Dale Stubitsch, memoir of Norway trip Aug 1 7, 2007; posted to Progressive Ears 8/10/07


You just won't believe the time I had over in Norway! It's impossible to describe because there are no words to explain all that happened to us while we were over there. Despite having said that you all know I am foolish enough to try anyway, however, to realize the full impact of the trip you just HAD to be there! I can give you a litany of the events but that wouldn't capture the emotional intensity that made this trip so very special. The whole Magic Pie group and members of the Retroheads treated us like royalty over there, as friends, as family! These are some of the most special people on the planet and they all just seem to have a natural knack for making you feel right at home as they take care of your every need, desire and dream- even ones you didn't know you had! Norway may be one of the coldest countries on the planet but they more than make up for it by having the warmest people. I once saw John Cleese's special called 'Norway- Land of the Giants.' It took me 25 years to realize that he was not talking about the size of their bodies but the size of their hearts. I have never known such graciousness and hospitality. Every single moment was better than every other single moment. It just never stopped getting better the entire time we were there.

Jim and Sue Mahoney, Kenny Solomon, Janie Lindenbaum and myself came over from the States. We also met Tam and Cheryl who had come over from
Scotland to see Magic Pie for the first time. One of the nicest treats was seeing a couple of familiar faces from Nearfest and Rosfest- people who had come all the way over to our country for music and friendship- Stein/Progdog, his friend Arnie from Norway and Frodo from England. We were rekindling old friendships just as we all do at our American festivals. We all made new friends as well but none finer for me than my new 'long lost twin brother' Ketil Knutsen, who Eirik (from Magic Pie) told me I just HAD to meet. When we met at the Subtacto fest I was just blown away! It was like looking at an improved version of myself in the mirror (albeit a younger, much more handsome version). His enthusiasm for music and life is readily apparent and much more intense than mine. There was an instant bonding and we chatted the rest of the evening about music that we love. He is an encyclopedia of progressive rock music and a hell of a good guy but I think I am getting ahead of myself.

The trip started on Wednesday morning with about 14 hours worth of plane travel and all of about 20 minutes of sleep onboard. By the time I arrived I was feeling ragged and worn down so my excitement level wasn't quite what I expected it to be. Maybe that is a good thing because otherwise I might have broken down and cried when I set foot on Norwegian soil. Despite my exhaustion I just couldn't believe I was FINALLY there! As the saying goes, it's not the destination, it's the journey and there was a very small part of me that feared that being there in
Norway would be not equal the tremendous anticipation and excitement that had built up over the past three months. How wrong I was! The visit was packed with so much fun and excitement that the good times never stopped from beginning to end and exceeded by far anything I could have ever imagined in my wildest dreams.

I was met by the smiling faces of Eirik Hansen, Kenny and Janie (who had arrived an hour earlier than me). At this point, it all became very real and I knew the adventure was about to begin. We waited for Jim and Sue, who landed an hour after I did and when we saw them walk out I let out a big "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOO" to greet them. The entire crowd of people in the airport turned around to look at me and see who was so important to elicit such a response.

Jim, Sue and I hopped into Eirik's car while Janie and Kenny made there way back to Moss via bus. We were treated to some sightseeing along the way and stopped off at Holmkollen, the original scheduled site of the Subtacto fest. Holmkollen is a huge ski jump that was used in previous Olympics. We snapped a few photos of this and the surrounding area and made our way back to Erling Midstue's, where I was staying for the week.

We met Erling's wife Anni and his darling children, son Aksel, age 1 and appropriately decked out in a Motorhead t-shirt and daughter Hedda, age 4. Erling suggested I might want to take a short nap after being sleep deprived for the past 24 hours but I feared if I did I would be a zombie for the rest of the evening so I wisely declined. For all the lack of sleep, which seemed to be a theme for the stay, the excitement more than made up for it as I often found second, third and fourth winds to keep me humming along without issue. Erling took out a bottle of Aquavit and a couple of small shot glasses, explaining that they usually celebrate major events, such as Christmas, with a shot. We toasted and I felt completely honored, for this was, indeed, a VERY special occasion for me. Erling and Anni treated us to a wonderful meal on the back deck of their new home, which is just off the straight that leads out to the island where most of the band lives and records and eventually to the fjords. There were several delicious items but the most memorable was a slightly sweet brown cheese that was very good.

