Archive for April, 2012

 The moment in between

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I received this postcard from Russia, sent by a nine-year old girl. It’s a moment from World War II. The Red Army.  Three cute boys taking a break from being the enemy and reading a letter while behind them, a soldier tries to move around camouflaged as a hay stack.  Was it from family, friend or lover?  The picture really conveys the power of the handwritten message. It’s a piece of home with a slice of hope. Maybe it even carries the scent of the sender. They are adorable as they read, connecting with home and the world  from which they long to return.  What happened next? Did they live, die, or kill someone five minutes later? I guess we’ll never know but those that see this picture can remember these boys in their happy moment, existing somewhere before death or salvation.

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Do not piss off the Lesbians!

Bar tending is a unique experience. You never know who’s gonna wander in and each day can offer a parade of colorful individuals. lizardsliquidlounge.com draws a collage of  unlikely minglers.  Artists, lesbians, hockey players, mailmen, musicians, dogs, firemen, cops etc.,  all drink in perfect harmony…..usually.

In my past life I was a little lacking in customer service skills but in this one I have resolved to be patient, light-hearted and extra kind. But still, the job requires the confidence and strength to not take any shit from the occasional belligerent drunk. Yesterday afternoon, this guy comes in sloppy drunk slurring words. He ordered a beer, planted himself on a bar stool and began spewing nonsensical conversation and using the word “vagina” multiple times. First time, I turned my head and gave him the look. One of the regular patron’s thought the guy was calling ME a vagina and told him he should shut up, but there I was practicing my new-found diplomatic skills attempting to defuse the situation and spread love and peace. Sadly, drunk guy drove nice guy out the door. He started making up this stupid story about how he and I went to Dublin together. He kept saying my name and making suggestive eyes filled with sexual innuendo. Gross. Finally,  after I’d had enough “nudge nudge wink wink say no more say no more” I told him he was being offensive and that seemed to shut him down for a minute.

Before his unfortunate arrival I was enjoying serving and chatting with two different customers: The man was a musician, former neon artist and the before mentioned nice guy  defending my honor. The woman was a photographer of rock bands. We were reminiscing about the punk club scene of the 80’s and speculating that our paths probably crossed back in the day!  There was a good natured and totally butch looking gal, too young to remember those days, that joined in the conversation. She remained when the other two left and I got involved in another conversation with a house painter a few seats to the right, while pretending the drunk guy did not exist.

Apparently, while I was ignoring Mr. Vagina, he thought it would be a brilliant idea to grab the butch girl’s tits. Really? Not that it’s a great move to grab any woman’s breasts uninvited but he picked the most obvious lesbian in the room who could have easily kicked his ass! I didn’t see it happen but the next thing I knew he and his friend were scurrying out the door. I think she just calmly told him that he needed to leave and he obeyed!  The punch line to this story is that Mr. Vagina was allegedly a brain surgeon. Gynecologist would have been a little less surprising but OMG!  Imagine seeing your doctor acting out this scene on YouTube,  pre brain tumor extraction?  Although this information came a from a semi reliable source someone suggested that if he really was a brain surgeon, the informant would have used the term “Neurosurgeon”.  It’s a good point but then again, in a bar room there is equal opportunity for rocket scientist or Joe Shmoe to behave like total twats.  Seeing as I’ll probably never see this guy again, I’m sticking with the “brain surgeon” theory!

Please, no panoramic views!

