April 8, 2009
DETAINED AND DEPORTED
When we last left our hero, he was checking out of the hospital and trying to figure out what’s going on in his brain…
Fast-forward a week and I have to head to Europe to oversee a tour with Pharoahe Monch. This tour is 20 days and 11 shows all through Europe and I’m pretty damn excited about going. I’ve spent the last 7 days preparing for the run, getting dates confirmed, hotels, flights and informing the crew, Mela Machinko, DJ Boogie Blind, Showtyme and of course Monch. Coordinating the whole run is my man Peter Jacobsen who has a booking agency called Soulkitchen based in Denmark.
I get a call from Peter about 5 days out informing me that the Manchester promoter disappeared, never sent the 1st half payment and didn’t get the work visas for the show. Now, anyone who has ever worked in the UK knows that they are very adamant that you have a work visa to do any shows. Of course we already purchased the flights way in advance to get the best price so I have to figure out if British Airways will change our tickets to go directly to Zurich, which is where the next show is happening. The airline informs me that we can’t change the ticket and if we miss any leg of the flight the entire reservation will be canceled. Ok, so we have to go through Manchester, no problem. I call Peter and he tells me to let the customs agent know that the show has been canceled and that we are just following our reservation as instructed by BA.
We get to JFK and my man Paul who does sound and is handling merchandising duties for us accompanies us to the airport and remembers that his Aunt works for BA. He finds her and hooks us up to go to the executive lounge. If you know our crew we are not a quiet bunch to say the least. And when Mela and I get going we can be awfully loud, much to Pharoahe’s chagrin. So we’re eating good, drinking good and all around having a good time and I get called to the front desk and find out that Paul’s aunt got us upgraded to business class. This is shaping up to be a good trip.
If you’ve never flown business class on a transatlantic flight, you have no idea what you’ve been missing. There aren’t too many places where the difference between the haves and the have not’s is so super evident. I meant the seats turn into beds. You have a regular plug for your computer and a USB plug for your iphone. You get a greater choice for food and as many drinks as you want. The headphones are better than my Sony’s. You get the point, it’s really messed up how they treat you in coach, but when you’re in business class you really enjoy it, I can only imagine 1st class.
So we arrive in London’s Heathrow airport to connect to our flight to Manchester and lay up there until our flight from Manchester, to London and then to Zurich. I explain to the crew that we don’t have Visas and we are only here for promotion. Mela gets to the custom agent first and tells them we are going to Manchester to do a promo gig. The agent asks about Visas and I go to the front of the line and explain that the show was canceled and that we were going because of our tickets and that we may do a song or two but it would be strictly promotional and we were making no money. She informed us that she would need to speak to her superior and told us to wait. Cool, no problem, all is well right? Wrong!!! She comes back with a bunch more questions, goes back again and this happens two or three times. She finally comes and shows me that she googled the show and Pharoahe Monch and according to the internet we still had a show and they were still selling tickets. I said surely you can’t be serious about getting viable current information from the internet. We shouldn’t be responsible for what some promoter puts on the net. She said it was enough to hold us and she was going to speak again to her superior to decide what to do. So now it’s on. I know that law and the procedure for this is to send the violating party back to the port of entry, JFK for us. Boy would that suck!!! And I know they wouldn’t fly us back business class. I spent the next hour imaging the look on our faces flying back cause we were denied entry to the funky ass UK where we didn’t even have a show. So 3 hours into this ordeal we have missed our flight to Manchester, there goes our reservation and I’m in communication with Peter who has landed in Gatwick (another airport in London) and is now making his way over to Heathrow to see if maybe being a white man would help our circumstances. Come talk to your people Peter. She finally comes out and informs me that we would be denied entry to the country and they are going to process the red tape. Now my crew is very well traveled and much less than demure so everyone has an argument and something to say. I’m trying to chill everyone out cause I have hope that there is another solution other than heading home. Another supervisor comes out and offers us coffee and orange juice. Another agent asks what’s happening, just being nosey, no help.
They bring us back one by one and ask the story again. They put me in a holding area but make sure to stress that we are not under arrest. In the room with me are three very suspicious looking men of Arab decent. I realize that I’m just as fucked up as the white man for my thoughts cause I’ve already pegged them as guilty of something. I shake that shit off and get my pro black radical mindset back. These are my Arab brothers and the system is fucked. I flash them the fist and they nod (probably thinking I’m crazy). Boogie Blind and Show come in next and by the look on Blind’s face I know he spazzed out on the agent. Boogie Blind is the sweetest guy in the world until he’s not. When he feels he’s being dissed he snaps and often times it’s a false impression that gets him to snap but it’s very difficult to bring him back. Very Harlem. I’m not worried that our chances of getting out of this are slim to none. The rest of the crew comes in and they feed us very bad food, we’ve been photographed and frisked and are now all together in the holding area. The Arabs have been released and an African gentleman and two women are in there with us. There are pillows and blankets and Mela and Pharoahe decide to sleep. Showtyme is tweaking cause he’s a weed head and needs his medicine. I’m just stressed. They call me to fingerprint me, and I go back to talk to the woman and she says that she’s trying to work something out other than sending us home. Thank God. When I get back to the holding room I realize there is a TV and I see that Barack Obama just arrived in London for the G-20 conference and there are protest in the streets. Now I know why they are being extra tight. So they take my phone because it has a camera on it and they give me the phone number to the holding area. They also give the number to the African dude cause he’s hovering around the phone and we’re both waiting for calls. Every time the phone rings he’s racing me for it and every time it’s for me. He looks like he wants to phone check me but I’m rolling too deep. So they fingerprint the rest of the crew and after 9 hours they inform us that they are going to put us on the 4pm flight to Zurich since they checked with the Swiss government and they don’t require visas for US citizens. The UK wanted to make sure we wouldn’t be sent back to them. They then get two agents to escort us to the gate and skip all the lines and put us on the plane first and give our passports to the flight crew, not to be returned to us until we land in Zurich. We land and get our passports and then on with the tour…thank you Switzerland. Now I just wonder how we’re getting home….