After the meal the ten of us hopped in cars and made our way over to Kim and Lene Stenberg's home. This is where things really kicked into high gear because we got to see so many familiar faces. JT and his wife Metta, Lars, and Gilbert from Magic Pie, Rune and Bjorn, who are friends of the band that had come over to Rosfest 2007, and Tore Bo Bendixen and his lovely wife Ann-Kristin from the Retroheads all greeted us with warm smiles and enthusiasm as the good times began to roll. We also met Kim's younger brothers, Tommie, who helped write lyrics for the new album, and Mats, an aspiring guitarist who has quite a good teacher and inspiration in his brother Kim. We were treated to spectacular meal, the absolute highlight being the fresh grilled salmon that was like nothing I have ever tasted. I get the impression that Norwegians love to eat and eat well! We all talked on the porch, drank beers and shots of Jack Daniel's, and made our way to the basement of Kim and Lene's home where the video of the Magic Pie concert in
Stavanger was playing on the television. The lower level is also the secret lair of Kim with a small room filled with guitars and photos of Kim from previous bands. There is also a very famous (slightly doctored) picture in the basement of Kim with John and Jacqueline Kennedy descending the steps of an airplane that had me howling with laughter.

At one point Eirik broke out an acoustic guitar and I joined him on, of all things, Norwegian Wood, which I had prepared for the trip. How appropriate is that?? The folks upstairs heard the guitars and came downstairs to check us out. After a brief pause my fingers did what came natural after three months of working on transcriptions of the new Magic Pie album and broke into the opening arpeggios of Circus of Life. I was a bit nervous playing their music for them because they would notice any mistakes or imperfections but they were all actually very impressed that I did this, which made me feel very comfortable. Eirik, Kim and Gilbert all joined in on guitars and at the conclusion Bjorn was just over the top with disbelief and shouted, "Now all he needs to do is Freakshow." I hope I didn't blow his mind too much because that's what I broke into next. After hacking my way through that we all went right into the third part of the Circus of Life suite, What If. We all sang along and had a marvelous time.

At this point, something that I would have never have dreamed in a million years happened, something so very special that it was a defining moment for me. Kim had emailed me a while back and very graciously asked if I would like to jam with Magic Pie at a rehearsal. Well, after this impromptu little session my dream had been fulfilled and I was simply ecstatic that this had finally materialized after all the anticipation. However, it was about to get better- much better! The band was not only playing the Subtacto fest on Saturday but also doing a solo gig in their hometown of Moss on Friday. Kim came up to me and said something that will continue to blow my mind for the rest of my life. "Dale, would you like to perform with us tomorrow night?" I only wish that someone could have taken a picture of my face at that moment because I have never known such a feeling of surprise- shock, actually. I gasped and said, "Are you KIDDING??" Of course, Norwegian people are very honest, serious and mean what they say so, no, he was NOT kidding. I was completely FLOORED! I was already over the top with excitement at having jammed with them in the basement. Was I even close to being ready to actually get on stage with Magic Pie??? I had my sincere doubts but knew that I could not pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. I asked Kim if there were anyway possible that I could meet with him on Friday to go over some guitar riffs with him if I were going to make this happen. Very graciously, he said that he was home all day and I could come over any time. I debated about sleeping on his floor that night and waking him up at the crack of dawn but thought better of it. I asked Erling if he could drive me over the house in the morning and he happily agreed. It was already quite late and I asked Erling if we could leave soon because Friday was going to be a very long day. We left and got back to his house around
3am. I am a light sleeper and usually get up with the sun, having no need for an alarm clock for years. As we walked up to the house it was already getting light out and I feared I wouldn't be able to sleep for long, as much because of my nerves as for the sunlight.

After Erling made a good breakfast for us he drove me over to Kim's house while the rest of the American crew went about their visit. I got to meet Kim and Lene's daughters, Marielle and Caroline, who are about 4 years old and simply lovely children. They are the first voices you hear on the Circus of Life album. Kim kindly showed me many guitar runs that I either needed brushing up on or had wrong on the three main songs I have worked on transcribing- Change, Freakshow and Pointless Masquerade. All of them were lacking on my part, as I had not gotten all of the new material worked out yet and Change was rather rusty because I had not really worked on it for over a year when I first transcribed all the guitar parts. Kim showed me riffs that I was missing and corrected mistakes but I was really getting worried that this was not going to work out so well. I am not a very good guitarist, even at the top of my game, and it had been a while since I had seriously been practicing. I am serious perfectionist and if the slightest thing is wrong I choke up and freeze. I have to have the right guitar pick, the strap has to be adjusted just so, I have a horrible memory so I always rely on exact notation and also have a terrible phobia of making mistakes- particularly in front of other people. I continued to work on licks for the remainder of the afternoon but knew deep down that I wasn't going to be perfect. I only prayed that I would not make a fool of myself- and especially the band.

