I finished the drive to Tampa and arrived at Sweetwater Organic Farm an hour early to get a feel for the place and watch the performer before me. The environment had the feel of a city farmers’ market in the setting of an actual organic farm.
Christine and Ed were gracious hosts. People were relaxed and the weather was perfect. The farm is very involved in the community and offers paid “internships” to students who come and spend five months learning about everything that goes into running an organic farm.
I had such a great time performing and enjoyed several engaging conversations afterward, including one with a physician/musician whose band got a song to top 25 of pop country charts. He had me listen to a newer song of theirs. His passion for his music was clear as I listened. His attention to detail was admirable. I had one very special moment with a mom and her children while singing Get on the Upbeat as I sang to help sew seeds of resilience in her children.
Some of the folks there signed my van. I then found a Starbucks and later bought some pizza to eat by the fountain nearby. When I passed by the fountain on my way to Starbucks earlier, I thought I saw a giant orange koi fish. Now with a closer look, I saw it was a traffic cone. There was something uninspiring about a community that had no one willing to clean a traffic cone from a fountain. I wonder how long it will sit there.
Not far away, there were two corner bar & restaurants across the street from one another. One was “Irish 31” and the other was “Catch 23”. A couple sat on the open air patio sipping red wine at Catch 23, while ultra casuals drank beer in Irish 31. At first glance, I thought it was very cool to have a nice wine environment and an Irish pub so close for the little conglomerate community they were part of. As I looked for longer than 3 seconds, I realized that aside from the names and the people that organized themselves accordingly, the places were identical. The layouts were the same. Each restaurant had the same size TVs playing the same sports games. In all likely hood they had the same owner who had the brilliance to recognize the business he could accrue with the right names. The sad thing is no effort was really put into capturing the authentic ambiences, and no one seemed to care or notice. I bet they tell their friends about the great Irish pub that in actuality isn’t.
This experience didn’t speak highly to me of Tampa culture, and after a number of diverse experiences I concluded Tampa is simply a messy smorgasbord of culture. If the most defining aspect of New Orleans culture is unabashed selfishness, Tampa is the land where no one makes sense but people decided to be as content as if they made perfect sense.
The next night I went to an open mic at Green Iguana Bar & Grill. I think I like grills without the ‘e’ better. The open mic host Stick Martin had an air of arrogance. He had a bleached matted mohawk against a brown haired buzz cut. He took the stage first and put out a variety of sounds from rock to R&B and an aggressive style of rap. I was very impressed with his vocal ability. I was not impressed with how weakly the audience responded. I performed next and played five songs. I was pleased with my performance and was comfortable and in the moment.
The guy after me talked way too much. Truly, it wasn’t that he talked too much, it was his approach to stage performance that was off-putting. He saw music performance as an opportunity to push an agenda and soak up attention, when it really is an opportunity to give a gift. His dialogues were crafted by his self-seeking agenda and he tried relentlessly to say something that would elicit praise in some form from the audience. At one point he tried to use Stick Martin’s name and a phony appreciation speech to elicit his desired reaction of praise, while his speech was rife with tones of disdain. It was somewhat infuriating to watch someone try to use a community stage as a platform to bend the audience to his will and disrespect the leader in the process. As he exited the stage, he gave one last attempt to ignite an applause by asking for a round for the host. It was another selfish ploy in the hopes he could take credit for saying something that generated applause. I did not want anything to do with this guy, and he knew that, because energy manipulators know these things, so of course he came and talked to me. I had fun with the conversation, which dismantled his motive and he left before too long.
I had discovered my kitesurfing co-worker and friend from Hatteras, NC was living in Cocoa Beach, FL so I drove over that night.
On to Cocoa Beach.