Monday, December 03, 2012

And Then It Hit Me

It was November 6th in Korea and I was pissed.

Okay, if you read this, you know I'm sort of hyperpolitical and a bleeding-heart liberal. Maybe it was all the craziness or the women or the coffee or the wine, but fuck it, I freaking loved Barack Obama in a way I hadn't loved a president since Bill Clinton. Granted, I would not do the same level of filthy things to Barack, but the man had a plan and I liked it.

While I had been home in September I had taken the time to do a lot of things, and one of those things I knew was important was to get registered to vote absentee. Of course (because I can be that disorganized) I waited until exactly the last minute to get everything organized for the absentee. I was already registeredit was just making sure my vote got to Korea.

I left this with the Boy, who dutifully mailed it, only to inform me about two weeks later that it had been returned because I had sent it to the wrong election office. For those of you worried about voter fraud, you don't have to worry about it; they were pretty on top of it. I knew the registration got sent in and I spent a lot of time waiting hoping to get it in time for the election, but was mildly worried in the meantime.

And so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

About a week before the day  of the election I wondered if I could use the website to check on my registration. What I discovered was that when I ran my information through the county I was registered in I kept coming up as nonexistent. This really bugged me; I was sure that when I sent in my absentee I was totally registered and all I needed to vote was to get my absentee voter information in.

So then I started digging online and discovered this.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2012/10/26/voter-purge-in-key-indiana-county-goes-overboard/

I did have to wonder. As a Latino absentee registered voter, who hadn't voted in the US in over 8 years, was I purged? This bothered me. This really bothered me.

The morning of the election I still had not received my ballot, so I began to believe that the chances were good that I was going to be disenfranchised to all hell this year. This bugged me, because I vote in Indiana and I know that the last time the election came around we managed to turn Indiana blue. I was really hoping to be a part of the same process this time. Sadness.

I went to work, I bitched to the Boy about my disenfranchisement, booked a meeting for 2:00 and then left the coffee shop and went home. As I walked in the doors I noticed there was something stuffed in my mailbox. I pulled out the something.

IT WAS MY GODDAMNED BALLOT!

I ran upstairs, dropped my bags and called my business partner.

"Hey, look I know I said 2:00 but my ballot just got here and I need to do this right now. I will call you as soon as I finish voting." I was crying I was so freaking excited. I was going to vote. I was going to count. I was going to matter.

"You sound excited. Who are you voting for?"

"Dude, like you even need to ask?"

I sat at the table and opened up the ballot and looked through all the information on what I needed to know. I noted that I could simply mark number 9 on the ballot for and basically vote a straight Democrat ticket and be done with it.

However, that would not satisfy. After waiting so long I really needed to be able to go through and check every single bubble for every single person I needed to vote for. It took me about fifteen minutes to go through, lining up names and numbers with the bubble form. I took the time and went through to fill in every circle. I needed to feel the full power of voting.

Upon finishing I asked the dog if he would like to accompany me to the post office and he agreed that he would, so we went downstairs together. I was so excited that I failed to notice that while standing and waiting to cross the street the dog had managed to wander into a part of the crosswalk and only narrowly missed being hit by a car.

"Dog, I swear if you get yourself killed while I'm on my way to vote, I will kill you."

I picked up the dog, ran across the street when the light changed, and walked in to a very confounded Korean who did not understand why there was so much writing on the outside of the envelope for the absentee ballot. I tried to explain and finally just said the only thing I could think of, "Onil. Obama. Voting." That got a smile and with a little coachingand writing the address twice (after explaining twice that I didn't have the number for the election office), we got my vote in the mail.

By 2:30 I was all wrapped up and probably the happiest voter alive. I went back home, had my meeting, and finished out my work day, but the reality was it didn't matter. I had received my eleventh-hour pardon. Nothing else mattered.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Breakfast Conversation

"So I had this dream last night," the Irish started off over breakfast.

"Right."

"Yeah, so, I was like behind enemy lines and I was trapped there and I was pretty sure I was going to die, but I was there with the dog."

Ah, yes, the dog; the dog of impossible cuteness at the moment.

"Right?"

"So, there I was trapped behind enemy lines and all I have is the dog and I'm pretty sure that I am going to die, and all I could think of was to use the power of cuteness to escape."

"Right?"

"So, I was being pinned down by all these armed hostiles and I grabbed Tino, and I stand up with him in my arms, and I say, 'put your weapons down'. It was like they were compelled to obey the power of cuteness."

"Okay, so what happened?"

"Well, you've seen the dog, his power of cuteness was enough and everyone put down their weapons and I was able to escape."

At this point I started cracking up. I grabbed the dog and held him up toward the Irish. I couldn't help myself.

"I can totally see it," I said with the dog in hand, "Put your weapons down or (in the most saccharine voice you can imagine) somebody's getting a tummy rub."

The dog; however, was not amused.


Obey the Power of Cuteness!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Birthday from My Love

For the last two years I had been in Korea on my birthday, which just made me miserably unhappy sometimes. There was very little to do, but do for myself. I didn't really do parties for myself, and while I did have friends, the number was small.

Ever since this birthday predicament started though, there was one thing I could always rely on: flowers from my boy. This year he sent me flowers and the most wonderful reading material.

I miss him, and love him.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Do they Doubt Me?

I frequently found myself asking this question in Korea, and yet, here I was asking this question way too early in the morning and before coffee. Coffee could have been had at home; however, I had run out of coffee, and so had opted for a glass of tea instead. Tea was fine, but not coffee. I needed coffee.

Being me, this can't be as easy as it sounds. I had lost my wallet last week in a freak chicken-wing accident, which I still had not recovered from. I was very unhappy about the loss of the wallet, because it contained so many irreplaceable things, like all my point cards from all the coffee shops I frequented all over Korea. Losing the wallet meant a week or so of replacing all my cards and would (eventually) require that I go to the police station and file a report. I just didn't feel like the hassle yet.

So here I stood (at 8:45 in the morning) at my coffee shop, where I had gotten a new point card for my coffee about four days ago after learning thatsince my last card wasn't registeredI couldn't get the points I had lost reloaded.

Fine.

I ordered the usual: Americano with an extra shot. I was tired. And cranky.

They scanned my point card, I put my 4,900 on the counter and the kid behind the counter entered into a wild spiel. Even though it was mostly in Korean I got it: "Yoginin website logging hako discount. Upsize serbice," which roughly translated to, 'if you log in to our horribly designed Korean website and figure out how to use the horribly designed non-English interface that only works in Internet Explorer 7, not 8, no, never 8, and give it all your personal information including passport number and ID number in over an unsecured line, than you can get a free upgrade and only have to pay 3,900 for your coffee.'.

I smiled. I repeated my original order for coffee in Korean and pretended like I really didn't know what he was saying.

I get the spiel again. For some reason I decided to engage. I responded back in my Korean "Your website doesn't work and I don't feel like doing this; can I please just have my coffee?" To which they offered to help.

Why? Why must you question me? I already know this is going to be a pain in the ass and a waste of my valuable time and do I look like I really am in so much desperate need that you must, simply must, log in to the website so I can get my free upgrade? Apparently, yes, yes, I do.

Nice boy went over to one of the computers and spent over five minutes just trying to find the button on the website of his company that said membership. This was how badly designed the website was: it wasn't just the waygooks that couldn't use it, the Koreans had no idea what to do either. He finally managed to find the button and then after that I gave him all my personal private information.

He asked for a password and an ID, which I also give him. He clicked the button and the window crashed.

We do this four more times.

He looked at me and smiled sheepishly.

I had now been kept from my coffee for an extra fifteen minutes, playing a game I already knew I would lose. I was not amused.

"Kopinun jjigumm hasigoita?" Can I have my coffee now, please?


"Yes, yes, sorry, yes, so sorry." And he ran behind the counter where he consulted with the other Korean running the shop and they whispered quietly about how they would have to charge me more. I had already put an extra 1,000 won on the counter to cover the difference but this didn't stop the rushed hushed talking. Eventually I did manage to get the coffee. And after about five minutes and more hushed whispering, Korean Number 2 brought me my change and apologized profusely for the poorly designed website.

I smiled bitterly into my black-as-night drink and pocketed my change.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Walking, Lederhosen, and Sunday in Frankfurt

The walk was gorgeous. We walked through a very touristy plaza that had building facades that looked like they were historical, but in reality were refurbished to give tourists somewhere to go. There were lots of German hofs with German-style food, but we were not heading out for that at all. We got to the river as the sun slipped lower, and were crossing over the river Main when the sun finally winked out and daylight slowly wound down.

The city began to sparkle and there were twinkling lights. It was very beautiful and very pretty to watch it all sparkle and light up. The Engineer walked us down some streets toward an older area of town.

"This part of town, back in the days when there was a military base here, is where all the GI's would go on payday. It had all the bars and restaurants, and now it's still a good place for bars and restaurants."

"Yeah, we have someplace like that in Korea. We call it Itaewon, sort of the same thing."

"The food here is very good. Do you like Turkish food?"

"I do."

"Well, I haven't been here in a few years but if the place I want to go to is still here, I think it will be perfect."

"Excellent."

