MONDAY, AUGUST 1ST, 2007:
I can’t believe it. I have “lost” the entire month of July. I can tell I’m getting closer to the date that I go home because of the number of vitamins I have left. J
Lindsey’s and John’s flight was late but I didn’t know it until I had already gotten up at 5:30 am. Oh well. There’s always email to answer. I met them more than an hour later than anticipated and they were really “beat”. They had a baby in the seat behind them that cried the entire flight from Newark to Stockholm! I don’t know how that can happen. I figured they would not want to go into Stockholm because they needed sleep, but they surprised me. We took the express train in and then took the “hop on, hop off” boat cruise that I took a couple of years ago with my friend, Patricia. We didn’t’ have time to go see the incredible Viking War Ship but did go to the Royal Palace and also saw the changing of the guard. Lindsey was fading fast, so we found a little restaurant on the water and had a late lunch. There were these bugs that were everywhere that looked like flying ants. One got in my hair and I couldn’t get it out. I could feel it crawling around. They thought I was imagining it, but I knew better. Tonight there is a big “bite” on my neck where he got me.
We had to be back at the hotel before 6:30 because Harri – one of our drivers – was coming to pick Lindsey up. She took about a one hour nap as soon as we got back. She also fell asleep on the train ride back and I got a great photo of her with her mouth hanging open. Gotta’ love those shots. She is going to another airport to meet Sunny Sweeney and her band. Then they will all go to the hotel at Furuvik tonight. She gets to sleep in tomorrow while John and I get up and meet Connie Smith at the Stockholm airport and then go to Furuvik.
John and I went down and had a horrible dinner of airport food. No other choices unless we want to take the train back into Stockholm! I went to the gym and worked out on a crazy “wave” machine. It was like an elliptical trainer only it moves sideways instead of back and forth. I am convinced that I will not be able to walk tomorrow.
John was up very late sending me emails with photos he took today. That’s what happens when you are young and excited about your first trip out of the country!
THURSDAY, AUGUST 2ND:
Okay, have the right “day” on this one, I think. Jeez! Feeling like our troops – every day is Ground Hog Day.
I was supposed to meet John at 8 am for breakfast. I SHOULD have called him but didn’t, just knocked on his door. He was comatose! Got his wake-up call and went right back to sleep. J We still had time for breakfast because Connie’s flight was a few minutes late. It was an amazingly good breakfast! Harri arrived right on time to pick us up and Connie made it in only a few minutes late — with all her suitcases. It was only about a 1 ½ hour drive to the hotel. Kjell and Thomas were waiting for us at the hotel as was Lindsey. We got all the rooms sorted out, meal coupons and laminates disbursed and then Lindsey, John and I had lunch. We got Thomas to drive us downtown after lunch for a little shopping. I usually ride the bikes that the hotel provide but with John in a “cast”, he couldn’t ride a bike. We looked around for about an hour then headed back to the hotel.
We all went out to the Park where the concerts are held to see Inge-Marie and the chimpanzees again. The male Orangutan is twice as big as he was last year and the female is pregnant. She is supposed to deliver any minute. Inge-Marie slept with her last night and will sleep with her every night until she has the “baby”. The male loves grapes and when Inge-Marie would feed him one, he would make this loud “pooting” noise with his mouth indicating he wanted more. It was hilarious. Then we went around to the chimpanzee cage. The “baby” Little Manda is all grown up and Linda is pregnant as well. Penny is still there and she is the one who is a diabetic. Inge-Marie gives her 3 shots a day and Penny helps her! Santimo is the “male” chimpanzee and the leader of all the apes. He beats his chest and slams on the bars of the cage for about 10 minutes, letting us KNOW that he is the leader. Then he calms down a little. I took off my shoe and let him “clean” my toes. He takes one “hand” and puts it underneath my foot to gently hold it. The he takes his fingernails and “cleans” around each of my toes, including cleaning under my nails with his nails. It is unbelievable. Better than any pedicure or manicure I’ve every had. The entire time he is “grooming” me, he is loudly smacking his lips. I love visiting these animals every year. The orangutan gets mad because we aren’t paying attention to him so he fills his mouth with water and then spits it through his teeth, showering anyone with 10 feet of him. Several of us got showers. Some of the guys were freaking out because they thought it was spit. But, Santimo did spit on everyone several times. What is so amazing is the fact that he has the strength of 4 men and could kill a person in 10 seconds. Yet, he gently holds my foot and grooms me. He will only do that to women. He really hates men. And, he likes bright red polish the best.
