As life has presented changes and whatnot lately, I've had a few people ask me about the past. I don't like to look back all that much, because everyone I've always known are always moving forward...
... but I'll look back on this one.
Let's call this one... Lunch.
Lately a few people have asked me about the bond between Jeff, Stan and I from when we worked in Tampa. I think we still have that bond, although time has past, the situations are different, and, yeah, we've grown older.
But it's one hell of a bond.
I wish you could have been there...
Tonight, I hit up Stan the Man to remember a few things...
I sent him an IM... I typed,
"about 11:30 or so every day, one of us would send an email, right?"
Typically it said, "where we eatin' boys..."
Those words set forth an adventure of 120 minutes in the middle of the day where boys would be boys, friends would be friends, co-workers would be co-workers...
... and where a lifetime of memories would be forged.
Somedays we went to the Galley. Somedays, Westshore Pizza... but it had to be Westshore Bobby's place. The original one. Somedays we'd go to Moe's near International Plaza and the Airport.
I remember Jeff had his Navigator then. With air-conditioned seats. Oh how they cooled my swampauuuuuh... Nevermind...
As I prepared to write tonight, Stan reminded me of Fatburger. At International Plaza. LOVED that place. Probably to a fault.
On some days, when we were feeling more adventurous, we'd cross the Gandy, hang a left near WiLD's studios and head down to El Cap, one of the greatest burger places of all time, in Pinellas County as you're on the way to the Trop. On some others, we'd cross the bridge and hit up Long John Silvers and get our chicken plank on.
"Kapugi loved that BBQ place..." Stan reminded me.
He was talking about FRED FLEMINGS! Owned in part by Brian Storman, for whom both Jeff and I had worked as jocks doing gigs in Tampa Bay... and that place was the site of a lunch with Hulk Hogan and Brooke one day as she was launching her own career. I'll keep the content of what we talked about to myself, but it was truly a magical and special time... Sitting across from Hulk Hogan and next to his amazingly hot daughter I'll never forget.
Nor will I forget the time Jeff and I went there on a whim, just us one day, when we ended up ordering extra sides for the pick-three combo... Or the time we went there with one of his former co-workers who I'd come to love in the years ahead, Jana Sutter.
Or the time John Bolous... well... LOL! I wonder if that hostess Dixie has ever forgotten that day!
Somedays we went down Gandy to just before Bayshore - to Kojacks. A completely different BBQ place, which was a place which, well, was BBQ for the ribs set. A place I hear JoMama loved... and probably does to this day! It was greasy... and it was great!
Other times, we went to Chubbies. A place near MacDill with crazy clowns all over the place inside, but which made amazing hoagie sandwiches.
Stan hated the clowns.
I called it the "evil clown place..."
I think of it when I hear Pink's "FUNHOUSE"...
"I still hate clowns to this day," Stan reminded me.
There was the new Sonic. There was Jimmy Mac's. Champs with two P's.
And... there was Hooters. Just down the street from the office. The place where, well, we had lunch the day Eric Chase resigned FLZ to work full time on Chase Cuts for Premiere. The place where Cooter Dee Wayne, AKA Dwayne Ward, dressed up like a Hooters Girl to get an add for something I guess.
He's the same Cooter D. Wayne who's car caught on fire when we were on the way back from
Flemings where Dale Mabry meets Gandy. LOL.
"It was a lifestyle," Stan reminded me. "We found time to live it..."
We sure did. For two hours every day in the middle of the day. Because one hour for lunch just wasn't enough time. Not for us. Not for what we were doing.
But because we were living. Life. We needed the time to squeeze life into our workday.
And at lunch, we found it.
At those lunches, we talked about life. Work. What our station was, what it currently was doing, and our hopes for what it could always be. We talked about shenanigans - mostly mine - but we talked about them and I personally learned from two brothers who had experienced more than me in life and who had something to teach to the runt of our litter. We planned things. We debated things. We picked hits. We dismissed stiffs.
This one time, after having my windows freshly limo tinted in an old car, I offered to drive. It was a HOT, steamy day in the Bay, and I couldn't roll down my windows... Nonetheless, I drove anyway.
I had a Hundayi Tiburon. Coupe. Two doors. Not nearly enough room for three men.
Let alone three GASSY men.
I'll leave that story there! LOLOLOLOLLLLLLLLL
God did we build this bond.
Now, moving forward, know that Jeff didn't always do dinner. That was as it was supposed to be. He was the family man who had bigger duties and responsibilities, so when he came out, it had to be special.
So, Stan and I handled those most times. Those in themselves bring me a million more memories for another time. But all in all, it was an amazing time. I pinch myself to this day because I still can't believe I lived -- that we lived -- this life.
Years later, when Stan had gone on to his next adventure, and when I had moved on to mine, Jeff sent us a letter. As he usually did, he emailed us. Stan and I. I've kept it saved on my desktop ever sense. It was at the end of the year, and Stan and I cited Jeff as one of our biggest influences in life and career during a end of year thing for a trade magazine - FMQB.
I remember when his email arrived... we were near Christmas... Stan was in Evansville, and I was in Columbia, SC.
The last line in a very personal note between three brothers, and I'll paraphrase it to keep it what it is between the three of us, was amazing. In the email we reminisced, we looked forward, and we talked about the mark we'd each left in life at 4002 Gandy...
Long and short, he wrote...
"I'll miss our lunches..."
I still miss them too. But not too much. Because they live on so vividly...
In my minds eye.
I love you, brothers. I miss ya both...
"So, where we eating, fellas..."