Thursday, December 25, 2008

Don't worry about the economy - save it

As families across the country sat down for Christmas dinner, millions of conversations were focused on our troubled economy.

At my parents house a healthy portions of uncertainty and second-guessing were served alongside a splendid ham, green beans, and butternut squash risotto. Should we have bailed out Detroit? Is Obama’s stimulus package going to work? And, how did you season the almonds in this salad?

Several bottles of wine later, it became apparent why the American economy will forever thrive – the people.

We cannot count on the government to save the United States of America. We have to rely on our most valuable commodity, our people and their ideas.

Here is one such idea:

Today, thousands of Katrina trailers sit in expensive storage facilities in Louisiana. As each day passes they are costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars. The maintenance alone has made the prospect of keeping them until they’re needed again unreasonable.

Rumor has it that these trailers will soon be for sale at rock bottom prices. After buying a couple dozen trailers, we will purchase an equal amount of Suburbans, Hummers, and Escalades. Although gas prices have subsided, the value of these vehicles has been drastically reduced … except in Alaska.

Follow me here. Once we have the SUV’s and the trailers, we create a caravan en route to Alaska. The last frontier requires 4wd, which sell for twice as much as they do in the lower 48, and trailers are hot commodities needed for prospecting land. As we make the week long journey through the Great North, my uncle, who lives in Alaska, will be lining up the sales.

With cash in hand, we charter a Halibut fishing boat and go out for an overnight trip. We each catch our 200lb limit and fly home the next day. We then sell these fish to a high-end seafood restaurant, and do it all over again. It's like printing money.

The first caravan leaves Tuesday, let me know if you’re in.

And oh yeah, if you think you’re just going to steal this plan, maybe I just wrote this to send you in the wrong direction. Maybe we’re headed to Nicaragua and plan on bringing back Marlin.

Maybe this is the American way.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Houston we haven't a problem - a quick Christmas Eve update

I've helped bake approximately ten dozen cookies today.

My most important task today has been chopping walnuts. It took a great deal of concentration. If you chop them too small, you can't tell you're there. Too big, and you're mouth will dry and overwhelmed by walnut flavor.

Second in importance to my walnut preparation, is my job as internet recipe reader. I've become affectionately known as "Houston." On occasion I get teaspoon and tablespoon mixed up, queuing my mom to tell me that, "baking is a science." All said, I'm basically the brains behind the operation.

The fact that we're all together is just about the only thing that makes today feel like Christmas, though. It's over 50 degrees outside, and the overall buildup has been minimal. Is this getting old?

I hope everyone has a great Christmas.

p.s. I only put on the headphones for effect.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Solo Smiling – my first self-help introspection blog

Smiling when you’re alone is always a little strange, but it feels really good – it’s sincere.

And on most Fridays just before four, when I have absolutely nothing planned, I get into my car, turn the key, and smile.

It’s a different kind of smile than stumbling on a funny YouTube clip or joking around with your friends. It’s being happy because you don’t have a reason not to. Sure, I won’t be going to work for the 64.5 hours, and I will probably overindulge myself with alcohol, food and sports, but smiling for the hell of it once a week isn’t enough.

Oftentimes, I think we hold ourselves back from being happy. For example, if I’m planning to meet up with some friends for dinner and a drink, I concern myself with being late or whether the scene will be satisfactory. When I could be smiling about the fact that there is an appetizer named The Tominator and beer is only $2.

I don’t have anything to be unhappy about. And if I find myself unhappy, and rationally write down what is wrong and compare it to the good things that are going on all around me, it always sounds ridiculous. I’m not saying everyone should be pleased with all life all of the time, just a lot more often.

Good things are happening all around you. Enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas at the Carse’s

Thursday will be my 25th Christmas. I’ve spent each of them with the same four people.

Sometimes relatives come over. On occasion a current girlfriend shows up, but every year, without fail, my two brothers, my mom, and my dad gather for Christmas.

I’m guessing this is fairly rare.

Although the company has remained the same, there are a few things that have changed. My first memories of Christmas morning involve me waking up, taking a second to realize it’s Christmas, throwing on my red robe (which I only wore once a year), and sprinting down the stairs before the sun was up. A new bike, Lego’s or a remote control car would be waiting in the living room fully assembled. Eventually my parents would hear that we were awake and stumble down to see what Santa had brought us.

At 24, I’m the youngest in the family. Still, Santa has never failed me or my 29 and 31-year-old brothers.
The difference is that now, if you wake up before 10 a.m., the gifts might not have come yet.

We give out our family presents on Christmas Eve. And although my adolescent anticipation has drastically dissipated, it is still one of my favorite nights of the year.

Before getting to the gifts, we eat clam chowder and go to the candle light service at church. I have distinct memories of this being the slowest three hours of my life – the anticipation to open gifts almost unbearable.

We usually got home around 9 and gathered in the living room. After turning 21 I made the discovery that egg nog is quite possibly the best mixer known to man. It tastes the same with a 1:1 egg nog to rum ratio as a 1:5.

With drinks in hand and cookies overflowing our plates, everyone tries to stall opening their presents so they won’t be left with none at the end. My mom still gets genuinely excited about a new pair of Thorlo socks, and my dad gets distracted and we have to go find him upstairs or in the kitchen so we can continue.

Things are slowly changing, though. For example, oysters have been introduced as a Christmas tradition simply because they are one of dad's favorite foods.

And maybe one day a woman will force us into marriage and ruin the fun for everybody.

Until then I’ll just keep counting on Santa on Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not trapped on an inhabited island

Here’s the thing about islands with fewer square feet than the house you grew up in – there isn’t a lot to do.

I guess that’s why it’s so much fun to ask the question, “if you were trapped on a desert island and you could only bring one thing, what would you bring?”

Everyone knows that all sustenance is provided by coconuts alone, so one only needs to concern themselves with is entertainment.

I was in a similar situation last week in the San Blas Islands, except that I wasn’t trapped, and I was able to bring as much as I wanted. I brought a book and an ipod, but neither were used.

No, I spent my time making up and playing competitive games against my brother. So if I was trapped on a desert island could I bring him along?

Is that weird, sweet, incestuous, or all of the above?
This game requires balance and strength, focus and execution, but most vital are balance and ramming ability.

Nick tried an unorthodox backward toss in this event. It could have worked, but he had a little too much loft.

Possibly the strangest game we played, but do not underestimate the difficulty.

After taking the lead on the first corner, Nick didn't have many places to pass.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's like they're speaking a different language

I didn’t leave the country for long enough to miss anything. And truthfully, I didn’t want to come home.

There is, however, one thing that is nice about being home – English.

