Monday, November 7, 2011

bienvenidos a miami!

A lot of stuff that happened yesterday at Arrowhead Stadium made little to no sense … but what made the least sense?  Did not occur on the field.  It occurred in the stands.

Prior to yesterday, I had missed one Chiefs game that counts (aka “non-preseason”) in the last decade – the 2008 finale against (what are the freaking odds) the Miami Dolphins.  I thought I would make yesterday’s clash.  Right up until I looked out the window of my hotel room in (again, what are the f*cking odds) Fort Lauderdale, saw it pouring down rain, and I guess I knew, I was missing the Chiefs game.

My flight finally landed at 11:52am Kansas City time, and by the time I got my bag, rode the shuttle out to wherever the hell I parked at, and headed for home, it was approaching halftime, the Chiefs were down 14-3, showed little to no signs of life, and I decided “screw it”, and figured I’d just catch the game at home, and show up for the postgame tailgate back at the Bus Barn (which is exactly what I did).

So, if you were expecting your usual Monday Chiefs recap, sorry to disappoint, but some things in life are bigger than a Chiefs game.  In this case, my cousin’s wedding to an incredible guy in beautiful south Florida*.  Here’s your recap of my weekend that was …

(*: in another “what are the f*cking odds”?!?! coincidence?  The weekend I finally confront and conquer my fear of flying, the other thing in life that I am irrationally afraid of strikes in KC, as you could feel an earthquake Sunday morning.  I officially give up attempting to make even 2/1000ths of an ounce of sense out of the reality that is my life anymore.)

* Thursday night, I stayed over at my brother’s, since our flight left at 6am and he lives closer to the aeropuerto than I do.  I am happy to report that (a) my niece Fallyn is still terrified of me, and screams like she’s seen a ghost every time I enter the room, (b) my nephew Ayden is into some new action hero show that (thank God) is far superior to the horrific Fireman Sam, and (c) my niece Reghan definitely takes after her uncle Stevo, in that she just sits on the floor, observing everything else going on, and just rolls with the flow.

* When I woke up at 4am Friday morning, a few naughty words immediately left my mouth.  I am NOT a morning person, at all.  It also doesn’t help that generally speaking, I don’t drink caffeine.  (I gave it up for Lent about ten years ago, and have never resumed drinking it, save for the occasional iced tea, and the beverage I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday morning at the airport, but we’ll get to that in a few pages ... ok, chapters.)

* It was 22 degrees when our flight departed fifteen minutes late.  How, you might ask, does the first flight of the day get delayed fifteen minutes?  Yup, de-icing.  Wonderful.  I already have an irrational fear of flying that has kept me from doing so since January 2006, and now we’re worried the wings might freeze and the plane would go down.  Not helping guys.  Not helping at all.

* The delay for de-icing nearly caused us to miss our connection in Nashville.  I already thought only leaving 30 minutes to make another plane was a mistake, and I was nearly proven correct, as my brother and I were literally sprinting to make our flight to Fort Lauderdale.  We were the last two allowed to board, and it was a little dicey to make that happen.

* Landed a few minutes early in Florida.  My mom and dad picked us up.  After exchanging greetings, the following conversation occurred:

(my mom) I hate it here.
(stevo) really?  I thought you old people loved Florida.
(my mom) It’s so humid and hot.
(stevo) really?  Even on November 4th?
(my mom) You’re gonna love it here.

Love it?  Hell, if I hadn’t paid for the flight back and didn’t have this pesky daily obligation known as a “job” to attend, I’d still be bumming it up on the beach! 

So, “Stevo Nation”, because if everything else gets a nation, I feel my readership deserves nation status, “Stevo Nation”, I resolve to you that EVERY November or December going forward?  I’m headed to south Florida.  Feel free to join me.  And next time, I’m going for more than just a quick weekend.  It’s beyond sweet down there.