We went through the rest of the cages and saw the spider monkeys and the snakes. The snakes are allowed to just roam around freely, so Connie, Lindsey and I passed on going into that area. Huge pythons and boas everywhere.
Had our fabulous dinner right on the Baltic Sea. Amazing fish dishes with incredible sauces. Definitely the best meal of this entire tour. Tom, the park owner, also joined us for dinner and I had him telling all the “tales” from the chimpanzees. It was a great evening.
Got back to the hotel around 8:30 pm and I HAD to get some exercise. Talked Lindsey into going for a bike ride with me. It was wonderful. But, we didn’t have bike shorts with us, so pretty painful after a while. Lindsey bailed on me after 30 minutes (I can always outlast the young ones when it comes to exercise) so I kept riding and went into town. Lots of winos and druggies hanging out around the river. But the downtown area “after hours” is cool. There was an outdoor café in the center of the square with a musician singing. I ended up riding for about 70 minutes and felt wonderful when I finally got back to my room. The weather is perfect…a little cool but no rain.
Have to leave the hotel at 8:30 am tomorrow with John so he can rehearse with the Swedish band. Bomshel arrives at the hotel around noon if their flight is on time. Concerts start tomorrow night with John and Sunny Sweeney.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 3RD:
Breakfast with John and then off to rehearsal. Guess I’d better explain the “players” here. John is John Adam Murph – a new male artist that I am also managing. Connie is the legendary Connie Smith. Sunny is Sunny Sweeney,a new female, traditional country singer from Austin. Bomshel is a female duo on Curb Records. John and Connie are using a Swedish backup band.
We arrived on time at the rehearsal studio and the musicians were set up and ready to play. It went downhill from there. I should not have convinced John to use them as his band but the budget wasn’t large enough to bring his own guys. He is accustomed to using fantastic, hip, young Nashville musicians and that was not the case with the Swedish band. The band leader assured me the group would know all the songs before John arrived. Didn’t happen. Not only did they not know the songs very well, but when the band leader burned a copy of John’s cd for them to learn, he left off 5 of the songs. So, we had to cut 3 songs out of his set because there simply wasn’t time to learn them. He struggled through rehearsal and left with a promise that they would “spend some time with the cd” this afternoon. Connie rehearsed with them next and finished in 2 hours instead of 3. They are much more familiar with the country classics and I don’t think her songs had as many different tempos John’s songs. They did a great job for her.
John and I walked back over to the restaurant in the Park where we ate last night and had fish again. Just as good as last night. Sunny did a quick sound check and everyone headed back to the hotel. Connie came up to my room and brought Marty Stuart’s (her husband) new book for me, John, and Lindsey to look at. We drooled over every page. It’s a collection of unbelievable photos of the country legends. My Nashville Mom – Minnie Pearl – had a photo of her famous hat and shoes included. The last photo ever taken of Johnny Cash was also included. Think about this book when you’re Christmas shopping this year.
Had dinner with Christy (from Bomshel), John, Connie and Lindsey. Then it was “show time”. John was on first and I was more than a little apprehensive. Thankfully his vocals were as amazing as ever and no one paid much attention to the fact that the band was less than stellar. After several songs, it was rocking along pretty good when they came to what I believe is going to be the “career” song for John….a song titled “Loser” that he wrote with Karen Staley (famous Nashville songwriter). The drummer kicked it off about 4 times slower than what they rehearsed. John kept turning around making arm motions at him to try and get him to pick up the tempo. Not only did the drummer never look up but the band leader never looked at John. I was ready to go on stage myself but knew I’d do more than have a “chat” with them. I had to ask the stage manager to go on in the middle of the song and tell the drummer to pick the tempo WAY up.
