Note: certain names and situations are omitted for the security and/or privacy of the people concerned.
28.11: Be prepared
The $ was much higher than last year, at about 2.30. But I still had enough cash (none of it from Minton) and travellers checks, so it wasn't THAT terrible for me. Only the flight itself was more expensive.
Wednesday 29.11: Lufthansa sucks
I said last year: It seems that each year, plane seats are more cramped, and planes are populated with more obnoxious people (who insist on setting their own seat back so that I have even less space). This applied for this year, too.
My first flight segment was with Lufthansa. Normally I always try to have a look in the first overhead bin and grab a free magazine that is "hidden" there, probably for the business class travellers. This time I was caught by a flight attendant who said that I should not take them. No food was served. I asked why, and they said that Lufthansa no longer serves food on german flights since two years already. I remember a time long ago when Lufthansa offered bags which you could fill yourself with stuff before departing! However this service was quickly discontinued because people filled their bags with gummi bears for their kids and coworkers and the rest of the world.
Because of "computer problems", the airplane didn't land at a terminal, so we had to take a bus after getting off.
The second flight segment had magazines - of the kind I gladly read but never buy. Sadly, it was Lufthansa again. The food was terrible and they wouldn't even serve wine in one of those little bottles, only directly in the plastic glasses. The movie was The Kid, a boring vehicle for Bruce Willis as "tough guy" who meets a "fat loser" kid. I stopped watching after 30 minutes. I was also getting a free show a few seats away. I had noticed before a very nicely dressed, elegant woman. Behind this woman sat a retired german living in the US (I was told this later by another passenger), who had moved to his seat from another one. The woman insisted on setting her own seat back, which bothered the man. At some time they got into a verbal fight and she started cursing. She said, and this is an actual quote: I paid for this fucking seat and stop bothering me, old man! This was getting so disgusting that I left for the restroom. I felt that I didn't want to see whatever would happen now. After returning I was told that I had missed the best: the woman kneed on her seat, her hair coming off her pony tail, and shouted: You silly old man! However she still wasn't able to move back her seat.
The second movie a documentary named Lions in the Serengeti and it was in no way different to all Lions movies I have before: Lions hunting non-lions, and caring for their cubs.
Among the music channels was also a Jazz channel. It did not have Chick Corea.
Immigration was quick, and luggage came quickly too. Customs was also nice and they didn't care that I had mentioned that I was bringing food (german coffee) with me. (A gift for Beverly)
Sadly my GSM phone (Motorola timeport) didn't work in the US. This made me angry because I had paid some extra money for it. The phones of other germans in the immigration line were working. They had fun. Their provider (Deutsche Telekom) had bought VoiceStream (for a ridiculously high price).
The third flight segment was labelled as "20% on time" in my travel plan and it was not one of these 20%. It was delayed because problems of another airliner so I arrived very late in Tampa. I do not know was was older - the flight attendant or the Boeing 727. And I also got another free show, although not one that I would have selected. I noticed a very bad smell. It clearly came from a little old woman on the seat across of me. To make it worse, the woman got up from time to time to pick up things, and moved her giant butt in my direction. I was getting desperate. The only good news is that I didn't have to pay the red wine, it was "on the captain". Finally the plane landed and I was picked up by a friendly scientology critic in a very good car.
Thursday 30.11: A tour of the Lisa McPherson Trust
The day started well because there was a huge breakfast buffet at the hotel. I liked it. For the first time in my life I tried pancakes with maple syrup (I learned later that it wasn't real maple syrup). The hotel has a cook who looks and walks like Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor.
Jeff picked me and Ilse Hruby up to go to downtown and we also had a stop at the Virgin Mary building so that Ilse, who is a catholic, could have a look. She noticed among the flower pots a pot of... basil. Jeff also showed us the scientology staff headquarters near the airport, which had many cameras. And then we went to the Lisa McPherson Trust... The building has been tranformed into a high security fortress. The average "PI hired by attorneys who are hired by scientology attorneys so that his actions are covered by attorney-client privilege" won't be able to open them. The highlight of the tour was a room (nicknamed "Office of Special Affairs") so secret that only one person could enter it at a time, and the room gets locked from the inside while the person is busy. Another room was ever more mysterious. It did not have any name on it, but I saw two girls going there (not at the same time). Although I have learned more about these facilities, I will not elaborate on it, for obvious reasons.
