The Haze Daze

A running chronology of our Hazelnut Hangout experience.  Memorial Day Weekend 2006.

Friday, May 26, 2006  [4:30 PM]

It’s the Friday before Memorial Day weekend 2006.  For the most part, the road trips and long weekend plans of which I have been a part usually involved going to see family and friends.  When I lived in New Orleans, it was the 14 hour drive home to Miami to see my folks.  From Tampa, that drive is now 4 hours (thank goodness!), and I feel more accessible to other friends.  Atlanta, Orlando, Ft. Myers, Palm Beach, and very soon Dothan, Alabama.  They are all a relatively short car ride away.

But this weekend’s road trip is different, yet somewhat familiar.  What makes it different is that my girlfriend Lee and I are heading to Isle of Palms, South Carolina.  Although we’ve gotten away to Orlando and Miami for the weekend, this is our first ‘big’ drive together, and neither one of us has ever been to South Carolina.

Why SC?  Well, that’s what makes it Somewhere More Familiar.  We’re going to see our favorite band Sister Hazel – Yes, AGAIN!!! – as they are hosting a three-day beach party.  And in many ways, we are making this road trip to go see friends.  A whole community of Sister Hazel fans we’ve yet to meet in person, all of us affectionately referred to as Hazelnuts.

Attending this Hazelnut Hangout was something we planned back in early April, pretty much at the spur of the moment.  Now, the weekend is finally here and I am still scrambling to make sure we have everything we need packed.  After having dropped a collective $500 on “stuff” – everything from clothes to sandals to beer to coolers to towels to beer to sunglasses to beer – I’m hoping we have everything we need.  (Yet I can’t help but think that we may need to get some more beer).

Another of the items on the absolutely must pack list is my laptop.  I am fortunate enough to be borrowing a wireless broadband card to use with my ThinkPad, and we will have Internet connectivity pretty much everywhere we go.  So in the spirit of something new and All Things Hazel, I plan to blog as much of this trip as I can.  I do want to make a disclaimer and remind you that as I mentioned earlier, we have purchased A LOT of beer for this trip (4 cases to be exact, and that’s just for starters).  So please forgive me if the blogging plans fall through.  Nevertheless, I intend to be a trooper and write about this trip every step of the way.

I am hoping this weekend will be everything Lee and I want it to be.  Nothing but music, beach, beer (and some select mixed drinks), and the wonderful company of our fellow Hazelnuts!  I am sure it’s going to be spectacular.  Stay tuned……..

Friday, May 26, 2006  [8:45 PM]

OK, so it wasn’t EXACTLY the beach, but watching the sun set over the gulf was just as beautiful.  Lee and I had planned to chase daylight on our trip to IOP, and we got the first part of that plan done …. barely!

The snafu began when we were leaving our place and I quipped, “Wow.  Ten minutes ahead of schedule.”  I should have known then that nothing good comes from bragging.  We had everything we needed for the trip except gas for our truck and ice for our coolers.  Good thing we live RIGHT across the road from a Sam’s Club.  But then it occurred to me that just standing in line at Sam’s is a 15 minute experience.

Furthermore, we needed time for ‘pre-trip’ configuration.  Getting the GPS and the wireless broadband working correctly on the laptop took a little longer than I had expected.  We filled up the truck, got the ice, loaded the coolers and off we went.
We were haul’n butt westbound on State Road 54 to get to the coastline.  It’s about 35 minutes from our place, and I think we made it in 20 (give or take).  We knew sunset was at 8:19, and once the clock showed 8:05 we were freaking.  No way we could mess this up.  I mean…. no way!!!

But as luck would have it, we found a tiny inlet that gave us a great view of the sun.  It was breathtaking and we still had 5 minutes to get the tripod setup and find the best angle.

We did it!  We took pictures and more pictures and more pictures.  Then we focused on what was important.  We sat on the top of my truck, holding hands, and watched as the beautiful and bright orange sphere in the sky bid us good night and slip beyond the horizon.  It was breathtaking and wonderful and magical and everything we hope the rest of this weekend will be.

So now we’re off to Isle of Palms.  No time constraints and no pressures.  So long as we’re on the beach by 6:15 AM!

Talk to you soon……

Saturday, May 27, 2006  [3:45 AM]

I can’t believe it’s 3:45 in the morning, we’re already in South Carolina, and Lee and I are still awake.  We’ve come to the conclusion that we are both certifiably crazy.  But then again, everyone knows that we’re Nuts!!!!

