ROAD KILL: DAY ONE AND TWO (FEBRUARY 9-10)
Off to Japan and Korea with Chely Wright. No problems at the Nashville airport except for this nice gentleman who insisted upon trying to convert Chely to Catholicism while we were waiting to board! She’s been crossing herself a lot lately, so he may have succeeded. He felt compelled to bring her his “resume” once we boarded the flight. She was sitting in the window seat across the aisle from me. He leaned across the aisle seat passenger to give her his resume and deliver his little “speech”. Since he was a very tall man, I was treated to his rear end in my face while he “preached” to her. Landed in Detroit and since Chely just recently had surgery on her sinuses (or is it sinii – sinai – whatever!), she has to put salt in her palm, mix it with water, and “snort” it up her nose 3 times a day. She went in the ladies room in the Northwest World Club and made sure no one was in there before she began the procedure. Just as she got the first “snort” going, two elderly ladies walked in and were horrified. Think they thought they had caught her snorting cocaine. She said they made some kind of comment when they left about “what a shame”…. I have an interesting “seat mate” on this long flight to Osaka. A man who has never flown business class before! Didn’t know about the little slippers and toiletry kit, no clue about “menus” and an armrest video monitor. I’ve had to walk him through each new and exciting experience. He’s from Venezuela and speaks with a pretty heavy accent. Keeps telling me how much he likes my accent (ha – like I have a southern accent?) …also talks all the time. But his conversation is “peppered with”, “Now just tell me to shut up if I talk too much”! We’re getting close to that stage. After a 14 hour flight from Detroit to Osaka where thankfully I was able to sleep due to my lack of sleep for the past two weeks, we loaded all the luggage and equipment on a bus and we too the bullet train to Iwakuni. No lost pieces except the bus driver didn’t quite understand that he would be returning to Iwakuni with NO passengers. So he waited at the airport for us to return for 2 hours. Now, I’m up waiting for our luggage to arrive at around 1:30 AM. Chely’s brother is a marine stationed in Arizona. The marine base in Japan made arrangements with him so that he could be flown in for Chely’s show as a surprise to her. When we walked out of Customs into the arrival area at the airport, Chely was talking 90 miles an hour, then looks up and sees her brother, Chris, standing there. She was so shocked it rendered her speechless (an amazing feat) and she started crying. They also forgot to turn on my telephone so I can send email from my room. Hopefully, this will be corrected by 9 am tomorrow.
ROAD KILL: DAY THREE (FEBRUARY 11TH) Waited all night for the luggage and gear to arrive. Nothing. It is snowing here and they think that the bus can’t get over the mountain! Should be interesting since we’ve all now been in the same clothes for 3 days. I had this brilliant idea at 4 am that since there is a laundry right here on my floor, I could wash my clothes and they would be dry by the time I needed to be ready. But, of course, I was wearing clothes that cannot be put in the dryer. And, I also realized that I had nothing else to put on while these were washing — except two very large, fluffy bath towels! So I opted for just the shower and dirty clothes. Just found out that the bus actually arrived this morning at 2 am, but the drivers were “tired” and did not want to stop by our hotel. So they locked the bus up in the Motor Pool and went to bed. At 9 am this morning, they were still sleeping. Never mind that I stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG waiting for them. Then right before we found out that they were on base, one of Chely’s musicians heard that a bus coming from Osaka had slid off the road, crashed, and burned completely up! The broadcast was in Japanese, so all he heard was “Osaka”, “Americans”, and “burned”. We all thought it was out bus with all our clothes and the band instruments. So, we got our clothes, got our showers, and I got moved to a suite that supposedly had internet access. NOT! I was waiting in the hall outside Chely’s door and these little Japanese maids came running up with base papers that had Chely’s photo in it and a pen for me to “sign” my photo. Of course, that was the ultimate compliment until I made them understand that it was not me. Then Chely comes out and they start their “ohhing and ahhing” and finally one looks at me and says “mother?”. The ultimate “put me in my place” statement – from 31 year old star to mother of the star. We left for sightseeing in Hiroshima with strict instructions that my phone line was to be working by the time I returned. Hiroshima was very “memorable” is I guess the best description. We went to the Peace Museum and we were the only Americans there. It was a very educational experience to say the least. There is not mention of Pearl Harbor and we had to remind ourselves why we could justify such mass destruction and loss of human life. Attaching a photo of us in front of the “dome” which one of the only buildings that is still standing as it was right after the bombing. Got back to the hotel and of course, my internet was still not working. After dozens of phone calls which turned into threats, I do believe I’m on line. We have dinner with the Commander and some other base VIP’s tonight. Then it’s off to the gym since we didn’t have workout clothes this morning. It’s been snowing off and on all day, but truly beautiful here.
