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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

2005 Gasparilla Day Parade

Sunday
January 30, 2005

"I can still see everything just fine
And who needs pictures with a memory like mine"
-Brad Paisley "Who Needs Pictures"

Hmm, let's see. Sunscreen brought along, but failed to be used: check. Significant amounts of alcohol consumed: check. Drinking beer on public property and nobody cares, as if I'm in Europe: check. Ahhh, it must be the Gasparilla Day Parade.

The 2005 incarnation of the Tampa tradition was an experience that certainly lived up to the high expectations established for me in past years. I made it over to my buddy Todd's place at about 11:30. That's an hour and a half later than I had planned. So instead of finding a spot to park on a side street, I had to pay $20 to stash Lou Jr. (my Honda Accord) in a makeshift parking area behind someone's home. Luckily the house in question was painted in tacky turquoise blue with beige trim, so it was easy to spot. I had the foresight to scribble down the cross-streets on a card in my wallet, which proved to be the smartest thing I did all day. Later on, when it was dark and I was disoriented trying to find my car to move it, I very luckily knew where to go. Otherwise I might still be looking for it.

Todd & Mary-Ellen
Todd and Mary-Ellen had more than soda inside of their bottles.

For this year's Gasparilla Day Parade it was a smaller group than I've had in years past, but that's fine as every year prior our groups ended up getting split up. It was me, Todd, and Todd's girlfriend Mary-Ellen. As soon as I got there, it was about time to head down to the parade route. Damned undisciplined Saturday morning wakeup!

We made our way down there, with me carrying 7 of my remaining 11 Coors Light cans (I drank one quick before we left) in this odd black Tampa Bay Bucs bag that Todd had. It did the job for sure, but the way the drawstrings pulled together makes it tough for me to describe. As it turned out, Todd brought down some hard liquor in airplane bottles, and he ended up giving me some of those, which I cleverly mixed with the $3 bottles of Diet Coke that they were selling right by the parade route. We had to walk quite awhile to get to where they had reserved seats (and this became a motif of the day), and at that point I realized that wearing the black boots I had chosen was a bad idea. They're kick ass and all, but not comfortable. More on that later.

Bay News 9 beads
Beads from Bay News 9.

Mary-Ellen went to work on earning some beads. I've never seen a girl so anxious to show her boobs who wasn't working at a strip club trying to hustle for money. They're nice (and fake), big with eraser-tip hard nipples, and Todd didn't mind her doing it. But I can't stress enough that she had this gusto to do it that was amazing, perhaps hall of fame worthy. Then again, I'm a firm believer that if a girl gets fake tits, she should sling 'em around town. Put the doctor's work out on display, so to speak.

After hanging out over by Verne St. (site of the famous techno party from 2003), the time for the parade drew near and Todd and Mary-Ellen crossed Bayshore Blvd. and went over to section 22, where they had reserved seats (all the reserved seats were over next to the water's edge on the other side). They only had tickets enough for them, but that was no problem; I can fend for myself just fine. I bought a hot dog and a Diet Coke... and whaddaya know, the Diet Coke cap was a 1-in-12 "win a free 1 liter Coke product". It almost took the sting out of the 200% markup.

The parade began at 2 PM, but it didn't reach our location until about 2:45 or so. That was boring. I was digging deep into my cell phone names/numbers, finding people who I knew would care about Gasparilla and calling them. My friend Stacey Luckey up in Atlanta told me that they have iced over roads up there. I laughed at her and asked her why in the hell she moved there from Tampa (somewhere Bob Lonergan is saying she did because she's a Boomaholic, but don't believe the hype).

Earlier, before we left his place, Todd mentioned that the skies looked pretty cloudy, so that direct sun wouldn't be too much of a problem. Riiiiight. The sun came out and began cooking me good. My sunscreen was either on his kitchen table or still on the passenger seat floor of my car, which one I'm not sure. Either way my head is now nearly as red as the lobster beads that Mary-Ellen gave me later on that night. Me and my damned fair skin. Ouch.

The parade was what it was. It's fun to see the elaborate designs that they come up with for it, though more than anything it's about getting the cool beads. I landed some HUGE disco ball beads that were intended for some girls standing on top of a cooler near me. But no way was I giving those up. They should come in very handy at the Gasparilla Night Parade in two weeks.

One embarrassing moment came when a nice set of beads, still in their wrapper, came flying toward me. They bounced off my hands, then off my chest, and then over to someone else. I caught grief from strangers on that one. Ed McCaffrey in his prime I'm not, I suppose.

