Making friends with the Friends
Tampa Travel Blog› entry 1 of 3 › view all entries
After a boring research meeting, I hung around Tampa with Dustin and got a chance to take in all the sights. Dustin's a really interesting guy (and a great friend) and I find his life story fascinating. He grew up in rural Arkansas and was raised in a strict Baptist family. He never drank, danced, or listened to modern music. He became a Baptist minister, married young, and had his own church in the rural south. Until he came out that is. At that point, he got divorced, lost his job, and moved to Florida to live as a depraved gay man. Not really of course. He now teaches speech at a local college and is a Quaker.
Anyway, Dustin took myself and some friends I met at the research meeting out to an excellent little tapas restaurant with a live mariachi band and excellent seafood. Since he knew the waitress, we also ended up with a plethora of extremely rich desserts on top of the seemingly bottomless pitcher of sangria. He gave us the grand tour of Tampa, ending at the University of Florida where there was a high school talent show being held on the front steps of the Old Tampa Bay Hotel.
Once the meeting had ended, I rented a car for the day and drove out to Clearwater. I spent the majority of the day working on my Irish tan (aka sunburn) on the white sandy beaches. For lunch I had some fresh crab legs at a beachfront restaurant under a palm tree. I also took a dolphin cruise of the bay area, seeing a mother and baby dolphin swimming together and collecting shells on a sandbar island. Dustin then met me out there after he finished work and we went to his favorite Clearwater restaurant, Frenchie's, for a grouper sandwich while watching the sunset.
We headed back to Tampa, then hopped in the car and picked up a friend of his from work. The three of us went to Ybor for dinner and some local beer.
The next morning, we headed to an old Cuban restaurant for some Cuban sandwiches. Dustin and I headed over to Busch Gardens since he had free passes for both of us. We spent most of the day seeing the animals from the skyride, riding nearly all of the rollercoasters, and discussing his woeful inexperience with cheese curds and food on a stick. We were pretty exhausted by the end of the day, so we headed back to his place. His co-worker/neighbor was having a retirement party that evening, so we walked over to their amazing house and enjoyed the potluck including locally made key lime pie. But we were both so tired, we headed out early and crashed for the night.
Next morning, we went to a Friends meeting which is essentially a Quaker religious service. It was my first experience with Quakers and rather interesting. We went into this tiny house which had converted its living room into a meetinghouse with two sections of pews set up in rows to face each other. People said hi to each other, than almost all at once sat down and were completely silent for at least half an hour, even the children. Then suddenly someone started talking about an event that happened to them that week and how they related that to their faith. It was silent again, but on occasion someone would tell a short little story. Then they made some announcements and everyone walked into the kitchen for coffees and snacks. A number of us then headed to a riverside restaurant for seafood and drinks as we discussed what it meant to be a Quaker and their lives.
Sadly, it was the end of my trip already. Dustin made a quick pit-stop at a small local Cuban place to pick up a Cuban sandwich and yuca for the plane and drove me to the airport.