I Went to Florida and Glimpsed My Life in the Year 2045


Picture it: Ellenton, Florida, 2016.

I'm floating in a heated pool when all of a sudden I hear a very raspy New York accent break the silence. A woman named Janice is chatting up her friend while suntanning on a pair of lounge chairs. From the looks of Janice's skin, it seems as if she hasn't skipped a day of sun since the Clinton administration. Her mop of short gray hair is a stark contrast to her brown, leathery skin.

This was my fourth and final day in Senior's Paradise. (Real name: Colony Cove, a community where my New York parents have purchased a home to escape the harsh winters of the Northeast -- they are now what Florida residents call "Snowbirds.") I got a taste of the retired life. And compared to the non-stop routines and jam-packed schedules of my Los Angeles existence, it was a welcome relief.


Here's what went down during my time in South Florida:

THURSDAY

6:45am - The town car that picked me up at Tampa International pulls into Colony Cove, "a resort-style community designed around an active 55+ lifestyle, with waterfront views to spare and a variety of amenities and activities to enjoy." It's still dark outside, the buttcrack of dawn. I'm running on one hour of sleep after my red-eye flight.

8:45am - I struggle to stay awake while I eat some scrambled eggs and sausage cooked by my father.

11am - We visit my aunt and uncle who literally live around a corner and several houses down from my parents. It's St. Patrick's Day, so most of us are wearing our best green.

11:30am - My parents and I drive to the Manatee Observatory...and see no manatee in sight due to the warm weather that has caused the mammals to migrate earlier than expected. I get my hands on an iced coffee at the snack bar because RED-EYE FLIGHT.


12:30pm - We stop for lunch at a non-descript "family restaurant" called Popi's Place IV on the side of the road. It's homey and features a dry-erase board of specials. I consider having fun with our waitress by asking if they have a gluten-free menu or any kale smoothies ("because I'm from L.A."), but I refrain from playing the role of Obnoxious Out-of-Town Asshole. Instead, I order the Shepherd's Pie and don't regret it. It hits the spot. I rub my belly and look around. At 35, I am the youngest patron in the joint.

2pm - Back to my parents' place. Some couch lounging ensues.

5:30pm - We walk into my aunt and uncle's house, immediately greeted by the warm smells of corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes. It smells absolutely delicious.

9pm - Lights out for most residents of Colony. While some neighbors curl up with a Mary Higgins Clark novel or fall asleep to Dancing with the Stars (what I imagine in my head), I pop in a Blu-ray of Spotlight and introduce the Oscar winning film to my parents.

FRIDAY

9:30am - Breakfast is leftover Irish soda bread from our St. Patrick's Day dinner, slathered in butter. I take a walk around the neighborhood. Several residents in golf carts zip by and wave. I wave back, even though I have no clue who these people are. But it's what you do here.

A video posted by Hiko Mitsuzuka (@thefirstecho) on

10:15am - I help my mom assemble the Lego Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine that I brought as a housewarming gift. It's better than putting together a 500-piece puzzle of kittens in a basket. (She's Scooby's #1 fan.)

3pm - We arrive at Manatee Beach in my uncle's minivan, walk out onto the sand, unfold our chairs and just sit there, looking out at the Gulf of Mexico.

SATURDAY

10am - We hit up some shopping malls. I find a Kenneth Cole leather jacket on sale. A gorgeous thunderstorm rolls in.

1:50pm - I treat my parents and my aunt to a rainy afternoon matinee of 10 Cloverfield Lane. I am able to afford this act of generosity because tickets run at $8 a pop. Eight. Dollars.

7pm - The Big Dance at Harmony Hall, the biggest community center in Colony Cove. Nothing but the biggest hits from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and yes, even the 80s. It's also BYOB and BYOOT (Bring Your Own Oxygen Tank -- just kidding...I think.) The Electric Slide is probably the highlight of the event, and I immediately flashback to the 80s during which I was ring bearer in two wedding parties:

A video posted by Hiko Mitsuzuka (@thefirstecho) on

SUNDAY

10am - Pool time. (The aforementioned Janice and her golden brown skin.)

1pm - Before heading back to the airport, we all have a nice seafood lunch at a place called Anna Maria Oyster Bar. At the table next to us is a well-dressed woman in her 60s who cuts up a hamburger patty for her adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (seated next to her). Her perfume is strong, floral, a fragrance that is probably discontinued at most department stores. For some reason, I call her Blanche in my head and picture her driving home in a spotless 1982 Cadillac Seville.

If this is what life has in store for me in 30 years, then so be it.

@TheFirstEcho


When Bad Music Videos Happen to Good Pop Songs: Ariana Grande's "Into You"


Ariana Grande's "Into You" is possibly the catchiest and radio-friendliest track to come off her recently released Dangerous Woman. It's a perfect piece of summer pop that's juuuust naughty enough to make you wanna...let's say, rub up against someone. After all, "a little less conversation, and a little more touch my body" might be my favorite lyrics of the season.

