6.27.2010

2nd Hand Mojo

Jeremy and I both suffer from what some would call “younger sibling syndrome.” Which, in a lot of ways, is why we empathize with each other during various scenarios - slight crabbiness, life’s seemingly unjust situations, bouts of whining, yelling “Ouch” unnecessarily  ...

At times our mantra as children –“but, but … that’s not fair” sneaks up into our adult life. We believe fully in fairness. If we buy a package of six cupcakes, we know, although it is never spoken, that we each have three cupcakes to eat at our leisure. Neither of us would dare sneak a fourth.

We also have an affinity for 2nd hand everything. To own something new, something that hadn’t been worn by an older sibling or outdated by at least four years was so far beyond our realm of reality for most of our lives that we came to appreciate those things handed down to us. Even if it happened to be a bedazzled jean jacket that hadn’t been worn since 1987, it was ours. In 1992 it was new to us and we claimed it and wore it with pride.

But beyond the material things, our lives are structured by our birth order.  It has a profound and lasting effect on our relationships and the path we chose.

When I was a child, I often forgot my name. I was referred to as “Dana’s little sister.”

Seven years my elder, Dana toted me around as if I was her own child. She used me as “the baby” when her friends played house and I was forever on someone’s hip, well passed the age I should have been. Often my legs dangled inches away from the ground, but I remained, content with my place on whoever's bony hip would have me.

Dana was very much an authoritative figure to me. She corrected me when I was bad, grounded me and washed my mouth out with soap. When I was 15 she moved out of the house and for the first time in my life, I had my own room. (It was only seven years before this I had my own bed and only six years before that I actually started sleeping in it.)

Even then, when I stepped over the line, Dana would drive the 15 miles from her new apartment to “chat” with me.  And it always worked.

Even today I listen to Dana. Although I have gotten braver in my adulthood, I still obey – at the very least, until she is out of earshot. But she continues to be my guide. She continues to offer opinions with the issues I bring to her and I continue to listen.

Before I knew independence, my sisters were the only world I thought existed. I looked up to Dana and mimicked Shannon’s every move. Shannon was three years older than me and I knew she knew everything there was to know about the ways of the world. I followed her around, read her diary, listened to her phone conversations and drooled over fiction stories she wrote.

“Oh if I could only be 3 years older! How much I could accomplish,” I would think.  “I would be going to that Boy George concert right now. It could be me!”

But it never was. I was always too young.

Nevertheless, I continued to follow Shannon. I was affectionately (and appropriately) called “Shannon’s Shadow” by my next-door neighbors. Shannon would run over to the Quinn’s house to play piano and within minutes (or as soon as I realized she was gone) I too would run over to the Quinn’s, placing my shoes in Shannon’s muddy footprints along the way.

As a teenager and most of my twenties I was delusional in thinking I had broken away from this pattern - that I was my own independent woman. And in many cases this was and is true. I have a mind of my own, one that thinks outside the box. I have had experiences that are all my own and experiences that I can now share with my sisters, maybe teaching them a thing or two … but the syndrome never leaves you.

Shannon is currently a freelance journalist and the faculty advisor for The Montage, the St. Louis Community College – Meramec student newspaper. She began her career years before and with my ongoing fascination with photography, she invited me along on a white rafting trip as the “freelance photographer” for an article she was writing. I was 20 years old and it was my first real newspaper gig.

After the event ended, I drove as Shannon pulled out her laptop and began writing the article, dictating our experiences in written form. She would read me bouts, laughing at her own puns. I would roll my eyes for show, but thought they were hilarious as well. 

It amazed me how easy it seemed to her - how four hours on the rapids could bring to life the creativity of an amazing story in a matter of minutes.

I saw a different side of my sister. I was proud when I saw her article in print, with her little sister’s photo to accompany it.

Today I am a journalist. It seems only fitting I would follow in Shannon’s footprints, making her shadow mine. I now seek to find the words to accompany the adventures I partake, to photograph the elements and produce an article that would make both of my sisters proud.

They have guided my on this path, unbeknownst to me. I will always be “Dana’s little sister,” and little did I know, I am still “Shannon’s Shadow.”

6.25.2010

Camp Out Chronicles

The buddymollys played a "real" gig this past weekend at a music festival in the hip town of Pottenstein, Germany - the first of our gigs to go beyond talent shows, drunken parties and open mics.

Another notable difference for our band of musical marriage was the audience, 99% of whom were German. Although, the genre of choice for most German citizens is recycled American music, so the language barrier ceased to exist during sets.

Loads of campers traveled hundreds of miles to camp and dance to the sounds of six bands. We were originally slated as band number five (and felt pretty secure that everyone would be at least six beers in at this point which makes the buddymollys sounds “polished.”)

