A fun day full of friends and coincidences

Have you ever had a day so full of unexpected coincidences that it seems almost surreal? I had one of those the other day.

I went to a paddleboard (SUP) race on Saturday with my good friend Courtney in Treasure Island. Courtney is the friend that I did paddleboard yoga with about a month ago. We’re big enthusiasts of all things involving paddleboarding. I’m not such a big fan that I actually made it there in time for the race or anything crazy like that, but I did manage to hang out on the beach afterwards.

My other friend, Jose, joined us at the beach. I had figured that Jose and Courtney would have some stuff to talk about because he was born in Guatemala and she taught English over there for a year. And they did. At least 3 full sentences worth. 😉

Courtney and I went to junior high and high school together, she’s one of my oldest friends and such a gem! I’ve known Jose for a few years but never realized until we were talking at the beach that he had gone to our high school, too. He went there the year after we graduated so our paths never crossed back then. We all had a nice time hunkering down under the beach umbrella and occasionally venturing into the water to create some warm spots.

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Fun at Tampa’s Gasparilla Music Festival

Gasparilla Music Festival
Gasparilla Music Festival

The main stage early in the day

Saturday was the second annual Gasparilla Music Festival. Such a good time! This festival is a great addition for the hip cultural relevance of Tampa. I think it really gives us some street cred. Suck it St. Pete! (Just kidding.) 😉

The day itself couldn’t have been more perfect. It was the kind of weather that makes all the northerners who come for vacation never go home.

The venue was Curtis Hixon Park, a great place to hang even without a music festival and which has itself boosted downtown Tampa’s cool factor. It’s a little green oasis on the Hillsborough River nestled in between the tall buildings and it beautifully highlights the juxtaposition of old and new between the modern Tampa Museum of Art and the University of Tampa across the river with it’s classically distinctive minarets. It just might be the most picturesque spot in all of Tampa.

Curtis Hixon Park

Curtis Hixon Park facing downtown

From Curtis Hixon Park facing the University of Tampa

Curtis Hixon Park facing the University of Tampa

A volunteer I chatted with told me excitedly that in the very spot where Curtis Hixon Park now stands used to be Curtis Hixon Hall, which I actually knew because I had been there when I was younger and because–ahem, name-dropping about to happen–I am actually related to Curtis Hixon. Growing up I always felt slightly (unfoundedly) proprietary about the Curtis Hixon name. Curtis was the mayor of Tampa at the end of World War II, but since I wasn’t even born until 20 years after he died we didn’t have an especially close relationship.

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(2 mom friends + 2 daughters) + ice skating = 4 smiles

We hadn’t seen Alicia and Livy for about a year. The girls (Callie and Livy) didn’t even remember each other, but that didn’t stop them from immediately having fun together.

I admire that particular essence of being young and free of the social awkwardness and self-conscious shyness that we have as we get older. Kids are in the moment.
All it takes for them is,  “Oh you’re eight, too? Cool, we are friends then. Let’s attempt to ditch our moms in this overcrowded mall.” Or something like that.

When I think about it, when Alicia and I met it was very much like two eight-year-old girls deciding to be immediate friends.

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Documentary Monday–”Happy”

Happy Documentary cover

It’s Documentary Monday . . . because I have to balance out my reality television viewing with something worthwhile.

For the very first week of Documentary Day on my blog I watched Happy. As the title would seem to imply, it was about the human pursuit of being happy, specifically what makes people happy, and what doesn’t.

Happy begins with the quote, “The Constitution only guarantees the American People the right to pursue happiness. YOU HAVE TO CATCH IT YOURSELF.” –Benjamin Franklin

The movie opens in the slums of Kolkata, India and details the life of a man who is a rickshaw operator and who lives with his family in a hut with a tarp for walls. This guy is extraordinarily happy despite what appears to be dire circumstances. About his home’s wall-lessness he says that they “get a nice breeze” and “have some trouble with the monsoons, but except for that we live well.” That is some serious making-lemonade-out-of-lemons stuff going on right there.

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“Unavoidable Death”-a rafting trip

We were seven to ten youngish adults in a rented RV on our way from Florida to go party with our favorite band in North Carolina. Road Trip! A quick detour for some white water rafting seemed like a perfect addition to our quest. So we piled out of the RV that morning glassy-eyed and a tad discombobulated from traveling all night, but psyched for the adventure ahead.

We collectively suffered a moment’s hesitation at the small print of the liability waiver that read, “Blah, blah, blah…there is a risk of unavoidable death and the company cannot be held responsible….blah…blah…”

Wait a sec…unavoidable death? That sounded kind of serious. So…were they telling us that we were definitely going to die on this rafting trip? That was a little harsh for our mellow, man. We just wanted to float on a river. I mean, we still had the show to get to, there was no room for dying on our itinerary.

But, being full of youthiness and certain of our immortality, we decided that we would throw caution to the wind and try to beat those odds of certain death—especially since we had already paid and all.

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Is this what a midlife crisis is?

Mid-life Crisis Car

Could it be just about friends? Or feeling a lack thereof?

Lately I’ve felt untethered to my hometown. I feel as if I’ve drifted from my local friends. Most of my best friends, the ones that know everything about me and love me as I am (and vice versa) all live far away.

I don’t feel like I have anything in common with the other parents at my daughter’s school. I’ve not been loving south Tampa’s hyper-Republican (it’s fine, just not for me), non-artsy vibe. Kind of a general feeling of not belonging, loneliness, post-post-post-teenage angst?

I realize this sounds like a whiny, self-pity party but stick with me for a minute, I promise that I have a point.

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I am 20 years past high school? How did that happen?!?

20 year reunion PHS

Class of 1992, Plant High School, Tampa, FL

Joooooooy (C’mon, c’mon, here we go)…and pain. (pump, pump, pump, pump it up).  Sunshi-ii-iine …and rain.” (Keep it goin’, keep it goin’ now)

The sweet rhymes of Rob Base (above), Bell Biv Devoe, and Sir Mix-A-Lot pumped from the hotel conference room while a smattering of almost-40-year-olds laughed at the hot jams from our high school days and attempted to “bust a move” in our cocktail attire.

Dancing at the 20-year reunion

Busting moves (sort of)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is your 20-year high school reunion.

“So what are you doing these days?” echoed around the room all night long. Thanks to Facebook most of us had at least the general outline of each other’s lives, but a couple of my girlfriends and I thought it might be a good idea to add bullet points to our name tags to avoid having to explain some of the details over and over again. Such as, “Divorced.” “No kids.”  “Happy about it.” Or, in my case, “I’ve had every job there is, but now I write.”

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I Want My Whistle Back

The Reveille bugle blares brightly over the loudspeaker.  Girls and boys climb out of their bunks and throw on damp clothes that will never fully dry in the humidity. They hurry out of their cabins and meet up with a stream of campers from all the other cabins to assemble for the morning flag-raising. The long, sticky-hot summer day will be filled with activities like swimming, diving, horseback riding, waterskiing, arts and crafts, canoeing, ping-pong . . . and then some more swimming for good measure.

Ping pong table
Photo borrowed from http://www.campkeystone.us

The best nights are campfire nights. The campers sit on log benches, bug repellant spread thickly on their arms and legs. They sing silly, but indelible, counselor-led campfire songs….The other day….I saw a bear…a great big bear…a way out there…. Itchy, itchy, scratchy, scratchy, ooh I got one on my back-y. Ohhhhh, no more calamine lotion… 

Campfire Circle
Photo borrowed from http://www.campkeystone.us

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