Fave Fotos: Places That Aren’t There Anymore

Fave Fotos: Places That Aren’t There Anymore

In a posting back on June 19th, I featured the well-known local spot Yellow Dog Eats in one of my reviews. I like the place. A lot. Unique Eatery in Gotha is how the header begins, if you’d like to check it out. And yes, YDE truly does feature Fine Food and a Funky Feel. God, I can sure come up with cool titles, n’est-ce pas?

I just realized that one of the photos I took before the recent renovation of the outside turned out well. It also occurred to me that this scene is gone forever now that the renovations are complete.

So here it is. There are so many things all around Central Florida that have gone away, or in this case, have changed so thoroughly that a photo from not-so-long ago can never be repeated. Of course, that could be said about any photo; every moment in time and the experience of being in this place are unique and unrepeatable.

But when a well-known, public place is significantly changed or “goes away”, it can be striking to think that recapturing it in your retina or as a photograph is not even possible.

So here’s a pic from approximately two years ago of the patio area at YDE that we’ll never see again. The way the place looks now, post-renovation, is just fine. It functions better. (Getting rained on is no fun, even if you’re digging the scene around you.) But the look before was very cool. And except for going through my photos, I’ll never “see” it again.

Bulldog Ben, remembering when

Photo credit: Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Jeff Willey and Those Smokin’ Torps Are Killin’ It in Central Florida

Jeff Willey and Those Smokin’ Torps Are Killin’ It in Central Florida

Jeff and his top-flight band The Smokin’ Torpedoes are well-known to lovers of live music here in Central Florida. Jeff is very good at his craft. By that, I don’t mean only the musical side; he’s a very capable promoter and has shown over and over that he’s got the mojo to plan it, promote it, sing it and play it and I love to watch him do it. All of it.

I first met Jeff back in 2004 when ten or so blues-focused musicians and supporters met to talk about the blues music we love so well and explore ways to help the blues thrive in Central Florida. Those early days at Cafe Annie were so much fun. Here’s a minor miracle for you: the memories of some of those jams way back when are still very vivid in my fast-failing, whiskey-soaked brain today.

The upshot of all of that was the founding of the Orange Blossom Blues Society. The OBBS is still trying to carry on its mission to “Preserve, Promote and Present” the blues in our part of the Sunshine State. Being a part of that was an awesome thing. And still is.

One of the things that made that time so good and satisfying as I look back is that it’s how I met some of the local blues musicians and supporters who have become my good friends over the last twelve years. I will be posting soon with more about the effort to get the blues crowd in and around Orlando to link up and pull in the same direction. There were so many people who put their “time and treasure” into that effort. And the OBBS is still going strong twelve years later.

One other thing about our merry band of blusers here in Central Florida: The showcase event for the OBBS is the local or first round of the International Blues Competition and that is happening tomorrow, Sunday August 7th, beginning at 2 PM. Details here.

I had to mention the early days of the OBBS as that’s how my path crossed with Jeff’s originally. My main reason for putting together this more modest post is simply to spotlight Mr. Willey and those Smokin’ Torps who have played a large role in moving the Central Florida blues scene forward. The line up has changed, has changed more than once. Some of those Smokin’ Torps have come and gone. And come again. But their brand of authentic, classic, semi-laid back blues has been consistently good and has made them one of the best damn bands anywhere in Florida.

The Torps are an ambitious, hard-workin’ band. I follow their bookings and catch them playing out every chance I get. If you’d like to have a look at their calendar, just follow this link.

If you’re familiar with Jeff Willey and those Smokin’ Torps he fronts, you don’t need Ol’ Bulldog here to tell you how good they are. If you’re not familiar with them, you should be! Have a look at the calendar and catch one of their shows soon; you’ll be mighty glad you did.


“Bulldog Ben” Basile


Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile



How Much Fun are Zip Lines, Anyway?

How Much Fun are Zip Lines, Anyway?

Bulldog loves to zip. Only done it three times but I’m going again when I get the chance. I’ve done the one at The Central Florida Zoo. It’s good, but too many rope ladders and assorted obstacles between zips. Most of the zippers are kids; I was, without a doubt, the oldest dude on the course that afternoon. It was exhausting. Fun and exhausting.

The TreeUmph Adventure course in Bradenton is fun. The final zip there is a doozie! Had a good time that day; the crew was very helpful and friendly. I would go back, but I may never be in that part of the Sunshine State again.

The one at Gatorland Zoo here in Central Florida is my fave, without a doubt. Four zips, but much higher than most and not too many rope ladders to get to the good parts! And their crew rocks! The best zip experience I’ve ever had, without a doubt. I am going back, perhaps on the next vacation.

