Artists Pay Back (The Blog)

July 11, 2011

5 Ridiculous Things I Get Excited About These Days

Filed under: lists,pop culture — artistspayback @ 8:53 pm
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For proper use: Peel off and attach to forehead.

It’s a given that your tastes change as you go through the years. To wit, things I used to love twenty years ago (Ice beer, Drakkar Noir, dance clubs, getting home at 4AM) just don’t get me as excited anymore. Not that pleasures are gone from my life. They’re just stranger sadder different now. And by different, I mean “what the hell is wrong with me?”

Yet even as I marvel at some of the things that bring me pleasure circa 2011, I can’t help but acknowledge how awesome these things are (even as lame as it sounds). For instance:

1. The Swiffer – Back in the day, I wasn’t much for the whole cleaning thing. Not that I was a complete slob. I generally took care of the dishes within 48 hours. The bathroom got a nice sparkle every ten or twelve days. I’d run the vacuum and knock out the dusting once or twice a month (okay, once). Clothes would accumulate hither and yon until I scooped them up for a little laundering. But mopping? Screw that. For starters, it’s generally understood that in order to mop one must, you know, own a mop. If there was an egregious amount of stickiness on the floor of the kitchen/bath (for instance: when I passed over said stickiness wearing a sock – I would continue, but the sock would remain in the area as a hostage), this would be handled one of two ways: 1) douse it with Clorox spray and foot-wipe it with a paper towel, or 2) go barefoot.

But now I have THE SWIFFER. God I loves me some Swiffin’. Everything about it is satisfying. From the way the spray formula locks into the chamber, to the motorized spraying sound it emits, the ease of gliding the velcro scruffy pad over the infected areas. Now that I live in a house, the tile ratio in the living space is massive, but who cares. I’ve got a spot-mopping, smooth-gliding, dirt-fighting motorized menace at my fingertips. And I love it.

2. Naps – I remember the one nap I took between the age of 5 and 20. I feel asleep one Sunday in the early afternoon and awoke just after nightfall. Upon waking, I was disoriented and irritated. I felt like a chunk of my life had been taken from me. It wasn’t a nap, it was a goddamn hypersleep and felt as though years had been lost. When I was about 21, I had a wholly different experience. After a long day at the bar (as a tender, not a drinker on this particular occasion), I visited a friend of mine at her parents house. It was early afternoon and  her mom had a nice lunch spread out. I ate and layed on the sofa. My friend was playing around on the piano and I went out. I woke up about three hours later and damned if I wasn’t refreshed. This planted a seed that would grow into a mighty oak of daytime sleepiness a decade or so later. Now, I savor that feeling of drifting off in the middle of the day. The sounds of the day around you slowly recede and you feel the heaviness as you sink into sweet, sweet slumber.

When you’re young, a nap feels like a prime chunk of your life being taken. As you get older, it feels like you cheated your way past a little bit of the waking misery known as life. Naps are energizing. Instead of waking up upset at what was missed while I slept, I now just calculate how soon it will be until I get to fall back to sleep for the rest of the night (alas, it’s never soon enough.)

3. The Weather Channel – When I was a lad, I remember my dad loved having The Weather Channel on and good lord did I despise it. I could always hear that stale Muzak playing in the background each morning as I got myself ready for school. I can still see the sweeping hand of the Dopplertron 5000 Weatherator from Local News Station Whatever as it went around the pixelated map of Tampa and the surrounding area. It always looked the same, some blocky blue areas and blocky red areas around the crooked lines denoting where land met sea. I didn’t quite get it and just knew that I no longer wanted to hear that cycled soundtrack. That pain is now my kids pain.

I get it, man. The Weather Channel is fan-damn-tastic. To be fair, the crap my dad watched was like pong compared to the technological beauty of the modern weather stations. I get to see the marine forecast, the daily forecast, the heat index, the tropical update, the storm tracker and the mighty seven-day forecast. I still get the sweeping Dopplertron hand and the horrible Muzak, but now I understand it (and that tune is quite the jaunty little day-starter.) I get excited each morning to crank on the TV and get the update. What’s my day going to be like and whether a massive thunderstorm will sweep in and wipe out the power so I can nap.

