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Running Down A Dream: July 2010

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zzzzzz Running Down A Dream: July 2010

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Running Down A Dream: July 2010

Running Down A Dream

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Geep Can't Make Up Its Mind

This will be my 800th post... WHOA.

.... So when we were in Italy, you want to know what Panther tried from a street vendor?


Ummm... NOT ok. I didn't even want him to bring it into the van with us. He ate horse meat and he LIKED it. And Gordon took a bite, and HE liked it. It's a good thing James didn't take a bite... that might have ended in divorce.


Culturally... if that's your thing... of course. By all means. But I would eat my own shoe before I would eat a horse... or a dog....

On our way our to Catania - the night of the horse meat incident - we had a nice drive through the Sicilian countryside. Through the miles and miles of orange groves, there were also fields of what I mistakenly thought were goats.


They were geep. A sheep/goat combo. For whatever reason geep are the thing around those parts. Their wool isn't useful, but their milk is. And the geep tend to run out into the road a lot - and if you hit one you owe the farmer a lot of money. And somehow... that geep is ALWAYS female, and she's ALWAYS pregnant with two babies (which means you owe for 3 geep in one).

I have done a bit of reading because I wanted to know if they are actually a combination of a sheep and a goat. Technically a geep is what is known as a chimera - which is produced by combining the embryos of a goat and a sheep - NOT by them mating. (That would be a sheep-goat hybrid... TOTALLY different according to wikipedia). I assume since they were calling them geep in Sigonella - they are the chimera, but I don't know for sure.

Here's something really interesting off wiki:
"The resulting creature was a mosaic of goat and sheep tissue. The parts that grew from the sheep embryo were woolly. Those that grew from the goat embryo were hairy."

So the poor thing can't make up it's mind whether it's woolly or hairy:

You may be snoozing by this point, but I found it interesting - especially being from Mule Town USA. Mules are the result of a donkey and horse mating and all male mules are infertile and MOST female mules are infertile... but a geep can reproduce. But it passes on EITHER sheep or goat genes - " depending on whether its reproductive organs were formed from the goat embryo or from the sheep embryo"

Fascinating. Maybe only to me... but hey. Panther likes horse meat. To each his own!

Peace. Love. Fiddle.

Friday, July 30, 2010

USS Scout Pics

Yesterday I posted the article that was written about our visit to the USS Scout, which is an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship.

We got to hang out with the crew for a little bit and REALLY feel just how hot it is in Bahrain. It's one thing to be out in the sun in 120º(us), it's quite another to actually have to WORK in it (our military!)... and spend time in an enclosed ship that isn't completely air conditioned. After being home for almost 2 weeks, I am just now starting to think it is hot again here in TN. But even when this feels hot... I know that really... it just ain't all that hot.

Us+SafetySuit touring the Scout

Hanging with the crew, signing cds

After touring the USS Scout, we got to go tour some of the smaller patrol boats. So small in fact, that as I was boarding one, I hit my head on the entrance to the enclosed portion and got a good old fashioned goose egg on my head. I don't know that I have ever hit my head on a door way before... it's just not even something that enters my head to be careful of. Now I know what it feels like to be Shaq...


ok... not really...

But Gordon and I actually did an acoustic show for all the Sailors that were there. (Before the knock out... so I DID remember all my lyrics) It was so fun!!!

Oh Lord... what kind of story am I subjecting them to?

This was all on our day off in Bahrain. I wish all my "days off" were this cool.

Peace. Love. Fiddle.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Country, Rock Music Artists Visit USS Scout

This is the article that showed up after we visited the USS Scout. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Panther got his own quote in this article :) - even though it says he's a "SafetySuit" band member. :) Visiting the USS Scout was mind-blowing. I really can't imagine it being MY JOB to neutralize the bombs that are set to blow up ships in the ocean. And one of the guys while we were on the ship was telling us how his mother started crying when she found out what it is he does daily. We got to be a part of such incredible things on this trip.

