Tag Archives: New York City

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.

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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

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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:

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Jason’s Visit: May 2013

Jason Moriarty Okie May 2013

Jason’s annual springtime trip back home to Tampa occurred last weekend.  The last time that I saw Jason was during his 30th Birthday gathering up in NYC earlier this year. (READ: Concrete Jungle post)  Since there was zero photographic evidence that I was up there celebrating three decades of his fabulous existence on Earth, our first mission for this Tampa reunion was to take at least one damn photo together.  (Fun Fact: The second mission was to order Hungry Howie’s pizza and revel in their garlic and cajun crust pizzas.)  Missions accomplished.

It is a guaranteed riotous time when Jason is in town.  Even though both of us are now in our 30s, it would seem to outsiders that we are freshly 21 every time that we come together.

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“You Set Me Free” by Angie Miller…  Saturday, May 11, 2013.  3:45am.  Jason is  running to the nearest gas station in search of cigarettes.  Nick is running after Jason.  Literally.  Melissa is peacefully practicing Shavasana on the living room couch.  And the above music video found itself on repeat on my Apple TV.  Such a stunning song from an American Idol contestant who should’ve been in this week’s Finale.  Never fails in giving me goosebumps every single time I hear it!

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Concrete Jungle

SAT 4

New York City.  The city that never sleeps.  The Big Apple.  The capital of the universe.  The most annoying city ever.

Everybody seems to be moving to New York City.  Everybody seems to be in love with New York City.  I used to believe that people my age only moved to the City to fulfill some delusional Carrie Bradshaw fantasy of shopping, sexting and sipping Cosmos.  Those same people weren’t factoring in the reality of it all: sardine-can sized apartments that were older than Betty White with a gazillion dollar monthly rental rate, the overcrowded streets, the dirty streets and the long waits for just about everything.  I was not a fan.  I was never a fan.  I only ever visited NYC to spend time with my real life Friends who weren’t named Chandler, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Monica or Ross.

Last month, I decided to fly up to New York to celebrate Jason’s 30th birthday.  It had been nearly 3 years since my last visit, and Jason turning 30 was a huge deal.  I convinced Jonathan, Jess and Areis to join in on the travel fun, and voilà a weekend group trip was born.

I’m not quite sure what specifically changed from my previous trips to this past one, but I kinda fell in love with ol’ New York.  I’ve always been surrounded by the best company when there.  I’ve always ate fabulously and drank and danced the night away.  The people that I’ve met during each visit were always really cool and interesting.  Instead of always asking “why does everyone love New York City?“…   I should’ve been asking the REAL question all along…

…”what’s there NOT to love about New York City?

From the limo ride and fancy dinner at Morimoto NYC to the 4-hour timeframe it required to travel from JFK to HK to the danceathon that occurred at Industry Bar, I had such so much fun that I did not stop to take one photo with Jason or Gary or any of the other NYC crew.

New York City.  The city that never sleeps.  The Big Apple.  The capital of the universe.  The city that one can’t help but fall in love with.



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My latest musical obsession is British songstress Jessie Ware‘s debut album titled Devotion. Check out her latest single “Imagine It Was Us” which is pure and unabashed 1990s pop nostalgia and magic.

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Invincible Summer

“In the depth of winter…
Winter Radko 3

I finally learned that within me there lay…

Winter Radko 1

…an invincible summer!”  -Albert Camus

Winter Radko 2

I have been fascinated with the Albert Camus quote that this year’s 5th Annual Square One Creative Event revolved around since I first read it in High School.  An invincible summer in the winter… that statement transcends to so many more meanings and interpretations.

With speculation that the world will come to an end when the Mayan Calendar concludes on December 21st of this year, I felt that an event exploring the theme of summer (light, life and hope) always prevailing amid a dark, lifeless and bleak landscape was needed.  I liked the idea and contrast of having an event called Invincible Summer taking place in the fall.  I loved the optimistic message of energy and light never dying.

Invincible Summer had much more personal meaning than any other event that I’ve ever been associated with.  Whether living in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago… whether married, single or divorced… whether  black, white, Asian or a Russian Jew… whether I see them once a year, twice a week or every other year…  this event represented the invincible  lifelong friendships and bonds that I am blessed to have with the numerous individuals in my life.  They all flew in and/or drove in from various parts of the city, state and country for this event.  We’ve all endured the up and down nature that paints the canvas of any great friendship.  And in the end, unconditional love is our friendship’s invincible summer.

Invincible Summer
IS Jocelyn

“If there’s one thing I love about the Square One events, it’s that they bring all of us back together.  So many memories, history… You can’t match that feeling.”  -my friend Billy Jolie (in Tampa)

“They say that you can tell a true friend if you can go months without seeing them and pick right up from where you left off.  That is exactly what happens every time I reunite with the plethora of people I saw this weekend in Tampa.”  -my friend Jason (in NYC)

“Your theme this year for Square One has really touched my heart.  I feel like deep within us there is an “invincible summer”… despite all the hardships and negativity in our daily lives, there will always be this ray of hope and inspiration that is deep inside.”  -my friend Lorena (& future Californian resident)

Okesene Diamond
Salvador Live
JPop
Straz
Mr Sawbladehead
Bella Danza
Kinetic Radko
7th Avenue Annie7th Avenue Dancer7th Avenue Girls7th Avenue Hoop7th Avenue PoleArt 1Art 2Art 37th Avenue 1
7th Avenue 2

Photos by Kevin & Lisa Tighe and Radko Keleman

For more information about Invincible Summer, the event that took place on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at The RITZ Ybor in Tampa, please click here.


“Diamonds” performed by songwriter Sia

 

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I Shall Never Forget

I was 21-years-old & working at Barnes & Noble at the time.  I had tickets to the Janet Jackson “All For You Tour” at the Ice Palace that evening, and remembered thinking “…I just need to SURVIVE this day at work.”  When the stockroom manager Laura ran back to my department to inform me of the devastating news, it wasn’t until I ran back to the breakroom to see the video footage myself that I then realized how much more the word “SURVIVE” truly meant.  I shall never forget…

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32

Since turning 24, I always celebrated each and every birthday with some huge splashy birthday bash with huge groups of friends and acquaintances typically at some fancy-smancy restaurant accompanied by a debaucherous night out on the town.  For my 30th birthday, I coincided my big day with an even bigger event called Magnum Opus: a Square One Creative Event at The RITZ Ybor.  There were over 2,000 people in attendance which only fueled more fire towards my overwhelming ego & attention-seeking inferno.

In life, there are at least six birthdays that require monumental celebration…  16…  18…  21…  30…  40…  50!

What happens after you’ve turned 30?  The next iconic bday celebration would be the big 40th.  What does one do when celebrating the ages in between?

For my 31st birthday, I tried duplicating the fanfare of my 30th birthday by once again coinciding the big day with the biggest event I’ve produced, this time called Berlin: a Square One Creative Event.  There were more than 2,500 guests in attendance, my closest friends from out of town all migrated from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Ohio, Jacksonville and Miami for the partay, the event even graced the cover of Creative Loafing.


Without going into much detail, lightning definitely doesn’t strike twice.

For my 32nd birthday, I am going away with one of my oldest friends and doing something lowkey and simple.  My motto for 32:  Less is more.

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Boomerang [08.03.2009]

Originally posted on Facebook on August 3, 2009:

I have known Ryan Prado for quite some time now. I met him back in 2004 or so through a mutual friend. I have met a lot of talented and creative individuals through various events and social circles throughout the years, but Ryan happens to be one of the most insanely talented photographers and all-around creative geniuses that I have ever met. He belongs to the old school of Tampa icons. Everyone knew or was familiar with his body of work. Everyone loved his photography. Today, it seems that EVVVERRRYYYONNNEEE is a photographer and that Ryan’s genuine creative brilliance gets a bit lost in everyone else’s relentless self-promotion of their artistic self-perception. Damn you sometimes Facebook!