ROAD KILL: DAY FOUR (FEBRUARY 12TH) Went to bed way too early – 10:30 pm, but just could not stay away. Woke up at 3:30 am and started answering email. Had a workout (finally!) at the incredible gym. Best part about staying on a military base is the workout facilities. Chely has an hour of interviews, sound check, then an autograph session and judges a “kiss lips” contest for Valentine’s Day today. Show tonight with Charlie Nagatani and the Cannonballs opening. Charlie is my promoter from the Japan concerts and to quote him, “he’s exciting now” to be opening for “Chery”! The show was great but it was freezing. It was in a huge hangar and they had heaters that didn’t come close to warming the place. But, the crowd had been drinking heavily and probably didn’t notice. Chely signed autographs for over an hour afterwards. Her merch sales guy (who is new, this was his first gig) was a little “excited” and trying a bit too hard. He came around behind her chair where she was signing to get a t-shirt. In his haste to get back to his post, he tripped over her chair leg and almost went face down, but in the process he knocked Chely completely out of her chair. It was pretty funny because he never even looked back or knew what he had done. Tomorrow we fly to Korea. Going to be a long, fun day. http://www.cybermedia2000.com/japan
ROAD KILL (DAY 5, FEBRUARY 13TH): Everyone at the show last night had a LOT to drink. One guy asked Chely to autograph a photo to his wife, then couldn’t remember his wife’s name! A Japanese guy put his leg up on the table and asked her to sign his jeans. He kept asking her to write something, but we couldn’t understand him. We finally found an interpreter and he wanted her to write “Occupied by Chely Wright” on his pants! Needless to say, she passed on that opportunity. We bought these huge trays of sushi — off the base, of course – for after the show. Chely and I had one all to ourselves and it had 15 different kinds of sushi, 4 pieces of each and the freshest ginger I’ve ever had. The entire tray only cost $18.00 U.S. We stuffed ourselves until 1 am this morning and still had half of it left over. SHANE, WE NEEDED YOU, BABE! How we hated to throw that away. Our drivers did not show up on time even though I threatened the entertainment director with his life. Then when they did show up, the arrived with two passengers vans and one cargo van. Now, if it took an entire bus to hold the luggage and equipment on the way in, WHY would they even dare to think everything would fit into a cargo van. We did make it to the airport on time and got everything checked in. Chely got stopped going through security to the dates because she had a razor in her carry on. I had to go all the way back out to the check-in counter and “check –in” her razor! We flew Asiana Airlines and the food was horrible. The flight attendant was passing out the rolls and one dropped out of her basket and went rolling down the aisle. She was Japanese and horrified by her mistake so she chased it as far as the curtain between first and coach, then let it go. I thought, “oh great, coach class thinks we’re throwing rolls their way!”. My seat had a “lumbar” control, but it was broken and the entire bottom of the seat stuck out and pressed against my lower back. Could NOT get it to go back in, so I had to fly for an hour and a half with my back arched. I don’t think I’ll ever walk totally upright again. Arived Seoul and learned that we are being the VIP treatment. Have our own Captain from Protocol who will escort us everywhere. A really nice guy who has done his “homework” on Chely. Went to get our photo id’s made and it took 4 tries on mine. They take your photo and then print out an id card. My first one said that I was a “male”. The second one said that I had “blue eyes”. The third one was someone elses information totally with my photo on it. The fourth one wouldn’t print out at all. Each time they messed up, the they to take the photo again and each time, the photo got progressively worse. The one on my card is so bad I’m ashamed to let anyone look at it. Had dinner with the MWR folks and a really nice Colonel and his wife that we made friends with on Chely’s last trip to Korea. Then we went to the hotel to check in and everything was screwed up. We had all asked for non-smoking rooms and they only gave 7 people smoking rooms. The hotel insisted that they did not have any more non-smoking rooms. I was trying to get Chely into a non-smoking room and it took a while. The longer I stood at the desk, the more concerned the desk clerk became. Then he starts giving me more non-smoking rooms, one key at a time. I stood there 40 minutes and he came up with 7 non-smoking rooms during that time period. It was pretty strange. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and we’re going to Camp Bonifas at the DMZ. Going to give the guys who never get any entertainment a little acoustic performance from Chely for Valentine’s Day.
