Sibling pride

Lil sis' holds her own.

My sister Elizabeth likes to party. She's not on my level — thank God — but the girl doesn't shy away from a good time. Last week, Elizabeth visited from Colorado, where she's on the cusp of becoming a registered nurse. I took some time off so we could hang. The revelry started at a leisurely pace, but after chilling at my parents' place Monday and Tuesday we hit Ybor City on Wednesday. Elizabeth, I'm proud to say, matched me shot for shot.

Our pal, newly signed national recording artist Damon Fowler, performed at Green Iguana. The meet market isn't the guitar slinger's typical venue — that would be Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa or Ringside Café in St. Pete — but for the right money he'll play pretty much anywhere. Damon's smart like that. "Hey look everyone, be warned, it's the Tatangelo family," he announced from the stage, midsong. I brought him a shot, and it was on.

My friend Victoria arrived, and every time Damon took a set break, he'd sit at our table and we'd throw back rounds ranging from whiskey to Washington apples (the latter being Victoria's choice). Damon played country-tinged blues originals and our favorite Merle Haggard covers. After my parents called it a night, Victoria coerced me out onto the dance floor. It's takes much booze to get me to dance — especially when no one else in the whole damn room is dancing, which was the case — but by that point I'd been consuming alcohol for about 12 hours. All concerns and anxieties about appearing foolish had been sufficiently drowned. My sister laughed as I failed to properly execute a twirl. Damon grinned from the stage. Good times.

I awoke Thursday morning and contemplated an extravagant, greasy breakfast. Then it hit me: I promised to help my good neighbors/patio pals Doug and Amy move. I could hear them carrying heavy shit down our metal steps.

Time to man up. I crawled out into the hallway and offered my services. About an hour into the chore, Amy pointed to one of those old black TVs that are the size of sea turtles. I wrapped my arms around the beast and took baby steps down the metal stairs, which were like a damn Slip 'N Slide thanks to the rain. I got halfway and then everything in my field of vision blurred and quivered. I leaned against the rail.

"Are you OK?" Doug asked.

"Yeah, yeah," I muttered.

There were too many people watching — Doug, Amy, her parents, the maintenance man — for me to tap out. I dug deep into the adrenaline reservoir and finished the task, waited 'til no one was paying attention, sneaked around the corner, and, quietly as possible, expelled what felt like about 100 ounces of stale alcohol.

By the time I finished helping my neighbors move, which took about three hours, and banged out a freelance assignment, I was ready to curl up for a much-deserved nap. Instead, I received a threatening call from Buck. Unable to work due to the rain, he insisted on stopping by, with a six-pack. What could I do?

"Wade, how are you already drinking after last night?" Elizabeth asked after finally rising from her 10-hour slumber on the futon.

"Hair of the dog," Buck said as he offered her a cold one and a devilish grin.

"No thanks," she snapped.

Buck has known my entire family a long time. My sisters, particularly Elizabeth, will snap at him — especially if he starts offering unsolicited advice, which Buck and I are inclined to do. Elizabeth was reminding us of this character flaw when I remembered we had plans. "Shit, Buck, you gotta," I yelled after looking at the clock. "Beth, start getting ready."

Around 4:30 p.m., CL Political Editor Wayne Garcia and author/University of Florida journalism head William McKeen picked us up, because, as I explained to Garcia, I was already in no condition to operate heavy machinery. We arrived at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor City where McKeen, with assistance from Garcia, appeared on Tampa Bay Media Talk to promote his excellent new book, Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson. McKeen's friend — novelist/songwriter/Thompson buddy Tom Corcoran — met us at BrewCo. While Garcia and McKeen did the webcast, Corcoran humored Elizabeth and I with off-the-record tales of spending time with Thompson at his "fortified compound." I slipped Corcoran a party favor and a half-hour later he grinned in approval of its effects while we listened to McKeen give a talk at Inkwood Books, which was packed.

After waiting for him to sign all the attendee's books, the drinking resumed around the corner at The Dubliner, where McKeen cut his finger on a chipped pint glass. "This man is in town to promote his definitive biography on Hunter S. fucking Thompson and you fill his beer with broken glass?" I barked to the bartender, only half-joking.

"Easy Wade," reminded Elizabeth.

I had the good sense to call it night before turning into a complete mess — although the picture Corcoran took of Elizabeth, McKeen and me suggests that maybe I stayed around longer than my eyes were willing to stay open.

Green Iguana, 1708 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 813-248-9555.

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