This past week I had the opportunity to go on a business trip to Tampa Florida. I could definately get used to that style of living, suits and expense accounts.
As a Winnipeger, the immediate question asked after leaving during winter is, "What was the temperature like?" Farenheit doesn't really occupy any reference point in my mind, so in qualitive terms it was nice enough that, pretty much every night I would take a swim in the outdoor pool and not feel cold.
Tampa was at times both a beautiful city with lots of character and a faceless victim of corporatization. On first landing in Tampa, I went scavanging for food along with some guys I met at the hotel. The city's downtown contained many wonderful and architecturally interesting buildings, but many were vacant, some with boarded up windows and not a soul was to be seen on the streets. The downtown is a weekday show, since it was a Saturday that I arrived, it seemed that everybody had retreated to the comforts of suburbia.
Which isn't to say that Tampa doesn't party. Later that night I headed into Ybor City, which is a part of the city that still retains influence from it's Spanish heritage. The place is alive with nightclubs and restaurants of all sorts. I stopped in at a small Greek restaurant with absolutely fantastic food and obscenely loud music. As part of the "cultural experience" they had live belly dancers, which was the reason for said music. Not convinced that gyrating bellies went well with the consumption of food, I ducked into the adjoining room. Adjusting to my surroundings, I quickly realized that floor was heavily littered with napkins and broken dishes. Upon further inquiry, I was informed that this was the aftermath of the belly dancers. For all the restaurant's quirks, though, the food was exquisite. As a small token of appreciation I toasted the meal with a parting shot of Ouzo. Feeling perfectly sated, I headed off into the night.
The following day was notable in that it was my first chance to watch a Super Bowl from within the United States. What's the difference? The commercials. In the US you get the product of millions of dollars worth of investment. In Canada you get reruns of budget ads by Canadian Tire repeated every commercial break. With good intentions I set out to go and see myself some Super Bowl commercials.
Things didn't turn out as planned. Watching an hour of football to see a few minutes of commercials didn't seem as worth it when faced with the task. So I spent the first half asleep in my hotel room. The third quarter relaxing in the outdoor pool and the fourth with small glimpses of the game while eating dinner in the lobby.
The following day I had no pressing business matters to attend to, so I spent the better part of it exploring the area surrounding Hyde Park. The area is quite close to the bay and features many upscale and fancy houses, so it was to my delight that I discovered many of them flew the Jolly Roger (The ol' skull and cross bones to ye landlubbers). Although it is possible that actual pirates would lead a lucrative life with nice houses in suburban neighbourhoods, the real reason that so many houses flew pirate flags was the Gasparilla festival, which is celebrated at the end of January every year in Tampa.
Much of the Hyde Park shopping area is a commercially airbrushed version of what an old shopping district should look like. However, just on the outskirts of this area lies a little house turned tea shop and restaurant. I immediatly took to the place and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day sitting on the patio and reading over my script for a church play. Later the proprietor came out and we had a nice chat. It seems she was having trouble competing with the pre-packaged shops around her, but she was in good spirits and I think if people gave it a chance they would grow to love her little place.
After that it was strictly business for me. You know, drinking wine pier side with a live band playing ("networking" on the expense claim). All in all it was good trip, but Winnipeg is home and I'm happy to be back with friends.