TUESDAY, AUGUST 2ND:
I got up early and hit the little “gym”. At least there were some free weights in there and I was the only one in the room.
Had breakfast and then we “sat around” until 2:30 when we docked in Bergen. But, there was a surprise “highlight” – there was a refinery on the Starboard side right before we reached Bergen!!!!
We took a bus from the ship to the airport and got checked in on time. Short flight from Bergen to Oslo and then another short flight from Oslo to Stockholm. Kjell – my promoter – was there to meet us. We waiting for a couple of hours for one musician to arrive and then we drove to the hotel in Furuvik. Now it’s almost 3 am and I’m still up working. The big group from Nashville and Texas arrives very early tomorrow morning. Guess I’d better try to grab a couple of hours sleep before they get here.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3RD:
Up early for a meeting and then to meet the big group coming in from the U.S. Everyone made it “on time”. Patricia and I rushed downtown on the crazy little bikes that the hotel rents. These are the bright red cycles with tiny front tires and big back tires. Seems you have to pedal twice as much to get anywhere and the seats are definitely HARD. We spent too much time looking at the clothes and had to hurry back to the hotel to get ready for our trip to the Park to “meet” the animals.
I was excited because there is a new “baby” in the park this year. It’s a chimpanzee that they have “rescued”. Her mother died when she was born and the other chimpanzees won’t accept someone else’s baby. So Inge-Marie (who is the awesome lady who takes care of the animals at the Furuvik Park) agreed to take her. A baby must stay on its’ mother’s chest for TWO years. So, Inge-Marie must hold this baby (or strap her on) to her chest twenty-four hours a day –hopefully for only one year instead of two years. Inge-Marie is married and has taught the baby chimp to sleep between them. Her name is Monda and she is beautiful. But she is very “territorial” about her “mother”. When I met Inge-Marie, she gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek but the baby chimp let out this high-pitched screech and tried to grab my hand and bite it. I must have jumped back ten feet and everyone laughed. I also learned that you don’t extend your hand to a chimpanzee with your palm upward. You turn your hand palm down and curl your fingers under and offer your hand. Otherwise, they think you are trying to “take” something.
Everyone got to meet the Orangutans and the bigger chimpanzees – Santimos, Linda, and Penny. They are training Linda to be Monda’s mother and she is doing well. She will “take care” of her for a couple of hours at a time before she pushes her aside. Santimos is the HUGE “leader” and he makes sure everyone knows that. He was screaming and pounding the bars and swinging around the cage. He has the strength of 4 men. He also spit all over our promoter. J Inge-Marie says that they “groom” each other and they also insist on grooming her. They don’t like water, so they can’t be “bathed”. They use their lips and fingers to clean each other. Inge-Marie says it feels great when they groom her – better than any massage.
Linda is very, very smart. If you hand her the set of keys for the locks in the building – approximately 10 keys – she can pick the correct key for each lock every time. We spent a fascinating couple of hours visiting with them and then went to see the boas, pythons, spider monkeys, ring-tailed monkeys (only from the island of Madagascar!) and several other animals. The park is being enlarged and will have a more “natural” atmosphere for the animals living there.
Then we all went to dinner at this wonderful restaurant right on the Baltic Sea. The food is the best I’ve ever had in Sweden. We had an appetizer of shrimp and something on toast then the entrée of three types of grilled fish – flounder, mackerel and salmon. Everyone was commenting on how amazing the food was. Drove back to the hotel and I stayed up until 1 am answering emails.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 4TH
Got up early and rode the bike for one hour. Certainly not as good as jogging but at least I feel better. In only 5 days, I get to see if I can jog again. J
I took the first group over to the park for sound check. For the first time in my 3 year history with the park, they were set up and ready for us. There is a new Stage Manager who is awesome. Dale Watson and group didn’t arrive at the hotel from the airport until around 3 am this morning, so they blew off their 9:30 am sound check. Going to get them over there at around 5 pm for a quick run through.
It has rained a little today and I’m praying it will clear up soon. There won’t be a very good attendance if this weather keeps up.
Everyone made it in today. Last group came in from LA. So, now I have Bobby Flores, Justin Trevino, Stephanie Urbina-Jones, Amber Digby, Augie Meyers, Dale Watson, Little Big Town and Pajama Party (featuring Deborah Allen, Tammy Cochran, and Anita Cochran) here to perform. Whew! It’s a big one and a lot of work before and during. But a really nice group of people which makes all the difference.
The park was PACKED tonight for the shows – Bobby Flores, Jill Johnson (Swedish artist), and Dale Watson. I’ve never seen that many people attend. Jill Johnson is evidently doing “well” because she had nine people on stage and a HUGE tour bus.
After Bobby Flores performed, Patricia and I went over to the restaurant in the park to eat dinner. The menu was in Swedish and the staff didn’t speak much English. We thought we would be “safe” and order pizza – but they were out. Then we tried pasta – but they were out! We slowly worked our way through most of the menu items only to be told they were sold out. Finally we settled on a baked potato and something with chicken in it. When we sat down and tasted it, it was terrible. Pat went to try and find something to put on the baked potato so we could at least it. While she was gone the owner of the park and the production manager came over to sit with me. When the production manager started to sit down, he dropped his tray and the cokes spilled all over me and all over our food. We thanked him for destroying the food because we couldn’t eat it anyway! So, I got an order of pomme frites instead (French fries) and they were edible.
