From New York City to Tampa, Florida
This is the story of The Kid. His Tampa vacation experience will be shared here. It all started on Friday, September 3rd, 2021. His 2018 black C300 coupe Benz, night edition, needed an oil change. Of course Mercedes sets up the appointment for 8:15am. The kid wakes up at 6:00am on his first day of vacation. Was this the first sign of the restless nights to follow? The kid has his morning coffee, checks crypto prices on CoinMarketCap and starts walking over to his local garage that keeps his Benz. Will another Hispanic garage attendant give him attitude?
The kid casually drives his car throughout Midtown East, heading straight West towards 11th Avenue and 53rd Street on the Westside of Manhattan. The traffic is no where to be found. Thinking that he would arrive late, he does the opposite and arrives 20 minutes early. The kid parks on the side of the road next to the dealership at 7:50am. With country music playing in the car and nothing else to do, he starts to play chess. Time is moving very slowly as if intoxicated on a potent strain of cannabis. The clock then strikes 8:00am and he slowly starts driving towards the dealership and into a spiraling driveway that leads into an enormous underground garage.
As they take the kid’s vehicle for an oil change, he heads one flight up to check out the coffee bar. As he is downing two shots of espresso, a cute girl from his near past texts him. Her name is Chelsea but let’s call her the chick. As the kid texts the chick, plays chess and reads, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, the service manager calls him. The oil change was completed within an hour. The kid retreats back to Midtown East in a peaceful state of mind. It’s about 11:00am and he’s scheduled to play tennis at The West Side Tennis Club that afternoon, before heading to the U.S. Open night matches with a group of people.
Pre-Tampa Vacation: Acupuncture Healing
The kid’s neck is aching again and he needs an acupuncture session. He calls the place near his apartment and schedules an appointment for noon. The 6th session goes as usual; twenty minutes covered in needles under a heat lamp followed by a targeted and relaxing deep tissue massage. This time, the lady introduces the kid to cupping. He informs her that he’s leaving on vacation to Tampa and doesn’t want big red marks all over his body. So she only places two cups on his neck and lower back for 10 minutes; no red marks! At this point in time, the kid is feeling relaxed at the start of his vacation. Half the day is completed and he’s already gotten an oil change and acupuncture, and he’s talking to the chick. Everything is going smoothly.
The U.S. Open
The kid is scheduled to play tennis with another dude from the club at 3:30pm. The traffic leaving Manhattan is painful but he arrives on time. They play for 1 hour and 15 minutes on grass courts and then retreat to the locker room to freshen up for the night. People start to arrive at the tennis club to hang out before heading to The Open. The kid decides to order some calamari and an Irish Coffee. People become intrigued by the Irish Coffee. He tells them, “Gotta have the best of both worlds.”
More people start arriving on the club terrace. The kid retreats with two of his friends at the outdoor bar and orders two Whiskey Smashes. People start heading over to The Open around 6:45pm but the kid gets into a conversation with a white man who is not vaccinated. The conversation becomes political and at that moment the kid is flowing.
He then heads over to The Open with his two friends. They arrive at the electrifying U.S. Open around 7:30pm. His friends bought two seats in a different section of the Armstrong arena. The kid heads over to Section 5 where the group is sitting. They are all drinking Honey Deuces and beers. Many of them also took cannabis gummies. The kid refuses gummies and sticks with ethanol. One drink leads to another and the kid is now very tipsy. Auger Aliassime defeats Bautista Agut in 4 sets. The kid joins his friend in the other section of the stadium to watch one set of the women’s match. The clock strikes 1:00am. They take a picture, a green cab back to the tennis club and head home.
Tampa Vacation: September 4th, 2021
This is the day when the kid is scheduled to fly to Tampa for the first time. Thank God the flight is at 4:00pm. The kid arrived home at 2:00am and woke up at 8:00am with the effects of too much ethanol in his system. Day one of alcohol intoxication has been completed. He then hops onto his Peloton for a 45 minute cycling session to sweat off the toxins from the U.S. Open. He also orders a funky, red ginger juice from a local deli on 1st Avenue that supposedly helps with liver detoxification. The taste is nasty but he does feel somewhat better. Maybe it’s psychological. At this point, the kid is getting exciting for his upcoming jetBlue flight. He orders an Uber that takes him to Laguardia airport.
