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Thoughts from a turtleneck

patty ryan
GRAND CENTRAL
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By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 22, 2002


TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND: The number of people who surround me, all within a 6-foot radius, at the Krewe of Sant'Yago Illuminated Knight Parade.

ZERO: The number who understand the concept of personal space. Others are members of a deadly al-Qaida mosh pit, relocated to the sidewalks of Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, where I now find myself pushed along like a crumb in an ant pile. Our bodies clump together like jigsaw pieces, my face smashed into the back of some guy's leather jacket, a stranger's Icehouse jabbing my armpit. In theory, we are all moving forward. Yet I could die here and not fall over. I am getting a tattoo by osmosis. My arm will soon say, "Gloria." I would rather be rich and on a float.

TWENTY-FIVE: That's how many $1-million homes sold in South Tampa last year. The priciest: a $3.45-million, 7,467-square-foot home on Davis Islands owned by personal injury lawyer Timothy Prugh and his wife, Jo Anne.

FORTY-ONE: That's how many $1-million homes sold in all of Hillsborough County, including South Tampa.

SIX: The number of friends who flat-out refused to go with me to the Knight parade. "Not really my scene," said Kathryn. "It's impossible to park," said Lauren. "I'm too short," said Janet, explaining, "I spend the whole time walking around looking at people's chests." Finally, a true adventurer: Joanne Flanagan, 45, originally from Rhode Island. She wanted to see Ybor on a Saturday night to gauge whether her 14-year-old daughter should ever be let out of the house. I see locked doors on the horizon. Definitely no driver's license.

ONE: The number of strands of beads I wore to the parade.

TWO: The number I wore home.

FIVE: Bucks I paid for the second strand. I blame the turtleneck. All around us, the shoulders of women in tank tops buckle under mounds of beads, piled high on their necks. I think of tribal women in Africa with rings around their necks. A flying strand hits Joanne in the eye. A man snatches it -- and keeps it. "You know, there's a correlation between the amount of clothes you have on and the amount of beads you get," Joanne notices.

THREE: Number of blocks we travel in an hour, searching for decent food. Fried onions and corn dogs paint the air. I have in mind Bernini's, the Italian place on Seventh. I begin to imagine pasta, a glass of chardonnay and a comfortable chair. Westbound near Carmine's, the sidewalk crowd stalls. People behind me push. People ahead of me push back. Beads sail toward us, apparently from a passing float we cannot see, and the trampling begins in earnest. The float moves on. Someone starts swearing because a shopkeeper's palm tree blocks the sidewalk. Word of the obstacle moves through the non-moving crowd. "It's a palm tree." "He says it's a palm tree." "A palm tree?" Finally we get to Bernini. At the door, a bouncer greets us. "Wrist bands, ladies? Sorry, it's a private party."

$75: Dinner for two at Big City Tavern, where we didn't need wrist bands. We try for a table with a view. "Reserved for the Young party," sighs the sign on the balcony overlooking the parade. We do not feel like members of the Young party. I confess that my psyche still contemplates the ad in the newspaper for the evening's Neil Diamond concert. Joanne sets me straight. "NEIL DIAMOND?" Her face shows revulsion. This is what friends are for.

ONE: Bottle of Miller Lite discovered in the women's bathroom. I check the bottle. Still cold. I resist.

TEN: Bucks we paid for parking, only to find the Pathfinder blocked in.

- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or pryan@sptimes.com.

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