But, living the life of a rock, er, folk star means being flexible (or is it trashing hotel rooms and evading taxes?) Anyway, our acoustic act was moved to the starting position to make it easier on the sound guys. The sounds guys, however, did not make it easy on us.

I don't feel we can we can complain about sound. Up until that point, our stellar sound systems usually consisted of one microphone to which Jeremy and I sat really really close to catch both of our ukuleles and vocals.

The stage manager threw us on stage after the main act’s sound check and said no sound check was needed for our duo. Come to find out, majority of our set was just that.

During the first three of our six-song set, numerous stagehands walked around, adjusting our mic's and turning various speakers on and off.

Jeremy and I wondered during this time if we were actually playing. No one could hear us, or hear us well. We held conversations behind the microphone and no one blinked an eye.

We then looked out to the audience to see our friend Jeff holding Sky dog just in time to watch her attempt to take the leg off of a drummer in one of the later bands. At that moment it sort of felt like we were in fact the audience members with front row seats to the action. Said drummer was quite displeased by Sky’s attempted assault and let Jeff and the rest of those in attendance know it.

We deemed Sky a “bad dog” until the same drummer pulled out a ridiculously loooooooong drum solo during his band’s performance. So, maybe she was on the something.

The fourth song of our set seemingly worked out the sound and we did our best to rock. At this time the audience had caught on that we were actually playing and threw in a few hearty applause numbers.

It was over as soon as we felt we had our mojo working and we slinked off stage to collect our free bier. (Payment of the night.)

The rest of the night was divided between playing soccer with the kids, Frisbee, grilling and other “campy” activities.

The music played in the background and ranged from Blues to Jazz to a Ragtime band with pretty impressive harmony.

When songs like “Proud Mary” and “Country Roads” blared threw the speakers, we almost forget we were in Germany.

But listening to “Johnny Be Good” sang with a German accent brought us back to reality.

It also made us giggle …

6.21.2010

I wish a was a little bit taller ...

I’ve never been what you would consider flexible. Growing up, whenever I had to sit “Indian style” for team photos, I ended up doing something more like a bent-kneed Caucasian. I can touch my toes, although living in Germany for 8 months has made it noticeably tougher.

So when Molly suggested a weeklong yoga retreat in Turkey, I thought why not? Maybe I just need more flexibility practice.

The retreat was a little bit of heaven. Held in the Kabak Mountains of southern Turkey, the rustic, makeshift camp consisted of about 10-15 tree houses and tents but had a bar and several lounge areas with huge pillows, all overlooking a valley that flowed into a small bay on the Mediterranean.

Every day we woke up under our mosquito-netted beds and ambled down to the platform for meditation and some yoga. We spent most days chilling and reading, or going on a hike or for a swim at the beach before coming back for the evening yoga session.

After the first few days of getting over the soreness in the morning, I really felt like I was making progress. Sunnah, the instructor, was really supportive and even tried to cram my legs into position every once in a while.

Although some poses were harder than others, I did notice when I focused on my breathing I could actually get into some of them, but molly definitely whooped me in the headstand department.

Oh, did I mention the group was made up of 9 british girls, molly and me?

We all “got on” really well, learned interesting tidbits about each other’s culture and even had a talent show the last night (apparently in England you do the hokey “cokey” and you turn yourself around).


After a full week of two yoga sessions each day, though, I can say I felt refreshed, in better spirits and perhaps even a bit taller.

But I still can’t sit Indian style. 

6.10.2010

Turkish Delight


The buddymollys are settling back into our cozy German lifestyle, having returned more than week ago from our 10-day Turkish adventure.

The trip itself was an epic journey consisting of a weeklong Yoga retreat in Kabak Valley (deep south, along the Mediterranean coast) and a whirlwind two-day scramble through Istanbul.

We feel the whole journey is too much for one blog entry (we know your short attention span, readers) so I will take the book-ends, telling the tale of the start and end of the journey and Jeremy will expose the creamy Yoga center in a later entry … e-oh-oh! Stay tuned!

Additionally, we have no photographs of this part of the journey because day 3 of our yoga trip, while on a small fishing boat, Jeremy and I inadvertently decided to give up our travel camera as an offering, in which the gods of the sea accepted with might, pulled down the depths of the Mediterranean and are currently wading in our captured memories.

Ho hum.

Airport Mayhem
To begin, a few short weeks ago, we boarded a train to Nuremburg to catch our Turkish Airlines flight to Dalaman airport in Southern Turkey, with a quick change-over in Istanbul.