It costs him $48 dollars to be dropped off at the airport. Thank you New York for ripping him off again. But he’s going to Tampa today so it’s all good. He cruises through the short security line and heads to his gate. The kid studies the people arriving at the gate to see who is heading to Tampa. No unusual observations are made. He then hops onto the plane to his amazing seat; 7a right by the window. The flight is smooth sailing and he arrives 40 minutes ahead of scheduled arrival. He lands in Tampa at 7:00pm only to notice gray skies and rain showers. He hits up his friend Scott who picks him up in an SUV with over 150k miles. They head to his booked hotel room in downtown Tampa.
The Tampa vacation shifts to downtown where they try to find a bar to drink and get some dinner. Both Scott and the kid are hungry. They stop at a bar called GenX Tavern. The kid gets a grilled chicken sandwich and a salad while Scott only gets an appetizer. Was this a mistake made by Scott? Should he have eaten more than just a small appetizer? People in the bar are clearly intoxicated. A group of college girls are singing to the music and dancing; others are sitting at the bar and tables. The kid and Scott ask the waiter about the differences between Ybor City and Hyde Park. The waiter responds, “Ybor city is trash, Hyde Park is classy.” Hyde Park becomes the next destination. The time is 10:30pm.
The kid and Scott find a ghetto liquor store on the outskirts of downtown Tampa. You know this liquor store is ghetto when you have a homeless person standing next to your car door in the parking lot asking for alcohol. In addition, the inside of the liquor store was covered by glass all around; you couldn’t access the liquor. Scott suggests to get Bombay Gin to emulate their college experience back at the University of Pittsburgh. They purchase a 5th of gin and two mini gins for the bar. They then head to a CVS in downtown Tampa to purchase juice and cups for the drinks, before heading back to the hotel for the pregaming. Before the drinking begins, they set good intentions for the night and Scott informs the kid that he plans on driving. That means that he’s not drinking a lot.
Hip hop music starts bumping from the MacBook Pro speakers as they take their first shot and pour their first mixed drink. The kid starts teaching Scott about crypto investing, in particular, XRP The Standard. Scott becomes preoccupied with opening up an Uphold account on his cell phone to purchase XRP, while the kid is dancing and drinking more. Scott then takes another shot and starts loosening up. They then pour another mixed drink. Scott becomes slightly hesitant but the kid is loving the experience. With the Bombay Gin on the table and the Hip hop music delivery, he feels like he’s reliving his Shadyside college days again with his good friend. Scott takes notice of the energy and continues to indulge. At this point, the clock strikes 11:30pm and they are drunk. Scott tells him that he’s not driving and they decide to take an Uber to Hyde Park.
The Hyde Park Experience
The Tampa vacation shifts to Hyde Park. They tell the Uber driver to be dropped off at a bar named MacDinton’s. The pissed off Indian Uber driver drops them off at another corner bar next to MacDinton’s. Imagine three outdoor bars all in the same vicinity packed with college students. That was Hyde Park. They get out the vehicle and head into the corner bar. The kid gets carded. Am I underage again he asks? Back from the dead. They get a drink at the outdoor bar and stand around having a good time.
A group of cute girls are also standing around. The leader of the group approaches the kid with a big smile. One thing leads to another, and the kid is then talking to multiple cute girls. Scott is also mingling and having a good time. They inform the kid and Scott that they are speech pathology students at USF. The kid takes out his mini shot of gin and gives some to one of the girls. Her friends seem a little concerned and ask him, “Why aren’t you drinking it?” The kid then downs it. Were they suspicious that it was GHB?
