Friday, March 18, 2011

Kiss Me, I'm Irish

If you want to understand A-Mo, there's two things you need to know: St. Patrick's Day is important to me and I love supporting events in downtown San Diego. A third crucial principle is I love bringing friends together, be it for lunches, happy hours, parties, anything that gets people together and unified and laughing. I don't like a lot of things about my father, or knew him very well growing up, but from what I've heard I inherit that last trait of joviality and bringing people together from him.

Enter St. Patty's Day. My uncle who helped raise me is named Callahan. So an affinity for the Irish was developed early in life. It grew by a bazillion when I became interested in, and attended, Notre Dame. I met more Irish kids than you could shake a shillelaugh at and just got used to being surrounded by Quinns, McMahons, and Seamuses. It wasn't that Irish-American kids were different than anyone else, it was that one thing they introduced me to, even more abundantly than in our Colombian-Irish household, was a reverence for St. Patrick's Day.

And by reverence I mean March 17 was to be toasted, cheered, celebrated, and heartily consumed. Erin go braugh, party people!

So when the Gaslamp Quarter Association started hosting an annual "ShamROCK" event where the streets are carpeted green and music and beer fills downtown, I eagerly went. This was maybe three or so years ago and seeing all the green garb, much of it Notre Dame attire, got me pretty sentimental for undergraduate days in cold-ass South Bend, Indiana. Then of course I entered the current period of my life where I just seem to be blessed with a lot of amazing friends.

That's where it all converges. Continuing a tradition we started last year, although this year's crew was double in size, we met for happy hour at the Tilted Kilt - A-Mo in the House, Slick Nick, KRB, Rossi, Jules, Pablo, AndrĂ©s, Alison, Collen McEniry, Mike, Logan, Matsu, Colleen McDonald, Jonathan, Filmore Frank, Jonas "Brother" Gomez, Alex Aguilar, and what seemed like a cast of thousands. We drank green beer, watched March Madness, and laughed as McD provided buttons, shamrocks, and for me a flashing green bowtie.  A line of bagpipers passed through.

We then journeyed to the Gaslamp, with Shawny staying behind to talk to some hottie he knew. This is where the memories, and the group, always gets disjointed. We had VIP passes but the rude security lady said the line we got in was merely to upgrade a regular pass to a VIP. Some d-bag tried to cut us so I switched into a "crip voice" to make him feel bad. Is this Mardi Gras?

We got in but Frank, whose birthday it was, disappeared. Just like last year. We grabbed some beers and danced in the streets. Just like last year. Shawny came late and said he saw a random arrest at Basic, just like Golden did at ShamROCK last year. Jonathan Sandoval harassed Jules, who I formally met last March 17, for being a Padres and Aztecs fan and took her phone as a joke. But then he forgot he had it so we ended the night with a missing phone. Just like last...week (see Golden, Mardi Gras).

We rolled to the VIP tent and chilled there and saw Roberto Castro's (hot) sister, Maritza, who joined us with her friend, Dianna. Slick and KRB laughed on a couch and McD made like another Irishman, McGyver, as she extricated my wrist pass so we could help a friend in need. I also recall yellow, bouncing Vavi balls being stuck in my face.

At 11, the tent closed and we were thrust back into the streets. Marittza said let's go to Maloney's, so we followed but got separated, and Jono and Ivan got rerouted to a side entrance, and then just kept walking until they hit Fleetwood near the ballpark.  Jules and Pabs got divided somewhere else. MVPD - Slick, KRB, Rossi, and me - went in to Maloney's and had hideous jello shots. McD somehow wound up at the Hard Rock. The night ended and I saw a taxi, yelled "Cabs are here!" and fell into one.

It was my best St. Patrick's Day maybe ever. I have great friends. I love working downtown. Fighting Irish hoops are still playing and playing well. I just love this day. March 18 not so much.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Arizona: A Good State and a Good State of Mind

Arizona is a good state to me. No, I don't agree with their politics, be it anti-immigration measures or even the anti-MLK Day policies that even had Chuck D. bellowing through a microphone. But the people are good, and the atmosphere there, and the experiences I have.

In high school, I attended "Camp Anytown" in Flagstaff, a life-changing experience I wrote about in my first book. I've seen the Irish play in two Fiesta Bowls in Tempe and last month, while in Scottsdale for MLB meetings, I ran into the Phoenix Suns' Jared Dudley (at the airport) and Cincinatti Reds manager Dusty Baker (bar at the Ritz-Carlton). Both were impeccably nice and Dusty, upon seeing my "Padres Filipino Night 2010" t-shirt, proceeded to tell me about his Filipina wife.

This past weekend I returned for spring training baseball and along with sunscreen and fresh tees, had Slick Nick, Rossi, and KRB in tow. Slick wouldn't let me bring food into his new car but compromised and allowed a Slim Jim and bottle of Diet Coke. I accepted.

We left Friday afternoon, each of us stressed out by work and ready for a getaway, and maybe a little too getaway. After we left the Golden state we entered a Golden state...of consciousness, happiness, and driving speed. A cop stopped us and said Nick was too quick. Speeding ticket. Fail.

Arriving in downtown Phoenix late in the evening, we expected a burgeoning nightlife like in beautiful San Diego. We checked into the hotel, motel Holiday Inn...saaay whaaat?...and took the trolley/train/subway thingy near the U.S. Airways Arena. Even with an event letting out of the arena, every restaurant was closed and I think I saw a tumbleweed bounce into the street. Finally we saw one block that had an eatery open (exotic food with a booming DJ) and then saw three nightclubs, each charging a ridiculous $10 cover.

We chose a place called Wine Bar 'cause it had the smallest line. It also had the smallest hemlines in skirts; skin flashing everywhere. The crowd was about 95% Latino, 4% black, and Nick, Shawn, and Katie.  They stood out like sore...big toes. But we danced and freaked and got low, got low, got low. It was fun.

The next day we discovered that 101.5-FM plays a Gaga song, literally, every other song. But on our way to Talking Stick ballpark, home of the Rockies, we blasted "Black and Yellow" by Wiz Khalifa. One passerby gave my car-dancing a thumbs-up. The ballpark was awesome and we lost but it was so good to see beisbol again.

That night, Jessica Lopez and Monica Guzman joined us from SD as we went to Big Bang, a piano bar in Tempe. We sang and danced and enjoyed sounding like Sofia Vergara from Modern Family. One guy joined The Crew and just sat there the whole night. Ashley T. and her friend joined us too and then we left back to the metrolink.

While there I saw a girl that I dubbed Tall Katie. She was tall and blonde and cute and, well, looked like a taller KRB. She heard me and then yelled out, "Hey, are you Alex Montoya?"

Whaaaaaaaat! Slick and them went nuts. I was skurred.

Turns out last month I had dinner at Cheesecake Factory with desert dwellers Rene and RC and this girl was our server. She remembered I had asked her to do a dance - don't ask - but she couldn't there. So here she was, at a trolley station, in front of everyone, gettin' looooow. It was awesome.

Sunday was awesome too. Seats behind home plate at Peoria Sports Complex and the Padres beat the Indians. We celebrated at P.F. Chang's and an elderly gentleman came up to our table to ask me, "Excuse me but were you in the war?"  I wanted to say yes and maybe get a beer but I didn't.  I politely told him I was not.

We drove back that night and I realized nothing is greater than live baseball and great friends to road trip with. Then I fell asleep.