These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: Tampa

Tampa is a place I have loved, fell out of love with, and am learning to love again. Some of my favorite things about this growing  city are simple yet perfect. There are other things that are not included that keep me here such as the film festival and concert seasons, but those deserve their own posts.

  1. Treasure Island Drum Circle
    1. Better than church, every time I attend I feel more centered and at one with myself and the world around me.
  2. Flatwoods
    1. Best place to go for a nice long trek with the dogs, they love the trails and the smells of this park.
  3. Oxford Exchange
    1. Designed like a tudor mansion study, this coffee shop also sells books and other artifacts. They also hold events for all sorts of interesting things. Recently I went to a Book Fair for local authors as well as a Tampa Type event. You can read about that here.
  4. Indian Rocks Beach
    1. This beach reminds me of my hometown, I get a spoonful of nostalgia every time I park (for free) and walk across the quiet street to the beach access. This beach is much more residential than most in the Tampa Bay Area and thus much more relaxing.
  5. Felicitous
    1. Locally owned, purple building, has a yard with monthly open mic nights, and amazing coffee & tea. What more do you need to know?
  6. Thai Temple Sunday Market
    1. I didn’t expect to find this gem, the experience alone takes you to a far away place. Nestled along the Hillsborough River bed with temple services running while authentic Thai food is being served until it runs out – and it will run out so get there early.
  7. University of Tampa
    1. Albeit cheesy, my alma matter is hands down the most beautiful sight in downtown Tampa. The history that lines the halls and the grounds is an inspiration to students and visitors alike. I still enjoy a nice stroll in Plant Park and my breath still catches when my eyes take in Fletcher Lounge.
  8. Morris Bridge Road
    1. A quiet country road in north Tampa, lined by some of the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen and pastures of heifers and horses. Something about this drive from Cross Creek to SR 54 captivates me. Perhaps it is the memory of a simpler time, driving down that old country road. Perhaps it is just my new found appreciation for country music.
  9. Gandy Bridge
    1. Bridges are beautiful for many reasons past merely the water it crosses. This particular bridge is lovely because  on the Pinellas side there are inlets on the bay where you can go and launch kayaks and paddle boards – even fireworks on the fourth of July. My favorite time to be here is on New Years Eve where we have made it our tradition to go build a fire out there and stargaze.
  10. Ella’s Folk Art Cafe
    1. If you like delicious food paired with amazing folk art, this is the place to go. Seminole Heights is an up and coming Tampa neighborhood, but this gem has been here for a while and has a fabulous reputation among the locals. Their veggie burger is heaven for your taste buds!
Advertisements

Let The Festivals Begin!

Welcome to film festival season 2015! This year I will be working the Gasparilla International Film Festival as a volunteer which is very exciting because not only do I get to help continue a beloved Tampa film community tradition nine years in the running and learn more about how festivals come together, I also get to attend a plethora of screenings, Industry panels, and maybe even a party or two over the weekend. Festivals are great because it brings people from all over to a local community who are all like minded to network for new opportunities; festivals are also great learning experiences with workshops and conversations analysing films and what works in today’s market.

The last day of April marks the first day of the four day Sunscreen Film Festival for the tenth year. This festival is very special to me because it was the first festival that I had a film premiere at. In an effort to give back and reconnect with the film community in the Tampa/St. Pete area I will also volunteer to help with this festival as well, and in turn get a day pass to attend workshops and screenings. Festivals are such an exciting time it is easy to forget all the year round work that goes into them to create the magical experience (and economy boost) we have. I think that it would be such a dream to work on a festival every single year – even all year round. My goal in these next few months is to learn as much as possible about putting together a festival, who knows maybe I’ll be hosting one of my own one day!

Road Trips and Clarity

Last week called for an impromptu road trip to the East coast of Florida to beach hop down the coast with my boyfriend, Michael. Packing the cooler with water and snacks, we embarked on our journey at four in the morning. The two of us marveled as the sun came up over state road sixty — greenery all around us and open road ahead. It was glorious. We made a pact to take the back roads as much as possible for any trip we do. We want to see as much of the natural beauty the world has to offer as possible.


Sunrise over 60

Sunrise over 60


 

We arrived on the east coast at 8am ready for some breakfast and a nap. While we ate, we found the nearest beach about twenty minutes away from I-95. Hutchinson Island was delightful; so much different from the beach I grew up on. There are sand dunes with foliage blocking your immediate view of the Atlantic, the wooden stairs were picturesque. They took us over the dunes and down to the beach where the sand was darker than I’m used to and filled with bits of shells that stick to your skin. The roar of the ocean swam through my head as I drifted asleep on the shoreline. A bit colder than the Gulf of Mexico, the waves enticed me in. We watched the storm roll in from the water and decided it was time to move on.