They finally head to MacDinton’s. There were so many people on the property that it was difficult to move at times. They approach two girls and start vibing. One of them was dark-skinned and the other was white. Then a group of their friends arrive and the leader of the group is holding a large cup with three straws. They are digging our presence and allow us to drink from the cup. What in the world was in that? The kid tastes it but it tastes like water! So he tells her, “This tastes like water!” The girl immediately becomes offended and leaves off with the group. The two girls they were initially talking to feel bad and leave off with their friends. The kid and Scott laugh and move on.
Tampa Vacation – The Baptism
They then head to the third bar on the corner which was not a hit. They could not get any conversations going so they head back to the original bar. The kid approaches two girls sitting at the outside bar and gets into a pleasant conversation. He also orders two more beverages. It’s then that Scott approaches him and the girls and says, “I’m not feeling goooood!” The girls tell the kid, “Go help your friend!”
So the kid takes Scott to a small bathroom with one toilet and urinal. Scott sits on the floor by the toilet and keeps complaining. The kid tells him, “Scott, just throw up! You’ll feel better!” But Scott refuses to do so. At this point, random dudes enter to take a piss. The kid asks them for assistance and to encourage Scott to vomit. They all tell him some variant of the same message, “We’ve all been there. Just throw up, you’ll feel better.”
Scott continues to hang onto the toilet while complaining. A tall white dude with long hair who looks like he could be a surfer from Southern California enters. One thing leads to another and the kid tells him that he’s moving to Tampa in 9 months to work as a psychiatrist. The dude is intrigued. Then his friend walks in to also take a piss and is annoyed with him.
The kid is standing between them feeling like he’s holding a psych session in the middle of the night, in a bar bathroom with two strangers, while Scott is on the floor thinking, “What?! I’m supposed to have the attention!” The dudes leave. Then a black dude enters to piss. The kid figures that since Scott is black, maybe he will listen to the black dude. So the kid tells the black dude to tell Scott to vomit, at which point you hear the biggest vomit coming from the corner. Scott finally did it!
But right when you were expecting things to get better, Scott lays on the floor complaining, “I can’t get upppp! I’m gonna dieeee!” At this point, the kid is getting annoyed. Here he is on vacation with his good friend who can’t hold his own. The kid felt like he was babysitting. He then decides to turn on the sink and splash water onto Scott’s face, thinking that it would wake him up and get him off the floor. But lo and behold, Scott continues to lay there like a flopping fish! Magikarp is that you?
So the kid continues to splash water on his face and Scott continues to whine, “I can’t breathhhhh!” Random guys open the door wanting to take a piss only to see a black male laying in a puddle of water and a white male throwing water on this face. Was this George Floyd 2.0 in the making? So they close the door and don’t enter the bathroom. The bartender then comes and yells at Scott, “You have to get up NOW and LEAVE!” Then Scott finally gets up and they head towards the front of the bar which was closing. Scott lays down on the grass while they call his cousins to come pick him up.
His cousins arrive in a white coupe and they help Scott into the vehicle. With Scott gone and the bars closed, the kid links up with one of the girls from the bar. She was annoyed with what happened to Scott, in particular with the kid, thinking that he wasn’t helping his friend. Did she know that the kid spent half an hour with Scott in the bathroom? It doesn’t matter what she knew. She also ended up putting her phone number in the kid’s cell.
Then her San Diego friend comes back with some Amazonian guy with a funky hairdo. He is with his short Puerto Rican friend. They invite the kid and the girls to their apartment since the bars are closed. The kid arrives at their apartment at 4:00am. At this point, he is starting to lose interest in the girl. From drinking Honey Deuces at the U.S. Open, to catching a flight to Florida and to being with two girls and two dudes in a random house in Tampa at 4:00am, all within 24 hours… It was time to retreat back to the hotel.
Sunday, September 5th – Clearwater Beach
The kid leaves the Puerto Rican’s apartment at 4:30am and crashes back at the hotel at 5:00am. He wakes up at 9:00am wondering how Scott is doing. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rings and it’s Scott. They decipher last night’s events for an hour or so while cracking jokes on the baptism that the kid was performing when throwing water on his face. They then plan to go to Clearwater beach.