* We decided to stop and grab a bite to eat, since none of us had done so yet.  My dad and mom found a grill they liked a couple days earlier, so we agreed to go there.  (Plus, if they pick the joint, they’ll probably pick up the tab.  Score!)  I ordered a chicken panini and a side salad.  I forget what everybody else ordered.  All I know is, no sooner had I finished the salad, and the Panini arrives, and well, either that was the WORST salad of all time (doubtful), or I was still so shaken from the flight (bingo), that I had to sprint to the bathroom.  I was done eating for awhile.  (And I should note, my stomach felt so awful, that I passed on a Bloody Mary.  Readers, when I’m saying “uuh, no thanks” to ANYTHING with vodka in it, you KNOW I feel like dogcrap.)

* Our next adventure: finding our hotel.  Drew and I forgot to Mapquest it.  Most of the family stayed at the B Ocean Hotel and Resort, at Sunrise and the Coastal Highway.  We opted to stay at a joint a few blocks down the road called the Ocean Manor because of one reason and one reason only: it was $180 / night cheaper than the B Ocean.

After we finally figured out how to get onto the street our hotel was on, the rents dropped us off to check in and enjoy an afternoon off.  We get to the front desk to check in, and after some shady pricing*, we head up to room 1014 to see what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into.

(*: when you check in at the Ocean Manor, they charge another $100 on the card you used for the reservation as a “security deposit”, and then charge you another $10.50 per night for some local tax.  Now, I have no issues with paying an out-of-town tax at a hotel – its how we got the Sprint Centre built.  But for Christ’s sake, at least charge it when you’re, I don’t know, PAYING FOR THE DAMNED ROOM THE FIRST TIME!  Oh, and the $100 “security deposit” that is allegedly fully refundable at checkout?  As a maid we ran into told us, “it’s insurance against you stealing stuff, or hitting the stocked bar and then trying to get out of paying for it.”  Again, that’s fine … but make us pay it up front!  Or at the very least, don’t drop another $130 in charges on two poor brothers already cutting costs just to make this trip, don’t drop that on us at the last second.  Other than that …)

* I DUG the Ocean Manor.  Totally DUG it.  Let me put it this way: if you’ve watched ABC’s phenomenally good new show “Pan Am”?  This hotel TOTALLY was from that era, right down to a white marble floor in our room, and a white comforter.  Now, if I’d taken a significant other on this trip?  Oh Christ, who am I kidding, I’d still have plead poverty and stayed at the Ocean Manor.  But I would totally understand if said significant other reacted very poorly to the Ocean Manor.  As my brother noted: “the walls need re-painting, the deadbolt lock doesn’t work, and there’s no phone in the room.”  As I noted, “I am DIGGING the throwback feel of this place!”  I would absolutely stay at the Ocean Manor again.  Hell, I probably will when I head down to Florida next late fall / early winter.  You can’t beat the price.  Here are its advantages:

1. The throwback feel.  You feel like you’re in the late 1960s again when you walk in the door.  I dug it.
2. Our room at least, I loved the layout of it.  You had a walk-out covered balcony.  A regulation size fridge, a microwave, and oh yeah, EVERY DirecTV channel available.  This wasn’t your usual “hotel blocks certain channels / offers limited selection” place, oh hell no.  EVERY.  DirecTV.  Channel.  Available.
3. You look off of said balcony of room 1014, and you immediately notice four things: a regulation tennis court (neat), the Tiki Bar below (really neat), the fact that you are literally RIGHT ON TOP OF THE BEACH (awesome) … and the shark tank.  Yes, there’s a man-made pond as you enter the Tiki Bar area that has freaking live sharks in it.  As my brother put it: “if I ever wanted to kill myself, I’d do it here.  Because you’d end it with the best view imaginable, and if the fall didn’t kill you, the sharks would.”  We’ll go with that.

The only negative?  To use the WiFi, you either had to be in the lobby … or in the Tiki Bar or on the beach.  Wait, did I say that was a negative?  Because reading Drew Magary’s “Drunken Hookup Failures” column, sitting in the sand, with a frosty cold Bud Light*?  Does ANYTHING but suck.

(*: Drew bought the beer.  Because unless its free, there is not a shot in hell I am touching Bud Light.)

