A week ago or so I was outside looking up at the sky, where I saw a plane passing overhead. It looked from its orientation and its contrails to be a 747 heading towards Japan.
I was jealous. "They're getting to go somewhere!" But soon it would be my turn. Last Tuesday I headed off to Florida.
It was the usual inducement: three Huey Lewis and the News concerts. I was a little nervous about making this trip, given what an emotional train wreck they were for me before I took the bar the last time, but I longed for the change of scenery and realized I could use the occasion to see a whole bunch of relatives who live down there and whom therefore I almost never get to see. Plus, as it got closer I did start to get excited about the concerts, because who am I kidding - even if I start the concerts in tears, by the end their music always makes me smile.
I landed in Orlando, where I rented a car - a shiny blue Chevy Cobalt - from Alamo (not Thrifty). I think it's the first American car I've not hated driving. It was easy to handle, with a well-designed dashboard. The only downside was that the headrest forced my neck into an acute angle...
The next day I started heading west, where I met a cousin I've never met before but who's been working on a huge genealogy project for the Gellis side of the family, which is a huge family (my great-grandmother raised 10 kids). Then it was on to Clearwater, where after getting very lost I eventually found my hotel.
I've driven in Florida several times before, but I never remember being as irritated by it as I was on this trip. I've now concluded that road engineers are a bunch of wild monkeys, and the parking garage architects are all on crack. Particularly given the number of clueless tourists arriving in rental cars and driving on its roads there's really no excuse for everything to be so poorly marked. I probably got lost at least once a day through no fault of my own. The worst occasion was the first night when it cost me 10 miles and $2 in tolls after I got forced onto the Turnpike while trying to get to my hotel a block away...
The day after the concert in Clearwater I met up with another fan and I drove us a couple hundred miles to the Fort Lauderdale area. Hollywood, actually. You've probably all heard of Hollywood, and an infamous hotel there. Which is where we were staying, because that's where that night's concert was to be. When the news about Anna Nicole broke last week it was so strange, since originally it'd all seemed like some random hotel-casino we would be heading to, but now it appeared our previously anonymous hostelry was the epicenter of a major news event. We were really curious now, wondering what it would be like.
It wasn't that great. Not because of the previous week - the only obvious sign that anything had happened was a 24/7 security guard keeping everyone away from the room - but because the hotel was the Hard Rock hotel/casino, and there was just too much hard rock everywhere. In the elevators. In the rooms. In every single public space. It was almost impossible to escape, and after the show when a bunch of us were looking for a quiet place to get a drink in, we very nearly failed. It was enough to make you start to hate rock and roll, I commented, ironically enough to some members of Huey Lewis and the News... I really can't not recommend this place enough (it had a boring casino too), although I do have to say that the rooms themselves were very nice. There were very comfortable, squishy beds and some very nice interior decoration, particularly with the sleek and modern bathrooms. Yet still probably not worth the money they charge.
The concert was slated to start at 8, and I was fortunate to score a decent seat that day, which amusingly enough turned out to be in the same row as the other fan, who'd bought hers months before... But first I had to forge through Miami rush hour because I was off to meet another cousin for dinner. It was at a very nice Italian place, whose business has dropped off somewhat recently due to the fact that their street has been ripped up (which we discovered once we got there). My cousin commented that the restaurant had good curb appeal, but I pointed out that it didn't actually have a curb...
Then it was a mad dash sprint (which I lamented, because I hated rushing off like that) to wade through the still lingering traffic back up to the casino, where I got to my seat just in time for the show. The casino shows are kind of interesting because the crowds are different than at regular venues, particularly on the arena floor. There's often fewer actual fans and many more gamblers who get tickets as comps. As is somewhat typical that night lots of people left once people started dancing because they didn't want to stand the whole time. Also as is somewhat typical lots of people were really, really drunk. Happy drunk, sort of oozing around the floor, but sort of beyond the grip of any inhibitions. I've learned how to make this kind of situation work for me, though, and how to sort of be able to slide forward into a better spot while the ushers all look for bigger fish to fry with their rule enforcements. Call me opportunistic if you must, but it's also necessary because most of the people oozing around in front of me are usually a foot taller so I have to do something in order to be able to see.
The next day it was off to Boca Raton to see even more Gellis cousins (I told you there were a lot.) One of their kids and her family were also visiting so that's four more cousins as well... They were running around going Temple shopping because they'd just moved to the area. Boca Raton apparently has 19 temples, which is interesting particularly in light of Jews once having been banned from living there. But it also meant that when I ran an errand at a local post office, to finally mail a package off to Israel that I'd been procrastinating doing for several months, I picked probably the best post office in the entire US to do that from, since they apparently are always sending packages to Israel from there.
I had a very nice time visiting my cousins, and was thrilled to discover that they were both lawyers. In fact, it's very romantic how they met: one of them needed to borrow a book the other one had - Prosser on Torts. (Well, at least *I* think that's romantic...) I also found it amusing that they'd had the same Wills professor, and even 50-60 years later they could still laugh about how boring he was...
After visiting them, the next day I started heading back north, first stopping off to visit my great uncle - my grandfather's last remaining brother. My grandfather died when I was 8, so it was nice to spend time with my great uncle because it made me feel closer to my grandpa. (Meanwhile his daughter was also visiting, so it was still more cousins I got to see. I think the final tally was 11 over the course of the whole trip.)
Then again I had to dash (ugh) because I had a 2-3 hour trip in front of me to head back up to Orlando. I got there and pulled into the lot at Universal Studios, which I have no interest in ever visiting again and would not have done this time had HLN not been playing there that night. The rampant commercialism was just so distasteful. Major branding everywhere, as if the brand somehow made everything better. The food would taste sweeter, people's lives would be happier... This is what Western Civilization had come to? (The people who worked at Universal were very nice, though.)
Fortunately I had decided to defend myself against the onslaught of commercialism by wearing a Hong Kong Disneyland shirt to Universal Studios park, because life's too short not to mess with major entertainment companies at every possible opportunity... I had no interest in going on any rides or anything, so instead I bought an After 5 ticket and spent my time finding a good spot by the stage (it was general admission) and waiting for the show to begin.
It was a nice show, of course, but the most fascinating aspect was that there were ASL interpreters. I'd never seen HLN lyrics put into sign language before. As I wrote on the HLN fan board the signs were really more of an interpretation than a translation. Even though ASL communicates words spoken in English it has a different grammar, so like any good translation it was really a reinterpretation of the lyrics' general meaning rather than a straight literal translation of each word. It was really fascinating to watch. So I did, instead of Huey...
But I am feeling better about going to their concerts, and plotting how to see some more later this year. I feel a little more comfortable with the social aspect, helped out somewhat by the fact that I *am* a lawyer, now, dammit, and being consciously aware of that helps me find the backbone to stand up for myself better when I need to. And I still love the shows. Even though I've seen so many there's always something new to unwrap and discover, so to speak. Seeing these concerts really renewed my appreciation.
For their music, and for just doing what they do. Of course Florida was there, and I could have visited my family any time. But there's always inertia, and it was so nice to have the concerts be the instigation to get out and go visit the world. I've made similar trips to see them quite a few times now - to the UK, to Mississippi, to North Dakota, and now to Florida - and looking back at them all, I'm still so glad that I did.