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St. Pete Beach Party

July 11, 2005

"Just about everything that could go your way will, today. Count your blessings."
-Online horoscope for me (and all Virgos?) for 7/11/2005

"Bartender, I really did it this time"
-Rehab "Sittin' At The Bar"

I haven't written an update on here in a week, but here's a late happy birthday to my Mom and Dad, who both had their birthday on Friday. I wish I could've been there in Nashville to celebrate it with them.

Speaking of birthdays, this past Saturday my friend Deann turned 30, and she celebrated it by having this big party out at St. Pete Beach. The concept was simple: a bar crawl, with people going from bar to bar on a trolley that runs in town.

In the days leading up to the party, there was major concern due to Hurricane Dennis. Luckily, the storm steered more and more away from the Tampa Bay coastline, so we were in luck.

Because I had no intention of drinking and driving, I booked a room at the Travelodge by the beach (which is right by the first bar of the day, Swigwams.) I don't know if out-of-towners ended up booking up other rooms to avoid Hurricane Dennis, since I booked it a week ahead of time.

Normally I don't like talking about my private life on here (since it's private, and the internet is a public thing), but I've recently started dating this really cool (and very pretty) girl named Melissa, and I can't tell this story without explaining about her. She's 24, but acts much more mature than just about any other 24 year old I've met, probably on par with my bro Matt (who's also 24), which is very high praise. I invited her to come along, and she ended up being able to make it, so I knew going in that it was going to be fun, since she and I get along so well.

Getting to St. Pete Beach proved to be an adventure, as one of the outer bands of the storm hit us as we drove over the Howard Frankland Bridge. A sudden downpour made visibility nearly nil, and the wind at the top of the bridge (which spans Tampa Bay, connecting Tampa with St. Petersburg) began gusting hard. Luckily we made it over safely.

The weather delay put us there a bit later than we had planned, but that was okay since Deann and her crew were running late getting there from where they had gone for lunch. We were into out second drink by the time the convoy arrived at about 3:15-3:30.

DD (Deann) was nice and drunk already by arrival time (3:30ish). Tracy saw me and said hi, and I felt bad since I drew a blank trying to remember her name. "I was on your website!" she mentioned, recalling this commentary about the 2004 Gasparilla Day Parade (she's the girl in the navy blue Yankees cap).

I met Deann's brother and a few of her other friends, and Melissa and I did the socializing thing. I know that a couple of pics were snapped of me with Deann and Melissa, and I need to get Deann to e-mail them to me. I left my digital camera in the room, not thinking ahead on that one. Damn.

We had to go back around to the other side of the bar to order another drink, since the one bartender was slammed. He said that they nearly didn't open due to concern of the storm, but they did, and obviously it turned out well for the place's bottom line, since it I recall that we got a bloody mary that time, which was really good.

Unfortunately for us, Deann apparently gathered up the group on the other side, corralled them and lead them to the next bar. But Melissa and I were caught up in conversation and missed it, and DD was too drunk to notice that we were missing (her crew was 25 or so strong). It was okay, though, since the two of us were having fun.

New Logo Idea
Melissa and I thought that the Travelodge bear (shown to the left) would be better if replaced by a large rat (shown to the right).

The Travelodge we stayed at was a dump. They have some bear as a mascot, but we ended up joking that they should change it to a giant rat. Hey, it was funny at the time. But for the room being so dumpy (the $89 price was for the hotel's beachfront location), the lobby was nice, complete with a Shells restaurant.

Before dinner we went down to the beach to check out the waves, which were crashing in hard from the effect of Hurricane Dennis. Unfortunately the wind that was out, which had made being at an outdoor bar during the day tolerable (very rare for July in Florida), started blowing the sand at us hard, so we didn't stay out there for long.

After we cleaned up a little in the room, we went down to Shells for dinner. The blackened grouper I had was excellent. But what I'll always remember about the meal is how the waiter, some greasy-haired white guy who claimed it was his "first night on the floor", hit on Melissa and ignored me sitting right there. That took some brass balls, especially considering that I controlled the tip. Plus the cooks overcooked Melissa's steak (she ordered it medium-rare), and in a hilarious sequence the greasy waiter kept telling us that he'd send the manager over, even though we made no such request.

When the manager, some old guy, came over, he asked about Melissa's steak. She said: "It was overcooked, but that was what I expected." His response? "Okay." It was amazing. Afterward Melissa explained that this sort of thing happens to her all the time. Apparently pretty blondes can say anything, and as long as they say it in a pleasant tone of voice, the guy (be it a manager or whomever) won't even listen.

Hurricane Dennis
Hurricane Dennis made landfall near Pensacola, Florida.

I called Deann to find out where the crew had gone, and she said they were going to some bar that was aways away down on St. Pete Beach. We could've ridden the trolley down there, but instead Melissa and I opted just to stay at Swigwams for the night. It was great; we threw back some drinks, looked out at the ocean and talked for hours.

The next day, watching Hurricane Dennis coverage on TV was fun in and of itself. Since I worked in TV news from 1997-2003, I know all the ins and outs of breaking news coverage, and it fascinates me from that end. But Melissa and I were laughing hard at some things, like the guy on the Weather Channel who kept saying "We're going commercial free this hour", or joking about the various microphones that the live reporters had. I don't think it would translate to a website commentary, but at the time we were laughing hard. We watched the coverage for a good three hours or so even after we made it back to my place. I was able to tell her about the chaos that goes on behind the scenes, and she was able to make general viewer observations that I might or might not have noticed on my own.

Of course, it's no laughing matter about the hurricane that hit the coast. Best wishes to everyone in the greater Pensacola area who had the storm hit them. Hurricanes are no joke, and we are early in the season... Here's hoping that anyone you know in the area avoided any damage, or if there was damage, that it was minimal.

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