Syd Entel Galleries and Susan Benjamin Glass has been located in Safety Harbor for over 35 years. They feature art from the finest artists both nationally and internationally. Every time I visit they have a new special exhibit. The glass art has a special attraction for me. It is one of the best glass art galleries in the area.
The staff is very friendly and helpful. Susan is proud of the galleries and the artists they represent. Besides selling artwork they also do custom framing. I will visit them again because several pieces of art glass keep calling me. I will buy them and bring them to their new home.
247 Main Street, Safety Harbor, Florida
Written by: Tom Noe
What is this place? I was curious about the name, so I turned around and went back to check it out. It is a depository of wonderful things, full of potential, waiting to be repurposed into something unique and beautiful.
Inside the store I found old windows, stained glass, iron grills, glass door knobs, old light fixtures, and many other things. The store employs skilled craftsmen to transform these finds into one-of-a-kind objects for a home. You won't find common or ordinary decor here.
Unfinished wood slabs of various sizes lined the walls. They come from dead or toppled trees (several unusual types of wood),and many have unique patterns from weathering. Some still had bark on the edges. Most of these become tables, and the establishment has a person who welds custom legs for them. The woman running the store enthusiastically showed us how the various slabs would finish up by rubbing them with a damp cloth to bring out the color and grain. Select a piece, and they will finish and deliver the table you have chosen. Perhaps a coffee table for us? This is a treasure trove of possibilities.
159 E Oakwood Street, Tarpon Springs
Written by Lucy Noe
After a tough day of exploring the mangroves of Weedon Island (actually a peninsula) for crabs and birds to photograph, I needed somewhere to eat. Noble Crust looked as good a place as any. Their tagline is: Seasonal Italian Southern Soul. I asked what this meant and was told that they make Italian-style meals sometimes using ingredients from the southern USA. It is seasonal because they use local, fresh ingredients that are in season, and therefore have to mix up the menu every few months. That sounded good enough to me.
I love mushrooms, so I settled on ordering the mushroom pizza to share. It was amazing. Each slice actually got better as I ate it. The pizza was made with a thin crust cooked just short of burnt (the way I like my toast) and covered with mozzarella, parsley, and giant chunks of soft, juicy mushrooms. The only thing that could have made it better was red pepper flakes (which they provided).
Afterwards, I ordered something I don’t remember the name of because my eyes stopped on the word Nutella and wouldn’t move after that. What I got was sweet hazelnut madness. It had ice cream, cookies, hazelnuts, and was covered with Nutella.
8300 Fourth Street N, Saint Petersburg, Florida
It’s hard to know where to begin on this one. There are trails and boardwalks. In some places, the boardwalks stretch quite a distance in nearly straight lines while all around is green. It is only from the observation tower that I was able to see Saint Petersburg, Tampa, and all the way across the bay to the Big Bend power station just peeking above the treetops. The boardwalks lead to several observation platforms that jut out over lagoons where birds feed. Some are completely enclosed by mangroves. Others are open to Tampa Bay only by narrow straights. There is only one extreme corner of one platform in the park the picture below could have been taken from. If the photograph had better resolution, you would be able to see all the way to Apollo Beach.
I often visit the Camp Bayou Nature Preserve Park in Ruskin, Florida to walk the trails in hope of seeing some snakes or unusual insects, but this time I went when the fossil exhibits were open (Saturday 9-2). Florida has very few fossils from earlier than the Pleistocene, when there were giant pigs and Megalodon sharks, so the Velociraptor skull they have had to be brought in from elsewhere. Everywhere there are bits and pieces that used to be inside alligators, crocodiles, horses, llamas, and mammoths. On the floor was a mammoth tusk that probably weighs more than I do. There are original bones, mineralized bones, and resin casts. There are also many mollusks and echinoderms represented, as well as agatized coral, Florida’s official state fossil and stone. It was sad to hear that the places where most of these items came from were closed years ago and no longer looking for volunteers. It was fun, interesting, and informative.
The park has many trails, a butterfly garden, and an outdoor Seminole village exhibit. It has a miniature, outdoor, self-service library. In past visits, I have seen snakes, turtles, armadillos, and very many birds. This time, I just took a quick walk. The palmetto around rustles very loudly with the slightest movement. What I thought was a prehistoric pig crashing through the undergrowth turned out to just be a squirrel. I also saw an osprey in a tree and we stared at each other until I got bored. There is always something to see there.
It’s too far from my house to visit on a regular basis, but after I had run my errands that chili, cheese, and onion dog at Mel’s hit the right spot. They make their hot dogs on steamed poppy buns and they are awesome. The inside of the dining room is also very red. Don’t go if you don’t like red. If you don’t like hot dogs (what is wrong with you?), Mel’s also has burgers, sausages, chicken, and veggie burgers – so you should still go. The walls are lined with photographs of people in far-off places holding Mel’s bumper stickers. They even sell shirts. When you eat there, you become part of something larger because it has fans everywhere. I know some people who really like the place.
