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PCR #160  (Vol. 4, No. 16)  This edition is for the week of April 14--20, 2003.
La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
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The Continued Death of Beauty and Grace in Our Skies, in our Waters and in Florida
Blame it on the War with Iraq, the economy, the President, Major League Baseball, or any ol' darn thing you want, but this week brought a slew of bad news concerning retirements, shut downs, closures and political posturing concerning what little of class, beauty and grace is left in our skies, our waters and in Florida.

The Skies Above Us--The Retirement of the Anglo-French Concorde
You may hate the French and the British, but you must admit that the Concorde is one of the most gorgeous aircraft roaming the skies. A joint effort between the government of those two nations during the 1960's, utilizing BAe of Britain and Aerospatiale of France as the primary engineers and builders of this remarkably beautiful and graceful supersonic passenger carrying aircraft, the Concorde made its maiden flight in France on March 2, 1969.

The Concorde, 1985
The Concorde, sporting British Airways colors, in its first visit to Tampa International Airport on March 30, 1985. Seen at Airside C it is flanked by an Air Canada Boeing 767-200 and Delta Air Lines Douglas DC-8-71. Photo by Greg Van Stavern.
From a design standpoint, the Concorde was world class and looked more like a stylized rocket ship more than a conventional airliner or aircraft. I will never forget my first seeing one at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in March 1984 when a British Airways Concorde was parked amidst the more conventional Boeing 747's of that era. It looked like an alien spacecraft parked next to old antique cars, the difference was so dramatic. I would next see one with my friend Greg Van Stavern at Miami International Airport during the Labor Day weekend of 1984 as Air France had regularly scheduled Concorde flights into MIA at that time. I would last see a Concorde in March 1985 when a British Airways version made a guest appearance at Tampa International Airport.

In 1972 more than a dozen airlines placed orders for the aircraft. The original plan was for 300 to be built, but due to the high cost of purchase and maintenance, followed by the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and sonic-boom, noise and pollution lawsuits from the United States (who had a failed attempt at a passenger carrying SST, the Boeing 2707-300) only 20 were built, and the aircraft did not enter regularly scheduled service until January 21, 1976. Once U.S. nuisance lawsuits were overturned, service to American cities started in late 1977, limited primarily to two airlines providing such service, British Airways and Air France. During the 1980's the Concorde was very popular among the rich and famous with tales of people like musician Bob Gelding recording his 1984 African relief songs in Britain ("Do They Know It's Christmas?") during part of one day, and finishing the American answer ("We Are the World") by the end of that day-all due to flying on this magnificent craft capable of crossing the Atlantic in three hours and 45 minutes at twice the speed of sound, or roughly 1,370 miles per hour.

But as we are no longer in the optimistic sixties, or the opulent eighties, we are now in the exceptionally depressing and unstable new millennium. Age, demand (round trip price New York to London-$9,000.00), safety (an Air France version crashed in Paris in 2000 killing 113 people on board and some of the ground-this was the very same aircraft featured in the movie "The Concorde: Airport 1979") and operating costs in a volatile airline industry have caught up with this Anglo-French gem. On Thursday April 10, 2003 both Air France and British Airways announced this symbol of glamour and speed would be retired this year. For more on this, link to the Friday April 11, 2003 edition of the Tampa Tribune at http://tampatrib.com/businessnews/MGA83EZKDED.html

The Skies Above Us--The Retirement of the Boeing 727
No aircraft brought the jet age to America's smaller and mid sized cities better than the Boeing 727 tri-jet did. It was announced in last week's edition of the Wall Street Journal that the last passenger carrying Boeing 727 in the United States made the last flight for Delta Air Lines on Monday April 7, 2003. The 727 was revolutionary when first flown in 1963. It was the first passenger aircraft built in the United States to feature all of the engines near the tail section instead of on the wings, and to accommodate that, featured the tail's horizontal stabilizer on the top of vertical stabilizer or tail piece, giving the aircraft a "T-Tail" appearance when viewed from the front of the aircraft. As the first generation of four engine jets, such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 could not serve smaller airports and were limited to the airports in America's major cities, the Boeing 727 was designed to serve smaller runways, making it the aircraft that was largely responsible for replacing piston aircraft and truly heralding the jet age to the world. I was a child in 1965 when I first saw a Boeing 727 blasting out of Washington National (now Ronald Reagan) Airport. Compared to the old pistons typically serving National at that time (DC-3's, 6's, 7', Lockheed Constellations, Convair 340's and 440's), the 727 looked like a spaceship by comparison (I would not have that feeling of awe again until 1984 when I saw the Concorde, and 1995 when I saw a B-2 Stealth Bomber fly over Plant City).

The Waters Below Us--Manatee Trust Fund to be Raided by Legislators Acting on Behalf of Developers and Boaters
Much like something out of Dan Allison's "All The Little Birdies", bills advancing in the Florida House and Senate would drain the state's 4.1 million dollar Manatee Trust Fund, a dedicated account to pay for manatee research, and shift the funds into marine law enforcement. Created by Republican lawmakers State Senator Mike Bennett of Bradenton and Representative and developer Lindsay Herrington of Punta Gorda, the bills are basically a way of purposely destroying the intent of the Trust Fund which boaters and developers oppose as it would be a possible threat to those interests through research result recommendations gleaned the Fund. Of course we all know that manatees overfill the waters of Florida to the point of saturation while those Florida Endangered boaters (those who have no regard to safety or the environment-the majority of boaters are good and decent people) along with their comrades, the Florida Endangered poor millionaire developers and their Florida Endangered condominiums, town homes and shopping centers have to continue struggling along fearing that this aquatic mammalian will somehow destroy what little fortunes or fun they can glean. Time to write bitchin' to you State Senator and Representative again.

