“Ringin’ in the New Year” in Kuwait are comedians and television personalities Karri Turner (Lt. Harriet Sims from CBS “J.A.G”), Jordan Black (Punk’D”), Dave Price, Colleen Smith (“The Office”, “King of the Hill”), Jeremy Rowley (“Modern Family”, “The Office”, and “iCarly”) and Cedric Yarbrough (“Reno 911”, “The Boondocks”, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”).
For Dave, Karri and Jordan – ringing in the New Year with the troops has become “tradition”. For Colleen, Jeremy and Cedric – this was their first trip overseas to entertain the troops.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 27TH AND WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28TH – EN ROUTE TO KUWAIT AGAIN!
Flying back to Kuwait today with my annual New Year’s Eve Improv Comedy Show. I am the only person out of Nashville. Dave Price (CBS The Early Show) flies out of New York, Shawn (my production manager) flies out of Austin and the 5 Improv Celebs all fly from LAX. Karri Turner (Lt. Harriet Sims from CBS “J.A.G”) and Jordan Black (Punk’D”, “Halfway Home”, “Community”, and “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” along with Dave, are my “returning stars” for this annual tour. We have newcomers Colleen Smith (“The Office”, “The Showbiz Show” and “King of the Hill”), Jeremy Rowley (“Modern Family”, “The Office”, and “iCarly”) and Cedric Yarbrough (“Reno 911”, “The Boondocks”, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, “4 Christmases”, and “Black Dynamite”). Will be a great, fun tour.
Weather in Nashville was horrible…pouring rain and windy. Was supposed to be like that all the way to DC. It was. Have I mentioned how much I HATE to fly and really am terrified of turbulence? It wasn’t “too” bad but I did make God several promises it will be difficult to fulfill. I was in a single window seat in the Exit Row (“my” seat it seems) and a lady and an elderly man who appeared to be her father were across from me. She had 6 huge carry on bags that I’m not sure how she got past the gate agent. She stuffed them in the overhead and under their seats for the flight. Then when we landed and she started pulling them out, the gentleman insisted on helping her carry them. Very sweet of him but we were delayed in being able to get off the plane once we landed. He was standing and would put the bags down and then pick them back up again. I was sitting patiently since there was no where for me to stand with all the “bags” in the aisle. Every time he bent down, he put his butt right in my face. I was literally plastered against the window with my head turned away but he must have done this a dozen times before they opened the door. The “daughter” appeared to be oblivious. Hmmmm….
I am in the First Class Lounge trying to answer about 100 emails before the others start arriving. So far, so good on their flights. LAX and Austin will be few minutes late but they are in flight now. NYC leaves in a few minutes. Jackie, my United rep, came to visit and brought John the Global Services rep with her to meet me. Had a good chat with them. Everyone from the other cities arrived a little late but almost at the same time. They had about one hour in the lounge to grab a snack and sign 100 autograph sheets for me. I was able to upgrade Dave, Karri and Jordan to first class and Shawn upgraded using his miles. Again, we were supposed to be on the “new” airplane and again, they changed it about one hour before we boarded! Very frustrating. Remember they did this to Darryl Worley and everyone ended up in middle seats in the back of the plane. As an aside, I complained to United about that incident. They have promised to reimburse the amount I paid for the Economy Plus tickets and they gave the guys who were inconvenienced a $250 travel certificate. Better than nothing, I suppose.
I had to get new boarding passes for my group and of course, they weren’t right. Got all that sorted out and we boarded. Great group of pilots and flight attendants. There were even two empty seats in First Class….something I haven’t seen recently. We departed on time and since it was the old plane, I had seen all the movies (only 4 to choose from). The crazy thing is, my Los Angeles group had the new plane for their flight from LAX to DC today. We had to take the old plane because there wasn’t a new one available. Makes no sense to use it on a 5 hour flight and use the old one on an 11 hour flight!