Tonight, he and I went to dinner where we discussed his upcoming move to NYC this fall. Ryan follows in the same footsteps that so many wonderful friends and associates of mine have walked before him. “I want to do this while I am still young and still can… I want to creatively and socially challenge myself… I want to experience something new…” And each every single one of my wonderful friends that relocated to NYC also happened to be a very talented individual as well. (Yes Hilary, the ability to make me uncontrollably laugh until my stomach hurts and I am crying is an exceptional talent that should be classified in its own category of fine art.) It seemed that all of Tampa’s shining artistic talent was abandoning ship and upgrading to a New York yacht.

One comment that Ryan remarked over tonight’s dinner resonated with me and has been saturating with me ever since: “Not to sound cliche, but I feel like I belong in NYC.”

Why does this statement stand out the most? Because I can relate to it the most. I love New York City. I don’t ever see myself living or ever moving there. I don’t feel like I belong there. I considered moving to Chicago at one point in life. I even considered trying to figure out a way to live in Toronto. All that has changed the last 2 to 3 years. Not to sound un-cliche, but I feel like I belong in Tampa.

I’m still in the beginning stages of what I really want to accomplish here in Tampa. There are a lot of seeds planted or being planted right now, that if I ever did decide to move and join the other side then all of this hard work and endless amount of time that I’ve devoted to this city would be erased. I tip my hat to all of my friends that moved to NYC. In all honesty, I feel that most of their times here in Tampa had expired and I’m instantly happy when I see how much they are now enjoying life up there. There was just a somber and settled attitude during their last months that they lived here. Tampa is too great of a city to live like that, so it’s always better to go before you completely self-destruct. It’s as if they are now living life to the fullest… again. Sure, the grass is always greener. But what happens when there is absolutely no grass on your side anymore?

Besides the introspective rants that tonight’s dinner provoked, it also inspired a possible creative collaboration with Mr. Prado. I waxed poetic about my inspiration for the November 13 Square One event to him which he is contemplating shooting an original photo for… something that he has not done since Virgin 2.0 all the way back in 2008.

Virgin 2.0 by Ryan Prado

Is it odd that the photographers that I solely rely on will all be living in NYC and that my main go-to-guy for graphics lives in Ohio? I get to have the best of both worlds: still benefit from my talented friends who hijacked it up to New York AND merging it with what I am doing here in Tampa while never having to leave.

Life is like a boomerang.

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OMG 2008: The Soundtrack [12.19.2008]

Originally posted on MySpace on December 19, 2008:

Whoever first said that time flies by faster the older one gets is hopefully experiencing an afterlife of well-deserved bliss, because that statement could not have rang more true than it did this year. 2008 rushed by faster than the speed of light. Never have I met so many new people or experienced so much change. Every year around this time, I typically post some fancy year-end blog set to a soundtrack of the year’s most memorable songs… however this year’s blog was a bit more difficult given the 365 +1 days of memories that crammed 2008.

Seriously, this year was ABSOLUTE madness… but in the best way possible.

These are the songs that remind me of the year’s most memorable moments and people. These are the songs that truly capture the momentum and spirit of 2008. So here goes kiddos and blog stalkers, hike up your speaker’s volumes… make sure you’re sitting in a comfy position… and PRESS PLAY below… for this is the soundtrack to my life (the ongoing musical) in 2008…

IF I WERE A BOY BY BEYONCE: Five people will forever come to mind whenever I hear ‘If I Were A Boy’ by Beyonce.

(1) Jess, my Asian Persuasion who first bonded with me over a conversation on Freeport, Illinois at the now defunct 7 14 Lounge. She played the hell out of a Beyonce Greatest Hits disc that I made her which included this song. Plus her ‘hoe phone’ is constantly blowing up every time I am around her. Any guess on what her ringtone is? My favorite memory of 2008 with ‘Okie’s sister’ (as Dallas loves to call her) is our night out together at Eric’s Birthday Party at The Columbia. It was her very first night stepping foot into Steam where she has since become a regular club staple, and the first night that we ever danced together. I wouldn’t want to sing ‘Hot Summer’ or ‘Dirty Pop’ with anyone else but my dirty pop lil’ Kim Chee hot mess on the cob named Jess. Plus, she plays this song at the drop of a dime whenever I am shouting song requests from her car’s back seat at 3am.

(2) Nathan, my morning ‘Christmas present unwrapper’… because for weeks straight he was ALWAYS singing this song. Tired of the club scene, he and I decided to cook dinner together one Thursday night and avoid The Castle at all costs. One shepherd’s pie, one pasta salad, one ‘better than sex’ chocolate cake and two bottles of wine later at his place… here I found myself partying at Georgies in St. Pete with him and then Patron shot-downing at The Castle later. Mind you… I was preparing for an evening of staying indoors, so I was dressed in a wine stained shirt, flip flops and torn shorts. To make sure I wasn’t the only gutter trash hobo present, I forced Nathan to change into matching attire and show off those hairy ass legs before we ventured out. 2008 was the year Nathan and I paraded around the nightclubs and streets of Tampa and New York City as the year’s Partida Drinking Champions.

(Rubbing Nathan’s surprisingly hairy lower back) Okie: Gizmo? Is that you?

(3) Hilary, my unemployed Manhattan socialite favorite… my birthday this year was the best ever because of my New York trip to visit her and Sammie. I remember lying in bed together and playing ‘If I Were A Boy’ on my iPod for her. She loved the song so much that I had to whip out the laptop and You Tube the music video for us to overanalyze and dissect as if it were a Federico Fellini cinematic masterpiece. I still cannot help but laugh and smile at the thought of us walking down the streets of Manhattan on our way to G-Lounge singing this song, changing the lyrics to reference Sammie’s camel toe or forcing Nathan to play his Beyonce ringtone on the subway so we could have our “If I Were A Boy” fix for the moment.

(4) Victoria, or as Cheri likes to call her… VICCCTTTOOORRRIIIAAA VICCCTTTOOORRRIIIAAA… on our way to Doug and Linley’s Annual Halloween Party, Steven popped in the new cd I burnt for him that had ‘If I Were A Boy’ on it. As the song finished, Victoria repeated the track only to post a Myspace bulletin with the song lyrics later that night. ‘Sometimes… Beyonce surprises me.’ As serious as Victoria was when she made that statement, I still giggled a little bit. I believe she’s still rocking out to that burnt cd, because Steven never got it back from her.

(5) Steven MichaelRay, my twin MESSiah brother… if 2007 was our downfall, then 2008 was our comeback. My most favorite memory of Steven has got to be smoking on Neil’s balcony in Chicago trying to figure out what the graphic was on his hat. Was it an astronaut? Was it a seal? Or maybe both? My stomach hurt so badly from laughing so hard with him. Given the juvenile extremities of our conversation, was it necessary to constantly interrupt Neil and Cheri watching their movie by doing ‘Sparkle Grape Soda’ impressions? Amid the excessive silliness, we were reminded of how blessed we were to have our friendship rejuvenated. The overnight layover in Atlanta would have been annoying if it were with anyone else. We slept in those nasty leather seats with the harsh fluorescent light blaring down and that damn custodian vacuuming around our area for what seemed like 4 hours. Reuniting with Steven this year only reinforced the truth that no matter what direction life takes us or how far time separates us, we will irrefutably return back to one another.

I would turn off my phone
Tell everyone it’s broken
So they’d think that I was sleeping alone
I’d put myself first
And make the rules as I go
If I Were A Boy by Beyonce

Give It 2 Me by Madonna: The Seattle crew was in town for Harry’s 29th Birthday Weekend, and it was my first time meeting the much-hyped Jae Jae. I was literally falling asleep when he and Mel arrived in town that Friday night, but their infectious excitement to be in Tampa for the weekend along with Jae Jae’s constant demands for this song to repeat on the way to Ybor remind me of the berserk moments of that weekend. For starters, Jess and I have not ‘twirled’ on the dancefloor since Jae Jae went back to Seattle.

