Tag Archives: Jamal Walz

Happy Everyday

My good friend Katina urged me to attempt the 100 Happy Days Challenge that she and numerous other participants have been posting about.  So, I visited and read the website.  I recognized and understood the concept.  Hats off to her and anyone else playing along with the challenge, because it really seems to be one of the more genuine and harmless social media gimmicks flying around out there.  I definitely am not knocking it, but for me, it’s (simply put) just not me.  Just as I loathe those silly website lists telling me what 20 places I need to visit before I die, or those ludicrous and annoying personality quizzes that “determine” which Real Housewife, 80s Pop Star, 90s Rock Star, Hollywood Movie Star, Boy Bay member I am based on my answers to 5 brainless questions… my happiness, my personality, and my future will never be validated, defined nor governed by any website.

HOWEVER… Katina was ON to something, and her enthusiasm with how the 100 Happy Days Challenge has inspired her wound up inspiring me.  I DO need to quit making the excuse that I am too busy to find time to spend with old friends.  I DO need to make more of an effort to stay in touch with others outside of the realm of social media.  I DO need to always remember that I have a pretty awesome life, and to be grateful for its privileges and the individuals living in it with me.

I didn’t quite make 100 days, but I did document the last 7 days that were pretty damn magical.

2014 Edison Okie Steven Dinner

Happiness:  having dinner with one of your best friends

2014 Filthy Richard Okie Jamal Areis Traye

Happiness:  a sudden night out on the town with your boys

2014 Ybor Wine Bar Okie Linley

Happiness: enjoying a long-overdue dinner, movie and wine night with a loved one

2014 GD Okie Neil Jason Areis2014 GD Okie Cody Areis Jason

Happiness: acting as if not one day has passed when reconnecting with your travel crew and best friends from Chicago and New York

2014 GD Okie Dani Steven 2014 GD Okie Nathan Dani Steven Carlos2014 GD Okie Will O

Happiness: randomly running into old friends when in another city

2014 Oxford Exchange Hyacinth Robby Jason Charles Areis

Happiness: when a best friend visits and wants to meet for brunch

2014 Rooster Till Katina 2

Happiness:  nearly ordering the entire menu when dining with a best friend

2014 Little Dragon Group

 Happiness:  experiencing a concert with loved ones
Happiness Bonus:  when the presence of a photo bomber makes you smile

Cheers to #100daysofhappiness A LIFETIME of happiness.

“The world is ours, and no one can take it away except the exhaustion of enjoying it so much.” -my friend Michael Maurer

“Inner Smile” by Texas:  After all these years, this song still makes me feel happy!

 

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My Coachella

Cochella14 Grass

Coachella14 Okie Neil Mike Fest

The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival… holy @#$! shit, what an absolute amazing experience!

This was my second time attending the nation’s reigning mother supreme of music festivals (and the most-successful festival according to Billboard Box-Office).  For anyone with a hard on for live music of all genres, Coachella is the ultimate wet dream.  There truly is no other way to describe the magic that is everything Coachella.  My obsession with Coachella stems from the diverse line-up all in one setting, surprise superstar performances, and 100,000 music and art lovers dancing, singing, and getting their life in the California desert.

LA14 Dinner Group

LA15 Club Group

This year’s Coachella adventure kicked-off with a friends’ reunion in Los Angeles with my best friends Cheri and Harry a.k.a. Hit & Run (childhood friends from Tampa) and Kristin (who just so happened to be visiting California the same weekend).  I linked up with other former Tampons Jamal and Robert that evening, and received the ultimate surprise when I found out that my New York friends and family (sans Jason ::insert tears::) were in L.A. celebrating Gary’s birthday.

It was one big, fat, gigantic Tampa reunion in Los Angeles that just so happened to come together randomly.  The entire randomness of it all is best described by Nadia’s greeting to me when we first ran into one another that evening: “What the fuck are you doing here?  Are you real?  Is this night even real?”

