Tag Archives: Square One

Ask The Locals: Okesene Tilo

Okie Tilo Ask The Locals 2014
Ask the Locals: Okesene “Okie” Tilo of the RITZ Ybor
by Heidi Kurpiela

Okesene Tilo is the director of public relations, marketing and events at The RITZ Ybor. He arrived at the storied theater in 2008 after it had undergone a transformation from seedy nightclub to hip new concert venue.

Tilo –– known as “Okie” among Tampa Bay artists, musicians and Ybor clubbers –– is a 34-year-old social butterfly; an Ybor denizen with a weakness for Madonna, music festivals and comfort food.

An Army brat, Tilo was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to Tampa in 1991, where his knack for bringing people together made him the obvious choice for senior class president at Armwood High School in Seffner.

He studied political science at the University of South Florida and in 2005 produced his first fundraising event. The project proved the perfect outlet for a party-going extrovert with an admitted “OCD streak.”

For five years Tilo served as the managing director of Square One Creative, a collective of artists, designers and entertainers best known for hosting raging art parties at venues across Tampa.

In addition to his work at The RITZ, Tilo is the managing partner of the Up Up Up Group, a special event, festival and attractions planning company. He serves on the steering committee for Pride & Passion at the Tampa Museum of Art and the planning committee for Festa Italiana.

Best Ybor watering hole: First Chance Last Chance in Ybor. “It’s not too overwhelming or too loud. It’s a good place to have a conversation with someone over drinks.”

Best place to people watch: The bench in front of Honey Pot. “You’ll see rockers, hipsters, drag queens and people in fetish costumes coming and going.”

Best reason to cross the Howard Frankland bridge: Sake Bomb. “They make my favorite saketini. I’ve tried to replicate it at home and I can’t.”

Best cheap date: Five Bucks Drinkery in St. Pete. “Nothing costs more than five bucks. You can get loaded tater tots, a root beer float and a Frito pie. It’s like a Jack in the Box.”

Best weird food fusion: Nitally’s Thai-Mex Cuisine. “Thai food mixed with Mexican food is a nice little twist. It’s an interesting place. You’ll always leave with your nose and eyes burning from the spices.”

Best food truck: Aloha To Go. “Whenever they feature the Loco Moco I go nuts. It’s a hamburger patty over rice with gravy on top. Their Facebook page tells you where the truck will be. They go to Tampa General a lot. I’ve got no shame. I’ll follow that food truck to the hospital.”

Best hidden park: Edward Medard Park and Reservoir in Plant City. “It’s a gigantic park with hiking trails and tons of outdoor activities. It feels like you’re in North Carolina.”

Best act to play the RITZ: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. “Everyone I know was going crazy for her and she actually lived up to the hype. She was at the merch table at the end of the show talking to every single fan. She was very down-to-earth and natural. I felt like I’d known her for years.”

Best place to stretch out: Yoga Loft. “Yoga actually works! I started going two and half years ago. Now I can completely touch the floor.”

Best new local band: The Sh-Booms out of Orlando. “They’re amazing. I saw them at The Hub. I’m somewhat of a Sh-Boom stalker now.”

Best wild Friday night party: The Filthy Richard Party at The RITZ. “If you want to full-fledge drink and dance this is the place to go.”

Best all-American eating: The Florida State Fair. “I don’t eat fair food regularly, but when I do go all out. My friends and I go on rides first, then eat every ounce of fried food we can find: fried Pepsi, fried bubble gum, fried butter, funnel cakes, elephant ears … This isn’t just one day of cheating, it’s destroying your entire eating plan for the month.”

Best way to burn off fair food: Spin class at Powerhouse Gym. “I take Mike Hammonds’ class every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. DJ Jason Krouth spins EDM, dance, Top 40s and 90s hip-hop. The guy has a following because his class is always full.”

Best bargain basement finds: Revolve Clothing Exchange in Ybor. “I once found this Michael Jackson Thriller jacket. It was such a rare find I got a call from someone at the store asking if I still had it. Apparently it was in high demand.”

Best way to tick off your dentist: Binge on croissant donuts at Piquant. “Everything they bake gets reserved. Basically you have to call and place an order. There’s a waiting list. My friends made fun of me for loving this place and then they had a croissant donut and now they’re hooked. It’s heaven.”

Best guilty-pleasure greasy chain: Church’s Chicken. “I’ll go to get my fried okra on. A big box of okra at Church’s is cheap!”

Best way to spend a silly Sunday: At an auction at Myers Fine Art & Antiques. “Once or twice a year my friends and I get dressed up and go to Myers in St. Pete. We don’t go to bid. We go to watch. It’s crazy what some of these things sell for. People are actually on the phone with bidders. You’ll see someone throw down $5,000 for a spoon.”