Where we were headed was a quiet, busy, but somehow still quiet, little Turkish restaurant. When we walked in there was an old grandmother sitting in the front of the shop rolling out flatbreads and cooking them in the nearby stove. Each bread was kneaded and rolled out by hand, I took a quick picture while we asked if there would be a wait. We got lucky; as long as we didn't mind sitting by the window there was no wait. With some nice window seats we settled in for a nice meal. The wine was good and the food was amazing. We had a nice Turkish yogurt and cheese with the breadwhich was piping hot and tasted as good as it looked. The main course was just as good as the starters, with me having grilled chicken stuffed with spinach and light tomato sauce.

The Engineer had a great lamb roast that just fell off the bone and smelled and looked fantastic. I tasted a little bit and had to admit, throughout all my lamb-tasting adventures it was the best lamb I had eaten in quite some time, even beating out the lamb at Santorini's in Chicago. From there the night wound down a bit more...

My guide brought us back across the river, where the city sparkled off the water and finally to the train station. And, in less than three seconds managed to clear up all my confusion about the German subway, pointing out what the lines meant, and how to figure out where to get. He politely walked me back to my line and we said our good-nights and parted ways.

Since the area I was heading back to shut down around 8 (and it was 9:30) I decided to get off the train at the main station and grab a final bottle of wine to celebrate my last night in Germany and see if there might be anything else I wanted. My plan was (on Sunday) to do a bit more sightseeing and shopping now that I understood the city a bit more, but since I was on my own for the night I couldn't see any good reason why not to enjoy some wine.

Back at the shop from my first night, where my happy German clerk had opened the bottle for me, I found myself a nice red, and stood in line to get it opened once more. To my amusement, and to the amusement of the clerk who was assisting them, in front of me were two very, very drunk Germans.

It took me a second to realize this because I was a little focused on their clothes. And it took me about six more seconds to realize that they were not drunk German hipsters, they were in fact drunk Germans, celebrating Oktoberfest and wearing traditional lederhosen. Honest to goodness, made of old suede leather lederhosen, with stitched-in embroidered decorations. It looked for all the world like something a hipster would absolutely love. The Germans men were also holding two pilsner glasses that where sloshing back and forth and just barely managing not to hit the floor. As they staggered back out laughing and slapping each other on the back, I put my bottle of wine on the counter.

"Oh, this is a very good wine."

It was too: a Baron von Roscthchilde from 2009. Good wine, I was happy.

"You know with this, how about I open it for you and we have two glasses and just have it together?"

"Well if you have time." He smiled and opened the wine and said thank you and I went on my merry way.

As I was walking back into the station to look for the train, I noticed once again the staggering German festival goers, and they were really quite very much beyond drunk. So drunk, in fact, that they were having a little trouble figuring out how to use the ticket machine to get tickets for the train. I suspected it might have been easier if they had put down their pilsner glasses, but that didn't seem to be a priority. Instead they were working together to try to get tickets.

Apparently the drunkness was not helping with the reading, so friend number one was standing behind friend number two, who was bent half backward to get just far enough away from the ticket machine to make the words appear more clearly. Friend number one kept from number two from falling over, and friend number to held his outstretched hand trying to figure out how to punch the button for the ticket. It was something to see. So much so that I wanted to take a picture, but upon holding up my camera discovered to my great sadness that the phone battery was too low to activate the camera for a picture.

I would just have to enjoy the mental image of two staggering drunk Germans in lederhosen holding each other up while they tried to get tickets for the train, giggling, and sloshing about the whole time.

I could live with that.

The next day was my last in Germany and what I discovered was that, on Sundays, Germany was closed. I walked about a bit, saw the big church of St. Bartholomew that was build in the 1400's, snapped a few pictures and with that headed back to the restaurant to chill out and wait for my trip to the airport.

As I waited for my plane I had a nice dinner, some good wine, and bought a key chain. I slept fairly well on the thirteen-hour flight back. It was a good trip. Hopefully I'll get a chance to do it again!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Apple Wine and Rest

After the museum I had to admit, that while I was staying on my feet, my feet were killing me. Having been on them for the better part of a week, I really needed to do something that did not require me walking about for a little bit. While the museum was great, my feet were killing during the last leg of the museum. My ankle was fairing little better also, so much so that getting up and down stairs had required a small amount of assistance from my erstwhile tour guide of an Engineer.

"I think I'm going to need to sit down for a bit."

"We should be able to find something close by; do you want to eat?"

"Actually, according to my tour book I am supposed to drink some apple wine, as it is the traditional drink made in the city."

"I can help with that." We walked out around five and into the interminable clanging of the church bells. I'd seen three churches from the rooftop overlook and apparently they all went off and kept going off for a good fifteen minutes while we walked and didn't talk very much (as the noise was so loud). Through pointing, a bit of giggling, and some shouting, we managed to find a restaurant with a nice outdoor area for sitting, and even with the bells, decided to take our chances and have a seat at the fancy wire tables. I quickly unzipped my shoes to give my legs a little freedom, and luxuriated in sitting down for a bit.

My lovely Engineer took care of ordering the drinks with me getting an applewiessen and a beer for himself.

Here is where translating can be annoying. The guide book said clearly that the drink of the land was an apple wine, but had I known anything about beer at all I would have known that the applewiessen was actually a type of apple beer, or more properly, cider. Which meant it was a amber-colored dark cloudy brew that was set in front of me. Since it was my last day in Germany I decided to let go and enjoy a few carbsI'd been quite good on my trip, and so I prepared to have the first glass of beer I'd had in probably eight years.

"I am curious to see what you think of it." said my companion.

"Why is that?"

"Well, most people either like it or hate it. Some think it is an acquired taste, and well, a few people think the third one tastes better than the first."

I smiled. I sipped. Altogether it was not bad: it had a faint taste of apples, and was carbonated but not overly so, a very smooth drink. It wasn't sweet, either, which I had sort of expected (it being a cider). In all, I was pleased with the product and happy to sip on it.

"What do you think?"

"It's good. Different. It's not sweet. Is it supposed to be cloudy like this?"

"Yes; you can get it more filtered until it's clear, but the most traditional way is this way."

I liked a good tradition. We sat in the cooling evening as the dusk began to settle in, drinking and talking and laughing.

"Dinner?"

"Yes; do you have something in mind?"

"Do you think you can walk a little further? If you can I have a place in mind that is just past the river."

"I think I can manage."

And so with an outstretched hand I was assisted back onto my sore feet and we began to walk a bit more in search of food.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Around the Boyhood House of Goethe

We moved through the rest of the museum, which included furniture, some really exquisite paintings, and pieces donated from various collections. Unfortunately my fetish for art required that sometimes I wanted  to get close enough to see the fingerprints in  the paint, which apparently truly frustrated the Fräuleins in charge of the museum, as several times the intercom came on to remind us not to get too close. After the third time I started to wonder if it was just me, as I thought I was behaving. Time was moving fast, though, so we walked out of the museum and over toward the house proper.

We went on from there to check out the house, which was in a word: awesome. The garden alone was worth the price of admission, and I really wanted to go up and sit on one of Goethe’s benches, but I was almost positive I would get yelled out. The trees were lush and beautiful. There was ivy growing on the walls and just above the tallest wall in the garden you could see the modern skyline of Frankfurt peaking out over the quiet sitting area where you could just imagine Goethe conjuring his ideas that would eventually become Mephistopheles.

The Engineer took me into the house and helped me to walk up and down the stairs, as at this point I was finding it very hard to navigate steps. My ankle was very much giving out, and it was only getting worse with the greater amount of time spent on my feet. As we were in the house the time was fast counting down and we found that we only had about fifteen minutes to move through. So up we moved, past beautiful antique kitchens, ovens, metal stoves, sitting desks, dining sets, libraries, portraits, and upright pianos in the most fascinating way. The house was exquisite; the sort of place I could imagine living: beautiful, antique, and inspiring. The time was too short, but we managed to climb up to around the fourth floor before the bells finally rang us down and we decided it was time to head outward into Frankfurt and off to something else.

“If you think your feet will make it to the river, I have some ideas for dinner.”

“All right; that should be fine. I’m pretty easy.”

And so after grabbing my bags we walked off into the streets of Frankfurt in search of food.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Goethe and Money

Since most of my time in Frankfurt I was working from pretty much dawn to dusk I had been reading through my little tour book feverishly, trying to decide exactly what I wanted to do. I knew that I would really only have one day, and that day was Saturday. After thinking and thinking I decided that the only thing that was appropriate for a person who had studied at Shimer College was to go to the childhood home of Goethe. Goethe, of course, is best known for Faust, an amazing writer, and one that I have always been fond of, so it just seemed like the perfect thing to do.

Before meeting the Engineer, I mentioned that this was in fact the thing that I wanted most to do, and he assured me that he would be happy to oblige. After walking for twenty or so minutes through downtown he pulled out his phone, consulted the map, and made sure we were on the proper way. We made it to the Goethe museum at around 4:00 p.m., which gave us just enough time to take it in. At the museum/house of Goethe there was a special display about money and also the house tour. The Engineer assured me it would be worth the small expense for both, and since this was my big tourist thing, I agreed.

Mephistopheles's promise to Faust was that he could make money out of thin air, and indeed, the convention of paper money was a convention that Goethe predicted would be necessary in order to successfully bring the country into the monetary age. He had been the finance minster for Germany during the latter part of his life, and a concern for keeping accurate accounts and records was always foremost. One of the pieces in the exhibit was an account-record book that was easily twelve inches thick and about two feet across. The money bit was fascinating, but some of the things that fascinated me even more were Goethe’s actions as a writer.

