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Counting Down

March 23, 2006

This is day one of the post Bubba era for me. It felt strange listening to the show today, not being part of it. But life moves on, I suppose.

As promised, I've compiled a list of the Top 20 moments of my five years here in the Tampa area. On Sunday I'll be gone. I do plan to come back to visit, though my track record with past cities has been sketchy (one visit to Huntington, no visits to Evansville.) But there should be more to bring me back to Tampa, and it's easier to get back here than it is to get back to my previous two home cities.

I kept the list to Tampa-related events, though I will make mention of notable occasions that took place during the Tampa era outside of the area. Also, I had to leave out some tantalizing stories, as this is something that anyone and everyone could potentially access. I could write a book about all of the crazy adventures I've had here, and it'd be a fascinating read, but I'd probably have 15-20 people who'd legit want to kill me if I did that. That is no hyperbole. Plus, it wouldn't do much for my reputation. Some things are better left unsaid.

Starting things out, here are the non-Tampa events that I noted, in no particular order:

The Jacksonville trip w/ James (March 2003)
James was a friend who I met through mutual friends in my old apartment complex at Camden Ybor, where many people in the Coast Guard once lived. This was a memorable "getaway weekend" where I met a girl named Kimmie at a nightclub who I hit it off great with. Her tragic, unexpected passing in August of that year was yet another reminder of the perilousness of life. The trip involved all sorts of capers, including driving out to Callahan (way out in the sticks) to a party, and a Jacksonville Beach rendezvous with the aforementioned Kimmie. I'll also always connect this weekend with Marquette's Final Four run in the NCAA Tournament.

Trip to Europe (August 2001)
One month before 9/11, I went over to England and met up with my bro Matt in London. We then flew to Holland, and traveled by train through Germany and Switzerland before arriving in Venice, Italy. From there we flew from Venice back to London. This was in the pre-Euro days (the currency called the Euro), so the currency conversion on a daily basis was an interesting challenge. My biggest column-writing regret is that I didn't chronicle this trip (outside of photographs), though my memory of it is pretty clear.

Super Bulldog Weekend (April 2002)
Because I went to the University of Evansville, where parties were pretty much discouraged (and modern day "speak-easies" had to conceal people wanting to have a few drinks), I always loved traveling to Starkville to enjoy the fun that could be had visiting Matt at Mississippi State. They know how to party down there. I ended up getting strep throat during the trip; I blame close encounters with one particular girl who I met on the dance floor for that.

Mike Miller's wedding (June 2002)
My buddy Mike from high school got hitched in St. Louis, and though I had to move heaven and earth to get the Friday off to get up there for it, I'm glad I did. It was a wonderful weekend, and it's the last time I've been to St. Louis, which is a cool city.

The three New Orleans trips (August 2002, March 2003, February 2004)
I made three trips to New Orleans during my tenure in Tampa, and I had three blowout fun times. Not much more I can add that hasn't already been said about that.

The Las Vegas trip (August 2003)
Las Vegas is a non-stop adventure. My friends Gary and Rod, along with me, had a blast out there 2 years ago.

Various Nashville visits (too numerous to name)
Nashville is always a good time.

The Tampa Top 20

Just missing the Top 20: the Counting Crows concert in August 2003 with Shauna; various Gasparilla/Guavaween events that aren't listed (with Guavaween '05 and Gasparilla Night Parade '04, the only post I've ever had to pull pictures from because of complaints from readers, being the closest of those); watching the Snow Bowl Patriots/Raiders game with my Dad, who came to town to visit in early 2002; the night the Bucs won the Super Bowl; Arena Bowl XVII; hooking up with the wild tattooed girl at Empire in May 2001; Desi and I partying with a girl he knew from school that we ran across in Ybor (the night of a party at Diane Kacmarik's place); the time the guy at Gators told me "Go Dolphins!" when I had on a Titans jersey in September 2001 (where I told Scott Massey, "That was a shoot!" immediately after); Desi and I picking up two chicks at a party thrown by Jeff Berardelli, taking them to the Bennigan's on Dale Mabry, then having strippers come up to give us their cards and having our girls nearly get in a fight with the strippers.

