Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Foster Beach, Chicago

Foster Beach, taken with George Hatcher, August 16, 2014. Two minute exposure.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Yelping psychics in Key West

This blog was written April 8, but I am just posting it now. Some of the things written below make a little bit more sense now...

I was in Florida last week for, among other things, a chance to see my friend George who I used to live with on the Rosebud reservation. I looked around online to find us a psychic to speak with since both of our lives have been pretty crazy recently.

So this will be a short blog about what my tarot cards said. I'll write about Hemingway and the drag queens later. After Yelping the psychics, everyone recommended some oddball guy who spends his time on the boardwalk. His glasses and unkempt curly hair made him look like Burgess Meredith from his Twilight Zone days. Here is what he has to say:

First, the past. He told me that late last year someone from a past relationship tried to contact me but I refused to respond. This past relationship comes up a couple of times in my cards. Not to go into it in depth, suffice it to say that it was a bad situation that ended badly and made me feel bad for about two years. This past relationship was at the center of my cards.

Now, for the future. Supposedly I'm going to start a new relationship in May that isn't going to be the destructive kind. Supposedly this person is solid, and the psychic said, "you have nothing to worry about with this person; what you see is what you get." So that sounds like a pleasant change.

In June this relationship will get a little more serious but because of that past to-do, it's going to be hard for me to trust. The psychic said once I trust myself again I can trust this new person. He also said "possible proposal" in June but didn't give any details. but if I just get into this new relationship in May, I can't imagine it's that kind of proposal. maybe I'll spend the month writing project proposals or funding proposals for JRS.

June is also a month where I will feel at most secure with my job in the next six months. Maybe I will be offered a new contract or find a new job.

July brings a "shift in my separation" with that old relationship.

August is a tough month. My contract with JRS ends July 31 and the psychic said I have to be realistic about my future and not to put hope in people at work because they don't have my best interests at heart. I have to be careful about money, which is a pretty big joke.

Finally on September I should be able to calm down a little bit and accept whatever I've for going on in work and love.

So that's what I know! Sounds like a pretty interesting six months, no? I just need to remember to look back in six months and see if he was right. If I've got a ring on my finger in six months, I'll have to go back to Key West and invite our psychic to read all your guys' cards at the wedding!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Record shopping in Hamra (part 2)

My last weekend in Lebanon, and I'm not leaving without some Arabic music – specifically, Sabah Fakhri. So I'm back on the hunt, with Andy and Gavin, searching every antique store, used book attic and overpriced record monger in town.

And I'm headed back to the man who seemed to know it all. And this time, hopefully he'd be in the country.

This particular afternoon was my first day off the wagon, after giving up drinking for Lent. Without thinking, on a late Sunday brunch date by the yacht club – that's right – in Beirut, I ordered a lemonade. My friends didn't hesitate to remind me that it was now my duty to begin drinking with them again. I switched to Almaza, and the day began. We had an overpriced, undercooked lunch, and took an overpriced cab to find a place to overpay for music. We are foreigners after all, and as David Sedaris recently reminded me, "foreigners are the lowest life form in any major city."

I noticed the record store guy immediately when I walked in. Last time I'd seen him, I was keen to impress him, as I am with any record store guy, since they are the beacons of truth in the world. They are the purveyors of x-rated 78s from the 20's, instrumental funk covers of the Beatles, pornographic 12-inch covers, and everything else I could devour since I was 14. These were the people to impress. Unfortunately, anyone who has seen "High Fidelity" knows, you can't impress them. And that is what keeps them, at least amongst their stacks of plywood crates and wax records, so coooool.

Needless to say, he wasn't impressed with my music taste last time. So I was over the moon, when we got upstairs to the record attic and he said, "Molly, right?" He remembered! I asked him about Arabic records and he pointed me to the right corner. He didn't have what I was looking for, but I managed to spend $50 anyway.

