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Why Does My Suitcase Smell Like Salami?

Estonia looks like it was designed by a committee consisting of Hans Brinker, Lenin, and Santa Claus’s elves. We got here after a fairly painless trip on Estonian Airlines. Well, painless enough considering the trip started at 4am, when we left our hotel in Paris for Charles deGaullebladder airport, one of the worst in the world, in my opinion. The airport is not very conveniently arranged at all, consisting of “satellites” reached by round tubes with moving walkways. I’m sure it was state of the art in 1960. Once you get to your satellite, there is no food or restrooms. So subsequently everyone is hungry and irritable, since you really don’t want to go back through French security to get a croissant and a cup of coffee. You shouldn’t drink the coffee anyway, because of the lack of restrooms at the gates. That plus the fact that the French seem to release their aggressions when they are pushing the luggage carts supplied for their use by the airport authority makes the whole experience a bit daunting.. Call it cart-rage, I guess.

We are staying in a sinfully elegant hotel called the St. Petersbourg. The bathroom floors are heated and there is a yellow rubber duck on the side of the bathtub, if that tells you anything about the level of comfort. Every building in this town, Tallinn, has a fireplace. They need them. It’s cold. And it’s snowing. That doesn’t seem to deter the people from hanging out in the town square, though, where a whole pig was being roasted and an oom-pah band was playing “Lady Be Good”. 30 identical kiosks were selling identical wooly hats and sweaters for an identical price. I guess there must be a market for those things in Estonia in late November.

Tallinn, Estonia
"Oh, Lady Be Good"

When I came back after dinner last night, some of the band were hanging out in the hotel bar, along with a cast of local characters, all drinking Estonian vodka. A lot of Estonian vodka, being poured by a waiter from about 3 feet above the glass. It was inexpensive entertainment, so I stayed for a while.

“My partner was dealing in fish. Fish smell!” a large Dutch man named Jan told me when I asked him what brought him to Estonia. They had started dealing in commodities such as sugar and flour, but business fell off when the Estonians decided they wanted to market these things themselves. That’s when his partner went into fish. He decided to abandon the fish business, going to Africa to deal in exotic woods. “I lost about 100,000 guilders of my own money”, he said. “That’s when fish suddenly didn’t smell so bad” With that he said “I really like your hat”, snatching it from my head and putting it on his. It was a lively gathering, to say the least.

Our guitar player got the hiccups. Three days and three countries later he still has the hiccups. Of course, everybody in the world has their “surefire” remedy for hiccups. Therefore Brad has drank water, eaten bread, held his breath and stood on his head, among other things. He still has the hiccups. He said that curiously enough, they get worse when ascending and descending in airplanes. We were in two airplanes yesterday. He hiccupped a lot.

One of our trumpet players had a close call in Estonia, also. He was hanging out in a club, and an Estonian couple made friends with him. He chatted with them for a long time. They even said that they were musicians, and had a lot of knowledge of it. They invited him to their place for a drink. When he walked into the dark house he saw out of the corner of his eye men with clubs getting ready to jump him. He ran out of there fast, and luckily they did not follow. After telling some other people about this, they said that it was a pretty common way of robbing people here, just pointing out yet again that you do need to be careful.

From Estonia we went to Luzern, Switzerland. Another long trip with two plane flights and a 1 ½ hour bus trip from Geneva. At least it should have been 1 ½ hours. It ended up being quite a bit longer, since Estonian Airlines had lost a couple of our bags. The wait for the paperwork was endless. One of the van drivers asked me in broken English “is it like this every day?”. I nodded and he gave me a look of sincere sympathy and walked back inside for a cup of coffee. Luzern is a beautiful city, though, one of the prettiest in Europe.

Luzerne, Switzerland

There is a strike in France, and in Italy. This is nothing unusual, they seem to strike all the time. But it makes transportation very difficult. We had 3 days off and I was going to go back to Paris with Larry, but I didn’t want to risk not being able to get back to Lyon for the next gig.

There is a sinking feeling that you get when you get to a town where you are staying, and you drive straight through a lovely town and keep driving until you reach the outskirts of town. This time it was because of some convention in Lyon, and we ended up staying in Macon. Well, not exactly Macon, but outside of Macon just far enough to make it practically impossible to get into town. That’s why my suitcase smells like Salami. There are exactly two restaurants within hiking distance of the hotel. Both of them are mediocre and overpriced, as is the custom with any location where you don’t have much of a choice. There is a large grocery store here, however, so I stocked up with cheese and salami and bread and ended up getting a lot of practicing time in. I wrote a new tune, entitled “The What Do You Do When There Is Nothing To Do Blooz” You get a lot done on the outskirts of Macon, France for 3 days with only French TV for company. Although watching The Simpsons in French was entertaining.


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