I’ve done quite a few races since I began running, but the most meaningful one was the Gasparilla 5K on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.
That’s because it was the first one I did with Cherie.1
Cherie and I worked together for a long time at the Tampa Tribune. If there’s one thing you learn as a journalist, it’s that the friends you make in the newsroom are the very best kind of friends.2
In those days, I was overweight. Every year, Cherie would ask if I had any interest in just walking the Gasparilla 5K, and every year I gave the same response: “Let me lose a little weight, and we can do it next year.”
Of course, we never did it.
Cherie and I both left the newsroom long before the Trib, like many other papers, went belly-up. She went into PR. I went into professional services and then detoured into marketing. We stayed in touch, but you know things aren’t the same when you’re not interacting every day.
In 2017, I started to make a concerted effort to get my weight under control. In 2018, down nearly 80 pounds, I started running. When I saw the announcement about the upcoming Gasparilla 5K in 2019, I called Cherie and proposed we go. She was ecstatic and said yes. I was proud of myself and incredibly excited.
Here we are in that first race:
Since then, we’ve done the Gasparilla 5K every year (except in 2021, because it was canceled due to Covid).
Two days ago, we were out on Bayshore again for this year’s race. Here are some pictures.
Running the Gasparilla 5K with Cherie is something I look forward to every year. It’s not just a race — it’s a tradition. The next one is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Get ready to run, Cherie!
_____ 1 My favorite Cherie story: When we first started working together, we were working on a dual-bylined story and I put her name down as “Cheri” at the top. She said “My name as an E” at the end. I said “are you sure?” She said, “I think I know how to spell my own name.” I was embarrassed at the time, but now it’s pretty darn funny.
2 Conversely, the assholes you meet in the newsroom are the very worst type of assholes.
Behind the scenes, I’m very opinionated and work hard to advance civil rights. In public, though, I’m a bit more guarded with my comments. I’ve been this way since my reporter days — I didn’t want anyone ever to doubt that I could be objective and fair, even though I didn’t side with many of the people and causes I was covering. Today, I’m much more vocal but still strive to appear impartial.
Right now, though, I’m not going to hold my tongue. Something happened in the Tampa City Council race on Monday that made me see red.
What’s the Background?
If you’re not a Tampeño, these bullet points will quickly get you up to speed.
In the District 3 race, incumbent Lynn Hurtak is being challenged by former state senator Janet Cruz.
Hurtak is an uncompromising progressive, which often puts her at odds with mayor Jane Castor.
Cruz is virtually the mayor’s mother-in-law. I say virtually because she’s the mother of Ana Cruz, who is our mayor’s partner. They’re not married.
Got it? Good.
On Monday night, both Hurtak and Cruz spoke at a Hillsborough County NAACP candidate forum. Hurtak, not surprisingly, spoke against some of the mayor’s policies and priorities, such as the proposal to convert wastewater into drinking water. Cruz lashed back by accusing Hurtak of being homophobic.
Let’s go to the tape. Go to the 38:20 timestamp:
First, Cruz says, “I don’t know what Hurtak’s problem is with my daughter and the mayor.” At this point, the booing starts. She then turns to Hurtak and says, “Do you have a problem with gay people?”
What. The. Fuck?
My jaw dropped when I saw this. I had to go back and watch again to make sure I didn’t mishear. I didn’t.
You can now forget about all the political stuff I mentioned above. That’s just background information so you can put things in context. If this were about something Hurtak said to Cruz, I’d be just as mad.
Let me explain why this is a massive slap in the face for all LGBTQ Tampeños and their allies.
There are very real homophobic monsters in Florida politics that are actively destroying the rights, liberties, and dignity of LGBTQ people. Just look at what’s happening in Tallahassee. Trans kids are being denied healthcare that’s not just affirming but also life-saving. Age-appropriate LGBTQ books are being stripped from school libraries. And hate speech skyrocketed after the passage of the draconian “Don’t Say Gay” law.