I started looking through his DJ box, the vinyl he uses in a set sometimes around town. I hadn't heard of most of it, so he put some on. Then he yelled to the man downstairs. "Hey, whiskey!"

And this is how Andy, Gavin and myself spent the afternoon – drinking whiskey out of paper cups, smoking rolled cigarettes, thumbing through vinyl and listening to some great stuff. Andy and I bought some good stuff and walked out with that same swagger I get when walking out of a tattoo parlor. It's that "Hey, look what I got, no big deal…" strut.

I feel like I won. He may not be impressed by my taste in music, but he liked me enough to liquor me up and sell me on his taste in music. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Imam wants to know if you’re on your period: the top 10 moments of shooting a video in Byblos, Lebanon

Andy Ash and I have spent a week in Jbeil, ancient Byblos, making a short video about a JRS school for Syrian refugees. Here are the highlights:

10.  100 Turkish coffees with the family we were following
We followed one student for this video, from when she got up in the morning, through her day at school. Throughout the week, her family continuously came to us with a tray of delicious coffee to get us through our long days of shooting.

9.  Hot tubbing on the balcony of the hotel
Because we arrived at 6 a.m. to the hotel, a room wasn’t prepared for us, so instead of making us wait, they upgraded us to a suite with a Jacuzzi on the balcony, overlooking the sea. After a long day of shooting, I watched the storm over the sea, rain and hail hitting the windows, while I relaxed in the Jacuzzi. As I went to bed, I heard Andy climb in with a beer to watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so it was win for both of us.

8.  Our Oscar award-winning star
We followed a 13-year-old girl for the video, whose father is a teacher at the school. She was incredible. With no shared language, she was prepared to let us surround he with cameras, and ask her to stop walking or move from here to there. When we asked her to sit still for her interview, to keep her in focus on camera, she stayed perfectly still for an hour. A videographer’s dream.

7.  Getting Andy a fishing pole
The minute Andy saw the sea, he got a bee in his bonnet that he needed to go fishing in Lebanon. After shooting, we took him to a gun shop to look at fishing poles, and eventually a friend of JRS lent him one for free. Expect photos of Andy standing on pier to be uploaded soon.

6.  Watching the lightning from an abandoned building day one
After getting all the time lapse footage from an abandoned apartment complex, we switched gears. Andy put a lightning trigger on the camera and got some beautiful shots of the storm over the sea. We made out of the building and into the car just as the heavens opened over us.

(watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and eating lunch in the abandoned building during a 5-hour photo time lapse)

5.  Getting Andy’s lunch order via walkie talkie
I always thought his walkie talkies were useless; “Why can’t we just use our cell phones?” but walkie-ing him from the hotel, while he was at the top of another abandoned building down the street was pretty cool. “Come in Andy, come in. Do you want ham on your pizza? Over.”

4.  Setting up the Go Pro on the roof of the mosque in the rain
My tiny HD waterproof camera came in handy when we were trying to get a great shot of the minaret on top of the mosque. Even though it was raining, we climbed onto the terra cotta roof and set up the shot we wanted.

3.  Shooting the school bus, leaning out of the car window in the pouring rain
The first day of filming, Andy rode the school bus with the students. I followed alongside in a car to get some outside shots. In order to accomplish this, I stood on the front seat, leaning out the window in the pouring rain. By the time we reached the school, I was drenched.

2.  Are you on your period?
Women aren’t usually allowed in this mosque, but the Imam is so keen on the video we are making, that he let Andy and I film him during his afternoon prayer. I just needed to cover my hair, and wear a long, heavy robe. Oh yeah, and he needed to make sure that I wasn’t “unclean” at the time. My friend, who works for JRS in Jbeil (Byblos), leaned out the door of the mosque saying, “He says it’s ok to come in. Personal question, though, he needs to know that you aren’t on your period…”

1.  The police arriving at the abandoned building
Our last shot, I am typing now as we are shooting it. We are getting an establishing shot of the mosque that doubles as a JRS school. Because it’s tucked away between buildings, we needed the right vantage point. So, Andy and I set up his camera and an umbrella on the top floor of an abandoned building across the street. A family kept looking out their apartment and taking photos of us, assuming we were criminals. A few hours later, a police car and a tinted Dodge Charger pulled up at the school. The Imam’s son and two armed police came running towards the building. Andy ran down, and when they saw it was us, they left us alone.

