The (Mostly Comedic) Highlights: German Bangs & Dierks Do Europe 2016

July 22nd

Detroit, Michigan

We hit the tarmack and switched our phones from airplane mode to find text messages from concerned friends.  We glanced at one another confused, then back to the cell phone to discover news reports pronouncing something of a suspected terror attack that had been committed in Munich a few hours prior.  This happened to be the final destination of the flight we were preparing to board in about 20 short minutes.  We gathered what information we could from scanning the web: the shooting was being described as “acute” terror and three suspected gunmen were reportedly still on the loose, with a high-speed chase underway, and the entire city on lockdown.  Though these sorts of things sadly occur daily throughout the world, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the dull ache in the pit of my stomach resulting from the uncertainty that would accompany arriving blindly to a foreign city with potentially nowhere to go.

Nonetheless, after a quick conversation with a German woman at the gate, and few text exchanges with our mothers, we proceeded with our plans.
Twelve hours later, I had laced up my shoes, and was running through the city streets, soaking up the German sun, as I admired fresh produce carts and couples chatting over espresso and cigarettes on the sidewalk cafe.  All was business as usual in Munich.  It was difficult to fathom that a mere half day prior, the couple we’d spoken with at breakfast had been forbade by local Polizei from setting foot on these very streets.

 

July 23rd

Munich, Germany

I suppose someone once suggested getting to know a city by becoming lost in it; we will go ahead and pretend the like is why we did just that; all the while gawking at old brick buildings, adorned with flower boxes on the windows.  We walked and walked until we’d worn fresh blisters into our heels, finally arriving at the Hofbrauhaus for our first German meal.  This authentic beer hall was complete chaos, just as I’d hoped it to be: packed with locals, chants audible throughout, and smelling of liters of bier (and a hint of sweat).  After being advised the entire “wine system” was down (whatever that meant), watching Amelia work her way through a liter and a roast, and offering our struggling server a few words of encouragement on what we learned was his  first day on the job; we set off in search of some grapes.  The search came to a screeching halt, or perhaps a full sprint depending upon how you look at it, as the sky erupted with thunder and raindrops resulting in Storm #1.  Upon entry to the hotel bar, to enjoy some Riesling, Amelia assured me I looked decent.  Moments later, the bartender appeared with a stack of towels that he proceeded to offer me; my loyal travel companion burst into tears and admitted I was in fact, glistening.  The first of many moments I would be envious of that little black umbrella she’d stowed in her purse.

July 25th

Salzburg, Austria

After spending two hours locked in a train car with a dozen and a half elementary school aged Japanese girls, braiding one another’s hair and playing strange games, we hoisted our luggage onto the platform and hailed a taxi: Salzburg, Australia (as Amelia would accidentally proclaim it later that evening).  We stashed our bags in the hotel room, conveniently located in the heart of Aldstadt, and took our new friend Johannes’ advice.  What was originally described as a leisurely stroll up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress proved to be more of a hike.  My hair had long since transformed into Afro status in this 95% humidity and I was embracing it.  Our reward at the top: the most breathtaking view of this quaint city along the river, skirted by the majestic Austrian Alps.  We made our way through the castle, noticing a dark cloud rolling in overhead.  We determined it best to begin our journey back down, but did so far too late.  Halfway down the dirt (now mud) path, we were warned by a couple of British Scout Masters that we “ought wait it out”.  In the words of AD, “it’s officially our first Austrian storm!”

The showers seemed to slightly subside after about 15 minutes and we made a break for it, finding ourselves soaked from head to toe for the second time in three short days since arriving on this continent.  Exhausted and delirious, we forced ourselves to remain awake a few more hours, strolling through old cobblestone streets, taking selfies with Mozart and admiring, in the words of my friend Amelia, “a big ass fountain” and some “old shit”.  We stumbled into a cute little Italian place, where we discovered Austria was indeed a friend to the gluten frei.  I made it through dinner, but only after being ordered to excuse myself from the table and take a quick lap, to keep from drifting off while Amelia captured the European Pokemon.  We resorted back to the Goldener Hirsch where the Pokemon catcher herself, proceeded to break an entire cabinet of wine glasses, on a desperate hunt for the room service menu (which we later found hiding beaneath my bag), and finally allowed our heads to hit the pillow for some sleepytime.

July 27th 
Bavarian Alps

Two things we had forbidden ourselves from doing on this trip: referring to the train as the “douche bahn” and talking about Hitler.  On Wednesday morning, we visited his bunkers, not by means of the D-bahn, but instead, a tour bus guided by another new friend: Johanne.

