In this week’s special issue on one of Tampa’s most fascinating neighborhoods, Seminole Heights, we consider multiple storylines, from the challenges of launching new businesses in the area to the suspicious similarities between SH and a certain crunchy city in Oregon. But I will leave it to longtime SH resident Julie Garisto, our A&E editor, to explain the neighborhood’s enduring appeal. The following essay, which she wrote in the midst of dealing with a family tragedy, sums it up better than I ever could. —DW
Last Saturday, just before we put the finishing touches on the Seminole Heights issue, I wandered around my neighborhood, trying to make sure we captured as many photos, people and places as possible.
I peeked into some of the area’s one-of-a-kind, independent businesses, like Cappy’s, Cleanse, Cold Storage and The Front Porch Grill. I shared stories with new and old friends, took photos, and went home alighted by the positivity and warmth — a sense of community and belonging that Seminole Heights has never failed to give me in the 12 years I’ve lived in this Central Tampa neighborhood.
Of course, it’s not all warm fuzzies all the time. With a sense of community comes the attendant nuisances of gossip and bumping into an ex at Ella’s. Or just about everyone you know at the Nebraska Avenue Publix — usually when you have one or more of the following: unwashed hair, a chafed runny nose, you’re in an old shirt worn to bed the night before or sweat-stained exercise gear.
On a more serious note, we also deal with the bittersweet reminders of loved ones who’ve passed away. Their houses and hangouts become landmarks. I know of a special few.
Jeff Wood was a great drummer, and one of the kindest, hardest-working stand-up guys of all time. A few years before he died of brain cancer, he walked his basset hound to my apartment on Branch at the “Friendship Garden” to make sure I was okay.
The late great musician Mike O’Neill (Unrequited Loves, Monday Mornings, Nailbiters) — an honorary resident, who recorded music at Steve Seachrist’s Hiawatha Studios — arrived at my birthday party with a stack of CDs by local bands shortly before he committed suicide.
And as I deal with the sudden, unexpected death of Nick, my 53-year-old brother, I’m also reminded of a neighbor friend who was like a brother to me: Bob Wieboldt, who died just a little more than a year ago. He was my next-door neighbor a decade ago, an amiable fellow who lived in the main house of the North Street Compound. A bench is dedicated to him on the property.
He lived there so many years; he was like our grand poobah. He rarely left the house because of his chronic rheumatoid arthritis, so he more than inhabited the compound. It was almost like he was its soul.
I sometimes wonder if he haunts the place, holding his signature Busch can in a coozie. —JG
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