The people in my neighborhood

One of my favorite parts of traveling is the characters you meet along the way. The characters that you assume will revisit you in the novel you write one day; those moments in time you share with them, however brief or insignificant, that impact your world and carry with you forever.

Not to mention the coincidences. The first real conversation I had on my first day back in the states was with a teenage son and his father visiting from Cologne – and it happened to be in German.

But the most surprising relationship thus far is my meeting with a girl named Caroline. A flute playing, unicorn-wielding 6-year-old from Atlanta, GA who was moving and shaking across the east coast with her mother in what she called their “summer tour.”

We sat at the kitchen table of our hostel in Charlottesville, VA and shared our knowledge of the world. She gave me a peach she had handpicked in Delaware recently and told me about her favorite color and travel destination. (Pink and New England, respectively).

She spoke with eloquence of experience and expressed a bit of knowledge that took my 20 years to learn: the importance of the open road.

In two years, Caroline will enter third grade, at which time she will retire the flute and will be given the choice of either playing the violin or the cello. When asking her which one she would choose, she replied “The violin. It’s easier to travel with.”


Guess who is the who

If there is one game that reminds me of childhood, it’s “Guess Who.” My sister Shannon and I would have tournament after tournament sitting Indian style on our living room floor, boning up our skills by keen observations of the characters projected on the thin plastic game board.

For those not privy to Guess Who, the game is played between two players as they deduce which character card the opposing player has through process of elimination by asking identifying yes or no questions.

Popular questions include “Is your person wearing a hat?” “Do spectacles adorn their face?” “Are you a woman?” “Does your person have a mustache?” All questions that if answered “yes” gave you a clear advantage.

More distinguishing questions include “Does your person look like a child molester who would most likely yield a rebel flag?” (Looking at you Charles). “Is your person the only black woman on the board?” (That’s you Ann, although I’m honestly not convinced you are actually black. Perhaps a mixed race of sorts). “Is your character a reincarnate of Opie all grown-up?” (Frans) or “Does your person look like a sad Paul Benedict?” (Robert).

And woe is you if you accidentally choose Claire – a women no less, with a hat AND glasses. Yep. You are pretty much screwed.

Recently, as Jeremy and I were trolling through a German thrift store, we came across a game titled “Who is Who?” - a title that makes no sense within the German language. The game, of course, is a German version of Guess Who with slightly different characters.

Bernard is replaced by a younger, more hip Andreas. Regular Joe becomes the everyday Gerhardt and the dreaded Claire becomes Karla – with a K.

While the style changes slightly, the strategy for this game, however, remains the same. For profiling is and will forever be, a universal sport. Guess who Shannon!


Twisted Sisters

After our whirlwind trip through Berlin last weekend, Jeremy and I made a pit stop on the way home in Dresden. It was our fourth time in the small former East Germany city and each time I fall a bit more in love.

It’s been a few years since I fell this hard for a city, (don’t worry Vancouver, I still have the hots for you, too), but there is something special about Dresden – it’s the feeling, the vibe, the freshness and openness. I tend to leave a bit of myself with every visit, but it wasn’t until this last trip, as short as it was, that I realized why.

Dresden is a more concentrated Euro-version of my hometown – St. Louis.

I love St Louis, I always will. And even though I left her more than 5 years ago, we remain close. St. Louis continues to impress me with each visit at the amazing amount of raw talent that exists there. The music, the creative vibe, mom and pop businesses, art organizations and collaborations, the music …  St. Louis will always be my home.  

But as we travel Europe, exploring our new continent, we subconsciously search for our next home. We envision ourselves settled into a new world, a world outside of our natural element. Dresden always comes up.

Walking through the streets of the new town in Dresden is similar to cruising South Grand in St. Louis. Hip bars line the strip and eateries keep the late night crowd going. Turn the corner and you are in the Loop. Fire spinners, musicians and artisans busk for the mere entertainment of it all, while hipsters and hippies cruise the vintage clothing stores. The authentic (and amazingly tasty) Mexican restaurants of Cherokee St. are replaced with authentic (and amazingly tasty) Turkish doner kebab joints, both sandwiched between plenty of antique shops. The Friday night Art Walk is not unlike First Fridays downtown, and the Sunday brunch we found rivaled Mokabes. But most of all, it’s the people. Everyone is as unique as they are crazy – that good kind of crazy. That crazy that makes you long to be a part of it. It’s a mixed crowd of age, ethnicity and experience that blend seamlessly. It’s home – or what a home should be.