* After we checked in and surveyed what we had gotten into, it was off to the Winn Dixie across the street to get some booze for the weekend.  (Hooray regulation sized fridge in the room!)  Also, hooray Winn Dixie!  I hadn’t been in one of those since my sophomore year in college, when the grocery store closest to our place was a Winn Dixie (basically off Bryant Irvin and the Southeast Expressway.  After we moved to Lake Arlington, it was Tom Thumb all the way, either the one off Collins and Green Oaks, or the one off the Jim Wright and Green Oaks.  Someday I should do a post on Green Oaks, it’s the most f*cked up street in the Metroplex.  And considering Belt Line exists down there, that’s saying something.)

* We find the alcohol section of the store, walk through about fifteen aisles of wine and beer, and finally ask a clerk where the liquor is.  Good luck finding any place down there that sells liquor, apparently very few stores do.  (My cousin Brooke found a hole in the wall a couple blocks from the B Ocean, but unless you knew what you were looking for, you’d never have found the place.  SHADY Florida.  SHADY.)  So, we settle for a case of Bud Light and a cheap jug of Carlo Rossi white, and head back to the room.

* I quickly decide to head down to the beach and check the scene out.  I am sure I looked exactly like your typical Missouri tourist, but screw it.  I took off the t-shirt, took off my shoes, put on my headphones, hit “play” on the iPod … and again, from the “what are the f*cking odds?!?!” department, “Toes” by Zac Brown band begins to play.  (OK, yes, I rigged it so that the first song to come up would be that classic.  You would too if you were standing on a beach on November 4th.)  After about an hour of walking the sand, letting the ocean roll in over my feet, and constantly sending “ooh, my current view!” pictures out, the fun had to end, and I headed back up to the room to clean up for the rehearsal dinner.

* I was told to “look presentable”.  Figuring that didn’t mean a Chiefs t-shirt and board shorts, I put on a polo shirt and slacks.  I was the least dressed person there – everyone else was in a nice dress shirt, tie, and fancy pants.  You know what?  I don’t care.  At my wedding, if there ever is one someday?  Shorts and sandals.  Shirt optional.  I hate dressing up for anything.

* The rehearsal dinner was held at a culinary school, and I thought that was a neat idea.  Gave those of us on the bride’s side of the family to meet the groom’s side, and vice versa, by forcing us to interact with each other.  Apparently the guy who owns this place, his big pride and joy is the African Safari themed room in the back, and he ushered us in there for pre-dinner cocktails and appetizers.

So let me set the scene: I’m talking with my cousin Zach in said safari room, and we’re just making small talk, and Craig comes up and whispers in my ear “look in the back corner”.  So I turn and look … and immediately begin laughing hysterically, nearly dropping my glass of whatever the hell merlot I was enjoying.  Canyon something or other.  (It was pretty good).  My cousin turns and looks, and has the same reaction.

Because in that back corner?  Is a stuffed antelope about to get mauled by a stuffed tiger.  Only, the way the antelope and tiger are positioned, the tiger is giving the antelope the business, doggy style, right down to having his paws wrapped around the antelope’s stomach.  It’s the damned funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.  Stuffed animal porn!!!  Which led to the line of the weekend – when my cousin Zach asked “what do you think the taxidermist said when he was asked if he’d finished stuffing those animals?”, my dad replied “stuffed AND mounted boss!”  Brought the house down.  For the rest of the weekend, “stuffed AND mounted” was a running gag.

* After plowing through a couple thousand worth of booze and food, I opted not to go out, instead choosing to head back to the room and get some sleep.  I knew Saturday night / Sunday morning was going to be rough … and I already had endured three days last week (Monday, Tuesday, Friday) when I got little to no sleep.  I know, I’m a panzy.  In my defense, I’m 34.  I can’t recover like I used to.  Ten years ago, I could spend the day at the Brickyard, spend all night driving back, and be at work at 7am, fully able to carry on like I’d gotten ten hours of sleep.  Now?  That just isn’t possible anymore.