I was planning to drive straight through given all the caffeine I’ve consumed, but the 24 ounces of coffee I bought in Jacksonville (hazelnut flavored, of course), not to mention the couple bottles of Propel water, have just passed through me with Niagara-like efficiency.  I don’t know if you knew that I am part Native American, and my Indian name is ‘Bladder of a Squirrel’.  I am hoping they have really nice restroom facilities at IOP because I will be drinking lotsa’ beer on Saturday…… or should I say later today.

Right now my body is at war with itself.  On one side, I have fatigue settling in.  All I can see is little white lines with tiny reflectors on them.  How weird.  On the other hand, I am restless because I am all hopped up on coffee, diet Coke and Propel.  I am either going to puke because I am over caffeinated or spontaneously combust.

I asked Lee to drive for a little bit so I can write, and this is such a strange experience.  The only other time I was a passenger in this truck, I was so hammered I don’t remember a thing.  I think I passed out as I was buckling up.  Needless to say, I don’t count that incident, and I am declaring this my inaugural passenger ride in our Mitsubishi Raider.

What makes it even stranger is that I am sitting here with my laptop just pecking away at the keyboard.  This entry has taken me twice as long to type.  Hey, you try typing in the dark and while on a road.  It’s amazing how you feel EVERY bump!

So other then fretting about whether or not we’re going to make IOP by sunrise, the ride has been great.  We’re listening to my Country playlist on iTunes, and we’re strategizing about a plan B location to watch the sunrise just in case our estimates are off.  Actually, the estimates come courtesy of Microsoft MapPoint and Regina.  Regina is the voice that provides us directions based on our GPS coordinates, and Lee and I have concluded she’s a bit of a bitch.  But that’s a separate entry.

Just under three hours until sunrise.  I am sure we’ll make it.  If not, I won’t hear the end of it and Regina will be getting an earful from Leelee.  Three cheers for technology.

Talk to you soon.  That is, of course, if I haven’t already spontaneously combusted.

Saturday, May 27, 2006  [8:00 AM]

It’s 8:00 and I am sitting in our truck.  Lee and I are parked directly across from the Windjammer Beach Club, and we’re wondering where everyone’s at.!  Just kidding.  I know it’s early.  Too early.  People should still be asleep, and Lee and I should be getting to sleep.

I am glad to say that we made it to the beach on Sullivan’s Island in time to watch the sunrise.  It was a little bit of a let down because the haze on the horizon blocked our view of the sun.  We were able to see it only after it had risen above the horizon and burst through that morning haze.

Just like the sunset only 10 hours earlier, the sunrise was spectacular.  Once the sun was visible in the morning sky, it just projected its majesty over the water and the sand.  The colors in the sky danced with the fading dark blues of a disappearing night and the luminous pinks of a new morning.  It was just awesome.

Lee and I took some great pictures together (gotta’ love those camera timers), and decided to head toward the Windjammer.  We have to hang here for a while since our hotel room will not be available until later this afternoon. I guess that means a very extended snoozey-poozey on the sand.

I wanted to get this update in to tell you all that we were here and that we were successful in our quest to chase daylight.  Now it’s time to chase some Z’s.
I’ll touch back with you later this evening.

If not, I hope you have a happy Saturday!

Saturday, May 27, 2006  [1:00 PM]

The thing about staying at a hotel on a budget is that you don’t usually stay close to where you WANT to be, and it can stand a couple of service upgrades.  All I can say is staying up all night and driving from the Gulf of Mexico in Florida to the Atlantic Ocean at South Carolina in one night was WAY easier than finding this hotel.  OMG!!!! I think I dropped $25 in gas just driving around looking for this place.

But we found it, got our room and got settled in.  After unloading the truck, taking showers, and eating lunch it’s time to get some real sleep.  Sure, we got about an hour’s worth of shut-eye on the beach this morning, but it doesn’t compare to a soft bed in an air conditioned room.

Check in at the SH event for … ahem …. VIP’s is at 3:00, so I am looking forward to another hour or so of rest.  Lee is already lights out, and I think the clicking of the keys on my laptop may wake her at any moment.  If she happens to show up alone to the concert tonight, please have the police check our room.

But in all seriousness, the day has been as great as it’s been tiring.  I know I need my rest because tonight is going to be just non-stop ….. and I can’t wait to experience every second of it.

I want to give a quick shout-out to everyone at the All Things Hazel message boards.  Thanks for reading and thanks for the support.

I’m off to bed.  Just gotta’ make sure I set my alarm first!

