Tag Archives: St. Petersburg FL
Strange night for me. I had a 7pm tattoo appointment with Angelika at Foolish Pride on Central Ave. Next week, I’m headed out of the country for a few days. There is sun, salt water and a pool or two involved. Angelika had just come from ballet class, ready to work, but when she heard about my plans, she, wisely, said to put off the appointment for two weeks. It was to be my first “tat” and I was extremely disappointment, but then she is a real pro at what she does and I deferred to her expertise. I left her my design and walked outside stunned. I have waited years to do this and now it’s on hold albeit temporarily. My wife was with me and we decided to just cruise up Central.
Across the street was a gallery opening. The last one we attended, was, well, never. We don’t do gallery openings. It’s not how we roll. This was slightly interesting, but other than one painting that stood out to us, everything else was obvious art. Chicken wire painted black over a Nazi symbol with oppressed people in the background in front of a stone fence. Is it really necessary? The Holocaust Museum is across the street. Better there, maybe, than here. Some metal works sculptures reminded me that this was really more of a craft show than an gallery opening with relevant art. The sale of home made jewelry proved my point. The one outstanding painting had cats, balloons, a clown at a circus – I would have invested in it, if I had the wall space, the money and loved cats, which I don’t.
The shock of my tattoo-less right arm slowly dissipating, we were starting to get hungry. We passed by a few places, Korean or Japanese or maybe both, but they reminded me of the places I used to look into on 42nd St. in NYC. Do any of you remember places like Tad’s? Charbroiled steak over high flames, smells like a higher quality Burger King, but based on the way the place looked, you’d never go inside. There was an original European bistro – one couple was eating at one of the tables outside. It looked as though a ghost brought them their wine and salads. We saw nobody else around – not even inside. The next place, don’t know the name, looked like it shut down for good only a few hours ago – the only remaining activity to auction everything off. Why it is that every place we passed had dirty greasy menus laying on the table tops. Many tables not cleared yet. Don’t you want customers?
The speed – the power and most definitely, the danger, is what you feel when the cars pass right in front of you at 175 miles per hour. When the first cars passed me, for some reason, I was actually a bit scared. What if one of these powerful cars bouncing along and flying by – on what is a city street not a race track – crashes or loses a tire right in front of me? I calmed down after about the fifth pass, but remained “cautious.”
I had never been to an auto race before. It was my son’s idea to take his disabled dad that could barely keep up with him – bad knees and all. I had no preconceived notions about what it would be or should be like. I’ve seen a lot of movies, watched a lot of television and read a great deal about NASCAR and Formula 1 racing. But nothing can substitute being there in person. It is definitely a bucket list item.
Getting to the race site was easy, after all this is St. Petersburg, FL not Miami or much worse, NYC or Ontario CA. The beauty of living here is that you can go anywhere relatively fast and easy. That is as long as you don’t live close to US19 in Clearwater. With the ever-lasting indefinite road work going on there, it can take you 1/2 hour just to go 3-5 miles. But getting to St. Pete from anywhere in Florida is a quick trip on I-75 to I-275, by car. Of course, if you’re a VIP like team owner and industrialist Roger Penske, you fly in your “G” whatever into Tampa International or St. Pete airport which places you 15 minutes from the track and downtown. You can also get there by boat.
The winner of the race was Mr. Personality himself – Helio Castroneves in the Chevy – Penske – Shell car. It was his third St. Pete win. He was on the back of a Honda (the main sponsor of the event) pick-up going around the track smiling and waving to the crowd before the start of the race. To me, he is the Brazilian dude from Dancing With The Stars. He won that too. The vivacious Julianne Hough was his instructor/partner. I think he was the only driver who passed by that I waved to. Of course, that gave him the luck, skill and stamina he needed to win the race. Yeah right. Hey, he’s not a stiff kid – a robot of some corporate sponsor or scumbag like Tiger Woods. I like the guy. I waved. He won. A win – win situation if you ask me. By the way, he also is a three time Indy 500 winner.
