© St. Petersburg Times, published November 28, 1999
ONCE YOU LEARN HOW ...
It is all machinery, the dozens of bicycles, the spinning spokes, sprockets with teeth, and chains. The riders zipping up Beach Drive in St. Petersburg early Saturday morning form a chain, each rider a link. See the symmetry, the structure. Such precision. Hear the gears shift in unison.
This is serious business.
Except: Each rider wears a helmet. A bright, shiny orb like a lollipop. The spandex jerseys are flashy, ridiculous, the colors of children's cereal: Orange stars, yellow moons, green clovers, blue diamonds.
What grown-up wears colors like those?
Look at them go. Legs pumping, vigorous. Oh, the circles they make.
See the quads tighten. Try to gauge the numbers on the handlebar computers. The miles. This is math. This is discipline. This is good for the heart. Exercise. It's good for the ...
But that's only part of it.
It's circles, too. Taking them back where they came from.
Orange stars and yellow moons.
-- GINA VIVINETTO
From below, the sound of rubber rushing across the metal grating of the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge is like the growling approach of a train or plane -- rife with possibility.
Grab a plastic chair on a slow-moving motorboat as it shears the Hillsborough River one evening, the brackish breeze dampening your face and stirring the hair on the back of your neck.
At water level, sleepy little Tampa is a mighty metropolis. High-rises thrust moonward, waterfront living rooms glow warm, streets stretch deep into the city's dark heart. Two laser beams atop NationsBank Plaza follow you like the eyes of a portrait. On a concrete embankment, a girl's ample bottom has been rendered in spray paint for your assessment.
Get someone to hand you something cold, heavy with rum and cream. Sip gently, taking in this strange city, your own.
-- KATHRYN WEXLER
Citrus County's coastal fish have every right to be proud. They are rich in color and abundant in number, fine swimmers all.
That said, the mullet jump. The others do not.
This popular bait fish got wise long ago -- several million years, at least. With its dull shadings and propensity for traveling in crowds, it had to do something to earn some respect in life. So it jumped, and still jumps, breaking the surface with a burst of energy and arching through the air for a second or two. Then, the grand finale -- a dramatic, ripple-causing splashdown.
A fine viewing area for the spectacle is Halls River Bridge in Homosassa, one of man's indiscretions on a sensitive environment. In strong daylight, the mullet flash their silvery-white bodies before disappearing into the gentle tidal flow. Even from 200 yards away, their signature moves are unmistakable.
With nightfall, growing shadows on the water accentuate the effect. Watching them is like looking for shooting stars, but with sound.
No one knows why mullet yearn for our kind of oxygen when other fish are content under water. Theories abound: They're escaping predators, they're cleaning and shaking off parasites.
Maybe they're just having fun.
-- JOSH ZIMMER
BLACK AND WHITE SPECIAL
It has taken nearly three decades to satisfy federal judges that the schools of Pinellas County have just about reached a proper state of integration. They probably could have saved a lot of time by ordering a slab of ribs.
For about the same period, the barbecue at Big Tim's has managed to unite the races, if only for the lunch hour.
In the early '70s, Big Tim Walters sold his barbecue out of a ramshackle place on 18th Avenue S, next to a dirt patch that served as both parking lot and outdoor dining room. Whites and blacks alike came to carry away slabs of ribs. Years ago Big Tim moved to a snug place on busy 34th Street S, with a paved parking lot and several booths indoors.
Customers come in cotton housedresses, in starched white shirts, in uniforms with their names stitched on a pocket.
The line for take-out orders is black, white, white, black. The booths are filled by blacks and by whites, and the two often share tables.
They eat the same food from the same place at the same time, keeping Big Tim's among the most-integrated spots in southern Pinellas.
-- ROBERT N. JENKINS
[Times art: Don Morris]