Here's the story that popped up:

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brianna K. Dandridge, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Scout (MCM 8) took a much needed break from daily maintenance operations as country artist, Natalie Stovall and members of the rock band SafetySuit paid a visit to the ship July 8.

According Stovall, the visit was important and allowed her to do something special for the military community.

The musicians were thrilled by the opportunity to play for the troops and visit a U.S. Navy ship, said Stovall.

"This trip has been a great experience, and it has been an honor to be able to play for the troops," said Stovall.

Stovall is relatively new to the country music scene, beginning her career as a child performer in Opryland Kid's Club.

The performers also held a free concert at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain July 7, sponsored by Navy Entertainment and the base's Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

During a tour of Scout, the artists were shown the ship's bridge, mess decks and command information center. Following their tour, Stovall and the members of SafetySuit met with Sailors for autographs and pictures.

Many of Scout's Sailors were able to attend the concert at NSA Bahrain and were excited by the opportunity to meet the performers in person.

"The concert was really good," said Mineman 2nd Class Christopher Southland. "It was cool to meet them."

Stovall and SafetySuit are currently travelling throughout the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR) performing at military installations. Next they will travel to Djibouti and USS Nassau (LHA 4) to perform.

"Serving the troops was an opportunity that I just couldn't pass up," said Zack Morse, SafetySuit band member. "It has been a pleasure to perform for them."

Scout operates in support of ongoing 5th Fleet AOR maritime security operations (MSO), with the ability to protect ships and their crews from seemingly invisible threats in the water. Additionally, seaborne mine countermeasure ships contribute to MSO by conducting waterborne security missions and protecting oil platforms. The ships also perform escort duties, direct liaison and joint operations with coalition patrol forces and combatants.

For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit

Peace. Love. Fiddle.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Show in Djibouti

Wow. So I just read the comments from the last couple of blogs- I know that some of you get to these blogs through different methods and can't see the comments, so I will show you what Josh said:

"Remember how bad the road was between khat corner and the base and how much trash was along the sides? The military has offered to fix the road and pick up all the trash along that road. Djibouti said they would allow us to do it if we paid them for the privilege."

How eye opening that is. And how blessed we are to live in a country that OFFERS to do things like that for other people.

The base in Djibouti is intense. It's all tents and/or cargo containers. And there's a black flag that waves most of the time. If the black flag is waving, it means that it is too hot to physically train outside - and you must work out inside.


There was a special meet and greet before our show. I am not sure what exactly these guys had to do - but I know that there was some sort of contest that selected the VIP's for the show. We had a special meet and greet with them and the Base Commander AND they got to sit in the front two rows of the concert. But the bands were the lucky ones - we got to spend some extra time with them talking about their jobs and hearing stories.

And again - these military men and women had nothing but inspiring stories to tell. They are all such normal individuals living in such extraordinary circumstances. But they CHOOSE to and LOVE what they do. And it's quite amazing.

The show in Djibouti was unbelievable. Unlike Bahrain - this one was inside which helped reduce the amount of sweat-soaked towels at the end of the night :) (Notice I didn't say "eliminate") But I would not have been able to count the number of times I got chills and felt that "natural high" from stage. The energy inside that room was electric. And it really just couldn't have gotten much better.

Mohammad was dead set on me trying this African beer. I had met him in the back when I was getting ready. He sent someone all the way up to the stage with this beer after the show. I think Panther enjoyed it more than I, cause I just ain't much of a beer girl... but Panther is a connoisseur of unique beers - so I got my sips in which was plenty for me, and he finished it off for me.
I just thought that was the sweetest thing of Mohammad!

This was the beginning of the end for James... he was trying to fit his body onto the 3 small chairs in our very limited space backstage.

Immediately after SafteySuit got off the stage - all of my guys and 2 of SafetySuit's guys went straight back to the hotel - before any autographs. They were all just DONE. Poor guys. But you would have NEVER known it from the shows!

