After a margarita, a G and T, a sheesha and a chocolate lava cake, my two favorite lawyers and I hunkered down to make my list of 25 things to do in the next year and a half.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
After a margarita, a G and T, a sheesha and a chocolate lava cake, my two favorite lawyers and I hunkered down to make my list of 25 things to do in the next year and a half.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Well, I was super jealous of Sophie and all of the other backpackers I saw falling in love in hostels and on beaches.
I’m not so jealous anymore.
As it turns out, the impermanence of the affair is pretty painful.
As you can probably tell, I met a boy. And he was nice. And now he’s gone.
Rather than going into the probably all-too cliché details, I’ll make a hodgepodge of lyrics from my favorite songs (you can click the numbers to listen) to explain the last few days of my life. And then I’ll probably jump out of a window.
1. Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?
2. Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you getting to hope you like me too
3. I got a girl and I kissed her and then, oh Lord, I kissed her again. Oh, oh, kisses sweeter than wine. Oh, oh, kisses sweeter than wine
4. I’m so glad, I am so glad, I’m so glad I don’t know what to do. Would you be my little darlin’, would you be my dear, would you be my darlin’ be my dear?
5. You’re a flower that is blooming in the wildwood, a flower that is blooming just for me.
6. Baby please don’t go. Baby please don’t go. Baby please don’t go down to New Orleans, you know I love you so, darling please don’t go
7. Oh no, I can’t believe you’re leaving me. Stay with me, baby. I’m asking you, begging you please
8. I’ve never seen a night so alone, when time goes crawling by… I’m so lonesome I could cry
9. You gotta give a little, take a little and let your poor heart break a little. That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love
10. We’ll meet again. Don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Thursday, October 6, 2011
So there I was, stumbling through a public park, my friends gently trying to assist me from getting from point A to point B. I was hardly able to take a step without losing balance. I know what you're thinking. I was drunk. Like stupid drunk. Like probably-should-go-to-meetings drunk. Well, you would think that, wouldn't you? And you would be wrong. You should be ashamed.
No, if helps the story, I might add that I was blind folded and there were dozens of other people there too.
It was Ollie's and my last night in Yogjakarta, my only night out in our 10-day whirlwild tour of the JRS projects in Indonesia (you guys rock, by the way). It was a brisk evening and the staff, God bless them, took us out on the town. We had dinner which was the best (and that is not an overstatement) duck i have ever eaten. Forget the forks, we just ravaged those birds like it was our last meal.
Then they took us to the town square.
If you can imagine dozens of golf carts covered in cartoon characters made of colorful rope lights, then I will not need to provide a picture. That's it. Golf carts and tandem bicylces all covered in rope lights for tourists to hire and ride around this tiny section of green space.
So we get there and Lars, a JRS guy, tells us that is tradition to blindfold oneself and to try to walk through these two enormous Banyan trees. Apparently people have been doing this for years but I don't exactly know how it got started. I imagine some enlightened Buddhist monk with a long beard first told some foreigner to do it to balance his chi or something. Or perhaps that's form a Karate Kid movie.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
From a Skype conversation Sept 14, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Alternate title: How Doc Holliday is keeping me from quitting and moving home. Alternate alternate title: Fuck Bangkok.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Anywho, I'm getting to the part where Franklin Roosevelt brought the New Deal to the Great Plains. He saved our banking system, by backing up people's money with the Federal Reserve. More close to my heart, he plants trees throughout the Plains to try and keep our states from blowing away. His famous first 100 days were the kind of progressive action we were all hoping Obama could muster. I've seen those trees those trees that were planted. They have become part of our history.
So while I read this book, my close kinship with Nebraska is getting tied up with FDR for what he did for the Plains.
Well, he concluded, it would have to be Franklin Roosevelt. Some presidents suppressed freedom of the press. Others allowed Joseph McCarty to blacklist free thinkers. Nixon was just a (tricky) dick to anyone who spoke out against him.
But Roosevelt actually supported the Japanese Internment. More than 100,000 Japanese people, mostly US citizens were taken from their homes and put in camps during World War II.
Yeah, no duh, I know everyone knows this. But it's a weird quandary for me.
I mean, how much good can one president do in order to make up for that? How many jobs must you create or farms must you save in order for history to view you as a good president (seeing as how history only views presidencies in black and white)? Because in my mind, Roosevelt did the single worst thing a president has ever done (imprisoning tens of thousands of US citizens without cause based on race) but also did some of the best things in our history.
