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2004 Gasparilla Day Parade

February 8, 2004

"Pale under the blistering sky
White and red, black and blue
You’ve been waiting a long time"
-Counting Crows "Black And Blue"

I woke up on Saturday morning, vaguely aware of my surroundings... and then realized that it was 9 AM. I was somewhat surprised by that. Somewhat.

My friend Gary was sleeping in the front room. He had come over from Orlando the night before to see Jackal (of the DJ combo Jackal & Hyde) spin at Level III in Ybor City. However, knowing that Gasparilla was the next day, I actually came back to the apartment before Jackal went on the turntables at 1 AM. Planning ahead is key, and I was running on empty on ye ole energy tank.

Gasparilla Girls 2004
A glimpse at the pre-party fun of the Gasparilla 2004 Day Parade.

Kim Martin had told me that she'd call me about coming over to give me a ride to Hyde Park. I had my reservations about counting on that as my definitive plan, as I knew that traffic was going to be atrocious and parking would be spotty at best... even for Kim, who has an apartment down there and supposedly a set place to park. It turned out that her complex was less than aggressive about enforcing parking guidelines, so she was lucky to find a spot when she got back from her rowing class (or whatever it was) at 10 AM.

Luckily, timing was on my side, as Gary was about to head back to Orlando. So he drove me down there and dropped me off at Todd Martin's place (since Kim and company were getting ready.)

By this point it was about noon, which meant that I was actually behind the curve as far as drinking went. So Captain Morgan and I became acquainted quickly enough, and the party was on.

It was a random selection of folks that I encountered over at Todd's place... friends of his roommate, friends of those friends, etc. Like I mentioned in yesterday's column, Gasparilla is a chance for all sorts of people who might otherwise never meet to interact. It's pretty cool.

Scooter Mayhem
Deann briefly borrowed a scooter for the trip over to Bayshore Boulevard.

After everyone met up (which was easier said than done), we made our way over to one of Deann Pruitt's friends' places in Hyde Park. I doubt I could find the place again if I had to, as we walked in a bit of a maze to get there. But once there, it was fun. You never know what to expect when you're the outsider at one of those types of deals, but it was good fun. Like I said, Gasparilla is an event tailor-made for unexpected interactions.

I talked with a married couple about the NFL (the girl had on a "Real Women Love Football" shirt, which makes her instantly cool in my book). Though her husband was a Dolphins fan, so I had to fight back cracking jokes about December collapses, missing the playoffs in consecutive years despite having Ricky Williams AND Chris Chambers, and of course Dave Wannstedt's moustache. Maybe after a few more rum and cokes I might've been more inclined for that, but it was still early in the game.

Skateboard Fun
Kim tried to skateboard her way down to the parade.

Todd headed back to his place, and we didn't meet up with him for the rest of the day (another Gasparilla tradition -- people randomly coming and going). We left the party, but then getting to the parade route itself was a bit of an adventure. Between Deann talking some guy into letting her ride his scooter and Kim borrowing some kid's skateboard, it was a barrel of laughs on the trip down. I kept my eyes peeled for a rickshaw for someone to pull me in, but alas there was none to be found. (And yes, I am joking.)

Once on Bayshore, the parade was well underway. I missed out on seeing Spice Boy (on his 25th birthday) riding on the 98 Rock float, though I did see the WFLZ float (and also the 98 Rock promo area -- which unfortunately was on the other side of the route from us.)

Gasparilla House Band
Detlef had a three piece jazz band as the in-house entertainment for his guests (and me).

In one of those "This is Gasparilla" surreal moments, we ended up over at a house on Bayshore that belongs to some guy named Detlef (not Schrempf) who Kim knows. Kim's connection got us in there, which meant access to his food (I was starving, having only eaten a bowl of Frosted Flakes for breakfast) and more importantly a chance to hit the restroom.

The parade was nice and all, but I came prepared with beads to begin with, and on top of that I was given a ton of beads by some of the random people I met at that first house party in Hyde Park.

It didn't rain, though the temps stayed lower than expected with overcast skies. However, stupid me assumed that I didn't need to worry about sunscreen (which I actually brought with me, but which is actually in the blue bag that I brought that Kim ended up with... more on that later.) So now I have a mild sunburn on my head. Damn my fair skin.

From the parade, we eventually headed over to the apartment complex area where this magic outdoor party happened last year. Unfortunately, lightning didn't strike twice; I think the colder weather this year put a bit of a damper on the outdoor party spirit later in the day. It's too bad. We did randomly end up at some apartment, where I traded a strand of beads for a Cherry Coke and rum. Fair deal, I say.

Yankee Hustlers
Two girls, one guy... advantage: Lou!

Somehow we lost Kim at the parade site. I still don't know how that happened. We looked and looked for her, and finally ended up finding ourselves over at a 97X outdoor concert off of Pratt and Plant. She tried calling me, but I could barely hear her, and trying to describe the location proved to be a bit of a tongue twister (and her telling me she was "on Bayshore" was about as effective as Richard Karg telling me he was at "Centro Ybor" during the night of Guavaween 2003).

The concert, which featured local rock bands, was an interesting scene. I had on my 98 Rock "Bubba Mornings" shirt, which is like wearing enemy gang colors in the wrong part of town. I didn't do it to be disrespectful, but that's what I was wearing and we randomly happened upon the scene. I caught a lot of stares from the 97X crew, but no one said shit to me. Being a 6'2" guy with a shaved head and goatee has its privileges, I tell you.

Check out the guy with the beer hat. His friends were cool; we talked some, I put over how cool the hat was, and they generously hooked me up with a beer. Now that's the kind of generosity that I like to see. A little Tampa community spirit going on there. Not that I couldn't have bought my own... but, hey, free beer.

Beer Hat Guy
This was the best hat I saw all day.

Later on, I did talk with someone from 97X... my friend Carli, who I used to work with at Channel 10. She had to miss the parade due to doing a promo appearance at a Toyota dealership, but she showed up for the end of the concert. It was fun catching up with her and hearing some stories about the old station that didn't begin with "Don't put this on your webpage" (which is the norm these days). All I know is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The real adventure came in trying to get home. The crew I was hanging with was going back to the Hyde Park side, which in hindsight maybe I should've gone along for. But instead I decided to head back to Ybor, so I walked down to the Ice Palace (or the St. Pete Times Forum, as it's known now.) That walk proved to be much longer than expected.

Finally I made it, probably a good 45 minutes later. Along the way I encountered all sorts of people... One guy in a car thought (jokingly -- I think) that I was going to jump off the drawbridge over by Kennedy. Another guy walking by asked me if I was a drug dealer (I guess the bling bling of the beads made me look shady.) Finally I made it to the trolley pickup spot. I had every intention of hitting Ybor last night, but exhaustion is a bitch. I was completely out of gas.

So it goes, another day in the life, another Gasparilla Day Parade in the books. Good times; I definitely enjoyed it. I'd hoped for the craziness of last year, but that might be like hitting Powerball. Or maybe I just wasn't in the right place. Or, I'd like to think that kind of fun is just waiting for next weekend, when it's me and James hitting the Big Easy for a weekend that should be an early contender for 2004 weekend of the year. We shall see...

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