Jeremy Gloff and I ran the same circles of mutual friends but never had an open opportunity to realize how connected we truly are until our ‘Hard Candy’ album release party field trip to the Virgin Megastore in Orlando with Harry and Nicole. We played the entire “Hard Candy” album on the way back to Tampa, but it was ‘Give It 2 Me’ that managed to waken a comatose Harry in the backseat.

Beautiful Boy by Jeremy Gloff: What a delight it was for Jeremy to ask me to help him with his 1987 album release party! After a meeting of the minds at The Cheesecake Factory one weekend afternoon, he and I both came up with the best pr gimmick… the 1987 Cassette Wall photos. Everyone wanted a photo taken in front of the wall. Everyone had a photo taken in front of the wall. Everyone else had their photo photoshopped in front of the wall. It was an exciting time that helped propel us in abandoning any notions of moving to New York City and Chicago next year. Who else would I share hot tea and pie at the St. Pete diner with?

Give a warm round of applause for… Square One presents… because this is a fcking Square One production you btches… Jeremy Gloff’s 1987 Show.
– My heavily intoxicated introduction of Jeremy’s performance at Crowbar

(Shout-out to J-Gloffa: You commented on last year’s 2007 blog about being a complete outsider to my life. How the times have a-changed?)

Let Me Think About It by Ida Corr: Nicole (a.k.a. McShizzle) and I decided to see Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour in Chicago with one another. $500.00 for a tenth row floor seat was a bargain, especially considering that both of us were contemplating plunking down a cool grand each for any floor seat. From the moment we arrived, we were cracking our corny jokes and giggling at the smallest idiosyncrasies. The highlight of that Chicago trip has got to be devouring a huge food order from Duck Walk at Neil’s apartment while You Tube-ing our favorite songs. We were both three sheets to the wind but in complete denial of how loaded we truly were. I kept downplaying the situation, making every attempt to remain cool. Once Nicole played ‘Let Me Think About It’… all bets were off and out came the dancing and singing.

Nicole: ”Yeah, you’re not fcked up!’
Okie: ‘NOT. AT. ALL!’

Holler by Spice Girls: Neil in Chicago is a chef extraordinaire who cooks up the best homemade seafood paella ever. And being the guy who is not afraid to unleash his inner fat boy, I would persistently ask him to make me breakfast every morning or whip up a Bloody Mary for lunch or concoct his famous spinach dip. Every single time like the giving person he is, Neil would oblige. His only request when being my personal Top Chef was that “Holler” play on Rhapsody so he could dance while he cooked.

All I See by Kylie Minogue: A sign that you are getting older: All of your close girl friends either got married or engaged this year.

The apparent year of romance kicked off with Stephanie Brooke marrying Jason. Then Jen married Max. Next up was Katina‘s wedding to Justin. Followed by Kristin‘s engagement to Ben. And then Sterling got engaged to Shira. Accompanied by Donna accepting David‘s wedding proposal. Not to be outdone by Nick popping the question to Gina. Concluding with Linley and Doug finally making plans to get hitched.

If 2008 is the year of romance, then 2009 will be the year of the weddings. I am already slated to be in 2 weddings next year… just 25 more to go to fulfill the starring role in my own version of the movie “27 Dresses.” The song lyrics to “All I See” perfectly capture the happiness of my friends finding their other halves.

Single Ladies by Beyonce: I don’t exactly remember the precise moment that Jonathan and I clicked with one another, because it seems like I have known him forever now. Whether it’s forcing him to cook me lunch or watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta Marathon on Bravo all day, I always picture his “Laze Milan” dancing when “Single Ladies” blared out any given speakers.

Right now, Jonathan is currently overseas in Qatar with the Air Force so everyone pray that he gets back home very soon. He and I have a date at the Buddhist Temple when he returns.

Hot Summer by Monrose: My theme song for 2008, and one of the many songs that Gina, Steven and I always play at Linley‘s house parties where we find ourselves to be the only ones dancing.

Push The Button by Sugababes and Primitive by Roisin Murphy: The “unmentionable” title of Jon La May‘s iPod playlist dedicated to moi was a collection of songs I introduced to him. The two songs that Jon would jam out the most to during our weekly Winghouse Wednesday luncheons were these two irresistibly catchy pop ditties that he initially hated.

Damaged by Danity Kane: David Phan has an enduring tendency to text me random lyrics to any given song of the moment. I never understood why. Neither did Jon La May. It was just something that made the loveable David Phan David Phan. Of all the 129,078,380,397.42 texts messages that he sent to me this year, “Damaged” has got to be his most referenced. The funny thing about his texts is that I can vividly picture him singing the song while pumping his fist in the air each and every time that he messaged me. Waking up to a text message that read “Do… do you have a first aid kit handy?” was not uncommon this year thanks to my special Jacksonville friend who claims I wear butt pads.

INTO THE NIGHTLIFE BY CYNDI LAUPER: I had been friends with Ryan Prado for years, but never had we bonded as much as we did this year. Every morning at work, I would wait for him to get to his job so that we could begin endlessly e-mailing one another throughout the day. Even with how stressful my job became, just talking to him was like a breath of fresh air. When we both decided to travel to Chicago to see the Janet Jackson Rock With U Tour, I had NO idea how much fun was in store. Being the old man that I have inevitably become, I left Ryan at Club Berlin that Friday night to go back to Neil’s apartment to go to bed. When Ryan texted me to come back and save him from the onslaught of attacking trannies, I put my shoes back on and went downstairs to go bring him back to Neil’s place with me. I walk in Berlin. I spot Ryan at the bar. He motions to me that he is ready to leave. “Into The Nightlife” starts emanating from the speakers and suddenly Ryan and I both decide to stay a little longer… well at least one song longer. I literally saw Mr. Prado come to life in Chicago and am eager to go back up there with him next August for Market Days. Corner diner here we come!

Rock With U by Janet Jackson: Ryan Prado. Screaming his head off like an 8 year-old girl suffering from an intense adrenaline rush and sugar high. Nuff said.

Want to dress for you tonight
Under the light
Shot up like a satellite
Into the night
Shirtless wonder wreck my sight
Under the light
Into The Nightlife by Cyndi Lauper

Motownphilly by Boyz II Men: The Saturday get-together at Neil‘s place in Chicago for Ryan Prado brought out the usual favorite suspects: Sara, Aaron, Danny, Firecrotch Rob, Vince and of course… my soul mate, Chicago Gina. I am not sure how we got into our 90’s music kick, but there we were dancing up a storm in Neil’s living room to old-school X-Scape, CeCe Peniston and of course Gina’s request that she just had to hear… “Motownphilly” by Boyz II Men. Up went the hair in a ponytail on top her head and out came the surefire ridiculousness that everyone loves about Gina. I’m not even sure she realizes how side-splitting hilarious she is when she is in her full-on “Gina” element.

I Wonder by Kanye West: Sterling scored us box-seats to the Kanye West & Rihanna concert in Chicago. I had just flown into Chicago that afternoon, so by the time we arrived at the United Center Arena… I was literally suffering from headbobs trying to stay awake. As huge of a Kanye fan that I am, the exhaustion began taking over and I was falling asleep at my idol’s concert. It took my favorite song from Kanye’s “Graduation” album to bring me back to life and join Chicago Gina to rock out to the remainder of the Glow In The Dark Tour.

4 MINUTES BY MADONNA WITH JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: It was a random Saturday night at Gbar. I walk inside and notice a group of familiar guys just whispering to one another and pointing my way. I thought, ‘what the hell did I do now?” I ignored their whispers and went over to the other bar. A tap on the shoulder and I turn around to see one of those guys standing behind me.

“Do you think you can give me advice on an event that I am planning?” he said.

