MONDAY AND TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11TH AND 12TH, 2017 – NASHVILLE TO NORWAY:
I still can’t believe it has been 16 years since the Twin Towers fell and changed my life forever. A couple who have become my dearest friends — John and Jan Vigiano – lost both their sons (one a fireman and one a policeman) on that horrible day. I love that John can say that he believes more “good” has come from that terrible tragedy than “bad”. There was a time when there was no way I would have considered flying on 9/11, much less flying overseas!
I met the Bellamy Brothers at the airport at 2:30 pm. Howard and David have spent the last few days worrying that they would lose everything to Hurricane Irma. They live near Tampa and could have lost their ranch if the hurricane had continued on the predicted path. To say they were “relieved” is an understatement.
My Skycap who usually checks us in had already left for the day. He called his buddy and told him to take good care of us. He was a nice guy but insisted on checking us in outside instead of taking us inside. Big mistake. He got me checked in and then said there was a “problem” with my booking. He supposedly went inside and got it corrected. Then after checking in Howard and David, he informed me that he couldn’t print boarding passes for anyone! I made him load all the equipment and luggage back on his carts and take us inside so the agent in there could check us in.
We had a few minutes to go into the Lounge before boarding. Delta changed their “rules” and the musicians/crew can’t get in the Lounge with their “Silver” status anymore. And, I’m not allowed to bring in a guest anymore either – even with my 2.5 Million Diamond Medallion Status!
I always get in line early to board so I can get overhead space for my backpack. When I scanned my boarding pass, I was pulled aside and told that my flight had been cancelled and re-issued and when it was re-issued, the flight from Nashville to Detroit was not re-booked! I gave David my backpack and he took it on board for me. I was the last person to board because they had to make lots of phone calls just to get me back on the flight. I told them that I had boarding passes and claim checks for checked bags. They said that after I checked in, someone went into my record and cancelled my flights. It HAD to be the Sky Cap since he was the only one with access.
Flight was short and we landed on time with about 2 ½ hours before the flight to Amsterdam. Howard, David and I went in the Lounge and worked until time to board. It was a completely sold out flight. I watched a bad but funny movie (“How to be a Latin Lover”) while I ate dinner then slept for 3 hours. We landed Amsterdam on time and had about 1 ½ hours before our flight to Sandefjord (TORP – Oslo). The line to go through Immigration was incredibly long and we spent most of our time waiting to get through it.
Flight to Sandefjord left and landed on time and ALL our luggage and equipment made it. Helge was waiting for us with a Sprinter Van and trailer. He’s a super nice guy and will be driving us around Norway for our first 4 shows. Then we have to fly for our last performance in Norway before heading to Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
It was about an hour drive to the hotel and they had our keys waiting for us. Got everyone checked in and went down to have dinner with the guys. They only had 2 main entrees – one was Cod and the other was steak. After getting food poisoning from the Cod in Ireland earlier this year, I couldn’t even “look” at that meal. I never get steak in Europe but it’s never been as good as what we have in the USA. With no other choice, that’s what I had. It was surprisingly good!
Came back to the room to work and it’s after midnight now. We don’t have to be at sound check until 1 pm, so hoping to get up and jog tomorrow morning. It’s not as cold here as we expected but supposed to be in the 40’s tomorrow night!
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH – PERFORMANCE IN SKIEN, NORWAY:
Woke up to find that it is NOT raining as predicted and a little warmer than I anticipated – about 45 degrees at 7 am. I had a quick breakfast with a couple of the guys who had been up since 3:30 am and then went for a run along the waterfront. Very proud of myself for not getting lost! It was a beautiful run in perfect weather and just what I needed to shake off the jet lag.