I spoke approximately 500 words in Spanish during my trip (1,000 attempts at words ended up not being words)

- 50% were “si”
- 30% were “bueno”
- 5% were items on a menu that I was simultaneously pointing at
- The remaining 15% were improperly conjugated verbs

A couple weeks before my trip I submitted a list to my brother, who lives there and speaks fluent Spanish, of things that I wanted to do while I was visiting. Most of the list was composed of things like surfing, drinking rum, or laying on the beach. Most of these were easily accomplished. Without much thought I included that I wanted to “have a 20 second conversation with a Panamanian in Spanish.”

My brother, always wanting me to have a cultural experience in addition to a good time, constantly reminded me of my goal. On the second day I realized how long 20 seconds actually was.

We were fishing in the Pacific Ocean, and I had just caught my first fish. I felt good, the sun was shining and the wind was in my hair. I was sitting a few feet away from our captain, and I turned to him and said in Spanish, “The fishing here is very good.” He nodded, and I’m not sure if he understood me. I didn’t time it, but I’m guessing this non-conversation lasted about four seconds.

No matter how special you feel when you’re talking to someone in another language, it’s just not very special to the person that hears it.

Here are a couple other attempts at conversation, most failed to elicit a response, none lasted more than 10 seconds.

“This isn’t my house … I don’t know.”
“I like the Atlanta Braves.”
“What type of tree is that?”
“Is the airport more big than here?”

It’s a frustrating and helpless feeling when you can’t fully engage in what is happening around you. It’s worse when you have to completely rely on your older brother, and just behind his face, he’s rolling his eyes at you.

It makes you feel like you’re an inferior being. And for nearly two weeks I felt less intelligent than everyone around.

By the end, I’d added an item to another list.

My life goals:

1. Raise a child.
2. Love a woman.
3. Have a career I'm proud of.
4. Learn a foreign language.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I prefer the memory

As documented below, in my mind I totally killed it last week during karaoke. I remember a lot of cheering, enthusiastic dancing, and an inspiring musical performance.

When I watch it, it sounds somewhat demonic, my dance moves are overstated, and the guy singing the alternative vocals really gets in my head. Oh well.

As promised ...

And John, "Don't stop believing."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From the Pied Piper to Clash

In my elementary school's rendition of the Pied Piper of Hamlin I played the part of cat #3. I delivered my single line surprisingly late to an audience cramped into plastic chairs designed for those four feet and under.

On Monday, close to 20 years later, I made my triumphant return to the stage.

My family isn't big with the whole performing arts thing. My dad can tell a good story, my mom can sing or hum the same line of a song for the majority of an afternoon, and once my brother and I were complemented on our voices when we were trying to sing in an obnoxiously low baritone at church.

That said, when we entered the bar, and the slightly dilapidated black stage loomed in front of me, I was both exhilarated and intimidated. I found a place in the back, a can of PBR in my hand, and watched the likes of Ron Jovi masterfully sing "Wanted Dead or Alive" and a guy named Kurt perform "On a Plain."

The performers knew what they were doing. They had confident, sensible mannerisms and were possibly in local bands. Nobody can rock like David Cross, but most of them could have held their own on American Idol.

I was with a group of four, and when one of the girls pulled me along to go look at the song list, I played along. When she flipped through the book once and submitted a song, I started to get nervous. Sure, I was a little nervous for her, but more importantly I was nervous because this meant soon enough I would be on stage as well.

The crowd was supportive. It couldn't have hurt that she was a cute blond with knee high black boots on, but as she worked her way toward the chorus of "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley, it didn't sound that bad.

I was confused by her reaction when the song was over. She wasn't excited or relieved, she simply walked over to me and told me that I had to sing next. I already knew this. I'm not the kind of guy that is one-upped without resistance. But I let her feel like she was convincing me.

Like my mom, I only know the chorus of most songs. Flipping through the pages, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, and Clash all stuck out. I asked the girl collecting names to recommend something easy, and she pointed to "Should I Stay or Should I Go."

It's a popular song, but it's the kind of song that I don't know why I know it. I don't listen to rock on the radio and I don't have the Clash cd or any of their mp3's. This fact worried me, but other that general hilarity, I don't know why this woman I'd met a minute before would steer me in the wrong direction.

I went with it, and she told me that I had 15 minutes. I went to get a shot of Tequila and headed for a bench near the stage. I tried to repeat the lines in my head, but didn't get past the title.

I can't tell you much about the next ten minutes or so. Like any good performer I was getting in the zone.

Before I knew it, I was called to the stage. I had planned on saying “any fan involvement would be appreciated” before I started, but it didn’t feel right and I didn’t. I kind of have a gift. I would rate my current stage presence a 3, but my potential is 10.

As the song started I started to rock from side to side, emphasizing the hips. It was a good feeling to be up on stage with a band, and at that moment, at least symbolically, I was the leader.

With the familiar guitar chords being played to my right, I glanced up at the monitor. My glance turned into a stare, as I waited for the first word to change colors or something. They never did, and before I knew it the bassist was singing, "Darling you've got to let me know."

After that, I managed to catch on. The great thing about Clash, and this song inparticular, is that the lines are pretty well spaced out. My confidence grew with each line. Eventually I got my stage feet under me and incorporated a overdramatic indie quick bounce that was probably all the rage five years ago.

Halfway through the song another guy came on stage. I felt like I was doing pretty well, so I kind of nodded my head at him as if I knew what he was up to. Next thing I know, he's yelling inaudible phrases between my lines. The crowd seemed to like it, so I sent off as many embracing vibes as I could muster.

At the time I felt like we were really creating something special. Like there was some type of connection we had, and we were making something new and fresh. Walking off the stage, to a pretty good cheer from the crowd, I imagined me and this new guy taking the music scene by storm. I found out later that he was just singing the other part of the song.

It was an unforgettable night. I convinced my other friend to sing, and after a rousing version of "Don't Stop Believing," we called it a night. Luckily they were selling DVD's of the night's performances.

I bought one, and it is being mailed to me at this moment. If I can figure out how to rip it onto the computer, It will be on this blog. Check back soon ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Love & Life just outside of Macy's

Pictured above is four elderly men seated silently outside of Macy's at 11:20 AM on a Tuesday. It's the One Day sale, the biggest day of the year at Macy's ... and they are MISSING IT.

Initially, I had a somewhat feminine reaction, it was kind of sweet for these old guys to half-heartedly tag along with their wives on the big trip to the mall. After further inspection, I noticed they appeared somewhat miserable. I would find out why minutes later.

I needed a suit, and while Macy's doesn't always have the hippest of fashions, I'm not always the hippest of people. I tried to immerse myself in the all-important decision of grey or navy, but I was distracted by the mass of energy and movement 20 yards away in the dress shirt section.

I approached cautiously, still in the mens section, to see a horde of women surrounding a 15'x 10' table full of packaged dress shirts.