After John’s show, there was a long autograph line and everyone who came up to him said he was awesome. The buyer paid the ultimate compliment – told him he was the “real headliner” of the evening. J
Sunny Sweeney had a really great set, too. She is traditional country and the audience loved that. Her autograph line was about the same as John’s and nothing but compliments.
This year’s festival is much different than in year’s past. Previously, we had 3 American artists perform per day – Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There were Swedish and European artists also performing but on a stage next to us between the American artists’s sets. Evidently there was feedback after last year’s events that they wanted to see more Swedish acts and they should be on the main stage. So this year, there was 3 Swedish artists on Thursday night with no Americans. It was probably the smallest crowd in the history of the event. It rained really hard all morning, so there was no one in the Amusement Park all day. It finally cleared up but I think it hurt the attendance. The audience watching the Swedish acts was very small but when John and Sunny went on, they began coming in. There was 9 acts on one stage tonight with only 2 of those being American. We had 15 minute set changes. It was a real challenge for the production crew but they did an awesome job and kept everyone on time. The same thing will happen tomorrow night but Connie Smith and Bomshel will perform.
I got back to the hotel at around 2 am and in bed by 3 am with a 6 am wakeup call. I was too tired to even answer emails. Figured I could put it off until tomorrow morning because it’s the weekend in the U.S. and everyone in Europe is closed right now.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 4TH and Sunday August 5th:
Really quick breakfast and then over to the venue for rehearsal with Bomshel. This is the first of many international dates with them this year. We go on a “cruise” to Finland tomorrow and Monday – just for pleasure, no work. Then off to Silkeborg, Denmark for my last festival on “this run”. In October, they are one of the artists I have performing in Japan and then we go to Korea to perform 6 shows for our military deployed there. They are really nice and it’s gong to be a pleasure working with them.
Stage was set and they were ready for them to sound check. Quick and painless. Connie came over by the time they finished and ran through it with the “less than stellar” musicians. The band leader apologized to me first thing but he apologized because they messed up the one song. I did not want to hear it. Only two of the musicians had spent any time at all learning the material and that is unacceptable. Lesson learned. U.S, artists will NOT be using Swedish musicians in the future.
Bomshel went to “visit with the chimpanzees” and I went shopping with Lindsey and John. I got “dumped” by the chimps for Kristy – the young blonde with Bomshel. Not only did Santimo clean her toes, he cleaned her fingernails AND gave her a kiss. Just like a man!
Didn’t find anything exciting when we went shopping. I bought a shirt and that was it. Hopefully Denmark will be much better. From previous visits, I am much more optimistic about finding some bargains there.
Had a really quick dinner with John, Lindsey, and Connie and then went to the show. Connie was on before Bomshel. That lady can sing and she is the “ultimate” lady. I have really enjoyed getting to know her and talking to her about the music business. If you don’t already know, she is married to Marty Stuart who has been a friend as well for many years. She did struggle through a couple of songs with the Swedish band but it was not nearly the disaster that John’s set was. Took her over to sign autographs and got Bomshel on stage. Lindsey and John left to go back to the hotel with Connie because they depart for the airport at 5 am tomorrow morning.
Bomshel had an incredibly high energy show. I was worried that the agent (not the buyer) was not going to be pleased. The person I work with in setting the entertainers is older and likes only “classic country”. But, he understands that we need a variety of entertainment in order to please the audience. The weather has been beautiful today and the park was packed. The agent did come up to me afterwards and agreed that they were fantastic. I met the Chairman of the Board for the Park and the wife and children of the buyer for the first time this year. There are several new employees at the park this year. It is definitely a first class event and good people to work with.
I learned after Bomshel’s appearance that the plans for taking us to the cruise ship were for us to all cram into one 9 passenger van for 2 hours. I was able to talk them into providing a limo for Connie since she was the only person going at 10 am and taking both vans for us. It meant we had to leave an hour earlier to drop our band gear and extra luggage off at the airport but that was fine.
