Monday, August 29, 2011

Molly Mullen in a nutshell

So I was perusing design websites the other day and I came across this award for best promotions. Usually corporations win it every year, but last year some guy won it for self promotion. He put together a really well designed packet for his resume and clips and whatnot.

I stole his idea and made the above PDF to go into my next job application, whenever that may be. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Alaska, in retrospect

I learned a lot in my few months in Alaska. Like, don't moon the whale-watching boats on the weekend when the neighbors could be watching... I think it takes a year or so removed to see how an experience changed you. So here you go, a brief retrospective on my time on Shelter Island.

Two cool things happened to me there. One, I met Rick and Karen, the folks who own the farm. Secondly, I got to know my best friend, really get to know him, for the first time in the 20 years I've been friends with him.

But from getting to know them, I got to know a lot about myself. I always joke that what I learned in Alaska was how truly bad I am at outdoorsy stuff (no one up there would disagree) but I got more out if than that simple realization.

Let me give you a little context. We'd wake up and have breakfast, the three of us WWOOFers and Rick and Karen. Then we'd work. Usually just splitting and stacking wood or wood chipping or whatever else they could find for us to do. Then lunch, more work, then quitting time.

That, of course, was my favorite time of day. After work and before our dinner feasts. It was quiet for the first time of the day. The sun would start going down behind the mountains. Rick would pick up his guitar and play. In between playing, I'd get to hear him talk. About music. About his book collection. About moving to Alaska. About life.

If you're ever up that-a-way, have Karen tell you about the first time she heard Frank Zappa's "Dinah Moe Hum." Or have Rick tell you how he came to write his own verse to "You Can't Always Get What You Want," if he'll tell it.

I always knew I wanted to be a reporter but I couldn't articulate why. Spending a summer in a place with no distractions, and no opportunity to report on anything, I figured out what I love so much. I love listening. And I have been blessed to meet so many people worth listening to.

Right before Ricky and I left the island, Rick said that we weren't great WWOOFers. We weren't bad, but "we didn't really experience the magic of the island." I don't think that's true. Sure, I didn't hike around or fish in my off hours. I am the world's worst kayaker. But I got at least a little magic while I was there. I think Ricky did too. Just our own kind of magic.

Sitting in the wood-fired hot tub, Alaskan pale ale in one hand next to my best friend, watching the sun set over the mountains and the whales swimming by, that was magic enough for me. It's the only time where I had nowhere to go and nothing to do and was happy as a clam in the moment.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

This city is trying to kill me

Alternate title: How Doc Holliday is keeping me from quitting and moving home. Alternate alternate title: Fuck Bangkok.

So, I am writing this spiteful blog post from my bed, where I have been lying nonstop since Friday after work, except for two food runs and a quick trip to the hospital where they told me I have a throat infection.

I've had aches and a cough for the past day or so and my loathing for this city is growing with my fever.

But, I have made a significant dent in the new book I am reading, "They Call me Doc," a biography of Doc Holliday, who alongside Wyatt Earp and his brothers, fought the Cowboys at the O.K. Corral.

So when my throat got sore, and my temperature rose and I got all achey, my first thought was, "I have tuberculosis just like Doc!" followed by my second thought, "I have dust pneumonia!" It should become clear to you, the reader, with this insight to my thought process that I have pretty much been living in books for the past few weeks.

But reading these books is teaching me something. They are reminding me to tough it out. Don't let anything take me down. Nothing as measly as a polluted, superficial city 14-million strong can defeat Molly Mullen.

It's like the motto of the Last Man's Club, the men who signed an oath never to leave the panhandle of Oklahoma, no matter how bad the dust storms got. "Grab a root and growl." This was when they were eating mostly roots, beans and canned tumbleweed. Well, I too am grabbing a root and growling. If by root they mean chicken and rice and by growling they mean coughing.

Or as Doc Holliday supposedly said, "Die with your boots on. Die standing up. Die standing for something."

Well, I don't exactly stand for something at the moment. I'm not really standing at all (ahhh, I crack myself up). But these men and characters in these books have become my closest friends lately. And my other friend, Woody Guthrie has been playing on a loop with his "Dust Bowl Ballads," so I am taking their advice.

When I recover from this consumption, ok ok throat infection (sorry for the melodrama), I am heading back into work, I am going to continue to live my life here until my time is up. Because it can't defeat me. No matter how hard Bangkok tries, I ain't quitting.

If anyone needs me, I will be in bed watching the commentaries on Jason Segel movies and listening to This American Life. Feel free to drop by. Room 104. It's unlocked.

