Tampa Bay is the best cockroach-infested, nonreligious place to sweat in. But it has great beaches.
When it comes to those “best/worst” lists of cities, it’s been an up-and-down few weeks for we residents of Tampa Bay. (I know, I know, nobody but fish live in the actual Tampa Bay. But I’ve given up on explaining this . . . .)
First came the cockroaches. The U.S. Census Bureau declared the Tampa Bay region as the most roach-infested area in the nation. Take that, New Jack City!
Of course there are three chief types of roaches. The worst are German roaches, smaller and numerous and living indoors. If you spot even one in your house you know there are tens of thousands. Best thing at that point is to strip naked and walk away from the home and never go back. Start a new life somewhere else. The only effective German roach treatment—near as I can tell—is a 20-megaton thermonuclear bomb. But, come to think, roaches are supposedly less affected by radiation than we humans.
The other kind is the American cockroach. This brute is two inches long (up to four counting legs and antenna) and mostly lives outdoors eating small trendy electric cars and other passing foodstuffs. They may come inside to look around, mostly to open the fridge late at night to check your beer supply. They also fly and hearing one of those monsters buzzing through your bedroom at three a.m. is not likely to help you get a sound night’s sleep. Cats in west Florida are sold on the basis of roach-killing prowess and a “good roacher” can fetch a pretty penny.
Last are the “palmetto bugs” which are a myth. We call ‘em palmetto bugs because (a) they actually do seem to like to live in palmettos and (b) we don’t want to terrify the paying tourists by admitting that these are just American roaches with a P.R. firm.
Just as we were living down the roach-motel-capitol of the Americas, along came sweat. Yes, according to Honeywell Fans —who ought to know — Tampa is the sweatiest city in America.
I may have contributed more than most to this statistic this summer. I’ve been cleaning up an old woman’s overgrown yard behind my house, a project likely to run on into the fall. This involves cutting down everything from grass to vines to bushes to hedges to some fairly large trees. Working three hours a day in a “feels like” heat index of 101 degrees and humidity higher than my age (and I ain’t no spring chicken) made me wetter than if I stood in a shower. And that’s if it was not raining at the time. It rained so much the past weeks (27 inches in six weeks) that the city emergency workers gave up on sandbags and just handed us snorkels.
Then we learned just why we have pestilence and flood. Radio, TV and any-available-soapbox deep thinker Glenn Beck set us straight. Turns out that St. Petersburg is seriously religiously-unaffiliated, so much so that Glenn Beck suggests you not come here. (The mayor of St. Petersburg replied, to this news, “Good.”)
Apparently, we’re the least-religious people in the South. Portland, Oregon has it over us in Godlessness. But do they have palmetto bugs? Hah. I thought not. And we are hosting a three-day Jehovah’s Witness convention at the Florida State Fairgrounds later this month. But somehow the notion of St. Petersburg, Florida — known locally as God’s Waiting Room — as the first slippery step to Hell is a little overblown. Still and all, a day without Glenn Beck is a day with sunshine.
Finally, some relief. Money magazine “ . . . ranked Tampa as the best large city in the Southeast and one of five “urban gems” across the United States offering an abundance of culture and amenities at “livable prices.”
Though, I have to admit, reading their article, they’re as off-base as the other articles. They raved about Tampa’s beaches. Tampa has no beach. Well, there’s a small “beach” which is the be-there place to score drugs or meetups in the men’s room, but when we need a break from that, we mostly drive over to the Gulf beaches for a swim.
Still, I see an upside. I refer, as you have already guessed, to the signs we can post on the edge of town. I’m thinking something like those old Burma-Shave signs of yore that posted short poetry in sequential signs alongside highways.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you ain’t old enough to shave. Here we go . . .
Welcome to Tampa Bay, our own sweaty town
Where our cockroaches’ wings can cool you right down
We got no religion but we got creepy creatures
And you can see those at our drug-dealing beaches.