So the next time I’m feeling nostalgic or longing for the place where I grew up, the place that helped mold me into the woman I am today, I’ll just drive two hours north and soak up some sister love. 

From St. Louis to Dresden, with love.


All along the water tower

The day before a trip begins is one of my favorite parts of the trip.

The list making (yeah, I make lists), last-minute packing, pre-staging, anticipation … man, I love it all.

But something happened last week, on that golden last day before the trip started, which was definitely not on my to-do list: a cancellation from our airbnb host – less than 12 hours before we were supposed to leave.

Apparently she was stuck in Tuscany and wouldn’t be home for a few days … and didn’t have a back-up plan (like spare keys with a friend), so we were pretty much screwed for accommodations.

Besides the ridiculous cost associated with finding accommodations last minute, we discovered Berlin was unusually besieged this past weekend because of the one-two punch of Fashion Week and a massive international trade show called Bread & Butter.

Hotels that were normally 60-70 euros were more like 250. And though they tried to hook us up, airbnb’s staff was little help as most folks have 24 hours to approve you.

Enter Facebook.
I have considered killing my F-book account on several occasions (more on that at a later date) but somehow always come back around; this was one such occasion. 

While she was on the phone with airbnb, Molly asked on F-book if anyone had a rich uncle in Berlin who could put us up.

Within less than an hour, our friends Bianca & Eric hooked us up with their friend Martin, who was so hospitable we had to remind ourselves we had just met him.

Oh yeah, he lives in a refurbished, totally pimped out 19th century water tower.

Martin took us to meet some of his old school friends, got us in the backdoor to a Bjoern Borg Fashion Week party in a cathedral, and helped us nurse our hangovers the next day.

While in Berlin we checked off some spots we’d been meaning to see on our last few jaunts through the city (namely the Reichstag, top photo), got our thrift on at a place that sells clothes by the kilo, and caught a Pearl Jam show, which was the original reason for the trip.

I’ve probably seen Pearl Jam five or six times since I first saw them at the second Lalapalooza in 1992. It’s crazy to think they’re still around and their shows still rock.

Although they played the night before in Berlin as well, our show was definitely different (sorry, Becky, they played an incredible version of “Betterman” the second night), and they always seem to insert subtle, poignant bits into the set list.

Like in Honolulu, Dec. 2006, when Eddie sang “Hawaii ’78,” which was made famous by Bruddah Iz. I still get goose bumps when I hear that version.

This time, they played versions of Pink Floyd’s “Mother” and Edwin Starr’s “War,” which along with other songs had the audience singing so loud it was hard to hear Eddie.

And although the concert was a highlight and even the impetus for our trip, we both agreed our favorite experience was the one we didn’t plan for.

So after five days in Berlin & Dresden, we’d like to say vielen dank to Martin (below, bellying up to the bar with a prehistoric friend he couldn't convince to come home with him), who reminded us that the best part of traveling is staying with friends.


A boy named Dorothy

The buddymollys were recently given the small task of taking care of a fish named Dorothy – an odd choice for a name as Dorothy was quite manly; in fact he was a man. He was the largest and oldest goldfish either of us had ever seen, with gray painted fins and a body that engulfed his over-sized tank.

He was a beautiful fish. Then he died.

Now I don’t think we killed Dorothy, I think Dorothy just happened to die on our time. But just in case, don’t ever let us goldfish sit for you. Just in case.

During this time we were also given the small task of watering plants. All of the plants are currently still alive.

While we managed to come through on one complete task, there was still this business of a dead fish who was too large to flush, according to his owner.

So, to honor Dorothy, we gave him a ceremonial burying in the backyard, complete with military honors.

That fish was one helluva soldier.