The kid goes to a local juice shop to pick up lunch since it was too late to get a decent breakfast at the hotel. He then hits the hotel gym and burns off 200 calories on the elliptical. Scott then calls and arrives at the hotel gym around 1:30pm. They go upstairs to get ready and head to Scott’s SUV which was left overnight at the hotel. They then drive on a long highway in the middle of Old Tampa Bay leading to St. Pete’s. The drive was about an hour.
The Tampa vacation marches on. They finally arrive in Clearwater but cannot find parking; it was madness everywhere. But at least it was a beautiful day; sunny and 88 degrees. They finally find parking after driving around through Clearwater for 20 minutes. The kid remembers how he had sun poisoning in Charleston two years ago, and informs Scott that he needs to stop and buy sunscreen. They enter a CVS only to find big bottles of sunscreen priced at $13 dollars. “I don’t need this much sunscreen,” the kid complains in an annoyed voice.
So they leave the CVS and Scott then tells him, “Let’s go in here;” it was a local surf shop. The kid gets a couple of souvenirs and sunscreen and heads to the counter to check out. He then spots some Delta-8 THC and excitedly tells Scott, “We should get it!” They leave the shop with a small pack called, “Skittles” and arrive at the entrance of the beach. They look at each other with a smile on their face and decide to take a Skittle; the clock read 3:10pm.
The Therapeutic Beach
They then step foot on Clearwater beach, observing the people along the way, before finally settling for a spot near the water. They slowly make their way into the clear water which felt like a warm bath. The experience was beyond therapeutic; imagine the ocean giving you a warm massage from the gentle waves with the sun shining from above. At 4:00pm, the kid and Scott entertain the idea of taking another Skittle. The kid says, “We should wait ’till 4:30pm,” but they both decide to take another one at 4:00pm. They go back in the water.
At this point, they can’t tell if they are relaxed from the beach or from a combination of the environment and the Delta-8. As they float in the water, they suddenly notice a group of seagulls flying above; they were diving for small fish near the shore. The kid and Scott become mesmerized by the birds as if sucked into a vortex; they cannot stop staring at the them. It felt like the birds were throwing a dance for them. Everyone else in the water was ignoring the birds as if blind to their beautiful presence. At this point, they realized that the Delta-8 had kicked in and had magnified the beauty of nature right before their eyes.
The Delta-8 Anxiety
The Tampa vacation gets cloudy. They head back on the sand and kick back on the towels to relax. They then notice four black, tall male teenagers getting ready to go mack on a group of white teenage girls. The leader of the group encourages them, “4-man, 4-man we got this, don’t be scared!” They then casually approach the girls and maintain a conversation for 20-30 minutes. The kid and Scott were impressed and kept observing the natural beauty of flirting between opposite genders. Was the delta-8 intensifying this experience too? At about 5:30pm, they decide to leave the beach and head to a local seafood restaurant. It was then that the kid realized that two Skittles was too much because he started feeling very anxious. The anxiety felt like a borderline panic attack, except that it kept lingering on and wouldn’t go away.
The kid anxiously awaits getting to the local restaurant so that he can have an alcoholic beverage. He remembers from his studies that alcohol eases anxiety in the moment like benzodiazepines, since they both act on the GABA-A receptors. They arrive at the local restaurant and step inside. As soon as they open the door, all the locals stop what they’re doing and turn around to stare at them. It felt like something out of a movie. They finally get seated outside and order their food. Scott becomes disappointed because out of all the seafood dishes he could have ordered, he got a Greek salad. To make things worse, the salad didn’t even come with the dressing of his liking, and he had to tell the waitress multiple times to bring him ranch. They finally head back to Tampa with the Delta-8 slowly calming down. So long Clearwater!
