Tag Archives: Neil Mac

London Bridges

If I ate my heart out in Italy, then I drank and danced the rest of the time in London.

Last fall marked my first time back in Europe as an adult.  I was already there with my good friend Neil, and my other good friend Areis was flying over from Tampa just to meet us.  (My measurement of knowing you’re getting older: when you constantly make plans with your friends who live in the same city as you to hang out anywhere else but that city.) The plan of attack for those couple of days in London was quite simple: dine, drink, dance, sleep, repeat.

London London Pub
I’ve long had an indescribable connection to and fascination with the U.K.: Their chart-topping recording artists have always filled my earphones.  Popular television shows like Footballers Wives and The X-Factor (and I’m not referring to that abominable U.S. flop that once had Nicole Scherzinger as a judge) were favorites of mine.  Most importantly, my attempt at only speaking in a British accent when inebriated never fails.  (Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow, I am not.)

So here I was in the most-expensive city in the world with two of my best friends, and I only managed to snap the above two photos the entire that I was over there.  (My measurement of knowing you had a great vacation: when you did absolute zero sight-seeing and took less than three photos your entire time overseas.)

Whoever said that New York City is the capital of the world deserves to be fined and imprisoned for uttering such a false statement.  That person deserves to share a prison cell with the same person who said the following false statements about London: (1) They do not like Americans over there, and (2) the food there is disgusting.  Solely judging from the numerous locals I met at the innumerable places that I Facebook checked-in to, visiting from America and having an American accent was a draw.  And every fish & chips, meat pie with mushy peas, and bangers & mash platter that I had was Hoover Wind Tunnel vacuumed up into my belly with delight.  In fact, the only time I ever raised an eyebrow of concern while in London was my aggressive attempt to locate a nightclub that didn’t intentionally play Disney’s Frozen soundtrack, B*Witched, or S Club 7.  I’ve long known that London loves pop music, but little did I know to what extreme I suppose.


“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne:
 This song was utterly inescapable in London that entire week: being played on every radio station, in every pub and bar, in the hotel lobby, on TV.  The lyrics to “Rather Be” also perfectly sum up the entire magic that was experienced while there.  London, England… there’s no place I’d rather be.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Big Fat Love Italia

I am blessed in this life.  I love, and I am loved.  Earlier this month, I flew thousands of miles to see love, to see one of my best friends Cheri get married.  And it was while I was miles away from home that I had a torrid, scandalous love affair with the greatest love of my entire life…

Eating 01

FOOD!

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite pastime is eating.  And anyone who doesn’t know me can only imagine what happened when I traveled to Italy earlier this month…  I feasted my big fat heart out.  If you vacation overseas while on a diet, then you’re living a nightmare you’re not really on vacation.  Because when you are truly on vacation like I was, all control, restraint, the MyFitnessPal app, and restrictions go out the Mini Cooper window.  I was free to order anything and everything on the restaurant and cafe’ menus that I wished to taste.  Veal scaloppine with mushrooms. Risotto with artichoke.  Prosecco. Melon wrapped in prosciutto. Fresh mozzarella and tomato. Fernet Branca and cola. Brioche and pistacchio granita. Cannolis. More Prosecco.  Caponata.  Pan-fried sea bass.  Limoncello.   Arancinette.  Mushroom flan.  Double espresso.  Another bottle of Prosecco.

In those moments, who cared about  caloric intake?   (I obviously cannot flaunt that question ten years from now, or currently to my primary physician.)  Who cared about the amount of Euros being shelled out?  I was in m#thaf$cking Italy bitch, and I was going to take full advantage of this wonderful opportunity to enjoy the culinary orgasms.  There were times I left the dining table so completely stuffed and ridiculously full, that the few steps to the elevator up to the hotel room seemed comparable to climbing Mount Etna.  Dining in Italy was an evangelical foodie revival, and sharing those moments with friends, family, and loved ones was magical, especially when the sole reason any of us being  there was to celebrate love.