Jeff's license plate
While sitting in the LMT, a woman came in and brought color copies of an article. I thought she looked like Mary DeMoss. I asked others (who were not affiliated with the LMT) who said no. A bit later one person affiliated with the LMT confirmed that it was indeed Mary DeMoss. In the meantime Mary had left the facilities and was standing in front of the door. I mentioned to her that she had looked better on the videos and should definitively make an appointment with her hair stylist. She agreed. I was surprised that Mary DeMoss wasn't running her "What's your crime" program on that day, obviously she was running a different program.
We had lunch at Ottavio's where I chose the red clam fetuccini. The food was very good. After lunch some people ordered a capuccino or an espresso. Sadly these had nothing to do with the "real thing". Here in Germany every café or restaurant or gas station has an espresso machine, but I have been told that it ain't so in Florida.
Because nothing was really happening, I offered to walk Stacy's dog, and then went shopping. I got myself a "Santa" hat and cheap Aspirine.
In the meantime we learned that there was a new injunction against members of the LMT and against scientology, which would restrict picketing from both sides.
On the evening Ilse, Randy, Beverly and me went to Tia's where I had a burrito and two frozen Margeritas. Surprisingly, I was unable to finish the second. The frozen Margeritas at Tia's are really the best. Those I had elsewhere were not as good, or not good at all.
Andrea drove Rod, Ilse and me to downtown. When entering in the parking garage we noticed a suspicious individual with a huge camera. Andrea gave me her camera (mine was in the trunk), I got out and shot a few pictures of a surprised PI. Immediately, more PIs came over and threw blue papers at us and said "you're served". I said "you're littering".
Obviously, the strategy of scientology is to claim that every critic is affiliated with the LMT and therefore covered by the injunction.
We had a picket on the back of the bank building, at the time when the cultists come and go from lunch on Watterson Street (one-way). The cult uses buses that have the doors on the wrong side, so every cultist had to see us and our signs when coming out!
We also went to other places. One sergant asked us to stop and wait until he called his lieutenant. After that the police said that "we can go anywhere" and that the injunction covers only the people named.
Ilse was wearing an pink designer outfit (Versace, Otto Kern, Reebok) that was like torture for the eyes, and a large hat from the 20ies to hide herself from scientology cameras. At some time Jesse Prince mentioned that he likes her hats (she was wearing a new hat each day).
We had Lunch at Schlotzsky's Deli, which was good as always. I then went to the pool, had some sleep, and was woken up by Andrea who said that "someone has brought documents for me". I was very surprised but she wouldn't tell me more. So I went to the hotel bar and saw Tom Padgett. Tom and I have had an argument for several weeks. But there he was offering me papers and - much more important - a Heineken beer. I thought that instead of repeating my allegations I should first read his documents and drink my beer. I did this. While he still didn't have the documents I had asked him for, he told me that he understands me and that yes, it is upsetting that these documents of his case are unavailable and that my questioning shows how important it is to get them. In the meantime I was somehow at my third beer and I realized that I am much nicer when discussing with a real person than with an e-mail where I get easily upset. Andrea made a photograph of us two shaking hands.
The next meeting was at Rogers BBQ, the place where I had that wonderful T-Bone steak last year. Of course I ordered the same, but they had ran out of it, so I ordered a different steak that was also good. I also ordered a "pitcher" (a larger amount) of budweiser beer, in the hope of having enough beer. The server, who was about 100 years old, explained that there is a three-beer-maximum and therefore she would have to write the pitcher on the tab of two people. Bruce Pettycrew agreed and we got it. Of course the beer didn't last very long (we are speaking about american beer, which has almost no alcohol) so I found two volunteers to get another one. The server refused and only brought the two volunteers two plastic (!) mugs of beer. I was sitting near Grady Ward who made hilarious comments about the whole situation (getting the worst of "americana") and the table nearby, which was populated with a "trailer trash" type of family.
The St. Petersburg Times had an article which was rather unbalanced - it did not mention that scientology had also be restrained from picketing.