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Moment 4 Life

Eddie Vs Opening

I had the privilege of attending the Opening Preview of Florida’s very first Eddie V’s restaurant last month.  This was an invite-only event to preview the dishes and desserts of the latest culinary offering from the Darden Restaurants Group.  I’m not singing praises only because my friend Steven Hickey is the managing partner there, but Eddie V’s completely knocked my socks off and wowed me.  My table split the Kung Pao Calamari and Jumbo Lump Crab, shared the Bananas Foster dessert, and I managed to inhale a lil’ bit of everything around me: Aimee’s Pacific Ahi Tuna, Jess’s Roasted Double Breast of Chicken and Shane’s Crab Fried Rice with Scallions & Mushrooms.  My Chilean Sea Bass dish managed to rival that of SideBern’s, my most favorite restaurant in Tampa.  The entire evening was a fantastic time spent with fabulous friends, and I salivate at the thought of my next Eddie V’s dining experience.  THANK YOU Steve for having us as your guests.

Please click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view photo (and please excuse my cellphone-snapped quality shots):

Niely Bday 2013 Group

After dinner that same evening, I high-tailed over to my good friend Niely‘s pinup / greaser-themed birthday party at The Dog’s Bollocks Pub.  Every year, Niely throws some colorfully-themed bday party for herself.  Two years ago, her festivities coincided with Square One‘s Man On The Moon art extravaganza, requiring guests to dress in black and white (not exactly colorful now that I think about it.)  However last year’s Nicki Minaj-themed bash featured a Look-a-Like costume contest and a plea for guests to butcher perform a Nicki Minaj song on the karaoke stage.  (Fun Fact: Before believing you can do Nicki’s “Moment 4 Life” karaoke justice, don’t.)

I concluded the evening still feeling dazzled from dinner and still feeling relieved that I stopped myself last year from subjecting my karaoke rendition of “Moment 4 Life” to living and breathing human beings with iPhone and Android video recording capabilities.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY Niely!

“I Was A Fool” by Tegan and Sara: I never paid much attention to Tegan and Sara until recently.  They’ve become one of those artists who lure me in with their new single, and then provoke me to start backtracking, listening and falling in love with all of their previous albums, wondering why the hell I never paid any attention to them ever back then.

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The MDNA Tour: Miami

“Start saving your pennies now. People spend $300 on crazy things all the time, things like handbags.  So work all year, scrape the money together and come to my show. I’m worth it.”
Madonna defending her MDNA Tour’s $1,500.00 VIP Floor Ticket Price
to Newsweek magazine earlier this year

MDNA Nicole

Nicole and I have been friends for almost a decade.  She is the friend that constantly makes you laugh with her infectious silliness.  She is the friend that always remains drama-free and loyal.  She is also that nutty friend that scraped up almost one-thousand-dollars for a ticket to see our lifelong idol, Madonna in concert.

Whenever Madonna goes on tour, Nicole is my go-to gal pal and touring buddy.  Reason 1:  Like me, she’s been a huge Madonna fan since she can remember.  Reason 2:  She and I get along so fabulously when traveling.  Reason 3:  Just like myself (and Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), she too admits that she is I-N-S-A-N-E… but only when it comes to seeing Madonna LIVE.

In 2006, we drove to Miami together to see M’s Confessions Tour.  Two years later, we flew to Chicago for M-Dolla’s Sticky & Sweet Tour.  And this past November, we found ourselves back in Miami for two nights of Madge’s latest MDNA Tour opus.  (For my review of the MDNA Tour when I first saw it in Chicago this past September, CLICK HERE.)

MDNA 2 MDNA 1 MDNA 3 MDNA 4The above photos were all taken on Nicole’s cellphone from our 3rd Row seats

I have a love/hate relationship with the city of Miami but the concert and our time in South Beach were an obvious blast, mainly because it was an experience shared with many of our friends from Tampa.

MDNA Michelle Jocelyn

Girls Gone Wild (literally… and I do have incriminating photos) Jocelyn and Michelle sat right beside us on night 1 of the tour, and one row over on night 2.  (Fun Fact:  Like my friend Kristin before her in Chicago, Jocelyn cried her eyes out during the closing song of the tour… only Jocelyn had seen the show a good 5 or 6 times before this show already!)

MDNA Brian Angela

Bryan and his Madonna Tour gal-pal Angela were staying down the street from our hotel on Collins Avenue, and were the cheerleading pep squad to mine and Nicole’s football jocks.