I ate a few bites (wasn’t very good food, imagine that) and slept a lot. We hit some horrible turbulence a couple of times that had me sitting up and gripping the arm rest. We landed in Kuwait and for the first time in my 47 trips to Kuwait, we “parked” in a “cargo area” and had to take buses to the terminal! Even the flight attendants said that had never happened before. As I was walking down the stairs to the bus, I realized I had left my jacket in the overhead and had to “fight my way back upstream” to retrieve it. Some little local airport personnel yelled at me that I couldn’t go back onboard but I ignored him and walked back to the door. The flight attendant retrieved it for me.
My 3 people in business class didn’t make it on our bus so we had to wait for them at the terminal. We waited and waited and they never arrived. I was getting very concerned when Colleen showed up….alone. Evidently, Cedric had taken his very first Ambian and was in the toilet throwing up. I’m thinking….not again. When Filter arrived, the lead singer came off in a wheel chair and they were going to quarantine the entire group and take them to a local hospital. Fortunately, Cedric and Jeremy showed up a few minutes later. Cedric was NOT feeling well and said he might want to go to the medic.
We retrieved our Visas and headed to baggage claim. Everyone got their bags….except me. Both my bags were missing including the one with all the autograph sheets in it for the shows. I went to the desk to file a claim but the agent said there were 5 more bags coming in and to go back and wait! The belt had broken down and a man was trying to drag the bags from the outside on to the belt. He finally succeeded and I got both my bags – which were soaking wet!
As I said, it was raining in Nashville and in DC. At the last minute, I had wrapped the box of autograph sheets in an industrial strength plastic trash bag and taped it shut just in case United left my luggage sitting outside. When we got to the hotel and I could open my bags, TSA had inspected my bag, opened the box, took it out of the plastic bag and left me an inspection sheet. They threw the plastic bag in the bottom of my duffle and did not even bother to “re-tape” the box. All 2,000 of the autograph sheets are wet. From the looks of my bags, they sat outside in the rain for the entire 6 hour layover. My clothes and all my electronics are soaked. I have clothes hanging all over my room trying to dry them. I have the autograph sheets spread out on the floor hoping they are salvageable. I have filed a claim with TSA for not repacking the box and one with United for leaving my bags outside in the rain. I know, I know….if there were any other direct flights, I would never fly United again!
Got everyone checked in and Cedric decided not to go to the doctor but went straight to bed. He did call me and tell me he thought he had left his phone on the airplane in the seat pocket. I had Contee call but United and security had not found one. Hopefully he will find it in his things when he feels better!
I had about 2 hours to check email and then met with the group to go over the “show order”. Cedric did not make an appearance. We all walked over to a little restaurant next door where Filter ate when they were here. The food got mixed reviews. Mine was actually good but I only had the Tapas. When they brought my goat cheese though, a little lady bug was crawling across my plate. That was it for me.
I walked over to the Chocolate Bar to try and schmooze the manager into letting us reserve a table on New Year’s Eve. No go. They are closing EARLY that night. I checked with the hotel and all they are doing is “counting down” in the restaurant. So, once again we will have a boring New Year’s but won’t even be with our troops by that time either! L
So, it’s 11:30 pm and I want to get in bed by midnight, I hope. Going to Camp Buehring tomorrow and this will be the first time this group has gotten to visit the video firing range. Will also get to see Miles who was General O’s Aide several years ago.
I did have some good news from home…the two boxes that were shipped to me from Hong Kong on November 11th finally arrived. Have all the Christmas presents in them that I purchased in China. Of course, they arrived too late for Christmas. But at least some Postman didn’t steal everything and sell it on Ebay!
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29TH, 2011 – CAMP BUEHRING:
Got 6 hours sleep… a record for me in Kuwait. J Took Dave my blackberry charger while he was having breakfast and Cedric was up and eating as well. Said he’s feeling much better except for jet lag. I jogged my usual route down the beach and was surprised to see that there was no traffic. I guess a lot of the locals went to Dubai to celebrate New Years….where there is alcohol!
Had breakfast and decided to give the female chef one more chance to get my omelet right. I was going to stand and watch her prepare it but she was taking too long to get to mine. She did remember me and knew exactly what I wanted. But she just can’t match my wishes to her actions. Again, I asked for egg whites only with cheese, tomato and mushroom and no salt. It arrived too salty to eat. I did watch her make an omelet for someone else. She salts the eggs in one pan and then puts the filling in another pan and salts it as well…..double salt..yuck. Also, she pours the eggs in and when they make really nice smooth omelet, she takes the spatula and scrambles it so it no longer even resembles an omelet. Strange.
