St. Petersburg Times
Print storySubscribe to the Times

City Life

Quiet drive leads to little crab shack

Published August 15, 2004

I had heard about a new art gallery called kama in a part of town that's far afield even from the city's hope of an arts community north of Ybor City. Sunday afternoon my husband and I drove over to take a look. He also wanted to see the new pool in Palmetto Beach that one of his swimming buddies told him was open on Sundays.

The gallery would have been easy to pass by, but there were no cars on the street around 15th Street and 21st Avenue, so we could crawl. And there it was, a low brick building with tasteful lettering on the storefront windows: kama. It appeared to be closed. I called from my cell phone and left a message asking them to call and tell me when it was open. I haven't received a call back yet.

On to the Spicola Family Pool, which is a really nice pool, waterfront, with five lap lanes and a big green frog and purple water tube for kids. It appeared to be closed, but I moved the padlock on the gate and swung it open. The pool was empty. No one was visibly around. In the office, though, we found a lifeguard or two and the man in charge, whose name is Kenny. He has a last name, of course, but we really weren't that formal.

He said that because school has started, kids just assume the pool is closed. Someone needs to get the word out, I guess. The pool is in DeSoto Park, a shady waterfront park. An idle bulldozer sat to one side of the park and had been in the process of doing something. I asked Kenny what, and he said they were protecting the wetlands around the mangroves for the manatees that swim by. Had he seen any? Oh, yes, whole families with their calves. This was all new to him, he said. He's not from here. Next for the park will be baseball and soccer fields. Most of the kids in this largely Hispanic neighborhood are soccer players.

On our way out, along the seawall, we saw a kid crabbing with a trap and a man with a cell phone attached to his shorts fishing with a net. In the park a mom drove up and let out some boys at the skateboard park, ready to swoop up the curving ramps.

It was an overcast day and looked like it might rain, so maybe that's why no one else was around.

Several blocks away right out on the water - I mean, in the water - there are a couple of places that sell fish and crabs. We stopped at the Crab Hut, which had a few cars out front. A sign advertised 10 pounds of fresh mullet for $15. It's a ramshackle place; a sign warns against the uneven floorboards. You could see the water through the cracks underneath your feet. You enter on a sort of dock and into the shack, I guess you'd call it. It has a roof. In the back are tubs of water and a sign that reads: "Don't talk to us while we're cleaning crabs or we may short you."

Don't say they didn't warn us. Two workers were sloshing in the tubs picking out the lively crabs while a family stood around, waiting. They left with the last of the crabs in plastic bags.

This place looks like a swift breeze, much less a hurricane, could knock it over, but it's been here for 27 years. The man behind the fish counter wore a Crab Hut ball cap, and the crab cleaners wore Crab Hut T-shirts. I wondered if there is any business on Earth so remote no one has had logo T-shirts made for it?

This is a place that also informs you, via signage, that you don't get your fish cleaned until after you've paid for it. And no credit cards, either.

We bought a 4-pound yellowtail, since we were out of luck with the crabs.

It felt good to be in a real fish market - if that's not too fancy a word - on the water, and not a tourist trap. It felt like we were not even in Tampa anymore.

On the way back home we detoured through Channelside to see all the construction going on there. One of the sleek new loft developments of the future had a model that was open, so we stopped in, briefly - we had fish in the car. All stainless steel kitchen, and so on, very citified, and only five minutes away. I envisioned the trendy loft-dwellers pulling up in front of the Crab Hut in their BMWs.

Better raise the price of the mullet.

Sandra Thompson, a writer living in Tampa, can be reached at City Life regularly appears on Saturday, but because of storm coverage, appears today.

[Last modified August 15, 2004, 00:05:10]

Times columns today
Robyn E. Blumner: A heartening response from atheists
Gary Shelton: Feel that sweet relief
Susan Taylor Martin: Israel's pipe dream: getting oil from Iraq
Mary Jo Melone: Our luck comes with a sobering wakeup call
Helen Huntley: Reports shed most bad debts in 7 years
Robert Trigaux: The numbers that count
Martin Dyckman: They'll take $90, but negotiations will start at $1,000
John Romano: This dream no longer to be shared
Susan Taylor Martin: How the U.N. got one right
Sandra Thompson: Quiet drive leads to little crab shack
Jan Glidewell: Jan to Jan talk: We've come a long way, baby

Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111