Copyright law being what it was back then, Goethe had very little protection as an author for the works and the money his works were making. Because of this, he began to work almost immediately on securing the rights for his works. In short, during his life he never gave up the copyright on anything he published. He would sell short-term rights to publishing houses, but they would always expire so he could maintain the rights. Along with this, he spent a great deal of time fighting with pirates who were copying his work and selling it without paying him any money. I was fascinated by his troubles in publishing as it seemed all too familiar some two hundred years later.  I was very happy I got a chance to see it. The Engineer kindly did the job of translating everything for me, since the museum signage was mostly in German with only a few bits in English.

One of my favorite English pieces, though was the following quote:

"He had spent the handsome sum of nearly 1/2 million that he received through...inheritance, his salary....and his fees as an author. It was only on this basis that he was able to acquire all that constitutes his personality, he said."

I knew exactly how he felt.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Engineer and a More Educated Walk

The tour guide turned out to be an engineer, which was perfect since I know just enough about tech not to lose myself in a conversation. We met outside Frankfurt station, where I had a coffee as we waited. While we chatted we found that the coffee girl at the restaurant was generally unhelpful, and after making sure it was okay, we just left the tab and headed on our way.

Someone (not me) had bothered to check the weather and so was aware that there was a possibility that it might rain. However, at 3:30 (when we started walking about) it was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day. The Engineer was a polite older gent who had been living in Frankfurt for close to 20 years. He got a chance to practice his English and I got a chance to have parts of the city I had been seeing explained. It started with a quick explanation of the area straight across from the station. While it was a red light district it was much like the red light areas in Manhattan or Vegas: popular with a certain crowd and a constant annoyance to locals who wanted to close them down, but making enough money and having just enough draw to make them hard to close down. In general it was a quiet peace that probably got stirred up every couple of years, with nothing actually ever being done about it.

We walked further into downtown and he pointed out the opera house, which had been rather nicely refurbished. While walking, he also pointed out a number of Indian and Italian restaurants and explained that a lot of the eating out in Germany was actually for food that wasn't German, which may also have explained the look from the German information desk worker the other night. Apparently German food was a tourist thing and real Germans ate anything but. Which also made a lot of sense; however, I lived in Korea where you couldn't swing three cats without hitting five Korean restaurants and a coffee shop, so I figured it made a bit of sense why I thought I could find German food.

We kept walking and he pointed out how most of the skyscrapers were closed. One of the buildings was the place where I had gone and had my magical Vesper experience, and it was one of the only skyscrapers that was open to the public, or at least one of the few where the roof was open to the public, sort of like the Empire State Building. I had picked a good location for my little drink, it seemed.

After some more walking we came to the statue fountain I had seen the night before when I was horribly lost, and he admitted to having no idea what the statue represented. I recognized Artemis and Athena, so I figured it had something to do with wisdom and knowledge. It was topped with what looked like philosophers, so I hazarded a guess at what I was seeing, but it was hard to say, and we weren't headed in a direction that afforded a more close-up view, so we walked on.

A few blocks further along we came to Hauptwauche Station, which was pretty much the entrance of a nice shopping distract. It was also the location of that weekend’s Oktoberfest celebration. Of course. I was in Germany in October; I should have realized. There were a number of tents set up serving beer, sausages, more sausages, dried sausages, and cheese...in that order. I made a note of it, but it was not our final destination, so we walked on.

The crowed began to press more and my guide steered me into a building that had a nice escalator going up. We went up all the way to the top and came out at a platform that was open to the public for city viewing, which was a perfect place to point out more things in Frankfurt. One of the things was the fact that while most of the buildings looked like they had been there since the 1700’s, the reality was that much of the city had been entirely rebuilt after being destroyed in raids during the war. It had been recreated to look like it had been built in the 1700’s (to maintain the tourist ideal), but the reality was that it was not true.

To the left of my view were a number of construction cranes. “That is where the new IMF is being built. In a few years, that is where all the money will be,” the Engineer said.

In front of us was the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomeus: a great big red ancient-looking church that (according to my non-European guide named Wikipedia) was built in around 1425 or so. It was ancient-looking and awesome and I noted it for a potential return visit the next day. There was a lot of skyline and a lot to see, but as the daylight was burning we decided to press onward to the Goethe Museum, which was the renovated childhood home of Johann Goethe.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cosplay Saturday

Sadly, the pain did not go away. The day before my feet were so sore I completed a stretching mat aerobic routine for my workout, but today my leg really hurt, and my ankle was throbbing; all of which were signs that something was not so good. The silver lining was that it was Saturday, which meant the BizP was leaving around three for his flight home, giving me my first open evening of the book fair, which I was looking forward to. The other silver lining was that Saturday was hobbit cosplay day.

One of the things I discovered with my magic app was that the bookfair was having a hobbit cosplay event to celebrate the upcoming Hobbit movie. I was gonna be all over that like a Korean on kimchi. I mentioned it to the BizP (who was also a Hobbit fan), but the day sort of went sideways. With the magic app I was able to pull up some more targets for the BizP to mingle with, so he sent me off to go and take pictures of the hobbits while he worked the last of the floor for as much time as he could. I went off in search of the hobbits, but did not find them.

What I did discover, however, was that Saturday was not just hobbit cosplay day, it was COSPLAY DAY EXTRAORDINAIRE. There was so much cosplay that it was easy to lose a hobbit in there. It was magical sexy cosplay day, so while I did not get pictures of hobbits I did get as many pictures as I could of sexy cosplay. I have to admit the crowds went all out, and the cosplay was really well done. Great costumes, lots of teams and themes going on; it was really fun to watch. Then I had an emergency text sending me into hall three (again) to “get any large bag you can grab” and meet the BizP back over at the IBP stand. Hall three was the place where most of the public events were taking place that day, so it was the last place on earth that I wanted to be, but I got in, and after about a half hour managed to get a bag and head back to hall eight for the final wrap up.

Books and things were collected, goodbyes were said, and I was informed that I would be working on Sunday (after I had arranged to be free on Sunday for some personal touring of Germany). This annoyed me, but I took heart in knowing that on Saturday night I had a date and no curfew. I figured I could deal with coming back to the fair one last time, even if I didn’t want to.

My date for the evening was a rather friendly German chap who I had met through a social networking site when I was looking for someone to be a guide in Germany. I had expected more people to respond, but he was the only one who chatted me up and offered to show me around. Turns out we were both busy people and the only night we mutually had free was Saturday night. This worked out well and the plan was to meet at Frankfurt station around three and go from there.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pain, Pain, Go Away

That night I had no plans for what I was going to do in the city, which in hindsight was foolish, as I ended up really lost in Frankfurt. I started walking and managed to walk much further than the first night, stumbling upon a very pretty square with a very pretty statue fountain in it. I went to take pictures of the fountain and then ended up going down a different street than the one I was originally heading for. I really had trouble getting the names of things to work with my brain, so after two more turns I was quite thoroughly lost.

I managed to stumble around the old opera house, which I got a picture of, but in reality what I wanted was food. Somehow my feet took me back to the nice place I had been the night before, but they were closed for a private party. I kept walking and looking and actually started to get pretty desperate until I finally stumbled on a place that was open, which at that point was my only requirement.

During the endless death march my leg started to hurt. My ankle was already shot and I had basically been bracing it since day one, but now my leg was twitching and burning in the upper thigh muscle, which was making me limp more than I wanted. There was a lot of pain, and the funny walking was starting to have an effect on my right leg as well. I was hoping that a night of sleep would sort the legs out, so after having some nice dinner I hopped into a cab before any more catastrophe could enter my evening.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stolen Scotch

The next day was much the same as the last. Running around all over the place, running around the book fair, running, running, meeting, handshaking, running. I learned, in my quick research, that I was there to sell distribution which is what the BizP could do, so I worked better on making connections for the BizP and sending him to booths, while also scouting what I needed for the project I was working on.

One thing I discovered (thanks to my app of magic) was that there were a number of lectures and demos, which I attended to gather information. I also learned that one of the events being held that night was a happy hour with E.L. James. I bookmarked it and finally decided after much debate that I had to go and check that out. But here was the thing: I had absolutely no respect for E.L. James. I thought that she, much like Sherry Meyer, or whatever the name of the author of Twilight is, (Stephanie Meyer, and it's sad that I know that without having to look it up. -Ed.) was a freaking hack. What was worse was James, who did absolutely no research for her book, was giving people a really distorted view of what kink meant. That and she wrote at a third-grade level and described female arousal as: “my Inner Goddess was suddenly engaged.” Seriously.

While I hated the work, I thought it would be the height of irony to go to a happy hour with her and talk to her about kink or something. So, around 4:30 I ditched the BizP to head over to the event. What happened when I got there, though, was not what I had anticipated. The "happy hour" was actually a book-signing event, and there was a line of peoplea mix of goths, industrials, housewives, and teenagers, all holding dog-eared copies of the E.L. James's books. They were waiting in line and quite seriously looking forward to having their books signed by the author. I just sort of stared at them. Which is when it hit me that it was not fun doing something to be ironic when everyone else was serious. It just pained me to watch, so I called it a loss and headed back to meet the BizP and the IbizP for a book fair nightcap.

