Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tampa Getaway - Viva Palma Ceia

February 8-11, 2012

We are glad to be back in St. Louis after an interesting year in Joplin. As I negotiate reestablishing my career and connections in this town for the past couple of months via meetings in coffee shops, social media, association events (American Marketing Association, Advertising Club, Public Relations Society of America etc.) and professional networking I see a window of opportunity to play golf and visit with my daughter, brother and father, all of whom live in Tampa, Florida for different reasons.

Lindsey has been in Tampa for just three years as a youth group director at Temple Schaarai Zedek (I am so proud of her. The world is a better place with her in it.) Greg has been living in Tampa for more than 25 years and is an independent commercial real estate broker. (He seamlessly juggles his career and his share of the responsibility for mentoring his boys Wes, Mathew and his high schooler stepchildren Michael and Lauren. Greg’s activities include being a community leader, preparing for his term as incoming president of the American Red Cross chapter, organizer of Real Estate Lives, Broker Poker and Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey fan.)  Greg’s wife Ellen is human resources professional and can be called out-of-town on short notice to support a long list of dotted line superiors who run regional operations for a large insurance company.) Dad relocated to Tampa after Mom died in May of last year. (At 93, he’s still painting water colors. He is settled in at Horizon Bay independent senior living facility. Greg makes sure his hearing aid is working. He misses Mom. Family photos and a full gallery of watercolors in his apartment are reminders of so many memories.)

This trip is a great mix of quality time with family and my favorite hobbies: golf and art. Greg has the fix in as a friend of the MacDill Air Force base and gets us on the South Course. It is during a round of golf I am able to spend time with Greg and with Lindsey’s boyfriend and roommate Chris Dewey. Chris is an easy guy to be around. He’s smart, confident and relaxed during the round. Greg and I both offered a low bar of excellence with regard to the level of play, starting with mulligan do-overs on the first tee box.
Florida in February is always ready for visitors. Tampa is no different, but the place has a community feel and is gearing up for the Republican National Convention in August. It’s an election year and no clear front-runner has been identified yet to challenge Barack Obama in 2012. No doubt the Republicans will fill up the bars and restaurants and create an economic stimulus for the Bay Area. Ybor City is a great place to enjoy a cigar. The bay is lined by the country’s longest continuous sidewalk which is perfect for joggers. The water offers a reflection of the nearby downtown skyline. The trip was perfect. Between Lindsey and Greg we managed to get to a nice sampling of eating and drinking places: The Collonade (with Dad); Pinky’s (popular breakfast spot); Jimbo’s (BBQ); Mad Dogs & Englishmen (a default favorite pub/tavern for Chris and Lindsey); Meze (for vegan fare) and Woody’s (for dynamite tomato soup and greek salad). We even managed to visit with Greg’s boy Wes at Batteries Plus where he has been a employee for three years. Wes reminds me of my own son Ben (they are the same age). He’s a real gentleman, tall, trim with wavy hair an easy smile – a fine looking Morgan.       

Lindsey got Friday cleared from work for quality time with me. We made our way to the Salvador Dali museum via a gallery exhibit of Chihuly glass sculpture (chandeliers, bowls, colorful blown glass and installations). Greg caught up with us at the Dali museum and remembers when the collection of the Mr. and Mrs. Morse, an industrialist and his wife, was on display at the Cleveland plastic injection molding plant in the early 1980s. Years later the museum is a civic jewel in the Tampa Bay area. The Morses first discovered Dali the year they were married (1942) at the Cleveland Museum of Art. They would have been contemporaries of my parents (who were also married in Cleveland in 1942). A year later they bought a painting after meeting with the artist at the St. Regis hotel in NYC. The surrealist lived in the U.S. for most of the 1940s.

We have plenty of time to visit John’s Pass near the water, stop in one or two of Lindsey’s favorite shops, taste some fruity Florida wines - just enjoy the afternoon off before meeting Chris for the evening. Lindsey managed to get us complimentary admission to the Improv on this Friday night (where comedian Pete Correale is the featured performer). It only took a text message to one of her former youth groupers whose uncle is a part owner of the Improv. (Nice to be so connected. Chris, Lindsey and I got great seats front and center on the balcony.)

Saturday morning allowed for a little bit of tourism. In 1891, Henry B. Plant built a lavish 500 room luxury resort hotel called the Tampa Bay Hotel on the west bank of the Hillsborough River across from downtown Tampa. The eclectic Moorish Revival structure cost $3 million to build, a huge sum in those days. We were able to roam about the building and understand the essence of the time Mark Twain called the Gilded Age.

My Southwest Airline flight is delayed just a half hour allowing for a little extra time with my sweet baby doll Lindsey. Airports are always a little sad when it means separating. Life goes on. At baggage claim in St. Louis I listen to a voice mail message from Greg. “Hey Wes, Michael and I were talking about the famous joke and discussing its meaning. Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.” (I will call him later to find out what he thinks it might mean. I have a feeling it is something profoundly simple and yet simply profound.) It’s 19 degrees in St. Louis. Why did the chicken cross the road? I’m not sure. Why do people go to Florida in February? (Even Henry Plant knew the answer to that question.) 

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