Final Tampa Thoughts…

tampaI grew up being told to never give money to panhandlers or homeless people.
“It isn’t safe.”
“They’ll just spend it on drugs and alcohol.”
“Not all people are what they seem – some of them are just doing it as a scam.”
And so I wouldn’t give money to them.

My immediate response when they asked was to dismiss them without making eye contact, shaking my head and muttering “no,” or “no, I’m sorry,” or “I don’t have any cash on me.” I wouldn’t look directly at them. I wouldn’t make eye contact. I wouldn’t treat them like fellow human beings.

Then I read a book. “Smile at Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly.” And Susan Schorn talked about learning to look people in the eye – having to say no – having to be assertive. And I began to realize that, even if I wasn’t going to give these homeless guys* money, I could at least treat them with respect. So I said no, but I said it to them, not to the ground. And I didn’t avert my eyes or pretend they weren’t there.

Then I saw a video online. It was a guy wearing a sandwich board, asking for donations. People ignored him. They walked around him. They avoided him completely. Then he swapped his sign out. The new one said, “Fuck the poor.” And everyone wanted to tell him how wrong he was, how bad he was, what an asshole he was. But what’s the difference between acting like you don’t care and just straight out saying you don’t care?

A quote attributed to Ghandi says that
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

I was in Tampa. Tampa has a very high homeless population. On one of my last nights there, walking back to the hotel with a small group, we passed a homeless man on the drawbridge. He politely tried to stop us and ask us for some spare change. “Anything will help.” He was thin. Scraggly.

We all said “no” and kept walking.

And I realized that I was wearing that sandwich board with the “Fuck the poor” showing. Because while I might be treating him like a human being by acknowledging him, I wasn’t doing anything to help him, which is what I should also be doing seeing as how we were both human beings, too.

So I chased the guy after digging $5 out of my purse. My friends waited for me (later confiding they were worried he would toss me off the drawbridge…which seemed unlikely to me, as since they were half a block away, they probably wouldn’t have been able to help me in time anyway). He had passed another group, asked them for some money, and one of them had given him a dollar or two as well. But I still went ahead and pressed my bill into his hand, wished him a good night, and headed back to the hotel.

Because I was heading back to a hotel. A hotel where I was provided with multiple bottles of water and coffee every day. Where I had a nice, clean bed. A big bathroom. A balcony. A TV. A refrigerator and a microwave. Food stocked up for snacks and meals.

Maybe the guy was scamming, but I didn’t think so. And considering all the other things I’ve blown $5 on, this felt like a pretty good use of the money.

*Because they’re almost always male, which is weird because almost 40% of the homeless population is female, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.




Good: I’m at my last residency!
Bad: I’m in Florida!

Good: Free breakfast at the hotel!

No, this isn’t what I get for breakfast, but it’s a bloody brilliant idea! Image by Apolonia via freedidigtalphotos.net
No, this isn’t what I get for breakfast, but it’s a bloody brilliant idea! Image by Apolonia via freedidigtalphotos.net








Bad: Bacon! Bacon! Bacon! (It’s greasy. It’s super thin. And it runs out too often!)

Mmmmmm bacon. Image by Marin via freedigitalphotos.net
Mmmmmm bacon. Image by Marin via freedigitalphotos.net









Good: My hotel room shower is nothing like this!

Bad: The noise coming from the vent in the bathroom reminds me of this!

Good: I haven’t seen any scorpions!
Bad: Birds attacking planes!

Good: There’s a workout room!

Yeah, I look nothing like this… Image by photostock via freedigitalphotos.net
Yeah, I look nothing like this… Image by photostock via freedigitalphotos.net









Bad: There’s a workout room!

What the hell do you do with that thing?? Image by photostock via freedigitalphotos.net
What the hell do you do with that thing?? Image by photostock via freedigitalphotos.net










Good: I’ve lost enough weight/size that I can fit in the chair-desks in Reeves Theater!
Bad: I had to sit in those chair-desks for hours in partial darkness while tired and trying to stay awake!

Good: Walking back and forth between the hotel and the school is good exercise!

Bad: It’s summer. And it’s Florida. And it’s hot!


Things I’ve Noticed During This Trip to Tampa (Another Experimental Blog)

1. My tolerance level for middle-aged men who think they’ve figured out the world and art and are lords and masters of all they survey is…nil.

