|Berit demonstrates The Facts Of Life on the ferry from Helsinki, Finland to Tallin, Estonia|
This past weekend, I made my last road trip of the year. I spent most of 2014 on the road, which wasn’t much of a change from the previous few years. I travel constantly to teach and perform dance. Though I could definitely live without the scary airport food and the hassle of condensing my cosmetics in a TSA-approved quart baggie, I love most aspects of traveling. To this day, I feel blessed and grateful that I am not only doing something I love, but that I get to travel all over the world to do it!
But life on the road isn’t always glamorous as you might think… I often joke that every year, I lose at least fifty IQ points to jetlag!
Traveling seems to generate unusual incidents, at least for me it does. I’ve been through five separate hotel fires: Vancouver, BC; Memphis Tennessee; at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, and at the Mena House in Cairo. I’ve missed countless planes and had my suitcase handle break off on an English train platform… while the train departed... and my suitcase remained at the station!
I’ve been delayed and searched at international borders, spent the night in a Cairo police station, and bump into all sorts of random people at airports, including rock stars. Ron Wood from The Stones helped me get my bags off the carousel once, and I walked right into Alice Cooper at the airport in Athens, Greece. I see people I know in foreign places, too. On a flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles, I endured an awful thunderstorm with infamous LA punk band manager and record magnate Posh Boy, and on a return flight from Egypt that transferred through Paris; I was coincidentally booked on the same plane to LAX as my ex-husband!
Beyond that, once in a while, it gets even wackier. Sometimes it’s just a matter of not understanding the language or confusion over local customs, but other times things get so totally out of hand and downright bizarre that I actually start to think:
There’s the signpost up ahead… The Twilight Zone!
In 2011, I was in five different countries before Valentine's Day, and wasn’t home longer than a week and a half until just before Christmas. As per usual, I spent a lot of that travel time on a bullet train to Crazy Town.
In February 2011, I went on a solo European dance tour. Not only did my luggage get lost three times on flights to three different countries, but also the two and a half hour ferryboat ride from Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia was completely surreal.
To begin with, Finland and Estonia are so far north that in February, it doesn’t get light til about 10:00am, and darkness sets in again a little after 3:00pm. That alone is disorienting to a California Sunshine Gal like me. The median temperature while I was there was 28 degrees below zero. My nostrils literally froze and my eyes ached every time I went outside. I don’t know how those Northern gals look glamorous in winters like that, but they all do!
The morning I was leaving Helsinki to go to Tallinn, I had to be up super early, check out of the hotel, and get to the ferry dock two hours before the ship departed at 9:00 am…. or, as I took to calling it, dawn. I was meeting my Estonian sponsor Berit and the other gals from her belly dance studio Mustika at the Helsinki dock, because they’d come to Finland for my workshops. In my haste, I didn’t have time for breakfast, so I grabbed a hard-boiled egg from the buffet and shoved it into my purse.
The dock looked like Ellis Island- I didn’t know the ferry was going to be so big, it was the size of a cruise ship. The embarkation line stretched outside into the darkness and falling snow. Also, the ocean was completely frozen. The boats all had ice cutters on the prow and as they pulled in and out of the harbor huge chunks of ice flew up like a gigantic blender!
I finally found the Estonian girls, and we got on the ferry. It was three stories high; there was a duty free shop, a huge casino, restaurants, and lots of bars, plus a lounge area that had karaoke, where we settled. Beiritt said it was the best place to spend the journey, and asked if I wanted breakfast or coffee from the bar.
I dug in my purse and pulled out my egg, confessing I’d had no idea there’d be food onboard.
All the Estonian dancers laughed in disbelief.
“You look like an old Russian grandma!”, said Daisi, a burlesque artist from Tallinn, as Berit took off her scarf and wrapped it around my head like a babushka,
“What else do you have in your purse?”
The ship started sailing and the moment we had our coffee, a lounge singer came on, singing Beatles and Johnny Cash songs in Finnish, Estonian and Russian.
“Oh shit,” Daisi groaned, “This is not helping my hangover!”
Soon the karaoke began. As Daisi winced in pain and the other girls kept joking about my egg, we were treated to hideous versions in various languages of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”, Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” and the enduring all-time Euro-trash hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.
Soon, a young, wholesome- looking guy dressed all in white, with a tousled blonde bowl-cut took the microphone, and before he started singing, everyone burst into applause.
As he launched into a terrifyingly off-key rendition A-Ha’s “Take On Me”, the Estonian dancers started laughing hysterically and whispering amongst themselves.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, utterly confused since they were speaking Estonian.
“Oh, this man singing is the biggest porn star in Estonia!” Yahna exclaimed.
“No way!” I said, convinced they were making fun of me in all my jet lag.
“No, really, he is!” Daisi assured me, “ Everyone knows him in Estonia, and he is very, very famous for his bondage and latex videos!”
As I sat dumbfounded, Berit added,
“ His name is Arnold, but we call him “Second Arnold” because “First Arnold” is our president, Arnold Ruutel!”
Just before “Second Arnold” launched into Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”, I started to believe them, because a few audience members went up to him and had him sign autographs on napkins.
“ I can’t take this any more,” Berit declared, “I’m going to Duty Free.”
When she returned, Second Arnold was still hogging the mic. He was on his sixth song, much to the delight of the crowd. A few matronly older women stormed the stage, giggling like schoolgirls, taking pictures.
“ I got you something to go with your egg!” Berit cried, handing me a foot-long plastic sperm, with big googley cartoon eyes.
As Second Arnold began to croon Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf”, I held the giant sperm in my hand, regarding it mutely, quite unsure of reality at this point.
“Some cream for your coffee!” Yahna laughed, as Berit unscrewed the sperm’s head and poured a whitish-yellow substance out of its body and into my cup.
As I stared in shock, Berit assured me it was Bailey’s Irish Crème… and, thankfully it really was!
Arnold didn’t stop singing for the rest of the voyage.
The story you’ve just read is from my memoir “Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road”
( Punk Hostage Press, 2013) Purchase a signed copy here: http://www.princessfarhana.com/shop.htm