* I haven’t had as restful, relaxing, and wonderful a night of sleep like I had on Friday night, in a long, long time.  We had the balcony doors wide open, the ocean breeze flowing through the room.  If you ever have issues sleeping?  Take a trip to south Florida and rent a room on the ocean.  It’ll cure everything that ails you.

* I wake up Saturday morning about 9am, and notice my brother’s already gone.  He’d said something about wanting to run the beach, so I figured that’s what he was doing.  Me?  F*CK NO I’m not “running” while I’m on vacation.  Jesus, I don’t do that now.  Why roo-een a perfectly good vacation with exercise?  I take off for the McDonalds across the street for some food.

* I head down to the Tiki Bar about 10 (when they open), and order a Bloody Mary to watch College Gameday with.  Drew sees me after his run, and stops in.  (I was the only person in there at this point).  $70 in Bloody Mary’s and beers later, he heads up for a nap, and I walk the five feet and eight steps onto the sand. 

* I decided to walk down the beach to where everyone else was staying.  I figured it wouldn’t be that bad – we’d made the walk back from the B Ocean to our place in ten minutes the night before.

On concrete.

On sand?  In the surf?  Twenty eight minutes later, I stumble onto the family.  If I ever make that walk again, I’m definitely bringing a six pack of something for the journey.

* I go to get a chair, and this Hispanic dude comes up and begins screaming “WHAT YOU DOING?  WHAT YOU DOING?”  I was like, I’m getting a chair.  The following ensues:

(Hispanic dude) $5!
(stevo) what?
(Hispanic dude) $5!  You rent chair!
(stevo) (lying through his teeth) But I’m staying at this hotel! 
(Hispanic dude) Doesn’t matter!  $5!
(stevo) Jesus Christ, are you sh*tting me?  $5 for a mother f*cking chair?
(my mom) I heard that!
(stevo) (shaking his head in disgust at American Capitalism at its “finest, purest form” on display)
(stevo) Well, can you at least throw in a couple of Paul Bunyan hats for the kids*?
(Hispanic dude) What?
(stevo) never mind.  (hands over $5).

(*: if you don’t get that reference … here’s your YouTube! link.  No, this scene will NEVER get old to me.  “The Great Outdoors” is John Candy’s finest hour.  And I say that as someone who ranks “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” in his top ten favorite movies of all time.  Also, kudos to Universal Pictures for putting a boatload of classic scenes on YouTube! for the nation to enjoy.  You guys rock!)

For $5, I sat in said chair for exactly 15 minutes.  Sometimes, I hate this country and the pure greed that drives it.  It’s just too bad the biggest critics of our insane, unsustainable economic system are the Occupy freaks.  Come on, we can do better than unchecked capitalism.  And we sure as all hell can do better in finding opposition to greed at its worst than a bunch of me-first whiny college kids who wouldn’t know a legitimate day of work if it stuffed and mounted them like an animal in the Safari room (rimshot!)  Come on, you KNEW I’d work that back in at some point …

* After a couple hours of swimming around in the ocean, letting the tide dump my ass on the sand, and swimming back out into the ocean to repeat the process, I had to head back and get ready for the wedding and the pictures beforehand.

* We’ll get to it in a minute or three … but let’s just say, the schedule for Saturday was NUTS.  I deserved more beach time dammit!

* Thankfully, Drew had ironed my dress shirt while he was getting ready.  I say thankfully, because the 28 minute walk down?  Took me a freaking hour heading back.  Partly because I was milking every second of sunshine out of the day that I could, partly because my right foot kept cramping up … but also, because I was texting “The Crush” the whole walk back.  She texted me asking if I knew anyone with a Dolphins game ticket for sale.  I was like “I should have just given you mine”, and being the d*ck I am at times, immediately sent her a picture of what I was looking at, at that moment: the surf, the sand, an ice cold drink in my hand.  Her response?  “You bastard!”  If she’d thrown “Cheeky”* in the middle of that response, we’d have a winner on our hands!

(*: please, don’t make me have to explain to anyone under the age of 40 what “You Cheeky Bastard!” is, or why it’s funny.)

