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Not your typical hot spot

By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 1, 2002

DUCKS IN A ROW: It's Gandy Boulevard's version of a tourist attraction, the fenced retention pond near Target. Most evenings, the ducks come: mallards, male and female, a big white common duck and a few that challenge the gene pool. Sunday, I find two more snowbirds, Jean Alspach, 74, and Ethel Tompkins, 77, both from Columbus, Ohio. Maybe the ducks are from Ohio, too? Alspach doubts it. "They walk like Southerners," she says. Widows and old friends, the two come south each year to winter in Virginia Park, a neighborhood southwest of Plant High School. They do water aerobics. They go to church. And at least once a week, they buy $1 worth of day-old bread to toss to the Target ducks. "We play like they know who we are," Alspach says.

FOR THE BIRDS: Away from the duck pond, it's a bad day for birds. Some psycho birdnapper is on the loose. The latest victim? Oscar, 4, a green-winged macaw reported taken from Rainforest Pets on Henderson Boulevard. "We raised him from the time he was a chick," says owner Leigh Toborowsky. Oscar wears an aluminum ID band: SWZ0933. He's big and red with splashes of green and blue on his wings. His vocabulary: "Rainforest Pets, may I help you?" "Night, night." "Yum, yum." Words he should have learned: "Unhand me, you beast!" Direct tips to Toborowsky at 871-3223.

TABEBUIA: Name for the trees you've seen in vivid yellow bloom lately. Native to South America, where, one might guess, the crowds from the Krewe of Sant'Yago Illuminated Knight Parade begin to thin.

KYLLINGA: Name for the leggy grass choking your St. Augustine. Obvious this time of year because cold weather browns the blades. Plant fiend Earl Garland (Garland's Nursery) says give up on home remedies; it takes the chemicals of a pro.

BARFLY: Saturday night found me at Yeoman's Road on Davis Islands. Wet weather had dampened neighboring Pipo's outdoor patio. Brian Zink, tax accountant by day, was about to pick up a guitar for Rocky Steady at 8. The band's other members: lead singer Jason Nwagbaraocha, drummer Jonathan Priest, trumpet player and singer Brian Aulisio, keyboardist John Richardson, bass player Miles Hanson and saxophonist Rob Didios. The music: Jamaican. Janet Zink, Jamie Moore and I joined a table in progress, a Noah's ark of two Starbucks cups, two Coronas, two cups of water -- and 15 bottles of Red Stripe beer. On the dance floor, knitted striped beanies bobbed over wide-legged jeans. "It's like the South Tampa Skipper's," said dancer Callie Booth. Next Yeoman's date for the band: March 30.

URBAN LEGEND: A cousin e-mails me this: A Florida granny discovers four guys in her car. She drops her shopping bag and pulls a gun. "Get out of the car, you scumbags!" she barks. The men flee. The woman's key doesn't fit the ignition. Oops. Her own car is a few spaces away. She drives to the police station, where four men are reporting a carjacking. Want the scoop on gun-toting grannies? Check out

- Researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

-- 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

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