I had already began drinking and agreed to do so, but initially shrugged off the random question. Sure enough, Gary Randall called me the next day asking for advice on a show called Square One that he was planning at the old Masquerades. What started off as simply giving advice turned into helping him plan this Square One event which escalated into taking over a suddenly successful business venture when he moved to New York City this past May. I had known Gary for years, but never did we ever exchange any words besides the standard “hello” and hug. Gary seeking me out for his event at the beginning of the year completely rearranged my priorities in 2008, and he and Julia in New York have become family to me.

I met the majority of the people that I speak to on a daily basis through Square One with most of them being acquaintances I had previously known for years.

He may claim that I am always mean and never spend enough time with him, but from never having a conversation with Jason Moriarty the years of knowing him to talking to him daily for at least 4 hours should prove how much he means to me now. He is absolutely hilarious when he makes his obnoxious comments on my weight or his “twink assembly line” of workers that will unquestionably work our events. I’d be lost the last half of this year without “my Daddy,” the Russian Jew… Tampa’s Edward Cullen. I cannot wait to hit up NYC and Chicago with him next year.

Jason: Where the hell did you come from? It was like you were suddenly everywhere overnight.
Okie: I came from Chambers.

Rory and I go way back as friends. Back in the day, she could out drink anyone under the table and was undeniably one of the wildest girls that I know. She since gave up drinking, calmed down, graduated from Ringling and continually kept in touch with me throughout the years. Square One literally recharged our friendship. When I began planning GO! in May, she literally saved the day with the event promos. She will stay up until 2am working on graphic design work I need done for clients on a very last minute basis, and can still ‘slut’ it up like no one else.

Because of Square One, I finally felt that I was doing something that I was meant to do. When I recently got laid off from my accounting day job, I actually felt a sense of relief… as if I was being done a favor. While some of my coworkers were crying, I actually walked out of the office that afternoon with my belongings and a huge smile on my face. Corporate day jobs were never intended for me. Granted I lost my job, but I had Square One and The RITZ Ybor to fall back on. Both of those jobs mean more to me than any job before because I am finally doing something that I am completely and madly passionate about.

Who knew that Gary randomly asking me for advice would turn into a new career path where I was fortunate to meet and befriend some of the coolest people in the universe. Melissa Fair (the regulator). Gina Rathbun (my biggest fan). Jedd Lancaster (my web master). Melissa Ora-ath (my Harajuku baby). Linda Alexander (my favorite teacher). Amel Samuels (the one man corporation). Michelley QueenofQueens. Robert Wegmann. And the list just goes on and on.

If you want it
You already got it
If you thought it
It better be what you want
If you feel it
It must be real just
Say the word and
I’ma give you what you want
4 Minutes by Madonna with Justin Timberlake

Untouched by The Veronicas: A morning without speaking to Robby is like a day without air. Or as he likes to put it, “a morning without speaking to Okie is like a morning without wood.” Whether it’s selling the hell out of his bumper stickers down the streets of Ybor or showering his face with drunken kisses at my birthday, I had a blast with him this year.

Read A Book Parody by D’Mite: I first met Kat Wilson at the GO! Meet & Greet at Streetcar Charlie’s last May. It wasn’t until we toured The RITZ Ybor an hour or two later that she took the gloves off and made a smart comment about the cologne I typically bathe myself in. I always love a smart-ass, so I instantly knew that we’d get along fabulously. She has proven time and time again that she is an asset to Square One and to alopecia.

If We’re In Love by Roisin Murphy: I asked Jose to do Virgin 2.0 way back in May, and am shocked with how long ago that seemed. The highlight memory of him this year is FINALLY seeing him walking out onstage after (eve)olution with the biggest smile on his face, a true representation of the six months he busted his ass for his collection. He may criticize my two-slice pizza eating ways, even though Grace would smile and approve… but I still love him.

Hot N Cold by Katy Perry: Paging the cigarette thief named Ernesto. This is our dancefloor anthem for 2008 because it seems like you and I were always dancing together to this song.

DREAMS (DEEP DISH REMIX) BY FLEETWOOD MAC: Whenever Cheri and I have too much to drink, we find ourselves the victims of the “I love you” mushy fest. There we were on her 26th birthday at 2am at Flirt, hugging each other and crying about how happy we were to be friends. Fast forward to the Boom Boom Room in Chicago last year where we were just holding hands in the middle of the dancefloor telling one another how much we loved eachother. Of course this past February when I went to visit her in Los Angeles was no exception. V.I.P. balcony of Club Avalon and the DJ played this song. Anyone who passed by the two of us sitting in the lounge area would only hear the following silliness: “I love you Cheri… I’m so happy that we are friends. No, I love you Okie… I’m so glad I reunited with you after all these years… No, I love you more Cheri.” (Someone cut off our drinks next time we approach this territory.)

WALKING ON AIR BY KERLI: It is human nature to constantly push ourselves in seeking life’s ‘next big and next best thing.’ Everyone is searching for “it.” I, for one, can testify to always wanting ‘bigger’ and ‘better’; wanting more more more; wanting it all. Despite how beautiful a moment was, I still found myself never feeling satisfied. I would always question, ‘So what’s next? What else is coming? How can I top this wonderful moment?’ I always strived to get to a ‘next’ level of ‘greater’ and ‘better’ and ‘happier.’ I never sat back and took time to look at the amazement around me. 2008 will go down as the year that I actually opened up my eyes and finally realized… that I am already AT that level of “bigger” and “better” and ‘happier.’ No more pushing myself. No more searching. No more feeling unsatisfied …for it is not humanly possible to be as happy as I was the entire year of 2008.

THANK YOU to everyone who touched my life this year. I love you all and cannot to experience what 2009 brings to the table… besides the nine million engagement parties, bachelorette festivities, bridal showers and open bar weddings that I will be readying myself for.

Feel it

Breathe it

Believe it

And you’ll be walking on air

Go try

Go fly

So high

And you’ll be walking on air

You feel this

Unless you kill this

Go on and you’re forgiven

I knew that

I could feel that

I feel like

I am walking on air

Walking On Air by Kerli

This blog is dedicated to my very good friend Mr. Harry Morgan… for continually being that needed shoulder to lean on, for constantly putting up with my high-maintenance narcissism, for busting his ass during Virgin 2.0 set-up and most importantly… this blog is dedicated as a reminder of how beautiful of a person and wonderful of a friend he is. 2009 will be your year baby! Let’s ‘Demi Moore’ that shit up together. (Gym membership… CHECK. No carbs diet…. CHECK. Anti-aging products… CHECK. Young wigger arm candy… CHECK. Cigarettes & alcohol… X.)

And to Kristin… remember my comment about you never getting married because no one would want to deal with your excessive silliness? Well, I guess you proved me wrong. October next year… it’s MY wedding and you’re just the bride.

Monrose’s Strictly Physicalmy favorite album of 2008

The Soundtrack to 2008:
1. Beyonce – If I Were A Boy
2. Madonna – Give It 2 Me
3. Jeremy Gloff – Beautiful Boy
4. Ida Corr – Let Me Think About It
5. Spice Girls – Holler
6. Kylie Minogue – All I See
7. Beyonce – Single Ladies
8. Monrose – Hot Summer
9. Sugababes – Push The Button
10. Roisin Murphy – Primitive
11. Danity Kane – Damaged
12. Cyndi Lauper – Into The Nightlife
13. Janet Jackson – Rock With U
14. Boyz II Men – Motownphilly
15. Kanye West – I Wonder
16. Madonna with Justin Timberlake – 4 Minutes
17. The Veronicas – Untouched
18. D’Mite – Read A Book Parody
19. Roisin Murphy – If We’re In Love
20. Katy Perry – Hot N Cold
21. Fleetwood Mac – Dreams (Deep Dish Remix)
22. Kerli – Walking On Air

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Confessions of 2007: The Soundtrack [12.20.2007]

Originally posted on MySpace on December 20, 2007:

“I am awaiting the Okie year-end blog!”
Jon La May, during lunch at Mike’s BBQ the other day

So turn your volumes up, make sure you’re sitting in a comfortable position, and most importantly…  PRESS PLAY
..