* I apparently clean up quite well.  I had multiple “wow, you look really good!” compliments from the peanut gallery known as my family.  And trust me – we are a family of complete and total smart asses.  (stevo pausing …)  Oh sh*t, maybe I DON’T clean up really well!

* Arrive for pictures at 4pm.  Because the itinerary said 4pm.  Yes, this wedding was literally planned out TO THE MINUTE.  It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in my life – when we got our welcome package, a NINE PAGE ITINERARY for the wedding day was included.  NINE PAGES.  My mom kept hers as a souvenir, because “there’s not a shot in hell anyone back home will believe me” regarding said itinerary.  This caused multiple jokes all night long.  Anytime something would happen, someone would drop the “does this put us ahead or behind schedule” line that brought the room down all night long.

(In the coordinator’s defense … he’s my cousin’s uncle.  He wanted her to have the perfect day, and I gotta say, he pulled it off.  Having said that … HE PLANNED THIS DAMNED THING DOWN TO THE MINUTE!  Are you f*cking kidding me!  I have never been married … but those of you reading this who have endured a marriage ceremony, was your wedding planner that anal?  Let’s just say, whoever is lucky enough someday to call themselves “Mrs. Stevo”, better not want a “down to the second” itinerary for the happy day.)

* Thankfully, open bar for the pictures.

* We get through the bride’s family’s pictures (aka “the ones me and my cousins had to be there for”), and then, it happens.  The minister arrives.

Wearing a classic black shirt, the frock … and leather pants.

Brought the room down.

* One more funny moment from Picture Taking Time 101: Bryan (the groom), his step-dad was so wasted at 4:45 in the afternoon … that he could not comprehend putting his left hand in his pocket for the staged photo.  The photographer literally had to walk up to him, grab his hand, and shove it in his pocket.  And to think we had our doubts about the groom’s ability to “keep up” with our side of the family.

* A group of six of us headed back down to Brooke and Craig’s room between pictures and seating: me, my brother, Brooke and Craig, my cousin Zach, and my cousin Jordan.  In today’s random “Stevo Quiz for his Readers”, identify which of the following did NOT occur in the thirty minutes we were in their room:

1. We consumed 3 liters of wine.
2. We polished off 2 bottles of Captain, and a 2 liter bottle of Coke.
3. We openly questioned if the minister came straight from a strip club.
4. We openly asked (and honestly believed) the minister would perform the ceremony wearing assless chaps.
5. Brooke appeared to do a line of coke off the counter.
6. A lesbian joke regarding Wisconsin was told to raucous laughter.
7. Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling’s insanely inappropriate joke about Oprah and house painting was told to raucous laughter.

The answer?  1.  We only polished off about 2 liters of the jug of wine.

* We head back up, and of course, the “peanut gallery” that is my closest family takes up two rows.  Seated in row three, from window to aisle, is my cousin Brooke, her husband Craig, my aunt Gail, her boyfriend Mike, my cousin Zach, and my cousin Spencer and his wife.  Seated in row three are me, my brother, and my folks, along with Fred and Nancy and Skip and Sandy (Chicago part of the family).  Between the fifteen of us, the entire ceremony was “live broadcast”, right down to “stuffed AND mounted!” jokes.  Great times had by all.

(Late update I forgot to include on the first posting: the other running thread of the weekend?  How much all us cousins miss Geno.  Glad to report, he's happy, healthy, and enjoying life, according to my cousin and my aunt.  It just sucks that sometimes relationships aren't meant to last.  I miss that guy, big time, and so does the rest of my family my age, so if you ever stumble on this Uncle Geno, dammit we miss ya man.  If I ever make it down to the Metroplex again, we're definitely meeting up for a couple cold ones ...)

* After the wedding, we were ushered into a cocktail room, so that the reception area could be set up.  The drink that was “recommended” by the bride and groom?  The “Hello Kitty”.  Which led to this conversation:

(stevo) so what exactly is in this drink?
(bartender) well, it’s got gin and –
(stevo) I’ll take a glass of merlot please.

