Yeah yeah yeah! Who loves scary stuff? We all do, right? I know I do. And not just the fake scary stuff. I’ve been interested in the paranormal for as long as I can remember–not in a “dedicating my life to the search for the truth” sort of way, but more in a “this is fascinating, exciting and fun” sort of way.
So when I semi-retired from full-time journalism, I decided to take on a fun project, just for me. Paranormal Florida: Shadows of the Sunshine State is that project–a rundown of some of Florida’s most interesting lore, from the skunk ape to some of its most infamous haunted hotspots. It was a real pleasure to put together, and hopefully you’ll have fun reading it, and find something you didn’t know about, or maybe even a spoopy place to visit sometime.
My breathless recaps of the second season of Surfer Doctor, an amazing show which doesn’t exist, arrived in September 2017. The larger budget and exotic locations led to the series not being renewed by its network, but who knows what the future holds? For now, enjoy.
S02E01: “Bugging the Tourists”
Tonight on the Season 2 premiere of Surfer Doctor: Surfer Doctor’s coworkers return from their search and tell everyone at Bayside Memorial that they didn’t find any trace of Surfer Doctor but later after two of them have tension-driven sex in a basket of clean scrubs one says he wants to tell the truth and the other says they made a secret pact in Peru then a bunch of tourists from a booze cruise are brought in dying of some unknown poison and just as they’re about to expire Surfer Doctor bursts into the ward lean and sun bronzed with a molcajete of muddled beetle innards which he swabs around the nostrils of each victim as he explains that they’ve fallen prey to a rare Caribbean centipede that likes to stow away in crates of cut-rate mangos and his coworkers welcome him back and suggest they celebrate by surfing but Surfer Doctor just gazes wistfully in the general direction of the ocean and says he doesn’t do that anymore
S02E02: “Doctor Don’t Surf”
Tonight on Surfer Doctor: Surfer Doctor refuses to pull the plug on a comatose patient whose living will demands it and his coworkers are shocked at this apparent denial of the patient’s desire to organically transition between states of harmonic vibration so Surfer Doctor invites them over to his eclectically decorated yet indescribably calming beach shack during the eclipse and gives away one of his surfboards to each of them but this ritual causes an uproar and one female resident refuses and suggests he give it to the rebellious teenager he basically adopted after her cop father died in Season One so Surfer Doctor says the rebellious teenager is making a Marvel Comics Universe blockbuster now so let’s just say she’s away at college and the arguments intensify but then several pagers go off because some medical professionals still have those and it turns out the patient has emerged from his coma a shamanic prophet and Surfer Doctor just smiles benignly at Surfboard Refusing Intern because he’d never say I told you so
S02E03: “The Industry Gets Forked”
Tonight on Surfer Doctor: Surfer Doctor is invited to be guest of honor at a banquet for pharmaceutical reps and he wants to decline because the industry is a profit-driven murdercamp but the board at Bayside Memorial forces him to do it in exchange for reinstating his privileges so he goes and stands at the podium and tells the whole room there’s no illness that can’t be cured with jackfruit and himalayan tree sap and the nurtured synchronicity of benevolent universal energies and one rep laughs so hard he has an aneurysm and Surfer Doctor saves him by trepanning him with a shrimp fork and applying some of the thin and oily crab bisque and after his coworkers congratulate him one hangs back and confronts him as he walks to his bicycle and says I know your secret
S0204: “The Long Con”
Tonight on Surfer Doctor: An ancient catacomb is discovered under the city and Surfer Doctor joins the exploration team but two of the prison inmates on the digging crew fight and cause a mudslide that kills one of them and traps Surfer Doctor with the other and the inmate tells Surfer Doctor how sorry he is he’ll die before apologizing for hitting a little girl while driving drunk and putting her in a wheelchair then he passes out from lack of oxygen but Surfer Doctor notices a trickle of water from an underground reservoir and pulls on some load-bearing roots to open a torrent that clears the exit and sweeps Surfer Doctor and the inmate to safety so Surfer Doctor takes the inmate to apologize to the parents of the girl and they forgive him and the inmate tells Surfer Doctor that while he was unconscious he had a vision that Surfer Doctor will soon face a test that will determine whether he ever surfs again
S02E05: “A Bitter Pill”