However, the music video is a letdown. Directed by Hannah Lux Davis (Demi's sweaty, sizzling "Cool for the Summer," Hilary's neon-riffic "Sparks"), the visual treatment does nothing to complement the song's vitality. Watching Ari flirt and frolic her way around the desert and in cheap motel room with her (spoiler alert!) bodyguard isn't the exciting and dynamic narrative I was hoping for.

Also, was there no budget for some choreography and some backup dancers? I don't know about you, but "Into You" screams "big dance number!" but alas, what we have is a middle-of-the-road love story featuring a male model-actor who is expectedly creating a stir on the interwebs.

Yes, it's sultry and sexy, but... Sigh.


Also, while we're at it, the first two-thirds of the video seem a little familiar.

Anyone remember Christina Aguilera's "Your Body" from 2012? Didn't think so. Both videos seem to share a similar sensibility and look: that Southern California desert landscape, a cheap motel, that Valencia camera filter... Just sayin'.

#recycled

@TheFirstEcho


SUMMER16: A Playlist


There's just something about a summer playlist.

Chock-full of tunes designed to make your season sizzle, a good summer playlist is meant to be blared wherever you go during the next three months: backyard barbecues, beach trips, pool parties, and everywhere in between.

This year's playlist, fittingly titled SUMMER16 (forgive my lack of imagination this time around), should hopefully keep the festivities rolling along. I've curated more than 40 tunes to please all crowds. I've got a fair share of earworms, booty shakers, and chillout numbers to keep you busy til Labor Day.

HOWEVER, A DISCLAIMER: If you wish to hear some Beyonce (ahem, "Freedom" and "6 Inch"), you can request my iPod DJing services, and I'll be happy to provide a more comprehensive set (Damn you, Spotify!)

Enjoy:

@TheFirstEcho



When Bad Music Videos Happen to Good Pop Songs: Zayn's "Like I Would"


I was pleasantly surprised when I first heard Zayn's "Like I Would" earlier this year, hoping that it would be the official follow-up to his ode to hate sex, "Pillowtalk." And it appears that it is indeed his next single for radioplay. It has a sexy, Weeknd-esque groove that's good for blaring in the car.

Will it be easily forgotten six months from now? You betcha. But still...

Directed by Director X (real name), the video for "Like I Would" is a laserlight-filled exercise in Let's-Throw-All-Our-Money-At-Cool-Looking-Shit-That-Has-Nothing-To-Do-With-The-Song.


The following thoughts ran through my head during the first viewing, from start to finish:

Are we watching an audition tape for Tron 3?

Are we supposed to know why Z has a neon-orange eye? Did the dude lose a contact lens? Is he a cyborg sent back in time to terminate a certain boy band that will waste five years of his life?

Thankfully there is some choreography in the second half, even if it features a bunch of dominatrixes in red leather and a pair of dancers in bizarre camo suits and masks. Perhaps it's more of an interpretive dance designed to distract us from how godawful this video really is.

It's always disappointing when a pop star is curiously absent from any dancing happening in his own music video. Hell, even Meghan Trainor learned a few moves for her latest. So why, Zayn? Didn't have enough time to show up for rehearsals? Afraid you'll look like a flailing douche standing next to the professionals? And again, why the creepy orange eye?!?!?

Sigh.

@TheFirstEcho


Flashback Friday: "Baby Baby" Turns 25

File this under: Damn I'm Old.

Amy Grant's 1991 megahit "Baby Baby," the chart-topping gem that successfully transitioned her from Christian folk singer to bonafide pop star (for a good two or three years), turned 25 this week.

As I've reflected and written before, I first heard this song while sitting in the passenger seat of my mom's Pontiac 6000-LE and cruising up I-95 in New York. It sparked my first legit pop star obsession. Throughout most of the early 90s, Heart in Motion, the album from which this single sprang, was on full rotation in the car, in my room, and on my Walkman.

And now, to celebrate this silver anniversary, we have a sparkling new rendition of this pop gem, courtesy of rising star Tori Kelly. The credit may state "featuring," but Tori is all over this, overlapping with Amy's vocals from the original recording.

It'll do.

Listen here:

And catch some behind-the-scenes action on the making of this song HERE.

@TheFirstEcho


What I'm Reading: Roxane Gay's "Bad Feminist"

To say I'm infatuated with this book would be an understatement. (A little late to the party considering this came out in 2014.)

Writer, author, and all-American literary badass Roxane Gay is everything I strive to be: a pop culture critic who has a lot to say about our current state of affairs as well as her obsession with the trivial trials and tribulations within YA series like Sweet Valley High.

She has a f**kton of insightful things to say about gender, sexuality, race, religion, friendships...and the wonders of the Real Housewives franchise and Girls.

It doesn't matter if you have a penis or a vagina. This book speaks to everyone. Whatever gender you identify with, her collection of essays will open your mind and truly allow yourself to see things from a perspective you probably never considered before.

Below is a short piece of Roxane, introducing the book, but I also suggest checking out on YouTube some of her lengthier discussions on panels at her many speaking engagements across the country.


@TheFirstEcho