4. Party food – In my late teens to early twenties there were certain things about attending parties that I got excited about – girls, beer, tequila, rum, girls, kegs, good music, vodka and girls – in that order. These days most of those don’t really matter to me because I don’t want to risk a DUI, suffer a hangover and I’m married (which means I bring my own girl – lova ya’honey!). I still like going to parties and I”ll enjoy a sensible amount of the alcohol, but I’m not all amped up like I used to be and elbow my way to the front of the keg line while slamming the beer in my hand. Now the enjoyment lies in the spread.

It’s something that happens after college. People start having actual food at parties. I don’t mean raiding the fridge for leftover takeout or the drunken 2 a.m. pizza order, I mean a table or counter filled with actual start-of-the-party food choices. With napkins! It’s the first thing I go for and it’s where I’ll set up camp for the night. Barring a little karaoke action, there’s really nothing that can tear me away. Chicken fingers, mini sandwiches, desserts, chips, dips, scachatta, – now THAT’s a party!

5. Cancellations – Of course, there is one thing even better than getting to a party loaded with awesome food. Never getting there at all. Making plans is part of life, both good and bad. Between work events and social outings, you have to make plans. I used to love plans. I mean, how can you not. It’s something to do, something to look forward to, a purpose beyond the drudgery of the work-a-day life. Things to see, people to meet, places to go.

Uh, I guess if I have to. Now when I see a blocked out portion of my schedule, I just wish for it to go away. Of course, I can’t be the canceler, but I’m fine being the cancelee. And this isn’t just about work meetings or seminars. This is also for birthday parties, special events, nights out with friends, movie plans – pretty much anything that takes me out of my home, especially at night or on the weekends. I just want to go bunker-mentality from Friday at 6PM until I have to drag my carcass out of bed again on Monday at 6:30AM. Weekend plans completely disrupt that. So when I get that glorious call, or when me and my wife look at each other and, with that unspoken bit of spousal mind-reading, nod in agreement that we just “don’t feel like going” a weight is lifted and the weekend has been reclaimed in the name of shut-ins everywhere. At this point, when it’s evident we’re not going to bother with the chore of ‘showering’ and ‘getting dressed’ it’s just a matter of deciding who’s “sick” and who gets to make the call.

(By the way, I can trace the genesis of this particular joy to modern phone calls. I remember the moment I went from calling people and hoping I would catch them instead of their voicemail to the moment where I hoped I would get their voicemail and not them – God bless call screeners. That was the acorn that became the oak of praying that in-person interactions would start falling apart.)

January 29, 2011

So, Ya Wanna Be A Pirate?

Filed under: Local info,pop culture — artistspayback @ 12:14 am
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This year marks the 107th Gasparilla celebration. In case you’ve never heard of this signature festival, it’s like Tampa’s version of Mardi Gras (which is to say the organizers have been desperate to have people call it “Tampa’s version of Mardi Gras” ever since they began calling it that). The comparison’s are staggering. It’s a parade where people get drunk and throw beads. See, staggering.

Now, I love Gasparilla. I’ve grown up with it and have seen it evolve (okay, to be fair, devolve) over the last few decades. We even used to get a day off from school every year for Gasparilla and I was in sixth grade before I realized it wasn’t a National holiday. It was eighth grade before I realized that there were actually people in town who didn’t like the idea of celebrating someone who was known for subjecting the city to murder, destruction and rape (some people can be such a buzzkill.)

"Arrggh, mateys. Hoist ye beads."

To be fair though, it’s all bogus. Depending on where you do your research, Jose Gaspar (the titular pirate of the event) was never even know to patrol the waters in and around Tampa Bay and that’s if he ever even existed at all. Gasparilla was begun more a less as a publicity stunt designed to bring some attention (and money) to Tampa. Technically, Gasparilla doesn’t even belong to the city, it’s the domain of Ye Mystic Krewe. This is a collective of the city’s “finest” (you know politicians, lawyers, trust-fund babies, and other self-important entitled types). Each year these middle-aged men slather on the makeup (think ‘dirt’ and ‘scars’), tie do-rags around their receding hairlines, have their girth ensconced in silken puffy shirts, kiss their trophy wives goodbye and revel in the cheers of a city while trying to get drunk coeds to take off their tops.