I HATE gin.  I can’t stand the smell or the taste of it.  It’s disgusting.  My brother?  The complete opposite.  So he orders the drink, and then the following occurs:

(drew) hey, this is pretty good!
(craig) it has gin in it!
(brooke) it has gin in it!
(zach) yeah, gin is awful!
(stevo) agreed.  I don’t care how good you think it is, gin sucks balls.
(drew) you’ve always said you’ll try any drink once.  Here, try it (hands me drink)

Which … sparked a revolution.  It was DAMNED good.  Turns out I shouldn’t have cut off the bartender after hearing the word “gin” … because it ALSO had vodka in it!  The thing tasted like key lime pie (ONLY my favorite pie EVER!) 

I had eleven of them before we headed in for the reception.

* The reception was awesome.  Among the highlights:

1. Me and my aunt dancing to “Shots” by LMFAO.  Yes, they played “Shots”, unedited.  Disturbingly hilarious moment.
2. My mom’s facial expression to a line at the opening of verse two of said “Shots” by LMFAO.  Let’s just say, I’m guessing she’d never heard the song before … and definitely was not interested in having anyone buy her a shot at that moment.
3. Me and my mom dancing to “Always On My Mind”.  My mom and I do not get along.  At all.  Generally speaking, I need Conway Twitty to randomly appear anytime I talk to her*.  Having said that, ladies?  If you are looking for a special someone, you can do worse than me.  Here’s how I asked her to dance:

(stevo) (stumbles to table where folks are sitting)
(stevo) (figures out which person is his mom)
(stevo) may I have the honor and the privilege of dancing with the most beautiful woman in the room?
(my mom) (tears up)

I think I’m back in the will!

(*: again, if you don’t get that pop culture reference, please, start tuning into FOX every Sunday night at 9 ET / 8 CT.  You won’t regret it.)

* Finally, after drinking far more than the average bear and somehow still being able to stand, it’s off for the hotel.  If you had “phone AND wallet” in the “what did a drunken Stevo leave behind” contest, congratulations, you’d have won.  Thankfully, someone saw it and turned them into my folks.

* Poured down rain Sunday morning.  Ridiculous.  Led to missing said Chiefs game.

* What wasn’t ridiculous?  Was enjoying Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for the first time since college!  Oh my GOD have I missed Dunkin’ Donuts in my life!  Our one guilty pleasure* in college was every Sunday morning, whoever got up first between me, Frank or Vineet, would stumble out to the car, drive to the Dunkin’ on Camp Bowie, and grab a dozen donuts and enough large coffees for everyone who’d spent the night.  Sweet JESUS, do I miss legitimate Dunkin’ Donuts coffee!  I actually had not one, not two, but THREE of them while waiting for our flight.  Again, I don’t drink caffeine anymore, and I never drink coffee.  Dunkin’ Donuts?  Worth the $3.50 per cup.

(*: this is an abject lie.  We had way too many guilty pleasures, not the least of which was the old Planters Cheese Balls container filled to the top with cigarette butts, ashes, and discarded roaches.  I miss college, big time.)

* I turned off my phone once I got to the airport.  When I turned it back on when we landed, I had three text messages.  One from “The Voice of Reason” informing me Walt Anderson was our ref.  One from “The Ex” asking if I had made kickoff (nope).  And the third?

My tailgating group made up a huge “We Miss You Steve, Travel Safe!  See You Soon!” sign, and snapped a group pic of them holding said sign, and texted it to me.  I am definitely loved!

* As I noted on Facebook last night, I am definitely going back next November.  This was a tremendously fun roadie.  Next time, “The Family” needs to go, because they’re just about the only thing that was missing.  Because if the previous thirteen some odd pages are what can occur when you fly?

I’ll fly.

And having finally wrapped this thing up … welcome to Donkeys Week!  We’re six days away from “The Day I Live For”.  Needless to say, you can expect some anti-denver bronco posts this week …

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the third thursday thirteen ...

"So you're dancing on the ocean -- Running fast, along the sand. A spirit born, of earth and water -- Fire flying from your hand...