Diary 2005

MS Columbus 03.01.-11.02.2005
by the WOLFMAN
04-01-05, 8:32

A brand new day.
It must have been more than 24 hours that we have spent in airports, waiting halls, busses or airplanes (did we really stay in Mexico City for a short time?)
Now: no more flight noise and nobody who offers you peanuts and orange juice (or gin and tonic); you only feel the rhythmic movements of the MS Columbus and hear the sound of the breaking waves. I am alone, for the very first time during the last three weeks. A feeling, which is still strengthened by the noise from the cabin next door. A young couple (youngsters on the Columbus!) obviously seems to be inspired by the rhythmic movements of the ship and the sound of the waves.
(Later, I found out that the cabin next door is empty and that the noise must have come from the hidden crew-area, which is well known for it's sins).

06-01-05, 00:51
I believe this tour diary must be written in English from now on. The reason: a) Joey wants to understand it as well. b) I resolved to write more songs ( and lyrics in English) within the next five weeks of our cruise; the next Pay-TV recordings are coming soon…

07-01-05, 08:01
So far, so good
Everybody has been really good to us since we've returned to the MS Columbus. It's funny: it felt a bit like coming home - though we've only ever spent 2 weeks on this boat and that was a year ago. The crew were especially nice. The first night after we left Acapulco, they threw a little México-party. We were also invited. They had been stocking up: There were tacos, sombreros, tequilas, coronas and more coronas. Upon entering, three people simultaneously bought me a beer and started chatting with me as if we were just continuing a conversation from 5 minutes before. Having just awoken from a comatose, jet-lag induced sleep this felt like the strangest breakfast ever - and made me a happy little Wolfman.

10-01-05, 16:11
Seven days at sea
I'm sitting here in my cabin (no.301) and taking it easy. I've definitely had my dose of sunlight for today (maybe slightly too much) and I also have a bit of a cold (the bloody air-con). Otherwise things couldn't be better.
This journey started with seven sea days in a row and tomorrow we are going to reach the Marquesas Islands, where Paul Gauguin (the French painter) and Jacques Brel (the Belgian composer) used to live in their later years. In a couple of days we are also going to reach Bora Bora, where Elvis Presley (the American Rock'n'Roll artist and connoisseur of le Big Mac) still lives to this very day - at least this is what Joey told the audience in our first show.
That was on January 8th - the King's birthday! We had quite a good night. Our batteries all charged up by good food, sun and workouts and the three of us all relaxed but eager to play (alright - we WERE jumping around like monkeys again by the end of the show!).
Slip sliding away
Playing on a boat (maybe one should say 'ship' really!) is a bit different. Everything is swaying from side to side always, even without the alcohol. If you're trying to play the drums, this means the various cymbals and tom toms keep moving around. Combine that with a wooden dance floor and a slippery drum carpet and you can picture me: moving around the room with my drum set as if it had wheels! At one point I and the kit were slowly turning clockwise, eventually in a 90 degree angle to the rest of the band. Another time I was suddenly sitting in front of Jamie, right next to Joe.
Also classic: You find yourself asking "Why are the drums getting smaller?" and suddenly realize that - yes- the carpet is moving away from you, but you and the stool and the microphone stay nailed right to the spot. I guess, you just keep playing until your arms don't reach anymore. Maybe if I had really long drumsticks…

11-01-05, 11:31
There is land in sight!
Finally, after a week of deep blue water in every direction you looked; no ships, no islands, just the occasional flying fish (Jamie spotted a dolphin once or twice). Here we go! The "Marquesas Islands" await us. We are going to land in Atuona/Hiva Oa at one o'clock.

Man, what a fun, fun day this has been! It takes a while to leave ship. It is a bit cloudy, the air is humid and there are big waves around the island. When we get off the little shuttle boats, we decide not to take the bus and start our land trip (it's good to be on land again for a change) with a good half hour walk into town. Hiva Oa is a beautiful volcanic island, with hills and mountains. People here speak French; it is part of French Polynesia.
I find being in a place like this inspiring, it doesn't really matter what you are doing. I walk past the post office/internet place (closed), the graveyard (people still dead) and we meet up again at a rocky beach. Just playing around in the waves for two hours is the greatest thing ever! Later Joey, Jamie and I meet some of the local youth and get to join in a little football match. Their rules are different; you are only allowed to score with a header. We play barefoot with a plastic ball. Everyone is relaxed and we don't even totally disgrace ourselves.
Soon it is time to hurry back and get on the last bus (we don't want to miss the boat). At the bus station we round off the day with a cold beer (Tahiti brand) in the evening sun (just one, we don't want to miss the boat). Just three minutes before the bus is leaving, I realize I have left my T-shirt at the football pitch. I decide to run back, but now REALLY have to hurry (because I don't want to miss the boat…)!

