Sunday, way past noon, and I'm antsy. Feel like broadening my horizons while under the influence of multiple beers and cocktails. Been up a couple hours banging out erotic fiction based on a salacious screenplay I manufactured while stoned on Hydrocodone in college. Don't laugh. It's brilliant. Subverts the whole romance novel template and will lead to me getting rich. I'll publish the finished product under a pseudonym. Something like "Richard Bushwood."
I have yet to eat more than a few saltines but have managed to kill my last Miller High Life tall boy. Stomach is begging for food. Body has decided we're just going to maintain the blood alcohol level from last night — which was substantial, and the night before, which was even greater, thanks to a killer evening at the nearly sold-out Skipperdome watching Cajun pop sensation Amanda Shaw from the side of the stage.
I'm on a bender, folks, leading up to a weeklong vacation that will include the consumption of several rivers of booze. Having to meet deadline is about the only thing that keeps my debauchery in check. Cut the leash and I'm a complete monster. Finding people to party on Sundays isn't as easy as it once was, though. Like Hank Junior says, all my rowdy friends have settled down. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Buck, you pussy.
"I'm at a birthday party," he says over a cacophony of piercing toddler voices.
I had to call him twice before he answered.
"You miserable fuck," I holler. "You guys attend more kiddie birthday parties than is acceptable."
"I know," Buck says, sounding genuinely distraught. For a moment, I feel bad about busting my best friend's balls. I hear his daughter, who is an angel, and his son, who is a prince, and his wife, who is wonderful, yelling for him — all at the same time. It's a chorus of "Daddy, Daddy" and his real name, which I change here because he's a far too successful businessperson — as are his wife, father and siblings — to have his Christian name appear in Bar Tab. "I gotta go," Buck says.
It's 1:30 p.m. I'm ready to tie one on to the top tier. Luckily, my friend Victoria finally wakes up and returns my call. We hatch a plan to meet at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor. At the outside bar. When I arrive she's sitting there in Jackie O shades. Vic has one of those mini champagne bottles and a glass of orange juice in front of her. She's making a mimosa. And a mess. Yeah, Vic spills a bit in the process.
"Oh, I'm not worried about the flooooor," she says, stretching vowels like only people from Louisiana do. "Just this mess right here in front of meee."
I grab a handful of cocktail napkins and clean up, relieved that for once it's someone else, not me, spilling a beverage in public. Vic orders a salad topped with slabs of raw tuna, and I get the calamari. It's "marinated in buttermilk, tossed in seasoned flour and served with a Cuban Aioli and Marinara." I'm clueless as to what "a Cuban Ailoi" is, but it must be good, because Brew Co.'s calamari rocks every time I order it, which is pretty often. So does my Brew Co. beer of choice, Old Elephant Foot IPA. It's an India Pale Ale and if the place bottled its homemade concoctions I'd have this stuff in my fridge at all times. It's tasty. And potent. 6.8 percent alcohol by volume. (Most domestic suds, Bud and such, are 5-percenters or less.)
"This place is great, but we could be drinking for half the price at Streetcar Charlie's," Vic says. She works there.
Streetcar Charlie's is a classy bar/restaurant owned, managed and frequented mostly by gays. I've been there, once I think, while on a pub crawl with a troop of gays and straights from the office. Much alcohol was consumed that night, so much so that I couldn't even write about my adventures. It happens.
"Let's go there," I say. And Vic kinda squishes her face. It dawns on me that's she's hesitant about showing up at her place of employment with "that column guy," which is what her co-workers call me. After giving me strict instructions on what I can, and cannot, say, do and write, we go there. And I behave. Even after draining Charlie's signature drink, Ybor Punch. It's a pink tower of Captain Morgan, Myers rum, pineapple rum, raspberry liqueur, banana liqueur, cranberry, orange and pineapple juices, "with a touch of grenadine."
I left knocked-out loaded. And thinking that Buck would be doubled-over laughing if he saw me sitting at a gay bar, sipping on a big old pink drink.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company, 1600 E. Eighth Ave., Ybor City, 813-247-1422.
Streetcar Charlie's, 1811 N. 15 St., Ybor City, 813-248-1444.