The day ended roughly around 5:00 back at the stand for the IbizP, this time with a glass of Glenfiddich scotch. The IbizP was not around, but when he sat down he noticed that someone had started drinking without him.

“Who was drinking without me?”

“He did it!” I pointed at the BizP, which got a large approving smile from the IbizP and a double shot of scotch for me.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The 22nd Floor Vesper

Since the plan was being accomplished I felt less bad about having wine at the IbizP around 4, but I was antsy to get out and execute my Germany Tourist Guide plan, which included a taxieven though BizP had stated “Never take a taxi; it will cost you almost 50 dollars to go anywhere.”

Ignoring stupidity and thinking, dude I live in Chicago and will take a taxi if I fucking need to, I took the train downtown, figured out where the cab stand was, and pointed to a location in my book. What I did not anticipate was rush hour, but even at rush hour it only cost me 10 euro to get where I was going.

I’ve paid close to 30,000 won to get across Seoul on occasion. When your feet hurt, and you have had a long day and don’t know where the hell you are, spend the money on a cab every time. No matter how much you pay, it will always make up for itself in convenience.

Where did I want to go?

I hadn’t quite gotten there as I spotted a restaurant that looked interesting first, so I walked in. As the sun was going down I had a Manhattan in honor of a good old friend, and had, of course, shrimp scampi.

And olives, I had a fuck tonne of olives.

The restaurant had lovely ambiance, and I was among one of the few people there. I’m pretty sure it was also famous and on the map of places to eat in Frankfurt, but having stumbled on it rather at random, I just enjoyed myself and the good food. Unfortunately, I failed to make a note of the name.

Afterward I went to my actual destination: the 22nd Floor Lounge located in the Eurotour, which was described by my guidebook as, “a good place to enjoy your cocktails while enjoying a sweeping view of the sparkling Frankfurt city.” That one, yes.

The most amusing part of my 22nd-floor experience was the elevator. Rather than punch a button and wait, you typed the floor into a keypad and then were informed of where the elevator would land. This freaked me out to no end, but I managed it and got up to the bar without too much fuss. The bar was quiet and sparsely populated and I managed a window seat in the corner overlooking all of Frankfurt. I looked over the menu and decided on the one thing that had the most appeal: the Vesper.

Okay, so part of me was thinking it was a little cliché to order a drink from a James Bond movie, but the rest of me had always wanted to have a Vesper Martini and see what it tasted like. Casino Royale, you have to admit, was a kick-ass Bond film, and it made me want a drink almost as much as watching an episode of Mad Men, which you practically couldn't watch without drinking, and I wanted to try this newfangled martini.

The Vesper, I will tell you was parts vodka, gin, and Lillet Blanc (a dry vermouth). It was served (at least at the 22nd Floor Lounge) with a skewered orange slice in a martini glass that had been chilled with ice. The drink was shaken, not stirred and poured over the skewered fruit. And, in a sentence, it was the single most delicious thing I had ever put in mouth to drink and I almost never wanted to drink anything ever again; it was that good. It was awesome enough that I had a second one before calling it a night and heading back to the apartel, well before curfew.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Plan of Attack

Day two was much like day one with a few minor differences. First, after working out and showering (because apparently I didn't count walking for almost 12 hours as enough exercise) I downloaded the Frankfurt book fair app, did research on what a trade show was and how to work it, and marked places in my tour guide. In other words, I had a MOTHERFUCKING PLAN!

When I have a plan I am scary. As with goals, I have shit to accomplish and accomplish shit I did.

I realized after day one that my BizP’s plan of “Just go look for shit” was not going to fly. Thanks to the app I could sort by hall and keyword and target the fuck out of what I wanted. Not only that but I got a map (which I had desperately wanted) of the book fair and was able to understand the color-coding system. If I wanted to go visit someone, I typed their name into the app and found those motherfuckers so I could fucking visit the fuck out of them. With the app I owned the book fair. I dominated that bitch so hard that by the middle of day two, the BizP was text messaging me asking for stall numbers and directions, and I delivered hardcore.

In less than 12 hours I had completely reversed the uncoordinated attack of the previous day and the BizP was impressed, which was important, because the previous day he had not been impressed with my performance and was questioning the value of flying me out. The reality was, that in less than 24 hours I knew more about the book fair than the BizP had ever known in four trips, and not only was the BizP impressed, but so was the wife.

“Why didn’t we know this? Sara is first time and she already know more than I ever knew!”

I had redeemed myself. Plan accomplished.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When You Don't Have What You Need, Ask!

Here I was, in Germany, at 9 o'clock, discovering that downtown Germany just outside the train station was red light district central, and having the parting words of wisdom from my BizP rolling through my head.

“Be really careful about your bag outside of the fair. It’s pickpocket central out there.”

Now, it was 9 p.m. I was fed, paranoid as hell, and standing in the middle of the red light district, a short walk from the train station. I decide to call it a night and head back to the apartment, but not before stopping by the train station bottle shop to see about the wines. As I looked, the nice German clerk who had been watching me for a moment came up and started talking to me in German. I just smiled and said, “I’m looking for something in a red, Chilean or Australian.” Without missing a beat he switched to English and showed me an insanely reasonably priced Baron von Roschild cab, which I politely smiled about and explained, “I don’t have an opener.”

“It’s no problem. We open it for you here, okay?”

Thus began my deep-seated love affair with Germany. A country where they didn't judge you for not having a wine opener, they just opened the bottle and asked if you need nuts or chocolate. They didn't care if you need to have champagne with breakfast, or two glasses of wine to get the day started, they were pretty laid back about the whole drinking thing. Whatever you wanted: can we open that for you?

Germany, I love you.

I smiled and took my nice bottle of Baron and caught the train back to the apartel, where the BizP was happy to see me and still working on email. Since I was sleeping in what was basically the living room, I poured myself a glass, chatted a bit and tried to stay up to balance myself out, while ignoring the fact that I essentially had an expected curfew (which I don’t do well with). I managed to stay up until 10:30which was not late enough to say good morning to the Irishbefore passing out, asleep, day one complete.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

For the Love of All Things German Food

Attendance at the book fair afforded some certain perks, one of which was a train pass for the entire five days I was in Germany. Actually it was a full public transport pass, good for the train and any busses that I might want to take. The apartel we were staying in was about four stops from Messe, where the fair was, and downtown to the Hobenhoff was about two more stops. With my magical train pass I could go downtown, get some dinner, and then head back to the apartel by myself later. At around six I left the fair, and it took about twenty minutes to get downtown mostly because I was scared of the first train (which would have gotten me where I was going) and opted for the second instead.

I got to downtown Frankfurt, half-crocked on wine, with a realization that I had NO FUCKING IDEA what I was doing. This was really unusual for me, as usually when I traveled for business I took some time to look up three or four things to do in the location so I could do those things during my free time and not spend every single waking minute working. This had worked well for me when I went to Shanghai, but sadly, I’d not had a single minute to look into Frankfurt before landing, so I had no plan.

It was now time to make a plan.

The plan was to find an information booth where I could get a tourist map or something. Welcome to Germany. It took me a few minutes to find a booth, and when I did I discovered that there was no such thing as a tourist map for free. However, the lovely girl behind the counter was able to offer me a few options. One was a plain subway map for about two euro, although for four euro I could get a tourist guide that recommended places. Just the look of it reminded me of the Sherpa guide I used in Shanghai to find interesting places to eat and then explore, so I opted for the second. Then I asked if she could point out someplace to eat dinner.

“What do you want to eat?”

“German food?”

“What kind of German food?”

“Well, I don’t eat beef or pork, but I like chicken and seafood.”

She looked at me.

She continued to look at me.

Then she blinked.

“You are going to have a problem. Most German food is beef or pork. Mostly pork. Germans like pork.”

So, yeah. I was not just in a country of meat lovers, I was in a country that had found new and innovative ways to put meat in everything.

She pointed me toward downtown and said I should walk for about fifteen minutes to come to some more traditional German places. I started walking, and by 7, when I was still walking down the dark streets of Frankfurt, I realized I was tired, hungry, and sobering up fast. I started walking and made it about five minutes before I broke down in front of the first restaurant that looked interesting.

It was a Mexican place.

I had shrimp scampi.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trade Show and Tequila

As per the conversation with the BizP my job was to walk and observe. Starting with aisle A, I did just that. I walked.

And I walked.

And I walked.

And I walked.

I tried to take it all in: the massive press of bodies and people, the networking going on left and right and front and behind, the crush of bodies,  and over all of it the overwhelming numbers of books upon books upon books. I learned that some books were only dummies, some where real, and some were for sale. The BizP imparted a nugget of wisdom at the last minute before we parted ways.

“This is a trade show. Nothing is for sale, so don’t try to buy anything.”

My reaction could have been better. I didn’t know the first thing about what a trade show was, not to mention how exactly to work effectively at a trade show; however, what I knew at that moment was walk, look, and collect catalogs, which was exactly what I did for the next four hours.

I met the BizP for lunch and gave a breakdown of what I had accomplished. I felt pretty unsuccessful; I had seen a lot of books, but between the flight and the less than three hours of sleep I didn’t feel like I was being very successful. It was decided to leave hall eight  and hit hall three, where all the children’s stuff was, since my real reason for being there was to get materials for a new part of our business venture.

So we went to hall three. Which was a lot like hall eight. Except bigger.