Everyone was ready to go at 11:45 am and we had about 1 ½ hour bus ride to Buerhing. They were having an Awards Ceremony when we arrived so we had someone else do our briefing besides Colonel Thomas. But the ceremony ended before we finished and Colonel Thomas was able to join us. I’ve been here enough to finally remember names…not just faces. Next stop was the flight line. This time we actually got to go up into the control tower and take photos. They told us this was “history in the making” because of all the aircraft they had parked there at that time. Said it would never happen again. Obviously, it was all the aircraft that was exiting Iraq. It was way cool to say the least. Made a quick stop at an Apache chopper and took a photo with the flight crew.
Then we went to the training village and let everyone play with guns. My Hollywood folks are definitely not trained killers. Dave – my New Yorker – was pretty good. The LA guys said it’s because they are accustomed to drive by shooting and having to hold the gun sideways. J Had our first “injury” ever at the video range. They had some new guns that were mounted on the ground. Jeremy was loading his and the top slammed down on his thumb. No doubt he is going to lose his thumb nail. It turned black immediately.
Next stop was the highlight for me – visiting the 1/1 Cav (yes, Kyle, you would have been pleased!). General Odierno’s former aide is now a Lt. Colonel for that Unit and I “found” him again when I was in Afghanistan. He told me he was still in Iraq at the time but would be in Kuwait by the 19th. We set up the visit with his Unit and he had hoped to show us the Howitzer but they had not arrived from Iraq yet. He and his Commander gave me two really cool coins! The group took photos with everyone and I totally forgot to take one with Miles. So now he has to come to the Gary Sinise show at the end of January so I can get my photo with him.
After that visit we stopped by the Exchange for a few minutes and I bought a new camo fleece. These just came out and are really nice. (See Frank, I’m getting my touch back!). Next was the stage for a short sound check and then dinner at the DFAC. I had a turkey cutlet that was too hard to cut, much less chew and vegetables, tomato soup and a salad. Our show started on time and I was amazed at the size of the crowd. We’re accustomed to performing in little venues at FOB’s in Iraq, so this was a shock. I’d guess there were about 1,500 people in attendance. Dave did a great job of getting the crowd laughing with his stand-up routing. His part of the show includes a lot of audience participation and making fun of the higher ranking officers and everyone loves that. Then my Improv group was fantastic, too. Obviously, Improv is all about audience participation so it was a great night. Someone in the autograph line said it was one of – if not the best – comedy show they have ever had there. And, that’s quite a compliment because they get comedians over here every week.
Autograph line was pretty short because it was really cold outside. Probably went through about 150 photos. As we were leaving, Karaoke was starting up in the same room and Cedric got up and sang the first song. He has a great voice!!!
Took about 1 ½ hours drive back to the hotel and Shawn and I walked over to a cup of yogurt after we got back. I’ve been answering emails since then. Thought it would slow down a little with the holidays, but still lots of correspondence coming in.
Can’t believe 2011 is almost gone!
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30TH – PERFORMANCE AT CAMP VIRGINIA:
Got 6 hours sleep again since we aren’t leaving until 1:30 today. Went to the gym and worked out and then had breakfast. Everyone was having breakfast when I went down to the restaurant except for Karri who always sleeps in. The restaurant was packed because Friday and Saturday are their “weekends” so people come to the hotels for the breakfast buffet. The line was so long for the omelets that I didn’t even bother asking for one.
I sat with Dave and there was a large table of women sitting next to us. There was one beautiful little girl who looked to be about 5 years old. She was coughing uncontrollably and the ladies just seemed to be ignoring her. There was one young Asian woman sitting at the table across from the child. I pointed out to Dave the fact that she was the only person at the table not eating. I mentioned in previous road reports that the Kuwaitis hire Asian women as their “nannys”. They have no authority to discipline them and when they go out to eat, usually have to sit at another table and watch the family eat or sit at the table with them but turn their chair around so that they are not facing the family. I guess the restaurant was too crowded for her to sit at a separate table. I hate to see anyone being mistreated and it was all I could do not to ask her to sit with us and I’d pay for her meal. But, that would only have resulted in her being fired, I’m sure. Very sad, to me. She looked so young and unhappy.