If you’ve never zipped, give it a try. I had a ball. I’ve really enjoyed my three times jumping out of an airplane, too. That will be the subject of another post. Zipping comes close to the thrill of skydiving and it’s much easier on the pocketbook.


Confirmed zipper Bulldog Ben


Something Tells Me It’s All Happening at the Zoo

Something Tells Me It’s All Happening at the Zoo

Bulldog really loves going to the Zoo. Pretty much any zoo. I’ve had annual passes to two zoos around here. That would be the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford and the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne. I love them both, can’t wait for the opening of the Bear Exhibit at the CFZ. They’re still lining up funding for that one.

I think the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne is very cool. They have an advantage over their counterpart in Sanford, as they sit on a much bigger tract of land. By the way, both of those fine zoos do have zip lines; it’s a good idea to give folks something else to do when visiting a zoological park.

The photo I’m featuring here is from the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. I loved that one, though my visit was brief; I had a plane to catch. The planets–and the flamingos–lined up for me when I pointed my camera this time. I thinks it’s ironic that the flamingo foto I love best came, not from a zoo here in the Sunshine State, but from one in Texas. Yeah, that tickles my funny bone.


Zoo lover Bulldog Ben in Orlando


Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile


Strict Voter ID Law in NC Overturned by Appeals Court

A decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit found that North Carolina’s 2012 law requiring a picture ID at the polls is unconstitutional. The law took away a week of early voting as well.

Seventeen states in all have enacted laws restricting voting since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Right Act in 2013. And, in every case, the Republican legislators who pushed through the changes said it was all about preventing voter fraud and most certainly was not about suppressing voter turnout among minorities. They were lying. And it didn’t take long for the Appeals Court for the 4th Circuit to figure that out.

The NAACP–which brought the suit–and the U.S. Justice Dept were pleased with the ruling. Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, was not.

Those who actually want Americans to be able vote are hopeful that the ruling may bode well for lawsuits pending in other circuits against similar state laws. Suits are underway now in Virginia and Texas among others. Of course, it may never be known whether today’s ruling will have any effect; one can only hope.

It certainly will have an effect on voters who wish to vote on November 8th but do not have a Driver’s License. It will be an unabashedly good thing for people who were hoping to vote early.

Voting is a precious right in American and one upon which the health of our democracy depends. And it’s a very good thing that appeals courts are making it tougher for state legislatures to deny or limit that right.

To read an in-depth article about today’s Appeals Court decision, follow this link.

Former UCF Ace Shelby Turnier Takes a Tough Loss

Former UCF Ace Shelby Turnier Takes a Tough Loss

If you’re from Central Florida and follow UCF sports–softball in particular–you almost certainly have heard of pitcher Shelby Turnier. She was a first team All American in her junior season, 2015, after having the lowest ERA in the nation. Yes, an ERA of 0.74 is crazy-good.

More than good enough to earn Shelby a roster spot on the Chicago Bandits, one of the more competitive teams in the NPF. They took her in the draft last year at no. 11 overall. That is the highest draft pick in the history of UCF softball.

There are six teams in the NPF and the top four go to the play-offs each year. At the time of this writing, the Bandits are in fourth place and would make it in if the season ended today. They are the defending champs; the Bandits are not shining as brightly in the 2016 campaign as they did last time out. They’ve had trouble coming up with clutch hits this year. And that problem plagued them last night in their game with the Akron Racers.

Shelby was in fine form and her five hit, one run effort would have easily won on most nights. But Racer DH Ashley Thomas went yard on Shelby in the sixth and that was all it took. She fanned eight hitters against the Racers and showed once again that she’s one of the NPF’s best rookie pitchers. This loss dropped her to 4-4 on the year, but I’d like the record to show that this one-run outing in six complete innings did lower her ERA is spite of taking the “L”.

Jason Lowenthal pens those fine features about Bandits softball. To see his good and thorough write up on last night’s contest, follow this link.

I’ve not had too much to say about sports here on da bulldog blog so far. But I’m a major sports fan, and love softball particularly. I’ll have a whole lot more to say about sports moving forward.


“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Photo credit: Benjamin Lawrence Basile


Ruby Tuesday on University Blvd has amazing…

Ruby Tuesday on University Blvd has amazing…

Yes, Ruby Tuesday has amazing brussels sprouts. But that’s just one reason to visit.

I stopped in at the location on University Blvd not long ago after watching the Knights play softball. The game went well and so did the post-game dinner.