One of the great features of postcrossing.com is the virtual wall of “Favourites”. Any card from anyones profile that is uploaded can be chosen as such which make’s it much easier to choose something that will bring happiness. Each day the site will send an email of all cards picked as favourites to the sender and it’s a pleasant reward for taking the time and choosing well! So one day, I get the email and a member from Mexico City has favored a bunch of my cards. Clearly, I’m curious so I check out his profile: postcrossing.com/user/capitangrunch which completely charms me into sending a message with the promise of a postcard. Ricardo, who loves flea markets and hates panoramic view cards, replies happily with his address so I put together an envelope with a few cards filled with words. Meanwhile, a couple days later I get the favourites email and this time a woman from Mexico City has favored a crop of cards and so again curious I go to her profile: postcrossing.com/user/anayatzin and read that she too is anti panorama and lover of flea markets. Hmmm…Coincidence? Conspiracy? I shoot her a message with postcard offer and the question “Do you know Ricardo?” Aha!  I am a brilliant detective and she confesses that he is her boyfriend! Awesome. Her name is officially Anayatzin sometimes known as Ana but otherwise called Brenda! I send her an envelope and wait…awhile. Mail between Mexico and the U.S. is sloooowww but one day I receive the greatest envelope from Ricardo. He has made a card out of a subway map and has marked off where and when all the markets are with detailed descriptions of each one. One he calls the “Mad Max” market because it’s in a dangerous neighborhood. I am told I must not wear high heals (I’m sure!) and bring a hat against the sun etc. Also inclosed is this most amazing photograph:

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I love that this guy is on top of the world, well dressed and pointing to some mysterious thing we will never know while certainly enjoying his own panoramic view! It was an envelope full of treasure and beyond beautiful.

Then some time passes and I receive an equally fantastic envelope from Brenda with this amazing postcard:

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Also enclosed was the kind of letter one would only hope to get from a good friend. It was warm, personal and full of substance. No mention of the weather and absolutely no small talk. Oh yes, and they both chose the most beautiful stamps like the ones featured on Blog header which were from Ricardo.

I was completely in love with my new friends 🙂 and they may not have known but I knew I would find a way to meet them one day! And I did….3 times in one year! First Mexico City, then Paris, then Oaxaca. Here we are having a picnic by the Seine.

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This is only an intro to Ricardo and Brenda. Our adventures will likely spill onto multiple future posts!

Merry memories of Millimallikas

In 2009 I took a month long epic journey for my 50th birthday to meet the first unmet friends. They were my pen pals and the story was published on the postcrossing blog postcrossing.com/blog/2009/08/04/a-postcrosser-european-tour Although the story was a bit long for the typical user spotlight post, it didn’t include many of the juicy details of the adventure. Therefore I’ve decided to flashback and extract some of these gems randomly from the archives.

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On September 6 2008 I received this excellent postcard from Loona in Tallinn, Estonia. I sent her a hearty thank you message which started a very amusing exchange of emails. In my user profile I had described myself as a person who loves to write and travel and collect antiques and drink martinis. These were not my only listed likes but they were the ones that Loona used to create the image in her head which made me just like Carrie from Sex in the City. I felt obliged to reveal my true self as a woman who does not wear high heels, fur coats or lots of make up and there is absolutely no martini drinking in penthouse apartments. I haven’t really watched many of the episodes or any of those movies but that is the image I have of Carrie’s lifestyle. Loona held fast to her image until finally saying something like “Well, I like Carrie and I like you, so whatever!”

We continued to exchange cards until I invited myself to visit and she said okay. She met me at the airport and for some reason it was super duper awkward for the first hour or so. Maybe it was because I was so NOT Carrie? (Just kidding!) Honestly, I think there is always a moment of shock when you are trying to process the person you’ve only known on paper to the real human standing before you. I do remember Loona walking up to me and saying “I’d know you anywhere” which was such a sweet thing to say. Anyway, the antidote to awkward was drinking beer and from then on we had great times! Beautiful and delicate looking, this woman could possibly drink a 200 pound guy under the table and walk a straight line while still speaking perfect english! Seriously, she was kind of my drinking super hero 🙂 as well as a gracious host and good friend.