The Tampa vacation floats to Ybor City. The kid and Scott arrive at the hotel for another planned night out, but this time in Ybor City. The kid revisits the Bombay Gin and Scott takes a sip of the $20 dollar red wine he had just purchased from a store in downtown Tampa. But Scott is not drinking that much and is also very quiet. The kid knows something is up with him. He tries to encourage him to drink more so he can elevate his mood and get in the party mindset.
Scott drinks a little more wine and some gin but says that his body is not feeling it. The kid feels bad because he wants Scott to have a good time with him. So he asks him, “What about the gummies?” A big smile manifests onto Scott’s face and he then takes another Skittle. The kid warns Scott to not take anymore because he already has 750 mg of Delta-8 in his system.
They arrive in Ybor City at midnight. The streets are filled with cars blaring music and many people in the bars. The majority of people were black. They enter a bar and the kid gets another drink, observing the random girls participating in karaoke on stage. They then leave the bar and walk on the sidewalks of Ybor City. The kid is not feeling the vibe and tells Scott that they should go back to Hyde Park. Scott takes two more Skittles even though the kid told him not to do so.
They take an Uber back to Hyde Park at 1:00am. They go back to MacDinton’s. Scott disappears in the background while the kid is talking to college students and random blonde girls. At 3:00am, the bar closes and everyone is kicked out. The kid is hanging out with a white college dude and random blonde girls in the parking lot. He asks one of the girls if he can take a hit of her nicotine vape. He then tells her that Donald Trump was the best. The blonde girl with the vape suddenly says, “Donald Trump was the best president!” Then a random white dude wearing a cool purple Justin Bieber Drew smiley face t-shirt shows the kid pictures of his blue sports car. The kid looks at him and responds, “I drive a Benz.”
Tampa Vacation: Monday, September 6th, 2021 – Labor Day
The Tampa vacation cools down in Channelside. The kid wakes up in the morning, but this time not having heard from Scott. He is a little concerned that the Skittles may have kicked in. He calls Scott but he does not answer. Scott then texts him, “The gummies kicked in. I’m not feeling well. I’ll text you later when I have a clear mind.” It’s already mid-afternoon and no further word from Scott. The kid is FaceTiming with Chelsea the chick while the Tampa vacation approaches Riverview. The kid walks along the river observing people rollerblading, bicycling, and jogging. He finally arrives in Channelside and sits down at an outdoor bar to order a Margarita and watered-down vodka.
Scott is missing in action on Labor Day (“what an ending to my Tampa vacation”, I think to myself). Life took an interesting twist; the kid is spending his last day in Tampa FaceTiming Chelsea while Scott is recovering from 1000+ mg of Delta-8 THC. Poor Scott. The kid feels bad because he feels like he may have influenced him into partying. But the kid also feels annoyed because he felt like he was babysitting Scott on Saturday night. And why did Scott consume so many Skittles? At this point, what’s done was done.
The kid continues to explore Channelside, knowing that he will be moving there in nine months. He retreats back to the hotel while still FaceTiming the chick and orders seafood from Grubhub. He then plays truth or dare with Chelsea over FaceTime while watching “J. T.” Brooksby take the first set from Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open. At 11:00pm, the kid and Chelsea end their 13-hour Labor Day FaceTime session (world’s longest FaceTime session) and call it a holiday. It turned out to be a nice closure to my Tampa vacation.
So Long Tampa – I’ll be Back in May, 2022
The next morning while the kid is waiting to board his flight at the American Airlines gate, Scott calls him. They end up having a thirty minute conversation about everything that went down with Scott. The kid apologies for influencing him to party but also feels bad that Scott wasn’t able to hang without any problems. But he then informs him to focus on the positive experiences of the weekend and to forget about the intoxications. He reminds him that everyone has gone through bad experiences with alcohol and marijuana edibles. The kid boards his flight and takes a last look at Tampa from the sky, knowing that he will be back in May, 2022 to look for an apartment in Channelside. He will be moving to Tampa in June, 2022. The Tampa vacation flies off to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and beyond.
Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)