Beauty and Grace Part I--The Arts
Of course during economic malaise the first to go are "non-essential" items like the manatee and the arts. In the continuing saga of how our State Legislators are incapable of running the State without bankrupting it (to the tune of $4,000,000,000.00) the next trust funds to get raided for Peter to Pay Paul are those dedicated to the arts communities. In Hillsborough County alone, funding for the arts would be stripped by $5,000,000.00. Additionally, the Florida Orchestra expects to lose $115,000.00 in state money from its 7.6 million dollar annual budget. For more information link on to the Saturday April 12, 2003 edition of the Tampa Tribune at http://www.tampatrib.com/FloridaMetro/MGA3VEB1FED.html

Time to write bitchin' to your State Senator and Representative again.

Beauty and Grace Part II--The Death of Cypress Gardens
Possibly the saddest news of this type this week was the Thursday April 10, 2003 announcement that the legendary Florida roadside attraction Cypress Gardens would be closing its doors forever on Sunday April 13, 2003.

The theme park, established on the shoes of Lake Eloise in Winter Haven in 1936 by Dick Pope, was famous for its beauty, grace and gentility through the establishment of azalea and camellia gardens dotted throughout a Baldcypress hammock bordering the lake. The gardens were also ablaze with native and exotic flowering trees, shrubs, vines and perennial of all kinds. It also had an extensive collection of native and exotic animals. Young women roaming the gardens would be dressed in antebellum era outfits, reinforcing a slower, more genteel era of the Deep South. There were also water shows that featured water skiing and other aquatic acts.

Many factors led to the death of Cypress Gardens which was one of the last major theme parks built before Disney-first and foremost was societal change-most people of today want the thrill a second form of entertainment that major league theme parks like Universal Studios and Disney offer, not a placid, meaning stroll through nature or botanical gardens. Also, with the advent of the Interstates, places like Cypress Gardens are no longer in highly traveled areas.

The death of Cypress Gardens basically signals the death of the Old Florida that I grew up with. An Old Florida that was more genteel, less crowded, less crime-ridden, less harried, less hurried and less frazzled. The New Florida is a sterile wasteland overpopulated by strangers from Corrupt Corporate America who sodomize our dwindling natural resources building endless shopping centers and housing developments marketed to mindless zombies from other parts of the nation or world who still long for the customs they knew in their native lands while holding this state and its land and history in utter contempt. Our Governor and Legislature simply mirror what this once-great state, a once true-paradise, has become.

For more information link to several fine articles in the Tampa Tribune starting with the Friday April 11th edition ("Big Parks, Economy Weed Out Old Time Player" at http://tampatrib.com/nationworldnews/MGA41YIODED.html), the Saturday April 12th edition ("Link to Old Florida Fades" at http://www.tampatrib.com/FloridaMetro/MGADP83YEED.html and "Future of Cypress Gardens Unknown as Bed of options for Park Sprout Up", which as of this writing has no link.)

For those interested in saving Cypress Gardens, even if but a small portion of the incredible plant collection, link to the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce web site at www.winterhavenfl.com, and click on the link with the garden logo on the upper right hand corner and enter your name and e-mail address, or write to chamber1@winterhavenfl.com.

La Floridiana" Writer's Double Life Exposed!
The Monday April 14, 2003 edition of the St. Petersburg featured an article with me in it in my capacity of Roadside Vegetation Coordinator for the Florida Department of Transportation about my efforts to assist in the establishing of a wildflower seed industry in Florida. Link to: http://www.sptimes.com/2003/04/14/Hernando/His_toil_in_the_field.shtml

Clyde Butcher Update
For the latest events of Florida Folk Hero and world class Florida naturalist photographer, please link to: http://clydebutcher.com/emarket2//home.cfm?emailid=44

Put Some Passion Into Your Life with that Good Ole Time Religion
PCR faithful fan and all around good egg Dawn Miller will be one of a cast of hundreds in her church's production of "Amazing Love, A Journey to Jesus!" sponsored by the Bell Shoals Baptist Church. It will be featured at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall from Friday April 18th through Saturday April 19th. For show times and admission fees, please link to: http://www.bellshoalspassionplay.com/

Don't Forget the Birds of Prey!
Be sure to click on to the banner to see how you can help possibly put this wonderful, but sadly cancelled, show back on the air.

Here Comes that Insurance Man Again-- the Death of Duck Tours
Well, yet another bit of local character is being lost as Duck Tours is closing its doors and clipping the proverbial wings of its neato-jeeto looking amphibious vehicles due to what the company says are sky high insurance premiums.

The company offered land and sea tours of Tampa and St. Petersburg utilizing World War II era DUKW military amphibious craft, and were often seen driving around town, particular in the Interbay area where it appears the colorful craft had their base of operations. For more on this, link to Tuesday April 15th's Tampa Tribune at: http://tampatrib.com/floridametronews/MGAQ3E6CJED.html

This edition of La Floridiana is being dedicated to Florida Folk Heroes and Florida Noir writers Dan Allison, Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen and Randy Wayne White, as well as numerous other Florida Folk Heroes such as photographer Clyde Butcher and other lovers and historians of Florida who have fought the good fight to keep the many beautiful natural and man made elements that make this state so unique from being lost forever.

"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.