ROAD KILL :(DAY SIX – FEBRUARY 14TH – HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY) Stayed up until 2 am answering email! Then up at 6 to work out. Today was “run” day and it’s too cold to go outside. So, I hit the hotel gym and the treadmill. You would not believe some of the machines in this gym. It’s a really nice gym, but they still have those old machines with the belts on them that go around your waist and “shake” the fat off. All these little Korean men were using them and they all had big pot bellies. I just wanted to say, “Look down! Can’t you see it’s not working??”. Anyway, I “sprint” for my cardio so I bump the pace up every minute on the treadmill. Had just gotten to my highest speed and bumped it up to 6.5 miles per minute. The machine went crazy and got stuck at Mach Speed. Almost threw me across the room. Little Koreans were running around everywhere trying to get it turned off. They finally pulled the plug on it! The hotel rooms are certainly interesting. They come equipped with a rope on a reel that is anchored to the floor by the window. So you can jump out the window on the rope if there is a fire. And, smoke masks and flashlights. The bathtub/shower has a ceiling to floor glass window with a shade that pulls down. My thought is — who would ever open the shade and stand in the window to shower? So far only, one person has a bathroom with an “attacking shower wand”. I think it’s because there is just not a lot of water pressure here. We flew up to the DMZ today in Blackhawk helicopters. For some of Chely’s band members, it was their first Blackhawk ride. Chely said she wanted a smooth ride and no tricks, so me and everyone else who didn’t want to be dropped out of the sky got in her helicopter. About halfway through the ride, she sold us out. The pilots dropped the helicopter out of the sky and started their little “tricks” like almost turning flips. Now, keep in mind that exactly one month ago, my daughter had to sedate me to get me to ride the little ferris wheel in the Toys ‘R Us store in New York City. I DO NOT LIKE TO FLY AND ESPECIALLY NOT UPSIDE DOWN! Poor Joe (Chely’s road manager) had the misfortune of sitting next to me. I had his arm gripped so tight, that he hand started turning gray from lack of circulation. Managed to only scream really loudly twice, though. The pilot had the nerve to come on the headsets and say “Are you doing okay, Chely?” Excuse me, there were other people on that chopper besides “the star” who were dying! Chely enjoyed herself tremendously at my expense and I had to remind her that “paybacks are hell”! Having said that, Lt. Colonel Robert Harvey, this is addressed to you: Chely loved the helicopter ride SOOOO much, that she wants you to try and top it in the F-16. Pull as many G’s as quickly and as often as possible. She can’t wait for the thrill ride of her like. Thank you, sir. The visit to the DMZ was, as always, enlightening and uplifting. The soldiers up there can’t leave to come into town and are always so appreciative when the artists visit them. After our tour and photos with the ROK soldiers, Chely did an acoustic set and signed autographs at Camp Bonifas and Camp Greaves. A soldier brought a harmonica and got up and played with the guys. Chely also received a cap from the DMZ with her name embroidered on it. It was a wonderful day for everyone (except for the helicopter ride). Having protocol officers assigned to us makes a world of difference. And we got two of the best. Attached is a photo of me and Chely BEFORE she sold me out. Photos are also on the web at: http://www.cybermedia2000.com/japan http://www.cybermedia2000.com/korea
Had dinner at the club on base and celebrated “Valentine’s Day”. Plan is to go to bed before midnight which is 9 am in Nashville – when all the emails start pouring in and I feel obligated to stay up and answer them. Jude
ROAD KILL: (DAY SEVEN – FEBRUARY 15TH) It was top secret at home, but it’s in all the papers over here, so now I can mention that President Bush is headed our way. He’ll be here on the 19th-21st. When we landed at the DMZ yesterday, there were choppers everywhere “advancing his visit”. Should be very interesting. Stress level with the higher-ups is pretty high right now. My visits to the gym have become my daily entertainment. First of all, I can’t work out in long pants and the hotel is across the parking lot from the health club. So I put on shorts and sprint from the hotel to the gym. The door men are always so ashamed! Then, there are absolutely NO women in this gym. It’s the kind where the locals pay a fee and work out there. I’ve seen the same men there for 4 years now. After you sign in at the desk, you walk down a hallway to the actual workout room, right past an open doorway with urinals all along the wall! The machine with the vibrating belt continues to fascinate me. This morning a man started out with it around his ankle, moved up to the stomach and finished with it around his neck. It was popping him so hard I was convinced it would snap his neck. Then there was this one guy who was jogging around the track but had his arms going like he was swimming — big huge circles. And, they lay on the floor and pound on their stomachs with their fists as hard as they can. Yesterday, I caught a guy swinging a golf club out of the corner of my eye. Might be why I almost had the train-wreck on the treadmill. Couldn’t believe he was working out with a golf club. This morning a guy was hanging upside down on the slant board, pounding his stomach and then rubbing his head. I suppose the are just as interested in my contortions as well. I can get in some pretty interesting positions in my fight to scare cellulite away from my hips and abs. Chely taught me one years ago that is great for the butt but you have to get down on all fours and put the weight behind your knee. The you raise you leg up and hold it. Get lots of stares off that one. And I’m sure they are wondering why I am watching tv while I’m on the stairmaster when the only word I know in Korean is “thank you”. One thing that really bothers me in this part of the world is that everyone calls me “Mister” and “sir”. Even though I am standing right in front of the person speaking, they use the masculine form of address. This morning the little Korean man who is, I suppose, the director of the health club comes running over to me as soon as I arrive and says, “Good Morning, Sir”. Then he stands there and smiles for a couple of minutes like I’m supposed to congratulate him on something. What I really want to do is rip open my shirt and say, “Do your ‘sirs’ in Korea have hooters like this?”