Columnist, Music Critic, Bane of the Too-Serious

Ewing Video

Outside is the real world: a typically depressed suburban St. Pete strip-mall heavy on bargain-bin closeout stores. Inside is what must be one of the best selections of flicks for rent in the Bay area, curated by a small, friendly staff that actually cares about its customers´ needs. Personally, it satisfies my tastes and philosophies on almost every level. It´s an independent business. Its employees are knowledgeable without that irritatingly frequent side effect of automatically assuming all of their customers are ignoramuses. And it offers a collection of movies that balances obscure and indie fare (including the contemporary straight-to-DVD horror travesties to which I´m addicted) with the quality mainstream stuff that you might actually want to see. I might add that not only did they track down a rental copy of the Where The Buffalo Roam DVD after I wrote a column detailing my futile attempts to find one, but they also occasionally let me bring my puppy Milo inside — he´s often with me, as the store is a short walk from my house — providing it´s late and other customers are scarce.

Ewing Video, 898 49th St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-323-8872,

Fishing out of Casey Key

I´ve got a buddy who keeps his offshore boat moored behind a retired gentleman´s house near the north end of this Sarasota County island. (Note to budgeted boat owners: Renting residential dock space is definitely a viable alternative to marinas. You don´t get the extras, but it´s a hell of a lot cheaper, and your boat is always in the water and ready to go.) And while it´s only an hour south of my pad, heading down there always feels like a vacation. It could be the Key´s politely tourist-y character, or the way that the big-money houses along the inlets look and feel more like Lauderdale than Tierra Verde. But it just seems like more than a three-hour tour. There are drawbacks — the inconsiderate, drunk or simply incompetent yahoos who often congest the inshore waterways on weekends being chief among them. It´s worth it, however; the bottom structures that attract game fish are closer to the beach than most Pinellas hotspots, so the few extra minutes you spend giving Captain Martini the finger are made up once you clear the pass. Plus, the water is clear, the scenery is gorgeous, and the seasonal fisheries (like kingfish) often heat up earlier in the year than they do even a few miles farther north.

Fountains of Wayne @ Orlando´s House of Blues

New York/Jersey power-pop geniuses Fountains of Wayne have been a hit with Bay area hipsters/indie-rock fans since their eponymous ´96 debut, and last year´s Cars-esque hit ¨Stacy´s Mom¨ endeared them to a host of radio listeners. Considering the fact that they hadn´t played a Central Florida gig in years, I headed to their Orlando House of Blues show back in April expecting to find a sold-out room liberally peppered with familiar faces from the Tampa/St. Pete scene. What I discovered instead was a hall half-full of men and women considerably older than me, and their toddlers. Weird. On top of that, the only other locals Peaches and I ran into were two-thirds of power-pop act Barely Pink, and their friends and families. So only a handful of us were able to smugly report to our comrades the following day that they´d missed what was easily one of the best live sets of the year. Following a disturbing car-wreck of a solo set by former Lemonheads frontman/songwriter/disturbing car-wreck Evan Dando, FoW staged a nearly perfect show of volume, harmonies and humor. Three encores later, we drove home wondering what could possibly keep fans from spending a measly couple of hours on the road in return for such a memorable performance.

Margaret Murray

She´s a friend, so I didn´t consider her e-mail an actual letter to the editor, but former Madstone Theaters Manager Murray´s response to a column I wrote about shopping malls was so clever and hopeful that I thought it deserved special mention. The ¨Field Trip¨ in question was specifically about Pinellas County´s slowly expiring Parkside Mall, and generally about the idea that all malls, and the lands they occupy, are doomed from the get-go. Murray´s reaction was to suggest that these behemoths, which all eventually sit vacant and eroding as their conceivers search in vain for another developer/investor, would make perfect complexes for a grouped plethora of social services.

¨The Health Department can be set up in one of the big department stores, and the Unemployment Office can be set up in another,¨ she writes. ¨The Housing Department can have a store, the food-stamp office can have their own space … I´m sure there are a million agencies I´m not thinking of, but they could all fit under one roof.¨

Murray goes on to theorize that local nonprofits could get breaks on the rent, and points out that malls are always located along main bus lines.

That´s fucking genius. And while plenty of folks out there are currently snorting at the idea of a developer being so charitable, or of a government pulling it off (Margaret herself ends her letter by saying she´s ¨stepping back down out of the clouds now¨), just thinking about it makes me feel a little better about being human.

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