Cochella14 Girls Group 1 Coachella14 Prom Girls

The weekend continued as we met up with Daddy Neil and Rusty, drove to Palm Springs and prepared for the onslaught of the next three days.  One of the weekend’s highlights was meeting Chloe and Erin, two fabulous (and quite hilarious) beauties from the UK.  We instantly clicked on night one during Outkast’s ho-hum reunion performance, and spent the rest of the Coachella weekend singing and dancing the nights away.

The music highlights of this year’s Coachella include:

  • Empire of the Sun…  I had been dying to see them live since I was first hypnotized by their “Walking on a Dream” single six years ago, and the boys certainly did not disappoint.  They were the perfect blend of pomp, flash and drama needed for the Sahara tent, and my pick for the best performance of the weekend.
  • Skrillex… Sonny Moore remains one of the few prominent on the EDM scene whose artistry and craft emanates from his every DJ set.  For those cynics who wrongly insinuate that there is no true talent or work in being a DJ, Skrillex’s thrilling set at Coachella is the receipt to silence them.
  • Rudimental…  It was a treat to finally see this British band perform, especially to witness how their music which encompasses drum and bass, R&B and soul, and pure funk came together in a live setting.
  • Calvin Harris…  Mr. Harris now boasts the second largest performance attendance in the history of Coachella, second only to 2012’s Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg Lion and the 2Pac holgram’s historic California Lovefest.  He played an effortless set of his greatest hits, from “Feel So Close” to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” to new single “Summer.”  No guest performances, no surprises.  And for those cynics who complained that his set played it safe, well why reinvent the wheel when it is still spinning?
  • Arcade Fire…  I will admit that I only knew a few handful of Arcade Fire songs.  I am not infatuated with Arcade Fire like their hardcore following of fans, nor am I one of their many detractors who simply do not understand their hype.  I have always stood on neutral ground with them, so  I was anticipating their headlining, closing performance to find out in which direction I would be swayed.  In the end, I enjoyed their performance, despite lead singer Win Butler’s misguided comments regarding us in the VIP section.
  • MGMT…  I forgot how much I loved MGMT until I woke up from my afternoon nap on the lawn and was greeted by the sounds of their music.
  • Lorde…  if only she could follow the rule of “less talking, less storytelling, more singing,” then she would have had an A+ set.
  • CHVRCHES…  when a band sounds as glorious as their studio recordings, it’s a win-win situation.  CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice sounded like heaven.

A random festival-goer summed up the entire weekend best, when he and I accidentally walked into one another.  I immediately apologized during our run-in, and he just laughed it off, smiled and remarked, “it’s all good man.  No need to apologize.  It’s the best weekend of the year.”

…and yes it was.

To my dear friend Mike Hammonds, thank you for being the best music festival partner in crime.  Daddy Neil, thank you for being you, for teaching me the music festival bunny ways, and for reminding me that this was “my Coachella.”  And lastly, dear Coachella, I’ll be missing you next year, but will return in 2016 to cash in on the best weekend of that year!  [READ: 2012’s Coachella Adventure post]


“Comfortable” by The Knocks featuring X Ambassadors:  I am pissed that I missed The Knocks at last year’s Governor’s Ball in New York City, because I become more and more enamored with their music each and every passing day.  “Comfortable” was this year’s unofficial Coachella anthem.  Perhaps because I demanded that this song be played on repeat at high decibels.  Or simply because this anthem ROCKS, and will serve as a reminder of this beautiful weekend in Coachella Valley.  :: sigh ::

Please click on thumbnail to enlarge / view photo: 

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Congratulations, Happy Holidays & Farewell

Congratulations, Cheers, Farewell… it seems that the trend this year was for every celebratory event to conclude with a goodbye.  (Click here.)  I have always disliked saying goodbye and try to make the situation as short, sweet and to-the-point as possible.  Last weekend was yet another weekend filled with commemorative celebrations followed by a goodbye.

I know a handful of people who have been in school since what seems like 48 B.C.  When I first met Bryan 7-8 years ago, I thought that he too would be one of those people I refer to as a lifetime student: a person who takes one class every other semester and swears to the high heavens and Madonna that graduation is the ultimate goal.  Well what do you know?  Last weekend, Bryan graduated from USF with not just his Bachelors but his Masters degree and threw a party to celebrate.   So congratulations to Bryan for busting his ass and working so hard to accomplish his goal, for proving me wrong in my very initial assumption and for putting up with Jocelyn’s 40-balloons graduation gift.