If I had to guess, the average age was 65. And while there were a few men jockeying for position, the vast majority were women in the grandma category. It was the "Morning only" sale, and the shirts were going for $9.99.

They clutched shirts of creamsicle orange and blue and green plaid, confident they were briging home a winner. I started to wonder if their husbands still worked, or if they have just been programmed for this sort of behavior.

One thing I'm sure of, is that the men that were waiting outside weren't interested in what they had to offer. Their perfectly worn in sweater jackets, and flannel shirts were there for the long run. And since this Macy's "biggest of the year" One Day Sale, is supposed to only happen once a year, they've surely got the next dozen years covered.

I'd like to consider myself a romantic, somewhere between hopeless and hopeful. But if this is the grand finale, I'm not sure I want continue my search.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another amazing feat of balance

I didn't spend more than 15 minutes working on this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's in a name?

Say your first name aloud. Repeat it until it starts sounding strange.

For me it doesn’t take long. Around the third time, I begin to say it mockingly.

“Steven, Steven, Steven.”

If I think about it, Steven sounds like the appropriate name for an uppity receptionist at a downtown law firm, more concerned with the company on his boss’ business card than his own role.

The abbreviated version isn’t much better. Steve, to me, is the guy who wears a different windbreaker vest every day, and shakes your hand a little too hard and a little too often.

I’m horribly inconsistent with choosing which name version I introduce myself with:

Job interview – Steven
Friend’s friend – Steve
Girl – Steven
Family member – Steve
Call in radio show – Steven
Forwarded email – Steve
Restaurant hostess – Steven
Fightclub – Steve

As you can see, it’s a lot to remember. Sometimes I wonder if anyone’s first name is their first choice.

In the 13th century people started a practice known as “rhyming nicknames.” That’s how you get Ted for Edward, Bill from William, and Bob from Robert. Those are pretty common names. These people are so dissatisfied with their name, that they abandon the first letter altogether.

When that isn't enough, there is always the middle name, which is pretty much a backup plan. I’m confident that this is why it was invented (also useful for creating embarrassing initials … mine are S.A.C.). If you find your first name so unacceptable that you can’t derive a different version from just one to two of the letters, you’re granted an entirely different set.

If you're in the public arena, like actors, radio personalities and strippers, you probably use a stage name.

I’m not sure of a solution. I don’t particularly like the sound of my social security number. And if we waited until adulthood to choose our name I wouldn't know what to choose, except for purposes of self amusement.

So I guess I'll just have to settle for the name I have. And next time someone tells me, "you don't look like a Steven," I'll be sure to return the favor.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Cold Hard Truth about having a Wingwoman

The wingman is an impossibly selfless and depressingly necessary component when talking to a foreign member of the opposite sex.

The wingman can be bad. They can be rude, annoying or awkward, and what does that say about you?

They can be too good. If they are funny, they’ll steal your thunder. If they’re too good looking, well … you’ll look bad.

The purpose is to make you look better. Better than you really are. So wouldn’t a beautiful woman, a wingwoman, do the trick?

The answer, simply, is no.

I learned this first hand at a bar aptly named Teasers in St. Simon’s last weekend. Our group arrived at around 10, with 19 people crowded into a van taxi. I quickly bored of playing pool in the back, and went with my friend Fred to analyze other costumes.

We spotted an above average Betty and Wilma, and we decided to talk to them.

I asked what their costumes were, not because we didn’t know, but so they would ask us what we were.

First, it should be known that Fred is Jewish. I feel like I can say this, because for years he has lovingly called me Aryan. Anyway, we look different. He has a full beard, and I have 13 chest hairs.

Thankfully they inquired about our costumes, and our hearts filled with glee. With the precision that could only be attained by two guys who’d drunkenly annoyed their friends with the same joke for the last five hours – we responded.

“We’re Identical Twins!” we yelled, as our faces struggled to contain our smiles.

Somehow they weren’t impressed. Their friend interrupted to inform us that they both have boyfriends and pulled them away.

This phenomenon repeated itself a dozen times, until Fred was summoned by his girlfriend (remember to write future article about why guys in relationships aren’t ideal wingmen).

I don’t want to say Fred was a bad wingman. I guess the problem here was that we were more amused with ourselves than the women we were talking to.

Alone and dejected, I did what any man in his mid-20’s would do – head toward the closest live country band. Lucky for me, they were less than ten yards away.

A couple of the girls that had made the trip down with us sensed my despair, and asked if I wanted to dance. Dancing with friends’ fiancées and girlfriends is a difficult proposition. If you don’t have fun, then you’re boring, if you have too much fun, well that’s not ok either.

Although they were better looking than the other girls on the dance floor, they were relieved by my wondering eyes. Instead of formulating an undeniable plan, as Fred and I had earlier, they started to push me toward another group of girls.

I’d imagine that this method has worked for them. Get a big group of girls together, giggle, and bump into guys. I’m not a girl, but I’m pretty much positive that this is how it works.

The first time I bumped into the girl they had chosen as my ideal dance partner, it wasn’t that bad. I glanced over my shoulder, said sorry, and tried to smile. I think I’ve read that smiling is good in either Maxim or Seventeen magazine.

After the first bump it got a little weird. Sure, I should have just asked if she wanted to dance, but I didn’t. And with Dixieland Delight playing in the background, I found myself trying to shuffle appropriately, all but abandoned by my most recent dance partners. They remained a couple feet back, like proud mothers, prodding me to “go for it.”

I’d been uncomfortably in their space for too long now, and this was clear to all parties involved. By chance my beer was empty, and I suddenly really needed another drink.

I returned to the friends, and they seemed amazed that their master plan hadn’t worked.

Maybe it was the girls, maybe it was the country music, and maybe, just maybe, it was me. But I spent the rest of the night dancing by myself.

Dancing with girls is overrated anyway.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What we've accomplished this year

He did this ...

I did that ...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Heaven at the Corner of Randolph and Bay

JACKSONVILLE – “Too much watermelon, not enough turtle necks.”

It doesn’t make much sense. But as I sat down to write about my love affair with our tailgate spot, one that I’ve traveled near 3500 miles for the last five years, this line is repeating itself in my head.

Let me set the stage. A man in his late 40’s is approaching, wearing a blue dri-fit-ish turtle neck, carrying a plate of cut up watermelon. Just before he passes, I yell, “too much watermelon, not enough turtle necks.”

He’s looking right at me, somewhat confused as to why someone is yelling from less than eight feet, and his head cocks a little to the side. At the same time, my friends begin to yell. A chorus of “Ohhhhh”’s, and the catch phrase for the weekend, “you just got got … kinda” are echoed by about a half dozen friends standing within earshot.

There really isn’t anything to say in response to this comment.