We made the 1 ½ hour drive to Camp Virginia and wow is it different from 10 days ago when all the media had descended to cover the exit from Iraq. Our first stop was the Command Office Call. Colonel Bobo who usually gives the briefing was on leave and the Lt. Col filled in for him. He was great and everyone really enjoyed meeting him. This is the Camp where most of the troops are from the Minnesota National Guard and the one where my MWR escort had her hand almost bitten off by the camel. L Yesterday at Camp Buehring, we had asked several officers how many troops were there that had returned from Iraq. Everyone was very non-committal and did not want to give a figure. I knew that 1st Cav was there from Iraq and would be there through July. One officer finally admitted that there are about 5,000 troops who just left Iraq and will be finishing out their deployments in Kuwait for the next several months. Buehring is the camp where the majority of the troops from Iraq will be lodged during the remainder of their deployment.
Camp Virginia is a much different story. That’s the camp where everyone was turning in their vehicles as they exited Iraq. There are only 4 soldiers left there out of the thousands that came there from Iraq. There’s only a total of 1,500 people on the entire Camp. Might be the last time I get to visit that Camp. When we were there 10 days ago, the feeling was that Virginia would be an “enduring camp”. But tonight, that vibe had changed to not knowing how much longer it would be open for business.
I don’t know if the general public noticed, but over the last few weeks, the media changed their stories from, “All the troops will be out of Iraq and home for Christmas” to “All the troops will be out of Iraq for Christmas”. The word “home” quietly disappeared. If you’re interested, read this article:
Anyway, after our Command Call, we went to visit the Mraps. They showed us one that was used in the early days of the war (2005) and one that is being used now. I have ridden in both of them and even an earlier one that that from 2003 which sure didn’t have as much “armor” around it. Our group found it extremely interesting. You would not believe how many vehicles are lined up there! It was sort of like yesterday when we visited the flight line and saw the hundreds and hundreds of choppers. I’m so lucky to be able to come here this often and see all the “changes”.
By the time we finished with that tour, we only had a few minutes to stop by the base exchange and then go to the DFAC for dinner. I sat with PSD tonight and really enjoyed getting to know the guys. Most are former military with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and one of the guys met Aaron Tippin when I had him in Kandahar for Thanksgiving in 2006.
We probably had 300 people attend the show which is great since the base population is only 1,500 and about half of that 1,500 was working. It was another great show, too. Dave had some great “victims” for his audience involvement and the Improv comedians were outstanding. There was one skit that made several references to “pooping in the pants” and right in the middle of the skit, a pigeon flew into the stage rafters and pooped on the stage right behind the comedians! Cracked all of us up and the comedians had no idea what we were laughing at.
It was COLD again tonight so the autograph line was very short. We were back at the hotel a few minutes after 10 pm…a record!
Tomorrow we drive for an hour to Ali Al Salem Air Base – The Rock. This group always performs in the theatre there each year when we return from Iraq. I haven’t been there since this time last year but love visiting the Air Force Base.
SATURDAY, December 31ST – PERFORMANCE AT ALI AL SALEM – THE ROCK – HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Forgot to mention what happened when we arrived back at the hotel last night. I let everyone get off the bus in front of the hotel and then Shawn and I got all my “stuff” together and started to get off. This lady in all the “local garb” (long robe and headwear) started trying to get on the bus. She was trying to talk to our bus driver who wasn’t paying any attention to her. When our PSD saw her approach our bus, about 5 guys surrounded her and started asking her what she wanted. She was very clearly intoxicated…which is strange because the penalty for possessing alcohol is life imprison or death by public hanging! The PSD guys were smart enough to call the female PSD officer over and have her try to talk to the lady. She kept saying something and trying to get on our bus. They finally talked her away from the bus and told the driver to close the door and drive away. But she immediately walked in front of the bus as he started pulling away! She walked drunkenly down the driveway murmuring something and finally went over to a waiting SUV. Not sure what happened to her after that, but it was a “first” for me to see someone drunk in Kuwait. Very entertaining, I must say. J
Also forgot to mention that we had good food at the DFAC last night because they had a “Mongolian Barbeque” bar. You get to pick your own ingredients and they stir fry it to your specs. Other than the pasta, it’s about the healthiest meal you can eat at the DFACs.