Wedding Group 02
There are few people that anyone in their lives would go out of their way, and cross the globe for.  My dear friend Cheri is one of my few.  After all, I was right there the very first time she met her new husband Michael nine years ago in Chicago.  I had invited Cheri to fly to the windy city to meet my friends Gina and Neil, and Michael happened to have been visiting Gina from Los Angeles that same weekend.  Here we were nearly a decade later sitting across from one another at a dining table inside of a castle in Sicily for their wedding.  It was just meant to be.

Just as everyone who traveled to Cheri’s wedding was meant to be there.

So many stories were shared.  So many stories were told.  So many new friendships and bonds were formed.  The most touching moment of the entire trip, and one of the most touching moments of my entire life’s existence was Cheri’s Uncle Junior’s toast to the newlyweds.  Perhaps it was his strength during the darkest moment in life that inspired me while he proclaimed how important it is to love and to be loved, but I was moved.  I was moved to tears.

Whether love padded our midsections and caused planned wedding outfits not to fit.  (Thank God for backup outfits!)   Or whether the love was through stories shared at 1am over hysterical laughter, and endless glasses of wine and champagne…  that entire week in Italy, we were all surrounded by love  …and pasta.

Congratulations to Cheri & Michael.  I love you both.

 

If I ate my heart out in Italy, then I drank and danced the rest of the time in London.  My European adventure continues in London…  STAY TUNED for my next post coming soon!  TO BE CONTINUED.

 

Please click on thumbnail to enlarge / view photo:

 

“Diamonds” by Lane 8 featuring Solomon Grey: I also had a love affair in my earphones with this song while traveling…  If seduction had a sound, it would sound like this!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pride & Passion 2014: an avant garde wedding

Yet another Pride & Passion event gone by!

In its 8 years, the event has slowly transformed into a fashionable night out downtown to dress up and party.  This year’s theme was an avant garde wedding celebrating the union of art + community + diversity.  I decided to play with the theme, and turned the pimp factor level up a few notches when dressing as my interpretation of an avant garde groom.  And that’s one of the many things that I love about Pride & Passion: how one can be decked out in leather and fur with opera goggles in Florida during the summertime, and not one person bats an eyelash at the ridiculousness of it all.  Pride & Passion is a night to play dress up, and an evening to play with one’s Uncle Karl Lagerfeld André Leon Talley Okie Fierce alter ego.

However, the true importance of this event is the $75,000.00 net that was raised from just one evening for the Tampa Museum of Art, its exhibits and community programs.  As an avid supporter of the arts and of Tampa raising its profile, I applaud this year’s Chairs Kevin Reder and Rick Scherer, the Museum staff, and the Pride & Passion steering and host committee for a spectacular event.

P.S.  Next year, I plan to dress even more ridiculously!

Photos courtesy of Nicole Abbett, Owen Hunt Photography, Todd Montgomery and Nicholas Cardello.

PP2014 Group 02PP2014 CrowdPP2014 ModelsPP2014 Okie GroupPP2014 Rick Crystal Kevin#PP2014TampaPP2014 Okie Aneta Jose 02PP2014 Areis GroupPP2014 GroupPP2014 Uncle KarlPP2014 Okie NicolePP2014 Wedding ModelsPP2014 Okie Kevin JessPP2014 Jaime Jaden 02PP2014 Mike Neil DancingPP2014 WindowPP2014 Museum Lights#PP2014Tampa#PP2014TampaPP2014 Okie ShanePP2014 Okie Jocelyn Jose#PP2014TampaPP2014 Okie KaliPP2014 Okie KristinPP2014 Corina
Please click on thumbnail to enlarge / view photo: 

 

 

“I Can’t Keep Up” by Tourist featuring Will Heard:  There’s just something in the way that Will Heard sings SANGS this song that does something to my soul.  When the frenetic pace changes up at the 3:00 mark, the song becomes pure, unadulterated audio ecstasy.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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: 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Rooftop Eve 2014 – Cabaret en Rouge

FINALLY… a New Years that was epic!