Does it make more sense now? … Exactly

Ok, well that story doesn’t really do this 1,000 square feet of grass justice. Just trust me, it's really great.

It has history – a depressed hedge, where my friend Homer fell and eventually passed out, has not yet recovered. Tattered remains of plastic bags used for holding makeshift signs are still wrapped around street signs.

It has friendship – old friends reunite, and the most recent girlfriends are assessed. Strangers fail to walk by and become new friends.

It has passion – the comments range from mean spirited to nonsensical, but it doesn’t really matter. People usually appear appalled when they look at us, but it’s the reason they’re there. What happens on the football field matters only because the fans care. And most of the fans that make it to Jacksonville care a lot.

Post any clever or not so clever things you said, or heard someone else say, to Florida fans below. I tried to think of a bunch, but haven't had much luck.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Going Bananas with Busch Light

I'm not sure why my hand looks incredibly fat or why the beer appears to be an extension of my palm, but I intend to elaborate extensively on my recent trip to St. Simon's and Jacksonville.

What you have to look forward to:
  • Potential sound bites (if I can figure it out).
  • A run in with an A-list commercial celebrity.
  • A visit to an establishment named Teasers, which isn't a strip club.
  • Campaigning for an unknown political candidate via techno dance moves.
  • An epiphany in the midst of one of Georgia's worst losses I've been a part of.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Unforgettable and Non rememberable

I’m 24 years old. I have a steady job. And I have no known mental conditions.

Still, my actions over the next few days, in preparation for the Georgia-Florida football game, won’t support the above statements.

The following will take place:

  • I’ll leave no later than 6:30 a.m., over an hour before I leave for my paying job.

  • Several dozen student athletes, whom I have little in common with, will become the focus of my existence.

  • I’ll be drinking beer before 9 a.m. Not because I want to, but because I feel like I should be.

  • I’ll share drinks with teenagers, and idolize intoxicated grandparents.

Certainly nothing that takes place this weekend will make logical sense, and to be honest I didn’t really plan on going this year. I toyed with the idea, but in my heart I thought I had moved on.

Not necessarily moved on from the trip, but the environment. I pictured my next trip to Jacksonville taking place in a nice hotel room with adequate space and possibly including a planned meal.

Instead, I’ll get nineteen people relentlessly drinking. In the end I really couldn’t miss out.

This weekend will be unforgettable and non rememberable

I can’t wait, but when does it stop?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Car Stereo – not standard anymore

Due to theft, my car has been without a stereo for 11 of the last 15 months.

I’m in the car a lot – I commute 50 miles a day, my parents live about an hour away, and the University of Georgia plays its home games in Athens.

I’ve spent over 10,000 miles in silence.

For less than $100, I could get a new cd player. And it isn’t that I don’t have the money. I’ve had bar tabs, single bets in Vegas and gas station stops that have cost more.

I’ve genuinely asked my friends to trade cars with me for the week dozens of times.

I’ve avoided driving on countless encounters with girls I’m interested in. When this isn’t an option, my go-to joke is delivered without thought, “I had the cd player removed so we would be able to have uninterrupted conversation.”

I leave a little bit of shattered glass in the back seat so the break-ins seem fresh.

My brown 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix, which is certainly flashy, has been assaulted on three separate occasions.

3 a.m. July 12th, 2007 – Lenny’s Corndog-O-rama
The perpetrator broke my rear passenger vent window with a rock. The best deal I could find to replace the window was $850, instead I bought a used door for $275. Add $100 for a new paint job, and I was pleased with my $475 savings. (They were unable to match the eight years of fading on the paint job, resulting dual colored paint job.)

12:30 a.m. November 8th, 2007 – Midtown Atlanta
This was the best break-in I’ve ever experienced. In the midst of a busy parking lot, the intruder entered without any significant damage and kindly removed my cd player.

9:30 p.m. March 15th, 2008 – Screvin Drive
The rear passenger window once again fell victim to a nearby rock. I’ve realized, when it’s not raining, this is a great window to lose. I choose not to replace it for about four months, enjoying the thoughtless thermostat and white noise that the missing window provided. Eventually I found a replacement window in a junkyard.

I used to tell myself, and others, that the quiet gave me time to think. This is a lie – I miss Atlanta sports coverage, useless morning talk shows and the latest in pop music.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My First Date Rules

There is no logical path to becoming a first date expert. If you’re good at them, you wouldn’t need to go on very many. If you’ve been on a lot, you’re probably doing something wrong. Still, a quick search reveals hundreds of websites with lists written by self-anointed first date specialists.

For example, Don Diebel (pictured), who drops pearls of wisdom like, “Don't pick your nose or scratch or readjust your crotch,” and “If you are taking medication, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom and take your pills. Don't take them in front of her.”

With intense concentration, I was able to follow Don’s advice. I haven’t gone on a second date yet, but she has referred to me as ‘babe’ in several text messages. I think this makes the date a success, plus I had fun.

Below is a list of rules I found on the internet, and a quick post-date assessment:

1. If you’re meeting somewhere, give good directions.

My date called when she was getting close to make sure that she was heading the right way, and I told her “If you get to the big brick building, you’ve gone to far.” Needless to say after seeing a dozen brick buildings she turned around prematurely, thinking she’d missed my street.
2. Don't act desperate.

I asked her on dates consistently for three weeks, is this what you call “desperate?"
3. Keep it light-hearted and don't act as if you are auditioning for a lifetime commitment.

On the way to dinner, ten minutes into the date, we discussed our deceased grandparents.
4. Don't pretend to be funny or humorous. If you are putting on an act, it will come across to her as phony.

This tip is worded incorrectly. It’s a statement saying that I’m not funny. Direct quote from my date, “Has anyone ever told you you’re funny?”
EAT IT Don Diebel!
5. Don't go to the movies (Even if suggested, the movies is a TERRIBLE first date it's just not personal enough, unless your 18 and trying to grab a tit in the theater)

We rented, but this rule must have been written before the release of the all-time great date movie, Ironman. An egotistical weapon-producing genius turns good and creates a nearly indestructible iron suit to stop terrorism – this movie screams first date.

6. On a first date, dress conservatively. This is no time to wear any provocative or sleazy clothes
Conservative? Please, I was rocking my Club Monaco pullover with a Westerner underneath.

7. Don't bitch about your previous girlfriends or ex-wives on how they mistreated you, dumped you, cheated on you, took you to the cleaners on child support, etc.

We both failed miserably in this regard. I did manage to avoid talking about getting taken to the cleaners, and child support, though.
8. Don't get drunk! This really turns women off and makes a bad impression. Don't drink at all or limit your drinking to a couple of drinks.
I win this one – no thanks to me. I drank the entire time. I had Margaritas at dinner and a rum and coke when we got home. But I never got drunk, didn’t have time.
9. Keep it upbeat.