Jogged this morning and the weather is much warmer – 50 degrees when I ran rather than the 41 degrees a few days ago. There was a male chef making the eggs today so I stood over him as he prepared my egg white omelet. He got the egg whites, tomatoes, mushrooms and no salt part right and handed it to me. I handed it back to him with a “where’s the cheese” question. He threw some cheese on top, folded it in half and handed it back to me. J
Walked over to Pinkberry Yogurt for some yogurt to eat on the ride to Ali Al Salem. Our first stop once we arrived was to visit with the Command. When we walked into his office, everyone was dressed in civilian clothes and I’m wondering exactly “who” we are meeting with! But turns out the Commander had allowed everyone to dress in civilian clothes in honor of New Year’s Eve today. He gave us an incredible briefing and we spend much longer with him than our allotted 30 minutes. Which meant we had to cut the tour of the flight line very short. We did go see a C130 which was a treat for the Colleen, Cedric and Jeremy since they have never flown on one. They went up on the flight deck and got quite the tour.
We went straight to the DFAC from there. There was a long line for “waffles”, so I figured those guys knew what the best food was. They were right! Incredible waffles for dinner. We had a few minutes to run by the base exchange and then it was “show time”.
Ali had the BEST theatre of anywhere we’ve every performed in this area. It was packed and some people even had to sit on the floor. And we had such a great show tonight. It’s much better for this group to have an indoor venue where they can “see” the audience.
We stayed and signed autographs and took photos with everyone after the performance and were still back at the hotel by 10:10 pm. The hotel gave me a special meeting room and set it up for dinner for us and our PSD — 16 people total. I bought dinner for everyone and we toasted the New Year at midnight. And as soon as everyone finished eating, we all went to bed….are we old or WHAT? J
Okay, I didn’t go to bed. I came back and answered emails and wrote this Road Report. Will have to figure out my New Year’s resolutions tomorrow.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2012 – THAT’S HARD TO TYPE! – CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT:
Forgot to give some stats last night. There are currently about 2,200 stationed at Ali Al Salem Air Base. That figure surged to around 7,500 during the exit from Iraq. Of the 2,200 about 200 of those are men and women who were in Iraq and will finish out their deployment in Kuwait.
Today was gym day and had a good work out. The hotel was sold out last night so the restaurant was full. We had to wait a while to get a table for six of us to sit together. I came back to shower and just as I got out of the shower my friend Wally (who I met in Korea) called my room. He was in Kuwait for a couple of days before heading to Yemen where he will be the new Attache! I can think of lots of places I’d still love to see but Yemen is not on that list…..
We left for the 45 minute drive to Arifjan at 2 pm. First stop was the Commander’s Call with Colonel Rogers. Last time I saw him, he gave our briefing up at Camp Buehring. He was great with everyone….very knowledgeable about shows they have performed in and very informative about what is going on in Kuwait. I asked him how many troops were left just at Arifjan that came in from Iraq. He said “a couple”. I said, “A couple of people or a couple of Units?”. He said a couple of units but he would not give me a figure. J Very PC, that man.
Next we went to visit the staff at the hospital. There were a couple of patients there – females – but all “illnesses” not injuries. Jeremy showed the doctors his black thumbnail and they immediately insisted on “relieving the pressure”. I didn’t know that he had asked the doctor up at Virginia about it because it has been hurting him. The doctor there just told him it would get better in a few days. So, after we took photos with everyone, we all gathered around Jeremy to watch the “surgery”….except for Karri who stood to one side looking very green and asking if it was bleeding! They didn’t numb it but “drilled” a hole in the thumbnail with a needle….and yes, it hurt! Then they pressed on it and released a lot of blood. Jeremy said it felt better immediately.