In an environment like this, accusing someone of homophobia just because they’re your political opponent isn’t just careless. It’s dangerous. It dismisses the danger of homophobia — it’s no longer a grave threat, just an idle insult.
Where’s the outrage?
What if Cruz had called Hurtak a child molester? Compared her to Hitler? Said she hated Blacks? Everyone would be up in arms, saying Cruz had crossed a line.
But lumping Hurtak in with Fred Phelps, Omar Mateen, Rick Santorum, Timothy Dolan — and a growing list of grotesque bigots in Tallahassee and Washington — somehow gets a pass?
But, Dave, What If …
Let me cut you off right there. You’re wondering if Hurtak deserved the comment because she is actually homophobic.
Not only is that not the case, but everyone knows it’s not. Hurtak is one of Tampa’s top advocates for LGBTQ equality. The first time I met her, she told me how she and her husband flew to New York to get married because they didn’t want to get married in a state where LGBTQ people couldn’t. I, of course, shared the story of how the Complimentary Spouse and I had to fly to California to get married. Lynn was endorsed by the LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus at both the state and local levels.
It’s bad enough to dismiss someone as a homophobe because you can’t defend your political position. But dismissing an ally as good at Hurtak makes it even worse. Hurtak has a problem with nepotism, not lesbianism.
FFS! Why Are You Making Such a Big Deal About This, Dave?
Someone has to make a big deal about this! Language has been used to attack and suppress LGBTQ people for too long, which only changes when we fight. If you say, “that’s so gay,” about something lame, I’ll push back. Gay is not a negative descriptor.
If you say “sexual preference” instead of “sexual orientation,” I’ll push back. Sexuality is not a preference.
If you say “gay lifestyle,” “special rights,” or “gay agenda,” — well, you’ve got the idea.
There are two other reasons why I make a big deal out of these things: because I can and because it makes a difference.
Whenever I think it’s time to shut up about LGBTQ issues, I come back to these two quotes:
The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.
There will always be LGBTQ people who can’t march, who can’t protest, who don’t live in places where they are safe enough to speak out. We need to speak for them.
Richie Jackson, “Gay Like Me”
Any Final Thoughts?
Don’t @ me to defend Cruz or disparage Hurtak. As I said above, the political shadiness isn’t what makes me mad, and I’d be just as upset if the candidates’ roles were reversed. What would a political campaign be without some drama, after all?
What still pisses me off, two days later, is the cavalier way one candidate casually — and wrongly — accused another of homophobia to score some political points. In 2023, this isn’t acceptable political rhetoric. It can cause real harm. It minimizes what’s really happening to LGBTQ people.
I don’t want anyone who doesn’t understand this on the City Council. Period.
How many pancakes did Dave eat today? Sadly, Dave forgot it was Pancake Day until he had already eaten dinner. Therefore, Dave hasn’t had any pancakes. Instead, he’s celebrating Pancake Day vicariously through Twitter.
My eyes light up when people tell me they’re headed to Madrid. The short time I lived there as a kid gave me a long-lasting and deep connection to the city. Like a true Madrileño, I root for Real Madrid and get very defensive when someone suggests Barcelona is a better city. (It’s not.) I still speak with a Castilian accent because that’s what I learned. (The fact that it makes me sound pretentious is just a bonus!)
Last fall, a friend said he and his husband were heading to Madrid. I started firing off suggestions of what to see and do. Then I sent about two dozen texts as more ideas popped into my head. It was a deluge of disorganized information — like giving someone jigsaw puzzle pieces with no picture to help them.
In December, someone else was headed to Madrid. My recommendations were once again a useless jumble of names and places. Not very helpful.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. A colleague told me he and his wife are headed to Madrid this spring, and again I offered to provide some suggestions. This time, I’m going to do it right by writing everything down and providing some structure. Not only is this a more useful approach, but I can use it again when people say they’re going to Madrid.