A stand-alone item is the week of 9/11/2001. It would be inappropriate to put that in a list and not put it at #1; it's my generation's major national tragedy. It's the only thing that ever made me stay awake after taking NyQuil (taken just 10-15 minutes or so before the first plane hit, due to my old overnight schedule where I worked the third shift and slept days.) What is forgotten (understandably) is that a tropical storm hit Sarasota later that week, so while the rest of the nation mourned, we had to shift all of our news coverage into the breaking weather situation. It was demanding mentally, physically and emotionally. Going full circle, I found out about the first plane hitting from listening to the Bubba The Love Sponge show.

Fortunately, most of the things on this list are of a pleasant nature. It would be depressing to go through here and have it be nothing but tragedy and disappointment.

Now, as Casey Casum would say, onto the countdown.

20. The "free party" at Bar Tampa (March 2002)

Before it shut down, Bar Tampa on the Ybor City 7th Avenue strip was a fun place to go. With it being in walking distance to my apartment, it was great to be able to walk there, get tipsy, and be able to make it home with no worries of driving. And despite Ybor City being a sketchy area, I was fortunate enough to never be mugged or held up.

With this event, I "won a free party" at Bar Tampa because of an entry slip I put into a fishbowl they had there. It was a trick, though, to get people in there early, as the supposed party was open to the public.

As a sign of my lack of drawing power at the time, only three people I knew showed up: Scott Massey (of "my friend Scott Massey" fame), Scott's girlfriend Carrie, and Casey Cumley from work. But it was still fun. This makes the list because of a memorable incident where Carrie was asking me how tough it is to pick up women, and then I managed to get this girl Juli's phone number just moments later. Unfortunately, Juli ended up being married (though she left an amazingly unintentionally funny message on my answering machine as a result, which made it all worthwhile.)

19. Working the Bucs/Steelers game (October 2001)

In 2001, WTSP carried the Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay game, which I worked on as a field producer for the post-game show. It was my one and only opportunity to do that (since I was stuck on the morning show), but it was a great time. Reggie Roundtree and Sue Zelenko were total pros, being as easy to work with as possible under the circumstances (in the rain, doing a one-hour show outdoors.) I was literally holding an umbrella over them, just off-camera. But we pulled it off. It was the first game I ever saw at Raymond James Stadium; Pittsburgh won, with their defense sacking Brad Johnson something like six times.

18. Bubba for Sheriff (July-November 2004)

My lone job in politics was as the assistant campaign manager for Bubba The Love Sponge's run for Sheriff of Pinellas County in 2004. I get asked sometimes if this was a publicity stunt. I *assure* you, this was no stunt. We had no show and nothing to promote. Sheriff Jim Coats has done a good job in the post, and Bubba has obviously moved on to a great job, so I think it turned out fine for all involved.

For me, I gained an all-new respect for the amazing amount of work that goes into putting together a political campaign, even on a local level. I can only imagine how complex it gets for statewide elections...

17. The night that disappeared (April 2002)

I'm not particularly proud of this night, but I'd be disingenuous to not include it on here. I had recently been prescribed xanax (because of the situation at work), and then I drank a lot of top of that. Bad idea. VERY bad idea. Don't do it. After that night, I didn't ever again. My friend James (who didn't know about the xanax) was driving, thank goodness. James and I went to a boxing match at the Sun Dome, then hit a few bars before going to Channelside. I ultimately passed out in the parking lot across the street from Channelside, and the cops found me. That was the closest I've ever come to being arrested, and only my non-violent nature, coupled with James helping me out, allowed me to make it through unscathed. Well, unscathed as in throwing up in front of two girls at Channelside who James had hoped to hook me up with. Oops. Like Johnny Socko once sang, I was "backwards like Q*Bert" on that one.

I woke up the next day with a chemical hangover that I never want to relive. Oh, and with the e-mail address of some school teacher chick who I think I met at an Irish pub. She didn't respond to my e-mail, and I didn't exactly have a frame of reference from which to write. This is the first time I've revealed the full story of this on here, but I say it as a cautionary tale to not mix xanax and alcohol. A relative of a friend died recently from doing that, which scared me further in thinking back on that night, so let me tell you again: don't do it.