Tonight on Surfer Doctor: Tension mounts among Surfer Doctor’s coworkers as Secret Knowing Resident begins sleeping with Surfboard Refusing Intern’s ex Pill Stealing Custodian and no one can go to Surfer Doctor for guidance because Surfer Doctor is in vibrational disharmony and Pill Stealing Custodian begins to go through withdrawal at work so one of them lets him into the pharmacy to take the edge off but he gets caught stealing pills and is arrested and some hospital board members tell Surfer Doctor he must choose which coworker will take the fall and Secret Knowing Resident volunteers to leave saying it will solve all of Surfer Doctor’s problems but the universe whispers truth to Surfer Doctor so he tearfully dismisses Surfboard Refusing Intern and she smiles and says you’re not so out of sync after all and leaves and Surfer Doctor goes to his shack for a meditative search for clarity and there’s a note stuck to the surfboard that Surfboard Refusing Intern refused in her handwriting saying this will always be who you are
S02E06: “Catching a Bite”
Tonight on Surfer Doctor: Morning finds Surfer Doctor sitting on his board and riding the swells yet despite the perfect tide and the ancient vine of rebirth braided into his ponytail he remains unsure of his karmic stability so he walks memory’s path back to his training in the jungle when the faceless ones spoke to him from the shadows and guided him to earn their knowledge and finds solace in the innocence of discovery until he’s jarred back to this plane by the sounds of another surfer being attacked by a shark so he catches a wave over and dives off his board and conjures an unpleasant biomagnetic vibration to harmlessly drive the shark away then packs the surfer’s wounds with chewed sea grasses and conch-slime and as he drags the surfer to the shore the surfer thanks him but it’s Surfer Doctor who feels the true joy and terrible burden of gratitude
S02E07: “You Don’t Know Jack”
Tonight on Surfer Doctor: While driving his biofuel-run VW camper back from riding the Big Moon Tide Surfer Doctor comes upon a tour bus on its side and sets Jack Johnson’s broken leg and splints it with a guitar neck and surfboard leash and Jack Johnson asks Surfer Doctor to travel the world with him as his concierge physician and tells him he’ll pay him enough money to set up clinics all over the world so Surfer Doctor has to think about it but when they get to the hospital a bunch of teenagers have poisoned themselves ingesting belladonna recreationally so Surfer Doctor creates an antidote from willow sap and palmetto bug carapace and Jack Johnson rescinds his offer saying the hospital needs Surfer Doctor more than he does but he promises to take the whole crew to Portugal to ride los supertubos as soon as he’s back on his feet
S02E08: “What’s Up, Doc?”
Tonight on Surfer Doctor: Things seem OK between Surfer Doctor and Secret Knowing Resident but then Secret Knowing Resident tells him she actually prefers the TV miniseries version of The Shining so Surfer Doctor declines to join her environmental activist group in liberating some rabbits from a makeup factory then Surfer Doctor hears on the hospital security guard’s police scanner that the group has been arrested so he goes to bail her out and learns she never made it to the factory and he heads to her apartment but she’s not there and the door is open so he calls her again and hears her phone ring inside and Surfer Doctor goes in and finds her phone on the floor and her lockscreen picture is a photo of an ancient cave painting that looks a lot like a younger version of Surfer Doctor with his face raised to the sky bathed in silver light emanating from the heavens
S02E09: “Alpacalypse Now, Part One”
Tonight on Part 1 of the Surfer Doctor season finale: Surfer Doctor goes to Bayside Memorial to tell his team about Secret Knowing Resident’s abduction but there’s been a terrible turkey fryer explosion at a Thanksgiving family reunion and he’s torn but Surfer Doctor pitches in until the worst is over then tells the team to meet him at his shack and on the way across the hospital parking lot a homeless man stops and tells Surfer Doctor they have her and they want the eye of the alpaca returned so when his team gets to the shack Surfer Doctor has packed a bag and tells them to do the same and when they ask where they’re going he reaches into an ancient urn by his desk and pulls out an opal the size of a chihuahua’s head and says the Andes
S02E10: “Alpacalypse Now, Part Two”
Tonight on Part 2 of the Surfer Doctor season finale: Surfer Doctor and his coworkers fly to Peru and take a small charter plane into the Andes and the pilot is blinded when a ray of sunlight glints off the eye of the alpaca in Surfer Doctor’s shoulder bag and crashes but Surfer Doctor has time to fashion parachutes from seat covers and unsold promotional T-shirts from the 2016 Olympics in Rio and they drift down right in front of the sacred waterfall of illusion and charge through into the cavern of becoming and the faceless ones are there surrounding Secret Knowing Resident as she lies on a stone altar before a cave painting of an alpaca with a conspicuously large recess in its head and the faceless ones sing into Surfer Doctor’s heart and mind that it’s time and a coworker says look and the younger version of Surfer Doctor in the cave painting has changed into Secret Knowing Resident and Surfer Doctor places the eye of the alpaca into its recess and the harmonies of the universe reach a fever pitch as silver light glows from the opal and showers Secret Knowing Resident and suddenly it’s over and the faceless ones are gone and Surfer Doctor and Secret Knowing Resident share a look and everybody else is like what what and Secret Knowing Resident asks Surfer Doctor if he can still do anything and Surfer Doctor says there’s one thing I can still do and he takes his lab coat from his bag and puts it around her shoulders as they make their way down the mountain to the coast to go you know
