WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17TH AND 18TH – NASHVILLE TO KUMAMOTO, JAPAN:
This weekend is the 24th Anniversary of Country Gold in Kumamoto, Japan. I have worked with Charlie Nagatani on this festival since we met in 1988 and had the first event in 1989. It was my “initiation” into the overseas festival world and the beginning of a lifetime friendship.
This year’s event is Rick Trevino, Dale Watson and Georgette Jones. The bass player is from Dale’s band, pedal steel is Georgette’s husband and the remaining musicians are from Rick’s band. We had people flying out of Houston, Austin and Nashville – which always makes me a little nervous.
I got up at 5:30 am and my cell phone rang immediately. Milton (Rick’s manager and keyboardist) was at the airport. He said everyone was there except for one musician and he couldn’t find him. The musician wasn’t answering his cell phone and Milton had his passport so no one could go to the gate. I told him to see if Delta would let him leave the passport at the check-in counter for him but as we were talking, he walked up.
I didn’t have to leave for the airport until 8:15 am so I had plenty of time to shower, dress, help Lindsey get the kids dressed and love on them enough to get me through 6 days without them, and answer emails. My first email was from Jamie (Georgette’s husband) saying he had a message from Delta saying our flight was delayed. I checked and I didn’t have any messages. I called Delta because I was afraid we would misconnect in Detroit if the flight were delayed even longer. I was told that the delay was due to “mechanical” which is NEVER a good sign. There was an earlier flight but it was 7:20 am and the flight left at 8:43 am. I called Jamie and he said they were close enough to be at the airport in 20 minutes. I rushed and got things together (which I HATE to do) and we made it to the airport in time to get on the earlier flight.
Everyone arrived in Detroit and we had about a 3 hour connection. I went to the lounge and answered emails before we boarded the flight. It’s a great aircraft with business class upstairs. Been a long time since I’ve been on one of these planes because we have taken United the last couple of years to Japan due to a support date in China. With this being an election year in China, we decided NOT to risk scheduling a date there. That was a very good decision.
We boarded the plane and it seemed to be taking a very long time. Finally the pilot came on and said they were starting three of the engines with one of the other engines and cargo had to be moved around in order to do that. There was no air conditioning on the plane while they attempted for over an hour to do that.
We finally got underway over an hour late. We have a 2 hour connection in Nagoya but have to pick up all our luggage and clear immigration and customs and then re-check for our next flight. Hope we make up some time in the air!
I watched a movie titled “The Help”. David Bellamy had told me it was really good and he was right. I’m surprised it didn’t get more attention when it was in the theatres because it is one of the best I’ve seen all year.
The airplane has the new configuration with each seat being its own little cubicle. I was able to sleep for about 3 hours and then got up and worked some more.
The flight attendants were really “lame”. After they gave me a bottle of water right after the meal, I never saw them again for the remaining 11 hours. Not one offer of more water or anything else. One lady looked to be about 75 and spoke like she was drugged. Had to lean into her and read her lips to hear what she was saying. Then, about 45 minutes prior to landing we hit turbulence. A flight attendant came on the intercom SCREECHING for everyone to sit down and buckle up and we could not get up again until we landed. It scared most of us so much, we turned around to look at her to see if she was panicked. I thought she was going to tell us to assume the crash position at any minute. Another flight attendant made the next announcement. I assume they restrained the other one somewhere. J They were so “lame” that they didn’t even come by and pick up the empty glasses or tell us to put our seats in the upright position. Very strange!
We landed an hour late and only had 1 ½ hours to make our flight. The reason it took so long to load our plane in Detroit is because we had 38 wheelchair patients on board…. A medical flight in my opinion. As we walked into the jetway, they were all lined up in a row and the attendants were bowing and saying hello to all of us. Quite the welcoming committee.
Milton said that one elderly gentleman apparently suffered from Dementia. He would scream and kick the wall of the plane. He had to be injected and restrained several times. My group thought we were going to be forced to turn the plane around and go back to Detroit.
We had two rather lengthy forms to complete for our arrival in Japan. Penny had put samples in everyone’s itinerary so they could just copy everything. Of course one person didn’t fill his out and I had to wait until he completed it…about a 10 minute process. We were already scared we were going to miss our connection. It took forever for our luggage to come out and forever to process through Immigration – which involved more paperwork, a photo and fingerprints!
We finally made it out of Customs where Shoji was waiting for us. Had to go upstairs and check in all the luggage again and get boarding passes. Then we had to go through security once more and finally to the gate! ANA was helping us move as quickly as possible so that we didn’t miss our fight. We made it on board and the plane was packed. One hour flight to Fukuoka and believe it or not, all our luggage/equipment made it.