Our first flight left a half an hour late and circled above the Istanbul airport for another 30 minutes due to a traffic jam. We, however, distracted by the awesome airplane food, failed notice the delay. (That’s right, not only do they feed you on the short flight, but the food is also good!)

With only two scheduled hours between our flights, we were in a bit of a rush once we landed. And little did we know you needed to purchase a visa and then (and only then) go through passport control.

By the time we finished all of these tasks and continued through the endless lines, we had six minutes to get through security and make our flight.

Only one thing to do in a situation like this – run.

Apparently running through an airport raises some suspicion (who knew?) and numerous people attempted to stop us. Jeremy ignored most, continuing a few strides ahead of me. At one point I pointed out our flight number on the television screen to a frantically waving “airport security guy” at which time he gave me the international signal for “run like the wind.”

How we made it through the screening area without being stopped and searched, I’ll never know. We placed our backpacks on the revolving belt – ran through the metal detector (both of us beeped), grabbed our bags and continued the sprint. The guards watched us the whole time, heads cocked, jaws dropped a bit, foreheads wrinkled and face that read “what the ...? ” – but oddly, no one tried to stop us.

We found our gate, which had changed again, so we ran the few steps to the newly changed gate number as the shuttlebus door was closing. A hearty “wait!” opened the doors once again and allowed us to enter.

Sweating and exhausted, we checked to make we didn’t lose anything, then high-fived to our success. We were on our way.

We landed in Dalaman a few hours later and stepped into the hot Turkish air. Although it was well after 9 p.m., the summer heat was upon us – and we couldn’t be happier.

We hopped into the cab that was waiting for us and began the hour-and-a-half trek to the Kabak Valley, which was an adventure in itself. We picked up and dropped off numerous friends of the cabbie, changed cabs, a leopard print 4-runner being the latter, and held on for dear life while driving down steep mountain roads. At one point, we were left in the car while the cab driver made a house call. (Feel free to raise your own suspicions about this …)

At last – around midnight, we arrived to our destination and were welcomed as if we were family. Thus began another chapter.

Nobody’s business but the Turks
After the week ended we made the same trek back to Dalaman Airport for the short flight to Istanbul, arriving early Sunday afternoon.

As we stepped into a cab bound for our hostel, an earlier suspicion about cab drivers was solidified - techno music is, in fact, the theme music of Turkish cab drivers, and those white lines in the middle of the road, mere suggestions.

The costal drive to the Old City left us mesmerized by the amount of people lounging up on the grassy knolls. We both independently thought of Kapiolani Park in Honolulu on a holiday weekend … times 100,000.

The smell of grilled kebabs permeated the air and small children floated in makeshift hammocks. As we looked to the left, numerous mosques poked out between buildings every few blocks.

Our first stop was the Blue Mosque. The cascading domes and six slender minarets of the mosque dominate the skyline of Istanbul, and the 20,000 blue tiles (hence the name) fixed to the high ceiling of the inside was just as impressive.

Istanbul itself is a European capital of culture. It bridges the gap between traditional culture and modern living the same way it bridges the gap between Europe and Asia. We lost ourselves in these traditions our first day, wandering through the city, barely breaking the surface, listening to the “calls to prayer” and watching locals mix with tourists.

The next day we explored the Grand Bazaar. Fitting name, the place is HUGE! (31 thousand square meters to be exact.) Vendors vie for your time (and money!) offering goods ranging from jewelry to ceramics to carpets and textiles.

Hayır, teşekkür!” (pronounced “Hi-yur Tesh-sheh-kewr” Meaning: no thanks) became our mantra as we fought our way through the bazaar, looking for our only desired purchase – an authentic backgammon board (referred to as Tavla in Turkish.)

We chose one store with an impressive selection of boards and began our game of good cop bad cop, (starring Jeremy as bad cop and myself as good cop.) After showing us a “designer” board, the vendor started the bidding at 180 Turkish lira, which is about $120.

Jeremy: “20”
Vendor: “160”
“20”
“140”
“20”
“100”
“20”

In my good cop role I stated, “Maybe we could spend a bit more, what about 40?”

“20,” said Jeremy.

The vendor then showed us the “designer” logo on the board (one he obviously nailed on himself…)

“20,” said Jeremy.

The vendor then turned to him and said “You do not want this board,” pointed to me and said “You want this board.” He then explained that we would never find a board that cheap in all of Turkey.

“20,” said Jeremy.

Not willing to pay his final offer of 80 Turkish lira, we said ““Hayır, teşekkür” and stepped out of his store. He followed us a few steps and shouted “Don’t talk to those Americans, they have no money!”

This made us laugh as we turned the corner, easily losing the vendor who chided us and once again finding ourselves in a madhouse of Turkish goods.