NYE14 Rooftop

Year after year of either last-minute or zero New Years Eve plans, I actually had a fabulous gameplan to welcome 2014.  Jocelyn secured a private cabana at the sold-out Rooftop Eve party in Hyde Park Village, and invited a few friends to help her “drank” bottles of Grey Goose and Moët.  It had been nearly a decade since I rang in a brand spankin’ new year at such a massive event that I completely forgot how much fun they truly were.  I had slowly become one of  those social naysayers who branded New Years parties as amateur night when in truth, getting older had gotten the worst of me.   Being hangover-free in my 20s had escalated to weeklong hangovers in my 30s.  Afternoon naps were necessities and not perks.  Given my recent track record, I had pretty much reverted into being an amateur myself.   So who really cares?  Amateur night or not… get me out of the house and let it rain vodka!

Any event that transports me out of Tampa with its energy, decor and pizzazz is a must-attend event, and I gladly add The Rooftop Eve party to that list of local events.  Any individual seeking a posh, swanky and fun New Years Eve partay, add The Rooftop Eve party to YOUR calendar list.  It’s definitely worth every penny of the admission price.

THANK YOU Queen Jocelyn for the tickets.  Happy New Year everyone, may 2014 be in your favor.

NYE14 Group 2NYE14 GroupNYE14 BoysNYE14 Okie JocelynNYE14 Okie Mike AndyNYE14 JocelynNYE14 Okie MikeNYE15 Okie Mike Areis AndyNYE14 Okie Areis




“Ready” by Elizabeth Rose…
Neil has christened this hyptonizing dance single from Australian DJ Elizabeth Rose as the winter anthem of 2013-2014.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Labor Day 2013 in New Orleans

NOLA 2013 Bourbon Group 3Labor Day weekend 2013 could not have arrived at a more vital time in life with all of the craziness that was going on.  I NEEDED this weekend!

Every Labor Day weekend involves reuniting with all of the New York and Chicago peeps at a destination not in one of those cities (or Tampa).  (READ: The Big Easy & Back!)  To my Jambalaya & Hurricane guzzling delight, New Orleans was once again chosen as this year’s location.  I don’t know what exactly happened that weekend.  It almost felt as if it never even took place, because it all happened so fast.  I only remember that the entire time just felt good.  It felt good to let loose.  It felt good to reunite with my best friends and other family.  It felt good to meet new friends.  It felt good to just get away.  I can’t come up with another way to describe the trip other than playing “It Feels Good” by Tony Toni Tone’.

Oh, I also remember eating raw oysters every single day for lunch and dinner.

…until Labor Day Weekend 2014!

NOLA 2013 Group

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view image:

 

The Theme Song of Labor Day Weekend 2013: “Triumphant” by Mariah Carey? Huh? I am afraid this song oddly became the anthem for Jason, Billy and I when lost in the French Quarter. Don’t ask… because we wouldn’t be able to explain it to you.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Gen Pop

Okie NYC Roof 1

My family reunions are a big deal.  My mother has 9 siblings.  And between all of her sisters and brothers, my uncles and aunts, I have a whopping 65 first cousins.  Growing up on the East Coast, I never had the opportunity to meet a fraction of my huge extended family.

10 years ago, I traveled to Seattle for the first time with a group of friends, yet spent the entire weekend meeting and catching up with most of my cousins, uncles and aunts.  It was a huge special occasion to all of them that one of the long, lost relatives from Florida was in town.  This was the very first time that I ever met any of them, yet they lovingly welcomed me with open arms and changed their schedules around just to spend time with someone who they essentially did not know.  It didn’t matter.  I was a part of the family, and one always go out of their way for family whether they know the family member or not.

NYC Brunch Group

Last weekend, I experienced that same family-dynamic energy while visiting Jason in New York City.  Jason has become one of my best friends, and he’s fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful and valuable friends up there.  Anyone who is loved by one of my best friends is automatically loved by me, and spending time with everyone up there felt like home.  The NYC crew literally rolled out the red carpet to ensure that Neil, Areis and I had the time of our lives in their city, and they certainly delivered in making this trip the absolute best.  Then again, I wouldn’t have expected any less from friends family.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” Michael J. Fox


NYC Penthaus Group

Please click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view image:




I also flew up to New York City last weekend to attend The Governor’s Ball Music Festival which boasted headliners Kanye West, Kings of Leon and Guns N’ Roses.  The music festival weekend obviously belonged to Yeezus (Kanye West), but Swedish-based electro-pop group Kate Boy fronted by Aussie singer Kate Akhurst nearly stole the entire weekend at a Governor’s Ball pre-party nonetheless.  Check out their ultra-addictive “Northern Lights” music video below:

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Event of 2013!