In true Daily Dave fashion, this list is more verbose than it needs to be. Hey, it’s my blog and I’ll write as much as I want to!
Eating and Drinking
I’m not a foodie, so you might want to check TripAdvisor for tips. Here are a few things I enjoy:
Casa Mingo: This is an old restaurant known for two things: cider and roast chicken. The cider is made in-house, and it’s unprocessed and unfiltered (which means it’s cloudy). The Complimentary Spouse and I both enjoyed the chicken, but he was a bigger fan of the cider than I was.
Iberian ham (jamón Ibérico): You’ll find this all over the place.
The Gourmet Experience at El Corte Inglés (Princesa location): This is a high-end food hall on the ninth floor of a department store. The food is expensive but good. The views are good too. (This El Corte Inglés location spans three buildings. I can’t remember which one the Gourmet Experience is in, but there will be signs.)
Gazpacho: The best gazpacho in the world is made by my mom, but you can’t go wrong ordering it in Madrid.
Sangria: You can get this practically everywhere, from cheap bars to high-end restaurants. I am a purist, so if it’s not red, it’s not real sangria. The word “sangria” comes from “sangre,” which means blood, so why the hell would it be white? Who has white blood?1
Churros y chocolate: Churros are small and folded, unlike the massive sticks you find in the U.S. The chocolate should be so thick that you can float your spoon on top. The most famous place is Chocolatería San Ginés, but there’s usually a line, and you can get good ones elsewhere.
Helpful tip: Download the Fork app. It’s like OpenTable for Europe.
El Prado: This is where Spanish art, history, and culture come together. We had many a field trip there when I was in school! Two paintings to check out:
Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez is the most famous and well-known painting here. I like it because it tells a story about palace life, instead of just being a typical royal portrait. My favorite detail is the mirror: That’s the king and queen, but if it were a real mirror, the viewer would be in the reflection.
Saturn Devouring His Son by Goya will haunt your dreams. It’s really, really, really fucked up. You’ve been warned.
Museo Reina Sofía: This is Madrid’s modern art museum. I think it’s right up there with MOMA, the Tate Modern, and Pompidou Center. Picasso’s Guernica is the most famous painting here. It’s huge and there are always crowds milling in front of it, so don’t expect to take a good picture.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum: Along with El Prado and Reina Sofia, this is part of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art. It’s not as impressive as the other two, in my opinion.
Museo Sorolla: Well outside the Golden Triangle, this is a small and interesting museum dedicated to Joaquin Sorolla. The building is his former home, which is nicely preserved and has a cute garden. If you visit, you can easily walk to the Salamanca neighborhood and check out Calle Serrano (which I’ll write about below).
Temple de Debod: This is an old Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt piece by piece in Madrid. (There’s no Elgin Marbles controversy here. It was part of a legitimate program to preserve historical monuments.) I haven’t been there at sunset, but I’m told it’s magical then.
The Royal Palace: There are more than 3,000 rooms, which makes me wonder if this happens.2
Plaza Mayor: This is a large historic square in the middle of the city. Since it’s a tourist magnet, you should probably skip the restaurants here. If you do a walking tour, this is probably where it will start.
Helpful tip: Do a free guided walking tour on your first day. You’ll hit all the historical sites around Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace. There are just too many historical things for me to list.
Casa de Campo: Casa de Campo is huge. Like, really huge. It’s twice the size of Central Park (I think). The area closest to the city center still feels natural and unspoiled, with lots of walking trails and great views of Madrid. Further away, you’ll find an amusement park, zoo, aquarium, soccer stadium, and more things like that. We went on a field trip to the amusement park, and all I remember is that the rides seemed worn out and creaky. I imagine they have been fixed up since then.
If you go to Casa de Campo, check out the area around the lake, which is directly east of the Royal Palace. It’s a great place to stroll around, do some people-watching, and even grab a bite to eat. You can also rent a kayak, which Britt and I would not do because we’re landlubbers.