AN OPEN LETTER TO STACEY FERGUSON:

Dear Fergie,

I will come out and admit that I was not a fan of yours when I first saw you perform with The Black Eyed Peas. There wasn’t one particular thing about you that unimpressed me; I just simply was not impressed.

Last fall, I bought your “The Dutchess” album at Target on a whim. I didn’t click with your first single, “London Bridge,” and I initially wasn’t too keen on the next single, “Fergalicious.” But being a huge music junkie who listens to entire albums (yes, I still buy cd’s!) to help pass the time at work, I forked out $11.99 for your solo debut.

It is the end of 2007, more than an entire year has passed since “The Dutchess” was released… and your album has somewhat become the unofficial soundtrack to my life in the year 2007.

I remember being silly and attempting to write a rap song with Katina in Chicago to the tune of your “Fergalicious” (“Fergalicious” by Fergie) for Gina’s Birthday. We really couldn’t conjure up anything creative, mainly because I was fucked up, but I still managed to come up with something extravagantly ludicrous comprised of lots of head bobs and smiles and laughter.

Your third single “Glamorous,” (“Glamorous” by Fergie) evokes memories of Jacksonville. Each and every single time, David, Jon La May and I would sing together to the top of our lungs in the car.

“G – L – A – M – O – AHRRA (that’s how Jon La May pronounces his “r’s”) – O – U – S!”

The second Jacksonville trip had Gina, always imitating some pop singer, singing the last lines of the song in your distinctive voice and unintentionally coining new nicknames for Steven MichaelRay, Jon La May and myself.

And don’t even get me started on “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (“Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie)… Steven and I still cannot listen to that song without busting out in laughter. And yes your song is lovely, but it’s the memories associated with it that get us giggling.

Lastly, meeting you with Katina at your Candies Fashion Show / Concert in St. Pete last summer was a definite highlight of the year. Katina and I were so excited to meet you and sit front row, that we literally became two school-age girls… well, two school-age girls who were drunk and tipsy from the outdoor bar. You sang and danced your heart out. You looked amazing. You rocked my world that night. Thank God I told Katina to enter the Verizon Dress-Like-Fergie contest to win those backstage tickets!

So a big phat THANK YOU for making music that will forever bring the nice memories of an otherwise ho-hum year to mind. I cannot wait to hear what you will do next.

Love Always,
Okie

If my life in 2007 were ever made into a movie, these are the songs that would be playing during (the below mentioned) key scenes. These are the songs that would be featured on the soundtrack. These are the songs that remind me of select people. These are the quotes that would be printed in the soundtrack booklet’s liner notes. These are the songs that made up my 2007.

DAVID MICHAELRAY LA MAY
David Phan came into town twice this year. The first time he brought his friend Jake. The second time, he came all by himself. On his first night back in October, it was just like the old days of David, Gina and I riding down to Ybor together (“Do It Well” by Jennifer Lopez).

Except for lunch at P.F. Changs, David and I honestly just laid around the next day watching TV. It took Kristin to come by, and grace us with her “Tourette’s syndrome” to finally drag us out of the house. I don’t think that David has ever experienced Kristin in her full-Kristin glory, so for his virgin eyes and ears to experience her “La Sarah” voice, her barking like a dog, her sudden yelling, her comparing herself to Jennifer Aniston, as well as her Beyonce booty-shaking all within the first 10 minutes of her stopping by literally had David declaring: “I fucking love Kristin!”

We went to Cheri’s farewell dinner and night in Ybor that evening, completely exhausting ourselves for the remainder of the weekend. David and I did meet up with Jon and Bryan at Cracker Barrel on Sunday morning (“Sunday Morning” by k-OS), and squeezed in a visit to his longtime friend Jennessy. But even if David and I continued to sit around doing absolutely nothing before Kristin saved us, we still would have had fun. One of the fantastic things about David Phan is that he finds any and every way to keep you entertained and smiling. He says some of the most hysterical statements and when shit hits the fan, he is someone who continually has my back.

I went to Jacksonville to visit David TWICE this year with Jon La May. While traveling on our JAX first trip for David’s Birthday, Jon asked me for a list of songs to upload onto his IPod to play on the way there. So I sent him a list of songs that make me wanna shake it (“Give It To Me” by Timbaland with Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake), songs that make me wanna break stuff (“Breakin’ Dishes” by Rihanna), and our future wedding song (“Dancing In The Moonlight” by Top Loader). We listened to every single one of them on repeat. This was the very first time that Jon and I spent time together without mutual friends. Every other time, there was always someone else with us. So this trip was marking the beginning of the Okie & Jon Era

When we arrived, David took Jon, Jake and I to The Pearl, which was basically Jacksonville’s version of The Castle. Josh and Shandi met us up there, and let’s just say that yours truly was a wee bit out-of-control that night. To this day, I have no clue why I was so upset that my Quarter Pounder had cheese on it, and why I threw my cellphone at both Jon and David out of anger.

“Umm… You are NOT Naomi Campbell, Okie!”
David Phan, after the first of many cellphone throws his way

David’s 27th birthday dinner was held at the Corner Brasserie, where I finally got to meet Anitra, Irene, Kristy and Margie, followed by drinks at Metro. After closing Metro down and losing Jon La May, the highlight of the night had to be David falling down and dramatically twisting his ankle in front of two police officers. “No officer, I’m not drunk! I’m fine! I am Sparta!” Not that I find humor in David’s injuries… but if only a camera were around to document how hilarious David’s tumble was.

The second time Jon and I went to visit David in Jacksonville (“Last Night” by Diddy with Keyshia Cole), we brought Gina and Steven MichaelRay along. We only stayed there overnight, less than 24 hours to be precise, yet managed to have the best trip this year. We sampled escargot for the very first time. I met Lily. I made everyone wait to go out until Madonna took the stage on the Live Earth telecast. We hit up Twisted Martini, Brix… well, the Brix parking lot, and Metro. We got drunk. We played Fergie on the IPod on the way back home to David’s. We played Rihanna. We played the Spice Girls. We watched Janet Jackson DVD’s at David’s. And my faith in groups trips not always being a horrible idea was restored.

While we drove to and fro, Steven MichaelRay asked me about a specific song that Jon and I kept playing (“Apologize” by One Republic with Timbaland). I told him that I would burn that song onto a cd, and presented him with the “Michael Mix” compilation shortly after. The “Michael Mix” was just a assemblage of various songs that I thought Steven would enjoy. One of the songs on the cd, Steven enjoyed a little too much.

“Whatever Okie, I can have this shot tonight because
Jaslene won America’s Next Top Model,
Jordan didn’t get booted off American Idol
and Iiiiiiii caaarrreee!!!”
Steven MichaelRay, rationalizing why he was able to order a shot.
Earlier that day, he insisted that he would not get drunk
since he had to work early the next day.

It was the night of Billy Jolie’s 28th birthday… Jon La May was the designated driver, and chauffeured the birthday boy, Cheri, Steven and me from dinner at Thai Thani across the bridge to Georgies then over to Chambers. I very, very rarely ever go to Chambers. It’s not that I don’t enjoy that place, but I always leave that club at 3 a.m. drunk beyond belief. Of course that night was no different, except that Steven outdrank me. At the end of the night, we were hanging out front with Derek and Maria when the expected happened. “Jamal” came out.