We climbed to the peak and gazed into the alps, dressed in pockets of misty fog; the air was eerie. I crept to the tip-top in hope’s of securing the most jawdropping view, and was warned and threatened by Amelia that she was not about to push a wheelchair across the cobblestones should I fall and break something. From the nest, we made our way down, the steepest hill in all of Germany, to the quaint town of Bertschesgaden, which I’m referring to as the Aspen of Europe.  The evening concluded with our second official Austrian storm, when our relaxing champagne cocktail hour on the dock was quickly transformed into a refugee camp for the boat tour gone awry.  This trip is all about themes (in the event you have failed to notice), so of course the evening couldn’t end without broken glass #2, as I somehow managed to throw my champagne flute into Amelia’s lap.  Cue, sleepytime.

July 28th

Enkenbach, Germany

Train game was on point this day.  Around 6:45pm we arrived in the “infamous” Enkenbach, where my childhood neighbor Amy resides with her husband Marc, and three sons: Tobin, Jonah and Doren.  We followed Amy’s explicit directions asking us to exit the train platform and “follow the dirt path”.  A site, we were, as we stood with our luggage, staring down this path that appeared to lead nowhere, just in time for rain to begin: enter Storm #4 and that damn umbrella.  In the distance, I believed I saw two little blonde heads.  It had been at least three years since last visiting Toby and Jonah; highly unlikely either would recognize me.  At any rate, I waved; they waved back and came darting toward us in their superhero costumes – to the rescue!  In less than two minutes, we had arrived at the Holt Haus, where cousin Shawn was also taking up residence for a couple of nights.  After a home cooked meal of beef stew, and a few lessons in German, Amy put the boys to sleep, while Shawn, Amelia and I headed to our favorite corner gas station, for a few bottles of wine.

The next three days would be spent throwing the football with Toby, watching Jonah make out with his ice cream, and unsuccessfully attempting to make Doren laugh.  We would also pay a visit to Gartenschau in Kaiserslautern; this wonderful concept in Germany where kids can play at the park, while their parents drink beer.  On our final night, I proposed that Amy should ditch her plans for momcation at the spa in Baden Baden and join us in Switzerland for a girl’s weekend. A hard sell that was(not).

July 31st

Zurich, Switzerland

We said our goodbyes and left the boys in Daddy Daycare (aka under the supervision of Marc and Shawn) and made a bee-line for Swiss Country.  We climbed the staircase from the underground platform at Zurich HBF to find ourselves in, wait for it, Storm #5, and surely, our heaviest rainfall to date.  The three of us searched for signs of the street car through muddled vision, before, concluding, “bye felisha, let’s get a taxi”.  Five kilometers and fifty francs later, we arrived at the Sheraton Zurich, with our (unannounced) third guest, and were disappointed to learn that no larger rooms were available.  Being the resourceful women (we claim to be) we pushed the two twins beds together, to form one giant bed. I slept in the crack for two nights; fearful I’d slip through to the floor each time either Amy or Amelia stirred (but never did).

My German phone flashed with Manuel’s instructions to “meet under the big fat ugly angel, next to the clock”.  The three of us glanced up, smiled, and found ourselves in agreement with his description.  We proceeded to tour the city alongside our Swiss friends, which included Manuel’s entire clan: his wife Corinna, his three-year-old daughter, Lavinia and his nine-month-old son, Keanu.  We saw the sights, and enjoyed the occasional moments of comedic relief from Lavinia randomly undressing herself in public and being ejected from the stroller.  We ended the day with a scenic train and small climb to Utilberg, the top of Zurich.  The lake glistened and the green stretched for miles.  We sat for a few moments to absorb it all before heading to the park.  Never one to pass up the fun, I climbed into the swing.  My hips didn’t quite fit into the seat the way I remembered them to, but nonetheless, I pumped my legs back and forth, rising into the air and enjoying the simple pleasures of childhood alongside my new little friends.  By now, nearly sunset; we opted to make our way back into town to consume more things covered in cheese.

Our final day in Switzerland proved to be among the greatest, as we headed to Europe’s largest waterfall, gently perched along the Rhine River.  We shared stories, and sips with Manuel, and apologized for not coming equipped with Gulfstream G6.  We threatened to never return home, but alas, said our farewells, and made our way back to the hotel to pack up our things.  It was at this point that I discovered I’d lost my American sim card, and Amelia proclaimed that I would forever remain “German Bangs”.

