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2003 Gasparilla Day Parade

February 2, 2003

"Are you going to write about this on your webpage?"
-Todd Martin, in a question to me, yesterday during Gasparilla

"And I ain't leaving this party tonight
Till I see some naked bitches dancin' around drunk touchin' each other"
-Kid Rock & Eminem "Fuck Off"

There's a yearly event called the Gasparilla Day Parade that takes place in Tampa on the first Saturday of February. It's part parade, part tradition (with the pirate invasion and the "capturing" of the key to the city from the mayor), and part drunken party. In other words, it's a great time.

I didn't really go into detail on here about last year's Gasparilla Day Parade, though I did mention it (the synopsis is at the bottom of the page on the February 2002 link). But it's the one day out of the year where you can pound coldbeer on public streets and the cops leave you alone. It's wonderful; for one day Tampa acts like it's a city in Europe. Very nice.

The day began on a very somber note. I was just about to leave the apartment to head down to Davis Islands (pronounced "Davis Island", go figure) to meet up with my friend James Maynor and his crew down there on the Coast Guard ship. I happened to click on the Drudge Report -- and saw the headline "Space Shuttle Columbia Lost". I quickly flipped on my TV and saw the coverage. I was horrified.

I made a few phone calls, including calling home. I got my Aunt Theresa's number in Houston from my Mom; Theresa works for NASA, so I thought she'd want to know more than anyone. I called and ended up breaking the news to her; she hadn't heard yet (her children were watching cartoons at the time). I called James and told him I couldn't go anywhere for the moment. I stayed in and spent a long time watching the coverage.

Finally a page came from Channel 10; they had enough crews to cover everything, so I was free to go to Gasparilla. I met up with Todd and Riley and Melissa at the Ybor City trolley stop. I'd never ridden the trolley here before, so I was looking forward to the new experience.

The upside was that we could drink to our heart's content without worrying about driving. Unfortunately, we found the trolley to be a slow, plodding, bumpy ride. I mean it took a long time to make it from Ybor to the convention center. But, finally, we were there.

We made our way up onto a bridge and gathered some beads and trinkets and what not from people below and the ships pulling up to the shoreline. There were a few moments of unintentional comedy with people not paying attention getting smacked in the head with beads and these mini-footballs that were being thrown.

From there, we went on a quest to find more beer. Unfortunately for us, the Publix we wanted to go to stood between the parade route and us. So we backtracked a LONG way, and actually stopped for lunch at a pizza shop along the way. From there we finally made it to Publix, which looked like a madhouse. It was crazy. Every line packed to the gills, barely enough room to move through the aisles. We finally got the beer, got in line and paid. Riley, never afraid to ask anyone about anything, discovered that the cashiers were making double time pay for having to work with that madness. They deserved it, too. Publix had to make a killing off of that.

The line for the bathroom on the inside was insanely long. It looked like about an hourlong wait, easy.

We then went in the direction of the parade route, but ended up sidetracked over at this outdoor party going on by Bayshore off of Verne St. It felt like I was back in college again (or more like I was back down visiting my bro Matt at Mississippi State again -- Evansville never had parties like this). There was this huge tent set up, these DJs spinning some great tunes, and everyone having a blast. It felt like one of those Coors Light commercials with the insanely fun parties and the unbelievably hot women. The kind of parties you thought didn't exist in real life. Oh, but they do...

There were gorgeous women aplenty there. I mean drop dead gorgeous. I was amazed with how many people were wearing sunglasses... The right pair of sunglasses can make a hot girl even hotter. But you get the idea, it was this big area of people dancing and drinking and having all sorts of fun.

The only downside was the wait to take a piss. I literally waited in line 40-45 minutes for the Port-A-Lets. I was tempted to find a nearby tree, but there was some guy across the way guarding his property with a video camera. Not that I expected to show up on "Drunk Guys Pissing Volume 5", but an arrest for public urination would've been a real bummer.

There were girls dancing on coolers and acting crazy most of the time. But there was one point where these other (also very very hot) girls started dancing together and doing the sorts of things you wouldn't normally expect to see in public. Including this gorgeous blonde wearing jeans that were, shall we say, riding dangerously low. There was a crowd of guys watching it all; the smart ones had cameras and camcorders. I really need to invest in a digital camera, that's all there is to it. It felt like spring break in Panama City, if you know what I mean. You know the scene in Boogie Nights where a crowd of guys is watching Little Bill's wife and some dude get it on in the driveway? It was kind of like that, only with three to four hot chicks involved. The five minute span there alone would've been enough to constitute a very, very good day. I love Tampa.

Some girl had this glitter stick thing that I asked her about. She proceeded to smack me in the ass with it. Reminded me of a time in Liverpool, England in 1998 when I was hollering at some girl who was holding a rose (flower) and who then inexplicably hit me in the head with it, like something out of a Sandman ECW caning match.

Finally the party wound down and the colder weather set in. We went to this one downtown restaurant that had only three things to serve -- Cuban sandwich, sausage & pepper sandwich and chili. I chose the Cuban, which was delicious. Riley complained that it wasn't "pressed" (i.e. not heated). But hey, they weren't exactly in the customer service kindness business on that day. Our waiter got stiff with me when I asked if I could have a water (I was trying to fight dehydration at that point). It felt like I was at Dick's Restaurant in Cleveland (where rude service is actually a gimmick). But whatever, I was hungry and the food was good.

We waited and waited for a trolley, but it was cold. Melissa especially was feeling chilly. So we finally decided to grab a cab to take us back to Ybor.

All I can say is, my friend Jeff Riley is one crazy bastard. Riley will ask anyone anything, like I mentioned before. And quite often, intense comedy ensues. In this case, we piled into the taxi cab and Riley was up front. Riley decided to turn on the radio and play some music. The cabbie, who spoke with accented English and who had a long beard, didn't seem particularly keen on this. So then Riley started peppering him with questions. We found out that the cabbie was a Muslim "from Palestine" (as he put it), that he'd lived here in the U.S. for 12 years (the past 10 in Tampa), that he was married with three kids. Then Riley asked him "What, doesn't your wife use birth control?" I thought we were going to get thrown out of the cab then and there. I was laughing at Riley's crazy questioning, and that caused the cabbie to think I was laughing at him. The cabbie asked Riley if he was in the FBI or something, asking all of these questions. Riley replied that he'd been arrested too many times for that. My description can't really do it justice; it was comedy through the roof. Those fake "taxi cab confessions" on HBO don't hold anything to this. I think Riley, a camcorder and some irritable cabbies would make for an excellent half hour special on HBO.

Ended up taking what I'd hoped would be a brief nap when I got in... but the "nap" lasted until 12:30 AM. Oops. Met up with Riley over at Market on 7th, but he was mad at me for "selling him out" by falling asleep. He was in Drunk Riley mode by this point, so I let him be and ventured out into Ybor. But by this point exhaustion was setting in, so after some of that business I came back in and called it a night.

All in all, a fun day. A nice break from the whole recouping from being sick thing here in my apartment.

Tomorrow I begin a different shift at WTSP (3:30-12:30 in the "AP" role). The end game is here...

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