The funniest strand of beads I caught was one with a "Bay News 9" medallion on it. I think that Al Ruechel (yes, that Al Ruechel) might have thrown it (no joke). I wish they would've had Brian Kargus up there. Next year I definitely want us to do a Bubba The Love Sponge float (in association with whichever broadcasting outlet we're with at that point).

Free beer
Only at Gasparilla would someone leave an unopened beer behind. What a waste!

Finally the parade ended. It was 5:30ish at that point, at least I think so. Exhaustion was starting to hit me. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, and despite me having read up on the past Gasparilla Day Parades when I put together this commentary, I forgot just how draining the day can be. Between the marathon drinking, all the walking, the sun zapping you, etc., it can hit you hard.

I met up with Todd and Mary-Ellen when they were allowed to cross back over after the last of the tour buses had passed (the buses bring up the rear of the parade, for some reason). We had a surprisingly delicious pizza dinner at Westshore Pizza, then we swung back over to Todd's place.

At this point my legs were hurting bad. Not to earn an Artie Lange inspired "Waah waah waah", but I was hurting. But it's Gasparilla, and at Gasparilla you hulk up and power through those sorts of things. At least you try.

I kept my drinking in moderation, curtailing it in particular toward the end of the parade, knowing that I would need to move my car when street-side parking opened up. It was dark by the time we got back to Todd's, and I got a bit turned around trying to find where I had parked. For the umpeenth time I'm glad I make it a rule to carry pens with me at all times; here's what I scribbled down: "Morrison & Fremont. Turquoise blue house w/ yellow trim." Finding the house wasn't the problem (they still had the parking sign up), but it was finding Morrison and/or Fremont from where Todd lives. I think the Clear Channel Tampa building is less disorienting than this was. My car was the last one left, so I'm glad I didn't decide to just leave it there indefinitely.

The Dubliner
The Dubliner is a cool Irish Pub in Hyde Park.

From there we walked over to The Dubliner, this very authentic feeling Irish Pub in Hyde Park. Notice I said we walked; at this point I was in pain. But I thought that The Dubliner was closer than it was in actuality, so I figured no problem on that.

The place has Harp on tap, which makes it a-okay in my book. We squeezed into the open-air back area and found a spot near what looked like a stage area. My observation was accurate; later on a musician set up there (and put on a great set for an energetic crowd). I spotted a guy who looked strangely familiar, especially his hair. It took me a second, and then bingo, I knew it: it was Byron from the most recent season of The Bachelor. I looked over and saw Mary (the girl he chose, who is from Tampa).

Now I figured I had two choices: I could point this out to Todd and Mary-Ellen and admit to having watched The Bachelor, or I could pretend not to notice. But into my second Harp, I decided to mention it to them. They both looked at me and said that they hadn't watched The Bachelor at all. Greaaaat. At least Todd didn't make fun of me for watching it.

And no, I didn't snap pics of them to put on the website (they actually were mingling and weren't "together" attached at the hip or anything stupid). I figure if I start marking out to The Bachelor, that's far worse than happening to have the TV still tuned to ABC after Lost on Wednesday nights (when The Bachelor aired). I don't want to turn into Sarina Fazan (who, I'm sure following orders from ABC Action News management, semi-stalked the two of them in the days leading up to the season finale, including tracking Mary down to her hotel room in Los Angeles the night before the show). It was funny to see the looks in the eyes of these girls talking with Mary, this mix of being star-struck and a tinge jealous with this crazy "I need to get married before it's too late!" look that Bill Simmons wrote about not too long ago. If you know what I'm talking about, you can spot it from a mile away.

Mary-Ellen falls down
Sometimes getting home is the hardest part.

At that point, Todd and I both had our gas tanks on empty, so we corralled Mary-Ellen (who was plenty liquored up at that point) and headed back to Todd's place to crash out. It wasn't the easiest walk; I felt like Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV vs. Steve Austin (that is to say, in constant pain), and Mary-Ellen got a bit crazy and Todd had a tricky time trying to get her home without her getting arrested for public intox. But these things happen during a big party day.

Overall, it was another fun, wild, fun Gasparilla Day Parade. As if you expected anything else? The rain held off, I paced myself on the alcohol, and I managed to come away with a few strands of cool beads. It's not the mountain of beads that Mary-Ellen earned (the hard way), but I have plenty here as it is.

More later, including the return of DSL, at long last (and the new DSL really is faster) and rumors of my apartment complex going up for sale... to be turned into condos.


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