16. Eminem/Papa Roach/Ludacris/X-executioners concert (August 2002)

James and a friend of his had floor tickets for the Eminem concert at the Ice Palace in late August 2002. They were sold out by the time I tried to get mine, but I figured I could get one from a scalper. Think again. Cops were keeping a tight eye out for scalpers. Not on a WrestleMania in Philly level, but still it was tough.

By luck, the non-floor seat I bought I managed to swap (with cash) with someone who was going into the show who needed to unload a floor ticket. My lucky day. I met up with James and his friend, and we saw one of the best concerts I've ever attended.

This wasn't a festival event; it was a single concert. But, especially in hindsight, what a lineup! The X-executioners were new on the scene, but they put on a good show. Ludacris was great, as he always is in concert. That guy is a hard worker, make no mistake. Papa Roach might have seemed like an odd fit in the sub-main event slot, but they rocked the house. The rap/rock connection fit great with the crowd, with the mostly caucasians (and people like Warren Sapp, who I saw there in a Corey Simon jersey) getting into their high energy crowd antics. And Eminem (with D12) brought the house down in the top spot. A fun show on a fun night.

15. Ybor City street fight (September 2001)

I've never written about this one on here. The Saturday before 9/11, my friends Desi Capez and Amy Barnett from work came over to my apartment in Ybor to go party at Empire. This was right before Empire "jumped the shark" for me (more on that later.) I gave Amy a ride, so I didn't drink much, but she got rather drunk. When we left the club, as we walked back by the apartment complex, a group of three guys walked by. Amy started talking at them, and they shouted back, insulting Desi and I and saying that she should be with them. At that point I didn't want to have any altercations, as we were all having a real fun night. But Desi is not one to back down, and Amy was "drunk girl" and wouldn't be quiet... and it degenerated into a street fight. I was mad at Desi at the time for provoking things, though in hindsight I should've helped him lay out those three jabrones. But that's me in 2006 thinking this, not my 2001 mentality. Luckily things broke up before anything serious happened, but it ruined the mood of the night.

14. Lightning/Flames Stanley Cup Game 1 (May 2004)

In early 2004, my friend from high school Bill Cunningham moved into the Tampa area (actually New Port Richey or thereabouts, as I recall.) He'd come down to visit from time to time, and it was usually a fun time. Bill is one of the good people in life.

We went to the St. Pete Times Forum for the party before Game 1 of the Lightning/Flames Stanley Cup Finals in May 2004. Tickets had sold out well before the event, so Bill and I watched the game from Newk's. It was great fun.

13. Desi & I pick up two girls at the Red Dawg (December 2001)

This is another one that hasn't been told on here before. Short version: Desi and I went to the Red Dawg bar on Bay to Bay, my first visit to the place. He and I ended up meeting these two girls; I ended up with the one I thought was cuter, Rhonda, which worked fine for me. The four of us ended up going to the Village Inn (a 24/7 diner, not a motel) and getting something to eat. Rhonda and I dated briefly; I met her identical twin sister, who actually answered the door when I went to pick her up. That was intriguing. And no, I didn't pull anything shady off there. But I mention this because this started what I consider to be the "modern era" for me as far as dating goes. At that point, I knew the sky was the limit. Things didn't work with Rhonda (too bad, since she was smart and cute), but it helped me to realize the possibilities that were there for me.

12. The Green Iguana crew (2003)

There was a group of people, mostly chicks, who I ended up hanging out with in mid 2003 for a span of several months. I call them the "Green Iguana" crew because, in hindsight, that's where most of us hung out. We'd often end up at the Green Iguana at Rocky Point (which has since closed), and there were many fun evenings had there -- too many to pick just one out.

11. Livestock 13 (April 2003)

The only WXTB "Livestock" concert that I attended was Livestock 13 in April 2003. I'd been working for Bubba for a few months at that point, but I had my run of the place with VIP access. I didn't abuse it at all, as I was there to just have a few drinks and have fun. Note that I skipped the NFL Draft for this, and it was worth it, and that's saying alot coming from the Draft King. From Nilla and the plump chick in the back of the bus, to the two chicks who came down from Chicago, to all of the craziness in the VIP area... it was an adventure. Livestock was kind of like a major WWF/WWE pay-per-view in that it was a big, once-a-year event, and I happened to get to go to one of them. I couldn't imagine going without that access, out in "gen pop" as we called it where the crowd was located in the general camping area, but it was a thrill.

