In Tampa, Florida. It was a long and somewhat awful flight, I kept asking myself the whole way over why I had even decided to do this crazy weekend-trip 5000 miles over the Atlantic.
But it’s not all bad, the greatest thing about these trips are all the people you get to meet. Strangers, but always interesting in its own way. The tango-dancer at the bus stop when I was going to the train station, who was telling me about her tours all over the world, one of those energetic, smiling, positive people that you will remember.
The immigration officer in Detroit. He was shooting the usual questions that makes you feel like a criminal “What are you doing here??” – those kind of questions. I said I came to see a concert. “What concert?” “Van Halen, in Tampa...”. He immediately changed his expression and smiled, then said: “You’re probably going to kick my ass for saying this, but I actually always prefered Sammy Hagar“.
I probably had eyes as big as plates when I replied that Sammy is cool but as a solo artist. He then called another officer – “Hey Mike, get over here! Sammy or David Lee Roth?” The uniformed guy looked at him like he was nuts and replied “David Lee, of course!” I gave him thumbs up, said that THAT guy knows what he’s talking about!
Don’t ask me how, but there I was discussing Van Halen with two immigration officers who were clearly Halen-fans, but prefered different eras of the band. He almost forgot to take my fingerprints and all that but the best part was how I immediately got a different reception!
That same thing happened in Amsterdam too, where I boarded the flight to Detroit. “Good day ma’m, I’m security officer xxxxx and I need to ask you a few questions. What is the purpose of your trip to the United States?”
“I’m going to Tampa to see a concert” “Which concert?” he asked, as if he didn’t quite believe that somebody would go just for the weekend and travel such a long distance. “Van Halen“, I said. “Can you show me the ticket to this concert?” he asked.
I showed him the ticket and he smiled, excused himself and went to his supervisor. I heard him say something about Van Halen and they both sort of laughed, then he came back and asked: “Do you like Kool & The Gang too?” I said NOOO, god no. “Cause it says here that they are playing too“.
Anyway, I got all my papers back and a big smile that wished me a pleasant journey. It’s funny how music can change people’s state of mind. They go from scary professionals to teenagers that are listening to and playing air-guitar to “Eruption“…!
The guy at the Tampa Bay Times Forum box office looked at my credit card and drivers license, and realized I was from Sweden. “So how long will you be here for?” he asked. “Just for the show… I’m going back on Sunday”, I said. Once again, his expression was priceless. “Well, you’ve got a good seat for sure!” and continued: “We’re all trying to figure out what they were thinking when they booked Kool and the Gang to open for Van Halen but… I guess they know what they’re doing…”.
Last but not least, the lady at Sephora, at the mall in Clearwater. “Oooh, you’re from SWEDEN! I’ve got a cousin who’s from Norway in Sweden!” Ah yes – that place. Norway… in Sweden. ;)
She kept following me around the store telling me her life story, laughing at my replies saying I was so funny – I was saved by another annoyed customer who yelled from the other side of the shelf: “EXCUSE ME! DO YOU WORK HERE OR WHAT??”
I quickly walked out of there. My gosh.
Those were the good parts of the story. Let’s not mention sleeping all night in a deserted airport or being stuck with an obese man on the 8 hour flight to Detroit who was farting rotten eggs and needed his own seat and half of mine…. So I was glued against the window all the way to the States…
[Deserted Copenhagen airport around 1.30 AM…]
Not to mention the ordeal with the boarding passes before I left and at every single airport on my way over…! Once again, dear sister and friend Mari, sorry for my awful temper, and thank you for helping out! :)
When I finally got to Tampa, I was hungry, tired, looked like shit, but had to go and pick up my rental car. So far so good, but the GPS that I had just updated a few days before, went bezerk. I was lucky to find the Times Forum to pick up my ticket.
But before that I created a traffic-chaos in downtown Tampa. Apparently people don’t bother with red lights here in Florida. I stopped at a red light to do a left turn. The arrow was pointing nice and red and I was waiting for it to turn green. Cars behind me started honking, passing me with middle fingers up in the air. WTF?!?!
Of course it didn’t help that this Swedish blonde with her fucked up GPS was driving around in rush hour on a Friday. It certainly WAS Friday 13th in every aspect!
Then I took off to find my hotel. Nice and cheap, great reviews, didn’t look like it was too far away… Right. Took me almost an hour to get there. I’m great at finding hotels in the middle of nowhere.
A few years ago I had booked this motel, also cheap and it looked nice on the pics on booking.com but when Jon Oliva’s keyboard-player John Zahner came to pick me up to show me the town, he immediately went: “WHAT are you doing in THIS part of town?”. It was a local version of Harlem, which of couse explained a lot…
I’m not in “Harlem” this time, looks nice and civilised but my hotel-choices when visiting Florida leaves a lot to be desired.
Anyhoo – local time is 7 am and I’ve been up since 6. It’s lunch time back home and I’m still on European time. By the time I get back there I’ll be on US time, which will screw up the rest of the week but that’s ok. I’m used to it. :)
It was cool walking around the mall yesterday but it sucks I can’t buy anything, I’m travelling with a carry-on, so…nothing fits in there.
A few more hours until the show. I’ll be back.. :-)