Here’s the deal with Steven MichaelRay. When that boy drinks heavily, his other personality, “Jamal” likes to come out and play. “Jamal” is black, he’s a thug, his theme song is “It’s Hard Out There For A Pimp” by Three-Six Mafia, and he has a sister named “Katinqua.” Jamal is renowned for being impolite, ill-tempered and quarrelsome. “Jamal” is not known however for being a singer. As we left Chambers, “Jamal” was just yelling out his requests to me from the back seat. “PLAAAYYY APPOLLOOGGGIIIZZEEE!!!” “PLAAAYYY FEERRRGGGIIIEEE!!!” One song caught me off guard though… “PLAAAYYY TTTEEEXXXAAASSS!!!” (“Inner Smile” by Texas) What preceeded was the loudest, drunkest, scream-singing rendition of that song that I have ever (and most likely will ever) experience in my life. “YEEEAAAHHH!!! YEEEAAAHHH!!! YOUUU MAAAKKKEEE MEEEE FEEELLL!!! YEEEAAAHHH!!! YEEEAAAHHH!”

“I’m hearin what you say
but I just can’t make a sound
You tell me that you need me
Then you go and cut me down…”
“Apologize” by One Republic

THE COMEBACK / FAREWELL TOUR
Through the years, I had allowed myself to slip from the reigns of being the concert going king. I equate great shows as religious experiences. So as someone always seeking change, I decided to rev up my concert-going flair this year. It started back up in February with Justin Timberlake’s “FutureSex / LoveShow” at the St. Pete Times Forum with Billy, Kristin, Shauna, Nikki and Linda. JT was great, but I was a bit too drunk from the pre-drinking that immediately began earlier that day. After “I-cannot-even-tell-you-how-long,” I ran into Ruby at The Castle that night (“Lovestoned” by Justin Timberlake). She asked why I hadn’t been out as much as before lately. I asked her where the hell she had been hiding. We both concluded that 2007 was going to be the year of our “Comeback Tour.” Out every night. Going to every Tampa “it” event. Hanging out constantly. Sadly for me, I got sidetracked and at times felt as if I were on my “Farewell Tour.” Ruby managed to hold her own very nicely though.

In May, I luckily scored 7th row seats to Gwen Stefani’s “Sweet Escape Tour” for Steven MichaelRay, Kristin, Kimmie and I. Everyone seemed to be there that night, but the four of us were in our own little world (“The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani). Somehow, Steven convinced me to become his personal photographer for the night and I just kept snapping up photos of him. He somehow later convinced me to photograph him sitting in a tree that he conveniently climbed thanks to the help of a turned-over trash can. (Kristin’s persuasive pressure to model just like Joanie, an America’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 contestant, did in an episode that involved an elephant MAY have helped too.) July brought the 80’s Classic Summer Jam, where nostalgia was in overload as Harry, Jeremy Gloff and I jammed out to Expose, C&C Music Factory, Shannon and Lisa Lisa.

A staple with going to concerts in 2007 was running into my favorite non-stalking stalkers Thomas and Jabberjaw. There they were standing in line behind me at the Britney Spears show at the House of Blues in Orlando. There they were working radio promotions at the Fergie show at Ruth Eckerd Hall. And of course there they were at the Beyonce Experience when Kristin, Steven and I sat second row from the stage, and apparently dead-center in front of the jumbotron cameras. I have no idea how ridiculously retarded the three of us looked on the jumbotron screens as we unknowingly danced to “Crazy In Love” or sang along to “Irreplaceable” in front of the entire arena. Probably just as silly as when Steven, Kristin and I looked when we thought it a good idea to reenact Beyonce’s video at P-House the second night of Steven’s “Shee Haw!” show. (“Get Me Bodied [Extended Edit]” by Beyonce)

This year was originally concluding with Kristin and me seeing the Spice Girls in New York City. But the NYC date got moved around, and in popped a February 15th, 2008 show in Chicago. Now Ryan Prado, Kristin and I will be flying up to the Windy City to see them with Sterling and Neil. Maybe I’ll call Jon La May during the show, so he can freak out like he did in Jacksonville when Steven and I took charge of David Phan’s IPod (“Spice Up Your Life” by The Spice Girls). And maybe I’ll call David Phan to play the song that he has (both drunkenly and soberly) serenaded me with when he decides to leave me another silly voicemail (“2 Become 1” by The Spice Girls). Most likely I will do both.

“I must apologize for acting stank & treating you this way
Cause I’ve been acting like sour milk all on the floor
It’s your fault you didn’t shut the refrigerator
Maybe that’s the reason I’ve been acting so cold…”
“The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani feat. Akon

OH BABY, IT’S RAINING!
My friend Dan from Australia was visiting the States, spending a couple months studying in New Orleans for school. After years of corresponding online, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to meet Dan. Harry had been asking me for years to visit New Orleans with him. His sister Marie resides there, and Harry used to live there himself. After 16 years of knowing one another, this would be the very first time that Harry and I had decided to take a trip with just the two of us.

Harry’s sis, Marie, was nothing short of fabulous. Meeting Dan was a true honor. And traveling with Harry was… ummmm… entertaining. You haven’t partied hard, unless you’ve partied with Harry (“Rehab” by Amy Winehouse). I sometimes sit back and envy that boy’s stamina to keep going. In no means am I a shy person, but Harry is a true social dragon who can instantly make any random bar manager buy him rounds of drinks the entire night while instantly attracting any given stranger to become his new best friend for the night. “Every man dies, but not every man lives” is Harry’s mantra, and he’s the only person I know that takes that mantra and not only runs with it, but humps on it, grinds on it, drinks it, licks it and dances on the stripper pole with it. Just don’t look down when Harry asks you to hold his drink. (Side note to Harry: Biiiitch, yes I did go there! LOL)

“Those pigeons aren’t rats with wings, they’re heffas with feathas!”
My observation to Harry in the French Quarter

In some aspects, my friend Neil in Chicago can remind me of Harry. Katina called out a slight resemblance the first night she met Neil. When Chicago Gina was visiting Tampa last year, she acknowledged their similarities. But at the same time, those two could not be any more different from one another. What they share though is their ability to crack my ass up in hysterics. Just the mere silliness of our jokes can cause me to cry from laughing so hard. Last month, Tampa Gina and I flew up to Chicago just to get out of town for a weekend. Instead of the usual staying with Chicago Gina (“It’s You, It’s Me” by Kaskade), we stayed at Neil’s new pad that he was still in the process of moving into. Neil entertained everyone the entire weekend with his comments on Janet’s “Pleasure Principal” music video, the Kimora Lee reality show marathon, and his ‘wop-ping’ catwalk dance number (“Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige) debut. It’s no surprise whatsoever that every single friend of mine who has met Neil has fallen in love with his (as Kimora Lee would say) “fabulosity!”

There is just something about doctors that my friends and I love. Neil is a doctor, as is my always-shirtless friend Derek. I have known Derek for 4-5 years now, and we met through a random encounter at Orpheum with him and Kristin. Since then, he has stuck around through the years. Derek never fails in making me feel like a million bucks. He creates the fun if I am starting to look bored. He allows me and Cheri to offend his friends on his Graduation Night. He shoots words of encouragement my way whenever I am down. And he’ll dance his ass of with me at the drop of a dime if a good song starts playing (“Girls” by Calvin Harris).

Maybe, it’s not just doctors that I love, but anyone in the medical profession. Everyone knows I love Katina, who is a nurse. But Kristin and Shauna are both nurses as well.

In the beginning stages of her relationship with Ben, Kristin (“Oh My God” by Mark Ronson w/ Lily Allen) invited me and Shauna to see Ben’s band’s gig in Sarasota. Even though Sarasota is not far at all, the drive there and back made it seem like we were driving to Mars. On the way, it began storming really, really badly… I mean, the kind of lightning striking beside the car type of bad. To look out any window was virtually impossible since the rain was coming down faster than speeding bullets. We got scared every time a lightning bolt loudly cracked and lit up the entire sky. So we pulled over for a bit, waited for a good half an hour for the storm to calm the hell down before proceeding… only to wind up getting lost somewhere in Riverview. To pass time, Shauna appointed me as the IPod DJ. “I wanna hear some Mary!” “I wanna hear some Whitney!” The only request not made was the one that got the three of us singing together (“Umbrella” by Rihanna feat. Jay-Z). Imagine hearing three tired and somewhat buzzed people collectively singing the lines “Ella ella eh eh”!

“You really do love Okie.”
My mother, over the phone to Kristin,
after Kristin spent the entire night with me at the hospital

At the urgent request from nurse Katina (“Makes Me Wonder” by Maroon 5) to have my thyroid checked, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment in March. Thyroid disease runs in my family, and Katina believed that I too would be diagnosed with a related problem. The lab tests and blood work showed no concrete signs of an existing problem, but I did suffer from extreme hypertension. I remember being at the Doctor’s office, and the nurse just looking so perplexed with my blood pressure. She had another nurse check it on a different machine, and when it read the same, the doctor was immediately sent to see me. He asked if I was feeling okay and that I may be sent to the Emergency Room. I had no idea what any of the numbers meant when he told me my blood pressure. I called Kristin, told her and she immediately jumped in her car to rush over to be with me there. 210/120 was my blood pressure that day. I was told by two doctors and a cardiologist that I would undoubtedly suffer from a stroke very soon if I didn’t immediately take better care of myself.

The first scare happened in May while I was at work. I remember texting Kristin and Katina that something was wrong, but the night-shift nurses were still sleeping and unresponsive. I felt dizzy. I had a pounding migraine. I was having problems breathing. I nearly fainted twice at work. I called Tampa Gina. She was at work, but just up and left to come and take me to the emergency room because she was so worried. On the car ride to the hospital, I was freaking out. I started to cry when my legs fell asleep. Katina finally called me back, and I couldn’t even talk to her because I was so choked up with tears. I couldn’t even finish my first sentence to her I was crying so badly. Gina had to grab the phone from me to continue the conversation of what was going on. If it weren’t for Gina (and her mother who met us at the hospital) calming me down and making me feel safe, then I would’ve been a complete emotional wreck walking into the ER that day. Her and her mother’s concern and love honestly got me through the initial shock. (“Doin’ It” by LL Cool J… Gina’s favorite song)

There were talks that I had diabetes, or that something was wrong with my gallbladder. There were talks that my problems were all cardiac-related.

While none of those talks proved true, everything is fine now. I am fine now. Everything I was tested for was inconclusive. So I never really got a precise medical diagnosis of what exactly caused my two hospitalizations. But my blood pressure is dramatically down since the last overnight hospital stay. I’m taking meds. The last doctor’s visit went well. I am going to be okay.

Contrary to what you may have seen or heard, Jon La May did NOT bust me out of the hospital. I was already being discharged, and he just so happened to be visiting when I was told I could leave. Jon La May (“Silver Lining” by Rilo Kiley) became my personal Patch Adams. The time he and everyone spent visiting me in my ugly old-man hospital gown only helped me realize that everything would be just fine.

“No stress through the night, at a time in my life
Ain’t worried about if you feel it
Got my head on straight, I got my mind right
I aint gonna let you kill it”
“Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige

NEW ENGLAND GIRLIES
My work granted me a week’s vacation to take some time to relax after my recent medical drama and hospitalizations. I was desperate to just get away, and jetted up to NYC to spend some time with Hilary and Sammie in NYC. Hilary moved to NYC from Tampa in May to re-energize her career. Sammie was commuting back and forth from Tampa to NYC for work.

The first night I’m there, Sammie takes us to Hiro for the Peter Bjorn & John (“Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn & John) concert. I was exhausted. If it weren’t for Sammie pointing out that Mary-Kate Olsen was sitting at the V.I.P. table right next to ours, I would have asked to leave earlier. We all stalked and watched Mary-Kate chain-smoke her cigs one after the other like an old man. Peter Bjorn & John were taking forever to take the stage, so we watched Mary-Kate leave Hiro after an hour or so of waiting. 5 minutes later, so did Sammie, Hilary and I.

“If Hiro isn’t good enough for Michelle Tanner,
then it’s not good enough for Okie Tilo.
When she leaves, I LEAVE!”
Me rationalizing the real reason we left Club Hiro that night

Sammie had to fly back down to Tampa that Saturday, so Hilary and I were left to enjoy the city together. She introduced me to the creeper Apple martinis at Alfredo’s, the high-octane mango margaritas at Santa Fe’s, the brilliant convenience of Hot & Crusty and the beauty that is Central Park, a place that I had never been to before. We spent the entire day lying around in the park, engaging in intellectual conversations on such deep topics as the the living situation on Full House. Yeah, I know! It’s just that damn Mary-Kate Olsen sighting set the tone for our entire weekend.

I laid on the grass in Central Park for hours, listening to Hil’s IPod. While I laid there, I caught Hilary staring at me out from the corner of my eye. I turned the IPod volume up, and there she was still staring at me with a look of shock before finally exclaiming, “I HEAR BONNIE! GIMME THAT OTHER EARPHONE!!!” (“I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt) For those unaware, Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is mine and Hilary’s song, so for me to listen to it without her was the ultimate slap across the face.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better and okay.
I really didn’t feel like singing Bonnie by a hospital bed!”
Hilary’s text message to me on the first day I returned to work

I never participate in doing the “tourist-y things” when visiting a city. I’m more of a “take my ass to where the real fun is” type of guy, instead of “hey let’s waste photos on landmark buildings that I can see online.” But I decided to do something different, and went to the top of Rockerfeller Center with Hil where we experienced motion sickness. We strolled down 5th Avenue. Embarked on visual shopping sprees at Tiffany’s and the Apple Store. That evening, we danced our asses off to 80’s music at Beauty Bar in The Village. And that week spent in NYC brought Hilary (“Happy Ending” by Mika) and I much closer.

So what a treat it was to have Hilary join Harry and I when we went to visit old-friend Lana in Boston the first weekend of November. It had been years of Lana living up in B-Town, and I felt bad that her and I never were able to sync our schedules to align for a visit. One day, Lana sent Harry and I a text message that she was finally free for a weekend, an invitation to both come up there. Obviously Harry and I jumped at the chance to fly up to Boston (“Spells Of Desire” by Kylie Minogue). Hilary was planning to take the train over from New York to see all of us. Stephanie Brooke set up Saturday plans for us. I made a promise with Mimi to visit when she moved up there, and instantly shot her a message of my arrival.

I honestly had forgotten how much I missed Lana (“Call The Shots” by Girls Aloud). On Saturday, Stephanie took Harry, Hilary and I out to lunch and a driving-tour of Boston. Harry and I later met up with Mimi, Aura and “the midget,” basically just cracking jokes the entire time. That evening, Harry and I joined Stephanie and Jason at a Costume Party. I fucking lost the digital camera in a taxi there, so any photos of Mimi or the photo shoot in Boston Commons are lost forever, fueling even more of a reason to visit next year.

“Wake up in the morning, stumble on my life
Can’t get no love without sacrifice
If anything should happen, I guess I wish you well
A little bit of heaven, but a little bit of hell”
“Happy Ending” by Mika

YOU COULDN’T SEE ME
I guess what they say about New Years is true. They say that what you are doing on New Years Eve and who you are with will pretty much map out the blueprints as to what the rest of your year will look like and who you will spend it with. Last New Year’s Eve, I was drunk with a big group of friends. And of course last year was nothing but a big party and social year spent with them. This past New Year’s Eve however, I chose to stay home. My plans to party in Los Angeles with Billy fell through, so I decided to stay home alone. I accidentally fell asleep around 9:30pm and slept through the New Years 2007 celebrations. I woke up the next morning. Hangover-free and alone.

The majority of this year, I was alone. It was not a product of circumstance… I chose to be alone.