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We hung out for 5 days, 3 in Tallinn and 2 on the island of Kihnu and there are several different stories I could tell but I choose Millimallikas at the Valli Baar. It is a famous working class dive bar from around 1969 where nothing has changed and no one would wish it so. If you google it you can watch lots of drunken youtube video of Americans drinking…apparently I was not the first but still I betcha Carrie has never stepped a stiletto heel into that establishment. The core patrons are crusty old timers but I’m sure it’s also attracting plenty of trendy hipsters these days. Here is the first thing I saw when I walked in the bar at around 5 pm:

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I don’t think this would fly in Chicago but at the Valli bar it was no biggie. Loona and I sat at the bar and she ordered us the beloved shot, Millimallikas or “Jelly Fish”. She told me that it was a secret recipe but now the potion is splattered all over the internet: Tequila, Sambuca and tabasco. Yum! I loved the spicy concoction. The bar tender was a no nonsense, make up your mind, don’t ask any stupid questions or any questions period kind of a guy. I’m sure the two passed out dudes at the end of the bar could have gotten a smile out of that guy but not me, no way. If Loona wasn’t there I would have slunk out after the first drink and that’s if I had the courage to order! I remember we sat there at the bar and tried to teach each other how to say tongue twisting words. Millimallikas is not exactly a twister but the more I drank the better I could say it! Loona struggled with the word “brewery” which ironically,  was harder for me to say slowly while thinking and drinking! Go figure.

From what I’ve read about this place, there are all kinds of interesting shenanigans happening on any given night. Accordion and guitar playing old Estonian and Russian folk music, sing alongs and once I even saw a film of two guys standing on their heads doing shots ( I think? Maybe I dreamed that) While we were there it was pretty tame with just crabby pants bar tender, passed out dudes and us but I could easily imagine it’s crazy potential. It was such a slice of something completely unique. Now that I am bar tending I could be the one to bring the Millimallikas to Chicago. Maybe that’s too grandiose an idea like trying to make myself sound all Christopher Columbus but I’ll wager that I would be the first to pour it at lizardsliquidlounge.com !

Is there life without Coffee and Cocktails?

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For as long as I can remember I have looked to coffee to fuel my inspiration and creativity. Each morning begins with the systematic march from bed, to bathroom to Espresso machine. The somewhat detailed brewing process is something I could probably do blind folded and with very little brain activity . Once or twice I have sprinkled cinnamon on steamed milk in mug, drank the whole thing forgetting to brew the espresso and thinking “Why does this taste so weak?”

I love coffee so much that it’s dysfunctional. It’s true. I am A Woman Who Loves….coffee too much. It would be just as hard to break up with coffee as with my boyfriend of ten years. I love the ritual of drinking it and writing postcards in the morning. I love the good conversation it seems to orchestrate when sitting and drinking it with a friend. I love the way the warm cup feels in my hands and I ALWAYS never want it to end. When it’s gone I know I must step forward into the day bravely, maintaining my buzz and making things happen.

Easier then quiting coffee and ditching the boyfriend would be giving up alcohol. As much as I know it’s wrong and even more dysfunctional to think that all the fun would leak out of life without : wine with dinner, beer at  ball games, mezcal in Mexico, martinis at lizardsliquidlounge.com or cocktails at  theviolethour.com I just can’t visualize this new spiritless existence.

There is one ray of hope and her name is Cassy Clark. Never mind her 10 (estimate) shots a day espresso habit or her (I’m afraid to ask) cigarette addiction. She does not drink anything alcoholic and she is one of the most fun friends I have ever known. But still, I can’t leach on to Cassy for every social waking moment. So many hilarious intoxicated moments would be lost to this thing called sobriety.

Then again there is that other thing called “Moderation”. That may eventually work but for now it needs to be cold turkey abstinence. Oh yah, and it’s not just coffee and alcohol. All kinds of new products have made it onto my grocery list with words like “Gluten Free” and “Flourless” while many others like cheese, milk, bread,  pasta and so much more are out.

I know. Now you’re starting to get depressed and be grateful that you’re not me. It is a dietary experiment and I may not need be doomed to a cheeseless life but it’s likely that coffee and cocktails are gonna be a done deal. You may ask why? The abbreviated gory details are: Something is inflaming my spine while disks are pinching, shoulders are frozen with numb and tingling arms while neck does not enjoy supporting my head,etc. All this plus nights of fun filled hot flashes that wake me every two hours.

Pain and no medical insurance has led me down this new dietary road. I  met a woman on a bicycle covered in artificial flowers.

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PS. I still have one bottle of wine and a weeks worth of coffee beans left but I wrote this as a kind of affirmation.