I received an email from one of my dearest friends – General Robin Rand – and I want to share it with you because it means so much to me. On Labor Day Weekend, I took my grandchildren to NYC and we attended a fundraising event on Long Island. The event was hosted by John Vigiano – my friend who lost both his sons in the Twin Towers – and raised money for the Gary Sinise Foundation. Chely Wright graciously agreed to attend and perform “Bumper of My SUV” and Dave Price did a fantastic job of “emceeing” the evening. Chely and I met John Vigiano and Gary Sinise in June, 2003 on the very first entertainment tour to Iraq. It’s hard to believe it has been 16 years since the twin Towers fell and 14 years since our incredible friendship began. It was wonderful for all of us to be able to reconnect and raise some money for Gary’s organization. Colonel Kyle McClelland was also able to join us. Chely and I share a special bond with him from a visit to his FOB in Iraq in September, 2004. He lost a young soldier the day after our visit and Chely was the last person to hug him. So many incredible memories and “bonds” with people I have met through my tours for the troops overseas. I am truly blessed. Please read this email posted by General Rand on his AFGSC Facebook page:
Thanks to each of you for your service. As I woke up today, I immediately reflected on what I was doing 16 years ago this very day. Then I turned on the TV and caught a few minutes of the “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN. Strange that I could be inspired by two “sports talk” dudes, but their words really grabbed my heart as they spoke about people “who run the wrong way,” particularly on that fateful day 16 years ago when the twin towers and Pentagon were struck by violent extremists who simply resented our American way of life. I wasn’t quite sure where they were headed with this comment about running the wrong way, so I paid close attention. When tragedy hits, fear can overwhelm us and our natural instinct is to run from it. On 9/11, in the midst of total chaos, we had first responders who instead of fleeing from danger, chose to “run the wrong way” right into the mouth of the lion, knowing that death was staring right at them. Rarely has there been more examples of “service before self” than the ones performed by our first responder heroes 16 years ago. Truly that day was the worst of times and the best of times as brave men and women gave their all by “running the wrong way.”
After, I stopped watching Mike and Mike, it dawned on me that I have the honor of serving with Airmen in AFGSC who are always willing to “run the wrong way.” Thank you, Strikers for standing in the gap for my grandchildren. You make our world better.
Please consider making a donation to the Gary Sinise Foundation because they support not only the military but also our first responders!
Okay, back to Norway…since the equipment was already at the venue, we were all just going to walk over for sound check. Only, the building wasn’t exactly where our driver had told it was yesterday when we came into Skien. There was a lot of construction and we were unable to get to where we “thought” it was. I called and Henriette from the venue walked down and rescued us. We were surprised to find that none of our backline had been set up prior to our arrival. Just a little “miscommunication” that we got sorted out quickly and definitely not the fault of the venue. Henriette and Kristina have been wonderful “hosts”. Kristina actually worked with the Bellamys when the performed in Skien 21 years ago!!!
The venue is beautiful and has entertainment booked there on a very regular basis. The catering backstage was exceptional – much more than we anticipated. I stayed long enough to meet everyone and check out the backstage and then went back to the hotel to get in a couple of hours work.
I met Wally and the guys downstairs at 5:30 pm and gave them copies of the set list and then got a “to go” order for dinner from the restaurant. I ran into one of our “guests” for tonight from Sweden – Nils and his wife. We have been talking to each other about the Bellamys performing in Sweden again.
Howard, David and I left for the venue at 7 pm and after a short “meet and greet” with the venue staff and Nils, the performance started on time at 7:30 pm. It was a great show and a “listening” audience which is a nice change in Norway. The Bellamys performed for 90 minutes and got a standing ovation and called back for 3 encores.
The buyer had pizza delivered for everyone to eat after the show and we departed for the hotel at around 9:30 pm.
The good news is Lindsey found someone at AOL who could “unblock” her and I’m getting her emails now. Penny has not been so lucky and I still can’t receive hers.
It’s one am and I’m calling it a day in a few minutes! We have a 1 hour drive to Tonsberg tomorrow and a performance in Notteroy, Norway.