I was in and out of sleep for the last hour of the movie. I woke up comfortably confused with a beautiful woman resting her head on my chest. I’m confident she was sleeping too, but I stand by Ironman as the greatest first date movie of all time.
10. Never, never end the night by asking for a second date like this: "I'm not doing anything on Saturday, are you?"
I would never do that. I waited until we were chatting on Facebook the next day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Week's Work






Thursday, October 16, 2008

Inter-urinal Difficulties

One of my company's Vice Presidents was urinating in the space next to me today. I have no problem when a stranger or a peer is standing next to me, but I've noticed I generally have a hard time going to the bathroom when a superior is next to me. It's a mental block. In an instant my confidence is shaken, and I'm made to look like unsure little boy.

I'm aware of this limitation, and oftentimes I challenge myself. It's true, I've managed a weak stream while conversating with the CEO. My sporatic piddle was a big step, but didn't merit celebration. I'm sure that my manhood has been questioned throughout upper-management because of this very issue.

Today I had my chance for redemption. Today I was destroyed. It was the sports equivalent of getting blown out by the third string in the Super Bowl, but instead of going home, being forced to go with the team to Disneyland.

First of all, I really had to go. This wasn't a time wasting move. My mid-morning water binge had just ended, and I had between 72 and 84 ounces ready to roll. I walked in to the empty bathroom, and chose the taller of the two urinals.

Just as I unclasped my belt, I heard the door swing open and the confident steps of a man that had flanked someone in the men's room hundreds, if not thousands of times. I'd been here before, I'd overcome bigger demons, but I never could have prepared for what came next.

My stare was fixated on the grout between the off white tiles, but it was clear that both of his hands were busy doing something, and it was above the belt. I had been standing above the urinal for thirty seconds now, and nothing was coming.

My embarrassment would have been worse, but it was clouded by astonishment. He was writing an email on his blackberry, while peeing. I was looking, but I wasn't. I'd already pushed bathroom etiquete far enough, I was standing idly next to another man while he used the restroom.

He finished - I hadn't started.

I knew the second he walked away I would be back to normal, but he didn't walk away. He glanced at me, and then back to his blackberry. If I were to smile at this point, out of the absurdity of the situation, I'm certain I would have been escorted out of the building for sexual harassment. He had finished using the restroom, with no hands, but he hadn't finished his email.

I waited, shifting my focus to the recently polished stainless steel plumbing, but it didn't matter. I was devastated. I sensed the cold sweat of embarassment coming, and I had to leave. He was fully aware that I'd stood next to him, urineless, for probably two minutes. I turned around, washed my hands and returned to my cubicle.

I'm all for career advancement, but if this is what it takes to become a Vice President - I'll pass.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Finding balance at AIG

True, this blog is supposed to be about happenings outside of my cubicle, but I'm too proud of my magical push pins to keep them to myself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

MJQ - Sparks were flying

Imagine this … you sit down at your favorite local restaurant, but before you’re able to make your typical meat loaf order, the same familiar waitress informs you that they are serving Filet Mignon (which normally isn’t on the menu), and it’s free.

This happened to me Saturday – only it was better.

I was ordering a round of beers at MJQ, a club that is literally underground, when I was informed that Sparks, an alcoholic energy drink, was free. This drink is legendary in my circle of friends. I’m not sure why, but it is always greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Sometimes, in an effort to maintain an above average alcohol content and decrease the cost, we mix a Sparks with a Miller High Life, a drink that has been dubbed a ‘Low Life.’ On this day, that wouldn’t be necessary.

It wasn’t like there was a lone cooler off in the corner, with crowds swarming. Sparks, Sparks Light, and Sparks Plus were available at the bar, and I was treated like an actual customer. Naturally, I ordered four and left an ∞% tip.

The Sparks marketing department really has their shit together. For example, they also sponsor the 2007 U.S. Air Guitar National Champion, William Ocean ( Still, I assumed that their supplies would be depleted by the time I’d finished one.

I hustled through my first, and approached the bar with some reluctance, half expecting to be disappointed. I was already having a good night. My beer pong team, The Hurricane Dieselz, had left the party with the best record (5-2) and I was within walking distance of my bed. However, on this night, it was the Steel Brewing Company, makers of Sparks, that took my night to the next level. They refused to let me down. I went back to the bar countless times, and was pleasantly greeted with one of their products.

For such a great night, I make this pledge to the Steel Brewing Company:

“Whenever I’m bordering blackout drunk, and in the market for an alcoholic energy drink, I will buy a Sparks.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Las Vegas, Day 1 - Let me upgrade ya

I’m not cheap. Overall I would say I’m a liberal spender in the realm of frugality.

Still, en route to Las Vegas, we rode Marta to the airport, arranged to bring mini bottles on the plane to avoid buying cocktails, and we stuffed six people in our friend from L.A.’s car to avoid a taxi fare.

Once in Vegas, frugal is a little different.

My bribe to the woman at the front desk was $20, not $100, I preferred my chips in the red $5 variety, not the green $25, and I collected ‘free’ passes to the clubs vehemently.

They know my type in Vegas. I’m the type that doesn’t keep the city going, but I certainly don’t hurt. At the front desk of the Treasure Island they responded to the $20 bill that I not-so-coolly placed between my license and credit card appropriately. Our room near the top of the hotel with a strip view was adequate, but more importantly they acted like they gave a damn.

From work, for weeks leading up to the trip, I’d proposed lists of ideas for each night. Before I could finish my first unpleasant drink, consisting of whiskey and Rockstar, I knew that none the plans that I’d longingly anticipated would take place. And this was perfectly ok.

We left our room and gambled, uninterrupted, for the next five hours. It didn’t matter that our combined salaries couldn’t buy the Lamborghini parked in front. When you’re young and bright, sometimes you bank on what’s to come. Knowing you’re going to succeed and giving yourself a little a preview - an incentive to work hard. I’d say that’s the American Way.

It took a little work, but by 2 a.m. we’d all congregated, and were ready to try to get in a club. We were on a list at Tao, one of the more popular clubs in Vegas, and we crossed the street to try our luck.

It’s my experience that there are quite a few types of lists. Lists that actually mean something, lists that get you to the front of the line, lists that get you in a different line, and lists that don’t exist.

I’m not sure what we had. We kept dropping our contact, Jessie’s, name. Unfortunately we thought Jessie was a girl, so our pronoun form was she, instead of he. Eventually we bypassed the line, and were granted entry for the bargain rate of $30. As a group we declined, and proceeded to aimlessly wonder around the Venetian Casino.

The Baby Maker found a group of drunken Eastern Europeans, and attempted to hold all three of their hands at once. The Red Lobster, Hyphen and Westin went off for untold gambling adventures. So that left me and The F Man.

