Welcome to my Kill to Get Crimson 2008 tour blog!

My name is Isaac, 30 years old from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up for the purpose of documenting the journey I am taking following Mark Knopfler’s Kill to Get Crimson tour in North America, in the summer of 2008.

The North American leg of the tour, as well as my journey, begins June 24th in Morrison, Colorado and ends on July 31st in Miami Beach, Florida.

Even though I intend to write on a daily basis, publishing the stories onto the server would be tricky. After all, we’re talking about vast distances which will be primarily crossed by driving, and there is no way for me to predict the availability of Internet connection throughout the way.

So… make yourself at home and feel free to drop a comment.



Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Last Post

The tour is over.

As there is a long weekend coming up in Canada, I decided to stay in the Miami area for now. In less than an hour, Jeroen and myself will be sharing a cab to the airport. There, our ways will split as he returns to The Netherlands; I will be renting a car (a convertible; end the tour on a high note) and live the moment for the next two days. On Monday afternoon, I will be returning the rental car in the Jacksonville airport, where my flight to Buffalo (with a connection in Charlotte) departs at 2:00pm. Once in Buffalo, I will be driving my worthless ‘98 Accord back to Waterloo.

Time to say goodbye. Not only goodbye to you, the readers, who took the time and effort to follow my blog—the first blog I have ever written—and made me feel that I am not alone; it is also a goodbye for the first part of my life, which has ended on July 31, 2008, at approximately 11:00pm.

Many of the things I am going to write here are meant not only for you guys to read, but also for myself, to capture the thoughts and feelings I have. Something to remember 5, 10, 20, 100 years from now.

There were many reasons for me to put my life on hold for more than a month and follow this great group of musicians across North America.

One reason was to get some inspiration to create my own music. Going by what I was able to record in ten minutes while at Kami’s place in Kentucky, I should say that yes, this trip has inspired me a lot. There are many things I’ll have to cope with once I return to Ontario, however it will not be too long before I put my hands on some recording equipment and work on my first composition. I can’t tell you much about it now, except that it is going to involve four instruments at most (an acoustic guitar, a Fender Stratocaster, a piano and a Gibson—out of which only the Gibson is at my disposal at the moment).

The second reason was that I simply wanted to pay a tribute to the band. I am not talking about stalking band members in dark alleys or behind stage doors; or be on alert whenever a stage crew member approaches, waiting for the best time to ask for some stage memorabilia such as guitar picks. I am talking about simply being there and enjoying the music, the same music that has been ringing in my ears for so long.

One issue here requires elaboration. Notice that I wrote “pay tribute to the band”. Up to several years ago, I used to be a Mark Knopfler fan. No, I didn’t collect bootlegs, CD’s or guitar picks, I didn’t trade merchandise with others and I was not interested in the slightest in Mark’s personal life. I was simply awed by the music, and attributed my deep impression to the greatness of one person—Mark Knopfler.

That has changed on July 5, 2005, when I watched the band performing live for the first time in my life, in Toronto. Only then I realized that the true power of Mark Knopfler’s music lays not only within his superb writing skills and amazing guitar work, but—for the most part—within the musicians he surrounds himself with. I have yet to listen to any group of musicians working in levels of harmony that even comes close to this fantastic group of seven.

The third reason was for me to take some time off and collect inventory. See what I have accomplished during the last 30 years; what have I learned; what is left to work on; how can I become a better person; recognize what I should be thankful for; and so forth.

I am looking back to as far ago as I can remember, and I realize that I do have, and have accomplished, some things to cherish and to be proud of:

  • I have a successful career;
  • I know I can compose beautiful music—at least, beautiful in my ears;
  • I have expanded my knowledge in a few subjects that I feel are important in order to lead comfortable life in our day and age, including that of working, dealing and communicating with people;
  • I have two living parents, one sister (29 y/o) and three nephews (9, 4, and 3 y/o) who are the sweetest, most adorable kids in the world that I miss so much as they are 10,000km away;
  • I don’t have many friends; yet, the friends I do have—I appreciate for what they are and I am proud to be associated with them;
  • And above all, I have—at least, I hope I still have (long story)—the single sweetest, kindest and most beautiful woman in the world right next to me. Her name is Karen and, for me, she is the one and only one. Such a perfect combination of kindness, unselfishness, sweetness, intelligence and beauty is just too rare to let go of. What will happen with us once she returns to Waterloo in September, after four months of absence—that I can’t tell. I can just say that the joy I experienced during the last four years had a lot to do with her being my girlfriend.

That said, in order to put it in perspective, I have to consider the starting point. Not many of you—as a matter of fact, very few of you—are aware of my history: the environment I grew up in; the challenges I had to face ever since I was three years old; the very hard choices I had to make during the first 30 years of living, choices that favoured long‐term gain, making immensely painful sacrifices.

I won’t go into the details, but rest assured: it wasn’t easy.

The inventory I took above is needed to understand the reason for the gratitude I feel towards the band. My gratitude to the band is not for making all of the above possible, because they really didn’t; whatever I have achieved so far was not due to Mark Knopfler’s music—I owe it all to the people I surrounded myself with, my family and myself.

So what exactly am I thanking the band for?

The answer is simple: for being there, with great music, in the ups and downs; for having created such beautiful and touching music through which it became easier (rather than possible) for me to connect to my inner self, and find the powers to move on, despite so many difficulties and challenges.

Spending such a long time away from home, mostly by myself, I could not help but inquiring into some inner values and try to learn something new out of this mess we call “life”. I tried. Have I succeeded? Well, I’ll put it this way: much more than I learned new things, I have reaffirmed ideas, values and practices that I already had—some of which have been passed on to me from my wonderful parents and my close circle of friends, and some of which I have learned on my own, mostly the hard way.

Important lessons / reaffirmations / resolutions (for myself; whatever you make out of life is, really, up to you):

  • I must always remember where I came from, what my starting point was, and what it is that brought me to this point. True enjoyment comes not from what money can buy, but from the realization and recognition of what took one from lows to highs, and the realization that I can do.I should not take anything for granted; whatever is worth having will go away if I just let it.
  • What’s here today is here to be appreciated and enjoyed.
  • Communicating with people is the single most important art that I took the time to learn.
  • I have never, and will never, just “accept” things. I should never shy away of challenging, either myself or others. When challenging others, I should do so in a respectful way—respecting their values and wishes, regardless to how different those are from mine.
  • I should never ask for anything from anyone, if I have the slightest suspicion that both a positive and a negative response will put the other side in a state of discomfort.
  • Everybody in the world wants to be good and feel good about what they’re doing. The only difference between us is how we define “good”. Realizing the other side’s definition of “good” is the key to developing long‐lasting relationships of any kind.
  • Proving to somebody that they made a mistake is easy but often counterproductive. Making somebody reach this conclusion on their own is much more effective, however requires a completely different skill set;
  • An original quote by my friend Bill Miller of Waterloo: “Stupidity is billable; if you’re going to be stupid, it’s going to cost you at the end”;
  • A Turkish proverb, also quoted by my friend Bill on every occasion: “No matter how far you went down the wrong path—turn back”.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all:

  • To all of you readers who followed my blog, commented and made this journey the pleasure that it has been;
  • To all of you who introduced themselves to me during the shows. Was great getting to know you;
  • To all of you guys, gals and families who helped me so much during this trip, either by inviting me to stay with them, giving me a ride when they could and providing advice—you made this trip so much easier and so much joyful, not enough words in the English language exist to express my gratitude;
  • To Jesca Hoop, for the excellent opening acts;
  • To the software development team I am currently a part of, back in Waterloo, for filling in for me during my absence;


  • (from left to right) To Matt Rollings, John McCusker, Glenn Worf, Mark Knopfler, Danny Cummings, Richard Bennett and Guy Fletcher for being what they are and for doing what they know best: performing the greatest music in the world.

Most of you are probably asking yourselves whether I had the chance to speak with Mark Knopfler before he departed to the UK. The answer is no, I didn’t. If it wasn’t meant to happen, then it wasn’t meant to happen.

I did, however, get the chance to speak with each and every other member of the band. Great guys. I am happy to have had the opportunity to associate myself with this group of musicians who are, first and foremost, great people.

This is the last post in this blog. Of course, feel free to post comments—to which I may reply—however no new posts will be published.

Here is to the first thirty years of living. Let the next thirty be just as joyful and productive.

The subtitle of my blog reads “Let it all go…”.

I did; and whatever really mattered to me, allowed me to breathe but never left me.

Isaac Shabtay

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, Miami, FL

I woke up at 8:00am today as Jim, Teddy & myself planned to leave Clearwater at around 8:30am. It was hard waking up. I went to sleep late last night, as my mind was racing with so many thoughts. I was trying to digest the fact that in about 24 hours this entire tour will be over. Not an easy thing to do, considering the fact that this tour was a huge part of my life for more than a month now.

But I did manage to wake up on time. Quickly packed my belongings and left the motel. Jim & Teddy were already there. Loaded my backpack, went inside quickly to drop the key‐card and within a minute we were on our way.

The first stop was this coffee / breakfast place. I can’t recall the name of the place, however it was rather impressive—only formally opened last week. Had a turkey sandwich which was good, as well as a latte. We knew that there was a long day of driving in front of us (well, in front of Jim; I was half asleep during the most of it) so we didn’t take our time.

The next stop before leaving Clearwater was to drop some stuff in a restaurant where Jim & Teddy’s son is working. Took us some time to find the place; dropped the stuff there and left within 3 minutes, this time heading directly to Miami Beach.

The way from Clearwater to Miami Beach is very pretty and interesting at the beginning of the drive. You get to see a lot of ocean, lots of green, lots of blue and, sometimes, you even get to see little islands close to the shore, something like the Thousands Islands Parkway in Ontario but with much less than 1,800 islands in them. Still a very pretty sight.

You also get to see and drive through the Sunshine Skyway, which is, according to Wikipedia, “the world’s longest bridge with a cable‐stayed main span”.

The closer you get to the interior, the prettiness disappears and you get to see those boring highway views, which really don’t amount to much. I was half asleep during this part.

We stopped for lunch in the small town of Labelle, in a place called Flora & Ella’s. This restaurant turned out to be a Labelle landmark, offering a very simple menu, very good value for what you pay. I had some beans on rice, a serving of friend apples and a pecan pie for desert.

Just outside of Miami, we felt a little thirsty so we pulled over by Burger King to buy a drink. Teddy has prepared me to the forthcoming—that I will probably be approached in Spanish rather than English, due to my middle‐eastern appearance. She was right. I got a diet coke, couldn’t find a lid for the small cup. One of the workers there insisted to help me in Spanish, even though I told her (in English) that I can neither understand nor speak Spanish.

Traffic into Miami Beach wasn’t that bad. It was about 3:30pm, and there seemed to be lots of traffic at the other direction—getting out of Miami. We quickly found the National Hotel, my target.

I bid Jim & Teddy farewell, and thanked them for the ride. It was great getting to know them. We agreed to chat more at the venue.

National Hotel was my target for the mere fact that it was also Jeroen’s target. This is Jeroen’s last stop before he ends his USA trip and goes back to The Netherlands on Saturday. Jeroen invited me to stay as a guest in his hotel room.

Jeroen was out, but he was responsible enough to add my name as a guest for the hotel room so I quickly got my key from the front desk and went upstairs.

So this hotel is a 4‐star hotel, offering excellent service and fantastic rooms. Jeroen, being himself, simply had to go for a room with perfect ocean view. The view from the hotel room is amazing:


Checked some emails, and then Jeroen showed up. Was great seeing him again. We decided to go for an early dinner before we hit the show.

So we went to 1700 James Avenue, where the Casa Tua, recommended by Richard, is located. After about 5 minutes of wandering around the place it turned out to be closed. We went to Lincoln Road, which appears to be “the” place to be in while in Miami Beach, and walked towards a restaurant called “Sibille”, serving Italian food. Jeroen had dinner there before and recommended it.

Walking through Lincoln Road you see the same Miami Beach you see on the movies. Shirts are optional here, for both men and women; girls competing between themselves on who walks with the least amount of clothes on without being arrested; this is “fun town” here.

The restaurant offers a “happy hour” that actually lasts three hours—4:00pm to 7:00pm—during which you can choose to either pay half price for the food, or get two drinks for the price of one. We chose the former.

The menu was very interesting. It took us some time to decide what we want. The waiter appeared to have completely forgotten about us. We waited for about 20 minutes until the guy acknowledged our existence and came by. We quickly placed an order and continued chatting, filling each other in with what’s been going on since we last saw each other on Sunday morning.

The food, I have to say, was delicious. I had a Caesar Salad for a start, then veal‐filled Ravioli with mushroom sauce. Not a huge plate, but a great value for the money you pay (during happy hour, of course). We shared a Dulce de Leche crepe—I had to explain to Jeroen what Dulce de Leche means. Apparently this wonderful thing is not very common in the Netherlands.

After dinner we went back to the hotel, changed and off we went to the venue, a sheer distance of one block away, for the last show in the tour.

Doors were supposed to open at 7:00pm. They let us in on 7:10pm, and we had to kill some more time until they opened the hall’s doors.

My seat was in the pit, front row, one seat to the right of the absolute center. Great way to finish the tour.

Slightly before Jesca’s show, John McCusker approached me as I was sitting, and we had a little chat. I thanked him for the tour, he thanked me for being there. I told him that it blows my mind how he constantly finds new ways to expand his Marbletown work which I absolutely love.

Realizing that I will not have the chance to bid the band farewell, I asked John to say goodbye to everyone for me, which he promised to do.

Great guy.

Jesca’s show started at 8:00pm. Her show today was very good—her best show in the entire tour, in my opinion. Jesca and I agreed before to meet for a short chat before the tour ends; at the end of her show, I called her name but apparently she couldn’t hear me. I looked for her in the lobby, she wasn’t there.

Too bad.

Paul showed up on the stage a few minutes before the show started. Danny showed up as well, behind the drum kit. Paul read his usual announcement from paper, and as he said “however”, Danny rolled the drums, much to Paul’s amusement. Danny then stroke the cymbal as Paul said “personally removed from the venue”.


Countdown continues. It’s not easy to explain what went through my head in those seconds. It may appear as complete nonsense to you guys, but put yourselves in my shoes for a second. Imagine that you’re following the band for 37 days, watching 31 shows. The tour is a huge part of your life during those 37 days. What do you feel like when you realize that it is soon going to be over?

The countdown ended as the band captured the stage on 9:00pm and gave one of its best shows so far, if not the best one of them. The band appeared very eager to play this last concert, and they did it very well. It was the shining moment (well, two hours) of each and every one of them. Everything in this concert went smooth, and the sound was great. We got great guitar solos, especially the one in Song for Sonny Liston. Marbletown was great as usual, with John going even further with his great violin work.

The band played the usual set list. As the tour is over, here is the set list for the entire North American tour:

  1. Cannibals
  2. Why Aye Man
  3. What It Is
  4. Sailing to Philadelphia
  5. True Love Will Never Fade
  6. The Fish and the Bird
  7. Hill Farmer’s Blues
  8. Romeo and Juliet
  9. Sultans of Swing
  10. Song for Sonny Liston
  11. Done with Bonaparte (only performed during the first concert, in Red Rocks Amphitheater)
  12. Marbletown
  13. Speedway in Nazareth
  14. Telegraph Road


  1. Brothers in Arms
  2. Shangri La (only performed in very few concerts)
  3. So Far Away
  4. Going Home (theme from Local Hero)

The crowd cheered a lot today. The atmosphere was very similar to the Las Vegas shows—not surprising, considering that both Miami Beach and Las Vegas are resort‐type places that people go to in order to have fun and let everything go, rather than restrain themselves. So we had the customary drunk fellow sitting two seats to my right, who, together with his wife, talked quite a bit during the show and made all kind of noises, until being threatened by a rather threatening‐looking Italian guy who was sitting right beside them.

At the end of the show, we all gave great cheers to what I would consider the best musicians’ make‐up in the world. I have to admit that it was a very hard moment for me.

Then I suddenly realized that Guy and Danny are marching towards me, reaching their hands. For a moment I was under the impression they were going to pull me onto the stage (it really looked like it; Jeroen thought so as well), which freaked me out to an incomprehensible end, however it turned out that they came to shake my hand and bid me farewell. That was very sweet. I thanked them dearly for everything. Then came Richard; I shook his hand and thanked him as well.

Then they all disappeared from the stage, leaving a huge crowd very happy. All except one guy, 30 years old, born some 10,000km away and lives 2,500km away from Miami Beach, who was very sad to see this end.

The tour is over, and so is my blog. Well, almost. There is one more post to be published. I need to get my thoughts together first; the last post will be published soon, perhaps even today.


Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL

The hunt for food had to be short as it was done in the rain. I ended up having a Burrito at “Chipotle”, about two minutes walk from the motel. Very good value—you get a tasty Burrito and a drink for less than $7.

There appears to be nothing much to do in Clearwater. Tampa is the “business district” of the entire Tampa‐St. Petersburg‐Clearwater area (also called “Tampa Bay”), whereas Clearwater is more of a retirement place. One of those places that are responsible for Florida being dubbed “God’s Waiting Room”.

Jim and his wife Teddy showed up at my motel on 7:00pm. They live in southern Florida; Jim decided to surprise his wife and got them tickets for the two last shows in the tour—a surprise that Teddy welcomed very heartily.

The venue is very close to the motel—less than 2 miles driving distance. We got there at about 7:15pm, 45 minutes before the show starts. I wandered around the venue—a rather small one, but well‐marked and convenient. It should be noted that the ticket for this show was the most expensive ticket in the entire tour—all tickets, of all classes, of all other venues, cost less than the ticket I got: row A, seat 8—one seat left of the absolute center.

To the right of me was sitting a guy named Michael from Rhode Island. He mentioned that he was aware of my blog. He was going to introduce himself at the Boston show, however I was at the Meet & Greet so it never materialized. Very nice guy.

To the left of me, there was a couple, about 55–60 years old. The woman mentioned to me that she’s been waiting 30 years to see Mark perform live; judging by how much she was talking to her husband, perhaps a wait of another 30 years would be in place.

My 70L backpack has a detachable compartment that can be used as a general‐purpose bag that wraps diagonally around your shoulder and chest. I use it instead of putting things in my pockets, which I hate. Apparently, the sight of this bag caught the eye of one of the ushers. He must have been developing some horror screenplay in his head, regarding what I have in my bag, so he called one of the security guys. A huge man approached me and asked to inspect the bag’s contents. That reminded me of my days back in Israel when they check your belongings and scan your body for metals every time you enter a public place.

Jesca caught the stage at 8:00pm and played her usual set. As she started playing “Seed of Wonder”, she mentioned that she’s been on the road for so long. Then, out of the blue, she said something along the line of “there’s another person here who’s been on the road for a long time… his name is Isaac, and he’s sitting right there” and pointed at me. “He’s been to each and every show this tour, and I bet he can’t wait for it to be over so he can go home already”.

By the time I finished computing this unexpected occurrence, my moment of glory was over. I sent Jesca a kiss in the air. Maybe she got it.

Thanks Jesca. :-)

Then came the customary 30 minutes break, during which I did nothing that is worth telling the world about—just chilling in my chair and enjoying the view of the stage that was less than one meter away.

The Seven Wonders caught the stage at 9:00pm, and received some warm cheers. I think that, for the first time this tour, most of the crowd was at Mark’s age or older. It was great seeing seniors cheer like that.

I was told, before the concert (I’m not sure if it was Michael who told me that, or was it Jim) that the Ruth Eckerd Hall has great acoustics. It turned out to be true: the sound at the venue was very impressive. Surprisingly, it wasn’t loud at all, even from the front row. It was just at the right volume, you get net sound, no noise.

The crowd was more of the quiet type (cheer‐wise; some people, even in the front row, insisted on talking during the show which pissed me, and others, off to some invisible end). I could see some people slightly moving their heads during the show, following the tunes. Sucks to be them, as I was rocking my head like a fix‐craving drug‐addict all throughout the show. I received some bizarre looks from some elderly folks, but hey, who cares.

The band gave yet another fantastic show, with the same set as last night (and most other shows).

Before playing Song for Sonny Liston, Mark asked the crowd something along the line of “So, this is… what? Clearwater?” and smiled, as if he couldn’t believe he’s playing in such a small city. He then went on to ask, “what should I call it here? Clearwater, Tampa, what?”

Someone from the audience suggested “Knopflerville”, but I don’t think that Mark heard that. I wanted to suggest “God’s Waiting Room‐ville”, but kept my mouth shut.

After playing “Song for Sonny Liston”, Mark told of another fun fact he learned while reading about Sonny Liston. Something about a quote from another boxer, who happened to break Sonny Liston’s jaw before and then got hit by Sonny “harder than any man has the right to be hit”. Then some dialog started to figure out the identity of that boxer. I don’t recall what the conclusion was. I looked it up over the Internet and found a reference to Marty Marshall; but I think Mark reached a different conclusion.

Mark appeared to have played somewhat slower tonight. Some of the solos were slow, or at least started slow—Telegraph Road being a good example. He also improvised something I never heard before during the Song for Sonny Liston solo (before the last verse). John McCusker took his Marbletown part even one step further—I think that his violin part today was a bit longer than usual (may be my imagination only). Anyway, he played a part of it completely differently than before, looking at Mark while doing it, and receiving back a hearty smile from Mark, as if saying “you think you’re a big boy now, don’t you”.

Great show. At the end we all stood up and gave thanks to these wonderful musicians. While exiting the venue, I heard one of the security guards saying that he has never seen such a rushed escape by a band from the venue. Apparently, the band left the venue very quickly, as if they were in a hurry somewhere.

Short drive back to the motel, when Jim, Teddy and I made plans for tomorrow. We’re going to leave my motel at 8:30am, so we get to Miami before rush hour.

1:23am now. The night before the last show.

It is going to end after tomorrow.

I am sad.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leaving to Clearwater

Woke up this morning at 8:00am. I decided to take the shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport, which arrives twice hourly; my flight was scheduled to depart on 11:30am, and I decided that better safe than sorry.

As I awoke, Bruce was already up. We shared a few more laughs, very quietly so we don’t wake Kami up. I quickly packed my belongings and was set to go. Bruce suggested that he goes downstairs while I’m packing so he can bring us all coffee—a suggestion that I welcomed very heartily.

Time passed by quickly and on 8:35am I had to bid Kami and Bruce farewell. It was great to get to know them and spend time with them—we were like family during the last three days. I hope that they enjoyed their time with me just as much as I enjoyed mine with them.

Kami & Bruce—thanks again for everything! Keep the laughter going, we’ll meet again soon!

The shuttle arrived exactly on time (8:40am) and by 9:30am I was already at the airport. The Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta is, how to say it gently, f*****g huge. It’s very well‐marked as well—you can’t get lost, and there are many restaurants and shops. The self‐check‐in thing worked flawlessly. I went to drop off my baggage. Since it’s a backpack with many strings and straps on it, I usually get some sort of a bug nylon bag to wrap it with; Delta, however, wants $5 for the “service” (they give you the bag, and you have to do everything yourself). I passed. Screw you, guys.

Checked my backpack in and off I went looking for some place to eat. I was hungry so I decided to not be too picky, however I came across that restaurant that has a breakfast buffet. Apparently, at breakfast time, an “all you can eat” buffet is all they really have. Food was tasty, the service was absolutely horrific. The way it works is, that you pay $9 for the buffet, and pay separately for drinks. The waitress came by to ask me what I want to drink. I said “water”, and before I knew it she fled the scene, and came back with the water some 20 minutes later. I wanted to ask her a question, but she just turned away and left as I said “excuse me”.


Breakfast was good.

I decided to get security clearance over with, so I passed through security and went to the gate. I had about an hour to kill before the flight, so I spent it all writing the previous blog entry.

Flight left without delays. I was seated at the front row, right at the emergency exit, which meant lots of leg room and that I’m the first one leaving the aircraft upon landing. The guy next to me showed me, on his iPhone, some news article about a Delta flight that left from L.A to Atlanta earlier today. It turned out that a flight attendant found a dead woman in the lavatory. We were wondering to ourselves if that’s the same aircraft. We asked the attendants, but didn’t get a clear response. Therefore, both myself and the guy next to me decided to refrain from using the lavatories.

My backpack was one of the first items dropped on the baggage claim belt. Went outside. It was raining mayhem so I decided to take the easy way to Motel 6 in Clearwater—paid $23 for a shuttle bus.

The shuttle bus’ driver was rather grumpy. Above his seat there was a sticker saying:


Take a hike, Superman.

Arrived at Motel 6 about an hour after boarding the shuttle. It was supposed to be a 20 minutes drive but weather was a killer. Upon checking in, I was notified that there’s no electricity in the motel at all, due to the weather conditions. About an hour later, electricity service was restored.

It’s 4:20pm now. Jim, who has been reading my blog and suggested that we go to the concert together, is supposed to pick me up in about two hours and we’ll head to the Ruth Eckerd Hall for the 30th concert this tour.

I’m pretty hungry now… off to hunt for food.


Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta, GA

Kami, Bruce and myself left Kami’s house in Middlesboro, KY at around 11:00am, after having a quick pancake breakfast (thanks Bruce). Bruce and I talked for about 30 minutes about what’s missing in America (in every aspect of life) and how to fix. Very interesting discussion.

The weather was warm and sunny; a perfect morning for sitting outside on the deck, having coffee and sharing some laughs—which we didn’t do. We decided to hit the road to Atlanta, get there early, check into the hotel (Hyatt Regency—Downtown) so we have plenty of time to hang out before the show.

Before we left, I took some pictures of the house we were staying in:


After about an hour of driving, we all experienced moderate hunger—not surprising as sugary breakfast is known to have this effect on people. As we didn’t want to sit down in a full‐blown restaurant, we decided on some fast food. I suggested Hardee’s, Bruce said that he had some bad experience with Hardee’s in the past so we ended up in Wendy’s.

A few minutes of interfacing with uni‐tasking humans and we got our meals. We didn’t really take our time with this food as there’s nothing there to be craved for and enjoy. Within ten minutes we fled the scene, not before driving through Starbucks for some tasty beverage. It turned out that Kami collects Starbucks mugs, so we parked the car and went into the store. No interesting mugs so we left.

As we were driving towards Atlanta, weather became nastier. Patches of heavy rain and gusty winds, which made poor Kami (who drove so much for two days in a row!) slow down, lengthening our travel time.

The views you get through this ride are very impressive. It’s funny how I never knew that Tennessee has all these mountains, rivers and lakes. I am a nature lover and, had I known about the fantastic views you get here, I would definitely have visited more often.

It seems that Kami, Bruce and myself can’t really go on for more than 10 minutes without coming up with some sick joke that makes us all roll into extreme laughter. They mentioned it’s hard for them to find people with whom they can laugh so hard, about everything—no sacred cows. I felt the same way.

We pulled over to another Starbucks somewhere in Tennessee. I was in an extremely joyful mood. Approaching the counter, I asked Kami if she wants anything, she said no. I turned to the cashier—poor girl, she’ll remember it for years—and asked her if she wants anything.

– “Actually, we get all of this for free…”

– “Oh. I would really like to be your friend, then.”

She laughed.

– “But if it wasn’t all for free, I’d be happy to!”

I gazed at the menu. I know the Starbucks menu by heart already.

– “I don’t know what I want. What do you think I want?”

She stares at me, blue eyes wide open.

– “Well… do you want it hot or cold?”


– “Hot.”

– “So… you want a latte.”

– “Yes, a latte should be good.”

– “What size?”

– “If I had a penny for every time a woman asked me that, I’d be broke.”

It took her about two seconds of looking at me, trying to compute what she has just heard, and then started laughing as if the world is about to cease to exist and everybody must get rid of all of their laughter credits before the universe dissolves.

Some more chit‐chat, mostly about my peculiar accent, and we were all on our way again.

Once we hit Atlanta, it took us about an hour to get into the hotel. Some highway ramps were under construction, the GPS proved to be of no help and we were clueless until we saw the I‐75 “detour” signs and were able to figure it out. We arrived at the first hotel that had “Hyatt” in its name, parked and walked to the check‐in counter (heavy rain outside), only to find out that this is “Hyatt Place” or something, and that the “Hyatt Regency” is one block further.

Kami and Bruce returned to the car. I wanted to check the Internet to see whether or not the show is cancelled (weather was horrible, thunderstorm alerts etc.), so I decided to simply walk one block to our destination. There I am walking in the rain, crossing the longest block in the world, then I arrived at the hotel. Kami and Bruce showed up about 20 minutes later.

The Hyatt Regency in downtown has a very impressive first floor and interesting elevators. There are 22 floors in this hotel. Looking up, it really looked like 22 “Motel 6”’s stacked one on top of another. The room itself also reminded me of a “Motel 6” I stayed in before.

We didn’t have much time to kill so we headed to the venue. The only way for guests to park their cars in this hotel is to use the hotel’s valet service. Kami asked for her car and we waited.

We waited for about 20 minutes until we realized that something is not quite right here. Upon checking, it turns out that the receptionist there completely forgot to post our request with the valet. So altogether we waited about half an hour for our car. Fantastic valet experience.

Call me ignorant, but I really don’t understand the value of the valet service. You basically pay extra money to the hotel, plus a tip to the server (as every human activity in this country is tippable. I wrote what I thought about the tipping industry in one of my previous posts, so I’ll spare you of my rants), just so you don’t have to walk to your car, start it and drive it to the parkade’s entrance. In short, using the valet service saves you some healthy cardiovascular activity, costs you money, and at the end—wastes your time.

Kami & Bruce bought tickets through eBay so it took us some time to find the guy she was supposed to pick up the tickets from. We then went ahead to the venue, where I got my ticket at the Will Call window.

Originally, I wasn’t sure if I am going to make it to the Atlanta show, so I sold the ticket I had through eBay, for about half its face value. It was a good ticket—Orchestra, row H somewhere. Once I decided to make it to all shows, I had to buy another ticket from Ticketmaster, which was in row O somewhere to the left. Really remote. Need binoculars to see the band. A little further and I’d be in the woods.

I walked the venue a bit, said hello to John McCusker and exchanged a few words with Guy Fletcher. His face shined when he saw me—that’s what I thought, until I realize that it wasn’t specific towards me but towards the world, as he spent some time on the beach in Miami.

Kami and Bruce got table tickets. We found each other, and since the row appeared to be very sporadically populated, I stayed there.

A few words about the venue. The Chastain Park Amphitheater is located inside the Chastain Memorial Park. The amphitheater itself, when empty, would look very impressive I’m sure.

The first seating section, closest to the stage, has tables in it. You can buy food at the venue, or bring from outside, and have dinner before—or while—enjoying the show. It is a mess though. I would probably curse the moment I was born had I been seated in one of those tables near the stage, as it looked extremely crowded. I’m not a big fan of having a meal while enjoying the music; also, lots of people—when in groups—tend to talk while they eat and drink, which would impact my enjoyment of the show.

The next section is the “orchestra” section. There are three subsections: left, center and right. Most of the orchestra rows have regular seats in them—these rows are very spacious and whoever gets to sit there can fully stretch his legs. Some of the orchestra rows, however, have tables in them. Moving along those rows can be very tricky as they are very crowded.

Even before the main event started (I missed Jesca’s show. Long story I won’t elaborate on here), there was so much food on those filthy tables, and even more food in garbage bags beside each table, that the entire place stunk. It all smelled like a mixture of chicken wings, beer and cheese. Ideal for a picnic with my family back when I was 12… far from ideal for a Mark Knopfler concert.

The show started at 9:00pm, roughly about the same time when the people behind us started talking. They appeared to have been having some sort of a picnic, a family gathering, or any other sort of collective activity. Why on earth would any of them pay $100 each just in order to get into a venue and talk—is beyond me.

I was very tired after a long day of parking my butt in the back seat. Towards the end of the first part of the concert, Kami decided that she must chill out, left the venue and waited for us in the car. It has really been a long day for everyone, especially Kami who did the entire driving.

The sound in the venue was really good, in terms of open‐space venues. Where I was seated, I experienced decent sound. A perfect mixture of great music and chatter from the simpletons behind us.

The band played their 29th concert very well. Richard Bennett, in his blog, mentioned that as the tour comes to an end the band appears to be shining really well. He is right. They allow themselves to improvise more and more. The first few riffs of Sultans of Swing were quite different than usual, the riffs before the last verse in “Song for Sonny Liston” were very interesting and John tried yet another thing during the Marbletown interlude, just when I thought you cannot possibly find any more ways to make it more beautiful than it already is.

Getting into the venue was very time consuming, and getting out of it was going to be a nightmare. Add the constant chatter from the back, pounding our heads all throughout the concert, and you’ll understand why we decided to leave before the concert ends. We figured that it will take us about an hour and a half, maybe two, to battle with traffic if we leave with everybody. Kami was already in the car, so Bruce and I left right at the beginning of the encore. I am sorry I cannot comment on the encore—try to visualize the worst headache and the longest day you ever had, and think how you would cope with two hours of traffic starting 11:00pm, when you have to wake up at 8:00am the next day to catch a plane…

As we were leaving, we noticed that something went wrong while playing Brothers in Arms. Mark started the intro, however it seemed like no other instrument was playing. The intro was stopped, the audience cheered, and within a minute everything was back to normal.

We started looking for the car, and after 5 minutes of searching we realized that we’re in the wrong parking lot. So we got to hear a little bit of So Far Away, which means that Shangri La wasn’t played—yielding the usual set list.

A drive back to the hotel, we thought what we should be doing. We were all very tired but really craved a drink before we call it a day. We went to the bar, and found out that it’s extremely noisy. We decided then to go to the cafe inside the hotel and take some drinks with us upstairs. We decided to go the “cool” way and ended up upstairs with two bottles of coke, chocolate milk and something called “Banana‐Colada” which was supposed to taste like a mixture of Banana and Pina‐colada but tasted like neither.

Obviously we had to find another topic to laugh about, so it was about 30 minutes of constant laughing and joking until we called it a day and went to sleep.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Leaving Charlotte (Day Off)

So we left the Omni Hotel at around noon, making our way towards Middlesboro, KY. That was one great road trip—there is something about being on a road trip with people who are almost complete strangers to you. We talked about all sorts of things, told jokes and laughed about pretty much everything in life, including subjects not appropriate for a “family blog” like this one.

The drive itself is a beautiful drive. I never had any idea that North Carolina and Tennessee are such beautiful states. Some vistas here brought up sweet memories from British Columbia. Weather was rather twisty though—you get some great sun, the suddenly it’s pouring down rain as if there’s no tomorrow, then sunny again.

We became hungry and so decided to stop in Hendersonville, NC for lunch. As none of us knew anything about this place, I pulled my GPS and consulted it for places to eat. The first choice was the Outback Steakhouse, which we all were looking forward to, however it was closed. Then I suggested Mexican food. The GPS told us about this restaurant called “El Paso” something. We went there and realized that the “El Paso” restaurant is not much more than a deserted small building nestled within what appeared to be filth and neglect, so we passed.

Next choice was Applebee’s. Applebee’s is a North American chain, one of the few I haven’t yet had the chance to sample. I had their chicken‐apple‐walnut salad which was phenomenal—you get a huge portion but it’s so tasty that you have to finish it all. I am a sucker for fruit‐nuts salads.

We then continued straight home. When saying “home”, I refer to where Kami lives & works, which is in a tiny little town called Middlesboro, right on the Kentucky‐Tennessee border (at the Kentucky side). We stopped by in a gas station and bought a six‐pack of Corona’s, and then stopped in some market in Middlesboro that was one of the weirdest, scariest markets I’ve ever been in—everything so crowded and people giving you really funny looks.

We finally arrived at the house. It’s a brilliant house, has a huge living room, one bedroom and a huge bathroom, not to mention the deck at the rear. When sitting in the deck you get a good view of the mountains. Lots of horses around, too. Such a quiet place. Peace and joy.

Shortly after entering the house we started playing some music. There were three electric guitars there and some recording equipment. Bruce and I jammed for a little bit.

Kami and Bruce convinced me to attempt to record my first take on the tune that’s been playing in my head for a few years now. I never had the chance to sit down and record it, and here I am, thousands of kilometers away from home, sitting with almost complete strangers and recording the first track, and then the second one.

What came out of it sounded, I have to say, not bad at all. Kami and Bruce claim that it is beautiful. So here’s a resolution for after the trip: buying the right equipment and simply record my composition.

After that, we had some beer and pizza on the deck. We shared so many laughs, I can’t recall laughing that hard in my recent history. You know that stomach ache you get when you laugh very hard for a long period of time... all three of us experienced it.

Later on, Kami and I played “shuffleboard” for about an hour, as Bruce kept playing my recording and added a third track to it. I heard my own composition so many times, until it sank in—this is *my* composition. That made me proud.

Was time to call it a night already, as we have to wake up early next morning and drive to Atlanta.

Spending the time with Kami and Bruce that night has been one of the greatest highlights in my tour. Kami and Bruce—thank you for this wonderful night!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Ovens Auditorium, Charlotte, NC

So the flight ended up being delayed for three hours. There was a thunderstorm and all airplanes were crowded. As the storm passed, air control opened up a few lanes and by the time our turn arrived it was already 4:00pm.

In my previous post, I mentioned the mature fellow whom I started speaking with and quickly got the impression that his temper is very short. Well, we ended up having a great discussion afterward. It turns out that he is a nuclear engineer, dealing with nuclear energy. Originally from South Africa, he had that kind of British‐like sense of humour and I was laughing so much during our discussion. I can’t recall ever laughing like that while talking to a total stranger.

The flight was very rocky—well, we’re talking about an airplane smaller than most buses I’ve seen. Service was very satisfactory. Finally we landed in Charlotte. The airplane stopped, everybody was very happy to unlock their safety belts and get their belongings from the overhead carry‐on baggage compartments. We were very excited, until the voice came up in the speakers informing us that the pilot has accidentally parked the airplane in the wrong spot.

That seemed to have completely wreck my flight partner’s nerves. We laughed so hard about how everything goes wrong when he’s on an airplane. Poor guy has been spending his time in airports and hotels for the last 3 nights trying to get from France back to his house in Virginia.

The airplane backed out and then in into the adjacent parking location. We were very happy that this nightmare is over.

Quickly rushed to the baggage claim area. It was 6:00pm already and the show starts at 8:00pm. As soon as I made it to the baggage claim area, I called Kami to let her know I’ll be out of the airport shortly. It turned out that she was already in the airport waiting for me, so after about a minute we finally met. It was so great to see her.

Took my huge backpack and went outside, where we quickly located Bruce—Kami’s husband. Quickly loaded my belongings into the SUV and off we went on our way to the hotel.

I first met Kami and Bruce in the Kettering concert, when they were seated front row, two seats to my right. Such great people—it was great meeting with them again. They drove from their house in Kentucky to Charlotte to catch the concert, and since they were going to spend the night they invited me to stay as a guest in their hotel room.

The hotel is called The Omni Hotel, right downtown on East Trade Street. A fantastic hotel, I have to say. Very clean, very big—they have their own Starbucks downstairs—and there’s even a piano (which I didn’t get around to play). The room was huge and had everything in it.

Put my stuff there and then we discussed where it is that we want to eat, before going to the concert. We realized that, no matter what we do (unless we eat fast food), we’ll have to miss Jesca’s concert. We decided to eat at the hotel’s restaurant, where we all enjoyed a great meal. I don’t recall what it was that I ordered—it was the special of the day, which had a bunch of seafood in it, dates, figs and other surprises, surrounded by awesome pasta. Preceded by a great Caesar’s salad, that was definitely one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Amazing.

We continued talking about all sorts of things, then it was time to get to the venue. It was already close to 8:00pm.

Kami, it turns out, is a songwriter and a composer; Bruce is also a musician and plays the guitar. Kami herself is a great Mark Knopfler fan, and decided to record a song for him. She wrote some awesome lyrics, and with the help of Bruce they recorded a beautiful song. We heard the song on the way to the venue. As she’s very shy, it took us (Bruce & myself) some time to convince her that she should pass it on in some way, even though some vocal parts still needed some final touch. She said that’s the best way she can think of to give something back.

So sweet.

We made it to the venue at approximately 8:25pm. We were told that parking is $6 but there was nobody to collect.

We entered the venue as Jesca was playing her last song. I was seated in row C seat 101—not a bad seat; Kami and Bruce were seated at the front row, almost at the center.

During the intermission between the concerts, Kami went outside so I joined Bruce as the front row. Suddenly the guy next to me turns to me and introduces himself. His name was Rich. I told him that my name is Isaac, to which he reacted with extreme joy as it turned out that he’s been following my blog. It further turned out that he and Kami exchanged emails back and forth. What a small world.

As Kami arrived, I made my way back to my seat and decided to get something to drink before the show starts. As I made my way out, someone coming the opposite way stopped me.

– “Isaac?”

– “Yes…”

– “Hi, it’s Daren”

Daren emailed me about three weeks ago, after reading my blog, and has been following it ever since. We made plans to meet while in Charlotte but it never materialized—no worries, there’s always a next time. We shared a couple of laughs, then he pointed at where he was seated—second row center.

Great guy!

I went back into the hall as the band was making its way onto the stage. The audience were all cheering like crazy, and there I am marching down the stairs towards my third row seat. Guy Fletcher recognized me and pointed at me as if saying “Oh, you again”. Yes, Guy. Yes. I made it. Flight delayed by three hours but I made it.

Sitting next to me was a cute couple—a blond girl with short hair and what appeared to have been her boyfriend, but I wasn’t sure until halfway through the show when they started holding hands. Poor couple, didn’t know what’s going to be sitting next to them. The show was so great, I moved every bone and muscle in my body as I danced during the entire show.

This is a very small venue, yet the sound was fantastic. I checked with Kami and Bruce after the show, and they mentioned that the sound was great even at the front row—much better than the previous concert they attended, in Kettering (which was open‐door).

The audience was great, very cheerful. They were so happy to see the band that they cheered all throughout the concert. Great performance by the band (performing the usual set list). Perfect. Each and every song was performed in a way that left the audience cheering with sheer enthusiasm. Nobody really wanted this concert to end.

It was fantastic.

While playing Romeo and Juliet, some chick decided that it’s the best time to approach the stage, holding a piece of paper and what seemed to me like a rose, and put it on the stage, much to the discontent of the stage security guard who forced her to return to her seat ASAP.

Right after playing Song for Sonny Liston, before introducing the band, Mark provided some insights about Sonny Liston, apparently some facts that he learned before composing the song. It was really funny. I can’t recall the exact words, but he was telling about something he read, when they asked a heavyweight boxer what is so scary about Joe Louis, and the boxer responded “it’s getting in the ring with Joe Louis, and realizing that he wants to go home early”. We all laughed heartily. And, whoever of you who heard Mark Knopfler talk, can probably appreciate the fact that his tone of voice really adds lots of humour.

Mark then went on to introduce the band, failing to mention the special truck / U‐Haul trailer required to carry Richard’s immense collection of instruments. Also during the introduction, he spotted someone recording and asked them to stop that blinking red light.

Wonderful Marbletown interlude and another fantastic performance of Telegraph Road which made a lot of people in the audience drop their jaws. The first part of the show was over and the audience cheered extremely loudly for more.

I went to the front row, to discuss the show with Kami and Bruce. Right before the band came back, I told Kami that I have to make my way back to my seat, however she instructed me to stay where I am. We ended up sharing one seat, so there again I find myself at the front row during the encore. This seemed to have made Richard laugh, as he can’t figure out how come I always am either seated in the front row, or suddenly appear in the front row during the encore, as if out of nowhere.

Well, what can I say. After so many shows, the front row always finds a way to have me in it.

It was worth being seated 5 hours in an airplane for this show.

After the show, as I approached the agreed‐upon meeting place between Kami, Bruce and Myself, I ran into Daren again. He was accompanied by his girlfriend—a sweet lady who I believe responds to the name Cinamon, his friend Doug and another woman whose name I didn’t get. We shared a few more laughs until Kami and Bruce showed up and off we went back to the hotel.

Daren, beer is on me next time I’m in town!

We drove back to the hotel and decided to stay in the bar for some drinks. We had a few, talked about all sorts of things, ran a few laughs and went upstairs. Another great day has ended—great not just due to an awesome concert, but also to this absolutely great couple I had the privilege to meet.

Kami and Bruce—thank you so much for hosting me and being such great people to hang out with!

We’ll be off to Middlesboro, KY soon, where Kami lives & works, hang out for the rest of the day and make our way to Atlanta tomorrow morning as both Kami and Bruce have decided to see the band in action once again in Atlanta.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Getting to Charlotte

Woke up at 8:30am today in Philadelphia. My flight from Newark to Charlotte was scheduled to leave at 1:05pm and I didn’t want to take any chances.

It was an easy ride out of Philadelphia. I was very hungry and also craved some latte to make my morning easier, so I pulled over into one of the service centers on the New Jersey Turnpike. The service center (I think it was called “Woodrow Wilson”) had some fast food places in it, as well as Blimpie (or Blimpy, can’t remember—a sandwich place) and Starbucks.

There were two people ahead of me in line. The first woman ordered 2 sandwiches, which took the guy working there about 10 minutes to make. The next one was a guy who brought a hamburger from Roy Rogers and wanted some of Blimpy’s toppings on it. This is very bizarre—I’ve never seen anything like it before.

I ordered my sandwich, had half of it and decided to hit Starbucks, only to realize that there’s a line of 15 people and the people working there appear to be taking their time, so I left.

I pulled over at the next service center for my latte.

Approaching the Newark Airport, I remembered that I have to top‐up the fuel tank for the rental car. That took another 10 minutes, then I finally arrived at Budget.

The Newark airport, as I mentioned before, is very well‐marked and you can’t get lost anywhere. I quickly found the check‐in counter, and also found out that those people are working very, very slowly. Finally got to the check‐in counter (the automatic counter told me, upon entering the confirmation code, to go see an agent as my reservation requires “special handling”. I love being special), checked into my flight and went towards the gate.

The flight was scheduled to leave at 1:05pm. Now it’s 2:35pm and we’re still on the ground. Apparently there’s some severe weather conditions coming from Virginia and no airplane is leaving Newark at the moment. I really hope I don’t miss the concert tonight as this is going to suck. Dear Kami is supposed to pick me up at the airport—I called her and let her know of the delay. I will take a taxi cab from the airport to the hotel (Kami allowed me to stay as a guest in the hotel room with herself and her husband—thanks Kami!) and then head straight to the venue, using whatever transportation that is available, regardless of cost.

It’s been a very long day so far, so I decided to talk to the guy sitting next to me. A mature, about 60 years old fellow. My ice‐breaking line was “are these delays typical to the New York area?”.

It turned out that I may have barked at the wrong tree. This poor guy next to me told me that it’s been three days since he left Lions, France on his way home, and there are flights cancelled all along the way. The guy was supposed to make it home in one day but it’s now taking three days and counting. He also told me that his temper is very, very short due to this.

I thanked him for the lovely (but yet too short) conversation and promised to never bother him again. He put my misery in perspective.

2:38pm… still no news.

Will turn off the laptop now, to conserve battery.