You know how I can tell winter is over? Scuppers brings me presents. Mostly dead rats, but when I'm really lucky, I get a live one here and there. And by lucky I mean the two hound dogs in our home go over the moon at the thrill of the chase. I'm not squeamish when it comes to rats. I'm pretty stoic about the whole thing: I want them dead because, well, that whole Black Plague thing (yes, I know they're super-intelligent and make great pets, but I'm talking about rattus rattus here, not Runaway Ralph). I refuse to use glue traps, snap traps or poison, but Scuppers and our two happy hounds keep the local population under control (yes, we have another cat, Elmo, but his gifts are more in looking incredibly handsome — to paraphrase, that cat don't hunt).
Scuppers is an excellent hunter, though, and he feels my husband, El Cap, and I don't really bring our A-game when it comes to hunting, which is why, more often than not, he brings us presents to help show us what to do. A bell on his collar has saved the local songbirds, but rats, as well as snakes, frogs and possums (all past presents from Scuppers, the last three of which are usually brought to us alive at 2 a.m.), must have lousy hearing. Also these things are seasonal. We don't get reptiles until summertime, but rats? They're a spring event. It's how we mark the seasons 'round our place.
Our most recent sign of impending spring? Half a rat. Folks, you haven't lived until your fluffy, cowboy-hat-wearing cat has brought you half a rat.
The point is, these presents tell me spring is here. Which means this weekend, you should make the most of this weather, predicted to dip down to the 70s this weekend. Summer will be here before we know it, which means rats will give way to snakes and this column will react accordingly.
10. First Friday frivolity
Look, technically, these should be three separate events, but you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a First Friday celebration (Publisher's disclaimer: Creative Loafing Tampa does not endorse anyone swinging cats, dead or alive): First Friday Art in the Heights in Seminole Heights, Gulfport's First Friday ArtWalk, First Friday St. Pete... take your pick. They're all at local.cltampa.com.
OK, so you can't really make the argument that you need chili this time of year, at least not because you need something to warm you up, but really, is there ever a bad time for chili? No, there is not. St. Pete's Grand Central District Association sponsors this legendary annual chili cookoff. I'm judging, so look for me there, face-down in something spicy. Grand Central District, between 2400 and 2500 block of Central Ave., St., St. Pete. 12-4 p.m. $20; $15, advance. 727-828-7006.
It's the perfect weather for a walk in the woods. Make your Fitbit happy and take a hike at Lettuce Lake as part of Hillsborough County's Hiking Spree. It's a solo hike, so you choose the time. Lettuce Lake Park, 6920 E. Fletcher Ave., Tampa. 813-987-6204. Free.
It's party time... excellent! It's also the annual Winefest fundraiser at Tampa Theatre and if it seems earlier than usual, that's because a certain windy bitch named Irma screwed up the September event, so it's technically late for 2017, not early for 2018. Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St., Tampa. Fri., $275, $500 for couple; Sat.,
Premium Tasting, sold out, Grand Tasting, $55. 813-274-8981.
6. Brocante and 3Daughters
OK, so Brocante is inside, but you know what makes the perfect complement to everyone's favorite monthly vintage market? Pretending you didn't spend half your paycheck on an antique birthing chair, an old steam engine made into a kick-ass lamp and a baby Jesus clutching a cross (worst. foreshadowing. ever.) and kicking back with some suds at 3Daughters. Brocante, 2200 2nd Ave. S., St. Pete. Sat., 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sun., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 3Daughters, 222 22nd St. S., St. Pete. 727-495-6002.
Get your shrimp on at the St. Pete Seafood and Music Festival — live music, almost-alive seafood... what more could you want? Vinoy Park, 701 Bayshore Dr. NE, St. Pete. Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. $7; $5, advance.
An inside event that's at night, so you're not missing that glorious, glorious sunshine. Also, you probably shouldn't get naked, but celebrate the human form in all its forms at this three-night festival of nudity. Artistic, nudity that is. 1400 Channelside Dr., Tampa. Thurs.-Sat., 6 p.m.-midnight. $25, Thurs.; $20, Fri.-Sat.
OK, so this one's inside, too, but since it's awesome, we figured you'd wanna know about it. Did you miss Willem Dafoe and the super-fucking-adorable Brooklyn Prince in The Florida Project? Well, good news — it's gonna play for free for one night only as part of the Eckerd College International Cinema series. See it so you can cheer him on during the Oscars broadcast on Sunday when his name comes up in the Best Supporting Actor category (chances are he’ll lose to Christopher Plummer, Oldest Nominee Ever, but stil). Eckerd College Miller Auditorium, St. Pete. Fri., 7 p.m.
2. To market, to market
No matter which side of the bay you're on, there's a Sunday morning market for you — one at Sweetwater Organic in Tampa and one on St. Pete Beach's Corey Ave. Produce, Florida art and sunshine. Sweetwater Organic Community Farm, 6942 W. Comanche St., Tampa. 12-4 p.m. 813-887-4066; Corey Market, Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Go to all the Sunday markets you want, but it's not Sunday until somebody says, hey, let's get brunch. Soak up the last of the weekend sunshine après-market at Bon Appetit with waterside dining and, if you're up for it, a seafood tower for two. Hey, if it makes you feel more brunchy, grab a side of bacon or something. 148 Marina Plaza, Dunedin. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 727-733-2151.
That should be enough to keep you busy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some spring cleaning to do. Somewhere in my house is the other half of that rat, and experience has proved it's better to find it before the first heat wave.