I know I missed the date by a couple days but it was still too great of a time to not mention after 10 years. Besides, it was my first true/real vacation as a full-time employee of any job since 1993.
So this is the tenth anniversary of New Year’s Eve at Jose’s house in Orlando. Years ago, the bulk of our clique would celebrate at the Silders’ place in (southside) Chicago. Then they moved to Baltimore in 1995 which prompted us to move the festivities there. The bigger plan was to rotate the location every year with the appropriate resident hosting. No dice with the Silders and 1997 ended on a sour note for me in general; the Silders weren’t responsible for that. Despite it being just Jose and me, it was an awesome week of movies, drinking and trying to meet women. I was also glad to see how well Orlando panned out for Jose too. I didn’t think moving there in 1991 was a wise move but his mother was relocating to Florida (still “planning” to this day). However, when you’re just out of university, close to broke, up to your waist in student-loan debt and underemployed, taking an offer to get assistance from your parents is probably the wiser move. Jose did the smart thing unlike me. Five years later, he owned a house, paid off his car, had a full-time job with the Orlando Fox affiliate and was attending his second year of law school. I wasn’t jealous. I had a pretty good life in Austin after a rough first year. I was thrilled for Jose because broadcasting is a cutthroat business and his mother put off moving to Florida for her career, leaving him there on his own for most of the five years.
It was definitely a non-stop quasi-party from when he picked me up at the airport. First there was a late dinner at Steak n’ Shake near his house. I couldn’t believe how much I missed that food. I had grown up with it for years, took it for granted and never gave it much thought on the day I left in 1994. Jose gave me the tour of his house, quite nice. He had a roommate so that section was off limits though. No loss. I was actually impressed with how he could function with AOL for DOS on an old 486 to check our e-mail. The following day was Sunday and due to a scheduling error on Jose’s part, he had to go to work at the TV station. It would be pretty empty so he wanted to know if I would mind coming along. I was pretty stoked to check it out. He gave me the grand tour and we still have some parts of it videotaped with the hope of one day editing it into something fun. The rest of the time was spent watching the various feeds, queuing up commercials, telling jokes and snacking. It was Fox which meant the NFC playoffs were on but all the sitcoms afterwards were reruns with plugs for some new cartoon called King of the Hill.
Jose’s replacement showed up on time and was gracious enough to let us split early in order to catch a movie, the mediocre buddy comedy My Fellow Americans. The better movie we caught that week was Beavis and Butt-Head Do America which inspired our ongoing catch phrase for the remainder of my vacation, “I see you’re wearing overalls. I have overalls too.”
The New Year’s Eve party at Jose’s house was quite nice. I met his Orlando-based friends, his classmates from law school and several other coworkers. The weather in Central Florida was great despite some weird fog rolling in late in the evening. The leftover beer continued to fuel us for the rest of the week. (Not really binge drinking, just a casual bottle now and then.) Jose even demonstrated his cooking abilities by making paella. Puerto Rico’s version is pretty different from Sonia’s El Salvador brand.
Since he lived in Orlando, we had to take in all the cool amusements on the city’s southern side; Pleasure Island and MGM. He didn’t have any interest in EPCOT or Disney World. I can’t remember why we decided against Universal. We also checked out downtown because there was a Magic game that week. I told him to get tickets in advance too. Even if the Magic were playing the horrible Toronto Raptors, you can never be sure what the attendance will be like. Jose didn’t heed my advice. We were turned away at the box office because it was sold out. I told him it didn’t matter much anyway, the Magic would slaughter the Raptors. Ha! When we saw the news at a bar later that evening, the game was a double-overtime victory for the Magic. I never let him forget it until we saw a Magic-Bulls game in 2002. MGM was interesting, namely for all the Star Wars stuff and the 20th anniversary re-releases were coming which gave it an air of excitement.
Pleasure Island was the most eventful part. Originally we were there to use some coupon for the recently opened Planet Hollywood (a place you couldn’t pay me to go into now). The rest of the place was fun yet touristy. There was a bar with a different theme that most people could enjoy, even a curmudgeon like myself. The main one we checked out had the contemporary tunes and dancing. I can’t remember what it was named. The primary dance floor rotated counter clockwise which assisted even the most rhythmically challenged white males I know (most of my freshmen floor mates at Marquette). There were a couple of cute women we saw. One had overalls, thus the modification of the Butt-Head pickup line mentioned earlier. And yes, we got shot down by them. No, we didn’t use the “overalls” line neither.
It still dovetails into the last thing I remember fondly of this vacation, our resolution to do a better job at meeting women because we’d both had been experiencing some ugly dry spells. For some other reason, many women were being ensnared by this awful book called The Rules written by a couple psychos. This awful waste of paper was still making the media rounds then too. While I was waiting for Jose to pick me up at the airport, I caught an interview of Dr. Judith Kuriansky who completely refuted the psycho authors; manipulation and playing games will never end in a good outcome. I was impressed with her enough to buy her book. Jose knew of her from a radio show. Sadly, the book store we went to only had one copy. We shared it, reviewed it, had a few laughs and in the end I think it was a step in the right direction even if most of the advice was “obvious.” I still have my copy to this day because Somara wanted it around for her amusement.
The following year, Jose came to Austin to visit me in the Spring and I did return to Orlando in 2002 for a week of fun. Since then, we have just hooked up in Las Vegas but I will always remember this Orlando trip because I consider it my first actual vacation as an adult.