Much, much bigger.

After two hours of walking in hall three, combined with four hours of walking in hall, I was about ready to call it, so we went back to the BizP’s IbizP’s booth. There we sat and were entertained by a Sir who asked for, almost as soon as I sat down, a bottle of tequila. It was then that I noticed the very well-stocked bar that lived in the corner of the IbizP’s booth. It had everything, all of it top shelf and ready to be served. At four I received my first shot of tequila, and feeling that I should be polite and accommodating I did not say no to the second, or the third, and I realized as I got five in that it was really time I should stop.

“I don’t want to have too much,” I said to the IbizP as he poured another round.

“Not so much, these are very small glasses.”

What can you say to that except but to smile and have another? Tequila turned to whisky and eventually to Chivas, which was apparently the bottle of choice. (There were at least two bottles of Chivas for every night at the book fair.) It wasn’t just our booth drinking either. Basically at four o'clock the book fair turned into a bar and everyone was having happy hour. It paid not to drink alone.

While boozing was good, I was getting antsy. I had been in Germany for almost 24 hours and had so far seen a Korean restaurant, a gas station, and the convention center, which was basically McCormick place on steroids. I was ready for more adventure, although I was also really drunk and had sore feet. With all that going on, I decided it was time to press onward and upward, get out and explore Frankfurt a little bit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thousands of Miles of Books

I really hadn’t done enough to familiarize myself with the bookfair, and really nothing…nothing could have prepared me: 9 halls of books, every country on the planet represented, wave after wave of country, and language and dialect, and this was what I was getting into. Easily two miles of nothing but bookfair. After spending almost all nine hours on my feet I was getting cranky and tired and wanting to do anything but bookfair.

I had 8,000 miles of bookfair to deal with before anything else could happen.

Can you imagine being bored with books? You would have to be so totally overwhelmed by them that books themselves seemed almost entirely incidental. Such was the effect of the bookfair. So many books, so much book, there was simply nothing but book and I was immersed in it.

It was at the same time the singlemost erotic book experience I have ever had and the most exhausting. And all of this was only the beginning. There was walking and looking. I didn’t really have a plan for the first day, which, on reflection, was not a smart idea. The plan was basically to walk. It started in Hall Eight. To help you, the aisles in Hall Eight were each lettered so you would know where in Hall Eight you were by looking up and to the left or right. A giant sign with a  red letter would help you know which aisle you were in. After that you had stalls with numbers, so you could follow the numbers to where you needed to be.

To give you an idea of how big this thing was, in Hall Eight was in the 900 block of the bookfair. Stalls were numbered from 900 to 999 in each aisle. (For example: 8.0 J918.) Each aisle basically went up to somewhere in the high digits if not actually getting to 99; it just depended on how big the booths were for different vendors. Hall Eight also had letters A through Z. That was how big Hall Eight was. My job for day one...was Hall Eight.

“So, what do you want me to do today?” I asked the BizP.

“Well, you know, wander up and down look at everything.”

“Okay, where should I start?”

“From the beginning. Walk the whole hall.”

It was 9:00 a.m. and we were packed into this thing with about a billion other people. The line at the bottom of the escalator to get into Hall  Eight was bottlenecked so much that people could basically stand on top of each other and go to sleep and you didn’t have to fear falling. The reason for the bottleneck was the security check, as apparently every bag had to be hand searched.

“What are they looking for?”

“Bombs, guns, that sort of thing.”

“Really; at a book fair?”

The BizP just shrugged, but I supposed that any measure that would keep us from getting blown to hell was good. I got really comfortable with the security guys and they got really cozy and would always smile and mock when I went through. Probably because my bag had leftover condoms from some night or other where I had put them in and forgotten to take them out. My bag was probably the most thrilling one they got to check at the bookfair since the rest were full of, well, books and brochures mostly.

The BizP dragged me down to where he would be doing business with his Indian BizP, a gargantuan and well-decorated man who sat and monitored his kingdom. He took an instant liking to me and was sweet to me throughout the entire fair...when I had time to see him. His booth was well staffed with polite, smiling, hard-working Indians, and my BizP plus wife. They were there to sell, and sell they would. I was there to scout and scout I would. So would start the deathmarch of a thousand days. At least, that is what it felt like by the end of it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

So, There is This Little Bookfair Happening?

While I had looked up the bookfair, downloaded an app for the bookfair, generally tried to acclimate myself for the bookfair, nothing…nothing could have prepared me for the book fair. Nine halls of books, every country on the planet represented, wave after wave of country, and language and dialect, and this is what I was getting into. Easily two miles of nothing but bookfair. And after spending almost all of those nine hours on my feet I was getting cranky and tired and wanting to do anything but book fair.

One my first meetings was with the IBizP. The IBizP was an oft-talked about BizP of the BizP and so I knew that meeting would be an imperative. In perhaps a drunken moment the evening before, I anticipated that the IBizP would most likely want to hang out with me, as I have that effect on people, but the BizP shrugged it off. Understandable really; the BizP has never been a Puerto Rican woman, and I have. Also, my ass is fantastic (this will not come as news to those of you who really know me). So, upon being told we’d need to meet the IBizP, I expressed my reservations. These were not in vain. Fortunately I had 8,000 miles of bookfair to deal with before anything else could happen.

Can you imagine being bored with books? You would have to be so totally overwhelmed by them that books themselves seemed  almost entirely incidental. Such was the effect of the bookfair. So many books, so much book, there was simply nothing but book and I was immersed in it.

It was at the same time the singlemost erotic book experience I have ever had and the most exhausting. And all of this, was only the beginning.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Traveling To and Frauline

I met the BizP after getting off a very long flight for my first time in Europe. It’s funny; being in Europe felt in some ways like being in America except everyone spoke the wrong language. Which was sort of how I felt about traveling to Japan, oddly.

I got off a thirteen-hour flight and was instructed to look for the person holding a card with my name, and possibly the name of one other party. I did so, and in the end had to look twice because they were holding a sign with my first name and middle name, not my last name, which was damned confusing. However, it made perfect sense in the end.

The nice German who greeted me grabbed my bag and took me outside as quickly as he possibly could. Once outside, he stood there and looked at me.

And waited.

I looked at him.

“Do you need anything?” he asked.

“Not really. Some coffee maybe would be nice.”

“Okay, we can go to the restaurant. Unless you need to go to the apartment. We can go to the apartment and drop your bags and then go to the restaurant. Unless you need to shower. What do you need to do?”

I thought about it. In the end I wasn't really sure.

“I’m fine to just go to the restaurant.”

“Okay.” He paused a moment. “It’s just, the Koreans; they usually like to go straight outside. After the flight they really need a cigarette.”

“No; I’m just fine.”

We got in the car and I put in my bags and grabbed a seat in the front. The landscape reminded me of New Jersey, which was a compliment (and if you don’t realize that you have never driven through the really nice parts of Jersey). We drove mostly in silence except for the music which was, of course, Don Henley.

He dropped me off at the apartment, taking my bag and walking briskly, which meant a jogging Saradevil as he was a good 6’3 . I managed to catch up, get introduced to the key system, and get into the room. I would sleep in, (essentially the living room). It was fine. I changed, because I was meeting people at the restaurant, and then hopped back out the door in under four minutes.

We drove a short distance down the road and the location and walk back were explained. I tried to note landmarks in the darkening day but failed, being totally tired from my thirteen-hour flight, and mostly unready to spend an entire day working when I felt like I’d spent an entire day traveling.

When I got to the restaurant, it was (as I should have suspected) Korean. The BizP met me there with the wife, and we had some dinner before going back to the apartment for sleeping and preparing for the book fair.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On the Ground at the Bookfair in Germany

Imagine the biggest bookstore you have ever been to. Multiply that by about 400 and add a few hundred for good measure. That will give you an idea of just how big the Frankfurt Bookfair is. It spanned eleven different buildings, had its own shuttle buses between halls, and was attended by something like a hundred thousand people. It was a mover-and-shaker thing.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing there.

The problem was twofold: first, I really needed to be looking for things for the work project that I was working on, but what kept happening was I kept finding books that I would generally want to be reading. Like the 3d holographic scan that turned your iPad into a live-action sex book. (Why had this not been invented sooner?) They were using the same technology for education books, but who cares? You could scan a barcode on any literotica you chose to buy and watch a video of it happening? I liked my imagination, but I had to admit this had merit.

Then there was the Nick Cave biopic.

And the Bowie one.

OH MY GOD I found an entire FLOOR dedicated to comics and anime.

Why was I working?

Also, I discovered on Saturday there would be 12 hours of hobbit cosplay. And on Friday? 12 hours of steampunk.

All I could think to myself was “work is hard.”

Which was true.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

May is a Wrap

Done with May; go read it.

More of now coming soon, and more of August coming later as more of life goes on. My Gods I am a busy woman.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maximo Park, Chicago, 2012

On Monday night, sweet Monday night, Chicago rained. Originally it was a bright and sunny day but it devolved into passing rain and crazy late-September cold. It was fall, it was beautiful, and I loved it, which was great. With only a few short days in Chicago, I wanted to see if it would be possible to take in a band. Within a few minutes of searching I realized there was almost nothing to see in the cityor at least, my go-to resource was not sending up any flags.