 

13770335_10154387704646532_7813544957436113241_n

 

 

Smells Like Summer

Yesterday morning I awoke to raindrops and grey sky. Memorial Day weekend — it didn’t seem so.

Around 9:00pm I drove.  I ended up near the water, somewhere in Ballard.  The setting sun had lured me.

I parked my car, first, and then my behind, in the sand.  I adjusted the bill of my hat, kicked off my slippahs, hugged my knees tight to my chest, and stared.

Before long, I was studying.

Shadows draped themselves across far-away mountains, more aggressively with each passing minute.  An endless soft blue was blended perfectly into a bold streak of orange and melting into the horizon.  The water, like stained glass, glistened with impressions of yellow, disturbed only by the ripples of skipping rocks; a movement which could be traced to the distant silhouette of a man. Back on shore, flames erupted from pits and smoke dissipated into the surrounding air.

I shut my eyes and inhaled a breath of sooty bonfire, feeling that simultaneously, a giant smirk had crept across the lower half of my face.

I felt good. Really good.

A bit of nostalgia, I suppose; for a time when Summer was not merely a season, but a way of life.  This scene was home.

I relished in it for a minute or two before opening my eyes and hoisting myself from the ground.

A moment of familiarity was just enough.

ballard

 

 

 

For Mom, on Mother’s Day.

A few years back, my mother told me a story about one of the first dates she went on with dad.  She was a college freshman at the University of Houston, and they had planned to meet at the intramural fields early one morning.  Mom awoke hungry, and consulted her mini-fridge, only to find the options slim.  In an effort to quickly satisfy her need for sustenance, she reached for a cold beer.  I’ve never asked this of my father, but can only imagine him to be startled (or perhaps intrigued) upon sighting this raven-haired beauty, strutting toward him, early morning brew in hand, as if it was perfectly standard behavior.

I’ve come to refer to this story as the time mom had a beer for breakfastI love it so much, because it says nothing and everything about her, all at the same time.

My mother is sassy and stubborn – a lethal combination if you ask me.  A known hell-raiser, who puts her efforts to good use, has something to say about everything, and never falls short of proving a point. Insanely intelligent; “Em’s mom” was known among childhood friends as the human encyclopedia.  To this day, she’s the only person I know who finds pleasure in dissecting electronics, simply for the sake of understanding the reassembly process. To deem her independent would be an understatement of the highest degree.  Aside from tending to the family automobiles; she’s always operated under the “do it myself” motto.  A master of mending wounds, both of physical and emotional nature; she’s prevented many an emergency room visit. She’s everyone’s rock, executing daily with grace under pressure, detouring the anxious from fear and worry. Rarely on-time for anything, she’ll always make time for those she loves. Her seemingly serious exterior (or RBF) does not overshadow her giant, genuine heart.  She lives without regret, and hasn’t for a moment, refrained from setting goals and chasing dreams (not even after thirty years of managing the chaos that accompanies raising four children).

Often, people tell me I remind them of her.  When they do, I like to to picture her on that day in ninety-seventy-something; a young version of the awe-inspiring bad-ass I now call Mom.  Truth be told, there’s no individual I’d rather exemplify.

To the most incredible woman I know – I love you, Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day.

mom.jpg

The Difference A Year Makes II

Two-thousand-fifteen.

It was a warm, sticky night in Napili.  I gazed out from the lanai, nervously running my fingers through a humidity-induced afro, as I contemplated the prospect of moving to Seattle.  Much of the concept scared me: departing a job I’d accepted a mere eighteen months prior, bidding aloha to friends I’ve come to consider family, and a place I’ve come to call home.  I babbled to my mother for quite some time through the phone before she piped in.  Although she understood my reservations, she left me with the handful of words needed to bring me to a decision:

“You’re kind of a risk taker.”

Four weeks later, I disembarked the plane at SeaTac to find my name scribbled on the back of a Cheerios box, and a familiar face peering out from behind it.  Randy and I proceeded to drag my five, hardly mobile, suitcases across the Skybridge.

Just like that — Seattle was home.

