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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #298  (Vol. 6, No. 49)  This edition is for the week of December 5--11, 2005.

Reflections on a Florida Vacation (and Other Assorted Items)
 by William Moriaty
 by Mike Smith
 by Mark Terry
Blade....Frasier's Mutant Side....Passing On....Imagine....Eddie's Piece....Jaws: The Story, Part 46
 by Mike Smith
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More tales from "La Floridiana" await you in "William Moriaty's Florida"! For more information simply click the book cover above!

Reflections on a Florida Vacation (and Other Assorted Items)  

I was blessed to have had a safe and joyous vacation with my wife Karen Cashon that lasted for an almost two week duration.

Unclaimed Baggage Sighting
Beginning on Tuesday November 22nd, Karen and I began our morning at Tampa International Airport in order to fly to Nashville, Tennessee for the purpose of visiting kin in the west Tennessee town of Martin for Thanksgiving. While standing in line at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter, Karen and I noticed an unattended bag with a tag bearing the name of "Ruth" coiled around its handle. Doing our "patriotic" and "civic" duty in these knee-jerk over-reactionary terrorist times, we "wrestled the bag to the ground" and notified a counter agent who quickly detained the "cute-but-deadly" item that was disguising itself as a piece of Samsonite.

Using the e-counter kiosk, we got our boarding pass and headed to the gate where Flight 653 would depart to the much colder climate of the Grand Ol Opry. As we headed out to the Airside I noticed that a lady had been reunited with the "cute-but-deadly" item disguising itself as Samsonite, which as one can now only guess, did not turn out to be a "cute-but-deadly" anything, but was in reality a rather pedestrian and innocuous piece of luggage (possibly even sporting the Samsonite brand). There will be more on this story a little later.

Art in Public Places and Full Body Cavity Searches
Once at the Southwest Airside, Karen and I, along with about forty-seven million other poor Turkey Day travelers, had the joy of awaiting the requisite security check in a line that stretched from Runway 18L/36 R westward to Palm Harbor. In this procession of souls, I took the time to admire a beautiful mural adorning one of the walls of this newest Airside addition. The mural was of the old terminal at Tampa International Airport that was located along Westshore Boulevard. It showed a ramp scene, circa the mid-1950s to early 1960s, and of passengers of that era boarding or deplaning an Eastern Air Lines DC-7-B.

Two intriguing components of the mural were the rendition of a baggage handler leering at one of the female passengers, and chillingly, a barely discernable illustration of a Southwest Boeing 737 taking off high into the sky. This illustration was chilling in that this type of aircraft and its colors would not grace Tampa International for another three to four decades.

Were the Eastern Air Lines plane and its crew and passengers ghosts beneath the wings of an ascending modern day flight out of Tampa International, or was the Southwest jet a ghost of the future unseen and unheard by the people below?

The "Ghost Plane" That Almost Came Back
When the new Southwest Airlines Airside opened in April of this year, a vintage DC-7-B (N836D) was being restored in Eastern Air Lines regalia at the Opa Locka airport north of Miami by Juan Carlos Gomez of Legendary Airliners The aircraft, exactly like the type shown in the mural, was to be a part of the opening ceremony of the Airside, but alas, the four-engine piston that once ruled the skies still needed more work before such a voyage to the event was possible. For more information on this admirable restoration effort, as well as earlier such restorations by Juan Carlos Gomez, please link to the Legendary Airliners web site at http://www.legendaryairliners.com/main.php

Journalist Sighting
As we came closer to the latex glove treatment center, I noticed the lady in line who claimed ownership to the alleged "cute-but-deadly" Samsonite bag. Standing in line with her was a gentleman whose face looked very familiar to me. Trying not to replicate the leering puss of the baggage handler in the mural described above, I nevertheless felt compelled to look until I could satisfy the "friend, foe or I don't know" mode gripping my gray matter.

I determined that the gentleman was none other than Tampa Tribune journalist Daniel Ruth, long ago one of my inspirations to write due to his witty, comedic, at times acerbic, but always brutally honest commentaries. Initially, I didn't connect the dots to the luggage and the lady as "Ruth" may have been her first name.

I started waxing pathetic to Karen that the gentleman dressed in the long black coat simply had to be the esteemed Mr. Ruth. This was my way of warning Karen not to be surprised if I made a total buffoon out of myself if this was not my Florida Folk Hero and author of some of the Sunshine State's finest literature. I mustered up all the courage I could in order to utter the words, "Love your column!"

He smiled graciously back at me...

....I sure hope that was him!

Goin' Back to Miami (and the Keys)
After spending several days in Tennessee, we found ourselves back in the warm Florida sun, awaiting Part Two of our vacation. This would entail a road trip from our home in Plant City to the Marrero's Guest Mansion in Key West. We left Sunday November 27th with an anticipated stop at the Red Roof Inn next to Miami International Airport for the night. I met "Miami Mike" Hiscano that evening at the Bennigan's next door where I gave him a bazillion airline timetables that I shed in my "Operation Cleansweep" initiative I'm conducting at our 1920 Cracker house in Plant City.

Always topical, interesting and an encyclopedia of Miami history and information., particularly relating to Miami International Airport, Mike was kind enough to leave me with copies of the May/June 2005 and July 2005 editions of Model Cars magazine that featured articles on the life and works of his father Augie Hiscano (an excellent article on Augie Hiscano can also be found in The Internet Craftsmanship Museum.

Monday we left the hustle and bustle of Miami and took the Overseas Highway down to Mile Marker 0 at Whitehead and Fleming Streets in Key West. On our way down , we took a side trip through Big Pine Key and then on to No Name Key where we spotted both a Key Deer and Green Iguana crossing the heavily vegetated island's main road! Once at the end of Mile Marker 0 we turned right onto Fleming Street to our destination at address #410. Marrero's Guest Mansion. We were greeted by the Guest Mansion's congenial host John Diebold as well as resident Conch cat "Cheesetta". This time we were assigned to Room 18, the room that the spirit of original occupant Henriquetta Marrero is said to be roaming more than anywhere else on the premises.

Dinners Fit For A King and Queen
Although I have undertaken a serious diet, I could not help but to indulge in the gluttonous spirit that is Key West at restaurants such as El Meson de Pepe which features incredible Cuban-Conch fare where I indulged in Picadillo Habanero and Yuca; the Commodore Waterfront Steakhouse where I gorged myself with mouth watering Filet Mignon followed by fabulous Crème Broulaise for dessert; Two Friends Patio Restaurant, which featured that Florida seasonal delicacy known as Stone Crab claws; the Old Town Mexican Cafe that had the best tostado to ever pass through my gums; and Flamingos Cafe, which has the best (if not only) Southern home-style breakfast and lunch fare in Old Town Key West.

Bloody Tourist
In previous visits to the Southernmost city in the continental United States, we have been on the Conch Tour Trains and attended several Ghost Walks. This time around Karen relaxed and read books, while I jogged to destinations such as Fort Zachary Taylor State Park with its beautiful beach, fascinating native vegetation and historic old fort (which was overrun by pirates on Friday December 2nd during the city's Pirates in Paradise Festival which ran from November 25th through December 4th); the Fort East Martello Tower Museum and Gardens with its fascinating history of Key West (as well as housing the allegedly "possessed" doll "Robert" who has through City proclamation become the City's official "scapegoat"); and the peaceful yet alive Key West Cemetery; I did manage to talk Karen into visiting the Ernest Hemmingway Home and Museum where we made new friends with many of the attraction's six-toed (or polydactyl) cats; Later that day I took in a sunset at Mallory Square and enjoyed a performance there of cats jumping through flaming hoops by performer Dominique the Catman.

But all good things must come to an end, and this most wonderful vacation was no exception.

We bid adieu to John, Cheesetta, the pirates, the chickens, the ghosts, the tourists, the historic homes, the lighthouse, the cemetery, the tropical (although somewhat battered by Hurricane Wilma) foliage, and the outstanding Caribbean waters that always make Key West a most memorable Florida experience.

Sixtieth Anniversary of the Bermuda Triangle's Flight 19 Lost Patrol
Monday December 5, 2005 commemorated the sixty-year anniversary of the disappearance of five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger aircraft and their crews somewhere off the Atlantic Ocean coastline of Florida in an area referred to as the Bermuda Triangle, the Devil's Triangle and the Hoo-Doo Sea.

The planes, stationed at the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station disappeared during a routine training mission in what still remains one of the great maritime mysteries of all time. I did a series of articles about the Flight 19 disappearance in PCR numbers 90 and 91.

In time for the anniversary, the Sci-Fi Channel will be featuring a three-part fictitious mini-series called "The Triangle" which will be broadcast starting Monday night the 5th and ending Wednesday night the 7th.

Persons interested in the Triangle are encouraged to link to the Bermuda-Triangle.Org website for a comprehensive view into the stories of this fabled area of sea and mystery.

"La Floridiana" is ©2005 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 ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.