TTYL.

Sunday, May 28, 2006  [10:50 AM]

You’ve read me say that sleep is overrated.  That it’s for wimps.  Let me tell you…. I am so thankful of the sleep I was able to get after last night’s show because I am going to need all the energy I can get if today even comes close to yesterday.  The funny thing is that I know it will.

To say that Day 1 of this Hazelnut Hangout was amazing would not come close to doing it justice.  Once all the festivities got under way and Lee and I started meeting fellow Nuts, the whole event took on a high school reunion feel.  We were meeting people for the first time, but it felt like we had known them all our lives.  It was almost surreal.

I really don’t know where to start.  Lee and I got to the Windjammer around 4:00 after having managed a little sleep.  We picked up our ‘VIP’ passes for the weekend and started with the introductions.  Or should I say re-introductions?
“You’re Gil, right?”  “You live in Wesley Chapel, right?”  “I know your name is Gil, but what’s with the danaCreative thing?”

The socializing and mingling over free beer and food preceded the band’s sound check at the Windjammer.  We had never been to a sound check and it was phenomenally cool.   It was like a little pre-concert, with the band just cutting up and playing a lot of songs off their upcoming album.

Then the REALLY cool part came.  We all found our way to the deck area which overlooks the beach.  It had your usual beach party feel with everyone drinking beer and making conversation.  And yes, this included Ken Block.  If my mom had shown up at that moment – which would have been a strange, buzz-killing moment – she would never have guessed that Ken was the front man for the band.  In fact, anyone not familiar with Sister Hazel would have thought he was just another fan.  Just someone else there for a great weekend.

And that’s exactly how Ken and Drew and Ryan and Jett and Mark are.  They are just everyday guys who happen to be blessed with amazing talent, and they put this talent together to create something so special and serendipitous that people travel from all over the country just to make sure they’re a part of it.

I am truly honored to be able to be here and take part of such a special event.  I know Leelee feels the same, too.  And the best part is that we have 2 more days of this to go!!! <<OMG!!!>>  I’m like a little kid when I think about it.

I need to give a shout out to just some of the Nuts we met last night.  Reca, Elton, Robin, Kelly, Neil, Debi, Abel, Zach, Matt, Kara, Otis, Ffej <wink> and everyone else I am neglecting to remember right now.  A very, very special mention to Kyra.  Not only was it an absolute pleasure meeting you, Lee and I are very thankful that you allowed us to ‘contribute’ in a small way to this weekend’s experience.

So far this weekend is shaping up to be everything we wanted it to be, and then some.  Thank you for allowing me to share it with you.

Sunday, May 28, 2006  [8:00 PM]

One of the things I love to do the most is throw a football with a buddy and just shoot the shit.  It’s even better when I get to do that on the beach, with nothing but blues skies and beautiful people all around.  It’s a fun, gratifying and just overall ‘guy’ thing to do.

Now take that experience and magnify it by like a million.  No.  Make that a BILLION!!  That’s what this afternoon was like for me.  Never mind the small, intimate, acoustic session Ken held for us Hazelnuts.  Never mind the even more free food and drinks the band provided for us.  Never mind the wonderful times and new memories Lee and I shared together.  I’ll get to all of those in a second.

There I was. Me. Simple, little me playing catch football with Ken Block.  Out of the hundreds of people there, to be able to do something just one-on-one with Ken tops the list of coolest things I’ve done.  As I type this, I still have to pinch myself to make sure it really happened.  OMG doesn’t even begin to explain the feeling.  We were just two guys on the beach tossing a ball around.  We talked about how he and the rest of the band sustain their energy day in and day out while on tour.  We talked a little Gators versus Hurricanes smack.  We talked about a lot of things, and the icing on the cake was when Ken told me he grew up a Dolphins fan.  Heaven, I tell you.  I was in guy Heaven!

And along those lines, about a hundred Hazelnuts were in Heaven when Ken performed for us earlier in the day.  We all sat underneath the deck area of the Windjammer Beach Club, some of us on the floor, others sitting on the picnic tables.  Ken got his guitar and started playing, taking requests along the way, and entertaining us all with his talent, humor and amazing quick wit.

Want to know what a hundred Hazelnuts singing in harmony sounds like?  Heaven.  And singing along with Ken and fellow fans was almost a spiritual experience.  From the uplifting highs of songs like Swan Dive to the tear jerking emotions brought on by Running Through the Fields, it was all magical.  And the best part is that it was all for us.  The best part is how someone as talented and gifted as Ken is so gracious and willing to give his time to us, the fans.

