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Party Hat

January 1, 2004

What a year 2003 turned out to be. I hope that for all of you it was as rewarding and exciting and fun and interesting as it was for me. What began as the end of a long run of professional torture at my former job turned into a transition into a dream job working for Bubba The Love Sponge. What began as a likely end of an era for living in Tampa (given the transient nature of the TV news business) ended with me staying here in this city that I love. And at the beginning of 2004, I'm happier now than I was this time last year. And you'd better believe there's something to be said for that.

Last night was a blast. I met up with Todd Martin down in Hyde Park. Earlier in the day we made the decision to hit Whiskey Park, a trendy bar in the "Soho" part of Hyde Park that is just blocks from Todd's apartment. Because New Year's early morning roads turn into a Russian-style police state, I knew that I'd either be staying in Ybor or going somewhere where I could stay for the night.

Rascal the cat
Rascal may be the nicest cat I've ever encountered.

Todd has a female roommate (who it turns out is hotter than he let on to me), though she and her boyfriend were gone by the time I got there. She has two cats: one is Charlotte, who is a year and a half old and on kitty prozac (no, I'm not joking). The other is Rascal, who is 17. The damn cat is older than my sister. But Rascal didn't live up to his name, instead acting about as friendly as any cat I've ever seen. Most cats deal with new people by curiously sniffing and then running away and peering across the room for most of the evening. But not Rascal -- he curled up right next to me and let me pet him as I drank my Heinekens and talked with Todd and watched Arkansas beat Missouri in the Independence Bowl. Too bad they didn't have any snow like the game three years ago when Mississippi State beat Texas A&M in an overtime classic in a pouring snowfall in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Whiskey Park - New Year's Eve 2003
Whiskey Park: is this a bar or a land grab?!?

I have to put Whiskey Park over for doing New Year's the right way. They had a $10 cover, which was low compared with the ridiculous $25-60 covers that many other clubs on the Tampa scene were charging. Not that Whiskey Park has much of a dance floor area, but it's New Year's, not a dance contest. The bartenders were slammed (as in busy, not intoxicated), so it took awhile to get drinks, but we were patient. There were plenty of fine women to check out. I even managed to get a laugh out of the usually stoic bouncer guy checking IDs when a very voluptuous blonde in a revealing red dress walked by and I gave a Lee Corso inspired "Yo!" (with a Cosmo Kramer edge to it, to convey the meaning).

The ageless Dick Clark was, as always, live from New York City for the ball dropping ceremony. Couldn't they just rerun the same one from three years ago? Would anyone notice the difference? Or, more importantly, would most of the viewing audience be sober enough to know/care?

"Oh my, they're calling for a third Jägerbomb!!!"

The first song played in 2004 at Whiskey Park was none other than... "1999" by Prince. Of all of the songs from the 1980s, that song may end up living on more than any other. I remember celebrating New Year's Day 1999 in Effingham, Illinois at my fraternity bro Justin Smith's party, and of course that was the first song played at the stroke of midnight (and as I recall, the overzealous DJ on the local radio station who was stuck doing the countdown shift played it time after time that night leading up to the ball dropping).

It was shortly after midnight when Todd and I finally managed to get our first round of drinks. But when that started... clear thoughts began to disappear. You should know my motto by now: when in doubt, blame Jägermeister.

In a hilarious scene, there was a near catfight in the line waiting for the bathroom at Whiskey Park.... on the women's side! One rather impatient chick decided to start yelling at the girls inside to hurry up. "Are you putting on lipstick? Well get out of there, then!" So, by way of my spokesperson (Mr. Jägermeister), I started shouting FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT. This lead another girl to issue an outburst of "No, no, no fighting!" As if there was going to be a full scale brouhaha then and there. At least I didn't get puked on in the bathroom line there like I did once before in 2003...

Lou Pickney - New Year's Eve 2003
When the party hat goes on, you know that things are in full effect.

Overall it was a great evening, I crashed out on an air mattress at Todd's place, and I woke up amazingly with no hangover. All in a good start to 2004.

I've been playing my PS2 Christmas presents like mad today. WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain is such a fun game. I had my reservations about getting it right after last year's, but they have improved it tremendously. It looked good on my parents' TV at home, but seeing it with my component input setup on my JVC TV here at the Tampa apartment... wow, it's strikingly crisp. Plus there's something to be said for having blood in a video game. For variety's sake I've got Tiger Woods Golf 2004 in now, though it annoys me that they used the song "Up In Here" by DMX in it. I love the song, but not when half the words are cut out of it. Either sack up and use the real deal, or pick another tune. Please... But once you get past that, the game itself is very deep, very addictive and very fun. The clubhouse feature they have where you "earn money" on the tour is a subtle but brilliant touch that takes the game to a whole new level.

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