For craft beer lovers, the Tampa Bay scene is a paradise. We’ve lost count of the number of breweries that are now open within a five- or six-county radius, and several districts feature multiple tasting rooms within a short walk of one another — you can spend whole days in Dunedin or St. Pete’s Grand Central District or Tampa’s Heights neighborhoods drinking homegrown beer, and never drink the same beer twice. There are breweries that specialize in IPAs or sours, breweries that feature traditional European styles, breweries that are, heaven forbid, branching out into hard seltzers.
It’s an insanely good time to be a craft beer fan around these parts.
Being a craft beer producer, on the other hand, is a more complex proposition.
Yes, the local brewing community is an amazingly intermingled and cooperative one. Yes, the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” is one that exists. But the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. More breweries inevitably mean more competition and, like it or not, craft brewing is big business in Tampa Bay these days, not only because of deep local pockets but also because of outside investment. As with restaurants, we’ve already seen some smaller, less well-funded concerns close or scale back further, adopting or reverting to a model that doesn’t compete with other breweries with the capital to try to take things to another level.
Exciting? Sure. Daunting for brewers who’d like to make their own mark by striking while the iron is hot? Undoubtedly.
It’s gotta take some serious nerve to step out on one’s own — but more importantly, it’s gotta take confidence, determination and, above all, passion.
“I did cross country and track and field in high school,” says 42-year-old Tim Ogden. “And I want to do better than I’ve done before every time I go out there.”
Sitting on the floor in the gutted building on North Nebraska Avenue in Tampa that once housed a church and will be the home of his own brewery, Deviant Libation, Odgen is more than aware of the area’s big fish — after all, he’s worked for more than one of them over the years. But it was a love of beer that got him this far, and he’s sure that love, along with the skills he’s learned over nearly a decade and a half in the business, will show his decision to strike out on his own to be the right one.
Entertainment doesn’t have to be substantial. The word itself doesn’t even attempt to convey any sort of weight.
But when entertainment is substantial — and let’s not even get into the “but is it art” thing, OK? — it’s imbued with the opportunity to turn into something more, to transcend “entertainment” (not that there’s anything at all wrong with “entertainment”) and become an important part of the shared cultural conversation. And usually, it’s a resonance with what it means to be human that creates that elevation.
The five-Tony-winning musical Fun Home — the first, by the way, to feature a lesbian lead — is fucking important, maybe the most important Broadway work since Angels in America. It’s a simultaneously beautiful, brutal and often hilarious look at familial relations and coming to terms with one’s own identity. It’s an empathy machine, one that forces viewers to deal with the fact that not everyone is perfect, and not everyone is the same — but that everyone is human, and everyone can (and should) relate.
So weird. So wacky. And yet, even when dealing with serious or even dark subjects, so celebratory.
freeFall Theatre’s production of the 1972 musical Pippin checks off all of those adjectives, and even manages to update some aesthetic elements of the tale to create a unique balance of that ‘70s feel and something more modern and minimalist. It might not be for everyone, but this show is definitely going to elicit a response.
freeFall’s Pippin sticks close to the plot of the original — originally directed by none other than Bob Fosse on Broadway — in its tale of the son of Charlemagne’s quest to find his place in life. It’s a long and arduous journey, to be sure, including warfare, palace intrigue, patricide, misdirection and even a lovely young widow and her equally lovely son. Will Pippin follow in the footsteps of his father to become a conqueror? Will he choose the life of the mind? Will he opt for a simpler existence, knowing what could have been, given the advantages of his lineage?