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We recently spent a week on

Our Tampa Bay Adventure

We recently spent a week on, at, and, only once, in Tampa Bay. The sunshine and warmth made up for the "lost" winter through which we just passed. Best of all we got to spend it with friends of many, many years, Bob and Martha Spivey.

Another consequence for me, other than seeing the sun and getting warm again, were the memories the bay occasioned, leading me to think about the many, many ways the seashore was a part of my young life.  My bay was Long Island Sound.  My friends and I chipped in and rented a bathhouse each summer at Scofield's beach; and in earlier years our family took advantage of my aunt's rental, a cabana (a fancy name for a 4x5x7 closet) at the same place. I regularly turned purple in those summer days, first from a super tan and secondly from the chill waters (fingernails, lips, and scars from an undiagnosed, parentally-annoying, but untreatable syndrome).  I chased and caught fiddler crabs to bait hooks for fishing expeditions with Joey Ross in his rowboat, from Pear Tree Point, in pursuit of black fish.   Isaak Waltons we weren't.  Uncle Jimmy, who taught me how to throw two inch firecrackers and eat hot peppers, treated us a few times to a motor boat ride from Todd's Point in Old Greenwich; and though my uncle was a crack mechanic with a couple of patents, he always seemed to be goosing the recalcitrant carburetor on the outboard, such was the state of the art of Evinrudes pre-World War II. During my high school years, postwar, I cracked my eardrum making a tackle in an impromptu game of football (without pads) in the shallow waters along the shore.

Yeah, it was a blast. Tampa Bay dredged up and fished out these happy memories of childhood summers spent in the sun and surf.

What follows a few paragraphs down the page is a pictorial (mostly) recapitulation of our ninth decade adventure on, at, and, briefly, in another bay a thousand miles south of where I turned purple.

We flew from Bradley to Tampa, rented a Fusion, and drove to Palmetto, just to the north of Bradenton on Florida's western shore. We stayed at Cut House (why that name will be obvious if you read the legends beneath the photos) along the shore of the Manatee River.  The fully equipped house is owned by Hope and Jeff Stephenson, who rent it out, mostly on a monthly basis, to snowbirds from the north or from across the "Pond." You will find particulars on rental availability and cost at:; and several other sites... google "Cut House Palmetto."

Hope is the daughter of Martha and Bob Spivey.  She was born in August of 1955 and spent her first year in the Hastings Hall dormitory of Union Theological Seminary, where her dad was president of the student body and her mom was the personal secretary to the seminary's president. Bob and Barbara resided a couple of doors down the hall.  The two Bobs played touch football, basketball, and softball at every opportunity.  Martha earned a reputation as a gourmet cook and invitations to dinner at Spivey's Rm. 113 were more coveted by bachelor seminarians than dinner out at Mamma Leone's.

On an excursion to St. Petersburg we attended a softball game at the University of Southern Florida where sophomore Lee Ann Spivey stars as catcher of the Lady Bulls. They won their game versus the women from the University of Memphis in a new stadium and pristine diamond devoted to the game of women's softball. 

Earlier in the week we continued (after a fifteen year hiatus) our tour of professional ballparks. We went on Senior Citizen's Dance Day to Tropicana Field and watched the frozen Minnesota Twins thaw out in the Florida sun versus the Rays.  I felt as if the field belonged to me, considering the ocean of orange juice I have drunk (almost always Tropicana) in the past fifty years since the frozen variety was made obsolete by the daily trains from Florida to New York City filled with orange elixir not from concentrate.

The manatees, of course, the manatees, you are curious about these creatures, aren't you?  I was.  No sooner had we arrived at Cut House than Hope informed us that this being mating season we would see occasional turbulence in the water outside the house; and, not to worry, it's probably just manatees making manatees.  We kept a keen eye on the water but saw no turbulence attributable to mom and pop manatee.  We did, however, watch them feed at the museum in Bradenton.

The six days in the sun and warmth weren't all fun and baseball games.  We spent a morning in fun and holiness.  Hope conducts a weekly Bible class for an ecumenical mix of women, not only Episcopalians like Hope, but Methodists, Greek Orthodox, and Pentecostal too.  Professor Bob Spivey and Pastor Bob Howard were distinguished guests at the concluding session for the season.  Among the topics considered was the divinity and humanity of Jesus.  Pastoral insight lay people can avail themselves of anytime; but to be able to question a professor of religion, one who co-authored the text book still current in college religion courses, The Anatomy of the Bible, now that's a treat most Bible Classes never manage.   

And, to be sure, we attended divine worship Sunday morning at Christ Episcopal Church in Bradenton, an interesting and sometimes jarring combination of contemporary praise in Powerpoint (Hope's job) and the stately language of the liturgy of The Book of Common Prayer.  The liturgist for the service was Hope and Jeff's daughter, Sarah, a graduate nurse in a Bay area hospital. 

To steal a line from a Psalm: How good and pleasant it is when children and grandchildren honor their lineage in the sincerest way, by imitation. We may not have needed a visit to Florida to confirm this observation, but it sure was fun getting confirmation with a Southern accent. 

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