Friday, August 19, 2011

You're invited...

I was going through the fonts on my computer and for some reason several of the fonts reminded me of The Shining. So, I made an invite to the Overlook Hotel using fonts that I could probably never use for anything else.

A little background on the invite. The picture is of the Stanley Hotel, where Steven King wrote some of the novel. The bottom part is pink and gold because those are the colors of the ballroom and Wendy's "favorite colors."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thinking about FDR...

So I'm reading "The Worst Hard Time," A book about the Great American Dust Bowl, Yes. Carol, I was supposed to read it in your Advanced News Reporting class and didn't... I admit that. But I'm making up for it now.

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.

But while I read, I also remember going to a lecture by a historian who wrote the history of the American Civil Liberties Union. After taking us through a short history of breaches in civil liberties throughout the century, he stopped and asked us who was the single worst president for US civil liberties....

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

Spontaneous Spelunking

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.

Back at the bridge, soaking wet, sweaty and nearly late for our check out, we decide just to jump in the lagoon. I mean, why not? It was freezing with rain water and although it looked like a small creek, you couldn't touch the bottom, even when canon-balling off the tree that stretched over.

Quick swim. Ride back to town. Check out of the hotel and make it to the bus just in time. And then we wait. 20 minutes. 30 minutes. An hour. Apparently things don't work exactly on time in Laos.

And that's when I check our 8 p.m. train tickets to make sure we'll make it on time. And there, under departure time, where an 8 should have been, there was a 6. Oops. There goes our train tickets.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fine, mom, you were right

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?

So we walk. And we keep walking. Tom keeps asking Laotians who don't speak English where we should go. But their guess is as good as ours.

After a few turns down several roads we spot it. Neon lights and drunk tourists. We have arrived.

We park ourselves at a restaurant, bust out a little Connect Four laying on the table, order dinner, Beer Laos and ask for the cheapest hostel around. Luckily, the owners of this restaurant were cool and gave us the low down on a city and country that we didn't even bother to Google before we left.

Vang Vieng. Known for its limestone cliffs and it's drunken spring-break-all-year attitude. Most bars have "happy menus"
with magic mushroom pizza, weed garlic bread and opium tea. But mixing that with a tubing down a river with a fast current could leave people not so happy.

So yeah, mom, I listened to you. Tom and I were the only squares in town because I always remembered you telling me over and over again NEVER to mix drinking with swimming. So I expanded that to NEVER mix intoxicants with bodies of water. Check.

So, we stayed out of the water for the most part. We watched Brits and Canadians doing tricks into the river and swim to shore for a quick shot or a quick puff and jump back into the water that apparently is rife with pink eye. We decided not to become part of that crew. And Tom decided he didn't want to be the one to call my parents to tell them that I died by drunkenly falling off a water slide or careening into a tree from a rope swing.

So we mostly stayed inside and watched the rain. Played Boggle. Helped come up with questions for a Pub Quiz. Watched a bit of "Friends," which plays on a loop and most bars in town.

So there you go, mom. Making somewhat mature decisions, given the circumstances.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bussing it in Laos

It was about two hours into the drive, as the rain was setting in and it was getting dark, that I remembered Ollie's warning, "Molly, Laos is one of the most dangerous countries for bus travel. Don't travel on the local bus. Don't travel in the dark or in the rain." Oh shit.

So there I was, stuck in this apparent death trap. Tom, my traveling companion, is comatose at my side and I am preparing for death. When we finally arrived in Veng Vieng, I was surprised to be in one piece.

Now, this bus wasn't the worst thing I've ever seen. I mean, it looked good enough when we boarded at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Sure, some of the windows were held together with duct tape. And yes, some seats weren't exactly upholstered, per sey. And, ok, it had seen better days. But I figured that being the only Westerners on the bus made us more local.

Nope, just stupid.

But we were fortified with baked goods and and Irish coffees, so nothing could get to us... even good judgement.

I was kind of "over" this bus thing when the chickens got on board. We stopped for about half an hour so people could load a dozen crates of hens and half a dozen crates of roosters on the roof of our beloved bus. At that point I was falling asleep, with my arm out the window, letting the drizzle cool me down in the Laotian humidity.

Well, after a bump in the road, I woke up with an arm covered in rooster poop. God, this bus ride isn't worth the money saved on a regular bus. But, the joke is on you, chickens. I'm going to eat you and your family for dinner.

So, like all my near-death experiences, I always think, "Hey, at least you got a blog post out of it."