El Retiro: Whereas Casa de Campo has size, El Retiro has charm. It’s still pretty darn big, but it feels more like a proper European city park, with formal gardens, sculptures, a colonnade, fountains, and such. There are also plenty of places to eat.3
Be sure to look for el Palacio de Cristal (The Glass Palace), which is built out of glass and cast iron. I imagine it was what the Crystal Palace in London looked like before it burned down. If you get there late in the afternoon, you’ll be able to see the sun streaming through the windows.
Fun side note: The Plaza de la Independencia is located at one of the entrances to el Retiro. There you’ll find two incredibly important and historically significant landmarks: the beautiful Puerto de Alcalá and my dad’s old office building.
A related fun side note: When I took my AP History test in [year redacted], the surprise essay question was about the Spanish Civil War and there was a picture of fighting at the Puerto de Alcalá. I aced the shit out of that essay.
Rio Madrid: When I lived in Madrid, I didn’t even know there was a river running through the city. It was completely blocked in by the M-30, which means my family drove near or around it too many times to count and I never noticed it.
Now, the river is hard to miss. That long stretch of the M-30 has been moved underground, opening both sides of the river to development. It’s now a beautiful linear park with lots of places to walk, run, rest, and have fun. Britt and I first explored Río Madrid on Segways, and went back later that day. We can’t wait to go back.
Quick note: The actual name of the river is Manzanares. And it’s really a stretch to call it a river. It’s more of a dried-up creek. Still, it’s an awesome area to visit.
Cool Neighborhoods and Streets
Chueca: It’s the gay neighborhood in Madrid. Hell, it might be the gayest neighborhood in the world — and I’ve been to San Francisco and Provincetown! There are so many Pride flags here that you’ll think a rainbow threw up. All that aside, it’s an awesome part of Madrid with great restaurants and bars. Check out Mercado San Antón, an indoor food market with restaurants and a cool bar.
Plaza del Sol: This is literally the center of Madrid. It’s kilometer zero for the entire highway system — all distances are measured from this spot. Look for:
The Oso y el Madroño statue: The image of a bear pawing at a strawberry tree has been associated with Madrid for centuries. By the way, guess what no longer lives in Madrid? Bears and strawberry trees.
The Tío Pepe sign: Tío Pepe is a brand of sherry. This sign has been there forever.
Lavapiés: This is a really cool neighborhood with an alternative vibe. It’s where you’ll find tons of street art. I highly recommend taking a guided street art walking tour.
Gran Vía: This is the main road in the middle of Madrid. The architecture is gorgeous. Britt and I usually try to stay somewhere on Gran Vía because it’s centrally located.
Calle de Preciados: This is a pedestrian street between Gran Vía and Plaza del Sol. A lot of other nice pedestrian streets branch off of it. You’ll find a huge El Corte Inglés department store here.
Calle Fuencanal: You’ll find a little bit of everything on this pedestrian shopping street. It’s often crowded, which makes for great people-watching. It branches off Gran Vía.
El Rastro: A massive flea market is held here every Sunday. Keep an eye on your wallet.
Calle Serrano: This is the ritziest shopping in street in Salamanca, the ritziest neighborhood. Basically, it’s the opposite of el Rastro. Here you’ll find Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry, and so on. It’s considered to be Madrid’s Fifth Avenue or Champs-Élysées, but I don’t think it’s particularly picturesque.
From Madrid, you can get nearly everywhere quickly on high-speed rail. Here are two places about 30 minutes away:
Toledo: This is a beautiful old city with a gothic cathedral (still in use) and a historic synagogue and mosque (not surprisingly, not in use). The synagogue is now a museum, and the mosque is a church. Toledo used to be known for making steel weapons, so everywhere you go, you can buy full-sized souvenir swords and knives. My brother bought a whole bunch of swords, and I have no idea where they are now.
Segovia: Come for the Roman aqueduct. Stay for the cathedral and fortress! Each of these would be worth a trip on its own, so seeing all three in a day is incredible.
