Tampa Bay: My first work trip of the year

Back in December, I was asked about my availability to head out and work in Florida at some point in January. Wanting to get out of the cold and blowing of Northeast Indiana, I immediately said yes. I figured that I'd be going to Orlando, but not so. The city turned out to be Tampa Bay.

I've never been to Tampa. Well, not really. I don't count the day as a teenager my family drove up to Busche Gardens at the crack of pre-dawn, hung out for the day, then drove back to my Grandparents in Okeechobee. So I was excited to see a new place.

When I head to cities for work, especially places I've never been, all I really hope for is a couple of nights to do some exploring. I always search out decent places to eat and drink.

We arrived the day before Gaspirilla Pirate Festival, which is a festival I had not heard of before. After some research, it had the potential to get wild. This would make for interesting people watching, a favorite past time. But this being early afternoon on the day before, which left plenty of time to search the downtown area.

After grabbing a Reuben at Primo's Deli Cafe and wandering around a bit. We found a beer pub called The Pour House. My friend/co-worker Nate and I opened the joint up at 3pm. I really liked this place. It had a nice bar, around 30 craft beers on tap, friendly people, and couches! We spent a few hours there drinking new to me beers including Terrapin Oaked Wake-N-Bake, Bells Hopslam, and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.

With a slight buzz it was early but time to find some dinner and head back to the hotel. We stopped at a pizza joint called Pizza Fusion and ate a mighty fine pizza and more beer.

I stumbled back to the hotel around 10pm, completely wiping out on the sidewalk at one point. I failed to see the tip in the curb and tripped. Surely the alcohol buzz had nothing to do with my coordination.

Saturday brought a short day of work because the Gaspirilla Festival basically had everything around the convention center shut down. We unloaded the truck, got changed, and walked around the madness. Now this is not nearly as bad as Mardi Gras in terms of the amount people or craziness but it's still very unique. Pirates and wenches as far as the eye could see.
And flesh. I'm still amazed at how cheap plastic beads get people to expose themselves. However I am all for it. And for the record, I did not partake in the bead throwing action, just observed some being thrown.

Thanks to our noses, we came across a restaurant called The Smoke BBQ during our wandering. This was some damn good BBQ and quite possibly the best Mac & Cheese I've ever consumed. After gorging ourselves we fought back through the mob at the heart of Gaspirilla, then quickly decided to go chill on the balcony of the hotel for a few hours.

We left the hotel just as Gaspirilla Parade was ending. We started walking. Along the way we looked down the street towards the parade. Through the tunnel and coming over the four lane bridge bridge is nothing but a massive amount of people. Their screams and chants echoed through the tunnel. It's was a massive mob of drunkenness and celebration. I've never seen a sight quite like it. I would post the picture I took of it all, but justice would not be served. We decided to get in front of the mob and ended up going back to The Pour House. We drank not nearly as many beers as the night before and watched as people quickly packed into the place. After a couple of hours we left because a very long work day awaited on Sunday.

A couple of days went by before I had time to do anything else. The next stop on the food/beer tour was an Irish Pub called Four Green Fields. The place looked like a small hut with a grass roof from the outside but once inside there was a lots of tables plus a large winding bar. I had an outstanding Shepherd's Pie with a couple of Kilkenney's Draughts. An excellent place which looked like it could be a lot of fun.

The next night we traveled to a strip mall area for some Thai food at Thai Thani Restaurant. I ate some amazing steamed dumplings and sampled Nate's awesome crab ragoon. I couldn't decide between a main course of seafood or duck. I choose seafood since I had yet to have any on this trip and I usually reserve my seafood eating for when I am near a coast. I ate an excellent dish which had muscles, clams, squid, octopus, and shrimp coated with lots of Thai red chilies. Very good going in. However around midnight the meal did not agree with me. I violently threw up three times during the night. Puking red chilies is not fun. It's too bad because it was tasty going down.

The week was winding down. We had a short Thursday. I wanted to explore more on the last day, despite my belly fears and did so. Where we ended up was possibly the best the meal of many on this trip. A restaurant called The Jerk Hut). The smells made my queasy belly rumble with joy. I couldn't decide between Ox-Tail Soup or Goat Curry. Both are meats I've never eaten. I went with the goat. Excellent. The goat meat melted in your mouth allowing you to easily pick out the cartilage and grizzle. I cannot put into words the deliciousness of the meal. It was the best eating experience of the week.

After lunch we wandered into this dive bar I wanted to check out. The Hub ) is a small, dark, historic to Tampa bar known for their generous pours. Nate got a rather large whiskey and I went with a gin & tonic, which ended up being all gin & splash of tonic. A little stronger than I usual make myself but the price was definitely worth it. Nate and myself started to talking to some of the locals, including a guy who worked for years on a carnival. We were educated in the ways of the carny as we drank. It made for an entertaining couple of hours.

It was back to the hotel with full bellies. I wanted to get out towards YBor City that night, but didn't feel 100% on taking the chance. Nate went out with a couple the other guys on the crew while stayed in the hotel room. Damn my stomach!

Friday brought a decent travel day and the arrival back to Fort Wayne. Where about 14" of snow awaited me in the driveway.
Thanks Snowpocalypse 2011.

Over all I experienced a some very great food and drinks on this trip and some good people as well. Usually I don't get this much time on a work related trip, which is nice. But man did I spend that Per Diem.

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Under Appreciated Horror Authors #9 - David Wellington

David Wellington first gained notice with his online serialization of the Monster Island, a unique spin on the zombie tale. New York City has been overtaken by the undead. A United Nations employee and a group of soldiers must enter the city to find AIDS medication for a warlord who has kidnapped his daughter. Along the way one of the undead discovers he has retained strong mental capacity and can control the other zombies. All hell breaks loose.
Two more novels followed, both also serialized online.