The saturday was assumed to be the "main day" to picket because of the death of Lisa McPherson. At the side opposite the Ft. Harrison Hotel, I met the writer of the article and mentioned that "something was missing". She smiled and said that three people had already told her. The actual picket went well, many people honked (including Patricia in her new Porsche Boxter, who was told by the cops to stop it). At some time, one person walked in front of the hotel yelling obscenities with cops watching. Almost at the end of the street he was suddenly arrested and immedialy put into a van. I later heard this story: this guy is mentally ill and had intruded into the scientology facilities before. He was sentenced to jail and released on the condition that he would take his medication. The two cops who arrested him were the ones who had arrested him before - they knew their "client". We also heard that another guy was arrested for masturbating nearby.
Ilse was wearing an austrian Dirndl, a traditional clothing, the appropriate shoes, and a hat to hide her face from OSA. It made her very popular.
Some of us had lunch at Emily's. It was as bad as last year. Their "burger" was really just a piece of meat in a bread.
We then went to near the hotel and picked up the flower arrangement.
At 7pm we had the candlelight vigil, which is always much more frequented than the picket. This year, two scientology goons did film us, although Reverend Gregg Hagglund had specifically asked them not to. They also approached the picketers at less than 10 feet, although one of them had been served with a copy of the injunction. Reverend Gregg spoke the prayer of Thomas Gandow. Later he made a sermon in an "irish" style, which was very strong. Ken Dandar (Lisa's attorney) remarked that Scientology had parked two buses near the actual place where Lisa had died, obviously to prevent masses of people to assemble right there.
We had a dinner at Ottavios, where I had food and red wine that somehow went up to my brain. At the end I made lots of photographs with Andrea's digital camera.
I went shopping at the Clearwater mall. Unlike last year, about half of the shops are empty. Apparently the "Countryside mall" is very popular now, so the Clearwater mall will soon becoming a ruin. I went into a gift shop that had a sign "all articles 90% reduced". I did not buy a single object. I wouldn't even take any of these kitch objects if they were free.
My non-shopping spree was done at 5pm where I went back downtown joining an ongoing picket. A bit later the people there had the good idea to all go picketing at Watterson, the place where the buses with the cultists stop. The scientology guards (especially the chief warden cum video doctor Paul Kellerhals) were very irritated. Luckily for them we were getting hungry, so we went to Joe's crab shack for dinner. Luckily for me they have other food than crabs, I had a steak and some colorful frozen margeritas.
Monday 4.12: leaving
I spent the morning watching TV. First, the teletubbies. Apparently the purple one (who is said to be gay) has been redesigned. He is no longer purple and no longer has his handbag. Then the Maury Povich show. The show's topic was "My underage daughter is dating an adult man". In all cases, the adult man was a jobless scumbag whose life purpose seemed to be less to screw the girl, but more having her to provide the family income. I switched over to the "Mars Venus" show with the always gorgeous Cybill Shepherd. Sadly the show was boring, it was just people being polite to each other and agreeing. Then I watched the people's court with Judge Sheindlin. This guy is a complete failure as judge - it was always obvious after less than a minute who would win. His show was more about humiliating whoever was to lose the case, and this is not how I remember the show last year I watched it (with Ed Koch as the Judge).
The flight from Tampa was in a younger airplane (Airbus A320). The second flight segment was not with Lufthansa, and it was in a Boeing 777, with in-seat video displays, which made the trip enjoyable. It was not a Lufthansa flight, and the food was good. The movie choice was either Beautiful or The Perfect Storm. I decided against the second because I assumed it would be heavily censored. Beautiful, with Minnie Driver whom I remember from the movie Sleepers (she played the girlfriend of one of the heroes), is the story of a girl trying to win a beauty contest ("Miss American Miss") against all odds. The movie was funny, Minnie Driver is really nice and I enjoyed it.
The third flight segment was with Lufthansa in an old Airbus A300. Because of "computer problems", check in extended so much that we took off one hour late. Obviously, the Frankfurt ground department of Lufthansa is managed and staffed with incompetent no-brainers. Computer failures do happen and staff should be trained for a manual back-up procedure.
After landing I gave three rolls of film for processing. Most were good, except one unique and otherwise excellent photograph ruined thanks to a prank. Hint: when you are over 10 years old it is immature to sneak behind people getting photographed and raising two fingers.
And I even found a Schlotzsky's in Berlin (Friedrichstrasse / Schützenstrasse). Life is good!
Tilman Hausherr, in December 2000