Tampa, city of Hooters and hideous flying insects

We have been challenged.


Tigers Rays Spring Baseball

A column in the St. Petersburg Times throws a few elbows at Philadelphia, described as "a historic city located in southern

New Jersey." With the Tampa Bay Rays about to meet our Phils in the World Series, metro columnist Howard Troxler manages to disrespect Billy Penn, Benjamin Franklin and our beloved cheesesteaks, which he describes as “grease and stale bread sandwiches.” Also, he thinks it's written "cheese steaks."


Yo, Howie. You stupid or something? You should talk, writing from the ancestral home of Hooters and hideous flying insects.


I’m at a bit of loss starting in on Tampa-St. Pete because, while I’ve lived in all four commonwealths, visited 40 states and more than three dozen countries, I haven’t made it to the Rays' hometown.


I figure I can move there when I'm dead.


It would lower the median age.


A good friend has lived in

Orlando for the last quarter century, so I turned to her for expertise.


“Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about

Tampa except as a place to drive through,” she conceded. “They have a crappy museum and good Cuban food. There’s a famous steak house there,

Bern’s, that looks like a whorehouse."


Other than that," she added, "it’s a big place we basically ignore.”


I kept calling others who have put in time down in the nation’s sweaty waiting room. One said it was a state for those trying to escape something – the law, death.


Then I remembered Howard Altman, former editor of the Philadelphia City Paper, who spent a dozen years in Philly before driving south three and a half years ago. He's an editor on the continuous news desk of The Tampa Tribune, tbo.com and WFLA-TV. When I called him this morning, he was at work, and at one point interrupted me to tell a photographer that he'd asked for a picture of a cheesesteak, not a cheesecake.


This rivalry needs some work.


My first question was, what does he do for hostility?


"Hostility? Considering that I deal with murders, rapes, people getting ripped up, cut, sliced with Samuri swords and machetes, there's all sorts of hostility."


There aren't basements, good Chinese food, old houses, or a fraction of the diversity he found living in Mt. Airy.


“We have lots of gated communities. Most people are from someplace else. Certainly we’re well-known for our strip clubs, teacher sex scandals and bizarre crimes,” he began.


“This is America's phallus,



Now we’re getting somewhere.


“We’ve had llama killings. We had a legislator who tried to make it illegal to have sex with goats. What we did do was pass a bill that make it illegal to have truck nutz.”


I had to ask what they were, something like curb feelers?


“They don’t hang quite as low.”


Which brought him to the wildlife.


“Oh my God, you’ve got 18 different kind of mosquitos. You have spiders and snakes – I’ve found them in my house. I thought the snake was a kid's toy. This is the subtropics. You’ve got lizards crawling all over the place.”


The latter made him feel at home.


I told him opening arguments in the trial of State Sen. Vince Fumo are to start Wednesday.