert tours and other cultural events. There are many venues and a variety of big and alt/indie things to do.

5. The Tampa Theatre – A  historical landmark building, a renovated 1920s movie theater, the Tampa theater offers all sorts of independent and off beat movies and oldies. It also has an old-time organ which is played by an organist before the movie.

6. Independent movies – On that note, the Tampa Bay Area has multiple theaters that offer indie, foreign, and limited-release movies.

7. The beach – Even people who hate beaches can enjoy the beaches in St. Pete because they’re so beautiful. Over the years, I developed an elaborate rituals to avoid the sand, so I enjoy the beach immensely. This vacation I had all the accouterments and I have the sunburn to prove it.

8. The absence of football culture – Used to be, there was a weak Bucs team, and no USF college football there, so Tampa had no football culture. Of course, Florida is a football state through and through, though., and Tampa has changed since then.

9. Bougainvillea – Beautiful flowering bushes in all sorts of colors. They are in a dead heat with the crepe myrtle in Louisiana. They are lush and tropical whereas crepe myrtle are more flouncy and southern.

10. Good grocery stores – Florida has Publix, which is an amazing grocery store with great food choices, an excellent bakery, and a good deli. They offer a lot of food that is prepped and ready to cook. They sell yummy fresh fish – boned, cleaned, and spiced –  that you can toss on the hibachi or in the oven. Publix always has quality produce too. It’s more expensive than, say, Winn Dixie or Albertsons, but it’s a better class of food. Plus, their commercials are always clever.

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