10. Splitsville (February 2004)

No real craziness, no insane adventures... just a really fun night. My friend Katt invited me to meet up with her and her friend Lina at the Channelside Hooters, which I did. From there we went bowling at a place called Splitsville, which was great fun. Plus, I landed some nice pics for the website from the evening.

9. AVA Awards Weekend (October 2005)

My friend Suzy Q and I really hit it off this weekend, as she had all access passes for the Adult Video Awards that were being held in Clearwater that weekend. That's the weekend I earned the nickname "Loubear" from her, I've since learned. Anyway, it was a blast; the story has been written on here in full detail, and it was memorable.

8. The St. Pete Beach weekend (July 2005)

The best weekend of 2005 for me was when my friend Deann turned 30 and had a party out at St. Pete Beach. The short-but-outstanding relationship I had with Melissa '05 reached its pinnacle that night. In another lifetime, maybe things with her and I would've worked. But at least we had that weekend, where we drank all day at a beachside bar (Swigwams) by the Travelodge where we were staying. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, "We'll always have St. Pete Beach." Not quite Paris, but a great memory.

7. Ybor City debut (Amphitheater, April 2001)

The first weekend I moved to Tampa, I didn't have time to go out. I was more concerned with getting my stuff moved in before I had to return my truck. But the second weekend, I ventured out into Ybor, and on a Saturday night I found myself at the Amphitheater. This was my first taste of the Tampa breakbeat sound that I've since found that I really enjoy.

Funny story: this cute brunette came up to me and asked if I had any beans. I gave her a quizzical look and said no. Only later did I learn that "beans" are slang for ecstacy. I ended up finding that girl at the end of the night, and it seemed that she found the "beans" she had been seeking. I gave her my number, but I only had one card with me, so I didn't get hers. A real rookie mistake. But that was in the transitional era for me, where I was still learning these things. Some people figure this stuff out earlier in life; it took me until I was 24 to get it. Live and learn.

6. Guavaween 2001 (October 2001)

My first-ever Guavaween was quite an adventure. My bro Matt, and my friend Rich Karg, came down to Tampa to take part in the fun with me. In the only time in my life that I've faced homophobia (something that, as a heterosexual, I usually don't have to deal with); I had to literally carry Matt back from Empire on Friday night after he had one too many. That was before they closed off the street that runs by the Sheriff's Department in Ybor, and traffic was at a standstill there. Some asshole shouted at me, "God made Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve" as I carried Matt (not literally, more his arm thrown over my shoulder and me keeping him standing) as we went toward my apartment. Yelling back that this was my brother and that he was sick didn't register with the ignorant redneck.

Other adventures included Rich getting "Lost In Ybor" and getting help from a cop at like 4 in the morning to get ahold of me that same night, and of course the Guavaween event itself. I thought it would be impossible to top that Guavaween experience. Oh, but I was wrong.

One note: that was the last hurrah for Empire for me. It went way downhill after that. Or my age caught up with me. I think it might've been a combination of both.

5. Demi's Market/Market on 7th (2001-2005)

The bar with two names was a hangout that I visited off and on from 2001-2005, but it reached its apex in 2002-2003. Those were the "good old days", when the trio of me, Todd Martin and Jeff Riley would go there and have our run of the place. The people there knew us by name. The pizza was/is world-class good, on par with Ray's Pizza in NYC (and that's HIGH praise.) And when it came to picking up women, I had a great system in place.

Riley was a great icebreaker, as he'd go up to talk to anyone. And I mean anyone. This proved especially good for hot chicks. 8 times out of 10, Riley would break the ice, but say something outlandish that would alienate the girl. That's when I'd step in, being the "normal" friend. Voila, the phone number would be mine. Riley was the best wingman I ever had. He even trumped James on that one. 1 out of 10 times Riley would strike gold for himself, and then 1 out of 10 times the girl would be entirely disinterested. But I tell you what, that system got me all sorts of dates.