Erling came by to pick me up and made dinner for us and a few others who came by before the show. I hated to be rude but snuck off upstairs to practice some more on Erling's guitar. The worst part was that we had not agreed on what song I would play with the band! If there's one thing I really can't stand is not being prepared and leaving something as important as this up in the air was nagging at me. Would it be Freakshow, which I could play almost all of perfectly, Pointless Masquerade, which had large gaps, or Change, which I was rusty on?? I almost turned into a neurotic mess and nearly skipped dinner as much from nerves as the desire to keep practicing. After another wonderful dinner (I can't recall what we had as my mind was completely elsewhere at this point), we all hopped into a chauffeured van with Tam, Cheryl, Erling, Anni, Jim, Sue, Kenny and Janie that drove us off to the Queen's Pub. They had a nice sound system and a karaoke set-up so we all sang Highway to Hell and a couple of other songs at the top of lungs on the way over.

Someone had been very thoughtful and reserved a booth for the American's and after I used my debit card to get some Norwegian Kroners, sat down with most of the others to have a beer. I got to meet Kim's dad who along with Tommie, Mats and Lene, joined us in the booth. The place filled up and was completely packed by the time that Magic Pie came onstage. The overflow crowd sat out on the patio where it was refreshingly cool. Kenny introduced the band (brush up on that Norwegian for the next time, son) and the band launched into a smoking hot first set. This was the third time I have seen Magic Pie and, though it's hard to separate the band's performance from the ecstatic time I was having, may have been the best I have seen them play. They were exceptionally tight, which was no surprise but the sound in the pub was just perfect! I have gotten particularly fussy over the years with a band's mix and overall sound but had no complaints whatsoever. I can't recall the name of the person who ran the soundboard but he has worked with Magic Pie before and knew exactly what he was doing.

Everyone in Queen's Pub knew who we were and reacted with delight when we affirmed that, yes, we were the Americans. I never felt so welcome in my life. When I came back inside after the first set, there was a beautiful, sandy blonde woman sitting in our booth. I joked with her that she needed to be American to sit there and she responded that she was tired and just needed to sit for a moment. I told her it was no problem, as she was now an honorary American. Her name was Liv and she was really getting into the music. At one point I asked her a favor. "Would you please hold my camera later when I ask you?" "Yes, of course," was her reply.

The band played Freakshow early on in the set so playing that song was out of the question. I knew I wasn't ready to get up on stage to play Pointless Masquerade and, with Change being so rusty, I began to think that maybe it was just best that I didn't get invited up on stage, which would have been somewhat disappointing, yet understandable but would not have ruined the fantastic time I was having and would continue to have. I moved up closer to the stage at one point and saw this beautiful blonde woman in a short black dress. I could hear her singing and she had a lovely voice. In fact, most of the crowd was singing along, much to my amazement until I reminded myself that, d'uh, I was in Magic Pie's hometown so it should have not have been a surprise at all. One person who was not a local and was perhaps the most spirited in the crowd was Tam from
Scotland who was seeing the Pie for the very first time. What an introduction to the band! They were just on fire and played flawlessly. During one song I began to hear a different vocal line and was stunned. How had I missed this part for all the number of times I had heard the song? I don't have the best of ears but was shocked that I could have missed this. I turned and looked at the blonde woman in the black dress and saw that she was adding her own harmonization to the song! Her name is Sidsel and she has a voice like a bird. I smiled at her and she eased her way over to hold my hand and rub my back! WOW!!!! How good was this???