We continued our stroll a few streets from the Bazaar and found the exact same backgammon board for 25 Turkish lira. (score!)

We then saunter through the equally impressive spice market, ate the best döner kebab of our lives and shopped for hand-blown glass tea sets, and fancy tea to put in it.


The Dylan Experiment
Later that night, we tried our luck at the open-air theater on the outskirts of the New City. On the flight over we read Bob Dylan was playing the only full day we happened to be in town. (Fortuitous, no?) And, as to be expected in a tiny 2,000-folk venue, the concert was sold out.

So we pulled a drawing of our friend Jeb out of Jeremy’s sketchbook, turned him over and wrote “Need 2 tickets” on the back. Jeb always brings us luck. We also added a “bitte” (German for “please”) for extra luck.

The sign got a ton of laughs, numerous smiles, one sad face and various offers ranging from 500 Turkish lira tickets to the “cheap” ones of 180. (We weren’t packing that much cash and were forced to decline.)

We took a break, as sign holding can really make you thirsty, and picked up a few beers and a bottle of raki (the official “firewater” of Turkey) at a local grocery store.

We opened our beers and continued our ploy for tickets. If anything, we thought, the sign was an awesome social experiment. Numerous people from all over the world stopped to talk to us and we even became a meeting point.

“Hey, I’m right next to the two people holding the Need 2 tickets, bitte sign.”
“Oh yeah, I just passed them, be right there.”

Our last-ditch attempt came 5 minutes before show time. We repositioned ourselves right by the entrance when a young couple came up offering us tickets – for less than 100 Turkish lira each. We didn’t have assigned seats, but were able to sit on the stairs. (A fire hazard for sure in the states ...)

We hid our unopened bottle of raki under a bush and entered the venue. (The bottle was still there later …)

The concert itself was amazing. Dylan rocked the harp and showed that music truly is a universal language. For almost two hours, the crowd swayed in unison and sang along.

Dylan ended the night singing “How does it feel?” We ended the night at a hookah lounge, relaxing on pillows, smoking apple-flavored tobacco out of a water pipe, and asking ourselves the same question.

The conclusion: like a rolling stone.




6.02.2010

*Post-weekend update

Beepbeep beepbeep beepbeep beepbeep …

Dateline: June 2, 2010, Weiden, Germany. Senior correspondent Jerome Buttersworth, reporting ... beepbeep beepbeep beep beep beep …

… And our top story this evening, an American woman was sucker punched in what German authorities have been calling “a cultural misunderstanding.”

Molly Hayden, the victim, was apparently struck by an older German gentleman at the sportsplatz in Schlict during a 50th birthday celebration for a co-worker.

“I was having a great time, laughing, drinking, when this guy just sucker punched me in the arm!” Hayden said. “I guess I didn’t lock arms quickly enough during the ‘Ein Prosit’ song.”

During the song, which is usually accompanied by an accordion, celebrants lock arms, sway in unison from left to right and sing, “Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, die Gemütlichkeit.

Participants then drink a hefty gulp of beer. (The song’s lyrics literally translate to: “A toast, a toast, the coziness.”)

Hayden later left the gathering on her own volition, gingerly nursing her left arm.

The alleged assailant could not be reached for a comment. The German Polizi are still investigating.

“Why would Frau Hayden just not lock arms when ‘Ein Prosit’ started? That does not make sense,” said Helmut Zeilmann, commander, German Polizi Schlict station.

Sports
In sporting news, members of the Weiden-West / Grafenwoehr sommerrodelbahning team have been practicing hard in Pottenstein for this year’s competition.

Here’s a video clip of what it feels like to sit in the driver’s seat of these single-person rocket cars.

video
The team followed up its practice session with a hearty meal of kangaroo steaks at “Steak on a Stone.”

Team Treasurer Todd "Tad" Tivisonno lays into his fillet, here, after several intense runs on the course.

In other sporting news, once-revered Bosconian icon who is known in the gaming world by simply the letters “JDG” (or Jay-Dawg) has been bested by hometown favorite “JRO.”

“I couldn't sleep knowing his initials were still there, corrupting my plug-n-play,” JRO said, “so I got fired up and figured I’d do something about it.”

After eclipsing JDG’s high score of 199,000 points by a mere 390 points (left), JRO later went on what subject matter experts have been to referring to as “a tear” before achieving the new high score of 429,660.


Sources close to JDG have said he has traded his space suit for a scientist's lab coat.

*These reports were delayed by several weeks due to late-breaking stories in Istanbul and southern Turkey. Stay tuned to this station for more on how to get viciously chided out of the Grand Bazaar and ways to strettccccchhh your Turkish lira.