Unlike many places, it has fairly comfortable seating and the tables are mobile. This makes it easy to pull together tables for a large party or to get your sketchbook or computer keyboard at just the right distance for your arms.
The building Mel’s is located in is the only remaining structure of the old Henderson Air Field in Tampa, an army air base, and has been open since 1973.
4136 East Busch Boulevard, Tampa, Florida
Within walking distance of USF in Tampa is Mojo’s Bookstore, a great place to sit with a great book and great coffee. The store is divided in rough thirds, one devoted to records, one devoted to books, and one devoted to the café.
The last time I went, I perused the vinyl record section. They have big names like Billy Joel, Elton John, and Jethro Tull. They even have bands I’ve never heard of like Hot Tuna! I have no idea if they have any talent, but they sound delicious. Alas, I have no record player, but Mojo’s also has an entire bookshelf of CDs and DVDs.
I’m not a music person. What I really went for was the books. There are overflowing shelves of science, philosophy, science fiction, fantasy, the classics, law, psychology, how-to books, gardening, survival, and I’m pretty sure every other subject was covered, but I got stuck in science for a while (I saw something about quantum effects in biochemistry that slowed me down). I usually end up buying something. There is also a whole bookshelf devoted to used Star Trek books.
In the café section are snacks, cookies, tea, and coffee. I like the Yama iced coffee with chocolate syrup added. I also like that I can sit down there for a while to skim through the books better (assuming I can get away from the shelves).
2540 East Fowler Avenue, Tampa, Florida
I love to visit Emerson Point in Palmetto and get my dose of nature. I escape down the shoreline path, or take one of the many marked trails, or boardwalks, and around each bend I might see a new bird, spot a butterfly, or find a new flower.
Emerson Point is located on Snead Island where the Manatee River meets Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It is a quiet retreat rich in nature and history. Early Native Americans harvested the water's bounty here and built great shell mounds. Later, Europeans settled here. Today, fishermen cast their lines near the mouth of the river, where egrets and herons also fish.
Written by Lucy Noe
Haslam’s Book Store on Central Avenue in Saint Petersburg is big. How big? Big enough to contain more than 300,000 books. Books cover nearly every inside surface from top to bottom, and for those of us that love books, being in Haslam’s is like being a kid in a candy store (or like anybody in a candy store, really). Often coming in brightly-colored covers just like candy, every book contains an entire world of fun that can last many weeks or longer (and yet has zero calories).
Haslam’s is so big that they actually have a store map. One could otherwise be lost for years between the seemingly endless shelves. It would not surprise me if there were still customers in the back that haven’t seen the sun since opening day. There might be generations of descendants of the original book browsers deep in the bowels of the place (hmmm…that sounds like an idea for a book).
Haslam’s was started in 1933 by John and Mary Haslam and is now in its third generation of the family and at its fourth location. The owners have been active in the community, conducting field trips, book fairs, and once even had a show on PBS.
One can find practically any subject covered in Haslam’s. There is an entire room devoted to history. There is a room for psychology and self-help. There are sections for computer science and for physics. There are lots of art books. There are new books and old books, including rare books perhaps not found anywhere else you are ever likely to be. There are long-forgotten science fiction and fantasy titles from the forties, fifties, and sixties. Each book opens up a new world, and Haslam’s is a world of books. Haslam’s is a hidden treasure itself filled with many smaller hidden treasures.
2025 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida
I didn’t see any moccasins, but I did see some big spiders. Moccasin Lake Park in Clearwater, Florida has a long trail running over several boardwalks and ending in a shelter surrounded by trees. Along the way it passes a beautiful little pond also surrounded by trees. The pond is full of turtles and birds and peacocks roam free on the trails.
The nature center keeps and cares for many animals and birds. I saw an owl, a bald eagle, a vulture, turtles, a frog, a tarantula, and a scorpion. The owl walked right up to me. In many ways it is like McGough Park in Largo. Most of the birds are injured or have become accustomed to humans and are no longer suited to the wild. They also have taxidermy exhibits and a butterfly garden.
2750 Park Trail Lane, Clearwater, Florida
Whether you just want to sit on the porch in the shade of the trees with a coffee while you write your next novel, meet your friends for pesto chicken wraps in the cozy indoor nook, or wander from room to room enjoying the sculptures, pottery, glasswork, woodwork, jewelry, and paintings of local artists, at The Craftsman House in Saint Petersburg, you can do all three in the same day. At least, this is what I would do if I went again. Everything is for sale, including the stone-like salt shakers and the glass spheres decorating the dining room window. Where else can you find pasta salad (an amazing work of art itself), beer, wine, apple cider (cold, hot, or hard), roast beef sandwiches (haven’t tried them yet), and squash that looks like this?