. Sorry. (Jenny, that one was for you!) A word of warning to any of you reading this who might be traveling to this part of the world. Do NOT use the little disposable razors provided in your hotel room. I don’t think I’m going to need stitches, but a transfusion might be forthcoming. Chely ordered room service last night and since she is a vegetarian, her meals are always a challenge. Says she ordered shrimp fried rice but when they brought, there was a bowl of rice, a bowl of radishes, a bowl of something unidentifiable, and skewers with grilled shrimp and vegetables. All good except the rice had chicken in it. She called the restaurant who could not determine what she wanted and passed her to the front desk. She said she talked with no less than 12 people, finally just giving up and telling them to forget it, she was going to bed. But, they insisted upon coming to her room to try and figure out what she wanted. Several people showed up to work things out and as they left her room, they would say, “You have a good time”! She never got the plain rice…. Off to take Chely to see a chiropractor this morning, then our first show in Korea tonight. Well, Chely got her adjustment but the “gown” she had to put on was hysterical. Got a good shot of her in her wardrobe. Thinking maybe she should add this to her show clothes. We didn’t have time to come back to the hotel after sound check, so Chely had to take all her clothes with her. She was already running late getting dressed, when her road manager (Joe) and her monitor engineer (Earl) come flying out of her dressing room looking for me. They are both stuttering, “She needs a woman. Judy, she needs a woman”. Then Joe mutters something about “I only have black socks”. Seems Chely forgot her black bra and was in a panic as to what to do. Both, those two were a lot of help. Guess Joe was going to offer his socks to “duck tape” around her. Didn’t have time to go back to the hotel, so I grabbed an MP and we headed for the base exchange. I didn’t tell him exactly what she needed only that it was an emergency. I expected him to drop me off out front and wait for me. But, no, he came in with me and stood over my shoulder the entire time I was bra shopping. Then the line to check out was incredibly long and I just told him we could not wait. So, he bumped me up in front of everyone, got me checked out and we raced back to the show. I commented to him that this was one he could tell his grandchildren and he responded, “No disrespect mam, but they’d never believe it”. Chely did a radio interview today and right in the middle of it, a soldier walks in and makes a loud, rude comment. I saw her give him the “eye” but she didn’t say anything. Then the DJ interviewing her told her the guy who had made the comment was often told that he looked like Brad Paisley and wanted Chely’s opinion. Chely responded – on air – that yes, his ears stuck out just like Brad’s. The guy turned so red. Boy, did she ever “zing” him back. Great show tonight with a good sound system and big crowd. She signed autographs for more than an hour afterwards. We got her a meal to go after the show and her road manager had requested a tomato and cucumber sandwich. She just called me and said she got a bag of bread, sliced tomatoes, PICKLES, and lettuce. No dressing of any kind. Love those Korean chefs. Tomorrow we go to Camp Humphreys but we get to stop and shop in Osan first. Chely and I have been drooling every time we drive through Itaewon but we haven’t gotten to shop at all. Jude
ROAD KILL (DAY 8TH – FEBRUARY 16TH) It has been the most awesome day! We left to go shopping in Osan at 9 am. But, last night, I had emailed my friend who handled Dick Cheney’s campaign and now works with the administration. He put me in touch with the advance person for Bush who is already here in Seoul. I called and left him a message and he called me back immediately. He is delighted that Chely can perform at Bush’s rally with the troops on the 21st. (Thank you, Jay. You da man!) So, on the 20th, Chely takes an F-16 ride, has dinner with the troops and then we fly from Kunsan to Osan that night. She has a 6 am call time the next morning which means she has to get up at 2:45 am. (Jolie, sound familiar?) There is entertainment for the troops from 7:00 until 8:00. Bush arrives at 8 am and departs at 8:30 am. Then we fly back to Kunsan so she can do the show that night. It is going to be so awesome. We did some MAJOR retail damage in Osan – numerous “copy” bags, copy watches, coats, a rack for all the coins that we have collected, so much stuff! We had this wonderful man and his wife and their daughter who live there and they escorted us around. She knew ALL the great shops and she could tell if it was a “grade A” copy bag or not. Chely got THE coolest hand made belt buckle specifically for this show. It has the insignia for the 6th Cav where she is playing tonight. He made it in one hour and it only cost her $30! Just as we were finishing up our shopping, Protocol got a call that our bus (which was parked on base at Osan) was surrounded by military police with their canines. We returned to the bus and here’s a photo of us being “arrested” (Preston and I was ‘locked together’!) Chely’s fighter pilot was shopping on Osan today, too, and we were looking for each other, but failed to hook up. I called his cell and invited