So, here’s another chimpanzee story. Early one morning many years ago, someone forgot to lock the gate to the chimp house and Linda got out. As I mentioned, she is very smart, so when she went out, she locked the door behind her so no one would know she was out. But a worker saw her crossing the park and radioed the owner. Linda saw another worker drive up in a golf cart and when she was little Inge-Marie used to drive her around in the golf cart and she loves to ride. So, she hoped up in the seat beside the worker and just about gave him a heart attack. All the workers are scared of the chimps. He sat frozen in place with his heart pounding out of his chest for about two minutes. When she realized the cart wasn’t going anywhere, she hopped out and ran in a building. The worker radioed the building to see if anyone was working inside. No one answered but someone came back on and told him three of the cleaning crew were inside having their breakfast. He locked the door from the outside and called Inge-Marie. When she got there and went in, she found pretty much the same thing with these men. They were all 3 sitting frozen in place around a table – scared out of their minds. Linda was sitting in a chair at the table, too, and had taken ALL their breakfast food and eaten it. J
Now, the boa that we saw yesterday only eats every 3 weeks. He lives in the water and he sheds his skin and comes to the surface to eat. If you start out feeding them live animals, then that’s all they will eat. Won’t eat dead animals. They feed this particular snake 3 live rabbits every 3 weeks. And you can see him digest them – the entire shape of them. They were having problems with a goat once, so they fed him to the boa. It took about 10 minutes for the snake to kill and eat him and they said you could see the entire shape INCLUDING the horns. YUCK!
In one part of the “snake house”, the snakes are not in cages. I elected NOT to go into that one because I could see them laying on branches that would have been right over my head.
So, I’m at the venue now and Dale is performing. Should get back to the hotel by 1:30 am. Dale and his group have to depart for the airport at 7 am. Short night for them. Then we get up and do it again tomorrow and the next day with different artists.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 5TH:
Rehearsals and sound checks at the venue this morning. Everything ran fairly smoothly except for the fact that there were not enough music stands. But we now have that issue solved. I counted everyone for the trip over and thought we had the entire group. But, when we arrived, we were missing one musician. Our drivers had to go back to the hotel to pick him up. He didn’t get his wakeup call!
Patricia and I planned to ride the little bikes into town so I could purchase a couple of long-sleeve shirts. It is really cold here at night. I rented the bike for the week but when I went outside to unlock it, it was gone! Now you tell me how someone unlocked it when I had the key! The hotel didn’t have any idea what happened. There were 2 more bikes sitting there, but the hotel staff had a hard time finding a key to unlock them. Since I had a very small window on opportunity to ride into town, I was losing my patience. Finally got one of them unlocked and then found that the seat was too high. I couldn’t adjust it, so Patricia went in to get help from the hotel. He came out and started working on it. There’s a little lever that has to be pulled up before you can move the seat. He was pushing and pulling on it and just as I said, “Don’t break it!”, it snapped off! I was truly frustrated by that time. I decided to try to ride it anyway but I tried to keep most of my weight off the seat – which was not fun. Anyway, we made it into town and I found a sweater and some jeans. Had lunch at a restaurant in the little “mall” because they had a guy who spoke English. We had some kind of “chicken kebab”. Kebabs are very popular over here. Only, it’s not a “kebab” as we know it. The meat is on this skewer behind the counter and they slice it off…sort of like a gyro only they serve it with rice and different sauces. It was “edible” but that’s about all I can say about it. Not as bad as last night’s adventure.
I left Patricia downtown because I needed to go back and work. We had parked our bikes side by side and locked them with our individual locks. When I went to unlock mine, it was locked to hers! I had no idea what I was going to do, because she had already walked off and my key didn’t work in the lock. Then I noticed that the bikes were from the Scandic Hotel but they weren’t the correct numbers. (One of them was the one I thought I had rented for the week, though!). Walked a little bit farther down and found mine. Easy ride back to the hotel, only a bird “got” my shirt on the ride back.
Patricia had much worse luck. She got confused on the directions (neither of us have ANY sense of direction) and couldn’t find the hotel. She finally had to stop and ask someone for directions. Then it started raining on her. Big adventures for both of us today. LOL!
Volvo is a sponsor of this year’s event and they gave the promoter beautiful “SUV’s” that are totally “non-functional” for our needs. They have these little fold up seats in the back and there’s no leg room for anyone to sit in them. So instead of being able to transport 5 people and the driver, they will only hold 3 people and the driver. It has been quite a challenge to get everyone where they need to be on time. But, tonight, I had to act as “driver”. The vehicle drives like a dream but I had to stay really close to the other driver or I would have been LOST forever in Sweden.