We spotted two good looking girls headed toward Tao, and asked them if they would help us get into the club. We talked to the same guy as before, and he put is in the final queue for entry. We paid $20 to get in, and the girls got in free. After entry, they didn’t say another word to us. I won’t say this act alone shattered my confidence, but over the next couple of hours, and countless uninterested dance partners, it was crushed.

The place wasn’t a complete bust. A substance I still believe is most closely associated with snow fell from the ceiling, there were beautiful women in bathtubs covered only by rose petals, and I danced near some pretty hot girls.

We got back to the room just before 5 a.m. The Hyphen was in an unknown location gambling. I was slightly concerned he was out by himself, but my general exhaustion and the fact there was nothing I could do comforted me as I fell asleep.

We’d been in Vegas less than 12 hours, and already I was dreading Sunday, when we would return to reality.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Las Vegas - The Second Annual

For me, a good trip to Las Vegas requires a period of reflection in order to grasp what took place. I had no idea what to expect when I left, and when I got back I didn’t have much better of an idea.

We left nearly two weeks ago, equipped with a dozen mini bottles for the plane ride and a certainty that many of the stories that took place in the next 72 hours would be repeated for the rest of our lives.

I never blacked out. I know that my friends - The Baby Maker, Red Lobster, The Fuck Man and The Hyphen - all got nicknames. I know pictures were taken with Mike Tyson, and we shared a cabana with a Playboy Playmate. I now know that my company, AIG, was considering bankruptcy, while my primary concern was not jinxing myself on the craps table.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that throughout my time in Vegas I had a pretty good idea what was going on around me, but I’m just now trying to figure out what really happened.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Panama City, Day 3 - How did this happen?

A few murky brown drops struggled to cover the bottom of the sandy ‘Margaritaville’ tequila bottle on the kitchen table. Empty beer bottles, of varieties we never purchases, laid strewn around the room. A mysterious pair of smooth, bare legs rested perpendicular to Tyler’s on the L shaped couch, both of their heads buried under pillows to block the light.

Behind me was a sheet-covered body, asleep courteously on the far right side of the bed. It was Sunday, our time was up in Panama City. The clock read 10:30. Multiple alarms had been set for 7 a.m., so Tyler would have a chance of making it to work. Let’s just say he wasn’t going to make it.

Let's flashback 24 hours to see how we got to this point ...

Saturday started much like Friday, except that the newness had worn off. Although I’ve been on a dozen trips with John and Tyler, this was the first of the three person assortment. After 48 hours of straight hanging out, pleasantries were nonexistent. With such a small group, the mood is incredibly variable. We slowly congregated over different breakfasts. Golden Grahams again for me, Pop tarts for John, and a cheese stick for Tyler.

In a matter of minutes we faced the reality that we were out of alcohol. The fact that more money would need to be spent, in addition to the impending trip didn’t help morale. What’s more, the passenger side window was left cracked on Tyler’s car, and somehow the entire side of the interior was soaked. Tyler, not getting the sympathy he felt he deserved, slumped into the saturated passenger seat. Justifiably, negative remark followed by more negative remarks flooded into my right ear. We were near an all time low.

The Big Easy Liquor Store was the first we saw. John, lacking an I.D., and Tyler, lacking a positive attitude, decided to stay in the car. I walked in and again, instead of a liquor store, with liquor on the shelves and beer in coolers, I saw a full bar. There was a handful of old men working crossword puzzles at the bar, while the women sat at a table talking. Including me, the average age was in the upper 60’s. They sensed my confusion, and the ring leader, a woman of 90 pounds, told me that the liquor store was just through the door. A statement that she's surely made over 10,000 times.

The kitchen-sized store, although not ideal, ended up being sufficient. For Consistency sake, I bought another case of Miller Lite, and added the cheapest vodka I could find that was in a glass bottle. It ended up being from Australia, and was somehow made from grapes. It took a painfully long time for her to ring me up, and I struggled to carry the alcohol in addition to two bags of ice through the bar and back to the car. My efforts would quickly be rewarded as Tyler, ever grateful, asked, “What took you so damn long?”

While I loaded the cooler, John scoped the beach for the most happening spot. We’d already confirmed that from over 1,000 feet it was impossible to tell if someone was attractive, but he was more confident than ever. He guided us to the right, roughly 100 yards down the beach. We were flanked on our right by two girls with the nicest beach chairs I’ve ever seen and just beyond them was a group of 15 girls of varying sizes. On our left was a slightly overweight guy, easing Bud Ice’s out of his cooler every couple minutes. We tastefully cracked jokes at his expense, until his good looking girlfriend greeted him with a kiss and a glare at our shabby setup – me sitting on the cooler, John and Tyler in second-hand chairs, and our gear in a plastic grocery bags.

It was a truly beautiful day. Any tension was released after the fourth and fifth beers were opened, and soon after we had struck up conversation with the two girls next to us who were college students down from Ohio. They spotted dolphins, and John corrected them, since they were probably porpoises. Not to be outdone, I confirmed the fact that they were porpoises by explaining that dolphins swim west to east, and these were going east to west.

Things were going good, I was proud of my clever comments, and for the first time Panama City seemed to have some potential. Moments after this realization, four young men showed up. It turned out they were with the girls we’d just met. They proceeded to chase and throw sand at one another. Disappointed with the recent development, we threw the Frisbee for a bit, and eventually decided to explore the other side of the beach. Time was flying by, and clouds were starting to roll in.

Down the beach we ran into a group of girls that we’d talked to briefly the day before, and decided to move our stuff down and sit with them. One of them was training to become a courtroom reporter, the other a teacher in Dalton, and the last was a student at Kennesaw. These seemed like satisfactory achievements to celebrate, so we got out the bottle of vodka. Along with a two liter of coke, the bottle was passed around. Somehow it came out, as I’m sure it always does, that one of the girls brother was Cohutta from the Real World Australia.

The conversation was engaging, nevertheless I was distracted when I saw a group funneling beers, an activity I hadn’t enjoyed in years. I used the distraction to escape our conversation, and as I approached I noticed a couple of girls heading the same way. We arrived at the same time, and within 30 seconds, one of the girls had the funnel full of beer. I waited patiently, beer in hand, for my turn. I doubted my funneling abilities were going to impress her, but I was at least hoping for conversation.

I never funneled a beer, instead she started talking to me about her infatuation with ducks. And since my shirt had a duck on it, saying , "The duck stops here," I was in luck. In an attempt to play it cool, I went back to my group, only to see John teaching Cohutta's sister how to throw the Frisbee, and Tyler still drinking straight vodka with the other girls. Somehow they were being entertained without me, so I stumbled my way back up to the intriguing duck girl. After more conversation we decided to go on a sea slug hunting adventure. We grabbed a cup to collect our findings, and headed down the beach.