16-01-05, 08:22
The Burrito Brothers
Back onboard. The last few days went by in a rush. Sometimes people here actually make us do work and stuff. We were asked to play two songs (!) during the intermission of the MS Columbus fashion show.
Christ, I forgot to tell you: There has been another Equator Baptism Party and we had to dress up again as pirates (Jamie) and devils (Joey and me). But you probably still remember the photos from last year.
Anyway, here we were scheduled to play at the fashion show, when we had also promised to play down in the crew mess for a big Rock'n'Roll Party. Sound checking difficulties (we only have one set of equipment on board) and unmanageable time schedules (only a 15 minute gap between the shows) put us in a tight spot. We had to come up with something.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me proudly proclaim the birth of our new spin-off, side-project. We now have three bands consisting of the exact same three people: Pay-TV, the Rockhouse Brothers and…the Burrito Brothers.
Three simple Mariachis wearing ponchos and sombreros, playing acoustic guitar, trumpet and maracas, easy to sound check and always for hire. It was interesting - and hilarious (at least for us, I'm not really sure people got the joke).
Is www.burritobrothers.de still available?!

17-01-05, 15:24
I just awoke from a little afternoon nap. It's not like I don't get enough sleep here, but this morning it was off to an early start. We arrived at Rarotonga/Cook Islands at 7:00 o'clock this morning. Funnily enough, "RAROTONGA!!!" is also the sound that the big anchor chain outside my cabin makes, when the deck crew lower the anchor. I stood up straight in bed.
Anyway, we've had a fun morning on the island and it was good to get up early because we only stayed here from 7:00 to 12:00 clock. Jamie got up even earlier because he had arranged to go scuba diving with one of the crew and they wanted to take the first shuttle boat off the ship. Unfortunately the sea was a bit rough and shuttling took ages (it somehow does always). In the boats it is also usually first the passengers (who have booked excursions for the day or something) and only after that crew or rock'n'roll musicians. So, when I came down to the boats after 8 o'clock poor Jamie was still waiting and the crew person had had to give up all together because he had to work.
I think we all got a bit stressed over the short staying time. Jamie did go diving after all and was back on the ship first. I went snorkelling with Sonja (one of the "star-dancers" aboard) and her brother. After changing money, buying a new snorkel and finding the right bus to the "Fruits of Rarotonga" Snorkelling Resort (12 km), we only had about an hour left. It was great and we saw many big, bright-coloured fish - but then had to hurry back to the shore full speed (funny, being almost late seems to become a recurring theme in this diary). Joey got off last and took a taxi to the beach where we had originally planned to meet. Upon arrival he realized he didn't have any money for the ride back. So he relaxed, chilled at the beach for a good five minutes, took a deep breath and then started on the 12 km jog home - just in time for the last shuttle boat!

19-01-05…oops…20-01-05, 9:27
Fun on the International Date Line
Today isn't happening, they had to cancel it. It was only yesterday night - we were sitting together over a beer - when Joey got up and said: "I'm tired; I'm going to bed now. There's always tomorrow…"
Then it hit us. There was no tomorrow. Tomorrow was going to be the day after tomorrow. Or tomorrow, today was not going to become yesterday, but the day before yesterday. Can you follow me? In other words, the MS Columbus was crossing the date line. I mean - man! - what about the passengers? They have booked this 21-day-cruise and now it is only going to be 20 days long! What about people's birthdays? I don't have access to the internet here, but January 19th must be someone famous' birthday?! What about gigs, what about appointments? What about us?
Ok, I have had enough. I'm going up for breakfast.

