SEARCHING FOR STANLEY
This past weekend I had a chance to wander down by Tampa’s Bayshore Blvd. I put myself in the usual magical state of conception and cried out to the heavens, “show me a sign”.
Just when I thought it would be another ordinary day of walking, wandering and pressing the button, I did indeed stumble upon a sign. I had been strolling among the gorgeous Tampa Bay mansions, and right there on one of the front lawns appeared my mission, like Moses finding the burning bush. The sign on the lawn read, “Stanley Please Come Home”.
I stood awestruck in front of this beautiful home and wondered who exactly was Stanley? Why did he leave? Was he a person or a pet? Who were these people in the home? Did they do something to Stanley to make him leave? Perhaps he’s an elderly person with dementia who had gotten lost?
Maybe he’s a child who resented his parents demand to brush his teeth before bed, and after being forced to write 250 times, “I must brush my teeth before bed”, he conspired to run away from home the next morning. Perhaps Stanley is a young romantic, whose girlfriend moved out-of-town, and he left town in pursuit of her?
Regardless of who Stanley is, on this day, I decided to walk and shoot and look for Stanley and maybe find him and bring him home.
I crossed the street and walked along the Bay Blvd. looking for clues as to where Stanley may have gone. I thought of asking some local folks if they knew Stanley and if they had seen him.
I tried to interrupt a jogger with my inquiry to no avail. Then I stopped a few cyclists with the same question, “Excuse me sir, have you seen Stanley? There’s a house back there who’s looking for him and wants him to come home.” They gave me a funny look and got back on their bikes and rode off.
Frustrated, I decided to start knocking on doors. The first house I came to belonged to Lenny and Bill. They were a married couple who had made their fortune up north, by buying old houses and restoring them.
I knocked on their door, Lenny answered, a tall, heavy balding man in his 60s. “May I help you?” he said. “Yes, I’m sorry to disturb you but I’m looking for Stanley, is he here?” Lenny smiled, took a stylish puff off his vapor cigarette and said, “… we have no Stanleys here, but will a Lenny or Bill do?”
The next house I went to belonged to Tim and Crystal. Long ago he was a poor salesman selling accounting services till one day he decided to leapfrog ahead of the pack. He planned a dinner, invited the wealthiest people in town, and pitched them his idea to start a new kind of accounting company.
To Tim’s amazement, they all love the idea and together committed to give him several million dollars to start his new company. When he went to pay the $1200 check, his credit card was declined, and right on the verge of wealth and impoverished embarrassment, he used his silver tongue to delay the payment till his guests left.
Tim came back the next day, paid the check, eventually received his seed capital and off he went to become one of the wealthiest men in the state. Over time, power would corrupt him absolutely, he would have several affairs with beautiful sensuous women, till he met the best of the best and decided to end it all with one. Her name was Crystal. He left his wife and his life for her, and bought a fresh start in Tampa.
I knocked on their door…Crystal answered in a soft looking tight T-shirt, bra-less, wild wavy hair, fat juicy lips, Greek piercing eyes, and tight short shorts…bare feet beautifully pedicured. “Hello, can I help you?” she seduced. “Yes, I’m looking for Stanley. Apparently he lives at a house down the street and they have a sign out in front on the lawn; practically begging for him to come home. Have you seen him?”
She shifted her weight with a cruel jiggle as she prepared her reply. Crystal squinted and squirted out the sexiest dimpled smile while using her breath to say, “…well… my husband is not here now, and there’s no one named Stanley that lives here, but if you’d like to come in, we can have a drink and discuss where he might be hiding.”
I began to sweat as the temperature by the Bay started to rise. I politely declined wanting my mission to find Stanley not to be distracted… even by a sexy Greek siren. So on to the next house I went.
The next house I came to was owned by a beautiful older Russian woman whose husband had passed away many years ago. He was a prominent attorney in Tampa and left her well off after his demise. When she was younger, she use to be a concert pianist and had baby grand pianos in almost ever large room of her home.
Furthermore, throughout her house, were extravagant collectible paintings on the walls and rare nude sculptures on pedestals sprinkled throughout the hallways. As I approached her front door, I could hear Tchaikovsky pounded on the keys, spilling out her open windows.