Charlie and Seiya plus lots of fans and the TV crew were waiting for us. It was about an hour and a half bus ride to Kumamoto instead of 2 hours. Our room keys, per diem, and Big Mac sandwiches were waiting for us at the hotel.
It’s now 3:15 AM and I am about to pass out after 30+ hours of flying!
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19TH – SIGHTSEEING IN KUMAMOTO:
Okay, so I travel too much. Everyone has let me know that “The Help” was a big success and I am just out of the country too much to know about it. Guess when the only movies I get to see are on airplanes, I don’t really keep up with Oscar nominees. J
Got 2 hours sleep and then got up to go jogging. Made the mistake of looking at email first and never made it out of the room for the jog.
The breakfast buffet had a new item this year….Hormone of Horsemeat! I took a picture and put it on my Facebook page tonight. As many of you know from visiting here…raw horse is the delicacy. Not me, thank you very much.
First on the agenda today was a visit to the Shujenzi Park. It’s a beautiful park with lots of history. We walked around in absolutely perfect weather for about an hour and then had a traditional Japanese lunch. As great as the meal always is, I don’t like sitting on the floor to eat. No surprises there this year though. Everyone shopped for a few minutes and then it was off to the Kumamoto Castle. The castle is an old Shogun Warrior castle with even more history than the park. We finished about 30 minutes earlier than expected and went back to the hotel. I encouraged everyone to take a short nap before we had to go to Charlie’s nightclub for the Welcome Party. I planned to do the same. But, I had been drinking Mio Energy in my water and could not fall asleep. I remembered that I had a bottle of “Dream Water” in my purse (which they never found at security in the airports!) that the shops were giving away in Detroit. It has melatonin in it and is supposed to help you sleep. I drank it and finally fell asleep. NOTICE: do not drink it when you only have about 30 minutes to sleep. I thought I would never get myself woke up. Was able to work for about an hour before we met in the lobby to walk to Charlie’s club.
Charlie performed first and then the Wildwood Roses – a band from Tokyo – played 3 songs. Each of my artists got up and sand 2 songs. Afterwards there was a short interview with NHK TV. That’s the public broadcasting network and they always air a 1 hour special after each event. I left Charlie’s club by 9:30 pm and was back in the room working by 10:00. I stopped on the walk back to get something to eat since I missed dinner. The 7-11 has great sandwiches….very, very fresh. I also found lots of Mickey Mouse Halloween treats for the Z’s there.
Going to try and get in bed by 1 am and get up and jog tomorrow. Weather is supposed to be beautiful again. Tomorrow is sound check at the venue and if it isn’t about to erupt – sightseeing at the Volcano.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20TH – SOUND CHECK DAY AT ASPECTA:
Forgot to mention that we saw several groups of school children yesterday at the castle. They are all so cute in their uniforms. As we were leaving Haydn and I stopped and took photos with them. They always give the “peace sing” to us. I asked in my limited Japanese “Name-wa non desu ka” (What is your name) and they all started shouting their names at me. Then one asked me the same question and I replied “Judy”. There were lots of “oohs and ahhs” and I learned that one of the little girls had the same name. Definitely NOT a usual name for a Japanese girl! One of the adults escorting the group noticed that one of the children was leaving the gated area and heading for the parking lot. She started running as fast as she could after the child. When we caught up with the little boy, it seems he was following Haydn home!
I made it up at 6 am in time to jog this morning. Perfect weather again. And noticed that they are putting a running/walking path right along the river. Now it’s pretty far up above the river but this one runs right along beside it. Going to be really nice!
We left for sound check at 9:30 am and the bus company showed up with a really nice but – that was too small! Today we have to take the Japanese artists with us and they brought a bus with half as many seats. It wasn’t so bad on the way up because we only had one of the bands. But tomorrow, we will have two and it’s not going to be pleasant.
We took the scenic way up the mountain and I forgot that Georgette has a real fear of flights. The road winds up and then back down the mountain. It is a one lane road with two lane traffic and sheer drops on either side. She did pretty good as long as she didn’t “look”. Arrived at the venue at 11 am and sound check/rehearsal lasted until 2 pm. Rene’ was able to get me connected to his wireless which was a tremendous help. Everyone grabbed a quick lunch and then since the volcano was accessible, we headed up there. Again, a very winding steep road that Georgette was not fond of. She was even less happy to learn that the trip to the volcano crater was in a large gondola. She was a sport though and made it up there. It’s amazing to look down into the crater and see a huge lake of boiling green acid! They say Japanese have run down the steep sides of the crater and committed suicide by jumping in. Horrible way to go!