Bryan Okie 1 Bryan Jocelyn 2 Bryan Boys Jocelyn Balloons 2 Jocelyn Balloons 1



After recouping from Bryan’s Greygoose-filled evening the night before, I had a Holiday Dinner with friends to attend at Texas de Brazil the next day.  My good friends Cheri and Mike were in town from Los Angeles for just one day, and maximized their brief time in Tampa by inviting their closest friends to dinner.  Every year, my best friends and I throw a Holiday Party / Gift Exchange.  Given everyone’s crazy schedules this year, Cheri & Mike’s dinner doubled as this year’s Gift Exchange.  As always, it was wonderful to see Cheri and Mike again, to consume 931 lbs of meat at Texas de Brazil and to remind yourself how friends can also become your family.  Happy Holidays and cheers to Cheri, Mike and everyone and anyone else who is reading this!

Cheri Group

Cheri Boys

Cheri Girls

Cheri Okie

Cheri Jocelyn

Cheri Billy

Cheri Linley

Cheri Robby

Cheri Jaime

Cheri JadenCheri NielyCheri Kristin Cheri JonCheri JessCheri Jaime Jaden



The celebratory weekend concluded on a bittersweet note with my friends Jamal and Lorena leaving Tampa and moving to Los Angeles.  I first met Lorena through mutual friends three years ago, and since then we’ve traveled together, lived with one another (best roommate ever), worked together, shared a toy poodle (and the best dog ever) named Zoe and devoured chili dogs and taters in the middle of my living room floor at 4am.  Although I will miss her and Jamal dearly, its encouraging to know that my annual trip to California is right around the corner.  So for now, farewell to Lorena and Jamal.

Okie Lorena Jamal Okie Lorena

 



I willl conclude this entry with a lyric video for the song “I Am Yours” by the band Churchill.  Right now, the band is right on the brink of taking off with their hypnotic and catchy current single “Change” but this particular song has been receiving much more love on my iPod and Spotify.

Congratulations… Cheers… and Goodbye… but Hello to new music!

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Oops! I Became a Palindrome… Again

pal-in-drome:  a word, verse, or sentence or a number (as 33) that reads the same backward or forward

I never understood why people in their 30’s and 40’s feel the need to proclaim that they’re re-celebrating their 21st birthday on their special day.  Anytime I told someone that I was turning 33-years-old this year, they jokingly tried to correct me by saying, “oh, you mean 21, right?” which only prompted me  to correct them by letting them know that I am proud to be the age that I am.  When compared to when I was a clueless 21-year-old, I am in a much better place in life: basically wiser, richer and more connected with who I am and what my purpose in life truly is.  Getting older is inevitable, so I fully embrace each new year like a brand new pair of shoes.  I am 33-years-old dammit!

Kristin and I decided to host a birthday party for 40 of my closest friends at her house this year.  With friends already flying in from NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio and Miami for that weekend’s Square One event at The RITZ Ybor the next day, I didn’t want to invite everyone out to a huge group dinner for 40 at (insert restaurant name here).  Those type of birthday group dinner gatherings always turn into more of a headache, lack any type of intimacy and just are never any fun: you are forced to socialize more with whoever you happen to be sitting next to, the bill is always wrong, food comes out late, the wrong dishes come out with some dishes not even making it to the table, etc.

Even with the already hectic and crazy work schedule, this year’s birthday party was worth every dime and minute that went into planning it… mainly because I love my friends more than the world.  I wish everyday could be my birthday if only I could have as much fun as I did last weekend!


33rd Birthday… BEST Birthday Ever!