The second set was almost over when Erling shouted over to me "You're on!" I just about freaked but turned to Liv and handed her my camera. I walked up to the very crowded stage, took Allan's blue Stratocaster and slipped it on. Allan is a large man and the instrument fit me as if I were trying to imitate Jimmy Page but none of this mattered. I was going to forge through and make this happen despite being a complete bundle of nerves. Sue tells me when I first walked up there I looked like I was scared shitless- I WAS!!! Eirik went into a lengthy one-minute introduction in Norwegian so I have no idea what he said but he mentioned my name at the end and said I was the 'transcription guy.' I got up the nerve to say a few words into the mic. "Forgive me if I make a few mistakes for I am very nervous. I have never played with a better group of musicians, but more importantly, I have never played with a better group of people in my life. Let's hear it for Magic Pie!" The enthused crowd gave the band a loud round of applause and we went into Change. Toward the end of the song Eirik, bless his heart, told the crowd that I was the new lead guitarist in Magic Pie and the crowd ate it up. At the conclusion of the song everyone started chanting my name over and over!!!!!! I don't want this to go to my head but this was a totally transcendent moment!!!!

I just couldn't get over this! There is no way on earth I could have ever conceived of this two years ago when I first heard Change on Kenny's show and fell in love with it. I really wanted to learn this 20-minute epic and, though I had never done anything like this before, I decided to write the band and ask if they had any music or chord changes they could send to me. Eirik replied that they had the words but no music. I responded that I would rectify that situation and began to transcribe the guitar parts note for note. I wrote to Kim, asking him about this riff or that chord change but he wisely said it would be easier to videotape him playing it as opposed to talking about it via email. He graciously taped four avi files and sent them to me. Just to communicate with the band and have Kim send me files to help with my transcription was fantastic; seeing them at Rosfest 2006 was even better; meeting them and having them all know who I was ('the notes guy') was exhilarating; hanging with them all weekend and getting to know them a treat; seeing them again the next year a complete bonus; thanking me by name in the Circus of Life booklet an absolute mind bender, being invited over to Norway an extraordinary honor; staying with them and being shown around all week a privilege; being invited to share a stage with them at one of their best gigs..... There are no words, even for someone as verbose as me. I don't know if I can say that it makes me believe in God but it certainly makes me believe in Heaven!

After I got off stage, I hugged Jim and told him I was so glad that I had witnesses because none of my friends back home would believe my story! Kenny filmed the entire gig so, not only are there pictures, but film and sound of it as well. I went back to retrieve my camera from Liv and she was completely amazed. "Dale, I had NO idea when you asked me to hold your camera this was why!" I smiled at her and as I did, she began to caress my beard and told me "Everyone wants to be your friend, Dale" I melted!!! Sadly, I lost her at the end of the night but she said she was Eirik's neighbor. I am on a mission to find this woman again so I can thank her for sharing in one of the most special moments of my life. Sidsel came over to me as we went out on the patio for a drink. We were having a very pleasant conversation when Erling informed me that we had to leave right away, as his wife Anni was not feeling well. I kissed Sidsel's hand and gave her 500 Kroners for a cab to make sure she got home alright. I was lucky enough to get her phone number and email address and called her the next day to tell her that it was truly a pleasure to meet her. One woman even told me that she wanted to have my babies!!! All I can say is it feels GREAT to be a rock star in
Norway!! I am definitely returning to this country, guitar firmly in hand!

We got back to Erling's around
2:30am and I hopped into bed, deciding to put the Motions of Desire CD to fall asleep to. Before Change was over I was in dreamland but woke up before the album was over, meaning that I only slept for 20 minutes. I was so overcome with emotions that tears began to stream down my face. After about 10 minutes of this I got up, dressed and went for a walk around the neighborhood, CD player in tow. It was already light out but you could see the moon clearly in the sky. As I listened to the entire Motions album my eyes flooded with tears and I began to sob. I recalled telling Janie how nervous I was and remembered her words of wisdom: "Just have fun!" I admitted to myself that I did and was now realizing the full impact of the whole trip, the whole 3 months of anticipation and it was all hitting me at once. I got back to Erling's and sat on the deck for about another hour or two, continuing to cry from joy. I finally went to bed and slept for a couple of hours, knowing I would be exhausted the next day.