She showed me how purple ink comes out when you smush them, and with sea slug ooze seeping out from under my heel, I smiled at the amazingly random absurdity of life. She was beautiful, and seemed to be enjoying my company, or at least my shirt. It was a nice shirt, but I agreed to give it to her if we met up later.

When we got back, we proudly displayed our finds. Nobody was overly impressed, and the first group of girls decided to go back to their room. We agreed to meet up with them for dinner. I exchanged phone numbers with the duck girl, and we filled Hot Wheels with all of our empties.

We got ready for the night, and about an hour later the girls were there to pick us up. At dinner Tyler seemed frustrated, John displayed his knowledge of fish, and I made up lies to entertain myself. I talked for way too long about living inside of a whale. I don't think they believed me, but I considered it a win just because I was allowed to talk on the subject for nearly three minutes. One of the Ohio girls from the beach was seated right next to us, and the young man she was with sat quietly. I secretly studied their awkwardness, until I heard a roar from the bar. I immediately knew what it was, and hurried in to see Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal. I enjoyed my patriotism for a minute, and headed back to the table.

We finished up, paid our tab and headed back. On the way home we stopped by the Winn-Dixie liquor store, and bought the aforementioned 'Margaritaville' tequila. We decided to go over to their condo. Impromptu drinking games were created, and eventually a game of charades broke out. Camels and Ostriches were easy, even a sexy lizard was quickly guessed. Still, all of my efforts couldn't get anyone close to the butterfly that I was trying to be. My tactics were solid, and they knew I was some sort of flying object, but my coming out of a cocoon act merely confused my teammates. Frustrated, we walked to the Tiki bar, where the other girls from the beach were waiting. On the way we tossed the tequila bottle into the bushes for later.

End of Part 1

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Panama City, Day 2 - Eighteen to party 21 to drink

I have always been able to avoid hangovers. It’s not a secret. In fact, typically when I wake up after a long night of drinking and start washing dishes or being generally jovial, I share this technique. It consists of water and positivity. I feed off of others’ negative energy.

On this day, I was tested.

I woke up on the chaise section of a lime green couch. This couch is a pullout, but the bed remained folded underneath the cushions and Tyler’s semi-naked body. My hand rested on the touchpad of my Macbook, my index finger seemingly pointing at the empty king size bed ten feet away.

The sun hadn’t reached its apex, so I was thankful that I had caught the fourth or fifth hour of the sun rise. After a brief chuckle, Tyler headed for the bed. I dozed in and out of sleep for a few minutes, and then realized it was Friday and I wasn’t at work. This fact alone made my day.

I hopped out of bed, enjoyed a bowl of Golden Grahams, and headed for the pool.Since my day was made, my focus shifted toward making this day enjoyable for Tyler and John. Between pages of my book, I schemed as to how I could make this happen. My plan was simple. Tyler needs alcohol and John needs girls. I was willing to selflessly sacrifice to make both of these happen.

I smiled inwardly as Tyler approached with a bottle of water in one hand and a tall glass of what I was certain must be rum and coke in the other. My small victory was quickly overshadowed by the news that Tyler brought. My two friends had been talking in the room about possibly leaving early.

Tyler has a job. A job so important that on a regular Saturday he’s willing to bail if we’re going to get breakfast or to see a movie. He had mistakenly scheduled for Sunday afternoon, and in order to make it we would have to leave at 6 a.m. Everyone knew this wasn’t happening, but the fact that it was mentioned goes a long way to describe my friends’ attitudes.

Aside from some flashy skim boarders, our beach was pretty dead. So we did what any group of guys looking for a nice stretch of beach to drink and people watch at in Panama City … headed to La Vela. With Hot Wheels filled to her capacity, we got in the car and headed over. On the way, John received a call that his neurosurgeon friend saying that he had hand delivered his last recommendation for medical school. John claimed this made his day, but I didn’t buy it. He needed girls.

After the 12 mile drive, my heart sank as we pulled into the desolate three acre parking lot. The massive crowds we expected were not to be found. The deep sand once again deemed Hot Wheels inoperable, and I struggled to carry the loaded down cooler toward the ocean. After a short walk, we picked a spot that was adequately busy. Drinks were opened, and I believe I unpersuasively said, “It doesn’t get better than this.”

Despite the Euro trash man, whose incredibly loud music I could have created on a Casio keyboard, flying solo right behind us, we managed to consume several drinks. Tyler complained about sand, and John suggested we move to a ‘better’ spot. Over our shoulder, the famous Club La Vela sign mocked – “Party with Thousands.” Dejected, I decided that we should retreat back to our beach.

After arriving at our home beach, to Tyler’s delight, we picked up our drinking pace. The sun felt glorious, and before we knew it the golden hour was upon us. I lobbied to stay on the beach, but was overruled by my cohorts. In the room we cooked frozen pizza’s, and decided that La Vela’s disappointing day performance would not deter us from a return trip.

Sufficiently drunk, we talked too openly about which outfits looked best on each other. John settled for the ultra stylish shirt I had worn the night before, and I opted for a similar cut Western shirt. Tyler went with a plain looking navy blue shirt, which would become a problem later in the night, as he was nearly impossible to spot.After an eventful $25 dollar taxi ride, in which John did as much damage on a fifth of Bacardi as possible, we arrived at about 11 p.m.

Thankfully there was a small line, and a subdued excitement in the air. We were grateful that, for a $10 upcharge, John was allowed in as an 18-year-old. Our hands were marked, Tyler and I on the left for over 21 and John on the right. We walked toward the obscene amount of bass, prepared to be blown away.

There are several rooms at La Vela, however, on this night one of the rooms put all of the others to shame. The ceilings were probably 40 feet high. Three bars surrounded a depressed dance floor, with a stage, overflowing with girls, in the front. The girl-guy ratio was surprisingly good, and you couldn’t get the grin off of John’s face. Immediately his hand went up in the air, bouncing up and down with the beat.

All things considered, I’m a below average dancer. I’m an average dancer for a 6’3 white guy. Add in some green lasers and a strobe light, and I’m pushing above average. Armed with this knowledge Tyler and I proceeded to put on a 'Walk it out' exhibition.

For me, the deal breaker for any club, is whether girls will openly dance with people. I’m not really looking for much. I’m not above taking a girl from La Vela home, but I’m more concerned with a good time. La Vela passed this test with flying colors. My dance partner count was in the double digits, and that doesn't include Tyler or John. Maybe it was because everyone was letting loose on vacation, or maybe we were just looking that good, but my dancing confidence was at an all time high.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, three large pyramids descended from the ceiling. I stopped for a second, confused, when blasts of cool fog starting pouring out. In a matter of seconds you couldn’t see more than a foot. Naturally, everyone went crazy.