I got back to the hotel at around 2 am and then stayed up talking to John until 3 am. Decided not to even try to sleep at that point because I had to get them off at 5 am. Their taxi was on time and John and Lindsey left for the airport. I slept – in my clothes – for 3 hours and then went down and had breakfast with Connie. I learned that the agent’s 89 year old mom had a stroke this morning and he may not be accompanying us on the cruise. If it were me, I would definitely opt out! The limo wasn’t available for Connie so a taxi came to pick her up. I tipped the driver $40 to park and take her luggage into the terminal for her. He gave me his cell phone number and even called me when she got checked in. She is going to Norway to visit her son until she meets us in Denmark on Thursday.
We drove to the airport and dropped off all our luggage and then on to the cruise ship. The agent talked to his family and his mother was being sent back home from the hospital. He decided to go on the cruise with us which will be a big help. But, I still think he should have stayed with his mother.
Got Bomshel checked onto the boat. It cruises from Stockholm to Helsinki overnight, then we spend the day in Helsinki, and then back to Stockholm overnight arriving on Tuesday morning. It is NOT my idea of fun, unfortunately. The ship is packed with families with lots of children and older people. “Fun” includes bingo, kararoke, “local bands in the bars”, and a casino. I should have paid the extra money for John to change his airline ticket and go with me so we could have spent some time talking about his career. The only “internet” is two terminals IN a restaurant and you have to use their computers. Can’t use mine. Thankfully my phone and Blackberry are still working at this point or I would already be overboard. At least I need to sleep and should be able to do that tonight. But, there is NO health club or workout facility of any type. I looked at the largest deck and I’d have to run around it about 500 times to make it worthwhile. In other words, I’m going to be forced to “relax” for two days – something I don’t know how to do and don’t enjoy doing. The cabins are nice – luxury cabins. I just gave out the keys without knowing anything about them. I have a large cabin with a sofa, desk and double bed. But no view. My large windows look out over the deck of the 5th floor! Some of the guys have small rooms with only a double bed but they have the “Baltic Sea” view. The toilets are like the ones on airplanes only the suction is much stronger. Hope no one is sitting on it when they flush as they will get sucked out to sea. LOL. Oh, there is not even a swimming pool on board!!!
The big “attraction” is the Duty Free shopping. People immediately went into the shop as soon as it opened and purchased shopping carts full of liquor and cigarettes. They were stuffing it into empty suitcases that they brought on board.
Off to meet Bomshel for dinner. We all have to eat together because everything is booked as a “group” – even breakfast. John called from Newark and he and Lindsey have made it that far.
Dinner was “different”. Huge buffet tables but packed with people and not very “sanitary”. Kristy saw someone pick up the spoon in the dressing and taste it, then put the spoon back in the dressing. YUCK. I was finished eating immediately.
The ONE thing I was really hoping for was a masseuse. No such luck. 🙁
This reminds me of that horrible cruise I took down the coast of Norway a couple of years ago. Same scenery all the way. We make one stop tonight at 11:30 pm for “5” minutes! Oops. Just made it. 🙂
The guys invited me to come party with them but I took a raincheck. Going to go to bed early and get up for some “room aerobics”! Got to remember to set my clock forward for an hour as Finland is one hour later than Sweden!
MONDAY, AUGUST 6TH:
Breakfast with the group then we departed the ship to walk into Helsinki. It’s been about 15 years or more since I was here with the Desert Rose Band so I don’t remember anything about the city. We stopped first at a little outdoor market. Prices are unbelievably high. No bargains in Finland! Then we went to the Tourist Bureau for some suggestions. Everyone seemed to have a different agenda. Kjell (the Furuvik agent) was going to hang with me and Kristy until he discovered that we did not intend to stop to eat lunch. We wanted to see as much as possible and food was at the bottom of the agenda for us. We started out walking up towards a “rock church” that was in the hills above downtown. Found it with no problem. It was really beautiful and before we left, a lady came in and started playing classical music on the piano. Kristy knew all the songs.