David then tackled vampires with Thirteen Bullets. In a world where vampires are thought to be wiped out, one emerges in rural Pennsylvania and State Trooper Laura Caxton. She is slowly let in on the hunt by the best vamp killer in the US, Special Agent Jameson Arkley.

Three more sequels have followed.

The werewolf genre was next in line for the writer. With Frostbite the setting is the upper Canadian wilderness. Again, werewolves are known to exist but are rare. Cheyene Clark has come to find a wolf. She gets attacked, which gives her the curse. Then meets the man beast which turns her.
So far one other novel has followed.

I have read the first book in each of these series. All are outstanding. Wellington adds new twist to the old myths. His characters are feel like real people. I highly recommend any of these as a good starting place.

Notable Novels

Zombie Trilogy
Monster Island
Monster Island: A Zombie Novel

Monster Nation
Monster Planet

Vampire Series
Thirteen Bullets
13 Bullets

99 Coffins
Vampire Zero
23 Hours

Werewolf Series
Frostbite: A Werewolf Tale


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Horror Movies Watched & Books Read (Jan 2011)


Saw: The Final Chapter (2010) **
This is definitely the weakest of the bunch. It tied all the loose ends together and in a way comes around full circle to the beginning in a way you seeing coming from a long way off. Most of the acting is terrible. And my biggest beef is half of the climax takes place in a police station, where there's no police except the few that are easily killed off. The series has always held my interest because of the elaborate traps but I am glad it is over.

Damned by Dawn *1/2
The first third of this movie isn't bad. A great setting in this Irish countryside full of fog and creepy family secret concerning the legend of the banshee. Then they kill a banshee which causes the dead to rise and everything becomes silly.

The Last Exorcism (2010) ***
The Last Exorcism
The "found footage" movie is starting to become a retread of sorts. However I enjoyed this one, even if never reaches it full potential. The story centers around a minister, Cotton, who performs exorcisms. He admits it's all an act and wants to get out the trade. A crew follows him on what is to be his last exorcism in rural Louisiana. What Cotton finds is a teenage girl who may be possessed by a demon or just mentally disturbed by an unwanted, possible incestuous, pregnancy. What follows is some general creepy scenes and an ending I never saw coming.

Wolfsbayne (2010) *1/2
A poor vampire vs werewolf movie. Not sure why I even watched it.

Slaughter Night (2006) **1/2
An interesting movie from Belgium that tries to do a little too much. Teenagers trapped in an abandoned mine stir up the ghost of a serial killer who possesses people and murders the remaining ones. Very gory, if nothing else.

# The History of Horror with Mark Gattis (2010) ***1/2
This three part BBC documentary has actor/writer Mark Gattis go through and define the three points of horror cinema which affected him the most. Covered are the Universal Horror era, The Hammer Studio era, and the explosion of original horror movies in the US during the 70's. Nothing all the new here but horror fans will enjoy it this personal exploration of the narrator.

Uncle Sam (1997) **
A soldier killed during Desert Storm returns from the grave to get revenge on the unpatriotic people during a Fourth of July celebration. A decent B movie is hampered by very, very poor acting.

Meatball Machine (2005) **
A gorefest love story which involves two co-workers who morph into different creatures thanks to an alien lifeform taking over their bodies. This is extremely bizarre and not that much fun.

The Torment aka The Possession of David O'Reilly (2010) **1/2
A friend crashes at another friends house. He claims demons are chasing him. The movie comes up a bit short. Builds a good atmosphere but to me, less showing of "the demons" would have helped greatly.

# Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: Season 3
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Complete Third Season (Slim Set)
The gang at Sunnydale are back as seniors and slayers of evil supernatural entities. Another fun season of slaying.

Mutants (2009) ***
A French film with a familiar plot. Mysterious virus starts reanimating the dead. The only things making this slightly better than average is the time the movie takes making us feel for the two main characters, a husband and wife paramedic team, and the gorgeous mountain scenery.

And Soon the Darkness Comes (2010) **1/2
A decent remake of the 70's movie but nothing great. A pair of Americans girls go on a cycling trip through Argentina. One gets kidnapped. The other searches to find her.

Prison (1988) ***
An early movie from director Renny Harlin, which I actually liked. A good cast which one can see Viggo Mortensen and Tiny Lister chew up scenery together. The plot revolves around an old prison getting reopened and a malevalent spirit of the last executed inmate wanting revenge.

Neighbor (2009) *
I had to fast forward through most of this stinker about a female serial killer. It was just horrible.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) **
I thought this was a weak entry in the series. I hate watching scenese obviously shot for 3D on a normal TV. The effect looks terrible. This had many of them. The story was alright, Alice finds a group of survivor trying to get to the safety place known as Arcadia, but the movie didn't work for me.

Growth (2009) **1/2
A genetically created pearl has a side effect of a parasite which causes people to mutate. Nothing new but fairly entertaining.

Mutant Girls Squad (2010) **1/2
I am usually fairly generous to Japanese splatter flicks as they get bonus points for not taking themselves too seriously, but I was disappointed with this one. Young girls with mutant powers including a chainsaw butt and breast swords battle the government who wants to eradicate them.

Koko by Peter Straub ****
Four Vietnam vets try to locate another surviving member of their squad they suspect of being a serial killer. Straub is in top form with very graphic writing with the combat scenes, deep characters, and a plot that keeps twisting and turning. This is the first novel in the loosely connected "Blue Rose Trilogy."

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