Diamonds by Rihanna

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Yachts & Parks

I made a promise.  We made a promise.  Every Memorial Day and Labor Day holiday, I would meet my very good friends Neil from St. Louis Chicago and Jason from New York somewhere in the U.S.  Last Memorial Day, the three of us spent that entire weekend in Neil’s apartment the city of Chicago.  This year, we made plans to meet in Orlando.  (READ: The Big Easy & Back! September 12, 2011)

Earlier this week, I fell victim to the Black Plague flu that had already made its rounds through most of my coworkers and friends which (along with a couple of unforeseen factors and others’ acts of pure selfishness) prevented me from joining Neil and Jason in Orlando this weekend.  Sure, I was a bit depressed and saddened that I wouldn’t be with them this weekend, but decided to cheer myself up by: (1) remembering that I would be seeing them in New Orleans on Labor Day weekend, and (2) taking up gal pal and my other half, Jocelyn’s invitation to be her date & VIP guest to Cirque Over The Park at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa on Saturday night.  Depression relinquished.  The event was a fab time, and Jocelyn can always be relied on to be the captain of your personal cheerleading squad when you need her the most.

Jokie’s standard photo op with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, this time at Cirque Over The Park

Without a question, my favorite weekend last year was celebrating Nick’s 30th Birthday down in Key West.  There was a certain indescribable energy that weekend where everything in the universe seemed to rightfully align and be in our favor: where good friends became greater friends and when life felt indestructibly perfect.  I remember flying to Key West to meet everyone who was already down there, and having no clue that the weekend would bring such a fun and hilarious time.  I could not have asked for a bigger hangover more fun that weekend at the Southernmost point!

Oh the silliness & shenanigans of that weekend in Key West last year!

This year, the approach to celebrating Nick’s 31st birthday was much more laid-back, relaxed and just, simply put… nice.

His best friend Josh drove in from Atlanta to surprise Nick and his very close friends with dinner on the Starship Yacht.  Being that the dinner was planned a bit last minute, only a few of us were able to enjoy the mini yacht excursion.  While partying in Key West last year was a blast, this year’s low-key festivities were just as equally rewarding and fun.  I think Josh jokingly said it best that evening aboard the ship: “this is how adults celebrate their birthdays in their 30s!”

Although much different than what was originally planned, this weekend was pretty spectacular.  It always brings a smile to my face knowing that I am still surrounded by people who love me just as much as I love them.

Quote of the weekend:
Jocelyn:  “Okie, walk down the street from Barbarella to meet me at Bradley’s for a drink.”
Me:  “I can’t.”
Jocelyn:  “Why not?”
Me:  “I’m scared.  What if a homeless person tries to eat me!?”


Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy



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The Event of 2012!

Pride & Passion
Saturday, May 19, 2012
@ The Tampa Museum of Art

Jocelyn’s wedding to herself.  Tampa’s Gay Prom.  Despite what others may have called last Saturday, the truth of the matter is that last Saturday’s Pride & Passion event is the 2nd largest fundraiser for The Tampa Museum of Art that SOLD OUT.  It just so happens to also be a buffet of fun.  Congratulations to the entire event steering committee, hosts, Tampa Museum staff, entertainers, performers and volunteers for putting on such a class-act event!  Looking forward to next year’s bash!

Photography by Radko Keleman

All Hail the Queen!

with Mayor Bob Buckhorn

One the of many thrilling performances by New Century Dance Company


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Pretty in Pink

Jocelyn and I attended Pride & Passion last year at the Tampa Museum of Art.  Pride & Passion is the Museum’s 2nd largest annual fundraiser, and last year’s event was a handful of fun.  The only major problem with last year’s event was that the majority of our friends weren’t there to experience it with us.

This year, Jocelyn and I both decided to raise the bar.  I was helping this year’s Steering Committee and Jocelyn signed up to be an event host.  A host’s responsibilities included spreading the word about the event and selling tickets.  An internal competition between others hosts ensued to determine who could sell the most tickets as each host received their own personalized ticket url link.  Game on!

Jocelyn and I “harassed” and “badgered” all of our friends to purchase their Pride & Passion tickets.  We enticed friends from Chicago, Los Angeles and Orlando to come in to town for the event.  We also decided to throw a “P” party with free drinks & appetizers at TAPS downtown Tampa for any guests that purchased tickets through her link as an additional incentive.  The “P” Party was our Private Pride & Passion Pre-Party with Personal Paparazzi.  (FYI: Jocelyn hired professional photographer Radko Keleman to document her evening of fun and follow her and her friends around.)  Eventually, the “P” Party also became a Pink Party as most of our guests decided to all incorporate the color pink into their attire.

Dressed in Hugo Boss and Betsey Johnson

We are still awaiting final word on whether Jocelyn won the host competition, but at last count… the Blonde Ambition Queen was leading the pack!




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Team O Wedding

What happens when two of the most beautiful people you know fall in love and get married? You tweetpic photos of their reception throughout the evening as much as you can amid all of the fun. Two of my friends and co-workers, Shane and Aimee got married in Jamaica the other weekend and threw the reception party of reception parties on the first weekend they returned back to Tampa. And yours truly had a ball! Okay, so not many photos (below) were taken on my camera phone last Saturday evening, but I urge anyone to try photo-documenting an evening of pure fun while steadily holding a glass of Tanqueray in your other hand.

Congrats to Team O: Shane and Aimee O’Neil on their nuptials and for providing a template of hope & inspiration to those current non-subscribers of love.





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The Big Easy & Back!

I’m at the stage of my life where the typical hype before any type of monumental life event fails to exist anymore.  I hadn’t seen my very good friend Neil or Jason since… I cannot even remember.  I had never been to the annual Southern Decadence celebrations in New Orleans ever.  I had been feeling burnt out with work, friends, life and everything in between, so suddenly embarking on a new vacation with two of the only people who can read me like a book failed to phase me.  What on Earth was going on?

When you get older in life, it seems like you automatically sign a contract with time to rush by faster than ever before.  Back in my 20’s, a trip such as the one I took over Labor Day weekend would have been met with “butterflies in my stomach” tossing & turning with anticipation and excitement for at least 3 days prior.  However, I didn’t even flinch a thought of the reality of this trip until I needed to secure: (1) a ride to and from the airport (I love you Nicolas) and (2) luggage to borrow since the handle on my carry-on decided to break (I love you Jocelyn).

Let’s just say this about celebrating my first Southern Decadence in New Orleans with Neil and Jason and Tanner… I could not have needed more of a gust of fresh, new air than what that weekend brought upon me.  I smiled.  I laughed.  I laughed even more.  I laughed until my stomach hurt.  I laughed so much that I should have a six-pack.  Neil has always been a constant source of amazement in my life, and Jason Moriarty… the same guy who I could viciously turn sour on at the drop of a hat, became someone that I hold dear in my heart.  I never considered someone as a “best friend.”  I’ve always been fortunate in life to have a plethora of “very close & good friends,” and Jason has definitely ascended to that category.

The Vacation Trio

Neil lives in Chicago but works in St. Louis.  Jason and Tanner live and work in NYC.  Every Memorial Day, we made a pact to meet one another in Chicago.  Every Labor Day, we made another pact to meet again in New Orleans.  The thought of spending time with those two negates the first half of this post, because I will be holding a countdown in absolute excitement until my next weekend that I am able to spend with them.

Coming back from New Orleans could not have been more difficult.  Every trip, I crave and obsess over coming back home… being back in my bed… being back in all that is familiar… returning to what has become my home.  Something was completely different with this trip.  I found myself dreading coming back home.  Why was I still living in Tampa?  Why did I continue making Tampa my home if returning home was nothing more but upset?  These questions clouded my mind, and stayed with me for a good two days after landing.

What could’ve and should’ve homogenized into a full-blown month-long depression instead vanished after this past weekend…

I truly do have the best friends here in Tampa, and feel like I am FINALLY with others who are in the same, exact boat as me.  I am 31-years-old and making the most out of every single breathing minute of life.  Whether enjoying a spontaneous $100.00 steak dinner with friends on a Friday night, or getting obnoxiously intoxicated the next evening and suffering for it the entire next day… it is all worth it.

I love my friends as much I love life.  As Tom Cruise told Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, they, my friends, “…complete me.”


Until the 4th Annual FangBanger True Blood Finale Party…

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