So that's what I'm struggling with while reading this book. I am trying to grapple with the idea of a man who was a savior to so many but at one point was ruthlessly un-America, whatever that means.
I guess at the end of the day, that's just it. He was a man. And we often expect our presidents to be something else. He was just a man. And this is just a book. And that was just a question.
Friday, August 5, 2011
So it was our last day in Laos. We had accidentally slept 18 hours the night before and only had a few hours to do anything before catching our bus. We heard of this place called the Blue Lagoon outside of town and hired a tuk tuk to drive us there in the pouring rain.
After paying a few bridge trolls hellish fees to cross the river and having to switch tuk tuks because ours was falling apart, we drove through the hillsides of rice field and limestone cliffs like something out of King Kong's lost world or something. Except instead of a giant ape trying to kill us, it was a fat tuk tuk driver trying NOT to kill us, avoiding pot holes in the dirt road that had turned into a mud pit.
After a few miles, he backed up into this little bridge over a brown muddy creek. "Blue lagoon," he said, pointing. Damn. We miscalculated that one. It was neither blue, nor was it a lagoon, technically. Well, when in Rome...
So we paid the final BT the 10,000 kip to get over the bridge and decided to go wander around a cave instead of swimming in this lagoon in the pouring rain. We rented a head lamp (because we were too cheap to pay the extra dollar for two head lamps) and headed up this cliff with small stairs carved into it and loose bamboo railings leading us up to the entry. The stairs had become a small creek in the rain and it was probably my bad to attempt this in my flip flops and swim suit.
We made it onto the cave drenched, and were both immediately blown away. It was huge. It was like nothing I've ever seen. And of course, we had no camera on us (so these pics are from Google). We made it into the foyer of the cave, whatever that is called in spelunking terms, and there was a beautiful reclining Buddha there to greet us.
After that is was just darkness, with signs pointing us in one of two directions, "slippery," and "not slippery," or "danger." So we kept walking, climbing and slipping around until the darkness swallowed us, leaving us alone with our headlamp and instincts. My instincts, of course, led me to walk towards the sign that said "danger." Tom's instincts were to lead me away from there.
But it was crazy. Bats sleeping on the ceiling hundreds of feet above us, rain water dripping in rock formations that looked like monsters in the light.
Once we had enough of that kind of thrill seeking, we continued the adventure of trying to make it back down the cliff in one piece.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
So we arrive in Vang Vieng, what some sites call one of the most dangerous cities in Southeast Asia. Tom, my friend from grade school, and I are dropped off on the edge of town, at night, in the rain. No hostel or tourist in sight. Are we in the right town? Are we going to get murdered here?
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
As I was walkin' - I saw a sign thereAnd that sign said - no tress passin'But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!Now that side was made for you and me!...In the squares of the city -In the shadow of the steepleNear the relief office - I see my peopleAnd some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'If this land's still made for you and me.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
So R. Crumb, the world-famous comic book artist, musician and music-lover made a book of his favorite blues, jazz and country artists, imaginatively titles, "R. Crumb's heroes of blues, jazz and country."
Monday, July 11, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Saturday, July 2, 2011
A few weeks later, the young Nebraska singer-songwriter Conor Oberst debuted a new song, 'When the President Talks to God' at New York's Town Hall. It is not, to be frank, a great song, -- it is callow, overstated and clumsy with anger -- but that very failure of poise spoke powerfully to Oberst's young, liberal audience. 'I can't think of too many occasions when I felt an audience so engrossed in the drama of a song,' observed critic Rob Tannanbaum, 'and I don't know if I have ever seen a singer project as much sincerity. There was a point when I thought he was going to start crying.'Well, doesn't that just about say everything there is to say about Omaha in 2004?
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Picture, if you will, a 23-year-old American girl using a large wooden phallus (in lieu of a hammer) to fix a nail into place on a piece of wood she tore off her bed frame (that belongs to the apartment). If you pictured that, then you pictured the latter part of my Thursday night.
So I saw the above video on Monday. I proceeded to do two things. One, download all of the Jack White I could get my hands on. And two, build a diddly bow.
