NEW BOOKS ARE FOR SUCKERS: Hillsborough County's Friends of the Library co-op threw its big book sale last weekend, an annual reminder for people my age that libraries exist. This year marked the event's 10th anniversary; originally scheduled for the weekend of the 13th, it was postponed a week to accommodate that fickle tourist, Hurricane Charley.Savvy readers hit the gargantuan downtown John F. Germany Library Friday, before the Saturday rush left nothing but hundreds of paperback copies of Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent. They methodically perused the small selection at the branch's own Grovers Corners Bookstore, before being advised that the mother lode resided over in the auditorium. Once they saw the rows of school-cafeteria tables piled with thousands of titles, returning to work was not an option.
A clock radio filled the room with classical music as we checked out the options: hardcover checkout-lane lit; pulp fiction (my personal favorite: The Naked Sword: A Lusty Tale of the Crusades); '90s moneymaking schemes; Marlon Brando biographies. You could enter with a 10-spot, and leave with a box of books very nearly too heavy to carry. The $1 grab-bags didn't attract much attention, unfortunately — I think we all suspected those brown paper sacks were full of Presumed Innocent — but everything else did, from computer software-application manuals to Jurassic Park. Definitely check out the Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library system's website (www.thpl.org), find out when the next regular sale is going down, and hit it up. But be warned: the regulars can be rabid. Some guy snarled at me when I started looking through a stack he had temporarily set aside.
POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE: The music of the late Frank Zappa is not for everyone. Hell, most pop-music fans are familiar with little of his material beyond the zany, schizophrenic stuff like "Valley Girl" (sung by his daughter Moon Unit) and the disco-culture send-up "Dancin' Fool."Thanks to long-running Bay area homage-payers Bogus Pomp, though, local pundits have been getting an education in the breadth of Zappa's work for a decade now. On Saturday, Aug. 21, the group teamed up with some fellow fans from The Florida Orchestra for a special show at the Tampa Theatre. The 24-piece ensemble presented a wildly varied selection of a few of Zappa's many orchestral compositions, with new arrangements cooked up specially for the concert by young Zappaphile and erstwhile Bogus Pomp associate Tom Trapp.
In front of a house half full of diehards, the band wound its way through two dynamic sets. Beyond the excellent musical performance, perhaps the coolest thing about the experience was the laid-back vibe — when you're used to seeing classical musicians in formal evening attire, finding the stand-up bassist in black-and-white rockabilly creepers, the bassoonist in a purple bouffant and white satin prom dress, and any number of musicians in loud Hawaiian shirts was a grin-inspiring surprise. And in the staid confines of the Tampa Theatre, hearing patrons shout suggestions and jokes at their friends in the band seemed downright decadent.
And yes, some wit thought it would be the height of comedy to yell "Free Bird!" Apparently, that shit's never going to go away.
IT'S HARD TO EAT WHEN THEY'RE ALL WATCHING LIKE THAT: After an endless and excruciating round of golf on Sunday, a couple of buddies took me by a marvelously tacky Bradenton landmark known as the Linger Lounge. If you're not familiar with the Linger Lounge, the single most telling detail about the place that I can relate is this:Inside, there's a large sign bearing its name. And the letters that form the words are real, dead snakes.
The Linger Lodge sits on a picturesque bend in the Braden River, located at the back of a small trailer park. There's a giant cage out front filled with peacocks, chickens and rabbits that might give you the uneasy notion you have to select your entrée while it's still on the hoof. You don't, of course, but once you get inside, it's tough to shake the feeling that what you're eating may be a little too fresh, because the place is absolutely packed with the results of somebody's lifelong obsession with taxidermy.
PETA's Manatee County chapter will not be holding its monthly meeting here any time soon.
Panthers, squirrels, gators, a black bear, snakes (especially rattlesnakes — the restaurant's owner hunts them there on the RV-camp grounds) and other, more fanciful critters occupy every available space. Thankfully, alligator is the only displayed species actually represented on the menu, but the menagerie is still a bit creepy, in a fun, Lost Boys sort of way. And while you're waiting for your grilled frog legs to cook — they were delicious — you can carry your beer out back, navigate the eroded stone steps and watch the tannin-stained water flow sluggishly by. Florida's full of weird little treasures like this one, but the singular character (and the taco cheese fries) of the Linger Lodge make it an experience not to be missed.
SOMEWHERE, THERE ARE MEN WITHOUT THEM: Cruising home from work on I-275 during rush hour two Mondays ago, I noticed 50 to 75 baseball hats and truckers' caps strewn across the freeway just south of the Howard Frankland. Did a box fall off a truck? Did the accessories buyer for the local Urban Outfitters get into a wreck? Who knows, but fortunately, no hipsters or VH-1 clip-show personalities were flattened while attempting to snare trophies for their trendy headwear collections.