A stranger in a strange land

There’s an entirely different world out there.

A world of $50 t-shirts, $6 cheese fries and $12 keychains – where popular culture and commercialism infiltrate every nook and cranny and everything is for sale. This world is ever changing, but for a moment on Saturday night it stopped at the Ford Amphitheatre – the site of the second leg of Kelly Clarkson’s Addicted Tour – and I saw it.

Normally, I wouldn’t admit something like this. But I realized we’re all going to do something in life we don’t want to do, and if you have a girlfriend, you’re going to do a lot of stuff you don’t want to do – but you grin and bear it.

So I loaded up my car and promised myself that later in the evening I would return home and pay penance to my manhood and rev my car engine, pick up a FHM magazine and maybe have a few shots of whiskey.

Little did I know what I was getting into.

As soon as I walked up the stairs to the middle of the Ford Amphitheatre, two police officers were leading away a man whose right side of his face was covered in blood.

There were throngs of crazy, screaming girls. Scads of preteen girls dragged middle-aged fathers to their $75 seats, begging either to see Clarkson or buy her overpriced memorabilia. There were men in thigh-high shorts. Gyrating.

As a further insult to fathers everywhere, a 16 oz. beer cost $7.

But as I lay on the lawn of the amphitheater cursing the moon, I had an epiphany.

I looked across the swarms of people who likely shelled out more than me to come to this concert, and thought to myself, “We aren’t so different, them and me.”

We all long for the diversions of the weekend, and while I may prefer a cold beverage and a football game, these people enjoy an evening with their favorite popular artist. This was their Super Bowl.

After that, I at least tricked myself into having a good time.

I watched my girlfriend dance wildly with her friends over “Since U Been Gone,” despite my issue with the title’s usage of instant-message spelling and its grammatical incorrectness. I didn’t cringe (as much) when I heard 12,000 girls and women sing “Behind These Hazel Eyes” at the top of their lungs and out of tune.

I ignored my girlfriend’s plea for a T-shirt and the fact that Clarkson broke a cardinal rule of concert performing by not doing an encore.

So I was in a relatively good mood when I was leaving the concert.

But as I was walking out, I spotted the dejected face of a man whose daughter was waiting by a bus Clarkson would supposedly leave on sometime that night.

I saw the desperation and sadness in his eyes, but I felt no sympathy for his plight. I was ready to leave this other world. I may have learned to understand it, but I longed for a return to my own world: a land of billiards, sports bars and booze – a land of competition and conquests.

Even though it might take longer for him, that man will return to his world as well.

I like to think a smile went across his face after I walked off. That he thought of his world as he watched his daughter scream for Clarkson.

I like to think he got over the silliness of it all and just took it like a man.

Tony Marquis is a USF alumnus.