23-01-05, 21:56
Just another day in paradise
I haven't told you about Bora Bora, yet. Bora Bora/Society Islands is also called "Pearl of the South Sea". Beautiful sandy shores, palm trees, coconuts, volcanic mountains, you name it. We've had a fun day there.
Upon our arrival, Jamie spots a bicycle rental place and we pedal off to explore the island. Just a few minutes and we are at a fantastic beach, where we spent an hour sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling. This short distance fools us into thinking a whole lap around the island can't actually take long - but it really is 32 kilometres. Jamie has got a scuba diving appointment (it is on Bora Bora where he gets back into diving) one and a half hours later, so we suddenly find ourselves pedalling away in the afternoon sun like madmen! Mine is the only bike with a gearshift (carefully chosen by myself), which I thought would give me a bit of an advantage, but somehow only makes it more vulnerable to breakage. Twice I have to reset the chain. Damn.
I later go out with some people from the boat. We have a bloody Mary in a bar called "Bloody Mary's". It seems like a fine choice and I have to say it tastes bloody fantastic! Many celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Quincy Jones and Cameron Diaz have visited this place - as a sign posted in front of the entrance reads. Who knows, maybe one day my paw print will be up there with their signatures…?!

24-01-05, 19:58
Less than a month left until the recording of our 2nd Pay-TV Album! Joe keeps writing songs like crazy, so we have to start doing one or two rehearsals a day.
We usually set up our equipment in the "Columbus Lounge" at the back of the ship. This is where the ships nightly entertainment takes place and it is also often occupied during the day with lectures and cocktail parties. About the only time it is definitely free is after it closes at night (00:30), so we're going to work nightshifts! But even then it is more like "open" rehearsals. Members of the crew will cheerfully pop in for late night drinks - only to leave again half an hour later and depressed. I guess not many people realize what boring affairs rehearsals actually are. Well, we will have to keep doing them anyway.

08-02-05, 11:13
And we did!
Wow, it is amazing how time passes when you're keeping busy (or having fun). I'm already in Sydney now. We're staying at Manja's place (a great friend of Jamie's), in a flat share overlooking East Balmain and the Ocean in the distance. Sharing a couch with Joey the saint, I woke up to the sounds of a canary bird rattling its cage. Just in time to witness another beautiful sunrise.
I apologize to all you readers. Our nightly rehearsals, day-time shore expeditions, late night photo sessions (and also the table football and vodka bingo) have really interfered with my writing time. But I promise to make it up to you and tell you everything I have left out so far…and maybe even more…?!

09-02-05, 11:49
Once upon a time
We arrive in New Zealand at lunch time. It's the second to last day of our first cruise (we're doing two). It's safe to say that all three of us are completely hung over. The last two days were spent at sea (quite rough sometimes) and we did our second full-length show (one hour) for the passengers and played two songs at the cruise farewell show. We all love "Papa" (must be somewhere in his fifties) Leonid - the pianist and mastermind behind the Columbus' "Allegro Band". Their job is to play dance music in the Columbus lounge in the evening, barbeque parties on deck during the day, the occasional "Happy Birthday" in the restaurant at dinner time, cocktail hours, Equator baptisms, "Frühschoppen" and - maybe hardest of all - accompany the cruise's artists and entertainers. In other words, these guys really work for their money! Seeing that Leonid usually doesn't beat around the bush if he thinks the "artists" and "entertainers" aren't exactly great (after all he is a slightly cynic, highly educated, chess-playing piano player and arranger from the Ukraine), we were quietly waiting for the day that he would report us to the captain for being the charlatans that we are. For some reason this never happened; instead him and all the Allegro Band seemed to take a liking in us (I still blame the fact that we never had to play together). Anyway, last night was spent together, celebrating the end of the South Sea and the beginning of the New Zealand cruise, drinking vodka until the early morning hours. And though conversation is limited (we don't speak Russian and the Ukrainians only little English), we had a lot of fun - or at least this is what people tell me. I can't remember much. "Hello!!"