They moved the performance indoors to the gym and that was a great idea. Much better audience. Only problem was, they draped a curtain along the back of the stage and placed chairs behind the curtain. There was no room at all as the space was about 2 feet wide and they expected the Improv Comedians to sit back there while Dave was doing his show. We moved everyone into an office for our “green room”. We walked over to the DFAC for dinner – I had noodles and some tuna salad and a salad! Then walked to the base exchange to “shop”. This one is huge and I think everyone probably found something to buy and take home.
The show was fantastic…probably the best ever because the audience was so “into” it. Dave had some great victims and the Improv group got some fantastic suggestions for their skits. The autograph line had about 100 people in it so it moved quickly.
We left the camp and were back at the hotel a little after 10 pm. When I walked into my room, there was a white elephant sitting in the middle of my bed! He was made out of towels and was so cute. I called Karri and asked her if she had an elephant on her bed. No one got one but me. Walked down to Jordan’s room and sat and listened to everyone talk and joke around for about an hour.
We leave at 11 am tomorrow…which is “early” considering the leave times we’re had these past few days. Going to try and get in bed early and then get up early enough to check everyone in on line!
MONDAY, JANUARY 2ND – PERFORMANCE AT CAMP PATRIOT, KUWAIT NAVAL BASE AND TUESDAY, JANUARY 3RD – HOME!!!:
Got in my last jog this morning to absolutely perfect weather!!!! Then had breakfast in an “empty” restaurant which was nice after the last 3 days being packed and waiting for tables. I ordered my “omelet surprise” and again waited and watched for him to prepare it. He left off the cheese AGAIN and I made him take it back. I know the chefs are going to start secretly spitting in my food. I also saw a waiter carrying a bowl out of the kitchen to a table with what looked like oatmeal. When I asked him he said yes, it is porridge! I wish I had KNOWN we could order oatmeal. Next visit!
Finally at 9:45 am in Nashville, I was able to start checking people in. Was trying to upgrade some of the group, but no luck. Do have several wait-listed and as of now, it’s still showing the “new” plane but it could change by the time we get to the airport!
I found out a couple of days ago that the person at the hotel who I deal with had a heart attack the day he was waiting for us to arrive! He felt bad and drove himself to the hospital where he had surgery to implant 5 stints! He is a smoker….make that WAS! He went home a couple of days later but was told he went back into the hospital again yesterday. He just cannot let go of the “stress”!
We left for Camp Patriot at 11:15 am and arrived right on time. Contee had told me that they had to move the show outside because the tent was too small. But, the tent was fine and outdoor was too big and the wind was blowing too hard. It would have created havoc with the headsets!
We had a Command meeting and then were still able to start the show on time. It was one of our better shows because it was such an “intimate” setting. Signed autographs after the show for about 25 people.
I had this “master plan” on how we were going to “lose” our security escorts. We went into this big building to have our certificates presented to us. Then I asked if everyone could please step outside so we could have a little private meeting. I didn’t think PSD would agree but Ben (the lead) was not in the room and the others “obeyed” me. As soon as they left, we ran for the back of the room. There was a back door that was hidden by a group of really tall metal lockers. Only problem was, Ben was standing outside by the car! We waited a few minutes and he left and we ran into the Post Office. We were in there for several minutes before a couple of girls ratted us out. Evidently, if 4 minutes had passed, Ben would have “locked down” the base! Anyway, when Ben found out no one was in the room with us, he freaked out and ran into the room. Of course, he came running out and yelled, “They’re Gone”! Then he got on his mic and started yelling, “We’ve had a fumble”. He was so excited, no one could understand him plus some of them didn’t know what the heck a “fumble” was! Contee said he kept yelling “Fumble, Fumble” and running like crazy. He ran to the Post Office and asked a guy standing outside if we were in there. But the guy was a “plant” and told him no one was in the Post Office. The female security officer went into the rest room and opened every stall. One door was locked and she yelled, “If you are all hiding in that one stall, you’d better come out right now”! Once the girls ratted us out, this really huge black PSD guy came to the post office and sort of glanced in as he walked by. The look on his face was priceless when he saw us. And poor Ben! He’s too young to have a heart attack, thank God. Made my whole trip to be able to pull that one over them. Of course, they have threatened me to NEVER tell anyone (right) and that paybacks are HELL. J The only way this could have been any better is if Joe (the boss) had been there. He’s Italian and would have gone nuclear. He would not have waited 4 minutes to lock down the base. J