My knock stopped the music and she marched to the door opening it in a huff, sweaty, beautiful high cheekbones, hard mascara outlining intense eyes, cleavage in my face, and in a thick deep accent she rolled out, “Yes? May I help you?” I stared for a second and swallowed, “umm… yes, one of your neighbors apparently has lost someone named Stanley and I’m trying to help them find him. Have you seen him?”
She smiled, twinkled her Georgian baby blues and invited me in for wine and cheese. My view was fixated between her breasts, watching the sweat drip down toward her belly; I’m guessing it came from playing the piano so violently. Though she seemed like an extraordinary person, I politely declined and returned to my journey.
The last house I went to was owned by Marty and Louise, two high school sweethearts who grew old together. Marty’s parents supplied chemicals to photography labs before everything went digital. Louise’s grandfather had apparently invented one of the synthetic sweeteners found in almost every diet food.
I stood in awe of their home and marveled at the difference between their usual living quarters, and the typical cinder block or cracker shack home found commonly around Florida. I opened the beautiful cast iron gate, leaped on their porch and knocked on their door.
A slender handsome man, 60s, with a full head of gray hair, opened the door to greet me. “May I help you?” he grinned with country club charm. “Yes, I’m helping one of your neighbors find someone named Stanley. I’m taking the initiative to knock on a few doors to see if I can help them find him.”
He smiled and asked me how many houses I had been to before his. He also suggested that maybe Stanley was a dog or cat and expressed sadness about the loss of anyone’s pet. He wished me luck and off I went to wrap up my search.
I suppose Stanley could be a dog or cat. In fact… I quickly realized I had no idea who or what Stanley was. I decided to search the nearby alleys of Hyde Park for animals. I walked up and down the alleys like a diligent pet owner, shouting, “Stanley! Stanley! Are you out here! Stanley… your parents are worried about you. Stanley come home… please come home!”
I passed beautiful porches with white columns and matching white rocking chairs. I looked up through tropical trees as the sun beat down on me. I passed beautiful sculptures hidden in the back yards of these large mansions. Even the mold growing on trashed wooden doors seemed affluent and outstanding.
The only living thing back in those alleys was a squirrel who bravely looked down at me as I walked past. “You’re name wouldn’t happen to be Stanley would it?” The fuzzy little rodent just stared at me like I was nuts… then twirled its bushy tail and ran off.
Tired from hunting through bright alleys and sweating with the rich and famous, I popped off the residential blocks and walked back across the street to the Bay. I walked and questioned a few more passers-by, then headed back to the house where my mission began.
On the way back to the house, there was a sleeping man sitting on a bench with his head resting on a suitcase. Could it be?! Could this be Stanley? I walked up behind him and shouted, “Stanley! Is that you? Your people are looking for you. You should go home… Stanley! Wake up…”
He didn’t move, he didn’t wake and he didn’t respond. Standing near this guy, I could look over and see the house where it all began, and went back across the street to stare at the sign again, to see if maybe there was a clue that I might have missed.
As I stood there and stared at the sign, I watched the flag above it wave in the wind. The picture on the flag looked somewhat familiar so I waited for the wind to flip it around in order for me to get a good look at it. Sure enough a gust blew off the bay and the flag flipped around and I could see the bright blue flag showing the moniker of lightning.
Suddenly I realized that the flag was waving the logo of the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Team. Then I looked again at the sign and wondered if maybe Stanley was a fan of the hockey team and maybe the image of the lightning was intended to spark a familiar memory if Stanley was to walk by.
Defeated, I returned to the Camaro and blasted the air conditioning till it got cool. I turned the radio on and prepared to head home without ever knowing what would become of Stanley.
Just then, the DJ came on the radio warning people not to drive around the Amalie Arena that afternoon as there was a big party planned to celebrate the upcoming game for the Tampa Bay Lighting Hockey Team, and traffic was going to be horrific. The DJ continued to talk about the hockey team and how they were in the championship finals and it would be a great win for the team that was playing that night.
Miraculously at the end of his break and before the DJ played his next song… he shouted out, “come on everyone, let’s meet out at the Amalie Arena and cheer on our team, so that the Tampa Bay Lightening will bring home the Stanley Cup once again.”