2. I’m not very good at hiding #1.


3. I’m not really bothered by #2.

4. The Baptist church on the corner had three Christmas trees and three boxes for said Christmas trees sitting out in the lobby last Friday (the 3rd) and Saturday (the 4th).
The trees had already been stripped of all decoration.
But come Sunday morning (the 5th), when it was time for services, I peered into the lobby and the trees were still there but the boxes had been hidden.
By Monday afternoon (the 6th), the trees had also vanished, but on the table in the middle of the room, a box had appeared.
It reminded me of a dibbuk box.

5. “The Princess Bride” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” were both on TV.  And they both share the same fatal flaw.
Sort of.

6. The park across the street from the Baptist church is attractive to photographers.
There was a family taking baby pictures on a blanket.
A wedding party taking posed shots.
A group of photographers who stood in the park and took pictures across the busy street of the side of the church.
(I still don’t know why they were taking pictures of the church, but I think I may have been in some of those shots…)

7. Everyone lives their own reality.
Not all those realities are real.

8. “Great literature” is capable of producing horniness, if it’s “great” enough.

9. People who are well-educated aren’t necessarily smart or open-minded or even well-educated.

10. Walking over the drawbridge at night is extremely nerve-wracking because there are lights beneath it that illuminate the water through the metal grate, convincing me that there is metal fatigue which will result in the walk-way collapsing and me drowning in shallow water with two broken legs.


11. Writers are either too full of self-worth or too full of self-loathing.
Sometimes both.

12. The entire first floor of the hotel has no guests in its rooms.
The doors are all latched open and have notes about what needs to be fixed.
The first floor is where the laundry room is, next to the staff elevator.
The staff elevator has an “R” button.  I think it stands for “Roof” because there is no rear entrance/exit in the elevator.
I want to push the “R” button and see where I go.

Image13. There is a coke machine on the same floor as my hotel room that has a large “Calories Count” sign.
Each drink’s button has a calorie count.
The coke machine down on the first floor does not have the sign.
I have tried to not take the sign personally, but I have failed.

Image14. On the sidewalk someone has erected a sign that has some sort of approval on the back from the Florida Highway Something…
On the front of the sign, it says “DRIVE SAFELY” and “In Memory of Christopher ‘Mole Man’ Cook.”
But the sign is placed so that people on the sidewalk can’t read it without stepping into the street.
And it’s so small that people on the road would have to swerve very close to read it.
So I wonder if Mole Man is trying to get people killed.

15. Taking sugar packets from the hotel restaurant so I can make coffee up in my room makes me feel like an old woman stocking her pantry from a diner.

16. Falk Theatre has a balcony!
And the seats are mega-more comfortable.

17. I have no problem accepting rides from others when the temperature is 40 or less.

18. I miss actually attending yoga classes.

19. I’m totally judgmental.
But only when people deserve it.

20. Being exposed to all these things is inspirational.
And fun.
And off-putting.
And discouraging.


Taking Tampa by the Tale – Part I


It started with a massive panic attack, followed by syncope – you know, a fainting spell.  No, not me. 

I was going to Tampa to start my low-residency MFA in creative writing, and my friend and travel wife (we’ll call her “Sandra”)  was coming along to enjoy ten days of rest and relaxation.  But it wasn’t starting out as very restful or relaxed for her.

She began panicking when we got in the security line at the airport and she saw the new 9/11 craziness that now involves a full-body scan and the removal of shoes, belts, coats, and any other potentially scary things we carry, like cell phones, loose change, and car keys. 

Then we got separated at the ID check.  Four lanes open for paper checking, and my line went fast.  Hers went slow.  Too slow. 

I lost track of her, sat down to put my shoes back on, and chatted with the guy next to me who was also putting his shoes back on.  Then I spotted her, waiting to reclaim her stuff, and she seemed a bit off, so I wandered over to help her, and she told me what happened.

She did something – she’s still not sure what – and the security guard began telling her, “To make things easier next time…” and then she pitched forward into the person in front of her in a dead faint.

She woke back up, having wrenched her knee but managed to avoid hurting anyone she crashed into.  The security agent asked if she was okay, and began telling her, “To make things easier next time…”  But she still didn’t focus on what he was saying.

Then it was to the waiting place until we made it to Tampa….