him to her show. Chely called him up on stage and introduced him and got to chat with him for a few minutes after the show. But, he almost missed his intro as he was “lost” and could not find the base. Not a good thing. A figher pilot with no sense of direction! She is REALLY excited about this. An F-16 ride one day and opening for the President of the United States the next day. Life is good. She was so excited about her belt buckle, and she called a guy up out of the audience to read it. Unfortunately, the first 10 or so rows were Air Force guys who had bussed in from Osan instead of the Army guys that she had the belt buckle made for! She thought our Protocol Officer had given her the wrong information on what to put on the belt buckle. So, she calls him up on stage and tells him to “entertain” while she goes back to the dressing room and takes off the belt buckle! He handled it well and as we later found out, she did have the right information. Just some very quiet army folks as opposed to the air force guys from the other base. Tomorrow is the first day of the trip that I will actually get to sleep past 5 am. Jude
ROAD KILL: DAY 9 (FEBRUARY 17TH) Got up and worked out then back to the room to shower get ready to go to Camp Garry Owen for our show. I was typing out the itinerary for the Presidential Visit and had a panic attack. All the band gear goes on the equipment truck each night so we don’t see it again until the next show. We needed to keep the acoustic guitar with us for the performance for Bush. I called Joe (road manager), woke him up, and told him we had screwed up and forgot to keep the guitar and we didn’t have any more shows before the Bush visit. He reminded me that we had a show tonight. Talk about a senior moment. Arrived at the show to find that the base had printed up t-shirts with a photo on them that Chely really dislikes. No matter what photo they had used, they did not have permission to print t-shirts. We had to “confiscate” all the shirts. Camp Garry Owen is in a very remote location. The guys had all been out in the field for a week, some of them coming in just before show time. There are no women at all stationed there and it had been 8 months since a woman had been on their base. They were a wild and rowdy crowd and it was a great show. Chely borrowed a pair of camo pants and black boots and the guys loved it. They played “Reveille” on the bugle to bring her on stage. Her harmonica player from the DMZ acoustic set was there and she brought him up for a couple of songs. There is a part in the show where Chely’s guitar player and pedal steel player do “Amazing Grace” just instrumentally. All the guys took off their hats and stood for the song and I cried like a baby! It was such a moving experience. The MWR rep at Garry Owen is awesome and has been a friend of mine for years. He came over to the DMZ the other day to get an autograph for one of his friends. When we arrived at the base tonight, we learned that he had a heart attack last night and was in the hospital. This is like his 6th heart attack so we’re all praying for his recovery. AFN TV was there and wanted to do an interview with me which I absolutely HATE doing. I took them over to the dressing room while Chely was performing and fumbled my way through it. Hopefully, it will be edited down to a 2 second spot. There was a horrible “latrine” in the building but since it was the only facilities available, I had to use it. I was the only one in the whole building and had the only key to it. The bathroom door jammed and I was locked inside and let me tell you, it was cold in there. I figured they would find my frozen, lifeless body after the show. Had my swiss army knife in my purse and was able to work on the lock and get it open thankfully. Tomorrow is SHOPPING Day in Itaewon. We’re going to be there as soon as the shops open! Jude
ROAD KILL: DAY 10 (FEBRUARY 18TH) When we arrived in Korea, we had a meeting with our production company and they advised that the keyboard we needed could not be provided. They had, however, found a substitute and it was one that we found acceptable. However, when we arrived at the first show, we found that they did not have the correct keyboard. Since the keyboard player has all his sounds programmed into a computer chip that only works in a certain keyboard, this caused a pretty big problem. But, we go through the show and the production company promised to try and find the correct keyboard. Last night when I arrived at the show, I was supposed to pay the sound company. They handed me a full page, type-written letter apologizing about the keyboard. He said that he “lied” to me twice and should be fired! He also had his wife purchase the correct keyboard in the U.S. and ship them to us in Seoul. It is supposed to arrive tomorrow. I could not believe the trouble they went to in order to make this right. Sure wouldn’t get that kind of service in the U.S. Today was shopping day and it was bitterly cold. Chely and I headed out as soon as the shops opened armed with walkie-talkie’s and cell phones. We did some MAJOR damage, especially with the copy bags. Lt. Col. Hunter’s wife told us where to go to an underground shopping center. We were supposed to go to the bag shop under the stairs and ask to see the “bags behind the door”. We did this, but didn’t see any “door”. The guy turns around, moves a couple of things, and uncovers a secret passage. He motioned for us to enter and we had to bend down to get through the opening. Once inside, he shut the door back and we were in a separate room, but there were no bags in sight. Then, the turns this bookshelf around and there are hundreds of copy bags (the good ones). We got some great deals. I went shopping with Jong Kyun (John Downie’s) wife in the afternoon. She always takes me to where the locals shop underneath the bus terminal. Got a great coat, gloves, boots, 4 pair of jeans, shirts! It was pure heaven. We went in this shoe shop and the manager was a Korean man. He comes