My new book, Alligators in B-Flat: Improbable Tales from the Files of Real Florida is now available in Hardcover, Paperback and Kindle
“Alligators in B-Flat” is the title story of my latest book and also the name of the first video Maurice Rivenbark and I did together. This work was inspired by a 2007 National Public Radio Story about “B-Flat — nature’s favorite musical note.’’ I convinced Bill Mickelsen, the principal tuba player from Tampa Bay’s Florida Orchestra, to drive with me in Gatorland in Orlando to try an experiment. You’ll have to read the story and watch this famous video to find out what happened!
My final column with the Tampa Bay Times. October 2014
When I started at the Miami News in 1966, I remember that reporters typed their stories with two fingers on cheap paper. If they needed to move paragraphs around, they did so with scissors and glue. They impaled finished stories on metal spikes for a psychopathic editor who forbade talking until sunrise.The few female reporters wrote for the “women’s section.” I remember only one reporter of color. Everybody seemed destined for lung cancer; occasionally a wastepaper basket burst into flame from hot ash.
Friday, January 28, 2011
CITRA — They arrive in the rain to buy oranges, bags of them, and maybe a quart of juice, fresh-squeezed. At North Florida’s last honest-to-God citrus stand, they drive up in cars bearing license plates from Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other Yankee states where orange-laden trees are only a winter’s dream.
At the Orange Shop, established 75 years ago in Marion County, time has tried to stand still. Once there were dozens of similar mom-and-pop citrus shops and packinghouses standing like dominoes up and down the county’s major road, U.S. 301. There were citrus trees by the thousands and grizzled men on wooden ladders plucking oranges. There were freezes, too, but when the ice thawed the farmers always replanted.
Bradley’s Country Store, located on a lonely two-lane canopy road north of Tallahassee, is among Florida’s magical places. Frank Bradley’s grandmother, Mary Bradley, began selling sausage out her back window in 1910. By 1927 her son L.E. Bradley had added the gristmill and store. Bradley’s Country Store is still going strong. As I write this, Frank is still grinding corn, slaughtering hogs and selling sausage on the premises. His daughter, known as Miss Jan to everyone in the community, runs the old-fashioned store. Don’t visit without an appetite and an ice-chest to haul your edibles home. My longtime friend Maurice Rivenbark shot and produced this video when we were both working for the Tampa Bay Times. The story is in “Alligators in B-Flat.’’
By JEFF KLINKENBERG Published September 5, 2004
OCALA — When I was a boy, growing up in Miami, we often drove across MacArthur Causeway on our way to the beach. Near Biscayne Boulevard, on the side of a downtown building, was the biggest billboard I had ever seen. On the billboard, a dog was pulling down the bathing trunks of a little girl in pigtails.
Eisenhower was still president, and everybody was repressed except maybe those finger-snapping, reefer-smoking, free-sex beatniks in Greenwich Village, so it was shocking to be able to look out the window of our Nash Rambler and see an innocent little girl’s butt cheeks being exposed by a rude dog for all the world to see.
“Don’t be a pale face,” said the letters on the sign. “Use Coppertone.”
My dad loved fishing for bream and for bass in the Everglades. We often visited Mack’s Fish Camp when I was growing up. Years later, as an adult, I’d stop by to chat with the colorful Grandma Nelle Jones about what was biting. Imagine my surprise when I found out her twin grandsons — tough Gladesmen — were still running the Old-Florida show. My story about this Everglades institution is in the book “Alligators in B-Flat.’’ I consider this video one of Maurice Rivenbark’s best.
For years, when I rode with the bike club in St. Petersburg, I pedaled next to Bill Hansbury, a friendly but profane senior athlete, who always seemed interesting yet intimidating. Bill’s tragedy, which I document in “Alligators in B-Flat,’’ turned out not to be a tragedy. It turned out to be blessing, not only to Bill but to a hurting little boy. I still can’t watch Maurice Rivenbark’s video with dry eyes.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 11:49am
The bride wore a long white dress and muddy boots. She yelled “HOOTEEHOO!”
Waiting for her in the distance, the groom hollered “HOOTEEHOO!” back. She homed in on his shout and sloshed toward him through the cathedral of cypress trees and cypress knees, ferns and royal palms that grew in the black water.
Michael Scott Owen and Donna Ann Glann-Smyth were going to exchange vows in the holiest place they know, a primeval Florida swamp where alligators and cottonmouths go with the territory.