June 07, 2004



They say it doesn't snow in Florida. That it doesn't get cold enough. It's what draws "snowbirds" south to live in our sunny climes.

And yet two days before Christmas in 1979, the state of Florida was pounded by a fierce winter storm that froze citrus crops and dusted the state with snow. In some places, such as in Tampa, above, there were several inches of accumulation.

And while flurries have been spotted 32 times since 1891, according to the National Weather Service, measurable snowfall has only taken place seven times.


It's a magic number.

And yet here we are in Tampa facing another fierce winter storm. This time from the Calgary Flames.

They say that the Lightning won't win the cup. That it would take a miracle.

I have one reply: 1979.

Tonight is a night of destiny for the Tampa Bay Lightning. No one knows when they'll get another chance like this.

Home ice. Stanley Cup Finals.

Game 7.



Athletes pray for games like this. Actually, that's a myth. They pray for four-game sweeps that leave the other team crying and debilitated. But in lieu of that, you'd be crazy not to want the deciding game to take place on home ice.


That said, there have been a few superstitions that have carried me and a group of friends along. Sure, Rommie grew his playoff beard (and then shaved most of it when things looked dire). And most of us wore some sort of trinket that had worked for the previous victory (sombreros come to mind).

But undoubtedly the luckiest tradition has been a pre-game meal at El Taconazo, a Mexican joint on Hillsborough Avenue.

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We ate there when the Philly series got close. We've eaten there at various times during the finals. We'll eat there again today.

It's a must. It's what has brought this team luck. We have to believe that.


On Friday, when things looked bleak for the team and they were down 3-2, Alan and I went to the Nazo for some sort of life-sustaining grub. Al got the chicken chipotle. I got the same. We both drank a bottle of fizzy Jarritos soda.


And what happened? The team flew to Calgary that day and then whupped up on the Flames on Saturday to even the series at three games and force Game 7.

Such is the power of Nazo. It cannot be denied.

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Many people who go to the Nazo might be mistaken in thinking that the allure of the place is in the price of the food. That's not to say a family of 12 couldn't eat there for, like 25 cents. It's just that to cite the price alone would be like revering Tiger Woods for his club covers. It doesn't tell the whole story.

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For us, the Nazo is a vacation from reality. For a half-hour, we get to sit and eat delicious, fresh Mexican food in a place filled with sombreros. We listen to Mexican music of all varieties. We eat. We talk. We don't talk. Doesn't matter. The Nazo fills us with life force. It bonds. It heals. It propels.

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We've eaten there so much in the past 6 months, the people there have begun to seem like family.

Like Pedro, who does everything from take orders to filling salsa cups.


And Monica, left, one of the owners, and Sondra, right.


The restaurant started out as one of so many taco busses that roamed through Tampa. They got such a following that they parked it behind a building and continued to use the bus for a kitchen.


Few things match the healing power that sitting in the sun and eating wonderful food provides.


It is so pleasant to sit outside, that it took us several months to venture indoors. We were rewarded by an impressive display of elaborate decorative sombreros.

We knew we had found our Mecca.


We later honored the bus and the restaurant by bestowing the ultimate accolade - The Laying On Of The Sombrero.


We keep finding nuggets of greatness in this humble building.

For example, one time when we ate indoors, I looked up over Rommie's shoulder to see the above view.

What's in the painting?


Could it be any more obvious that we were meant to find this place?

After Alan and I found this wonderful establishment, we had to recruit more disciples.

That necessitated us in bringing a cavalcade of friends:






And even Kiely, when she was eight and a half months pregnant.

Sometimes, though, we get a little overexcited. Our adulation spills over into cult-like worship. Like the time we bought a couple of the hats that were for sale inside the dining room, dubbed Monica's Cafe

What then took place there is no excuse for:


With me in my Our Lady of Guadalupe hat and Rommie in an Aztec Pride hat featuring a naked virgin being carried to the heavens by a winged warrior, we drove back to the office through the surrounding neighborhood.

"We look like bad undercover cops,'' I told him.

But if adulation is a crime, there can be only one delicious culprit:


The chicken burrito.

It is that same chicken burrito that will win bring the Stanley Cup to Tampa tonight.

Mark my words.

Flames fans, you will fear the undeniable power of The Nazo.

Posted by Jeff at June 7, 2004 08:19 AM | TrackBack

All I have to say to you is this ... Tampa finished MUCH higher than Calgary did. Yet it took 7 games for them to finish Calgary off. I say to you, that if you didn't have Kerry Fraser on the payroll, this series would have ended much differently.

BTW, I think they should enscribe Fraser's name on the Cup, because after all, he WAS the 6th man in. Wasn't he?

Posted by: vegasbaby at June 7, 2004 11:33 PM

VegasBaby must have had a couple a bucks on the game, EH? Either that or VegasBaby is really the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis.

Posted by: tommy at June 8, 2004 05:37 PM

Ah, vegasbaby. Blaming the refs. The last refuge of a desperate hockey fan. If Kerry Fraser was on Tampa's payroll, something tells me he wouldn't have called Nolan Pratt for interference with 11 minutes remaining. You remember the play: Pratt standing there innocently, Oleg Saprykin coming out of nowhere to bowl over him like a wrecking ball? (Even ex-Flame Bill Clement said it was one of the worst calls he's ever seen in his entire life.) Until that whistle and the resulting PP goal, the Flames didn't even have a pulse in Game 7. Face the facts, vb. Darryl Sutter's gang of thugs got beat fair and square by a better hockey team.

Posted by: Rommie at June 9, 2004 11:04 PM

I love when Rommie rides into town, parks his horse, abuses the bad guys and makes things right again.

Posted by: Jeff at June 10, 2004 12:06 AM