I took a gander at Lincoln Hall, which frequently had shows I wanted to see, and was surprised to my bones to see a Monday-night listing for Maximo Park. Maximo Park was definitely a band on my "must see live" list. I debated back and forth, and decided to put off buying an actual ticket until Monday morning.

When Monday did finally roll around the real issue became not that I was feeling crushed for time, and pressured to work, or that the weather was quickly becoming less pleasant. It was, in fact, because the venue had been changed, and I almost chose not to go. Lincoln Hall is actually a really pleasant venue to see a show in and I've learned to truly enjoy it. However the show had been changed over to Schubas, I suspected because the Monday-night turnout was perhaps not that good.

Lincoln Hall I knew. Schubas I didn't. Or at least, I knew about it and wasn't sure it would be a great venue. With some debate I finally decided to do it anyway, because I cared more about the music than the roomalthough I was worried the sound might suck and the venue might be too crowded and flat and annoying. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

The evening began with a lovely Mexican dinner at Mia Terra. While I wanted to be there in time for the second opening act, I wasn't that fussed on the sound of the first opener. The second act, The Neighbourhood, has a wonderful blend of low-fi pop that I found very enchanting. I also enjoyed one particular song, "Female Robbery," a great little ditty about women not getting what they wanted. Good times.

I managed to finish dinner and get down to Schubas in time for The Neighbourhood, but much to my chagrin they chose to do their EP set in order and started with the song I most liked. I could forgive them though; they were young, charming, and gifted young men, and I will be excited to see what they have for the future.



The band that I was there to see, though, was Maximo Park. I was hoping they would be a good live show. The venue was small, but I managed to get a place on the stage that I figured would work, I wasn't dead front and center, but there had been some stage squatters there long before I got there. However, I was in the second row, which wasn't bad. I was also behind something, so there was no one in front of me interrupting my view of the stage, even better.

Even though it was Monday night and the show didn't start till 10, I was excited, and the tired swept out of me as the boys from England took the stage. And all I could say was...Wow.

I had seen a lot of bands, and I have to say, even with some of the most amazing shows I had seen this year, this was absolutely one of the best live acts I had ever seen. The energy that Paul Smith brought to the stage was absolutely stunning. When musicians write music, when a band releases it, the music goes into the wild. In the wild it catches up with the fan, the music lover, the person who is experiencing a moment and in that moment that song just speaks perfectly to them and to what they need. The person, the music aficionado, the random person having that moment, they learn every word to the song. They play the song over and over again, it is on perpetual repeat until the moment passes or something new replaces it. They sing along, they know every word and when they sing along, whether it is in or out of key, whether the words or right, or the accent is funny, they sing and it is so impassioned that every word drips with the sentiment and the emotion of the moment, the situation, the resonance with which a song sings to a specific person.

When Paul Smith took that stage and began to sing, he didn't just sing the songs. It wasn't just seeing him sing or perform, it wasn't just his voice, transcendent and beautiful. It wasn't the bouncing of the pianist who did jumping jacks in time to the beat, or the sweat-soaked brow of the drummer, the patient perfection of the guitarist. It wasn't the beleaguered roadie preparing the next round of guitars for the next moment on stage. What made the show so perfect was the fact that Paul Smith vocalized every word of every song with the same passion of the fan, the person who emoted as they listened and sang along. Ever single word had the passion, the pain, the plight, the love, the desire, the jealousy, the freedom of the music fan. He sang like a man possessed by the feelings of every person who had ever been touched by his music. And it was beautiful. It was amazing; it was perfect; it was transcendent.

I was so wrapped up in it I could forgive the happy-go-lucky glitter goth German who kept bumping into me. I could forgive the ridiculous heckling from the crowd and the call for B-sides and obscure tracks that even the band wasn't sure of playing. The band had a beautiful rapport with the crowd, with each other, and the show was the smoothest, most flawless of shows I had ever seen. The sound was perfect for the venue, the size of the audience most appropriate and the music...well...yes.

All in all a perfect way to spend a Monday evening.

Later, walking back to the car in the rain, I could only think of the music, and how it was obsession on stage for over an hour: sweet obsession, sweet projection, sweet and concise understanding of all the fans, and all the lovers, and fighters, and rebels and misanthropic writers in the world who had come to enjoy the show.

And while the critics thought that "Hips and Lips" was the best track off the new album. I disagreed. I loved "The Undercurrents."

Monday, September 03, 2012

Easter Eggs

There are random new posts hiding in the history if you dare to try and find them.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

April: Go Read It

Here's all the blog posts I wrote in April 2012, with the holes in my memory filled. Have fun reading through it.

Some of them have pictures.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Retroactive

I'm going to retroactively catch up on some things that have been missed out here. They might not pop up in your RSS or news feed, but be aware. I'd like things to be in order. Cause I'm like that. I may make a new post to ping your RSS readers that will get deleted. Not sure. Try to keep up.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Late Night Vice Fest

Tonight I engaged in my vices. I had many vices and I had  probably been indulging them too much of late. The reality was that life had been painful for the last few months. So painful that I couldn't think of how to progress with it, or what to say, or what to write. Who would read it all anyway?

And then some people, some of you, dear readers, pointed out that I had  not written. It made me realize that I did this to express and understand myself, but also as a window into who I am. I buried things so deep and never talked about them, and when I completely closed down, there was just nothing. Part of it was forgetting. By not writing, I pretended  that life was not actually happening to me, that it wasn't real, that there was just nothing there. No me, no reality, no Sara.

The reality was that I was there, and I had been denying myself. There had been so much living, and I was forgetting all the living I was doing because I was wallowing in all the pain that happens and forgetting that life came with an acceptable amount of pain. Without pain there was no living.

And I didn't want to cut myself off from living.

So there I was tonight, engaging in all my vices, and one of those was to express myself and the reality of my feelings and who I am. Some of you who read (actually most of you who read) are so dear to me. You have guided, supported, and advised me and in return I had given you no insight into what went on inside of my head. My vices included this writing, this self expression, this time to share who I am and to work out the feelings that I have and the thoughts, crazy and otherwise. Both so I could understand and so you could help me understand myself.

I had in my hand a clove cigarette and I let it burn down while I wrote. I had in my hand a glass of wine as part of a bottle that I might or might not finish. I had in my hand a spoonful of chocolate and sugar, a treat I hadn't had in months over months. I had in my hand a television murder mystery, a way to lose myself in the pain of someone else. I had in my hand a phone that I used to look at my various on-line musings. I had in my hand a computer, and on that computer I poured  words, and those words had meaning, and those meanings explained who I was.

Since January I had experienced loss after loss. I thought so much about what I was losing that I forgot what I was gaining, I had forgotten what was happening and how it was happening, and why it was happening, and why it was important. I wanted to wallow in my loses and not accept all the things I had gained. Some loss was good, progressive, helpful, and useful. Some was hurtful, painful, and made me hate myself. All of it was a part of growing and living.

There were so many transitions; some of these had been more painful than others, and I did not suffer those transitions alone. There were all kinds of transitions. The Irish, my favorite Irish, was transitioning. There was now the Designer, who was transitioning. The Roller Girl, the Electrician, the Kiterunner, the Pirate: we were all transitioning. The Greek, the Muse, we were all transitioning.  Once upon a time there was the Australian and the Volunteer, and they transitioned too. The Bard was transitioning, the Balance was transitioning, the Molester was transitioning. Young Kubrick was transitioning, we were all, equally, right now in a state of constant flux and we were all embracing it in our own way.

So much change.

Hiding from it, closing myself off to the world was not making it less real. If anything it made it not only more real but more painful. I don’t know; I wasn't reflecting, and that was what wa missing.

Those of you I have mentioned, I don’t mind if you still read, if this will pop up for you and ping you and make you take a moment to stop and read. I hope you will read, and if you don’t want me to tell the story of your changes through my prospective, then I won’t share.

But I need to start sharing my story again.

The One.

She’s at the heart of a lot of it. She is a huge catalyst for change. The Artist and her Writer, they also drive change. The Astrophysicist, the Music teacher, the Brewer, they are all there too. Some of these are new characters, characters who are so terribly important to my life and I have not even brought them into the fold.

It’s time to talk.

That is what I am going to do.

I’m going to talk, for myself, for the Saradevil, for the voice that needs to be voiced, for who I am.

Right now I am going to engage in my vices. I will lift this glass of wine to each of you. I will eat this piece of chocolate for each of you. I will inhale this sweet smoke for each of you. I will write for each of you.

And maybe through it, I will find myself again.

I am going to start writing again. It will come in fits and starts, it will come as it always comes, sometimes too much poetry to be understood, sometimes out of order, sometimes lengthy and in sequence. It will be very much who I am, and if you read it,  you will get to see it again, and if you don’t read it, it won’t matter too much. It matters to me.

Perhaps that is my greatest vice: I need to discuss those pains.

A long time ago my mother cautioned me never to write about my life. Because if you write it down someone will read. And I have worked so hard to never follow that advice, because maybe it should be read, maybe it should be known, maybe just maybe sharing it gives insight to the ones you love and insight to yourself. Somehow over the last few months I stopped sharing, and closing myself off and the result has made me more nervous, more volatile, more lost than I have ever been. I need to follow my heart and share it all, painful or not, my truth, my life.

And maybe when I’m done, you’ll all still want to read, and still be there for me, and maybe when I am done you will all think I am crazier than you could have possibly imagined. Either way, it’s  time to begin to indulge again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I Really Wasn't that Drunk...Protested the Drunk!