Hutchinson Island D Hutchinson Island R Hutchinson Island L

 


 

We raced the storm and successfully made it far enough south to avoid the rain and hit another beach. Hollywood Beach was a cute little town complete with a fabulous beach front. Instead of dunes we encountered a line of retro, stubby bars and hotels with a stone broadwalk about ten feet wide and two and a half miles long to walk or ride along the beachfront. The ocean was crystal blue with a few patches of brown seaweed, but the water was shallow for a good while which was perfect  for a little crashing around in the waves. The storm was nowhere in sight but as per Florida guidelines it stormed a few hours later and we found ourselves stuck until it passed. Gotta love happy hour showers.


Exploring the Hollywood Broadwalk

Exploring the Hollywood Broadwalk

Michael Lounging

Michael Lounging

Hollywood Beach F Hollywood Beach L Hollywood Beach R

 


 

It is so important to fit in little trips throughout your month to inspire your soul and help you clear your mind. It is a rejuvenating experience embracing what nature has to offer both nearby and far away. Crashing on the beach, driving all day and night, and showering at the beach accesses made me yearn for a cross-country road trip. I am certain that I can live that lifestyle and be completely happy; the vagabond lifestyle has whispered in my ear and I cannot shake it off. I’m convinced that traveling is a drug – heroin of sorts. I don’t care where I get it, but I must go!

xxx

Sam

Djembes and Sunsets

Sunday nights at Treasure Island Drum Circle is the perfect end to every week; the best way to gear up for a new one. The beach is captivating and offers some of the best sunsets I’ve seen. The drums are plentiful and fill the air with rhythm from the late afternoon to sunset. The entire island seems to crawl out for the experience. It restores my faith in humanity to see so many people coming together and enjoying the beauty in those moments. There is a spiritual feeling similar to a church gathering. People of all walks of life come and dance, play music, and watch the sun part ways with the earth. It reminds me a lot of old practices such as chasing the sun and praying it returns tomorrow. As the sun escapes, the glowing paraphernalia comes out. The sky is now lit up again with vibrant colors. There are drum circles all over the world with good vibes and good people. You don’t need to be afraid to check them out alone or with your own group of friends. To find a drum circle near you visit http://drumcircles.net and check out the plethora of information it provides. When I first began exploring these experiences I started there. Below are some pictures of the Treasure Island Drum Circle in St. Petersburg, Florida as well as a link to a video from June 7th’s circle.264528_10150669213045440_5266418_n 266623_10150669273845440_3216914_o

Sounds of the Circle

Jammin'

Jammin’

Treasure Island Sunset

Treasure Island Sunset

Flashback: Library Visits in Bergen op Zoom

Whilst living in the Netherlands working as an Au Pair, I spent a lot of time at the library. I would spend hours reading books and sitting in the aisles basking in the smell of knowledge. Used books have a very particular aroma.

It was during this time of my life that my passion for F. Scott Fitzgerald really solidified. I had read some of his works in high school and enjoyed them enough but returning to his works as an adult really opened my eyes. In the last weeks of my stay, I stumbled across The Love of The Last Tycoon and was flabbergasted.

Since returning stateside I have searched every bookstore I find for this book. Nobody carries it. “We can order it for you though.” Call me old fashioned, but I wanted to pick it up with my own two hands and consciously remember buying this book – not have it arrive in the mail.

Since 2011 I have been determined that when I was good and ready to read Fitzgerald’s final book it would appear in my life. Yesterday was that day. I decided to go mosey about after getting my car washed and stumbled into Mojo Books & Records.

The smell of used books knocked my socks off as I opened the door. To the right was a café serving locally roasted coffee and organic teas. Off to my left and beyond ahead was a maze of shelves filled with an eclectic collection of books in all genres.

As I always do, I started in the classics and went hunting for F. It was mostly copies of The Great Gatsby and some chunky compilation books. I was feeling defeated and just about to give up when I noticed a book hidden between two Gatsby novels. I couldn’t read it in the darkness of the shelf but when I pulled it out my heart stopped.

Fitzgerald was at the end of his life when he wrote The Love of The Last Tycoon. He originally named it STAHR / A Romance but he wanted it to sound like a movie title to disguise the true content of the book. He had thought of changing the name weeks before his death in 1940; according to Sheilah Graham, whom sent his work in progress to his editor.

Fitzgerald’s last months, who knows how long, was spent thinking and working on this story of the last frontier – the film industry. How wonderful to be able to combine two of my greatest passions – film and good writing.