Got back to the hotel by around 5 pm and got back on line to work with United on checking everyone in. Dave and I walked over and had sushi at around 6 pm and it was excellent – again. We were packed and ready to leave for the airport at 9:30 pm. Check in was so painless with our PSD. How did we ever do this without them? They aren’t allowed to go through Immigration with us and that’s when the first glitch occurred. The line for First and Business Class passengers was closed and we all had to go through the regular lines. They were short lines and I waited until last to go through assuming everyone would wait for me on the other side since they didn’t know where the Lounge was located. The agent looked at my Visa, handed it back to me and sent me to the “office”. No one would tell me what was wrong and I finally explained that I had people waiting for me and needed to know why I was being “held”. They asked when my Visa was stamped “into” the country. I told them the 28th and they said for some reason, I was already “out-processed” from the country in theirs. I didn’t mention the fact that it was my 5th trip here in 6 weeks as that would have definitely have peaked their interest! I was looking for someone in the group to signal them that I might need some assistance but they had all disappeared. Seems Shawn had made the brilliant decision to take everyone in to the Lounge. After about 5 minutes, they finally let me go through.
We had about an hour in the Lounge and then the flight boarded. For once, it was still the “new” configuration on the plane which means the business class seats lie flat. First class was totally full but Jordan, Karri, Dave and I got our upgrades.
The videos are the ones with dozens of movies to pick from but for some reason, they didn’t change them out on January 1st. I finally settled on “The Way” but fell asleep halfway through it! Didn’t eat anything as I was still full from the sushi. I think I slept for about 6 hours and woke up starving! Had a snack and then set to work!
Before we departed, Karri pointed out a guy in the galley talking to the flight attendants and said he looked like a country music singer. She thought it might be Phil Vassar. I told her it wasn’t but didn’t tell her I was pretty sure it was a sky marshal. When I took my seat for takeoff he started talking to me and was really nice. He and a “buddy” behind him were sitting in the seats that are always given to the sky marshals. I made a few remarks about how I could always “spot” them because I fly so much. They are the guys who never sleep on the 14 hour flight for one thing and they all seem to know the flight attendants. J He was very noncommittal and changed the subject. Another sign. I got up several times while I was sleeping and he was always awake. I planned to shake his hand when we got off and say “Nice to meet you Louie who is not a sky marshal”. Near the end of the flight, he was halfway lying down and napping but his buddy was wide awake. Before we landed, he shook my hand and gave me one of his “pins” with a “shh” attached to the presentation. KNEW I was right. Said he had tried to throw me off with the little nap. HA. Guess he doesn’t know we “fooled” the entire PSD team. LOL. I told him about my upcoming concert with the troops with Gary Sinise and he had met Gary and his wife on a flight previously from CA to NY and was as impressed as everyone who meets Gary is by how nice he is and how genuine his love for the troops is. Gave him my card and promised I would promise not to recognize him if we shared a flight again. 🙂
We landed early but so did lots of other fights. Line for immigration was VERY long. Of course, Dave and I had our Global Entry passes and of course, Dave had no clue how to work the kiosk. I helped him get through his and he left for his gate. He, of course, didn’t check a bag for the trip. I, on the other hand, had to wait about 30 minutes for mine to arrive. By the time my bags came out, everyone had cleared Immigration and we all left the area to go to Security. As I was rushing to the gate, I passed Dave sitting at his gate — his fight was delayed! Hope he wasn’t delayed too long.
My flight was on time and even though it is a small plane, it has a couple of rows of first class seating. Very nice. We even landed in Nashville “early”.
Having this tour at the end of the year is so perfect for me. After working and traveling non-stop all year long, to be able to just sit and laugh is a real treat. The personalities blended perfectly (which is always a concern) and as usual, the entertainment off stage was as funny as on stage. Had to come back to “reality” and start booking festivals for 2012, but I sure have to do that!