We had a fabulous show tonight with Amber Digby (very traditional country), Augie Meyers (what a SHOWMAN!), and Little Big Town (all the young folks LOVED them). Crowd was not as big as last night, but it was still a “good” one. Going to try and get in bed before 3 am!
SATURDAY, AUGUST 6TH:
There is a “chain lock” on my door and this morning, it got stuck in the track and I could not get it open. I could open the door about 3 inches and see out in the hallway. I yelled to see the maids were out there but it was way too early. I finally took one of my hoes and was able to “dislodge” it and get the door open!
Another early morning start with Pajama Party (Deborah Allen, Anita Cochran, and Tammy Cochran) sound checking first while Stephanie Urbina-Jones and Justin Trevino rehearsed with the musicians. I had to leave the park and go take care of some business with the festivals coming up next weekend.
We took all the Pajama Party girls and musicians out to the park to meet Ange-Marie and the chimps this afternoon. I went again because I LOVE seeing them and listening to Ange-Marie’s stories. Little Manda is extremely “wary” of me. She still thinks I’m going to “take her mama” and keeps her eyes on me constantly. This group enjoyed the visit as much as the one earlier this week.
The skies have been dark all day and rain was predicted. But so far, it has not rained. I don’t think there are as many people in the park because of the weather though.
Justin goes on first, then Stephanie and we conclude the festival with Pajama Party. The drummer is 50 years old today so we had a birthday cake as a surprise for him. Actually we had two cakes with candles all over both of them. Only, we lit them too early and they were burning down too quickly. The entire cake caught on fire when we took it on stage to him.
It was a great ending for the festival. Only disappointment was the rain that started right after Justin Trevino performed. It was intermittent throughout the evening but we still kept a fairly large crowd of people.
Only one casualty – one of the young artists had too much to drink. But he was a nice, quiet, funny drunk. He just went upstairs and passed out. Took us a while to get him down the stairs and sober enough that he could ride the 30 minutes back to the hotel.
Overall, it was a great festival and we have a “planning” meeting before I leave tomorrow to go over everything. It’s always sort of a let-down when the event is over after working on it for a year.
Most people did not go to bed last night and were in the lobby ready to go at 5 am. Didn’t have any phone calls from the airport, so hopefully everything departed on time. I’m off to Stockholm this afternoon for a couple of days sightseeing with Patricia. Then off to Denmark, Germany and Holland for more festivals.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 7TH:
I went to bed for 4 hours after I got the group off to the airport. Then had a meeting with my promoters to go over this year’s event. Always better to do that RIGHT after the event is over while everything is fresh in our minds. Lots of suggestions for 2006.
Olle (the Production Manager for the event) drove me and Patricia from Furuvik to Stockholm. Our hotel is actually “IN” the airport. Kind of strange but we can’t hear any airplanes taking off or landing. We took the express train (less than 20 minutes) from the airport to downtown Stockholm. We walked down to Old Town and looked around then had dinner at an Italian restaurant. Ordered our food and waited and waited and waited….they didn’t even bring us any water. We finally had to ask for water and bread. Then we waited and waited and waited. I finally flagged down a waitress and asked what was going on. She went into the kitchen and came back out and said our order had been “misplaced”. The food finally came and it was just “okay”. AND, the restaurant didn’t offer any compensation for their mistake. Won’t be eating there again.
We got lost walking back to the hotel and had to stop and ask directions several times. Then we got lost in the train station! Patricia has the same sense of direction as I do – NONE.
I got into bed by 12:30 am and was absolutely exhausted from working the festival. I was sleeping so hard when my cell phone rang at 1 am. It was an F16 pilot buddy of mine calling from D.C. just to chat He didn’t realize I was in Europe because he recently changed jobs and his email address changed and he wasn’t getting my road kill reports. After we hung up, I went back to sleep immediately and then at 2:30 am, the cell phone rang again. This time it was a man and he said “Where are you”. I replied Stockholm. We had a horrible connection. He kept asking the same question over and over and I kept replying STOCKHOLM. I thought it was my pilot buddy calling again but wasn’t sure. I finally just had to hang up because he kept asking the same question over and over again!
MONDAY, AUGUST 8TH:
Got up and went to the gym in the hotel/airport and it is fabulous. Worked out for an hour and could have easily worked out for two hours. I feel 100% better after getting in a REAL workout.
We took the train into town and then took the water boat around Stockholm. Got off at the Vasa Museum to see this Viking ship that they had recovered from the bottom of the Sea. It was truly amazing. Just like something out of a fairy tale. Of course, we got lost just trying to find the entrance.
Took the water boat around to the shopping street and spent about 4 hours shopping. Would have shopped a lot more, but the stores close at 7 pm. L I talked Pat into buying some clothes that are nor normally her “style” but they look great on her. She dresses very conservatively and I got her into some really hip things.
We found a great restaurant in the basement of a building but the service was just as bad as last night’s. This restaurant was in Old Town, too. Someone told us that they treat the tourists badly and cater to the locals.
Came back to the hotel on the Express Train. Last night, we got really lost in the airport terminal just trying to find our hotel. We got specific directions this time on where to get off…and we STILL got lost!
Going to bed soon,