I’d been watching the weather from Florida so much that when I looked out the window here I expected high winds and pelting rain. Hah. Beautiful day here.

Diane said she got wrong information about the mandatory 8pm power outage yesterday. It might actually be tonight, or it might not be at all.

Some forecasts have changed, with predictions now that St. Pete could get a Cat 4 direct hit. That gives a lot of the storm’s strength time to weaken before making it to deeper Hillsborough, assuming it doesn’t bounce off St. Pete and go up toward Panama City. But if it lands as a 4 that’s still a goddam monster that would likely not have the agility to do a 45-degree bounce of the Gulf coast. They had said it would go straight up the peninsula but now it looks like it will bounce and nuzzle against the west coast until it finds a suitable spot to destroy.

Looks like 9/11 might have a new meaning for some people. I thought of that a little while ago while texting Diane but I didn’t say it. She says she’s less nervous than before but I’m not so sure. She jokingly said she must still have PTSD from Andrew, in 1992.

I don’t understand why they have not at least tested the generator to make sure it works but I’m not gonna nag. We reminisced briefly about Laos. I mentioned that I’d been watching a webcam from the University of Tampa. The camera moves its focus from one building to another but always on screen is some place from which I have abundant memories. I want to keep watching but I don’t know if I should. Do I want to watch the minarets crumple? Are those things built to withstand a Cat 3 or 4? I don’t know offhand if they were built yet in 1921, the last time a storm this size hit the area. If they were then I further do not know if they were damaged in that storm and had to be repaired. Diane said they are expecting UofT to get flooded badly. The campus is right on the HIllsborough River and not far from Tampa Bay.

The UofT webcam goes to the left, where there is an ugly new church that just went in a few years ago. Next to that is Sykes Hall, nee McKay Auditorium, where I took piano lessons and other music classes for three years. (For one year I took piano lessons in what I still call the New Music Building, even though it opened in 1989, 28 years ago.)  

From a room at McKay normally used for teaching young violinists the Suzuki method I called Paul, in Brussels. I dialed the number at random, armed only with Belgium’s country code and Brussels’ area code. Paul and I talked for 2 hours on the University’s dime. I wonder who got blamed for that phone bill…

It was also in Sykes (nee McKay) where it was announced that the School of Music would not be returning after its first year. SoM was an after-school music program for allegedly “highly gifted” high school students. Notwithstanding my thoughts about how or why I got admitted into SoM the program became a huge influence over many of us who got in. It was like a micro version of Fame. If only it had continued it could have become something far more meaningful for all involved. But could it have continued? It was so much extra work on top of regular high school detail. The spread of talent and the broad age range of students involved might have made it hard for all of us to evolve together, as a class. But maybe those “handicaps” would have made up for themselves.

It was in Skyes/McKay where all of us at SoM rebelled. When it was announced that the SoM would not be returning I remember Susan, exasperated and angry (yet smiling), announced “I’m going to the catwalk.” She was referring to a labyrinth of narrow wooden walkways between the ceiling of the auditorium and the roof above. I don’t think it was possible for anyone above 5 feet tall to stand upright in that space.

Until then the catwalks had been a space where only the other SoM boys and I had explored. We bragged about it to the girls, who seemed impressed but not in any hurry to emulate our trespass.

As our communal fuck you to the UofT or cancelling the SoM the whole student body (if you could call ~15 students a “body”) dangerously climbed some ladders and spiral staircases behind the stage and one by one stormed the catwalk, disregarding warning signs stating the obvious: Too many people all at once on those narrow strips of wood lining the paper thin floor could jeopardize the structural integrity of the McKay Auditorium ceiling. I don’t know how long we were up there but the sight of Susan and the others crouching to get around the space and hoisting middle fingers all around to whoever was responsible for cancelling the SoM are memories I hope never leave me.

And of course there is Plant Hall. Phil and I explored that place recently, reliving a favorite bit of trespass I and other friends engaged in throughout high school and even during some college summers. So many stories from those adventures but the one I remembered today was taking my 11th grade girlfriend there. We made out on the floor of one of the darkened classrooms. It was nice but we just didn’t fit like that. Days later she asked me “When we went to Plant Hall that night, were you expecting something?” I don’t know what I said in response but I know I was not expecting that question. I was young and gawky but I knew enough then to know that, well, other kids were doing what we did and of course a whole lot more. It didn’t seem like such a big deal to me that we should talk about it days later as i it was almost a crime. Being interrogated about making it to FIRST BASE made me nervous enough to think that going any further would lead to more questions, more analysis, more discomfort.

It ended with us over a particular incident on Highway 61 between Tampa and Brandon. No need to retype it because it is somewhere on my TPOGH site under the title “Dance Dance Dance”.

Back to the present: The revitalized St. Pete waterfront? What of it? I didn’t know the place had become such a scene until I heard about it while in Tampa those months ago. My friends Jack and Monica went down to St. Pete for a job interview soon after I got back from Tampa. Before they went Jack texted to ask if I knew anything about about St. Pete. I said “Former retirement colony turned gay mecca. You will get fucked in the ass!” I added later that if he had asked me that question before my recent trip to Tampa I would have had no idea how St. Pete had changed, since it all seemed to have happened so recently. I would have ignorantly told him it was a sleepy retirement colony.

(I deliberately overstated the gay thing,  just to be funny.)

If that place gets decimated I bet they’ll be glad they didn’t get the job.

Going out to get  piece of what’s let of this day. Signing off from the ghetto coffee shop. Good luck, Florida.