up to me and says – in English – “what kind of shoes you want” and slaps me on the rear! Jong Kyun is a tiny little, beautiful Korean woman, and she saw what happened. She tore into him with a stream of Korean words that I’m sure I don’t what to know what they meant! I had only changed $200 to won and I spend every last won. But, I got all that stuff for $200 U.S. I love this town. I was meeting my friends from the USO who are in Seoul for the Ozzy concert for dinner tonight. I had the hotel call me a taxi and tell him to take me to the Hilton. He got lost just driving out of the parking lot and we ended up at an empty swimming pool. (Reminds me of my D.C. experience last year!). He finally gets on the right road but he “speaks” a little English and begins asking me where I’m from. We finally confirm that I am an American! Then he tells me that I am beautiful and asks “number”. I thought he wanted my phone number, but he says “you 40?”. I confirmed that I was definitely “40” and he said he was “32”. Then he tells me that he took music in Middle School and begins singing “Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer true” over and over again. He doesn’t know the words to the entire song and is looking at me for help! Then he drives right past the Hilton Hotel and when I call this to his attention, he says, “Oh I am intercity taxi driver. I don’t know roads for this part of city!”. So, we circled the Hilton a couple of times before he figured out how to turn in. We finally make it to the front door and my fare is 4000 won. I hand him a 10,000 won (which is very, very common in Korea) and he says he doesn’t have any change! A taxi driver without change???? So all I had was 3000 won and he took that and yelled “have a nice time” out the window for as long as he could see me. I know this sounds too wild to be true, but trust me, I could never make up something like this. Got to go to bed so I can get up early and finish shopping tomorrow.
ROAD KILL (DAY 11- FEBRUARY 19TH) Today was supposed to be an “easy” day – finish up shopping, go to Pack and Wrap, then the Post Office to ship everything back. But, today we learned that when the military gets a holiday, they turn it into a 4 day weekend – the 4th day being a training day. So, the main Pack and Wrap and main post office was closed! We did find a small Pack and Wrap with only one man working, so we stood in line for an hour just to get the items boxed up. Then stood in line another half hour at the post office. I had to run down to Itaewan first thing to pick up a bag that I had monogrammed so I could ship it back. Took a taxi and as soon as we pulled up to the main intersection in front of our hotel, this ROK solider van comes barreling through the traffic signal and another taxi comes flying through from the other side. They crashed right in front of my taxi and the ROK van then rammed into a light pole and the taxi went airborne and landed on the sidewalk. I thought we needed to stay as “witnesses” but my driver didn’t speak any English. He just grunted and drove off. We didn’t get ¼ of a mile when a car comes flying around us, runs a red light and crashes into a bus! At that point, I made the taxi driver pull over and I walked the rest of the way to Itaewon. Nice dinner tonight at the Navy Club on base with my USO friends and Captain Nasr from Protocol. It was a relatively sane day. Unlike tomorrow when we fly to Kunsan for Chely’s F-16 ride. She is really excited about this. Just hope we have good weather for her.
ROAD KILL (DAY 12 – FEBRUARY 20TH) What a day! Left Seoul at 7:30 am and drove to the airfield for our flight in a small 16-passenger prop. Weather was absolutely beautiful. It could not have been a better day for flying. Chely was excited but very apprehensive. Landed in Kunsan and went straight to the DV quarters for her to change into her flight suit. She looked great in it. Then over to the flight surgeon for them to check her out. No problems there. Then we went to a briefing by the pilot and other staff people. Chely got a little freaked out by the seriousness of the “ejection” instructions. It was very intense. Got some great photos of her all dressed up in her flight suit and gear. Lt. Col. Harvey was so kind to her and put her totally at ease. We went in the bathroom at the building where she was changing and Chely had to go back in there a second time to blow her nose. She came out and said that someone’s brown wallet was in the toilet. Of course, it was mine – not a wallet – just my business card case with ALL my business cards in there. Fortunately, the toilet water was “clean” when it fell out of my jean pocket and into the toilet bowl. Now I have all the cards laying out to dry in my kitchen. Chely and I are in little “houses”. This base is the Wolf Pack and she’s in the Wolf Den. I’m in the Pup’s Den…. Anyway, I digress. She got suited up and got in the F-16. We drove down to the end of the runway to watch her. They took off right over us and he shot it straight up! Then did a couple of rolls. Everyone figured Chely was throwing up by then. But she actually did great. She flew the plane and did some rolls. She also pulled 7 “g’s” which she was very excited about. And she didn’t throw up once. Said she came close a couple of times, but fought it off. She was up in the air for over an hour – doing tricks! Got some great photos and I won $20 off Preston because he bet me that she would throw up. We had dinner tonight with about 40 people from the base. What a great group of people. I really love coming to this base. I still stay in contact with the former “Wolf” who I just found out tonight is a General instead of a Colonel like he was when I met him. (Hi, Steve!) And, Chely’s pilot – Lt. Colonel Harvey just found out tonight that he’s been promoted to Colonel. (Congratulations again, Ragman!) Chely went to bed at 8:30 pm so she can get up at 1:30 am! I’m not far behind her but I don’t have to get up until 3:30 AM. ANYTHING for the President.
