Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Party People

Ft. Brooke 4.4mi

View Interactive Map

I’ve been reading “Tampa: Before The Civil War” by Canter Brown Jr. This text covers Tampa history from its inception at the establishment of Fort Brooke in January of 1824 until presumably 1861, when the civilian population of Tampa still numbered only 800 individuals. Based on these descriptions of Tampa’s early years, anyone with any sense would have said that this remote military outpost on the Florida frontier was destined to be a ghost town.
The site where Fort Brooke once stood sits at the eastern bank of the Hillsborough River, where it empties into Hillsborough Bay. This site is now occupied by the Tampa Convention Center and the Fort Brooke parking garage, which houses the downtown YMCA. Today I did the run to Fort Brooke, and I used Jan as my sag wagon. I like these one-way runs sometimes because I get to venture out a little further and it makes for a greater sense of accomplishment.
I started out feeling strong despite the heat, and I did a pretty good job of keeping the pace down and sticking to the shade wherever possible. I had predicted for Jan that it would take me about 50 minutes to run this route, but this time I didn’t feel obligated to live up to my estimate. Running at this kind of pace really leaves room for your mind to wander, and I enjoyed this new and somewhat unfamiliar route. Of course I’ve driven this route into downtown Tampa probably hundreds of times, but the experience on foot can be completely different. I’ve noticed before when I’m running that the general feeling that I have about Tampa is a lot closer to the feeling that I’ve gotten in other cities and it starts to make Tampa feel a little more cosmopolitan somehow. Not that the city seems more glamorous, it actually seems much dirtier, but its dirtiness seems more like the dirtiness in other more “real” cities. I realize that my sense of the city, its scale, and the richness of the experiences within it are shaped largely by my mode of transport. My experience of other large cities is shaped by a pedestrian perspective that I don’t usually have in my hometown. Tampa is almost universally viewed as a pedestrian unfriendly city, and the idea of traveling around Tampa on foot out of anything other than absolute necessity is as laughable to most of its citizens as going for a Sunday drive in Manhattan. By the same token, I’ve often commented on the similarities of other cities to Tampa when I’ve entered them by car and navigated their sprawling outskirts of billboards and parking lots.
Traffic lights are my nemesis. I like to establish a rhythm and settle into it, and sometimes these lights make it impossible. Sometimes I get impatient and cross against the light, but when you’re running you don’t quite have the lead time that you need to break the intersection safely and I can see that this behavior could result in a very unfortunate outcome. I’ll have to learn to just calm down and wait. At least when you’re taking walk breaks you can just bump up the time of your next break and not have to worry about it too much.
This preoccupation with time, efficiency, etc. is something I’m going to have to work on some more. I can see myself getting better gradually, and my sense of enjoyment on these runs has increased greatly.
One thing that I have noticed a lot more from the sidewalk is the boarding houses. Some of the buildings are so dilapidated on the exterior that I can only imagine what they must be like on the inside. The city’s code enforcement squad must cut a wide swath around these places. I think that they would prefer to spend their time in places where the property values are on the rise.
I pass by one boardinghouse at about 9:30 am and the stoop party is already in full swing. People are sitting out in the morning sun drinking forties from brown paper sacks and settling into a rhythm all their own. These people rarely acknowledge my presence other than perhaps a quick nod of the head, but I often wonder what they think of this sweaty little white boy running through their neighborhood. Generally, I think the only people who really like to talk to runners are of the corny old man variety. That’s fine with me because I’m always up for a corny old man joke. So far my favorite line is “You know if you had just left earlier you wouldn’t have to run.”
I was reading “Midnight Culmination” the other day and Rachel was writing about this same part of town. She said that when she rides her bike past the Salvation Army she is greeted with “Hey Bike Lady!” to which she responds “Hey Homeless People!” Somehow I don’t see that working out for me.
The sun is starting to beat down now as I cross south of the tree line at Palm Ave. I put on my Roy Orbison wrap-around shades and look towards downtown where I can hide in the shadows of the skyscrapers. Just past the Army Navy Surplus store I cut over one block to Franklin Street’s northern terminus and I’m on the main artery of Tampa’s historic downtown. The brick sidewalks roll nicely underfoot and I run past the landmarks of Tampa’s once vibrant downtown scene, past the faded mural for the Carriage Repository, the remains of the Kress building, Maas Brothers department store, and the old Woolworth’s where, even when I was a teenager, you could still get a grilled cheese and a malt at the soda fountain. While we waited for our food we would go to the aisle with the alarm clocks and set them all to go off at the same time. Then we would eat our sandwiches and wait for the explosion of noise from the other side of the store. The only real landmarks that remain functional are the Tampa Theater and The Hub (although The Hub’s location has changed). The Hub has long been known for mixing the strongest drinks in town. When I worked the night shift in Largo, I would race across the bridge to make it to The Hub before last call. I would have two Jack and ginger ales before closing and drive straight home. Usually the buzz would kick in right about the time my key hit the lock on the front door.
A few more blocks and I’m into the heart of corporate downtown where the few street vendors and cafes are starting to prepare for the lunch rush. I stop to read a historical marker about a 1909 auto race from Tampa to Jacksonville and I see Jan up ahead, waiting for me at the car.


Post a Comment

<< Home