Well, as easy as he makes it look in the video, for someone who doesn't have scrap wood, strings, electric guitar pickups, etc. lying around, it becomes a bit more complicated. Well, doing anything in Bangkok is complicated.
So I Googled how to make one. I knew I wanted it to be suuuuuper cheap and I wanted it to be electric. In all the videos they say, "I just used this electric pickup off one of my old guitars and soldered the wires together! How Easy!" My thought was, "Uhhhh, what's a pickup and how the heck do you wire one?" Clearly, I'm at square one here.
So I Googled guitar repair shops in Bangkok. I saw one listing for a place called "Rockabilly," described as a hole-in-the-wall, middle-of-nowhere homage to Elvis. This was my place. Of course, there was no address, just a phone number of some guy who would meet me in front of a hotel on his motorcycle and take me to his shop.
Sure. Why not? At least I'll get a story out of it, if I don't get murdered.
So that's what he did. And I get to his shop and realized that "hole in the wall" was an overstatement seeing as how there aren't really walls. It's more of a stand, an old work table and guitar parts strewn about. But I knew I was where I belonged when I saw three photos of Elvis with the King of Thailand hung up. I have the same photo blown up to 5x6 ft on my apartment wall.
So I tried, in my most basic English, to explain what I was buiding. "One string?" "Yeah, and a pickup fastened to an output cable." "That's not a guitar. Why do you want that?"
Good question. Because I'm bored. And lonely. And I want to make noise.
So he and his assistant (who he calls "boy," even though he's a grown man) proceed to dig through drawers looking for rusted old pickups that might still have some life left in them. The found one that works and said they couldn't give it to me because it wasn't very good. "I don't want it to be good. I like that one." They looked at me and kept working.
I sat at Rockabilly with them for the better part of an hour while they hooked me up and then promised to bring my finished product back to show them.
Now all I have to do it build it... and learn how to play it. But I'm sure that's the easy part in comparison, right?
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
For those of you who don't know, couchsurfing is a web site where strangers get to know other strangers by crashing on their couch for a night or two. It's a great way to travel cheap. On the couchsurfing site, it says in bold letters, "couchsurfing is not a dating service." Yeah, yeah. But if I could get a date out of it, I wouldn't be opposed.
Well, that was nowhere near in the cards for me.
Richeff and I surfed on our Great American Road Trip last summer in California, Oregon and Montana. We had a blast and keep in touch with our hosts.
So, like an idiot, I decided to pay the hospitality forward and let people stay in my cubicle of a studio apartment. And I now know that there is something worse than being alone. It's stuck being around couchsurfers who aren't the definition of a good time.
The first surfers I had were a couple from India who seemed pleasant enough. I went out to dinner with them one niht and then gave them the key to my place to stay while I was working in Mae Sot. Well, while I was in a dusty border town, saving lives and contracting Dengue, these two decided to commence in the strengthening their relationship bonds in my bed every night. I know, I know, what could I expect lending my apartment to a couple who only recently fell madly in love. But what added insult to injury was that these two love birds peaced out of my apartment before I got back and didn't even wash the sheets! Come on. Those love birds are horses of a different color. I mean, not to be to graphic about it all but as it is said in Dr Strangelove, there were some "precious bodily fluids" in places.
So I shook it off and thought my next surfer would be better. A Chinese guy. He called me up before 7 a.m. becaues he decided he couldn't (or simply didn't want to) find his way to my apartment, so I had to walk to the skytrain and get him. He proceeded to stay for six days and give me constructive criticism on a regular basis. On how I should have healthier water bottles. On how the vinegar I use to wash my face doesn't smell good. On how I act too much like a boy.
Thanks, brother. How would you like it if I came to your home in China, stayed for free for six days and ragged on all your stuff? It also turns out he was a bit of a racist and misogynist. Double fun!
Then, until last night I had three women from India. The "Debbie Downers." They couldn't find things on their own, they got lost, they didn't want to go into this big, scary city alone. They decided that India was better, prettier and more fun. Well, the joke is on them for leaving home then, I guess.
So I have officially made my sacrifice to the couchsurfing god. I have one more ocuple coming next week and then I'm throwing in the towel.
I'm sorry. I wanted to be worldly. I wanted to be cool. But it's just too much work. I quit.