ROAD KILL (DAY 13, 14, 15 – FEBRUARY 21st, 22nd, 23rd) here to begin? I never could log on to the internet in my lodging, so none of my road reports are going out since I can rarely access my address book on a “borrowed” computer. So, these have been the best days of the tour! We flew from Kunsan to Osan in a small C-12. Landed and went straight to the security clearance area. Then we were escorted into a VIP waiting area where we met the top officials from all the various bases throughout Korea. It was very impressive. Next to the stage, where as usual, things were not quite set up properly. After working numerous campaign rallys for Bush, I knew what to expect and we made it work. The sound system was really horrible for anything except speeches. But, Chely sang 3 songs and then we were escorted to a special roped off area where President Bush entered. He had on a camo jacket and I think I held my breath the entire time he was walking past. It was such an awesome moment. Powell was with him as was the First Lady, press secretary, and his usual entourage. I can’t even begin to describe the emotions in that room as President Bush addressed the troops. It was so uplifting and inspirational. It was exactly what our armed forces needed to hear. After the speech we were escorted to another special holding area where we got to meet the President and First Lady and have our photos made. Okay – the highlight of the trip – the President of the United States put his arm around my waist to have our photo made. NOTHING will ever, ever top that one. We actually got to talk to them for about 5 minutes. Then they left and we went backstage again to sign some photos for VIP’s and the PROTUS entourage. Okay, another highlight – one of the secret service agents gave us the White House Presidential Coin. It is sealed in cellophane and it is minted. That one will NEVER come out of it’s wrapping. I check my wallet every few minutes just to make sure I haven’t misplaced it. We rode in a Chevy Camero (sp?) which is the official “chase” car for the U-2 Spy Planes. Fast, fast, fast. It’s what they drive up under the U-2 spy planes as they are landing. Then, we got to fly back to Kunsan with “The Wolf” – Colonel Burt Field. We have met the nicest commanders, colonels, etc., on this trip and everyone has been so kind and gracious to us. But, I have to tell you, THE WOLF RULES. He is so good to his men and so humble. He had dinner with us, came to the show, and stayed until the last autograph was signed and we were ready to depart. He met us the next morning and drove us to the airfield. As we were driving along in his “official Wolf Pack vehicle”, the soldiers would salute him. He would salute and then he would WAVE to them. It was so cool. I had visited Kunsan a few years ago with Danni Leigh and remembered it being the best stop on our trip. Colonel Sergeant was the “Wolf” at that time and he was just as awesome. He got up and went JOGGING with us one morning. How cool is that? (Hey Steve! If I EVER get my email working again I have a message for you from the Wolf Pack!) All of the bases where we have been have gone out of their way to make us feel special, but Kunsan went above and beyond the call of duty. I made life-long friends at that base. Chely’s fighter pilot said that there is a saying that every day in Korea is like 3 days. So I guess we spent a “week” in Kunsan making new friends. At the show, we had a request from a soldier stationed in Osan. He wanted to “surprise” his girlfriend (who was stationed in Kunsan) by proposing to her. I had lunch with all the pilots and was telling them about it. They all thought it was a bad idea because the girl was going to be taken completely by surprise. They thought she might say know. What do fighter pilots know about women anyway? Of course she would say yes! Even if she dumped him after the show, she’d never embarrass him on stage. The whole surprise came off beautifully. She was so surprised and it was a very touching moment. When I got back to my room after the show, my computer had totally crashed. Everything was gone and I couldn’t boot up. Bob (fighter pilot) was kind enough to arrange for someone from base computer operations to look at it for me. They weren’t able to repair it in the short amount of time we had left, but at least they found out that I hadn’t lost everything. Right after the person who came to work on my computer left with the computer, I got a call from someone at Protocol saying they were coming by to work on my computer. I explained that the gentleman had already left with it and almost started an international incident. Protocol went off on the fact that no one else was authorized to work on the computer and I’d better not let them reconfigure it and then asked for the name and information on the person working on it. Once we finally established that this was my personal laptop and NOT a government computer, things calmed down considerably. After we had to leave, Chely’s monitor engineer who is a computer whiz worked on it for me. We have found out that it was a virus that sets itself to activate on the 21st day of every even numbered month! Just my luck. As I’m typing this, I know that I won’t be able to send it until I return to Nashville because I have to reinstall most of my hardware – including my modem. But, at least I didn’t LOSE everything. Captain Nasr (protocol) was kind enough to borrow a Windows 98 CD for Earl to re-boot with and at least I have windows. Practical jokes are pretty rampant on the trip and I got taken the morning we were leaving Kunsan. Bob (the fighter pilot, again) called and told me that he had good news. We were staying in Kunsan again that night