But those of us that stayed had so much fun!!! Two of the SeaBees stationed in Djibouti had seen us when we played on base in Gulfport, MS. How freakin cool is that?? And I was given the state patch of Kansas which was SO cool - I now need to get a jacket that I can put all my cool patches on :)

And those weren't the only ones that had been to a Natalie show before. :) Which was just crazy to be in Djibouti, Africa and meet people that already knew my music! It blows my mind.

We had such a great time in Djibouti - I just wish we could have stayed longer.

They had the BEST cafeteria there - of all the bases we ate at - they had the most selection and the best food. It was impressive, really. But the one part that was really weird:
There was a digital reader board in the cafeteria that named all the places in town that are "off limits" and it was mostly restaurants. I never found out if it was because of security or because of health issues - but either way, I don't think there was anywhere that you COULD go. The list seemed to go on and on and on...

Yup. So Djibouti was an unforgettable experience to say the least. And I hope I get to go back. I mean... not for vacation... but to play a show again.

Peace. Love. Fiddle.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Djibouti, Africa

I am sad to report that Africa not only lived up to, but surpassed the stereo-type I had in my mind. It was even dirtier and more impoverished than I expected. There were people everywhere - but they were all living in shacks that can barely even be called "shacks". Some were built out of leaves and sticks and dirt. And I saw an entire area where all the shacks were built out of stacks of tires - some had sides to them (just cloths or scarves) but most just had some leaves on top of 4 stacks of tires. TRASH and filth was everywhere. Just everywhere. You would look across a desert landscape and see piles of trash everywhere - which doesn't really make sense - unless it all got blown by the wind... it isn't like people would go that far out of their way to dump it there. Or maybe they do. I don't really know.

Now this isn't to say all of Arica is this way... I know there are beautiful parts of Africa. But I also knew going into it that Djibouti is not very well off... so I had expectations in my head - I was just hoping they wouldn't be met. Oh but they were...

We didn't stay on base in Djibouti - our hotel was about 20 minutes away. So that was how we got to see parts of the actual city. It was crazy though - it was miles and miles of desolate areas and people and then BAM! Right next to a run down and dilapidated neighborhood, there's a HUGE 5 star hotel that overlooks the water on it's own compound. You didn't see flowers or nice landscaping anywhere except for at the hotel which had immaculate landscaping. We were told it was owned by the Chinese. And it was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. They came in and turned down our bed while we were gone, and laid out slippers on a towel next to the bed. And the night stand had an automatic sensor light in the bottom of it - so if you had to get up in the middle of the night in the pitch black - you could see to get to the bathroom. It was on a timer and would just go back off shortly after.

But in the midst of such a beautiful place and great service - the bathroom smelled like sewage. And I immediately regretted
brushing my teeth with the water - it was salty and tasted awful. I knew enough not to swallow any... but yeah. That was gross.

James got some really cool pics as we were driving along of a group of children praying

And we kept passing this beach that always had tons of people swimming - no matter what time of day or night.

Some of the most interesting stories about Djibouti are things that I haven't found any confirmation for in my research, but these aren't exactly the types of stories that would be advertised. But here's what we were told:

The government doesn't clean up the trash because the worse off they look - the more aid they get. These poor people live in worse conditions than they have to because the government thinks they can get more money out of it.

Also - there's a drug that really popular called khat or qat (sounds like "cot"). It's a leaf you chew on that provides euphoria and is known for suppressing appetites and keeping one "mellowed out" if you will. It's illegal in the U.S. But in Djibouti, the President's wife flies in 11 tons daily from Ethiopia to sell to the people. We kept passing "khat corner" where all the huts are selling it. It's not only extremely profitable for her, but it keeps the population from uprising.