But if you know of someone cute and single who is traveling through Bangkok sometime soon... I might get back in the couchsurfing game for that.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I did learn how to shower with one hand plugged into an IV. I learned that real best friends will internalize disgust when I'm talking about suuuuuper personal things with the doctor. I learned that there are only so many ham and cheese sandwiches one can eat in a week.
But really, the best lesson I started learning over my two weeks was how to be alone. See, I spend a good amount of my time trying to ensure that I'm not alone. I let socially deplorable couch surfers stay with me (next blog topic). I spend weekends at the office if I know someone is wrong. I let my heart skip a beat when I hear the sound of someone signing onto Skype. There is something wrong with ennegaram type 7's in that we're so busy being social butterflies and making sure that people like us, that we don't actually know how to be when we're alone.
But over my two weeks of being sick, I had to learn how to sit all day and all night with relatively no one around to talk to. This was a scary prospect. Usually the longer I spend by myself, the sadder I get.
So I sat. And sat. And sulked. And slept. And sat some more. And came out on the other side alive. Alive and alone, which I never thought was possible.
And I didn't actually lick it. I still hate being alone. But it's nice to know that my world won't self destruct if I have to sit by myself. So I've been doing that a lot lately. I recently came across a whole load of new music, so I guess I'm not really alone. I have Jack White to keep me company.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Apparently there is this new life-changing series of iPhone apps. (I know, oxymoronic, but bear with me) With this new “Augmented Reality," you can see what is going on in your general vicinity: what people in the next apartment building who I’ve never met are tweeting, what restaurants are within walking distance, and what stores are having big sales. How did I ever survive without this?! It’s like the fun and excitement of walking around outside without having to bother with leaving my room.
Alright, you get the idea. I’m not exactly sold on this Augmented Reality business. But Ollie was so gung-ho about the whole thing, that I listened to what he had to say. At the end of the conversation, with me refusing to accept this new reality, he chalked it up to me being a luddite and moved on.
But that’s not exactly true. As much as I’d like to refuse to believe that I allow new technologies and arbitrary Internet trends to invade my consciousness, I can’t. I am not that pure.
Just yesterday my friend from back home, Ward, posted a news story about Omaha pastors who are preaching that being gay is not sinful. God bless them. Well my friend who is happily and boisterously conservative, posted this to his Facebook, commenting that it’s a sin to be gay and these preachers should not be ignoring this Old Testament Biblical fact (again, oxymoronic, I know).
Now, as Ward and I disagree on almost everything politically (and apparently religiously) I always post snarky comments on his hyper-conservative Facebook musings. I can have a laugh that we are so different and move on.
But this time I got sucked in. Facebook sucked me in. The Internet. Not proud to say.
I ended up reading the five million responses to his comment. Of course, being his friends, many share his view that being gay is a sin and you love the sinner and all that nonsense. As I read through the comments, I felt myself getting physically upset. My heart started racing, my palms got sweaty, I started shaking.
It’s as if I had never been aware that there were people out there in Nebraska who hold these beliefs.
My question is, how did I let myself get so involved in this conversation, clearly not targeted to me? How did I let these strangers have such an effect on my afternoon?
Facebook, man, gets you every time. The Internet has a way of scrambling my priorities. There are very real things when working with refugees to be angry about. But somehow I managed to get myself worked up over a Facebook stream.
So I’m tainted. I am ashamed to admit that Facebook affects my day.
But, I have never downloaded an app, retweeted or hash-tagged anything. And I have yet to augment my reality.
I’ll try to keep it that way.
In the mean time, I’m going back on Facebook to read people’s posts about painting their toenails, cooking mac and cheese or whatever they think is important enough to broadcast to their friends. And I will think it’s really, truly important information to have.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Then I'm at the grocery store, looking to buy some cheap toothpaste. Last time I bought toothpaste in Thailand, I got some weird sea salt paste. And, of course, the cheapest stuff was Darlie. I picked it up, looked at the smiling black man in the top hat, with the words "Smiling White" underneath it.
Now, the moment of truth, do my morals keep me from buying this minty minstrel paste? Or do I buy it for novelty... and because I'm broke? Well, I consulted my two friends. "No," one friend said. "Of course it's not racist. He's not even a black guy." Yeah, he's not a black guy and I don't have a dental hygeine problem.
So I buy the stuff. It's almost like if a membership to the Klan came in spearmint.
So, as Enid appreciated Coon's chicken in "Ghost World," I can appreciate my new Darlie toothpaste, a toothpaste that makes a killing in Asia, I might add. I get the box of toothpaste home and crack it open, to find Chinese characters on it. Ishow it to my friend, who can read the language and I hear, "Oh no. Yeah, that is racist." What did it say? "Darlie. The Black Man's Toothpaste. Smiling White."
As it turns out, it used to be called Darkie's Toothpaste. Who'da thunk?
Oops. But, I have to say, it's so offensive, I can't not use it. It keeps my tooth brushin' ritual nice and political. In the end, it just matters what my other friend said when I bought it. "Molly, that stuff doesn't work."
That should've been good enough.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
... This is tough actually.... How do you explain the blues?
Listening to good, and I mean GOOD blues, I think, is a musical representation of what it's like to watch the sun go down in Mississippi over the river. Its notes smell like exhaust from old trucks and cigarettes from juke joints. If you close your eyes and listen to Robert Johnson or Blind Willie Johnson or Bessie Smith sing blues or gospel, it's... damn this is hard... it's like feeling your bare feet glide over a dusty, unvarnished, hard wood floor on a hot day.
Does this make sense? I'll try harder.
Let me explain. I didn't know music beyond a few tracks on "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou," until I moved to Mississippi. And, like everything else about Mississippi, this music changed my life. It was the first time I ever moved away from home, experienced anything outside Nebraska. And then I heard music. Real music. And it wasn't from a mix, or a link or a PBS video. I discovered it on my own, which is unusual. And I went to B.B. King's juke joint. And the town where Tommy (not Robert) Johnson sold his soul to the devil. And it was hot. And it was humid. And some parts of Mississippi were backwards. But I believed in it. Almost like religion.
Blues music pumps through your veins. You can feel it in your body like you can feel heartache or yearning. These voices will never get on American Idol; It's kind of like (apologies for all the similes) Lynda Barry, Abby's favorite comic book artist taught me. While it's not classically trained or even "correct" sometimes, it's a part of you. And it's in giving a part of you to the world that art is created. That is the blues. One person and his or her guitar, giving a part of himself to me and me experiencing it.
Now, I remember in the dream me listing songs. Because Bob Dylan offered to play "Church I'm Fully Saved Today," because I wrote about it in my blog. I woke thinking, "That's not blues, that's gospel." But it's the same to me, especially when blues singers do it.
So here's a few of my favorites:
1. "Church I'm fully saved today." as sung by Blind Willie Johnson. His voice makes me believe in something. He makes me want to believe in God even when I find it difficult. He makes me think of a small Baptist black church off a dusty road in a cotton field. And I want so badly to transport there and inhale the fervor and fire from the choir. The the song ends and I feel abandoned. What other kind of music can do that?
2. "Shake Sugaree" I don't know if this is blues or comedy or folk or what. But Elizabeth Cotton, Pete Seeger's nanny, sings this song like an angel. All of her other music is gruff and rough, and great. But this track is different. She is smooth, and melodic and I can't read her emotion. And there is nothing out there like it, like, Steve Buscemi said in "Ghost World," about the song "Devil Got My Woman."
3. "Devil Got my Woman" I heard this before I really knew what blues was, thanks to that movie, and I was on board. The scene where Enid just sits in her room, listening to the record, moving the needle back to the beginning every time it finishes. I get that. For me it was when I first got Canned Heat's "Sweet Sixteen" and "Bullfrog Blues."
4. "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" by Leadbelly. Abby gave me this track on a Christmas mix when I was 15. I played it out. It was a blues and folk mix. I memorized it. Probably one of the best gifts I ever had. She gave me a less popular version of his song. It's slower. More meloncholy than the popular version. It was originally titled "Black Girl," but when the lyric was changed to "My Girl," to make it more popular, it got it's new name. If you close your eyes and listen to his voice on the original version*** (which I can't find online), you can hear regret and dispair. You can tell he is going to forgive his woman and he knows she is going to do it again. And again. It's like finding out about love and loss without ever experiencing it.
Well, I guess that's it. If Bob Dylan is reading this, and if you dig it, you owe me a phone call. Well, actually you owe me some sort of celestial shout out. I'll be waiting. And I'll see you in my dreams.
*** In iTunes, under podcasts, search for the Black Media Archive. The original version is there for free.