Here’s a video of Segovia I made on the 30-minute train ride back to Madrid that took forever to make because I am an artiste.
If I had to recommend just one place, it would be Segovia. There are plenty of cities with cathedrals and castles in Spain, but only one has an aqueduct like this.
I hope you enjoyed my unnecessarily long Madrid travel guide. If you didn’t, you only have yourself to blame. You could have stopped reading at any point.
_____ 1 I’ve just learned that Antarctic blackfin icefish have white blood. Those guys are allowed to order white sangria. Humans, on the other hand, should be drinking red.
2 What, you thought I wouldn’t be able to work a Simpsons reference into this blog post? You underestimate my powers.
3 There’s also a statue of Satan somewhere in el Retiro, but I don’t remember where.
What is Dave wearing today? Dave is wearing his blue octopus button-down short sleeve shirt, tan shorts, and Stan Smiths.
What is making Dave happy today? When Dave gave his name at Starbucks this morning, the barista said that three people named Dave were already waiting for their drinks. So, Dave used the Complimentary Spouse’s pet name for him.
What is Dave’s inspirational thought for the day? Dave says never turn up an opportunity to sing the Love Boat theme song off-key to your doggos. Or your husband. Or a complete stranger.
What’s Dave’s fascination with the Love Boat theme song? When Dave taped morning business reports for the local news station (many years ago), he was often kept waiting because no one else felt he was a priority. One day he randomly started singing “Love, exciting and new / Come aboard / We’re expecting you” and that caught everyone’s attention. You see, Dave was mic’d up so everyone in the control room had to hear his tone-deaf caterwauling. Dave then announced he wouldn’t stop singing till they began taping. He was recording his report less than 30 seconds later.
What is Dave wearing today? Dave is wearing a grey polo shirt, tan pants, black Adidas shoes, and LGBTQ rainbow socks.
What is making Dave happy today? Dave and the Complimentary Spouse just finished a delightful dinner at Ella’s Folk Art Cafe. Dave got a burger and Britt got the shrimp and grits.
What is Dave’s inspirational thought for the day? Dave says true love is ordering fried green tomatoes as your side, even though you hate them, because you know your husband loves them and his entree doesn’t come with a side.
Why doesn’t Dave like fried green tomatoes? Dave thinks tomatoes should only be eaten as:
Soup (including gazpacho)
In any other form, tomatoes are too slimy and disgusting for human consumption.
What is Dave wearing today? Dave is wearing a pink Polo1 shirt, a lightweight blue Adidas training jacket, jeans, and Stan Smiths.
What is making Dave happy today? Dave just rewatched Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show and was blown away by the simplicity, precision, and artistry. For some reason, Dave didn’t appreciate it last night — it took a second viewing to sink in. Rihanna floating to the top of the stadium while singing “Diamonds”? Wow, just wow.2
What is Dave’s inspirational thought for the day? Dave would like to share this old tweet from Rihanna:
Does Dave have a theory about those things we keep shooting out of the sky? Dave believes they are refueling ships. They are bringing gefilte fish, Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, and black-and-white cookies to the brave Jews manning the space laser.
_____ 1 Polo is capitalized because it’s a real Polo brand polo shirt. It even has one of those little horseys.
2 Plus, as someone pointed out, it’s the most elaborate baby shower in history.
What is Dave wearing today? Dave is wearing a Chelsea T-shirt, grey shorts, and a black Adidas hoodie.
What is making Dave happy today? Dave and the doggos watched America’s biggest sporting event, the Puppy Bowl, earlier today. Linus was inspired to play tug-of-war with me. Now, there’s some football game or whatever on teevee.
What is Dave’s inspirational thought for today? Dave shares this quote from Mel Brooks:
You can struggle when things are bad if you have a sense of humor. Laughter is a protest scream against death, against the long goodbye. It’s a defense against unhappiness and depression.
Mel Brooks, “All About Me”
What does Dave think of this year’s Super Bowl commercials? Dave says meh.