An amazing salad bar is one of the things for which R.T. is well-known. I almost never pass on that; it’s a good compliment for just about anything on their menu. The variety is quite impressive; it’s one of the reasons that Ruby Tuesday in on my “A List” as far as chain eateries are concerned.

On this evening, I thought I’d try the Buffalo Sliders; imagine Krystal Burgers but with medallions of Buffalo-style chicken instead of ground beef. I liked ’em. May do that again.

Now about those brussels sprouts.

Not sure I can do justice to this unique and delectable dish, but here goes: brussels sprouts, topped with cheese and bread crumbs, with way too much butter and finished under the broiler. I loved it. I really like brussels sprouts. And even if you don’t, you’d like these. I promise.

In addition to serving stuff my taste buds have never been lucky enough to sample, the service at this location was good. When dining solo, I generally take a seat at the bar. The bartender took good care of me, I loved my dinner and the beer selection; there was live baseball and ESPN Sports Center on the flat screens. What more could you ask for?

This location of Ruby Tuesday can be found at 11401 University Blvd in Orlando.

Hillary Makes History

July 26, 2016

There I was, in my living room, TV tray and all, watching Hillary make history. My bachelor’s feast of hot dogs–all beef, of course–and chips was well-suited for the occasion. My party–the Democratic Party of the United States–had just nominated Hillary Clinton to face Donald Drumpf in November. And although it’s true that Hill and Bill are actually one-percenters, they well understand that we cannot move forward with corporations and their buddies in the upper brackets always getting the lion’s share of everything.

There’s so much to like about Hillary and about the Democratic platform in this election. One of the planks of the platform that I am 100% behind is the move to do something about the Citizens United SCOTUS decision. That’s got to happen. Getting the money–dark money, in particular–out of American politics should be priority one. So there I was, parked in front of the tube with my working man’s dinner, watching my fellow Dems officially nominate Hillary to run.

It was a watershed moment; it’s not about the first woman President as much as it is about ordinary Americans having a leader who will have their back. Yes, I know Mrs. Clinton has had a cozy relationship with Wall Street. But what was true about Barack Obama is true of her as well; they’re not leaving for work each day with their brown bag lunch, but they “get” working people and will fight to make sure they’re not left behind.

Of course, getting anything accomplished that actually benefits working people will not be easy. It’s that Mission Impossible kind of stuff, particularly when you consider how hard Republican pols work to thwart any move that would benefit the 99%. It’s not hard to see how thoroughly-committed they are to tilting the proverbial playing field. Their steadfast opposition to raising the Federal minimum wage is a case in point. That certainly could be the subject of another post. But not tonight…

Continuing on this path of funneling all the good stuff to those who need it least is not a good strategy. That trickle-down bullshit has been discredited again and again. Didn’t work in the eighties when David Stockman and King Ronnie first foisted it on the American people, didn’t work when George W. Bush was President and will not work now. But I’m certain that Hillary is going to give it her best shot. It’s quite possible that, if elected, she will face the same level of obstruction that has plagued President Obama from day one; I’m not hopeful about ultimate success, but I’m sure she’s ready for that fight.

There is so much one could say as we reflect upon this historic moment; journos and pundits are laboring mightily at that task now as the Convention winds down and we hurtle headlong into the really gritty part of this election. For my part, I just want to remember that as I watch events unfold in this, my twelfth Presidential election, we could be taking in a singular event in our shared history. I fervently hope that Hillary will be our first woman President; I think we’re going to make it happen. It may well be that others will follow in her footsteps. But whether that’s how it unfolds or not, I’m certain that the election of 2016 will have moments–many moments–the like of which we’ll never see again.

No more convention-watching and blogging for me tonight. For a more in-depth look at the story of Hillary’s ground-breaking nomination, follow this link.

Hillary Taps Virginia Senator Tim Kaine!

Hillary Taps Virginia Senator Tim Kaine!

I got an email from Hillary today. Everybody’s heard the news by now, but we donors and supporters got the scoop before the media… Well, about 30 seconds before, but that counts! Flashes big grin…

Sen. Tim Kaine is a very able public servant. This former Governor of the State of Virginia is a man of vast experience and was an excellent choice. Virginia is a swing state, this pick makes sense strategically. And unlike Sen. Warren, his successor in the Senate will be chosen by a Democratic Governor.

The Ochre Ogre will not set foot in The White House. Without a doubt, this election is going to be one for the ages.  Hillary’s ready. Tim’s ready. So am I.

To read a good and detailed feature on Sen. Kaine joining the Democratic ticket, follow this link.


Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile