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Duck on steroids, bouncing baby, 'Annie Hall'

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002


On the right wall of the "classroom" was a colorful three-dimensional depiction of the Marx Brothers, on the left Laurel and Hardy. It was the perfect setting for Comedy 101, but this University of South Florida class Thursday was Early Literacy Learning.

Budget cuts have led to larger classes at USF, and the university is using University Mall's Regal Cinemas for several classes. Seventy students had gathered in one movie theater Thursday for Prof. Ann Hall's 9 a.m. literacy learning class, which is designed to prepare the teachers of tomorrow to teach reading.

Prof. Hall noted that her students could say, "I went to the movies and saw Annie Hall," but conceded they were probably too young to know the 1977 Woody Allen film.

Hall's energy helped reduce the size of the theater. Not only did she stand in front of the screen, but she walked up and down each aisle. Thank goodness she's in shape.

"I think I'll have the chance to talk with everyone, to make the connection," Hall said during a break.

Students have to pay an additional $7.50 per credit hour for classes at the mall, but no one seemed to be complaining Thursday. Becky Baker described coming to the mall as a good getaway. Abby Porter said the atmosphere was more exciting than a campus classroom. And the chairs are more comfortable, Maggie Ott said.

"The only thing is they're so comfortable, well, you don't want to fall asleep," she laughed.

* * *

Steve LaBrake and I finally have something in common.

No, we haven't both been ousted by the city (that would be Steve), but our sons now share the same name. Lynne McCarter, LaBrake's girlfriend, gave birth to a boy named Ethan last month. The news was revealed by Mayor Dick Greco on his weekly television show.

Until LaBrake finds another job, I guess he's a full-time father.

* * *

There's a new boat residing at the Imperial Yacht Basin on Gandy. You can't miss it -- it's a 64-foot long, 26-foot high amphibious military monstrosity. The tires are 8-foot-tall Firestones. A sign on back says, "Afghanistan or Bust."

It's a LARC (that of course stands for Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo), and it looks like a Duck Tour vehicle on steroids. The vehicle, built for the U.S. military in the 1950s, was recently bought by a company building a resort in Belize. St. Petersburg native Capt. Sam Carroll said the LARC will be used to transport bulldozers in Belize once it goes through an upgrade here in Tampa.

It took Carroll eight days to bring the boat from Jacksonville to Tampa, navigating his way around Florida on the Intracoastal Waterway.

"It's been a long time since I've been scared running a boat," said Carroll, who has been a skipper for 18 years. "I got a lump in my throat driving that thing out of the water."

* * *

Stroll into the new Pete and Shortys (716 N Dale Mabry) for a dash of nostalgia: memorabilia from the old Tampa Stadium, including an aisle sign, podium and photograph.

* * *

Here's a heads up for cyclists on Bayshore: Joggers and walkers are looking for a little courtesy. When you're approaching them from behind on your bike, the preferred warning is "on your left" or "on your right."

This allows the runner to move accordingly, lest you want to run up on someone's ankles.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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