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Heroes on stamps, one scary on-ramp

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

First in line this morning to purchase a new stamp that honors the heroes of Sept. 11 will be a group of Tampa firefighters.

The stamp features the famed photo of three firefighters at ground zero raising the flag, and will sell for 45 cents. The 8-cent difference from a regular first-class stamp will be donated to the FEMA Relief Fund.

Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade said a small group of firefighters decided to make today's 6 a.m. call at the 24-hour Tampa International post office after seeing a poster-sized version of the stamp at last month's law enforcement appreciation luncheon.

* * *

Rookie dads, this is for you. Starting in August, the Fathers Resource and Networking Center is launching a boot camp for new dads. Veteran fathers will orient rookie dads by including their own 2- to 3-month old babies in the process.

"Boot camp prepares men to be dads in all respects, beginning with holding and comforting a real baby," said FRANC director Justin LaRosa.

The catch is a simple one: The expectant dads have to return later as veterans to help new rookies. For information, call LaRosa at 356-1293, ext. 232.

* * *

R Kelly's arrest in Polk County reportedly infuriated his attorneys because they had made arrangements for him to surrender in Chicago.

If that's true, then I'm infuriated too, but for different reasons. I'm growing weary of our fair state being connected to every tabloid headline.

What remains a mystery is exactly why a streetwise, Chicago-born rapper known as the "R&B Thug" would be residing in a golf/retirement community in eastern Polk County. Some residents of the RidgeWood Lakes subdivision knew Kelly had spent time there for the last three years, but there were no indications of late-night parties or all-day "fiesta fiestas."

What's next? Snoop Dogg living in Wauchula?

* * *

Ybor City may soon become known as the city of statues. Local artist Steve Dickey has four statues in the district, is working on a fifth (of longtime La Gaceta publisher Roland Manteiga) and now has been commissioned to do a sixth, of late Columbia Restaurant matriarch Adela Hernandez Gonzmart.

Friends of Adela are holding a fundraising luncheon June 14 at the Columbia.

When the bust is complete, it will be placed next to the bust of her late husband, Cesar, in front of the Ybor restaurant. I guess Adela and Cesar always should be together.

* * *

When it comes to driving around Tampa, is anything worse than the sliver of concrete that cars entering from Ashley Drive are given to get onto northbound Interstate 275? If you have any hope of merging into the rush of traffic you have to fly up the ramp like a madman and hope your grimace is frightening enough to prompt the drivers already on the interstate to let you in.

The alternative is even worse. Too often people come to a stop at the end of the merge lane. Not only does that make it virtually impossible to get on the highway, but the madmen rushing up from behind are even more likely to rear-end you.

My advice? Take Florida Avenue to Scott Street, turn right and use the on-ramp to I-275 or I-4 at the end of that street. It may seem a little inconvenient, but it's better than trying to negotiate America's worst on-ramp.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or

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