As I type this, Lee and I are getting ready for tonight’s concert.  Yes we’re going again and yes we’ll be there again tomorrow night.  We could see Sister Hazel every night for a year straight and never get tired of it.  But then again, I don’t think I could ever get tired of being around friends I love.

Monday, May 29, 2006  [7:30 AM]

In economics, there is a phrase called diminishing marginal utility.  It’s used to describe the natural and psychological tendency of a consumer to enjoy less and less the repeated consumption of a product.  For example, on a hot summer’s day an ice cream cone is wonderful.  The second is still very good but not like the first.  The third is less enjoyable, and so on and so on.

Now I am no economics guru, but I can tell you that the concept of diminishing marginal utility does not exist for Hazelnuts.  Last night’s show was awesome and spectacular and just as great as Saturday’s.  It was also the first time Lee and I had gotten a chance to be so close during a show.  We were literally 1 row deep from the stage.  In front of us were a couple of Junior Nuts and they were partying their pretty little tails off.  I apologize for not getting their names, but they are the daughters of fans and are somewhere in the 8 – 12 YO range.  I’m not sure that anyone else at the show had a better time than these two.

I can safely tell you that Lee and I had an incredible time, and what made this show better than ever was the sense of belonging with the Hazelnut community.  Periodically throughout the concert I would look around and see nothing but the faces of so many friends that just 48 hours ago were, for the most part, complete strangers.  Now I look at them and think how there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my fellow Nuts.

And I say that with absolute sincerity.  As relative newbies to the All Things Hazel message boards, Lee and I have been embraced and welcomed ‘into the flock’ so to speak.  I just thought of something.  The Block Flock <laugh>.  Just remember ….. you heard it here first!

The night concluded with more exchanging of e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers and new introductions to Nuts we hadn’t already met.  It also concluded with a very touching recap to Lee of something Jeff told me during the concert.

As you may or may not know, the SH song In the Moment is very special to Lee and me.  It is our anthem and tells the story of how Lee waited for me to get my head on straight with regards to letting go of the past and embracing the future with her.  Every time we hear that song live, it’s as if no one else is there at the concert.  It’s just the two of us.  We look into each other’s eyes and laugh and smile.  We think about everything we went through to get here, and the beautiful future together we have yet to discover.  Lee and I shared another spectacular moment as Drew sang the song.  At it’s conclusion, Jeff tapped me on the shoulder, look me in the eyes and said, “THAT ….. is awesome.  You can just tell by looking at her eyes when she looks at you how much she loves you.”

As Ken said during the show, there is nothing in life that can’t be made better without some love.  I love Lee.  I love all the new and wonderful friends we’ve made over the past two days.  And I love knowing we have one more spectacular day to go!!!

TTYS

Monday, May 29, 2006  [5:00 PM]

I’m scared.  I am so fearful of how absolutely useless I will be the next couple of days as I recover from the euphoric high that has been this weekend.  I will never, for as long as I live, forget this weekend.

I am also sad because it is gradually coming to an end, and after tonight it’s back to life as usual.  It’s a long drive home back to Tampa.  It’s waking up and going to work instead of heading to the beach to hang with our fellow Hazelnuts.  Heaven on earth dissipates away.

But I know that it does so only temporarily.  I know that the feelings of excitement and belonging will be regained in June when we see Sister Hazel at the House of Blues in Orlando.  I know that the giddiness of being involved will resurface as we move forward with some of the ideas that were dished out at today’s Hazel Hall Meeting (I just made that up).

To go into a little detail, after a hangover breakfast of pizza, McMuffins and Dunkin Donuts, Ken, Jett, Chris (the band’s manager) and Kyra hosted a brainstorming session to get ideas about what more the Hazelnut community can do to build it up and promote the upcoming record Absolutely.   A lot of great ideas where shared and discussed, and it’s exciting to think of some of the things that may come out of that session.

Then Chris and Ken proceeded to play samples of various tracks from Absolutely to gauge what we liked and which ones we thought would make good ‘radio’ songs.  I think their intention is to determine what song will be the first single released.  Just being a part of that was wicked cool, and I can’t wait until I hear their first single off the album playing on the radio.  Lee and I will smile and think about how we played a small part in that decision.

Now it’s time to get showered, dressed and perhaps find a little bit of down time before tonight’s show.   Seeing SH in concert is like a junkie to a rush.  And hey … leave my mother out of this.

See y’all later……

 

<return to my collection>

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