The St. Pete race aside for a sec, I’ve got to mention NASCAR. The problem there is all the gas – tire strategy nonsense, the childish bureaucratic penalties for manly stuff like giving the finger to another driver or going to fast into the pits and the family-oriented goody-2 shoes posture of the middle aged white men that control the sport – it doesn’t interest me at all. Need I mention the incessant and annoying sponsorship of EVERYTHING? Watching NASCAR on television at home or wherever I am on the road, well, I usually fall asleep. Round and round they go, restrictor plates limiting the speed of the cars, all of whom are almost exactly alike. The only interesting about NASCAR is my “gal” – the talented Danica Patrick.
Now one might say all that about Formula 1 – Grand Prix racing as well. That’s Ms. Patrick’s old turf. But, so unlike NASCAR, they’re racing on the SAME street that I drive on. They go over the same bumps, lines, man hole covers and under the same traffic lights. That’s awesome. They don’t around a circle or oval, they go around city streets with turns and parking meters and fire hydrants. It’s just “more” real than NASCAR. And there I’m doing what I didn’t mean to do, make the comparison. I’m going to stop in all fairness to NASCAR fans, because I’m going to hold judgment until I “experience” a NASCAR race, like the Daytona 500, in person. I’ll just need an RV, some camo duds and a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ball cap to get in.
Let’s move on. Listening to and watching the race “mano a mano” was fantastic. To hell with ear protectors. You know who won the race. Let’s discuss what I would like to see changed to make the whole “experience” better for everyone and anyone that pays $50+ to get in the gate. First, I don’t want to and didn’t sit down on an aluminum hot “bleacher” in the hot sun for the pre-race stuff or the entire race. I was “attempting” to photograph the event, so just staying in one place didn’t interest me. Outside of the main “stands”, it’s like being outside Yankee Stadium during the playoffs.
The only way I knew what was going on was to follow – and it was hard to do in the bright sun – the Twitter feed of the race. So when Clay Aiken was singing the National Anthem, from my “position” at turn #3 – the Firestone crossover – all I heard were the birds and television helicopters. Now I quite honestly don’t have any desire whatsoever to see or hear Mr. Aiken do anything, so I wasn’t too bummed out. But, the hundreds of good folks and kids, would have liked to be part of it, as they paid good money to get in were yearning to be included. So, to the “operators” of the event, you need to put more PA speakers – everywhere. If the condos and apartments across the street don’t like the noise – screw them. They can put up with it for a few hours once a year.
Next on my list is the food. It was excellent. Kudos to the vendors. But the event “operators” – shame on you. When you’re at the supply house picking up those PA speakers, get some tables, chairs and umbrellas so – in violation of the American’s With Disabilities Act – people who have trouble walking (and everyone else) can SIT DOWN and eat. Does it make any sense for me to buy a gyro and drink for $15 and have to sit on a street curb? Right across from me are tables, chairs and cover for the volunteers who work the event. The “public” is not allowed in. Approximately 25 food vendors and no place for “us” to sit. Not very smart.
How about better signs? I guess I have one of those faces – my son as well – where the lost seek our guidance. It’s a curse. Yes, they handed out maps. So what? Rest rooms – porta potties this way – main grandstand that way – food there – souvenirs and displays that way. I wonder if their intention was to keep things secret? How ridiculous. If you’re going to open “acres” for the event – then for goodness sakes open it for all to enjoy – signs, tables, chairs, PA speakers and whatever else it takes to make people want to come and know what is happening as it happens.
From observing the crowd, you’ll sell more clothing merchandise, if you stop making the guys who should be wearing 3-5XL, walk around stuffed like Polish sausage into XL’s. I noticed the 3rd, 2nd place and winner get “real” Firestone hats with long bills. Do you hear what I just said? Long bills! Not the short child ones you put on all the promo hats for $29. Is this what America has come to? Overpriced balls caps with short bills? Give me a break,
I will be back next year, hopefully being able to get better “access” with a press or photographers pass. I hope to see some changes made. I’m “rooting” for Castroneves to win a 4th time. I would welcome Danica back in a second. We need more women in the cars, not on the sidelines. For more information on the event, here is their link, http://www.gpstpete.com/.