Saturday morning was rough and I felt achy beyond belief. I almost took a pass on going to Oslo for the Subtacto fest, even after taking a long, hot bath. Fortunately, Erling made a very nourishing breakfast for us, which helped considerably. We joined up with the others and hopped a train into Oslo, where we strolled down the main street to do some sightseeing and mild shopping. One highlight was a fierce looking statue of a small man in armor, complete with sword. I saw him as I walked up the street and as I stood there for a few minutes, about 100 feet away, got the shock of my life. The statue jumped to life and almost lashed out at young man who walked by! I was completely startled and must have jumped back a couple feet. This had been a mime that had been frozen in place the entire time! After that, we saw the King's palace and made our way to the Subtacto fest.

Pepe's Pizza was right next-door and we saw some familiar faces as we walked up- Frodo from England in a Minnesota Viking jersey, Stein/Progdog from Norway with his perpetual smile and energetic vibes and his friend Arnie, as well as a couple of others whose names I can't recall right now. We went off to the fest and caught the first band, a project formed by the original drummer of the Retroheads. They were good but the acoustics in the building were not the best. It had been built as a military factory during the German occupation in WWII. The large hall the bands played in was somewhat stark and made up of concrete walls and glass windows, which did not compliment the sound very well. Someone suggested that the organizers should have put material on the walls and floor, which might have helped. Erling suggested that we get something to eat before we got too hungry so I did not catch their entire set. We went back to Pepe's and ran into most of the others we had come with. I had a very good Italian style pizza with feta cheese, black olives and a leafy ingredient I can't recall.

Sadly, the much-needed lunch caused us to miss the opening of the Retroheads, who Kenny got to introduce, but we caught the rest of the set, which was very good. I was grateful to have a second opportunity to see this band, having been introduced to them for the first time at Rosfest 2007. I was surprised at how well I remembered some of the songs from three months earlier, not having heard them since. Obviously, they made an impression on me! Mike Mann, the lead singer, was his usual energetic self. Tommy Bere played some very fiery guitar leads and sounded wonderful. Deborah Gurnius and Ann-Kristin added lovely backing vocals as well as flute, acoustic guitar and keyboards. Morton on drums, Gry on keyboards and Tore on bass and vocals all did a fine job. I later asked Tore about his inspiration for their finale where the members all walk off the stage one by one as the song winds down. He said it just seemed like a nice way to end a set, which it most definitely is. He was surprised when I informed him that the classical composer, Franz Joseph Haydn had done a similar thing with his Farewell Symphony, perhaps as a way to suggest to the royalty they were visiting that the musicians were tired and wanted to go back home. My only regret was not hearing a song I recall from the Rosfest set that featured Ann-Kristin on lead vocals. I recall thinking afterward that, in light of the technical difficulties she had with her keyboards at Rosfest, this woman didn't need ANY keys with a beautiful voice like that! If anyone recalls what this song was, please let me know as I got her to promise she would sing it for me next time we met.

After a short break the next band up was Black Bonzo, a band Erling had introduced me to while staying at his house. I enjoy their style of music, which has obvious influences of Deep Purple and Uriah Heep and has a definite early 70's vibe to it. I was looking forward to seeing them, especially as I was getting a sneak peek of Rosfest 2008. The five-piece band (organ, guitar, bass, drums and lead singer) played very well and, despite the acoustics of the room, sounded very good. I particularly like the guitarist who captured the early 70s vibe with panache. If you don't mind a retro-style and enjoy Deep Purple and Uriah Heep you should definitely enjoy this band.

Next up was Magic Pie and much of the crowd seemed to have come for them, as the front area by the stage was packed with bodies. Tam had the honor of doing the introduction and did a marvelous job. His enthusiasm is contagious! Magic Pie came out and did another fine set but Kim later admitted to me that it was very difficult to hear each other on stage. Maybe because of this I found the Friday night set to have been of better quality. Certainly, the overall sound was better the night before but there's only so much you can do with a converted canon factory. One of the absolute funniest moments was when Lars walked over to Kim, leaned down and stuck the neck of his bass between Kim's legs. He never missed a beat nor even cracked a smile, nailing his hot, speedy leads without flaw. The only down side to an otherwise fine performance was that the schedules were getting behind and suddenly, without warning, Magic Pie had to quit without doing their last song, Change. This was a real disappointment and came as a surprise to everyone, however, each and every band was starting later and later than scheduled. As many people needed to take the last train from Oslo at 1am it was probably a wise tactical move but made us appreciate the extended Friday gig all that much more.