Even though I haven't found a whole lot of publications about either of these subjects, I did find this excerpt from an article published in Esquire magazine a couple of years ago:

"But only in Djibouti—where the drug is popular at every level of society, from beggars on the street to President Ismail Omar Guelleh—do these leaves also play the wider role of desensitizing an entire population. Here, the tree of paradise suppresses dissent, helps assuage suffering, and basically keeps the place from coming apart at the seams. Thus Djibouti’s passionate affair with khat has elevated this woeful little outpost on the Horn to more than just your average narco-state, like, say, Colombia, Peru, or Afghanistan. No, Djibouti is something unto itself. Because even though khat isn’t a narcotic, Djibouti is perhaps the only country in the world that truly fits the definition of a narco-society: a place where a drug is not so much a business as a way of life. And where khat is—quite literally—the opiate of the masses."

Being in Djibouti sure made me thankful for the life we have here.

Peace. Love. Fiddle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Country Music in Rota

A video from Rota, Spain's AFN (Armed Forces Network)

I was scared to watch this video - it was maybe the most scatter-brained interview I've ever done. Special thanks to theses guys:

They were sitting right behind the camera and were trying their hardest to get me off topic the entire time - I have no idea what all I said...made me VERY happy AFN only used a small clip... :)

Peace. Love. Fiddle.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

You can only imagine how epic it felt to play a show on the ship - especially after we had JUST (not even 30 minutes prior) been given the most excellent VIP tour of the ship. So yeah - we were all pretty stoked.


Half of both bands were sooooo sick.

The best was the "puke bags" that were provided for us. We had 2 giant bags strategically placed for both James and Gordon in case the need to spew hit during the show. (I apologize for how much I have talked about puking the last few days... but there was just a LOT of it happening... we all got really close REALLY quick on this trip)

Thankfully neither James nor Gordon ended up getting sick during the show - although they both looked white as ghosts. As soon as the show was over... James was pretty rough. He sat down close by and then pretty much passed out immediately after. He woke up to someone he didn't know grabbing the skin on his hand to check to see how dehydrated he was. He heard them say "take this guy down to medical and give him an IV" but that was about the last thing he remembered because he was in such a fog.

I had NO IDEA any of this was going on... I was talking to everyone after the show and didn't have a CLUE how sick James was until about 4 hours later when I heard someone mention it while I was signing autographs...

It's a really good thing the puke bags were around the stage, though. Dave puked TWICE during SafetySuit's set. Poor guy. I sure hope he's well now. He had it the longest of anyone on the trip.

Our incredible view/ audience/ backdrop!!! (We're the tiny ones down at the bottom of the pic)

The XO... just chillin...


I got to spend SOOO much time with the guys on the ship. It was AWESOME.

My Navy Cowboy... it's like a rhinestone cowboy but at sea

My hat rocks.

Playing aboard the USS Nassau was kinda the best thing ever.

Peace. Love. Fiddle.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Hottest Place on Earth

After my lesson in Marine weaponry...

We headed down into the engine rooms. OK. This was just nutty.

You've gotta remember... these guys get excited when they see "double digits" in the weather. Yeah... it's THAT hot outside all the time. And the water was 96º. That's not so good with helping cool down the ship... especially when their AC's keeping breaking on 'em. The Nassau had 4 of their 5 AC's down just a few days before we got there. 3 of the 5 were back up and running by the time we were on board. But I can't even imagine how hot it must have been for a while.

So THEN if you work in any of the engine rooms.... you might as well just surrender to the fact that you will have to live in a pool of your own sweat 24/7.

The first few rooms were really hot - you could visibly see the AC - it looked like fog blowing out of the vents... but it was just so hot in the room that the difference in temp was actually visible in the air.

I couldn't help but notice all the metal around me as we're walking around. I could touch it momentarily for walking up and down the stairs... but it's like a really hot plate out of the microwave... you can only handle it for a second at a time, or you get burned.

These poor guys literally have more sweat on their uniforms than they do dry spots. Right here, we are standing in front of the windows where you can see the fires that are all burning, turning water into steam for use on the ship... so... not exactly the "cool down" area.

These are the guys that are literally "sweating it out" to make sure the ship is moving properly. And yet somehow they had the most high spirits and were just giving each other a hard time for who got the better autographed picture. :)

And here... we are being told where we are about to go... apparently this wasn't that hot yet. (If you click on these pics it makes them larger... if you blow this one up, you can see the look on my face of - "Are you serious? It's about to get HOTTER than it is right this second?")