Low points:
1.     Spilling Andy’s camera bag and spilling orange juice on his Macbook Pro
2.     Freezing my ass off during rain-drenched time-lapses

 (Almost all photos by Andy Ash)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Record shopping in Hamra (Part 1)

Poor Gavin. He arrived to start working for JRS Middle East, moving his life to a new continent, the day the office reached it's breaking point. Welcome to JRS.

My solution was to take him around the city, which is a pretty big joke seeing as how I never go out. I took him record shopping in Hamra, a kind of student district near the American University. We were looking for a record store I couldn't find, records he's never heard of, in a language neither of us could speak.

So breakfast turned into lunch, and a quick shopping trip turned into an all-day odyssey. We were looking for a man straight out of High Fidelity. I say "we", even though Gavin could care less about records. Every music shop knew of this man, but didn't really want to help us because he is so terrible – the type that has records you want but won't sell them, who laughs at your music taste because it's just not obscure enough, who would rather be left alone is his dusty attic shop with his music. We asked another record guy how to find him and he said, "I know where he is, but that man is NOT my friend!"

That's who we were looking for and it took us four hours to find his shop. But the hours of searching allowed me to get out of this rut I've dug for myself. See, when I got here I was so desperately homesick that I shied away from everyone. Living and working with great JRS people saved me from being alone all the time, but I didn't know how to process the constant talk about Syria, and death, and stress and war.

It was getting out in the city, with another foreigner, someone even newer than myself, that reminded me of normal life – not thinking of Omaha, not talking about Syria– but just wandering the streets looking for the curmudgeonly record guy.

Well, we finally found his shop, and it turns out he's in Germany for the week. But at least it gives me an excuse to go back.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Almaza, and Andy Ash

So, my time in Beirut in winding down, although I can hardly feel it. The office is in an uproar, I'm starting up my last few projects for JRS Middle East and Andy Ash just arrived to help.

I first met Andy in India, well over a year ago. I was dating his roommate but found myself up late night with Andy, talking about photography and singing "The Weight" over and over, seeing as it was the only song he could play on the guitar.

I've visited him and his family in England three times over the past year; conned him into meeting me in Paris to see Bruce Springsteen and then convinced him to road trip from London to Rome in his tiny, 2-seater convertible, top down, in winter. That'll test a friendship.

Now he's in Beirut, shooting a video with me about our education projects in Lebanon for Syrian refugees. And man, it feels like such a blessing to have him. After seeing him and his family more over this year than my own, it feels like I've got a little slice of family, of home, here in Beirut.

Andy arrived on Mardi Gras, which doesn't mean anything in Beirut, even though it's a former French colony. He got off the plane and we went out straight away with my roommates and colleagues. I'd like to say this was because of Mardi Gras, but every day here in Beirut is blur of whiskey and cigarettes. It's truly been a whirlwind here. I haven't been drinking, which has helped and hindered in it's own ways.

Beirut is a funny place. I don't know any Lebanese people; all my roommates until recently were from the same home town in Syria. Beirut is expensive cars, new condos, bars and restaurants. You hear about a bombing across town over Facebook in the morning and then go out at night.

And after a few months in the city, I've gotten strangely attached. I've never met JRS people like the guys I've met here. Maybe it's because they are from Syria that makes them so dedicated. But I don't think so; they are dedicated because it's in their nature. Maybe it's because the office has been turned upside down recently with new management decisions that have brought us closer through turmoil.