because the weather was too bad for us to fly! We would loved to have stayed another night, but we had a show in Camp Carroll scheduled for that evening. Before my panic attack became full blown and I commandeered a bus, he let me off the hook by telling me our plane was going to fly! We flew in a C-12 again to Taegu (3rd largest city in Seoul) and because of the weather, it was incredibly bumpy! I don’t get sick but I do get scared. But, I wasn’t feeling so great that morning (probably because of the wine the night before but that’s another story that’s NOT going in the road report) and I thought I was going to lose it a couple of times. We finally landed, but then we had to take helicopters to Camp Carroll. And, of course, Chely told the pilots to “show us what you can do” and they did. It was certainly a good reminder as to why I don’t drink. After the show at Carroll, we again flew Blackhawks and the C-12 back to Seoul. It was nice to get back into our rooms and have all our “stuff” with us again. It’s now Sunday morning in Seoul and today is our last show. It is so sad, but everyone is ready to go home. We all agreed that it was a good thing that the Kunsan performance was at the end of our tour. It was such a wonderful experience that it would have been hard for any of the other shows to measure up to that one. We fly on helicopters today to a small camp where we will get to ride in tanks and fire some live ammo! Frightening thought – our group with loaded guns. Hope we leave with as many as we brought in. Then we fly up to Camp Casey for our last show. That’s where Ozzy performed 2 nights ago. They said his concert was packed and only 13 people got arrested. How about that — Ozzy was our opening act…. And we DID fly helicopters to the Camps today. Chely offered the pilots $20 if they could make me throw up. They told her they would do it for an autographed cd. But, guess who had the cds???? They certainly gave us a ride. The pilot would fly the helicopter straight at a mountain. I am convinced we came within a few feet of crashing into it. Then he would shoot the chopper straight up in the air to miss hitting the mountain. As soon as he cleared the top of it, he would literally drop the chopped down the other side and then start rolling from side to side in the valley. At one point, he was just rocking the chopper back and forth from side to side. This lasted for about 20 minutes and our merch sales person was “green”. I did NOT throw up, thank you very much but I sure didn’t enjoy the ride. We stopped at an area where the troops are “out in the field”. Rode in a humvee to get to them and humvees do NOT know about the concept of shocks. We got to play on the tanks (Bradleys and something with a lot of numbers in the title that are HUGE). Then we shared an MRE lunch with the guys. We talked to them and found out that they stay out in the field for 4 weeks. And, they don’t even have tents to sleep in. They only have sleeping bags on the ground and it is freezing! A few men get to sleep in their tanks but I think that is even worse. They try to stretch out across a couple of the metal seats to sleep. The show at Camp Casey was awesome – brand new gym and lots of people that I had worked with previously. The place was packed and they were there to party. Chely really scored on the coins, jacket, cap, boots, etc., that they gave her. It was a fun-filled night. The band caught Chely off guard by tricking her on one of her songs. She does this rather long speech geared towards women and how men treat them. Then she starts singing a song to back up her little speech. The band kicked off the intro and when she started to sing the first note, they broke into “Pretty Woman”. The look on her face was priceless. I got “arrested” by a couple of MP’s during the show. We had told one of our protocol officers that we lost a walkie-talkie. (Really hadn’t lost it but knew he would have to pay for it. So he has two MP’s come up and “arrest” me and try to take me in for questioning. I’ve played that trick on people too many times, so I knew better than to fall for it. Sorry Captain Nasr, but nice try? Tomorrow we fly back to Nashville. It has been such a wonderful tour with no major “glitches” to speak of. Everyone wants to come back again which is the highest compliment.
ROAD KILL – DAY 16 (FEBRUARY 24TH) ew from Seoul to Tokyo today and Northwest was kind enough to upgrade 2 of our people to business class on that flight. The flight from Tokyo to Detroit was PACKED and the flight attendants were rude to our guys in coach. Not a pretty story. Then, I forgot that the NEW Detroit airport was scheduled to open today. It is never a good idea to fly through an airport on the opening day. Nothing I could do about it at that point, though. We landed and realized it really wasn’t quite “finished”. Then we waited for an hour and a half for our luggage to come out at baggage claim. Thankfully, we had a 3 hour layover or we would have missed our flight. We had 24 bags total and the skycaps helped us through customs. We tipped them $60 and one guy says “If you want your luggage to get there, it’s going to cost you more than that!”. So we gave them $100 total for just 24 bags. Real ripoff. Then we had to go through security again and it took us another hour to get through there. We just made it to the gate in time to get on the flight (3 Hours from the time we landed!). What a nightmare. We did find an airport official and report the skycap who ripped us off. Landed in Nashville and guess what? Only one bag made the flight. We are missing 23 bags total. Not a great ending to an otherwise fabulous trip. Maybe the bags will come in at 8:30 pm tonight…. ude