The Bay of Islands
New Zealand is different; the rocks, the palm trees, the plants, the climate. We stroll into a relaxed Oceanside town where people speak English, though with a funny accent. Later that day - when the headaches have seized a bit - we decide to rent out a catamaran.
"Aye, mates! So you dudes are sailors?" the young blonde ship-owner beams widely, when we tell him we work on the MS Columbus. His good mood is contagious. I can't help but say: "Sailors? Oh yeah. Dude! Joe here was practically born on a boat!"
Joey chips right in with a hearty "Aye! Red right return!", but then carefully adds "Well…actually we have no idea what we're doing. How much is one hour?"
The look on the guy's face is just heartbreaking.

23-02-05, 14:55
Twice upon a time
I am writing this in a studio in Stockholm. It is snowing outside and minus 6 degrees Celsius. Yesterday somebody smashed Jamie's car window and stole a whole box of our favourite CDs (about 100!) - just outside of Joe's apartment in Uppsala. New Zealand merely feels like a warm memory now. Anyhow.

A Kiwi is fat flightless bird that sleeps about 20 hours per day. It is the mascot of New Zealand. A Kiwi is also an oval shaped, hairy fruit. It originated from China, has been given a new name and become a no.1 export article for New Zealand. At 3 degrees Celsius you can basically store and keep it fresh for ever. Last but not least, the people of New Zealand also like to call themselves Kiwis - which is funny: I neither found them to be especially fat, hairy or oval shaped. Nor do they like cold temperatures or sleep an awful lot. At least they are flightless all right. This is about all the facts I can give you.

Our stay in Tauranga has been a pleasant one. Actually, for me it was one perfect, lucky day with a little bit of everything in it!
We arrive early in the morning and the passengers go off on excursions around 8:30. Since our equipment is still neatly set up in the lounge from yesterday night, we decide to stay in and do another Pay-TV rehearsal first. I enjoy playing and feel we are getting some good work done. At around 12:00 o'clock "Papa" Leonid comes rushing in and asks us if we want to play some football. Naturally, we think he must be joking or that there is some kind of misunderstanding. But it turns out he is a great player and goes playing with some of the crew quite regularly. When we walk down the gangway, ten people in football gear are already waiting for us. They have organised a real football pitch somewhere in town! It's a lot of fun (Joey and I even get some nice combinations going!) and what we lack in style (mostly Jamie!), we make up for in running around like madmen. The sun is beating down (everybody is covered in sweat and sun lotion), but just when we're starting to feel tired and thirsty, a friendly Kiwi (a person, not a bird or fruit) drops by with two crates of ice cold lemonade. And the day still keeps getting better. After winning the game (I leave out the second game where we all get our asses kicked by a couple of Canadian teenagers) we go on to the beach. The water is perfect for cooling down and we spent an hour bodysurfing in the perfect waves. Then it's time to walk back to the boat. Did I mention that Mexican is my favourite food? Well, guess what they have for dinner tonight!
And fortune just keeps on smiling: After dinner it's not Jamie (ex-biology student, who has been on the lookout for weeks now - but left for his cabin one minute ago), but me (the person that still occasionally gets lost on his way to the ship's laundry) that spots a large group of dolphins!
If I remember correctly, it went somewhat like this:

(Editor's Note: This conversation actually never took place)

WOLFMAN: (pointing) "Look Joseph! Starboard: It's a whole school of Dolphins!"
JOE: (still chewing on a big piece of enchilada) "Fish!! Mmmmph…Big Fish!" (Pointing with his fork)
WOLFMAN: "Lagenorhynchus obliquidens - to be exact; the White Stripe Dolphin. And it must be at least half a dozen of them."
JOE: "Mmmmph…Look! Fish jumping!" (Joe's enormous belly keeps him from getting any closer to the railing)
WOLFMAN: "Exactly Joseph. As we all know: When hunting, a dolphin is capable of swimming 40 kilometres per hour. Hence the apparently effortless mastery of movement through more than one element! It seems like weightlessness, does it not?
JOE: "?!??"
WOLFMAN:"…and with a population of 1.5 million in all the eastern pacific, we still ought to count ourselves lucky! On the other hand Lagenorhynchus obliquidens likes to form remarkably large schools, of sometimes up to 10000 mammals, occasionally accompanying ships or fishing vessels that…"
JOE: "But me still hungry..."
EDITOR'S VOICE: "WOLFMAN!! Are you reading all these facts off of a piece of paper?!"
Joe and Wolfman both look around in panic.

To be continued…