I would probably eat a lot more squash if it were always that pretty. On second thought, I’d probably break my teeth that way. Never mind. I also do not recommend eating the flowers, the lobster, or the gnomes – unless of course you have metal jaws like those guys below.
There is an open pottery studio on site and sometimes concerts. Check the website for hours, menu, and special events.
2955 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida
Just north of the giant blue pipe that runs over the canal next to 301 is Veterans Park. It is an inspiration and a tribute to the bravery and memory of those who have served in the armed forces, especially those with a connection to Hillsborough County. It makes one proud to be part of Florida, knowing how our fellow citizens look out for each other. In the small museum are framed medal of honor citations of those who left positions of safety to rescue others in the line of duty. Also in the museum are the types of guns (handheld and those much larger) used in the various wars that Floridians have been involved in. I even saw in a case the actual machete used by a citizen of Hillsborough County while in the Pacific. There were also buttons from Spanish Army uniforms during the Spanish-American war.
3602 North US 301, Tampa, Florida
Brooker Creek preserve in Tarpon Springs, Florida offers a nice shady walk any day of the week. There is no admission cost. Thursday through Saturday the educational center and store are open. There are hands-on ecological exhibits, including a tortoise burrow replica big enough to crawl through. From the parking lot there are two ways into the woods:
The boardwalk leads straight to the center after passing under an artistic metal helix. It seems to be several strands of metal woven together. One end terminates in a set of flat rings; the other in glass bulbs. What is it?
Across the small field is the bridge over tiny Brooker Creek where alligators are often seen. From there one can walk a short distance to the bird blind or take the dirt trail around to join the boardwalk near the center. From the center a four-mile loop extends into the woods.
Lake Park in southern Lutz just off the Dale Mabry is a great getaway and public resource. It has not only wooded trails, picnic areas, large fields, and canoe rentals for the several ponds, but there is a remote-control car racing track, a playground, a youth campground, a horse arena, a volleyball net, and a BMX biking track, adjacent to which is a smaller bike track for the kids. An archery range exists at the opposite side of the park. There is much to do. I even saw someone with a drone.
There it was, chained to a signpost with an owl on the handlebars, and a flamingo on the back fender, its frame wrapped in bark. It’s little things like this that make Sarasota great. Does anyone ever ride this bike, we wonder, or is it an art statement? Will we ever know?
Written by Lucille Noe
This beauty of a park has picnic spots, a playground, hiking trails, biking trails, and a paved path over a mile long with signs along it placed to show the relative distances of the planets from the sun. This is quite possibly the best park I have so far been to in Florida. It is my new favorite. There were stunningly beautiful zones of thin trees that let in much sunlight. In other places the brush was thicker, creating semi-secluded areas. The ground was soft and covered in crushed pine needles in most places. One spot to the side of the trail had pine needles piled up so thick that they made a sort of crunchy mattress. There were also places of white sand. Live oaks are common. I saw gopher tortoises, armadillos, and a small snake.
10500 Wilderness Park Blvd, New Port Richey, Florida
I love long boardwalks – especially when they run through heavily wooded swamps. Everything was green. The water was covered in green. The trunks of trees were covered in green. It was green as far as I could see, which wasn’t too far considering the density of the growth. I heard several birds, but couldn’t find them. Maybe they were green too. Green!
McGough Nature Park is pretty cool. It provides value to the community in several different ways:
The park takes care of animals (mostly birds) found injured or diseased. In some cases birds taken from the nest too early have become imprinted on humans, meaning they look to humans to teach them how to hunt and are not frightened by them. Birds like this can't live in the wild very well and would be a nuisance. The park takes care of them too.
Many falcons and hawks are there. They keep a bald eagle there with some sort of mysterious feather disorder preventing it from flying. They have several owls including some very small cute ones named Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel. They also keep a few snakes, fish, frogs, and turtles.
The park provides a place of education. In addition to live animals, they have numerous taxidermy exhibits and Indian artifacts. The staff is very knowledgeable. Many have been there a very long time they can tell you all kinds of stories over the years of things that have happened. They know all the habits and quirks of the animals very well. It is a popular field trip destination for schoolchildren. The staff will also take the animals into schools to show the children and teach them about animals or about conservation.
They also serve veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who like to see the animals. The surrounding grounds are a relaxing place. It isn’t that big, but they pack a lot into it, including a pavilion, a playground, trails, and boardwalks that lead out into the sea between Largo and Indian Rocks. Near the entrance is a turtle pond where you can feed the turtles. The pond is choking with them. They were everywhere.
The whole thing is free to the public courtesy the city of Largo.
11901 146th Street North, Largo, Florida
Separated from Honeymoon Island by a monster hurricane in the 1920s, Caladesi is reachable only by boat. I took the ferry over from Honeymoon State Park. Posts mark out a safe pass through the shoals and birds of all kinds sat on these and watched me pass sometimes as close as thirty feet away. After we docked, I ran off into the woods to explore the trails.
Hops and Props is a cozy, friendly bar serving smoked food and carrying beers from several Florida breweries. There are propellers on the walls and lights shining through the bar counter. They have the best meatloaf ever. Heavily smoked, containing sweet peppers, and served with coleslaw and a tangy sauce it was just what I needed that day. The pineapple hard cider was good too. Hops and Props is a stone’s throw from the Saint Petersburg Museum of History and the Museum of Fine Art.
335 Second Avenue NE, Saint Petersburg, Florida
It may be an art museum, but it’s actually a history museum. There are paintings and sculptures from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas – some over 500 years old. It is impossible to get through it all in only two hours. With its high ceilings, fancy wallpaper and mirrors, and incredibly diverse collection, the museum is a work of art itself.
Salvador Dali lived from 1904 to 1989 and is best known for his surreal paintings, many of which have ended up at the Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg. Longtime friends of Salvador and Gala Dali, Reynolds and Eleanor Morse donated their collection to the original museum in Ohio in 1971. It was moved to Florida in 1982. The current building opened in 2011.
Artists often bring a degree of symbolism to their work, though some deny it. Others are mysterious about the meanings or insist that one must find their own meaning. Sometimes the meaning is obvious. Sometimes it is hidden. Dali’s work is overflowing with symbolism and fortunately for us he made much of its meaning known through various writings, such as his 1942 autobiography The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. The wealth of information available is staggering; I’m still trying to process it.
The Florida Aquarium has everything you would expect a large aquarium to have: fish, sea turtles, fish, sea cucumbers, fish, anemones, fish, spiny lobsters, fish, coral, fish, jellyfish, starfish, crabs, clams, fish, fish, fish, fish, and even fish.
Located on the barrier island of Sand Key is Sand Key Park, which I visited in January. There is a playground, some trees, grassy areas, and a trail, but my visit started out as a bit boring. Finally, I took my chair out on the beach and just sat in the sun and wind. It wasn’t very crowded. I tried to read, but the book I had brought was also boring. I’m horrible at planning. That was when I started to walk around and noticed all the shells. There were a lot of shells both pretty and strange. Some were quite large. There were also numerous sponges and large bits of coral washed up all around me.
Inspiration struck and I started building sand castles. I made one with inner passages hidden by doors made from large shells. The other two castles somehow became sand volcanoes. I used sponges for the central fountains of lava in the craters, and red seaweed for the lava flowing down the sides. Broken red sea whips became the arcs of hot rocks thrown from the top. I lost all track of time.
An often overlooked treasure in any community is the collective knowledge, wisdom, and experience of our elders. Having lived through so many great cultural and technological changes gives them additional perspective on things that younger generations lack. Learning about the past can broaden our understanding of the present, allowing us to better appreciate the progress we have made – or to keep us humble over what we might have lost. They keep history alive. What was school like? Transportation? Home life? Presidential campaigns? Having grown up in such a different world makes them the equivalent of immigrants from another country. Why visit Europe or Africa when you haven’t even visited past America?
I like stories of adventure. Not everyone has had an especially adventurous life, but since life itself is an adventure, everyone has a story of some kind. The longer the life, the more stories there are. What stories of bravery, cowardice, genius, and stupidity can our elders tell? I recently interviewed Robert Stoessner on his hundredth birthday in Dunedin to find out what stories he had to tell. It seems he has fought with the weather his whole life. During the Second World War, Stoessner was in the Tenth Mountain Division. He trained in Texas, which was “hotter than a son of a gun,” and in Colorado, which was “colder than hell.” Eventually, he was sent to Italy and the Axis powers surrendered soon after, but not before sixty men developed frostbite.
The Tenth is known for moments great and not-so-great. They were pivotal in ousting the Germans from the Alps after scaling Riva Ridge in the middle of winter – at night – to make a surprise attack from a direction the Germans didn’t even patrol because they deemed it unclimbable. It was a great moment. They were also the ones who lost more men to friendly fire than they did to the Japanese while in the Aleutian Islands. It happens.
After returning to the United States Stoessner lived in Ohio. He was married for seventy years, raised three sons, and worked in Ford’s foundry until finally escaping the “terrible weather” of Cleveland by moving to Florida in 1977. I asked him what the best thing was about Florida. “It’s warm,” he said. Stoessner now lives in Rosewood House managed by Angels Senior Living, which strives to keep the retirement years fun – and at just the right temperature.
Most of us know someone over seventy. What can they tell you?
Written by Daniel Noe, InkDoodler.com