Tales of May 06: Tampa-rriffiic!

It wasn’t a “vacation.” It wasn’t a “holiday,” as they call it over here.

It was an epic event of travel.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to break up the Tales of May 06 into bits, for easier consumption.

Viva House of Meats, Tampa!It all began, really, existentially, at the House of Meats. La Casa de la Carne.

Timeline-wise, Tampa, and the visit my friend Mike’s was nearer the middle-end of our trip. But, for me, The House of Meats sealed it. My brain was officially on vacation.

Now this photo isn’t anything to write home about. It’s just a snapshot. But click here and here and you will see that I am not the only one who finds this Meat Discount Bonanza a true American Dream.

THIS, my friends, is what I miss about home. Weird and wonderful capitalism, sprawled out, with its own parking lot, right next to the freeway exit. I don’t miss the ubiquitous strip malls and commercials for prescription drugs and fat people who can’t figure out why they are fat when they drive everywhere and eat fast food all the time. I miss THIS: MEAT FOR LESS. A real American small business, in the sunshine!

But it isn’t just the House of Meats you see in this photo. Look behind it, and you see the sky. You see space. You see sunny, hot days, where mirages rise up off the pavement.

Mike and I laze at Fort Desoto National Park Beach And yes, home for me is America in summer time. Summer should be HOT, not wimpy, limpy mild. I may be an Iowa girl, but to me, Florida defines American summertime. It is steamy. It requires sandals and shorts and screens on the windows. It’s hottest days will knock you OUT! It is sand in your bathing suit. It requires a car, of course, that you throw everything into, including towels, snacks, a cooler and sunscreen. Why? I’ll tell you why.

Because the rewards are as wide, lovely and endless as its beaches. They are cool breezes, clear, blue water, and SPACE. The rewards are sprawling and open and free. They are wading into the Gulf at Fort Desoto National Park off of St. Pete’s Beach and seeing your toes through the water. Watching the pelicans dive into the seaweed for lunch, Pelicans and seagulls having lunch, Fort Desoto National Park, Floridathen watching them at rest, on the waves, silent and singular. Hopping back into the car and you are transported through palm-lined roads, over bridges and past salmon-hued condos and sandstone-colored dream homes to Pass-a-Grille and The Wharf Restaurant, where we sit inches from the harbor, peeling shrimp, drinking COLD beer, and staring into blue skies and bluer water.

It is Florida: Tampa to be exact.

It is stopping at a 7-Eleven (yes, they still have them in Florida) for a real Slurpee.

It is eating meals outside– breakfast, lunch, and dinner– in the shade of the lanai, or a sturdy canvas umbrella, or just under the starry sky. Mexican food: enchiladas with mole sauce, salsa music, and sangria.

It is wearing a sleeveless shirt, and a skirt and little strappy sandals to dinner, and not much else. Except mascara.

It is hot and oppressive at 10 a.m. when you take the little dogs for a walk. But then you duck back into the that lovely cinder-block box of air conditioning, toss yourself across the cool bedcovers, and read “Cloud Atlas” or “Skinny Dip” under the ceiling fan.

Colin and Mike at The Wharf, in Pass-a-Grille, St. Pete, Fla.It is WARM! The wind feels like a child’s breath, not a dog’s bite– finally! So we sweat– our skin tastes like salt. Our faces are shiny– as shiny as a naughty schoolboy’s! Our skin is burnt– but we don’t look like bread dough anymore! And, in Florida who cares anyway? The sun is out and she is lazing around, not going anywhere. She isn’t a diva, self-important, and stingy with her appearances. The clouds busta-move, rolling fast, like break dancers, tumbling-rumbly over each other.

And in a few hours, maybe it will thunderstorm. Flashing, crashing noise, the fireworks of nature.

Before you know it, you’ve had a nap, margaritas, and what’s for dinner? Let’s grill out, maybe. Pick up a rabbit, or a hog’s head, or cow feet… or maybe just some hot dogs, at the House of Meat.


Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home.