Fitzgerald has always been high on my list of inspiring men. It was nice to see that someone of that caliber saw that twinkle the film industry holds. There is so much possibility, and so much deceit. Nothing is as it seems. But we have come a long way since the days he speaks of here. With Independent Film on the rise and cameras so affordable, everybody thinks they are a Spielberg.

From Holland to Florida, three years later but I found my book and it was as glorious as I imagined. I’m sure I’ll be finished with it before I know it. I also bought a book on three African empires called A Glorious Age In Africa and one of those chunky Fitzgerald compilations.

By the time I ever settle down anywhere I will have a room stacked with books for my children to expand their minds. Also on my radar – Graduate school in South Africa? Further my education in a few years and be on the ground floor to help sustain a continent. But more to come on that as my research furthers. For now still working towards Twenty Four Weeks, Twenty Countries, Three Continents. Attached are some pictures from a visit to the library with the children and a dear friend.

xxx Sam

Notice the view of the Library Behind

Notice the view of the Library Behind

Reading to Zena

Reading to Zena

Owen

Owen

Lexa

Lexa

Annelies & Lexa

Annelies & Lexa

Owen

I really enjoyed the floors of the library, you couldn’t help but feel creative!

Reading to the munchkins was my favorite.

Newton Park: The Lost Story

“Once you leave home, you can never go back.” These words echo through my childhood; I refused to stay in my one-lane town. As I grew older, an education and a yearning to see the world pulled me away. One year when I arrived home, they had torn down everything from my childhood home except the fireplace. I found myself surprisingly devastated.

The last place that my family was a family was now gone and I felt my hope go with it. A house built in the 20s, that withstood hurricanes, water surges, and fallen trees is gone, washed away. All that remains is the pathetic outline of the rooms that held many family memories – not just my memories but the memories of children before me. The fireplace that brought christmas wonder to so many families is nothing but a few stones in the sand.

I sat and stared at that sandy stone fireplace and remembered the dark brown bowl we kept our dog’s toys in nestled in the corner. She would be asleep on those red tiles with her head on the toys. I remembered breaking my elbow on the opposite corner and trying to climb the tree out the window with my arm in a cast.

I can’t speak for the families that lived in that quaint beach cottage before mine, but for us it was paradise. My father turned the garage into his ‘home office’ where he kept all his tools and fixed boat motors and hung his speed bag.

Every once in a while we would have visitors in the apartment off the garage. Frequently Reeve Lindbergh would stay as she was friends with Jim and Ellie Newton. When I was in the fourth grade, she came to my school and read some of her poetry – I was in awe.

The Newtons owned the property and lived next door; they were such fascinating people. Ellie told the most amazing stories and showed me pictures of inspirational figures like Thomas Edison. Jim swam every single day even through his nineties – even in stingray season! He never got stung, but I was so afraid he would. They were such kind, loving people and the feeling they gave me has imprinted on my being.

Our driveway was magical, Hibiscus trees separated us from the street creating an archway over our sandy driveway. On the other side of the trees, we had a trampoline and jet ski to play with. A little garden lined the side of the house where I planted flowers and vegetables while learning about the victory gardens of World War II.

The wooden stair case was small and lead into the ‘shoe room’ where my father insisted we keep our microwave for fear of our brains getting fried if we stayed in the same room as it. Entering through a white door with windows you would find an open kitchen/dining room combination with an indoor window that lead to the adjoining closets of two rooms. Throughout the years all three of us girls lived in both those rooms and shared the jack and jill bathroom. We all used that window to sneak into the kitchen and out the door.

The archway from the kitchen brought you into an open computer room and living room with french doors out to the patio and beach. I’ll never forget coming outside as a child and finding strangers using our outside shower. My mother was always very nice when telling them it was private property and not for public use. My parents bedroom had a huge window out to the beach with tye dye sheets on the bed. I was the wild one climbing from tree to tree and building sandcastles.

 

Today those trees are further gone than the home itself. All that is left are a few bricks, stones and benches. The beach is still the same, they can’t take that away. I’ll always be able to sit on the beach that I learned how to add and subtract on, how to ride a bike and surf. My father’s ashes live at that beach.

Tourists may eat their lunch and wash their feet, but I remember the family that ate dinner on that porch every evening and loved their beach cottage almost as much as each other. I wonder what other memories lie in that beautiful home from before the nineties. Seventy years of being other families home, of being on the island before any condominium or hotel was built.

Maybe I was wrong, you can go back home. It is acceptable to visit the memories and go back to a place you have lived so long as you have grown as a person. No matter your surroundings, you are still at your core who you are – everywhere.

xxx

Sam