Seeing as how I arrived in Tampa Bay only two months ago, it'd be tough for me to compile any catchall Top 10 list for 2004. What I can do is create a completely unscientific, highly irrelevant, wholly unauthoritative ranking of 10 people I happen to have run into who, through no fault of their own, have never made it into anything I've written for the Planet.Until now.
The Guy From the Homestead Inn.
The Planet put me up for two weeks when I got here at the lovely Homestead Inn near the airport, just off the Veterans Expressway. The Homestead cuts costs by getting you to clean your own room (kind of like Jet Blue). And by not having the Internet connection work. And by having no more than six cable channels come in clearly. But the guy behind the desk, whose name I never caught, made it all worth it. His Southern accent (sorry, just got down here, can't be any more geographically specific than that) was so thick you couldn't understand a word he was saying, and he liked to keep the front door locked after 5 — not exactly the most hospitable approach to receiving guests. But the guy always gave me this wink — not a sly one but a drawn-out deal as if his eyelid had gotten stuck — when I walked past him. And I liked that.
The Waitresses from the El Cap.
I've come to love the El Cap in St. Pete — any spot with cheap beer, fried stuff and TVs placed so strategically that you can watch the game from any seat in the house works for me — but these women make the place. It's like they've workshopped their whacked-out stories for months before you sit down. Last week one waitress, before she'd even gotten all the way to the table, launched into a monologue about drinking on top of prescription pills. "They say you're not supposed to drink on them, but shit, they can't mean that." Tell me that doesn't beat "Hi, I'm Suzie, can I take your order?"
He's a guy who dated a friend of a friend, and refreshingly honest. I've only talked with him once, but when I did he jumped all over me for not writing enough about the St. Pete hipster scene (of which he is a devout member). Everybody wants to get his name in the paper, but you gotta respect the individual who just comes out and says it: "They used to have guys at the Planet who wrote about me all the time," he told me that night at The Emerald. OK — New Year's resolution #1: From here on out it's all Devin, all the time. I'm officially on the Devin beat — consider yourself warned.
B-List Celebrity Sighting #1: Sinbad.
He was a vision, a very large, entourage-toting vision checking out music software at the Mac store. I had to come up with a good opener, so I hunkered down behind the IPod display, trying to formulate the perfect Dwayne Wayne joke. But when I looked up — he was gone. Just like that. Come back, Sinbad. Please. Come back. Our time was just too short.
B-List Celebrity Sighting #2: Lindsay from The Real World Seattle.
OK, I didn't talk to her either. But I wanted to. She was backstage at the Monster Truck Show a couple weeks back, which seemed odd — I didn't recall a whole lot of monster truck talk coming from her in Seattle. I figured it out soon enough, when I saw her show The Spot on Channel 47. I only caught the tail end, but apparently she does a weekly feature on Coyote Ugly bartenders. Damn. Scooped again.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.
I've talked to him twice, both times when I was covering a story. But he made the list because he's important, and, for some reason, I haven't spent a lot of time talking to important people. I like Baker. OK, he's no Marion Barry when it comes to excitement. But every time I see him he's running. Literally. Granted, one of those events was a parade, and he was running next to a car, but I've seen him do it at a Coliseum tea dance, too. I like a little spunk in my public officials.
The Security Guard Who Kicked Me Out of International Plaza.
I'm a reporter, I carry a notebook. And when I went to the mall to look for presents for our holiday guide, I took notes in my notebook. At one point, I was leaning over a railing, taking down the name of a video game store, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. "You can't write things down in the mall," came the ominous voice from behind me. Apparently, taking notes in the mall is illegal — if you don't clear it with management first. I tried to tell the guard I was just trying to remember things I was going to buy, but he wasn't having it. Another guard came over, and all of a sudden I felt like one of those poor bastards you see on the side of the road — the ones who get pulled over for not signaling and just happen to have three pounds of weed in the passenger seat — except I hadn't actually done anything. Well, I thought I hadn't done anything. They seemed to think I was a terrorist, and promptly kicked me out of the mall. So watch out, all you post-Xmas bargain hunters. You can bring your credit card, but leave those pens of mass destruction at home.
The Baristas at Starbucks.
Alright — here are all the names you can put on the side of my cup. Max Power. Max Headroom. Maximus. And, if you're as clever as all my fifth-grade classmates were, MaxiPad. There they are. Use them as you like. But please, for fuck's sake, stop looking so hurt when I don't laugh. I know it's probably in your contract to keep up the friendly banter, and I'm sorry to be such a curmudgeonly jerk, but I come in because I'm tired and I want coffee, not because I want to pay $3.50 to hear the same joke over and over. Let it go.
Yard Sale Lady.
She smoked about 15 cigarettes in the 10 minutes I was at her place. She felt horrible when I told her I'd come down here without any furniture. She sold me two lamps, a table and some silverware for $2. And she threw in a vibrating Barcalounger — one of those leather chairs that will shake your ass for you at the flip of a switch — for free. Yeah, the thing smelled like the inside of a diseased lung, but now that it's been given a solid bath of shoe polish and 409 I can sit in it for a while without gagging, which is important when you don't have anywhere else to sit. So thanks, lady on 38th Avenue.
I'll keep this short. Thanks for just giving me a warning on Tuesday. I'll never speed again. I swear. Best Christmas present I'll get all week. By far.