MDNA Group

We got to hang out with  Tony and Jose at the MDNA VIP Party and at both afterparties at Hyde and Grand Central.  By the way, the VIP Party was pretty amazing and totally worth the price: a buffet of catered food, hosted beer and wine bar, a heavily stocked gift bag, photo backdrop stations.

MDNA Adam David NicoleMDNA Adam David

Jacksonville friends David and Adam gave Nicole and I their seats for night 1 because they won Golden Triangle Pit Tickets.  My other friends Paul and Zach won Pit Tickets for night 2.  Meanwhile, mine and Nicole’s Twitter feed resembled that of an overeager-beaver stalker in our failed, multiple-Tweet attempt to persuade Guy Oseary (M’s manager) to handpick us to join our friends in the Golden Triangle Pit.  We may not have secured those Golden Triangle Pit tickets, but Nicole and I may have inevitably secured Twitter restraining orders from any of our followers during those two days.

My friend Jason pretty much told me that my birthday celebration this year was being stretched out like turkey meat: birthday dinner party, Square One event, Miami trip, Madonna concert, etc.  Well… Jason was 100% correct.  I sho’ nuff did milk this year’s bday for all that I could yank, tug, pull, push and shove.  When you’ve had as wonderful of a year as I did in 2012, going all out for your big birthday at the end of the year is the final topping:  the icing on one delicious ass cake!  I could not have asked for a better birthdayweek celebration than I had and experienced this year.

MDNA LungeMDNA Jerseys

To my dear friend Nicole, start saving those pennies for the next tour because we will be sitting front-row center baby, right next to Gloria Estefan!


Girl Gone Wild by Madonna

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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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Whiskey Me To The Runway

I wear many hats at my job.  On paper, I am listed as the Public Relations & Marketing Director of The RITZ Ybor, a special events & concert venue in Tampa, Florida.  In reality, I pretty much do a lot of… well… everything: contracts, accounting, scheduling, ordering, hiring, overseeing staff and assisting my corporate bosses, owners and management with making sure that the venue is on its A-game.  Another aspect of my job is creating and producing x-amount of in-house events per year to show off the venue in a positive light.

When my friend Dallas first approached me about Tribeca ColorSalon being a part of my fall Square One event in November, the more and more our discussions carried on, the more and more I was convinced that another fabulous event was in-the-works.  Brandon, the owner of Tribeca, secured Saks Fifth Avenue to outfit his models for the show and hair product line KEVIN.MURPHY agreed to sponsor the show, and voilà… Cocktails & Couture was officially born.

The past Sunday’s event was a fruitful collaboration between many creative players: Dallas with KEVIN.MURPHY, the Tribeca ColorSalon staff, Tyler and Teresa with Saks Fifth Avenue, Mathieu Stanoch and the Bella Danza team, Doug and Niely with The RITZ Ybor, Ch Hoy with Liquid Tampa.  Most importantly, this past Sunday reminded me of how much of a cool city Tampa can be to live and work in.   Sashay Shante!

Introducing the show with my good friend (& yoga instructor) Melissa Carroll

Anye Cole belting out “Next to Me” and “Read All About It (Part 3)” by Emeli Sande

Performance Art Installations by Mathieu Stanoch
featuring Bella Danza

COCKTAILS & COUTURE
Sunday, September 16, 2012
The RITZ Ybor – Tampa, FL

…and a featured cocktails menu worth dying for!
Thanks Doug & Niely

Next To Me” by Emeli Sande

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Make It Last Forever

What a fun-filled seven days that I’ve just lived through.  Let’s face it, yours truly is an old man!  My definition of “fun” is what the majority would consider lowkey, but I had the great fortune to spend time one-on-one with some very dear friends.

The past Fourth of July holidays, I was either lying on my mother’s couch pregnant with a food baby named Gluttony Tilo or lying on my couch watching a “Real Housewives of (insert city here)” marathon despite the fact that I’ve already watched each episode to the point of memorizing the cast’s dialogue word-for-word.  This year, I had zero plans.  Mom was working.  Brother Ricky was out of town.  And sister Trina was in Orlando.  My plan this year was to sit on my couch watching a “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” marathon an educational documentary while allowing my stomach to growl at all of the Instagram filtered photos of everyone’s plates full of BBQ.

Luckily and thankfully, Robby called me and invited me over to his parents house in St. Pete for dinner, and then Fireworks-viewing at his friend Kelly’s pad downtown.  Upon entering Robby’s parental units’ house, it was clear that I would instantly have a connection with Mr. & Mrs. Nichols given the “Springsteen Country” sign in honor of my idol Bruce that greeted me at their doorway.  Robby is nearly 12 years younger than me.  I met him when he was a High School senior at my very first Square One event called “GO!” and instantly clicked with him.  Despite the more-than-a-decade age difference, I told Robby’s parents at dinner that he is an “old soul.”  I’ve had more intellectual and intelligent conversations with this 21-year-old than I’ve ever had with people my own age.  A HUGE Thank You to Robby for being my personal Will Smith and saving my 2012 Independence Day from being invaded by boredom!

