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Saying Grace on Church

patty ryan
GRAND CENTRAL
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By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 29, 2002


GRACE BEFORE SUPPER: Monday night, Rob Bohan put up the signs, choosing busy Church Avenue, a likely ally in the search for Grace. He knew she lived on one of the streets behind Steak 'n Shake. In Steakburger terms, Rob, 28, was a single, looking to be a double, maybe even all the way.

He met Grace randomly in Ybor City two weeks ago. They hit it off and even had a photograph taken together. There was talk of a future dinner date.

"She just seemed so sweet," he said.

Grace shared her phone number. No one had a pen, so Rob's friend stored it in a cell phone. Then, somehow, the number vanished, unlike Rob's interest in Grace. Rob, poetically, is a cell phone salesman.

HE KNEW she worked for a doctor -- Phillips? He tried the phone book and called doctors, to no avail.

"No trace of Grace," he reported back.

So he painted the sign.

"GRACE," it wailed in large letters, the way another man's sign might wail, "STELLA."

"I lost your #.

"SORRY."

AND THEN he printed his own number: 833-1700.

"The last thing I wanted her to think is I purposely didn't call her," he said.

(Female friends wonder: Is this guy for real?)

He went to the Neptune Publix and shared the story with a clerk, who gave him a good deal on balloons shaped like vegetables, which he tacked to the signs to attract attention.

His phone rang and then rang some more. They were young women, wanting to know the outcome.

By Tuesday night, someone had swiped the balloons, and one sign was down. Had he found Grace? Not at press time. Maybe we'll have an update next week.

THWARTED DINNERS, PART 2: It's 8:10 p.m. and I'm on my way home, ready for a homemade Caesar salad, a twice-baked potato, and a thick and tender filet mignon, hand-stuffed with slivers of fresh garlic and grilled, then ushered along with zinfandel while golden retrievers wait for scraps.

Just a quick stop at Whaley's, which is -- WHAAAT? -- closed.

Whaley's now closes at 8 p.m.

Giancola's, the former Simon's, started the same a few months back.

Night manager Todd Whaley, who operates Whaley's with his father and two sisters, says there's just not enough business between 8 and 9 p.m.

"It allows our employees to go home earlier, so they have their own lives," he says.

Oh, sure, let them have their lives.

WHALEY'S, of course, used to be staffed 24 hours. It was built in 1932 by Todd Whaley's great-grandfather. Then open-air, it couldn't be locked, so someone slept there overnight.

GOOD THING golden retrievers are gold. They match the clingy oak pollen. Soon I will paint my heart pine floors gold, ensuring another match. And color my hair gold, so that when I sit by the grill beneath the grandfather oak, and the squiggly caterpillars and pollen blossoms fall, I will look even more like Medusa.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE? Jean Alspach, who feeds ducks with her friend Ethel Tompkins down at the Target-Publix pond on Gandy Boulevard, newly notices a sign.

"Please do not feed the ducks," it says.

Just try and stop her.

Managers at Publix and Target allude to squabbles between bird and man. So are we pro-duck or anti-duck? Tim Carlin wonders. He owns the adjacent Laura's Hallmark.

"The ducks are fine," he says. "They don't bother anyone. It's the pigeons. It's like going to the beach and throwing a French fry."

- 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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