Sadly, I missed Host and Saga, the former being one of the bands I really wanted to see, especially after my newfound friend and long lost 'twin brother' Ketil had ranted and raved about them. Eirik had found me after the Pie set and implored me to meet his co-worker so it was back to Pepe's for more beer and friendship. Ketil was wise to go back to the fest to catch Host but Norwegian Pilsner's are heavy (and with more alcohol content) and not easy to chug. Besides, I was having a great time talking with new and old friends outside. As the John Sebastian song goes "Did you ever have to make up your mind?"

One of the eeriest moments of the trip occurred as I sat out on Pepe's patio when a tall gent with a smiling, wide-eyed look turned pointedly and walked up to me, simply exclaiming "Jethro Tull!!!" I thought to myself "Oh crap! Here's someone I met at Nearfest and mentioned my new project to- a Tull tribute band- but can't recall. How embarrassing!" I apologized to him for not remembering his name and asked if we had met at Nearfest. When he told me we hadn't I really got spooked! I asked him why on earth he had spotted me out of the blue to march up to and decry the name of the band. He just gave me a sort of knowing smile with a gleam in his eye, saying, in effect, that he just sensed it about me!!! I told him this was uncanny as I was about to get started on my Tull tribute band as soon as I returned home. Too weird! His name is Paul and he seemed to have an otherworldly sensitivity about him as we chatted and drank a beer together. Ketil, his friend Ketil, Nina, Elizabeth and Metta were among the people I continued to chat with the rest of the evening at Pepe's as Saga played their set across the way. I like Saga but not as much as I like the splendid people of Norway so I feel I made the right choice! Kenny broke us all up when he walked in and told me I was being paid for my performance with Magic Pie the previous night and dropped a small Tootsie Roll on the table as he walked away. I was still howling as he returned and excitedly shouted that my pay had been doubled and dropped another one off for me!! Too funny!!! I think I will seriously frame it the way upstart businesses do with their first dollar. We needed to get going after this to make the 1am train. Ketil joined us and we talked music, music and more music the whole ride back. After Erling and I got back to his home, we sat out on the porch, looking at stars, having a shot of Aquavit and talking about David Lynch movies and life in general.

After another short sleep, Sunday brought a nice twist. Kenny and Janie were meeting up with some of the Retroheads in Oslo and I was initially going to join them. Erling had a last minute idea and offered to drive me to Sweden with his kids, which was only a 50-minute drive away, just as far as Oslo was in the other direction. He left it up to me but I told him it didn't matter WHAT I did in Norway. Everything was a win-win proposition. Just BEING there was win-win as far as I was concerned! I opted for a trip to yet another foreign country. We drove to the Fredriksen fortress, where Norway made a stand against the Swede's in 1661. I got some great shots from there and then we headed off to Sweden for ice cream on the coast. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I realized that, despite being told that this was one of the worst summers in recent history, full of rain and cooler temperatures, any time we needed to be outdoors, the weather was pleasant and sunny while the days we needed to do things indoors it was cloudy. Dinner was at Rune's with her daughter Ingrid, Jim and Sue, Gilbert, Eirik and Gry. We had a meatball cakes, a scrumptious cabbage and cream sauce dish and potatoes. Ingrid, Gry and Rune prepared the meal for us and after a dessert of ice cream and coffee we headed over to Kim's for some wine and more friendship.

Rune and Ingrid did not join us at Kim and Lene's but it was a very pleasant evening and I found my wine glass being filled every time it emptied. We had some good conversation and laughs, particularly when I asked to buy the remaining four autographed copies of Circus of Life. I reached into my backpack to pull a wad of cash and told them that I must have had a very famous Norwegian in my family tree. I gave Gilbert the money to pay for the CDs and he stared at the 200 Kroner bills before he started cracking up. I passed a few more around to everyone and got a good round of laughs from everyone. My sister had taken a couple of 200 Kroner bills and pasted my face onto them so carefully you almost couldn't tell they were fake. Even Kim, who has a sense of humor but is typically shy and reserved, bust a gut over them. Afterward, at any appropriate moment in the conversation I grabbed my wad of cash and shouted out "I'll pay for that!" It was late when we left and we said some preliminary goodbyes because we probably wouldn't be seeing some of these fine folks before we left.