This past Saturday, I had 2nd Row tickets with Jess to the Fresh Music Festival at the newly $35M renovated USF Sun Dome.  (Thank You Sara Webster!)  The Fresh Music Festival was a concert featuring old school R&B acts and legends Keith Sweat, Guy, SWV and K-Ci & JoJo.

Back in the day, prehistoric times if you will, I listened to nothing but R&B and hip-hop music.  It wasn’t until my Freshmen year of High School when my friend Beth Shaw lent me the “Little Earthquakes” album by Tori Amos that I began to broaden my taste in music.  Seeing these R&B acts perform such classics as “Weak” and “Make It Last Forever” and “Let’s Chill” right dead smack in front of me was a glorious reliving of my elementary and middle school days growing up.  Thank You Jess Hille for the photos below!

Robby’s friend A.J. was in town from Fort Laudy, and we decided to have a weekend of zen staring with Saturday morning Yoga in the Park, smoking shisha at Zoya and opting to skip watermelon mimosas and Mexican brunch at Miguel’s on Kennedy to dine at the Wat Mongkolrata Thai Temple on Sunday.

I ended my weekend of zen with one of my favorite people, Dawn.  She took me to see Moonrise Kingdom, the latest film by writer-director Wes Anderson.  I am fully aware that it’s virtually uncool not to love anything that Wes Anderson touches.  He’s always had a hit-or-miss track record with me, but I can attest that Moonrise Kingdom is hands-down my favorite and most enjoyable film in his filmography.  Go see it!

Since music is a huge part of my life, I decided to conclude each and every posting with a song that I am loving at the moment.  However, since the past 7 days were near-perfect, I will end this posting with two songs.

First up: “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” comes from Father John Misty, former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman’s new solo project, and is a repeat staple on my Spotify playlist.



Lastly but not least-ly, I just had to post one of the greatest R&B songs of all-time… “Twisted” by Keith Sweat (with Kut Klose).  Only fitting since I’ve been singing the song since seeing him perform it live a few days ago.



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World Won’t Do It

Square One proudly presents the music video to singer-songwriter Jeremy Gloff’s “World Won’t Do It” that perfectly documents the Square One Fall 2011: Cosmopolitan event that took place at The RITZ Ybor last November 19, 2011.

Filmed by JDX Studios and directed & edited by Jean Carlo Penaloza, “World Won’t Do It” is the first music video from Jeremy Gloff’s “THIS” album that is now available on iTunes and Amazon. “World Won’t Do It” was written by Jeremy Gloff and produced by Jeremy Gloff with Mark Nikolich. I had the pleasure to help work with Jeremy on this single when he was recording it at Atomic Audio Studios in Tampa, Florida. Enjoy!


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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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25 Randon Things About Me [01.28.2009]

Originally posted on Facebook on January 28, 2009:

1. I was born in Berlin, Germany
2. My family calls me “Okesene” or “Sene” but never “Okie”
3. I recently unearthed an obsession with Mint Royale
4. I believe in love at first sight
5. I believe in soulmates
6. I’m beginning to enjoy Facebook more than Myspace (Myspace = a nightclub advertisement forum)
7. I’m actually a bit nervous about meeting Beyonce this weekend
8. I tell myself that I’m not going to watch, but always wind up becoming an American Idol junkie every year
9. I know how to juggle
10. Dlisted is wayyy better than Perez Hilton
11. What’s the big hype over Lady Gaga? I just don’t get it even though I’m going to her concert in April
12. I succumbed to the Twilight books hype, and will confess that I am obsessed
13. I have a fear of frogs
14. I’m contemplating getting a sleeve tattoo
15. My cooking would pleasantly surprise you
16. I have a tendency to fall easily, but…
17. … also have a tendency to lose interest fast
18. I considered voting for the Republican ticket on this past Presidential Election
19. Kanye West, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Bono are my music idols
20. I won’t have a problem aging… my Dad looks like he’s still in his late 20’s, but…
21. …I still actually use an anti-aging eye cream nightly
22. I sent/received over 5,000 text messages last month per my Verizon bill
23. Britney Spears was much more entertaining when she was a bald-headed, coochie-flashing, umbrella wielding party monster drunk
24. www.SquareOneFlorida.com
25. This was much harder than I thought it would be…

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