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Rizzle For The Bizzle

March 31, 2003

"Whatever it is, they love it
And they just won't let me be
I handle my biz, don't rush me
Just relax and let me be free"
-Ludacris "Area Codes"

Jacksonville is a city on Florida's east coast, a place with an impressive downtown, an amazingly spread out city radius, and a certain anonymity in between the big cities (Tampa/St. Pete, Miami and Orlando) and the classic spring break locales (Daytona Beach, Destin, Panama City, etc.) But if you've never been to Florida's "First Coast", you're missing out.

On the advice of my friend James, I took the same route up that I rode on with the Bubba the Love Sponge bus last month for the Lex & Terry Funeral. Much of it is on state roads instead of interstates, as there isn't a direct interstate route between Tampa and J-Ville (unless you want to go via Orlando and up the east coast). My drive up on Friday was hot. Not as in Chris Norton "that's hawhhht, real setsy", but temperature wise -- it was clear that winter is gone. I had the AC going full-blast, and it was still burning up.

James and I have had some fun adventures in Tampa, and this weekend in Jacksonville followed in that tradition. We made sure to have some good meals. On Friday I had swordfish for the first time.... and it was delicious. Blackened swordfish is highly recommended.

I had a couple of beverages early on, but the drinking had to go on the backburner for the Ludacris concert at UNF. Being an on-campus event, there was no brew flowing for the show. As it was, I felt a bit out of place, with much of the audience appearing younger than me. James and I joked about demanding to see ID from girls there before talking with them.

Ludacris put on a solid performance. He could've half-assed it, at an under-promoted event with only so-so attendance in a college arena (that looked more like an oversized high school gym, complete with a tarp on the floor that seemed straight out of my FRHS days in Nashville.) His opener, Cee-Lo Green, wasn't quite able to get the crowd going (and Cee-Lo seemed rather pissed about this, too.) But when Luda and his crew came out, the place exploded.

Ludacris might be somewhat by-the-numbers when it comes to his concerts, but he seems to have found his groove and he's excellent at keeping the crowd entertained and involved. For some reason the audience seemed to reject being called "Jacksonville", despite the fact that that's where we were. Ludacris picked up on this quick, and asked the crowd what area code they were from (which lead to numbers being shouted out like something straight from the audience of The Price Is Right.) But he played his hits, he stayed energetic, and he sent the crowd home happy. Mission accomplished.

James and I watched some college hoops at the hotel after the show, and then we ended up at a club called Plush. Being both a sheriff's deputy and a Coast Guard member, James has the ability to talk his way into a wide array of things, from free parking to free admission. In this case, he was just looking to park up next to the club in the "No Parking" zone. He told one of the cops out front, who initially said no. But then the cop's partner overruled him, and ended up getting us in for free. James and I were introduced to who I presume was the manager (?) and invited in for free. It was a little uneasy for me when we were called "Brothers In Arms" by the manager; I'm not one to pass myself off as something I'm not. But I never said that I was, so I kept my mouth shut and walked in. Free cover is free cover.

The place was packed. If there was a downer to the weekend, it's that some of the women I met in J-Ville were rather standoffish/stuck up (and in one case inexplicably angry -- more on that in a bit.) Anyway, they stopped serving at 2 (thanks to local law), but the club kept going strong till 3. I met this cool chick named Kimmie from Atlanta, and we hit it off right away. She wanted another drink, but they'd quit serving at this point. I tried to get her to come over to where we were staying, since we had liquor aplenty there, but her friend wanted to go to sleep.

Saturday was highlighted by two great college b-ball games. Marquette surprised the hell out of me in the way they took it to Kentucky. Dwyane Wade is a tremendous player. From there, Kansas beat Arizona in a thriller. At the very least, the outcomes will hopefully stifle the stupid "reseed the Final Four" arguments that some on-air commentators have been making of late.

James and I went out to a party on Saturday night that Kimmie and her friend had invited us to attend. It was out near Callahan, which is outside of J-Ville city limits. We were told it was out in the woods... and that was no exaggeration. We went from a rough neighborhood to wilderness in no time. Very interesting contrast. From there it was another 20 minutes or so driving into the darkness, and down a few back roads, to find the place.

The party was a going-away gathering for Kimmie's friend's cousin, who's going over to Iraq this week. They had some hunch punch type stuff mixed up there, complete with fruit that had been soaked in Everclear (the alcohol, not the band). It reminded me of the Around The World parties (like Hurloween) we used to have back in the day at the old Phi Tau house, before the ballbusters in the UE administration cracked down. Room 11 used to specialize in that, as I recall. Anyway, it was a rather subdued gathering, nothing too crazy, and the various groups there seemed to kind of do their own thing. It was an unusual scene. One interesting moment was talking with one of the dudes there about Planet Radio 93.3 and Bubba and how I worked with him, etc. Like much of Jacksonville, he told me he listens to Bubba in the morning. Callahan is actually the city of license for WPLA (Planet Radio), for whatever that's worth.

James was wanting to hit the beach scene, so we left the party. We ended up at a row of clubs right next to the ocean. Unfortunately it took us about an hour to get there from the party (and that was with James driving and knowing a shortcut or two.) It was around 1 AM.

We waited in line and made it into a club whose name escapes my mind at the moment. It's right there on the beach, I remember that. It was packed, from the dance floor area to the middle corridor and into the bar area on the other side. At one point I bought a round of drinks, and a guy at the bar was lamenting giving up his credit card to his girlfriend (he had a $200 tab from the bar -- ouch!)

At 1:45, the F-U lights came on and they started encouraging people to finish up their drinks. I wondered what was going on; the night before had a 2 AM drink cutoff, but Plush stayed open until 3. Apparently there's a different law for the clubs by the beach... By 1:50 the bouncers were telling people to head toward the doors. I finished my drink, but without that much time to spare. By 1:55 they had the place empty.

Maybe Ybor City has spoiled me, but I'm used to things being fairly emptied out by the time 3 AM rolls around. Even the big clubs like Ampitheatre aren't super crowded by the end. But in this case, there were lots of people still wanting to party and unable to do so. Stupid counter-productive laws.

Kimmie and her friend were supposed to meet us out by the beach after they dropped off some friends, so James and I waited outside and people-watched. This hot blonde girl walked up to us, and I thought hmmmm. Then she opened her mouth and asked us in an accusatory tone "Did one of you grab my friend's ass?"

I looked her in the eye and said no. So did James, but apparently he smirked and the girl thought he had done it. She then started accusing him. So James being James, he said some smart ass remark and pissed the girl off. She then tried to rack him! It was amazing. I think someone slipped some testosterone in her drink or something. Girls don't normally behave like that, even good looking ones. There's a difference between bitchiness and mindless aggression.

The blonde said that the guys who grabbed her friend's butt were "a taller guy and a shorter guy". James is 6'6", but I'm 6'2", so I inquired if she was saying that I was the shorter guy (that's one thing I've never been accused of). My logic silenced her, but then she walked over to her friends and I could hear them knocking on James. So James started firing back zingers of his own. And I wondered: how did I get myself into this?

Finally Kimmie and her friend showed up. We hit the beach for a little while. But it was late for them, so we didn't hang for just a long time. Kimmie and I had our goodbye, and that was that. She's in Atlanta, I'm in Tampa...

So what to think about Jacksonville? It has a beautiful downtown area. It has some fun clubs, plenty of things to do, and nice beaches close by. I recommend a visit, should the opportunity come your way.

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