There's... this... room... I can't tell you much about this room because I think my body was in such shock, I couldn't possibly retain the information being given to me. I don't know what you have to do in this room when you work there... All I know is... the thermometer read above 143º I'm NOT kidding.

These guys work in 5-6 hour shifts and I don't even understand what that would be like. Maybe once. But every single day? This is the room you have to work in? It's mind boggling. They were all laughing at us because we were such wusses about touching the metal. But come on! All the nerves in my hands are still there!!! I haven't burnt them out by working in this room and having to touch things for the last 6 months. I mean - you can imagine how narrow and steep the stair cases would be on a ship like this. So there's no way to climb up or down without holding on... I mean, I tried not to hold on... but they felt sorry for me and had to hand me handkerchiefs to use on the railings. When I got to the bottom, I threw them back up to the top for the next guy. The Sailors thought that was soooo funny. :) But I'm cool with swallowing my pride on that one. I just couldn't do it.

So at this point it was about 3:30 and the show started at 4. :) The Colonel was SOOOO sweet and offered up his private quarters as a place where I could get ready quickly. It was amazing. And THANK GOODNESS they gave me the coolest hat in the world! I needed it after being in the hottest room in the world. I don't think I've ever been more excited about wearing a hat in my life. It SAYS NATALIE on it! SERIOUSLY?!?!? It's the official USS Nassau hat with my own name on it. Yeah. That rocked.

After that crazy tour, I knew I was for sure gonna have to dedicate a song to ChEng - the Chief Engineer of the ship. He had told me earlier in the day how much of a bluegrass fan he is. So of course, we did a little Orange Blossom Special in the show. :)

Tomorrow I'll be able to load some of the pictures from this epic show!!! :)

Peace. Love. Fiddle.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

MCMAP and Grenade Launchers

To continue with our tour of the Nassau...

The guys and I were taken down into this hangar where lots of planes were stored, and lots of Marines were doing some pretty intense training.

It was a crazy feeling to walk into a room and see a whole bunch of Marines lined up and waiting to do demonstrations for us. The first thing we got to see was a demonstration of MCMAP - the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. The Marine Corps is the only branch of the military that has their own martial arts. And this is not your typical martial arts, either - it is not designed to be graceful or competitive. It is focused on "kill the enemy". So don't mess with the Marines... seriously.

I mean... look at the instructor. Do you see the size of this guy?? I was mesmerized by just how big of a dude he is. And then to see him talking about techniques of MCMAP. Uhhh... whoa.

The demonstration in action...

So then we move on to a line of Marines each standing by their specific weapon... Holy crap.

I get my first lesson in night vision

And then I try on the pack that they each wear... which is about 50 pound less than the one they actually wear - the lead plate in the back wasn't in this one, plus all the supplies weren't there...

But I was SHOCKED at how heavy the guns were. I mean... I knew they would be heavy, but some of the larger guns... good Lord. I can't imagine having to carry that on my back for miles and miles and miles.... not to mention all the other gear and packs that have to be carried.

I hesitate to show the next picture. Only because at this point... I'm looking pretty cool with the grenade launcher I'm holding... however... when I moved to the rocket launcher... it was a different story. Even though I KNEW it was empty and I couldn't hurt anyone, I felt REALLY strange about actually pulling the trigger. But my Marine was going through all the steps with me, and said ok, "do this, this, and this, now pull the trigger"
When I actually tried to pull the trigger, I couldn't with just one finger. That's when the laughter began, and I had to use two.

This picture is probably a much more accurate portrayal of "Natalie With A Gun" than the others.

Here's a little bit of credibility back...

Stovall, The Action Movie

I have so many more, but I'll stop here for now... only because it is nearly 7am and I have yet to see my bed. Lots more stories on the way!

Peace. Love. Fiddle.