Saturday, November 14, 2009

Estonia by Hovercraft

I am told by my manager, Mr. Kenn Goodman of Pravda Records, that you can put pictures and what-not on here and make it more appealing to the general populace. I am not sure how appealing pictures of me or my band would be to anyone but he has been right lo these many years, so maybe I'll try. Some day.

Since the last couple of chapters have concerned celebrities, I figured I would leave that topic alone for the next year or so. Plus I am out of celebrities.

Today we are going to Estonia, a country most of you only dream about visiting. A land of leggy models, ancient fortresses, and buses, and also bus drivers who yell at you for not speaking Estonian. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The journey began with a long airplane ride to Finland. The mighty NDI had an actual tour of this country, due to the efforts of a superfan name Miettinen who worked at a record-pressing plant and wanted to actually see the band whose records he had been seeing roll down the conveyor belt at work. The tour suited us pretty well -- a total of five gigs, spread out over two and a half weeks. We had time to truly experience Finland!

The first thing we learned about Finland is that everything is divided into three levels, and by everything I mean the stadium sausages and the vodka. So you can get Good, Medium, or Dangerous meat and booze, depending on the kind of cash you intend to spend. At this stage of our lives we were strictly in the "Dangerous" category, so that's the way we lived. Our hosts encouraged this reckless behavior and treated our bad choices as a spectator sport.

At some point in the trip Miettinen took us out to his uncle's lake cottage to experience the rural aspects of Finland. I can't say I recall much about this venture, but I do remember spending hours in a boat, fishing with a 12-year-old kid who spoke zero English and had zero interest in trying to learn. We floated around all morning in total silence, reeling in panfish and avoiding eye contact. Why? I do not know.

Also somewhere in here Skipper accidentally set himself on fire.

This is becoming a story about Finland, which I had hoped to save for some future date when I seriously run out of ideas. So let's move on to Estonia!

After the cottage in the woods, Skipper and I decided to take the hovercraft across the Gulf of Finland to Estonia, a country I had literally never heard of. Goodtime decided to stay in Helsinki and visit the galleries and art museums. So it was just us two tourists.

Somehow at 7 AM we were at the hovercraft port. I guess you would call it a hoverport. We were shaggy and starving, and Skipper made the mistake of eating a cold Finnish cheese and tomato sandwich from the only open lunch counter. Neither of us was in the best of shape but that really pushed Skip over the edge. It was a cold and nasty gray day, and the scene was complimented by the enormous grimy red and blue hovercraft that came skimming over the choppy waves. It looked like a beater UFO that couldn't get up into the air. The cool part was the 20-foot chopper blades on all four corners. Very dangerous in appearance.

Skipper's face had become an interesting color and a fat German dude was taunting us and falling on us. "Haben sie eine probleme?" he shouted at me. He was hammered and it wasn't even 8 in the morning. Give him credit.

The ride was problematic because the enormous gray waves of the Gulf of Finland kept smacking the bottom of the Hovercraft. This appeared to contradict the idea of "hover" and jostled us harshly. Skipper looked as bad as I've ever seen him, and believe me that is saying something. Inside the Hovercraft it was smelly and hot. Smelly and hot and LOUD. You couldn't talk or even really think.

After about a year of this abuse the engines changed their tone and we pulled into the ocean parking lot of Estonia. The next thing I can remember is walking, staggering really, into a place where I didn't know where I was. I had never been in a medieval city before and the rocky streets that never went straight seemed impossibly weird. Also the place was crawling with glamor model ladies in miniskirts and heels, pretty much the last thing I had expected. We poked our puzzled noses into the many hard-to-define shops where they usually had an abacus instead of a cash register and sold everything from can openers to maps. It was amazing to realize that this odd place had been existing for all the years I had been alive, and even now at this moment it is odd to realize that it is still there, existing.

One cool thing: We figured out that there is a tradition of visiting people after work and bringing them a little bouquet of flowers. So all along many of the streets there were little booths, basically little flourist shops, selling these pretty little bouquets, and everyone we passed was clutching a bunch of fresh flowers. I am not big on flowers but it gave the place a pretty nice feeling.

We checked out a concert in a park and shared a cold Estonian beverage in a bar that also sold clothes and knives. Then we realized it was starting to get a little late and we needed to get back to the hoverport to catch our hovercraft. We decided to take a bus.

First of all, Finnish is considered one of the top hardest languages to understand. It looks like mirror writing and the letters never repeat. Estonian is one step harder than that, so unless you grow up there you have no chance of communicating with anyone, especially if they are a furious bus-driver lady on a bus where you aren't allowed to get off through the front door. No-one got hurt, exactly, except for Skipper, who re-injured his nose, which had been broken during a fistfight in junior high. There was a lot of yelling. But I have to say that when people are yelling at you in a language you can't understand, it kind of turns funny. So although Skipper was bleeding all over the place and the stupid little dog who started it all by getting caught in the door was trying to bite someone, even though all of this was suddenly happening in the country of Estonia, I was basically trying not to laugh. Even when a cop car zoomed by us -- on its way to an actual crime -- the "wee-oh" siren also seemed more funny than official or threatening. I know this sounds terrible, like I don't care about other people or something, but there it is.

Thank god we were close to the hoverport and we could get off, through the correct door, and get the holy hell out of there. We fled the scene and joined the hovercraft herd, back to Finland, back to our reunion with GT, who didn't understand our incoherent story but was still glad to see us. That night we ROCKED a community hall with a statue of a cow out front.

Man my hands and brains are tired. I can't even guess what's next.


  1. All the stories on here are classic! I'm looking forward to the Finlandia Chronicles. I was at an NDI NYE show one year at Otto's and recall helping with load out where it had snowed all night. You guys were nice enough to give us a ride to our hotel, and I recall my friend Sam asking "Goodtime, tell us a story about Finland", and Goodtime told us a very humorous tale about travels to Finland, which I can remember absolutely nothing about because it was 4:00AM and I had champagne dribbled all on my shirt.

    I'd also like reading some tales of the early days of NDI. I missed the early years and only know Crispy from the comic book. I'm guessing the early days of NDI were a bit chaotic?

  2. Hi there, Happy Holidays


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