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Living It Up in the Florida Sunshine

By Bruce Schoenfeld

The last time I was in Florida. I kissed a girl named Molly and she cried. The time before that it rained.

But Cambridge during Spring Break means wasting time at the Coop, and lots of pinball. I've never kissed anyone at the Coop, and you can't get a tan playing pinball. Besides, whoever heard of the traditional Spring Pilgrimage to Elsie's?

So, it's Florida time again, and that means the Third Annual Crimson Sports Cube guide to the Sunshine State. Last year we told you all about where to go and how to get there. Copies of that issue are available, care of me, for one dollar.

But a year older means a year wiser, so you can find your way down yourself this time. Instead, what follows are ten things to do when (a) You can't face another day at the beach because you're starting to look like Fernando Valenzuela, (b) Raindrops are failing on your head, or (c) You just don't feel like spending your Spring Break lying on a towel next to all of those people you thought you left behind.

Ten Things To Do In Florida

1. The Busch Gardens Hospitality House, Tampa.

The uncool come her for free beer. The experienced Florida traveller drinks the free beer but stays for the belly dancers and the parrot show. Busch Gardens is everything Disney World should be minus the crunching crowds, Grumpy, Sleepy and Doc. For those of you who have never been to Tampa, that water is Tampa Bay and out there is the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, the weather is nicer than Miami. Have a Dreamsicle from the guy with the cart and enjoy.

2. The Polk County Championship, Polk County.

Forgive me if you live in Mulberry or West Frostproof, but there are only two towns of note in Polk County. Both happen to be the Spring Training bases for major league ballclubs, however, so over the years the Red Sox (Winter Haven) Tigers (Lakeland) Spring series has developed into a rivalry--albeit one of the most laid-back rivalries in the history of sports. Actually, nobody cares who wins except for a few Detroit sportswriters looking for an angle and the actual residents of Polk County, but both teams promise to be interesting this year and if you have time for just one ballgame, this should be it. The action begins in Lakeland on Friday night at 7:30 and the make-up will be held in Winter Haven on Monday afternoon. Come watch Mark Fidrych sit on the bench and decide who to root for.

3. Jimmy Buffet Concert, Lakeland.

You'll have to violate Natural Law and leave the Tigers game early for this one but hearing the Messiah of the Palm Trees on his own stomping ground is worth it. If you haven't bought the new album yet, do so now because he will play almost all of it. The best part is when, the crowd joins on all of the old favorites Margaritaville." Cheeseburger in Paradise" and "Come Monday," and the cult Classic. "Why Don't We Get Drunk (And Screw)." Bullet at the Orpheum here two years ago was great, in his own backyard he'll be incredible. Make sure to get there while there's still beer, and when he asks everybody what they want to hear near the end yell "migration" because it's a great song.

4. Rosie O'Grady's, Orlando

Imagine a gigantic Father's with wood paneling and ten million people. Imagine three bands playing at one time; rock pop and neo-John Denver Imagine every college student south of Boston and north of The Boston crammed into one. Tangerine Bowl sized room, and you have Central Florida's largest watering hole. This place is a variation on the old good news had news joke. The good news is that there are plenty of beautiful girls here. The bad news is that they're with the Pitt football team. The good news is that the drinks are big, tasty and would cost about four dollars up North. The bad news is that they cost five dollars here. The good news is that anyone who passes through Orlando is bound to come here sooner or later. The bad news is that far too many people pass through Orlando.

5. Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. St. Augustine.

America's oldest city is the site of one of its strangest attractions, a garish attempt to capitalize on the successful cartoon series and paperback books by the same name. Thing is, it works. There is something awe-inspiring about seeing the heaviest living man sitting outside on a chair the size of a Mazda. How about a wax representation of a man with three eyes? Don't knock it til you've seen it, or the shrunken heads, either. While you're in the area, check out Fort Castillo a quizzical structure with eight-foot thick walls made out of coquina shells.

6. Miami Jai-Alai, Miami.

If you have never seen Jai-Alai, you have to go because it is simply the most exciting sport in the country, whether you bet or not. If you have seen it--in Bridgeport or Hartford or wherever--then you have to go because New England Jai-Alai is to Florida Jai-Alai what the Freshman Union is to Locke-Ober's. The Babe Ruth of the sport, Churruca, retired in a tearful ceremony last year, but legends like Calzacorta. Joey, Zulaica and Recalde are still around. If you do bet, stick to the quiniela box, and don't forget the mandatory pre-game dinner in Coconut Grove.

7. The Seadrift Bar. St. Petersburg Beach

Looking for some peace and quiet? Cross Boca Ciega Bay to St. Petersburg Beach, take a left at the Don Cesar hotel (the big pink thing) and drive about four miles down Pass-A-Grille Way. There on your left, is The Seadrift. Break through the cobwebs and walk inside Look empty? It should. They haven't had a paying customer in months. The pinball machines are the old pachinko kind, the beer on tap is Rheingold, and the walls are decorated with old Washington Senators pennants. If you've had enought of tourists no, make that any kind of people and you want to settle down with a cold beer and listen to the latest hits ("The Night Chicago Died." "Disco Duck") on the penny juke box, this is the place. Draw designs in the dust on the table. Talk as loud as you like, the bartender won't mind. He's dead Has been for days. Time is easy at The Seadrift, the least active commercial establishment in Florida.

8. The Winter Park Art Festival, Winter Park.

This yearly event will just be winding down by the time you hit the state, so hurry or you'll miss it. What? You don't want to look at the artistic output of the Winter Park Public School System? Aaaah, you miss the point. Ladies and Gentlemen, in one hour of the Winter Park Art Festival you will see more gorgeous specimens of the opposite sex than in your entire college career to date. It's guaranteed--look on the back of the package. If you can stand close contact with five hundred formless paintings and sculptures, you are in for the artistic experience of your life. Notice the marvelous interplay between form and meaning in those blue eyes in the corner.

9. The Annual Delta Gamma Sorority Party, Gainesville.

And you thought Dartmouth was a party school! Down here, they dispense with kegs and drink beer straight from the truck. Sorority Row (and Fraternity Row for the gals) at the University of Florida is one of the state's biggest attractions, especially on a Saturday night in early Spring. Just like the Art Festival, except you get to touch and feel. If you can't make it to Gainesville, try the Tom Jones Party at Florida State in Tallahassee or any party any night at the University of Miami.

10. Molly's house, Pensacola. (Address available upon request).

Just don't tell her I sent you.

There you have it. Ten things to do in Florida besides-lay in the sun. Just clip the list out, and put it away until you wake up one morning in Aunt Frieda's condo and the rain is playing bongos on the roof. While everyone else heads for Neiman Marcus and the Parrot Jungle, you'll know the esoteric spots--the places to go if you crave a Rheingold on top.

Don't be shy. The whole idea of Florida is to go crazy and do things you wouldn't ordinarily do. Just remember that you'll be sprawled out me a towel by the River all Spring but when's the next chance you'll get to see a shrunken head? So do some different things, see some different sights...and say hello to Molly for me. See you to Margaritaville sports.

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