All was well and good with the festival until it hit snag in 1991. The Super Bowl was being played in Tampa that year and Gasparilla was scheduled the day before the big game. With the national media descending on the town, the Krewe wanted the exposure and recognition it would bring. And boy did they get it. The Krewe was pilloried for not allowing minorities or women in their ranks (and I know what you’re thinking, that is really out of character for old wealthy, mostly Republican, white guys). But, rather than correct this embarrassing policy and attempt to enter into a post-Civil War mindset, they cancelled the festival in a pouty huff. In its place, Bamboleo was born (rather, still-born).The following year, the Krewe happily (no, those aren’t gritted teeth, those are smiles) accepted enough minorities to appease people and Gasparilla was back on. (Women were still banned, but come on, if they start allowing women next thing they’ll have to let their wives in and who wants that?) A lot of other Krewe’s began popping up throughout the 90’s and the parade expanded exponentially as the Krewe (sometimes reluctantly) allowed them into their little party.

The wacky antics of the Ye Old Creepy White Guy Krewe aside, Gasparilla truly is a fun day. If you’ve never been and you’re not easily offended by public drunkenness (and occasionally, urination) and enjoy mostly good-natured revelry, I suggest you attend. Here are some tips to remember as you blend with the 400,000 in attendance. Well, 400,001 actually, I forgot to count myself.

1. Leave the kids at home – A few years back the created a kids parade on a separate day specifically because this had become a lousy environment for children. Seriously, this is not for them. Nothing dampens a nice day of drunken debauchery like little ones running between our legs. Plus, they slow you down and make a bad bathroom situation that much worse.

2. Brush up on the liquor laws – YouTube nearly killed Gasparilla a couple of years ago. The parade route winds runs through a mostly residential area and some of the residents were fed up with finding their yard covered with things like beer bottles, trash, vomit and blacked-out frat boys. They whined about it for years (I’m not too sympathetic, it kind of comes with the territory – literally – so I say embrace it and enjoy yourself or move to Westchase) and it wasn’t until videos started to surface online that the city decided to clamp down. The last couple of years have seen a steady attempt to tame things a bit. More port-a-lets were added, rolling coolers were banned, open-container laws were tightened and the police presence was increased. So make sure you’re up on the latest rules. (For what it’s worth, I’ve always thought the cops on-hand at Gasparilla were very cool. They always seem to be enjoying the nonsense and are willing to give you a lot of leeway. I get the sense that they really don’t want to arrest you unless you give them no choice.)

3. Pace yourself – If you do it right, Gasparilla is a 8 – 12 hour day. You want to get out there by 10 or 11AM to park and get settled. The parade begins around 2PM and after it ends, around 6, you can head downtown for the concerts or, even better, end up at the Hub. (Best. Bar. Ever.) Which means you need to be able to hang that long and be mobile. Don’t be the guy or girl that everyone has to carry around as the day drags on (or drag around as the day carries on, depending on how much your friends like you).

4. I hope you like walking – It’s theoretically possible not to travel several miles during the course of the day, but unlikely. And not nearly as fun. First you have to park, often far from the action. Then you’ll want to travel the parade route to find “your spot.” If all goes well, you’ll meet up with other friends or make new ones and travel with them to exciting destinations (bars). You want to take it all in so hit Bayshore, then go downtown, shoot over to Harbor Island. Do it right.

5. Backpacks are your friend – The “man” may have banned coolers, but you’ll need to have your provisions. So get a nice hiking backpack and load it up with your liquid refreshments, some snack foods, and cups to work around the container laws (also, if you’re traveling with some ladies, you might want to pack a roll of toilet paper, trust me).

That’s all it really takes for a fun and exhausting Gasparilla experience. Have fun, stay out of trouble, grab some beads and I’ll see you at the Hub around midnight.

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