Okie Group 07

The beginning of summer.  The time of year when your AC thermostat lowers while your electric bill rises.  The start of beach season and sunbathing.  And that time of year when Pride & Passion, arguably one of thee top events in town takes place.

The 8th Annual Pride & Passion was held on Saturday, May 18, 2013 at the Tampa Museum of Art, which this wonderful event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for each year.  In the four years that I have attended Pride & Passion, it has rapidly become one of Tampa’s signature fashion events known for its pomp, flash and extravagant entertainment and decor.  This year’s event was no exception and easily tops previous celebrations in grandeur and eminence.

This year’s Pride & Passion also happens to be the first that I sat as the Public Relations, Marketing & Host Chair.  So it was fulfilling to not only attend this kick-ass party but to also help plan this event with the rest of the fabulous Steering Committee members.  If you missed out on this year’s festivities or have (gasp) never attended a Pride & Passion, mark your calendars for May 2014 and make plans to be there!

Pride & Passion 2013Okie Boys Group 01Cake Areis Rayda 01Shane Aimee Mike 01Group 01Group 03Okie Boys Group 04Okie Jonathan Cheri Linley JocelynOkie Jess 02Okie Linley 02Okie Linley Billy 01Okie Jocelyn 01

Photography by Radko Keleman
Select Photography by Todd Montgomery & Ruslana.Studio
Noticeable Photography by Okie Tilo’s cellphone

Please click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view image:

 

…and in dedication to my fan that became the it-prop of Pride & Passion 2013:

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Year-End Lie

New Years Eve 2012 with Jonathan, Angela & Mike

New Years Eve 2012 with Jonathan & Harry

New Years Eve 2012 Party #1: Mike Hammonds’

Here is the LIE in print as written January of last year:  “I never had a kick-ass New Year’s Eve ever.  I’ve done the whole “go hard or go home” partying, I’ve dabbled in the intimate & lowkey evening with close friends, I’ve even slept through the countdown to midnight.  I just never had THAT New Year’s Eve night that should go down in my personal history books.

Each and every single year, it seems that my friends and I are scrambling last minute to figure out something to do.  We toy with the idea of doing something together, only to be separated from one another on the big night.  The two times that I were with my close friends were the only two nights that were actually memorable.

This particular year, it was the same ol’ New Year’s song & dance routine.  “What are you doing?  Where are you going?  Do you wanna do this?  Should we just go here?” …and on and on.

So, I’ve decided to to host my own New Year’s Eve party this year, that is if the world is still spinning after December 21, 2012.  It is something that I always casually mentioned doing, but kept putting off and never put into action.  So you all read it here first: there is proof in writing that I am throwing a New Year’s party in 2012!”

New Years Eve 2012 with Jess

New Years Eve 2012 Party #2: Jess’s

I lied.  I did not host a New Years Eve party as promised, mainly because I was suffering from event going & planning fatigue that accompanies the oversaturated Fall season (birthday, Thanksgiving and a dozen Christmas parties).  Also, I had already made plans to fly out to California to meet Neil.  When those travel plans fizzled, I succumbed to the usual no-plans for New Years Eve slump.  Staying home to watch the Ball Drop (or sleep through it)?  I’ve done it before and would not mind having to do it again.  Luckily, two close friends decided to throw intimate gatherings at their houses which became my New Years Eve 2012 plans.

I started the year off with a lie, and ended the year with that same lie… but everything in between those lies were fun and memorable times.  2012 was one of my favorite years in recent memory, and that is the TRUTH!

So here is this year’s lie promise, I promise to host a New Years Party in 2013 have plans for New Years Eve 2013 far in advance this year.  Happy New Year everybody!


Taryn Manning – Send Me Your Love (featuring Sultan + Ned Shepard)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,