Monday, Gilbert was kind enough to offer to take us to Oslo to see a magnificent statue park and across the bay to the Kontiki museum. We all left at 8am and took the train into Oslo. Kenny, being the perfect gentleman he always is, offered his seat to a young woman as the train filled up with Monday morning commuters. A few minutes later a stunning brunette got on and I did the same. She actually refused me several times but I insisted. As the train began to clear, I sat in the row behind my friends. An older woman got off at the next stop and did a small, but very touching thing that made me feel like a million dollars. As she stood in the aisle she touched my shoulder and said "That was a very generous thing you did." The warmth and gratitude in her eyes was deeply moving. Then, before she got off the train, she touched my shoulder one more time and said, "It used to be that way here but not anymore." I was just knocked out that someone else would not only notice but comment on this very tiny act of kindness. This moved me for the rest of the day.

Gilbert took us to Frogner Park that contains the very famous Vigeland Sculpture Park with over 200 granite life-like statues of naked people in a variety of poses and ages. These statues are not sensual in the least, though have caused a bit of a stir over the years. They are natural and very expressive, capturing a wide range of intense human emotions. I wish I had more pictures from the park but was often having trouble with recharging my cameras batteries during the trip. The park is huge and we all have some glorious shots. After that we took the ferry to the Kontiki museum. Kontiki was an experiment to see if, using just balsa wood, early settlers could have made the trip in distant times to Easter Island. After 101 days in the Pacific Ocean, the crew finally made it and has a reasonable hypothesis of how someone made it to this remotest of all places in the world. We took pics from the coastline and went back via ferry to have lunch and a few beers on the waterfront at a very nice restaurant. After that, we hit a few stores on our way back to the train.

After the tiring day, which was very sunny and had temperatures around 85 F (25 C), we were almost ready for our first moment of rest and relaxation. I knew I would finally sleep well with all the walking we did, not to mention the sleep deprivation we had happily imposed upon ourselves during our stay. However, there was even MORE to come. On the ride back, Tore and Ann-Kristin from the Retroheads invited everyone over for a barbeque. All the Americans and almost the entire Magic Pie crew, along with some friends, family and band mates of Tore and Ann-Kristin joined us at Ann-Kristin's mother's cottage on this huge expanse of land on the beach. There must have been a good 20 people there and tables were set up outside in a long row to accommodate us. There was enough food there to feed an army and the scenery was simply breathtaking. I met Ann-Kristin's sister Grunya (spelling?) and her boyfriend Jake, Ann-Kristin's brother Thomas, the Retroheads drummer Morton and reunited with Kim, Marielle and Caroline, JT and Metta, Gilbert and Vinka, Lars and his girlfriend Avelyn (spelling?), Erling, Aksel and Hedda. There was also a young boy named Alexander and a delightfully mature 6-year old girl named Maria but I'm not sure whose children they were.

We had a great meal of barbequed pork chops, sausage, salad, corn, avocadoes, and several other goodies, along with the prerequisite beer and wine. At one point, I had a very deep discussion with JT, who I found is very much into philosophy. Later, Tore bestowed upon me a very simple act of kindness that spoke volumes about his nature. I have an aversion to cold and often get sick when it is too cool out or am exposed to air-conditioning for too long. Although I did not make a big deal out of it, I made certain I did not take any chances of getting sick while I was there. I could die after I came back for all I cared, just don't let me get sick while I'm in Norway! To that end, I always wore turtlenecks and a scarf-like piece of clothing and kept sweaters in my backpack just in case. Somehow, Tore noticed this minor detail and, as I was standing on the grass, I felt someone slip a jacket over my shoulders. I turned and saw that it was Tore. He said he did not want me to get cold! I was overwhelmed by his considerateness. In fact, it was more than that. A considerate person would have offered to get a jacket; he simply went to get one and put it over my shoulders. I was very touched by this act of kindness and blown away that he was so observant. It was a beautiful gesture by a beautiful person. We all chatted with an air of poignancy for what would be our last time before departing in the morning but were gladdened by the certain hopes that it would not be our last time seeing our good friends, and, probably not the last time we would be in Norway.

Tuesday morning was a bit sad but, as I had to get to the airport bus soon, there was little time for reflecting. After saying goodbye to Anni, Erling drove me off the bus stop where I met Gilbert, Kenny and Janie. We took some last pictures before boarding the bus and hopping our lengthy flights back home. I will try to post some of the more relevant pics on the PE board to give you visuals of things I have talked about. All my 300 pics can be found on photobucket.com. Here is the link: