THURSDAY, AUGUST 14
Morning comes early to the Downshire Arms, our comfortable (Northern) Irish home. Do we really have to leave? It seems too soon. We’ll have to come back promptly. There is so much more to explore here. Andy shows up to drive us down to the Dublin airport. It’s a gentle drive south as we’ve given ourselves plenty of time. Andy tells us his own tales of the Troubles, moments with a pistol at his head, pistols both IRA and British military, his car stolen and used to transport a bomb, Andy’s stolen car abandoned at the blast site, a serious questioning by the authorities. And this in gently rolling hills and small towns. The Troubles hit everyone up here.We roll on the luxuriously wide M1 across the now invisible Border. Dublin Airport now kilometers away. Desperate cell calls to the luggage people finally break through. They have RW’s and SN’s bags. Will Rob be wearing his own fresh underwear later today? It seems too good to be true.
A magical summoning to the depths of Dublin Airport’s baggage region and indeed the bags are back in our possession. Oh, Lordy! Personal possessions! Just when we were getting used to the simple life that comes from traveling with nothing. This time all goes well at the airport. We get on a plane. Our inappropriately oversize and over limit luggage is mysteriously allowed into the cabin. The SAS bird takes off. We are not taking this for granted. And now we are imperious over the North Sea, where far below us on black seas many a brave Viking went down, or rode with dame fortune and a favoring wind to the Irish coasts, raiding monasteries, allying with Irish ri and ard ri and wedding their royal daughters, controlling Wexford and Cork to a day’s ride from the ports, founding Dublin.
We’re over forest, field, river, and it looks just like the Norway of our minds. Norway. Gleaming OSL, Ikea clean with bold steel and glass. Norway of the old simple wood frame house and old severe empty church, has led the world of design into gleaming simplicity. We land, we walk brand new cathedral-scale corridors, collect our bags, and all in reasonable time. We cautiously admit that Lady Luck is showing her elusive face at last. A young man approaches us with a small piece of paper with I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. written on it. “Are you?” Yes, we certainly are. And it’s off to the woods of Norway for the Down on the Farm Fest. Here we go. The drive through southern Norway farmland is gorgeous. Tall pines, oat fields, big red barns, lakes and ponds, and the big fjord that runs for miles and miles all the way to the sea. It reminds RW of a rockier Minnesota, or Wisconsin with an ocean. Magnificent puffy gray and white clouds dot the sky and the sun is warm. We pass through functional looking Oslo, modern and small, and we’re quickly rolling through fields and forest again.
Two hours southbound, and we arrive in the small port town of Halden, its rail line ending at the small harbor, where our Grand Hotel sits gazing down on the canal. A lovely town of 27,000 souls located at the very end of a long fjord pointing long to distant sea. There’s a huge ancient fortress on the hill above town. From this vantage point the Norwegians defended themselves against the unruly Swedes, and a mad Swedish King was felled by a single bullet. Our hotel was built around the turn of the last century. There’s a nice wooden pub downstairs and a huge, twelve foot tall ornate porcelain Koken Oven used to heat the dinning room. The train station is right next door and trains come by ever few minutes. The place has a charming 19th century quaintness to it. We settle into our comfortable rooms, shower and get acclimated to the Norwegian sensibility. .
We’re playing a little festival kick-off show tonight outside on the town square. It’s right around the corner so we walk on over. A cool and casual hipster, Tom, greets us. He’s one of the head honchos of the Down On The Farm fest, has run it for years with his mellow vibe and solid good taste. He gives us a humor tinged rundown of the long running wars that eventually yielded sovereignty to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, each surrendering its moment of dominance to the long hundred years of today’s peace. The rivalries are still real, but wry and ironic. We meet Guy, the sound man and Minister of Transportation (a good man to know), and he gets us set up on the covered stage. Borg is the local beer and it is going down quickly. It’s a sharp light pilsner, couldn’t be more different from the beloved Guinness of Ireland. What makes Guinness so dark anyway? It’s almost like two completely different beverages. And yet gloriously, both are beer.
In the downstairs cellar restaurant we dine on delicious Norwegian trout and potatoes, a gourmet meal that would’ve cost us a fortune each were we on our own here. Prices in Norway are quite inflated for the American pocketbook these days. A Guinness (the Hawks unit of international commerce and currency) goes for 60 Kroner, about $11. Pretty steep. But we’re the band and one of the most time honored and important benefits of being the band is that you don’t have to pay for beer. It really makes a difference in Halden. After dinner we launch into our set. It’s mostly other bands and festival organizers at this kick off event and it’s fun to meet the folks we’ll be hanging with for the next few days. Some local kids hang on the edges sitting on their scooters, smoking cigarettes, goofing with their friends. The small town feel continues. Another set and then off to bed. It’s been another long day for the Hawks of international travel and music making. Tomorrow we head into the woods.
Well, almost. Everybody is heading over to another pub. The Siste Reis, right downstairs from our rooms. Another couple beers won’t hurt. And indeed they don’t. The Siste is the local “Brown Bar” (Norwegian for ‘dive’) populated by artists and musicians. Crazily, they have the Hawks records on their juke box. The regulars are happy to meet us. They’ve been drinking and listening to the Hawks for years. The night stretches into morning, the Hawks now playing the role of international ambassadors of good will. Wow, these Norwegians can drink. And talk. Is the sun coming up? The odds of adjusting to Europe time seem slim. Unconsciousness at last, in the Grand Hotel.