Unfortunately, like most good things, it didn't last. Riley ended up dating Todd's sister, ultimately getting her pregnant, and Riley and Todd (who had been friends going back to their days at WVU) had a bad falling out. Todd has always been cool with me, and the way the split fell I ended up on Todd's side (I didn't want to "take a side", but like Deebo said in Friday, "Make a choice.") But it was a fun ride while it lasted.

4. Gasparilla Day Parade 2003 (February 2003)

Riley, Todd and I went to the 2003 Gasparilla Day Parade... which turned out to be an especially wild adventure. You'd think that it would be tamer, being a day parade and all, but the after-party that we made it to was absolutely crazy. My regret over not having had a camera there that day was a factor in me buying a digital camera later that year.

3. Guavaween 2003 (October 2003)

The party weekend to end all party weekends, Guavaween 2003 was an instant classic. So many factors: a great cast of characters (Matt, Rich Karg and John Pouncey joining me); copious amounts of alcohol; and women who were, in the words of the late Rick Rude, "Ready, willing, and very, very able." James even made a cameo on Friday night of that weekend.

Stories from that weekend will live on for years. I ended up alienated Tonya (one of the girls) by what I posted online about it, with the pictures and all. Too bad, since there was potential for fun there. To point, she was naked in my bed the Saturday night of that weekend, though nothing happened, as it was a crowded house and I woke up to find this naked girl sliding into bed with me, but we were interrupted before I could get my wits about me.

2. Feud with the Executive Meddler (All of 2002)

It can't all be positive. The torment I suffered for 13 months under the Executive Meddler made my life hell. If there's any silver lining, it's that I learned what NOT to do as a middle manager for when I got the opportunity to manage others with Bubba. The few people who went through that with me forged a bond with me that I hold close; if you're not Brian Kargus or Neal Boling (or even Jamie Anderson, who came in after my tenure ended), I don't think you can fully comprehend the horror that we endured.

It did have a good ending, though. I ended up moving on to a dream job, and because I refused to shut up and sit idly by, people at the station knew about the evil, underhanded tactics she was capable of executing. When the news director, Lane (who, to his discredit, brought her in, and backed her in the face of logic), had what was described to me as a "line of people" going into his office begging him to not promote her from the morning Executive Producer position when a higher spot opened up, Lane wisely decided to avoid newsroom turmoil and opted not to promote her. Embarrassed and presumably angry about what happened, the Meddler quit. It's not quite the Shawshank-style ending that one would like, but it's probably as good as I could have hoped under the circumstances.

1. Bubba The Love Sponge hires me (January 2003)

I love the radio business. That should be no secret if you'd looked at this site much at all. When I went to college in August 1995, I did so with the intention of going into radio, and the fact that the University of Evansville had WUEV was a major factor in me choosing to go there. That's no small part of why I freaked out so bad when I learned that UE was considering selling the station (plans which, for now, have been dropped.)

When the Telecom Act of 1996 passed, I figured my chances of getting a job in radio took a major hit. I knew consolidation was on the way... and sure enough, companies started buying up other companies, leaving terrestrial radio in the homogenized position that it is in today. So, I went the TV news route instead.

In November 2002, out of the blue, Bubba The Love Sponge e-mailed me. He had found the Radio Hot Talk part of my website (which since has been moved to its own URL, He wanted someone who knew radio syndication well, and it just so happened that I did... and that I lived in the area.

We talked over e-mail and the phone for the next couple of months; in January 2003 he offered me a job to handle his syndication. I was still at WTSP at that point, but I knew that I was going to be canned there soon.

The thing that made the job great is that I love Bubba's show. I did then, and I do now. I didn't want to leave Tampa, not on WTSP's terms, and that allowed me to not only stay... but to have a job working for a show I loved, doing something that really interested me.

The three-plus years with Bubba have been a blast. People like to talk crap about him, but I believe most of that is based in either jealousy or misunderstanding. As an air talent, Bubba is one of the best to come along in this era. I'm glad to have had the chance to have worked with him.

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