Walked back to the center of town stopping in the train station and another beautiful church. Stopped and bought a “soft serve” ice cream cone (lunch) and then took a ferry out to another island that has a really old fortress on it. Didn’t have enough time to watch the film about the island which was what we were hoping to do. Ferry back to Helsinki, bought some cherries and strawberries (WONDERFUL fruit in Europe – much better than the U.S.) and then walked back to the ship. Really enjoyed getting to know Kristy. She has read “The Secret” too and we have the same philosophy on life and religion. She also has done some USO tours in the past and shares my passion about the troops and knowledge about out current situation in Iraq. It is going to be a pleasure working with this group in Denmark and later this year in Japan and Korea.
When Kristy got up this morning, she found bugs on her bed and in her hair. We are hoping it is not head lice. But, just to be sure, she stopped and got some product to kill them if it is. Horrible thought.
Had dinner with the boys once we got back to the ship. It was in a different restaurant and we got to order from the menu. Much better than the buffet last night. I purchased a “roll” of Euros so I could use the internet terminal. It costs 8 Euros for one hour which is very expensive. Then, I logged on and it took me an hour just to open and respond to 5 emails. It is unbelievably slow and keeps kicking me off line. I gave up and started answering the emails that I could on my Blackberry. But, the signal keeps fading on it too. My cell hone hasn’t worked since we arrived in Finland and it still isn’t working now. Very frustrating!
TUESDAY, AUGUST 7TH:
Up to have breakfast with the group. Everyone is a little confused about the “time” because it changed so quickly and in the middle of the night for the past two nights. Hope we get off the ship at the right time.
Disembarkation was a nightmare….throngs of people, pushing and shoving. Should have just waited until everyone got off and then disembarked! We took taxis to the train station then spent about an hour trying to figure out where and how to store the luggage. Lockers are small and our suitcases were large. Finally got them stored and spilt up for a day of sightseeing. This is my second time as “tour guide” in one week. But it’s fun and I enjoy it.
I went with Kristy again today and we headed to the Vasamuseum. It’s a huge Viking ship that was brought up from the bottom of the sea after it sank on it’s maiden voyage. We were told that it would be a 30 minute walk or a 15 minute bus ride. We “braved” the bus, after not realizing you had to buy tickets at the 7-11 in advance. Thought we missed the stop, so I went up to ask the driver. He was SOOOO rude. He said it was “way back the other way”. I asked him if the bus would be going back that way and it totally stressed him out. He said he would be going back but first he had to empty the bus and clean it! We got off and he just sat there behind the wheel for about 3 minutes…didn’t “clean” anything. Meanwhile a couple of nice ladies came along and gave us directions on how to get there. The bus driver pulled up and when we got back on, I asked him if he would please tell us when it was time to get off. We went through one stop that I thought was ours, so I got up to ask. He said “no” and that he would tell me when. We made one more stop and he sticks his head around and says, “I’ve told you TWICE now!”. Jeez. What a jerk.
We made it into the museum and Kristy was impressed. I had been there a couple of years ago but it was still fun to see it again. We watched the movie about how it sank and was brought back to the surface. Then we walked across the street to the Nordic Museum. It was awesome. Told all about Sweden – early history to present day – with exhibits on “houses, fashion, folk art, furniture, etc.”. Could have spent a day in there.
When we left there I knew exactly where we were. Lindsey, John and I had eaten lunch there last week! So, Kristy and I decided we could “walk” back to the train station. Made it without getting lost one time! 🙂
We got our luggage and hopped on the Arlanda Express. Picked up the luggage we had stored there and got in line to check in. We were there too early and had to wait about 30 minutes to check in. Had a little issue with them wanting us to pay excess on anything over 20 K per person! I had to explain to them that this was part of an international trip. She called her supervisor and everything was fine.
Short flight on a little plane into Billund. Bus driver was waiting for us and we had a 1 hour drive to the hotel. Hotel made us some incredible sandwiches to eat since we were so late arriving. We sat outside to eat and the weather was perfect.
It is extremely hot inside and there is no air conditioning. I opened my windows and within 10 minutes, the room was covered with bugs! I am sure I’ll get eaten alive tonight when I go to bed.
Finally got on email and had 284 to answer. Unbelievably! So , that what’ I’ve been doing for hours. Almost 3 am. I’m going to bed and finish up tomorrow.