After a bit of exploring, I met a group of about 30 that come down to Panama City every year, and one night during their trip they all wear white and go to La Vela. They seemed to be having a good time, and their solidarity enticed me. Talking led to dancing, and before I knew it I was sandwiched between two girls, unsure of how to execute this dance, but enjoying it nonetheless.

We parted ways, agreeing to dance again later.From the perch that the white group had overtaken, I spotted John and Tyler. We decided to check out another room, and after Tyler told the new door guy that it was his birthday, he begrudgingly let our underage friend in. The room had a techno feel, with classy 60’s style women painted on the wall. Only about a dozen people were in the room, and we quickly found out that all of them were from Ukraine. For some reason I really enjoyed the fact that the Eastern Europeans were in this room. I assumed that when they were in the club it was as if they'd escaped back to the motherland. We danced, and tried to talk, but they didn’t understand much. In the end, we stuck to words like “Beautiful,” “Pretty,” and “Party.” They all seemed to like these words, so we decided to take some pictures.

It was getting late, and we headed back into the main room, which could have been considered too crowded by some. I spotted the white girls on stage, and pushed my way toward them. John quickly warned me that the bouncers don’t allow guys on stage, so I stood below doing my best to establish eye contact. I’m not sure I can take credit for this, but a few seconds later, one of the girls wearing white, that I’d been dancing with before, started to lift her dress. I’m pretty sure I stopped dancing. This must have worked because seconds later she was jumping onto me. I obviously went with it, and with her legs wrapped around me, I tried my best to keep up. This got a lot of attention, and soon enough her guy friends showed up. One had a bottle of Grey Goose, and the other with a fistful of one dollar bills. She got off, drawn by her friend's alcohol. The friend with the money made it rain, and at that point I knew that I’d been outclassed. We never spoke, but looking back I realize that there was really nothing to be said.

Tyler and I continued to dance until about 3 a.m., when we realized we hadn’t seen John in a while. When we ran into him we were quickly introduced to the first Mongolian woman that I’ve ever met. She was beautiful, and I felt bad prying him away from her, but they exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up the next day. Drenched in sweat, we left.

The same taxi driver that brought us, amazed they’d even let John in, took us back. We made it home, and I immediately got in the gigantic bed. I didn't have any dreams that night. What's the point?

Panama City - Just livin' the life

When the big guy has three or more buttons undone on his shirt, the Ukrainian women come running.

Panama City, Day 1 - A near roller skating experience

The location – exotic. The premise – simple. My two best friends and I would take a couple days off of work, drink excessively, get a tan, and create stories. Panama City, once the mecca of the Florida panhandle, is only a half-day drive from most of the Southeast, but it's a different world.

For those born in the 80’s the place has a certain stigma. A reputation so powerful that, independent of economic or supernatural forces, will keep people coming back until my generation no longer has the strength to travel. For me, the lasting memory is intentionally sitting in traffic on the strip, going from car to car. Driving was a new phenomenon, and scantily clad girls held my attention for hours. Panama City is Vegas without the gambling or glitz. It’s New Orleans without Bourbon Street or the culture. It’s thousands of people waiting around for something to happen. Waiting and waiting for something to happen, so eventually it does.

We arrived just before 2 p.m., armed with a new cooler that would later be named ‘hot wheels,’ two cases of Miller Lite, and a handle of Appleton Rum. I’d felt like a salesman for this trip for weeks. We had a free place to stay, but conversations on the trip down were generally negative. My friend John had forgotten his wallet, and Tyler and I talked about how this was the least anticipated trip we’d ever been on. I’d invited all of my close friends, and this is what I ended up with. In hindsight, it couldn’t have been a better group. However, at the time, it seemed slightly awkward and forced.

Coolers with wheels are great, and I don’t regret the $3 upgrade, but they aren’t made for beaches. Things looked bleak. The typically aqua waters were overwhelmed by red sea weed, and instead of a crowded beach with gorgeous women, I saw scattered clusters of beach chairs struggling to hold their occupants’. With Hot Wheels in tow, our efforts to walk to a more ‘happening’ part of the beach were slowed mentally and physically. Our attention shifted from potential female conversation partners, to the contents of our cooler. We took a seat just past a large group of sea slugs, and opened our first beer. The Frisbee came out, and we dazzled ourselves with our long range abilities. John consistently executed his patented late-spin-and-catch trick, while I converted nearly 40% of my through-the-legs-from-behind-no-look catch. We told jokes, and spoke of how fortunate we are for being so funny.

With the golden hour approaching, and our first case of beer all but depleted, we drug Hot Wheels back down the beach. From the room we watched the sun set, and agreed that ideally we would have invited girls up to the room. Rum and coke would have to do. After showers and a quick Olympic viewing fix, we decided to eat our obligatory sea food for the trip. We ended up at a place called Sharkie’s, and somehow lucked into a spot that seemed closer than any of its handicap counterparts. Things were looking up, as the ocean breeze greeted us under a gigantic thatch roof. John didn’t get carded, so we got a round of beers and waited.

Snow crab, Mahi mahi, scallops, and fried goodness soon covered the table, and our waiter tried to make up for the fact that he wasn’t the good looking waitress in the other section by giving us advice for what we might want to get into later that night. He mentioned a weekly event called 'bar wars,' and on this particular night it was at Rockin' Lanes. Bowling and $1 beers seemed hard to pass up, so after helping John crack crab legs for 20 minutes we headed out.

I'm not sure why I was at all surpised by what I saw when I walked in. There were two dozen pool tables straddled by a gigantic roller skating rink and 30 plus bowling lanes. It was only nine, but everything was in cosmic mode. The place was filled with teenager girls wearing clothes their parents wouldn't approve of, and future Panama City taxi drivers. Each of them a few years from cutoff Russel Athletic shirts, manicured beards and the notion that they actually were living in paradise.

We would soon find out that the future taxi drivers were the current servers. Bar wars was for those that worked at restaurants or bars, and an old pay stub was required to get the cheap beer. It didn't matter much anyway, they weren't impressed by John's printed License, Passport and Birth Certificate. We bowled a game, but lack of alcohol had made John grumpy. We headed for the door, looking back over our shoulder at the roller rink. It would have to wait for another day.

We raced to the liquor store, and were confused when we walked in and saw a complete bar surrounded by liquor bottles. With John waiting in the car we shrugged and settled for a couple of pints of rum. Unfortunately the receipt had a tip line, and the liquortendor lucked into a sweet $1.50 tip. It was getting late, so we headed to the beach bar close to our condo.

Things start to get hazy here. The DJ was an overweight woman who was seated behind her laptop. A veteran showed me where a bullet grazed him, a couple from Dallas tempted me to steal an open beer from behind the bar, and two blondes held the attention of thirty men surrounding them. Needless to say, it was a good night.