“I’ve traveled alone quite a bit lately and I think it makes me super-aware of my surroundings. Things that I may not see when in the company of others glare bright(er) when you’re alone in a strange place. As lonely as it is to travel alone at times, it actually puts you at an advantage to see and experience new things.”
Steve-O, in a comment he left on my Key West blog

Being alone and away from my friends and family for nearly two weeks when my work (yet again) sent me down to Key West set something off and trigged my mind to aimlessly wander. All of my friends thought that I was lucky to be on an all-expense trip down in the Keys. Yes it was cool the first time I was sent last year. This time around was different. I did have a blast the last days of the trip when my friend Heidi and her daughter Ash were coincidentally and conveniently visiting the Keys from Illinois while I still down there. And Ginnie, my company’s consultant and I forged a bond by the end of the assignment. But towards the beginning of the trip, I would aimlessly walk around Key West for hours. Just me and my headphones, and two songs (“Stranger” by Hilary Duff, “Sober” by Kelly Clarkson) that were tugging at me. I was miserable. I began a downward spiral into a breakdown while there.

I guess I carried some of that breakdown back with me when I returned home. I was flaky, breaking promises made to friends. I unreasonably snapped and yelled at people who did nothing but love me. I allowed my problems with others begin to affect my relationship with loved ones. I started to distance myself from everyone for no true reason at all. Who and what I used to run towards for comfort became the very things that I started to run away from in the other direction. The transparencies of people and places became more evident when alone. When I’m giving 110 percent and only receiving 49 percent back, it becomes inevitable not to (“49 Percent” by Royksopp). I started to unnecessarily categorize nearly all of my friends as never having my best interests in mind. It just boggled my mind how some people can sit back and turn a blind-eye when they know that someone is slowly slipping away and needing (sometimes even asking for) help, especially if those people are ones who claim to care for and love you immensely. I failed to realize how obvious my behavior and actions were to others after having a conversation with Linley (“Dancing” by Elisa) just two weeks ago, but I am happy that it has changed.

That was just a weird point in time for me in 2007. I am sorry for anyone who I may have hurt during that time.

“I still don’t have the reason
And you don’t have the time
And it really makes me wonder
If I ever gave a fuck about you
Give me something to believe in
Cause I don’t believe in you
Anymore, ANYMORE
I wonder if it even makes a difference to try
So this is goodbye”
“Makes Me Wonder” by Maroon 5

2007 THEME
I remember Katina asking me why I never danced anymore when I go out. I told her that I just wasn’t in the mood to which she exclaimed: “Maybe you’re depressed. My friend says that when someone starts to not enjoy something that they love then there’s something wrong.” Katina was right.

One night at Georgies, I remember Harry being shocked when I started to dance with Evy. “You don’t understand Evy, it’s been so long since that boy has danced!” At that time of the year, it had been. Harry was right.

This past February in Chicago, I was in an troubled mood on my first night there. Katina grabbed me at the bar at Berlin and said, “Down this drink! Let’s get up on that platform and dance!” I didn’t want to, but I did. I just remember hearing the repetitive line of a song start to blare out the speakers. “…and you couldn’t see me!” Katina and I spent nearly an hour and a half straight of (as Katina would point out) hard-to-breathe, thigh-hurting, sweat-dripping stage dancing! I was with someone who I have always trusted and loved. At that point in time, no other bullshit mattered. Katina dragging me onto the dancefloor with her was the best idea of the night.

When David Phan was visiting in October, he and I continually played that same song on repeat in the car. “It was me on that road, and you couldn’t see me… too many lights out… nowhere near here…” I was dealing with certain issues at that particular moment in time, and being with him and hearing that song transported me away from all of the sadness. That song stayed on repeat all night Saturday and all day Sunday while he was in Tampa.

2007 was definitely not my favorite year in the least bit. I lost some friendships. I lost any inspiration in life the middle part of the year. I lost faith in people. I lost faith in myself. I lost myself. Sad to say, there were certain parts of this year where I began to scare myself. Towards the end of the year, I decided to take charge and couldn’t be any happier that everything is seemingly back to normal.

Steven MichaelRay was supposed to move with Dallas to New Jersey at the beginning of this year. Hilary moved to New York City in May. Cheri moved to Los Angeles five months earlier than planned. Billy Jolie is moving early next year to start his new career. And in some aspects, I felt as if I had moved too… as if I wasn’t really here for most of 2007. In a strange way, I don’t feel that this year happened the way that it was supposed to, hence why I symbolically blurred myself out in all of this blog’s photos.

Every time I hear that “…and you couldn’t see me” song, I think of those two above-mentioned carefree moments with Katina and David Phan. The lyrics pretty much sum up this year. And for that, “What Else Is There? (Thin White Duke Edit)” by Royksopp is the song that sums up 2007 for me. And in a year where I nearly lost it, that song is a reminder to never give in. And to never give up. Here’s to the New Year 2008… I hope it’s a year filled with happiness. “And Flash lights. And explosions.” I am ready and excited to dance my way into it.

I honestly could not compose this blog without quadrupling its size if I wrote about my year with Billy Jolie and the millions of songs that bring him to mind. I guess if I had to pick only one song about him, it would be “The Beat Goes On” by Madonna. “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride…” Billy, aren’t you a bride now? You were a BIG part of my life in 2007, so it would make sense that a blog about 2007 would be dedicated to you!

And lastly… we missed creating any new memories in 2007 together. In fact, we spent nearly all of 2007 apart and not talking. Since you missed out on what happened with me in 2007, this blog is for you too Cheri.

“It was me on that road…

You couldn’t see me…

Too many lights out…

Nowhere near here…

And the flash lights…

And explosions…

And flash lights…

And explosions…

It was me on that road…

…but you couldn’t see me!”

My 2007 Soundtrack Tracklisting:
1. Fergie – Fergalicious
2. Fergie – Glamorous
3. Fergie – Big Girls Don’t Cry
4. Jennifer Lopez – Do It Well
5. k-OS – Sunday Morning
6. Timbaland feat. Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake – Give It To Me
7. Rihanna – Breakin’ Dishes
8. Top Loader – Dancing In The Moonlight
9. Diddy with Keyshia Cole – Last Night
10. Timbaland feat. One Republic – Apologize
11. Texas – Inner Smile
12. Justin Timberlake – Lovestoned
13. Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape
14. Beyonce – Get Me Bodied (Extended Edit)
15. Spice Girls – Spice Up Your Life
16. Spice Girls – 2 Become 1
17. Amy Winehouse – Rehab
18. Kaskade – It’s You, It’s Me
19. Mary J. Blige – Just Fine
20. Calvin Harris – Girls
21. Mark Ronson feat. Lily Allen – Oh My God
22. Rihanna feat. Jay-Z – Umbrella
23. Maroon 5 – Makes Me Wonder
24. LL Cool J – Doin’ It
25. Rilo Kiley – Silver Lining
26. Peter Bjorn & John – Young Folks
27. Bonnie Raitt – I Can’t Make You Love Me
28. Mika – Happy Ending
29. Kylie Minogue – Spells Of Desire
30. Girls Aloud – Call The Shots
31. Hilary Duff – Stranger
32. Kelly Clarkson – Sober
33. Royksopp – 49 Percent
34. Elisa – Dancing
35. Royksopp – What Else Is There? (Thin White Duke Edit)
36. Madonna – The Beat Goes On

ThriveMix Presents: Electro
&
Kanye West – Graduation
…my two favorite albums of 2007!

“Pretend you don’t see it, that we can live a lie
when you run… So you run…
Everyone says you’re amazing now that you’re clean
Only you know who the real ones are cause you’ve seen
There’s only one question I want to ask – is it here and
When you hear everyone say you’re amazing
…Does anyone ask you?”
“Amazing (Thin White Duke Edit)” by Seal

I have a feeling that 2008 will be the beginning of how everything was always meant to be.

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