It's just because it takes time to settle in, and now it hurts to think I have to go. It took me and Andy a year or more to feel like family, but the people I've met in Beirut welcomed me into their big, crazy, dysfunctional family almost immediately.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Valentine to myself

I made a bunch of hand-painted Valentine's this year. I will post them on Valentine's Day but until then, I'll post just this one. This was made for a friend. But it was only made by person who can completely relate. So this one's really for all of us. Here's to we who are still trying, still looking, and still loving ourselves.

Happy fucking Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dear Dad, life will go on after this Super Bowl

Dear Dad,

I just left the sports bar early so I could get to Skype because I am waiting for the news that you burned our house down. I hope this message gets to you before you smash all our dishes.

Listen, take it from a girl whose been broken hearted by many guys before. Payton is a jerk. And you can do better. You don't want a guy who won't work hard for your affections.

We've all been disappointed before by a man. It's hard to watch a man you love so much just break your heart like that. I know. I promise. But you know what, it gets better.

Little by little, this day will feel farther and farther in the past. I'm glad you retired recently, because I know there will be days and days of mourning. But one day soon, you'll wake up and hear birds chirping, feel the warm sun and think, Payton who?

For now, remember that life goes on. Cinnamon rolls still taste as sweet. Cocker spaniels are still just as cuddly. Bruno Mars is still a dreamboat.

I suggest you buy yourself a copy of "Eat, Pray Love", tear up your photos and love letters to Payton, and mix yourself a Skinny Girl Martini. That's what I do when a guy like Payton breaks my heart.

Just tell yourself that you are done being let down. And there is true love out there. You just need to find someone who won't let you down. And I think I've found just the guy. His name is Doug, and he is perfect for you. In fact, he lives just around the corner.

So, if you haven't thrown the remote out the window, once your ready, turn the channel and watch some Bluejays. Because unlike the Broncos, they are going all the way.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

And when these fingers can strum no longer…

I got to the JRS office in Beirut at 8:30 Tuesday to start my day only to see that Pete Seeger had passed away. We all knew he wouldn't live forever, although all lovers of music and peace and 3-part harmonies hoped he would; no one, no group of people can fill the space that Pete leaves, although he tried his entire life to get us to.

It's hard to put into words what Pete did for the world through his music; his most popular songs weren't often written by him- The Seeger Sessions, Bruce Springsteen's folk tribute doesn't contain music by Pete. But he rather chose songs, plucked them from all over the world and delivered them to us, like spreading "We Shall Overcome" through the Union movements to the Civil Rights

One example, that I think ties up Pete into a nice little bow is the song "How Can I keep From Singing," a hymn written in 1868 by Robert Wadsworth Lowry. 
Originally strictly a church song packed with "thou"s and "God"s it was retooled as a folk song in the early l950s.

The refrain went from "Since Christ is Lord of heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?" to the version we know now, "Since LOVE is LORD of heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?" Pete heard this new version and ran with it, singing it at protests and folk gatherings all over the country.

So why does this sum him up to me? Because Pete believed in the accessibility of the spirit. That is, once this song had been stripped of it's religious phrasing that would alienate people, and replaced it with universal language saying essentially the same thing, he shared it with the world, because he wanted to bring us out of our small boxes and bring us together in the wider human community. Pete Seeger didn't stand on the side of the road holding a sign about stopping this war or that war, he stood on the highway holding up a sign that said "Peace", an idea that unites rather than separates.

So now Pete is gone, only a few months after his wife of 70 years, and it's our turn to live by his example. We, the next generation have to continue his work for peace and ecology and love. Pete said there is only a 50/50 chance humans will survive the next 100 years. I'll take those odds.

Here’s the big ask: think of one thing YOU can do this week to prove that Pete's message will keep going.

"And when these fingers Can Strum no longer, hand the old banjo to young ones stronger."


Feel free to read my other blogs about Pete here:
August 2012 – Quite Early Morning
November 2010 – Pete Seeger Saves My Sanity
June 2009 – My New Favorite Thing