When we somehow managed to crawl out of the hotel the next morning we walked out into absolutely fucking soaking, pouring, you-have-to-be-kidding-me waterfall-type monsoon rain. It was everywhere. There was no sign that it was going to let up. Since it was late enough for us to be hungry, we decided to go and try to find some food to eat, as we knew that there was not much to eat at the festival. (Also all the eating places were outside and we figured they  might be rained out.)

This meant we waded down the sidewalk looking for a restaurant in an area absolutely none of us were familiar with. It was the black dark of monsoon rains in Korea and we could barely see anything; we were huddled tight under the centers of our umbrellas. At a corner, about to give up, the Author called out, “How about this Indian place?”

We all turned around and sure enough there was a sign for a place that did Indian, and while the place was dark and a little warm and out of the way, it was exactly what we needed, so we ate the food that they gave to us and discussed how we wanted to play day 2 of the rock festival.

It was agreed that we had had enough of stage squatting and so we would do something a little different. I also knew we were going to meet up with the Kiterunner at the show and she would have seats. “I’m too fucking old to stand all fucking night for something like this, man. I got seat,” she'd shouted at me over the phone.

“That’s cool. We will meet you at the seats.”

We figured since we had not explored the potential for drunken revelry the previous day we would hit the Jack Daniels tent and get beer for the boys and booze for us girls. Had I been a smarter woman, I just would have found a place to buy a bottle of vodka, because I know (I have empirical proof) that I should NOT be allowed to drink whiskey under any circumstances. However nobody asked and I didn’t tell, which ended with me and the Goth filling up water bottles full of Jack Daniels and bringing them into the concert hall with us.

The boys got plenty of beer.

Then we staked out our spot for the show with the Kiterunner.

“Where’s mine?” She asked when we all showed up, starting on a good slosh. Bottles of whiskey were passed around and we waited for the first act of the afternoon that we wanted to see: The Vaccines.

How can you solve a problem like the Vaccines?  You can’t; they were awesome. We proceeded to drink and take over the bottom row of the balcony section we were at. Literally, we stacked out that territory until we had a full row of about 15 seats for all of us and we proceeded to get our party on. The Vaccines was an awesome, fun singalong show. They were followed shortly later by Foster the People, who also got our blood pumping.

At this point the alcohol was flowing pretty good and I was feeling it just enough to be almost over the edge.

I kept asking people to keep me from jumping. They all knew better than to try to keep me from doing anything, seeing as how drunk we all were. It was all for the best. Sometimes you needed to take care of your ridiculously drunk self on your own. This was one of those times.

After Foster the People the air was full of excitement as we braced for Tears for Fears.

And, while a great show, I remember almost all of it.

I also remember at some point that I had reached my level of ability with whiskey. Then, I went to the bathroom and flushed my phone for good measure.

Finished with the bathroom, I went back to the row and took a nap on the concrete for the hour between Tears for Fears and New Order.

Fortunately, I did realize I should stop drinking. Unfortunately there was not enough water in  the world to cut through the amount of whiskey I had pumped into my veins. I wasn’t alone, as apparently the Roller Girl had to be located via phone after basically losing the ability to walk due to a whisky-and-dancing overdose.

New Order was amazingly perfect and ended with some old Joy Division songs. We somehow managed to get our drunken selves together, meet back up, and head toward our hotel. We somehow managed to let ourselves in, but how the passing out happened was very much unknown.

The show was amazing. I woke up at 4:45 a.m. with a hangover (possibly still drunk) to beat the band, a small annoyed dog stealing blankets, a drunk Irishman snoring and sleeping it off, and the realization that I had to be on a train in 20 minutes to get to Gimcheon (because I thought it would be a good idea to schedule a teacher training that day).

I made the training and everyone thought I was amazing. I don’t remember much of what I did that day.

When I finally managed to get  home at 5, I happily crashed through until the next day.

It was still the best rock festival ever!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Yes, Those Smashing Pumpkins!

It was me, the Irish, the Author, and Roller Girl, who ended up at the concert. All of us bought tickets, we took the train up together, and I found us a cheap hotel room not too far from the venue. We also brought the dog, who was happy to hang out in the room.

We hit the Sonic festival early because I wanted to go to the merch tent; however, I was sadly disappointed as the merch they had was really abysmal, which put me in a bad mood. However we did look around and finally gave up and went into the auditorium where the Pumpkins were going to play.

“Okay,” I explained to the gang, “We are going to sit on the stage, and we are going to be there until the Pumpkins come on. We can take it in shifts, but this is happening.”

Everyone was basically in agreement, which was awesome. I had never stage squatted with a crowd before, so I was excited for the experience. We had stopped by the Jack Daniels tent before getting all holed up on stage, but I was too excited about anything related to Billy Corgan to be thinking too much about the potential for booze.

We danced along a bit to Yellow Monsters, an outrageously powerful Korean punk band in the vein of Green Day who absolutely tore up the stage and most of my expectations.

“They were not half bad,” remarked the Irish.

“Indeed they were not.”

When Yellow Monsters ended we were able to push up on the stage and managed to get to about center stage. That was when I noticed that we were surrounded by teenage Korean girls. Seriously. They were packed around us. Being that we are all English teachers we started chatting up the girls standing around us and asking questions to them about the band that was up next.

“I don’t think you will like them very much,” said the girl next to me with a pretty strong New Zealand accent, clearly having studied abroad some years.

She was not wrong. It wasn’t just that the music was bad. It was that the lead singer had so much cocky attitude, like he just didn’t care that all these screaming teenagers were her to see him. His disinterest was infectious and we ended up being four very disinterested waygooks before it was over.

Fortunately it didn’t last too long, and before long we were waiting the next hour while the next band queued up. During this time we all took shifts guarding our spot, which was not dead center stage, while taking quick runs to the bathroom. We had been stage squatting for about three hours, and the next three would be without end as this was the Pumpkin hour, or at least, it was fast approaching.

I had taken a quick listen to the next band, and wasn’t overly impressed but I could sit through anything for an hour and half of Billy Corgan. The band coming up was Gym Class Heroes. The crowd really filled out then, with quite a good-sized throng behind us by the start of the set.

When they started to perform, I realized this was not going to be a painful wait sort of thing, Gym Class Heros was an absolutely awesome act. I recognized a lot of the tunes from regular radio play and as the sort of background music you hear in shops and don’t think about. The lead singer brought a wonderful power to the stage, bouncing around, engaging the audience, encouraging us to love the music and our friends and the strangers we were there with. His presence was awe inspiring. He knew how to work the crowd and we loved it.

The Irish was most definitely infected by it, and since this was basically his first rock concert, I was happy to watch him enjoy it. Perhaps a bit too enthusiastically as when the Lead from GCH jumped down off the stage, we were all reaching over the bar to touch him, like a rock/rap God, and it was the Irish who made contact. The Lead reached out and grabbed his arm for an embrace and practically pulled the Irish over the bar. The Irish not being one to give up in a fight held on…and that was when the bouncers started to rush us. Right before they descended the embrace was mutually released, and the Irish turned to me, smiling ear to ear and shaking his hands in the air.

It was that kind of show.

It ended with none of us getting roughed up by security and as the stage cleared the four of us sat down to wait for the final act. I passed around some nut bars I had brought with me, as I figured we were going to need it, and we waited some more. At this point we got accosted by a bunch of foreigners who literally stepped over the Koreans in front of us and tried to push us out of the way for the barrier. None of us were having it and we also made it clear to the Koreans, in Korean, that these idiots were not with us.

This hour of waiting passed quickly and we were up and hanging over the rail when the lights went dark.

And my heart fluttered.

They walked onto stage and picked up their instruments. Billy Corgan lookked every bit like a man in his forties, but he still commanded the sort of respect you would expect from a professional. The long-legged and very attractive bass guitarist in her perfect hair and red lipstick was also a happy bit of eye candy.

Then they started to play.

Within seconds we all recognized the opening bars of "Zero."

That was when I lost my mind. To be standing in front of the Smashing Pumpkins, with Billy Corgan so close to me (I’m almost positive at one point during the set his sweat was brushed into my face), was like a culmination of every moment of waiting that I had every experienced. I was transcendent. As "Zero" became "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," and "Bullet" became "1979," and "1979" became "Today," there I was, jumping, screaming dancing and shaking so hard.

I burst my ankle.

It was worth it.

Somehow we managed to limp out around midnight and tried to unwind in a chicken shack, but really, how do you comedown from something like that?

And the next day we were going to see Tears for Fears and New Order. This was the best rock festival EVER!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So, did you hear about the Smashing Pumpkins?

I had been waiting for this moment for so long. It felt like I had been waiting for this moment my entire life, but to be on the train, headed to Seoul to see Smashing Pumpkins....my heart was pumping constantly and all I could think about was teenage daydreams, and being fourteen, and getting off to "Cherub Rock" or "Geek U.S.A.", or being fifteen and entertaining myself to the head-banging misery that was Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Or being in my late twenties and singing over and over again in my misery and loneliness and fighting through depression and getting lost in the refrain of "Ava Adore." Or being in my early thirties and jumping around, and fucking, and laughing, and drinking to "Today," and the refrain was still the same, and it was still the truth, that no matter when or where, 'Today is the greatest day I've ever known.' It meant as much now as it did then.