Arrived back at the hotel at 5:30 pm and I walked over to the department store with Georgette to try and find some specific gifts she is looking for. No luck! Maybe she will find them at the airport on Monday.
Eight of us went to Angelo’s (my favorite Italian restaurant in the world – yes, in Japan!). They all agreed with me. Not one person was unhappy with their meal.
Back at the hotel working and want to get in bed by midnight tonight so I can jog again tomorrow.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21ST – SHOW DAY!:
Woke up at 4:30 am and could not go back to sleep. Finally got up and answered email and as soon as it was “light” outside, I went for a really long jog. Weather is absolutely perfect again today.
We arrived at the venue a few minutes after 11 am. Looks like we will have a bigger crowd this year than last year. Artists did interviews with 5 of the local press reps and then signed autographs for an hour. Then it was time to “meet the Governor” and start performing. Both the Governor and the Mayor attended and gave everyone some great gifts.
I forgot to mention yesterday that Milton’s eye looked really bad from where the buckle on his back pack hit him. He was trying to find something locally which is almost impossible. I searched my “medical bag” and found antibiotic eye drops from when I had the tear duct problem last year! So today he has a patch on his eye (with an eyeball drawn on it courtesy of the bass player!) but says it’s feeling much better.
The concert was amazing, as usual. A Japanese country music group – Wildwood Roses – performed after Charlie and the Cannonballs. Then a Japanese bluegrass band – Kentucky Colonels – performed. Dale, Georgette and Rick performed and then everyone went on stage for the finale – You Are My Sunshine!
After the concert, everyone went into the Green Room for a “Kampai” (toast). Then we loaded the bus and drove back to the hotel. We had all planned to go to a sushi bar for dinner but everyone was too tired. Then we “shamed” ourselves into going and I’m glad I did. The sushi was amazing!
I was back at the hotel before 10 pm but still up working and it’s almost midnight. I have to get up at 4:30 am for a 6:30 am departure to the airport, so going to bed soon!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 22ND – FLIGHT HOME TO NASHVILLE:
Pretty short night for everyone. I got up at 4:30 and was in the lobby by 5:30. Bus arrived at about 5:45 and breakfast opened up at 6. Charlie, Toshiko, Renee and Hiromi all came to say good-bye. Seiya and Shoji went to Fukuoka with us.
Check in was pretty hectic. The ANA agent told Jake that his guitar case was overweight by 10 pounds. He said that it wasn’t overweight when he left the U.S. and they didn’t charge him. It would have cost him a lot of money for overweight but Seiya was able to talk them into letting him check it to Nagoya, pick it up there and recheck it with Delta. He thought that Delta might allow him to check it without the overweight cost since it was an international flight at that point.
I wasn’t able to check in online last night because our first flight was on ANA. ANA couldn’t issue our Delta boarding passes, so it meant going to the ticket counter in Nagoya to have those issued. Fortunately, we departed Fukuoka on time and arrived with about 2 hours before our next flight. Of course, they board an hour prior to departure which means we really only had 1 hour.
Delta still wouldn’t allow Jake to check his guitar without an overweight charge. He finally took the guitar out of the hard case, checked the hard case and carried on the guitar in his soft case. Not sure why it weight “more” in Japan than it did in the U.S.!
I was concerned that Jamie was going to have problems with his departure. He had lost his passport about a month prior to our departure and had to have it reissued in the UK since he doesn’t have permanent residency yet. Two days before we departed, he was told that he could not re-enter the U.S. after the trip to Japan because he didn’t have a “visa” stamp. Honestly, I don’t understand any of this but he changed his flight so that he goes to Canada instead of the U.S. But he still has to go through Detroit for the connection. Delta told him he could not depart Nagoya to the U.S. because he needed something else which he had with the passport that was lost. Fortunately, he was able to go to a computer terminal in the airport, apply and pay on-line. Delta issued his boarding passes. Now all we have to worry about is will he make it out of Detroit?
Flight attendants on this flight were great. Wish they could all be like that. We landed on time and all our luggage made it. Jamie didn’t have any problem clearing Immigration and Customs, thank goodness! Flight to Nashville was on one of the small jets – one seat on one side and two on the other…brutal after traveling 24 hours. But, I AM HOME for a while now. J
Waiting on attendance figures for Country Gold but feel sure it will be more than last year. And, because of Facebook, the audience was “younger”. I saw lots more young couples – probably 25-40 years of age. Rick, Dale, Georgette and all the musicians were awesome to work with.