And it would tomorrow.

It was all I could think about. The concert had consumed my August. I needed it, I wanted it, I would not be complete until I had experienced it. This was to be my first Korean rock festival and I didn't know what to expect at a Korean rock festival, only that it would have Smashing Pumpkins and nothing else mattered.

It came aboutlike most things doin the Lonely Hearts Club. I was drinking with the Roller Girl and we had promised earlier that we would just drink and then go home. The night had started rough with a rather pointless aggravation from another friend, so I was feeling angry and selfish and needing a drink. At the time I was drinking alone and rather enjoying it, and as ten o'clock rolled around I considered just going home. Then the Roller Girl called.

"Where are you?" She had a way of emphasizing both the first and last word of any question that makes it both at the same time a question, a plea, and a command that you had better be somewhere in her vicinity.

"The Lonely Hearts Club. But let's meet at Buy the Book."

Only to get a call a few minutes later that Buy the Book was closed and she would meet me at the Lonely Hearts. So I drank another glass and got an empty one for her, and as she came in we proceeded to work our way through the bottle, giggling and talking, like girls do. Hyun came in much later than that, around one in the morning and we were both salty and staring at each other with mischievous looks, and my feelings about the evening were rapidly improving. Where it had begun with me being put down about my attitude and my looks it was quickly winding into a cheerful, caring romp with a friend who truly enjoyed my company, attitude, and looks, regardless of where they were.

Then Hyun spoke up.

"So, Sara, did you hear about Smashing Pumpkins?"

And in that moment my mind focused through my wine-tipsy-happy time like a laser sight and everything in my brain was Billy Corgan and "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," and "Zero," and "No, I haven't heard about Smashing Pumpkins." And I was thinking something awful had happened to Billy and my brain was preparing itself to feel the same kind of wailing loss it had felt at the death of Kurt.

"Yeah, they are going to be playing in Korea. The Sonic music festival. Do you want to go?"

"Yes."

"What about me?" Again the question was emphasized on both the first word and the last. We conspired, us girls. We would go together, leave our friends behind, and make a girls weekend of it. We would get tickets and the world could go to hell and be jealous of our good fortune when they heard that we had seen the Smashing Pumpkins live.

"Who else is playing?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah, it's the Smashing Pumpkins, New Order, and Tears for Fears."

I think my heart stopped.

We asked Hyun to put us down for tickets, and over the next couple of days, once we had gotten out of our rage at the world and at our friends, we let it slip to the Author and the Irish that there would be such a show and we already had tickets and asked them to join us, because really, when it came to music that defined so of your life how could you not share it? So the party had been assembled and we were off to Seoul, lunch, and literally 9 hours before I would see Billy walk on stage and sing for me, and I could barely contain myself with how much I was looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Ninja Wedding and Afterparty

As we piled into the car it was still cloudy, but there was no rain. As we drove down, the same. When we got to the point, the weather co-operated, but if you live in Chicago you know everything is “cooler near the lake” and today that meant a gale-force wind and a ten-degree temperature difference. This would have been fine except that I was wearing a skimpy little sundress and not much else, leaving me covered in goose bumps, with nipples so cold they could cut glass, and tears in my eyesnot so much from the wedding as from the wind whipping across my eyeballs. These are the things you endure to be the best girl-in-waiting,  or whatever my particular honor was. Mostly I was the person that set it all in motion.

At the park we met the Priest, who greeted the party announcing only one caveat to the ceremony. The Priest lived in the area so he was very familiar with the park. Perhaps, overly familiar.

“The only thing I ask,” he said as we prepared for the wed-n-dash, “is that we have to find a place where I have not had sex to do the ceremony.” The second was, “Okay, I may not have noticed this before, but I just have to ask, have your breasts always been that amazing?” This was to the Bride, who was quite happy to admit that her breasts had indeed always been so fantastic.

“Well done, son,” the Priest said to the Groom, who could only smile like a kid who was about to rob the candy store and get to keep everything he took.

And with that we were off hunting for an edge of park that did not bring back joyfully debauched memories of the Priest. Along the  way we took some pictures of our ninja antics to illustrate the wedding. All of us were in running shoes, ready to dash out of the park at the first hint of trouble.

We managed to find a nice spot with the city in the background, and the ceremony was just absolutely gorgeous, if cold and windy. Young Kubrick, acting in role of photo hero, took the amazing pictures. Beautiful rings were exchanged along with beautiful words, and everything went as smoothly as you could want a ninja wedding to go. As it ended we packed up quickly and did indeed dash off, back to awaiting chariots and the seafood feast prepared to warm our cold bones.

The dinner was perfect, with mountains of shrimp and crab to gorge ourselves on. We had plenty of wine too. Eventually it came time to give presents to the Priest, and this was where the happy couple had really outdone themselves. The Bard had called me early in the week for some ideas about the most appropriate gift, which interestingly enough reminded me of a little shop not far from where she used to live.

“They have all sorts of things. Imports. Tribal goods, lots of interesting stuff. If they are still open that would be the place to go.”

The Bard went on a store hunt and sure enough, not only was the store still there but it had the perfect gift for the Priest. What she found was a hand-carved walking staff with tribal embellishments and paintings made out of the most sumptuous-feeling wood.

As it was presented the Priest smiled and his eyes twinkled with a wicked light as he thought of all the ways in which this gift was most appropriate. After that the party wound down into looking at wedding pictures, spending time alone in bedrooms and general mellowing with bellies full of seafood. As the night grew longer I began to pine for my own Boy, and before the evening was out I'd called him and arranged for a pick-up in Chicago. I fell asleep happily in his warm arms, preparing once again for the long wash of leaving, packing, and rushing about that embodies a great deal of time between places.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What is a Ninja Wedding?

Almost a year ago (but not quite a year ago) I had met the Electrician, whoamong other misguided adventureshelped me to appreciate electricity and enjoy my first time shopping at IML. Good times were had all in all. Despite some fits and stops I had really wanted to at some point introduce him to the Bard. While they had met several times before, it had always been distracted meetings, thwarting my plans to get them to really TALK to each other. Then, I had a bit of a going-away again party last July and finally the pair was able to really meet. (Meet and stay up all night talking after I'd passed out on the couch.)

I left the next morning, and they went on a date the next weekend, which started on a Friday and ended sometime around the following Friday. (Not quite that long but you get the idea.) They had been damn near inseparable ever since. One night in Korea, during an evening chat with the Bard and the Electriciansince I spend way too much time online and on messengerthey both (at roughly the same time) indicated they had something to tell me. There was a bit of hemming and hawing until the great reveal.

“Wer'e getting married,” said the Bard.

“Excellent.”

“But you have to be here. So come home,” said the Electrician.

This started the months-long debate of how to schedule a trip in a way that would accommodate a wedding. Originally the plan was for me to go home in April, but things changed with the book fair (business flights rule!), leading a change in plans to a May wedding. This gave all the parties plenty of time to file paperwork and make plans. Once plans were made, I headed up to Chicago on a Friday where the Bard and I went shopping for something for me to wear at the weddingsince a black dress didn’t seem right, and given that she would be wearing a dress it seemed inappropriate for me to wear jeans.

We spent about an hour and a half putting me in outfits before she finally settled on a cute little pink-and-yellow sundress, which went perfectly with my Doc Martin boots. I got stockingsthis time stockings that would not fail when put to the use that the gods intendedand a small thin cover up, being May and all in Chicago.

That night we had a nice dinner, laughed, talked about the drama I had left behind me in Korea (between the soon-to-be Ex and the Irish), and had some nice wine before passing out in preparation for the big event the next day. The company included medriving down with the happy couple and the best manone photographer, and the Priest.

The Priest was a friend of all of us and a member of the local club. He was certainly not your run-of-the-mill priest, being both well-educated, extremely broad-minded, and absolutely willing to defend the variety of life choices against the often ridiculous imposed bigotry of small-minded biblical interpretations. My contribution for the Priest was helping the Bard find the most perfect wedding gift for him as part of the payment for the services. On a chat preparing for the wedding, she had mentioned she needed something, and I knew just the place. More on that later.

When we got up that morning, we also needed to prepare the house a bit for the guests to return and eat. The Chef and her fiancé helped with that. The Chef would be cooking a low-country boiled seafood feast for us to enjoy after the ceremony. The wedding party was quite small because, as we had learned, it was going to have to be a ninja wedding.

Chicago has a lot of beautiful parks, and while they are nice, they also like to have people pay money to use them for things like a marriage. Now, the park we were going to for the ceremony was in the beautiful  Hyde Park neighborhood. Promitory Point overlooked the city and the lake. It was gorgeous, green, growing, and a great place for a wedding. In fact, it was so great that the city of Chicago charged a mere $4,000 to hold a ceremony there. Somehow it seemed pretty certain that was not going to work out. The plan that was hatched was to sneak in, perform the ceremony, and be in the cars on our way back out before anyone handed us a bill for four grand. Good plan.

The Bard and I worked to get the table for four ready to accommodate a party for eight plus, which included strapping a board to the table shibari style and adding weights to keep it from toppling over. Once the table was secured using our ninja-shibari rope skills we all got dressed up and ready to go. The only concernaside from getting in and out of the park before being discoveredwas that the weather would hold off on raining. So far it was a cloudy morning but now there was rain.