Shortly thereafter, I traded my bikini for hiking boots, and my beach tote for a Columbia backpack.  I mastered the art of riding public transportation (after a few mishaps landing me in less than desirable parts of town).  I gladly welcomed grey skies and relentless precipitation in place of cockroaches and centipedes.  I cultivated an interest in gluten free beers, and dining establishments that offered me anything other than salad (#luckywelivehawaii).  I shed my tanlines, along with a couple of dress sizes.  I grew to accept the fact that my trucker hats were not “cool” in the state of Washington, and that Lululemon tights did not suffice as cold weather gear.  I discerned that I had once again, found myself in good company.  I made a conscious effort to find the good in all things, and did so (most of the time).

I ask myself once again, what difference does a year make?

In my opinion, a heightened sense of adventure, a surer sense of self, a more thorough understanding of what makes the good people great, and how to go about surrounding myself with them.

I suppose, as it pertains to 2015, I’m a believer that “if it scares you, it might be a good idea to try” (Godin).

12313521_10105680360718481_6387571347187864826_n

Boys On The Bus

A few weeks back, my friend James proposed that I should start, talking to guys on the bus.  According to him, it’s the place to meet eligible bachelors.  As much as I valued the unsolicited dating advice, I wasn’t about to go searching for my future soulmate on the D-Line.

I remembered this and chuckled to myself during tonight’s commute, as I allowed my eyes to drift up and down the rows, studying the cast of characters.

If there is one thing that I’ve gathered, surrounding the collective group of “folks who ride the bus”, it is that they come in all shapes, sizes, ages, outfits (or lack thereof), scents, sounds, and of course, varying levels of sanity.  This statement was certainly alive and well among the Monday evening crew of passengers.

I stopped my gaze at the group of twenty-somethings seated directly across from me.  Although the six were fully clothed, unaccompanied by any noticeable odor, and kept to themselves; they caught my eye.

Why?

Because every single damn one of them was knee-deep in their cell phone, so much so, had I stripped down naked and started screaming racial slurs, they likely would have failed to notice.  (To be fair – this could very well occur on any given day aboard the D-Line).  

I grew sad as I realized the present moment was being lost right before my eyes, to a virtual reality contained within six inches of plastic.

Undeniably, we all seem to spend more time worrying about what’s happened, or what’s to come, that we fail to stop and actually live, anymore.

If this wasn’t Exhibit A — I can’t be certain what is.

The only logical solution, I concluded: to hold myself accountable; to be present.

In doing so, I’ve opted to reserve those thirty minutes each day spent aboard the shitshow that is the Metro Bus, where I’ll refrain from responding to text messages, placing phone calls, reviewing emails,  or logging into Facebook to discover that yet another college friend is pregnant, or engaged, or buying a house (no offense guys).

Instead, I’ll simply sit and stare, absorbing the crazy that is unfolding around me, enjoying it for every ounce that it’s worth, in believing that “real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present” (Camus).

 

317576_10100861875157171_1465394851_n

 

 

Road to Nowhere

12208642_10153756062496532_6528307965804642353_nThis weekend, after finishing what felt like a marathon of a month at work, I was determined to (make an attempt) at clearing my head of the stresses that accompany my daily hustle and bustle.  I’d been hearing all sorts of buzz about “meditation”, namely from my sister, who just began her new job at the Chopra Center.

Last night, I crawled into my bed and laid flat underneath the comforter, arms at my side, determined to give it a try.

With no professional instruction whatsoever, I closed my eyes and inhaled.  I attempted to think of nothing other than the rise and fall of my chest.  A second later, I was bombarded with the fear that I had forgotten to lock the front door of my apartment.  I silenced the worry.  Before long, I was creating a mental reminder to send an email to my client in the morning.  I brought it to a hault, but only for moment, as I caught myself generating a grocery list for the week.

Why was it so difficult to rid myself of every thought?

I retired to the fact that I wasn’t about to accomplish anything and drifted off to sleep.

About 11:00am this morning I walked to my car with the intention of visiting my favorite gluten free bakery for a bite.  For whatever reason, I opted to forgo the breakfast pastry and merge onto the five instead.

I wasn’t quite sure where I was headed.  Impulsively, I chose a route unfamiliar, and forged East.

I took a few sips of my coffee, as I pressed through the stop and go.  Slowly, traffic began to ease up.

As I entered into the Snoqualmie Pass, I found myself eyeballing the abundance of Evergreens lining the highway.  I enjoyed the occasional speck of yellow, and pockets of red.  I gazed loosely as the gusts of wind sent Fall leaves into a flurry.  In the distance, thick clouds were rolling through the mountains.

Before long, I wasn’t thinking about anything, other than that was directly in front of my face.

A downpour surfaced out of thin air.  All that could be seen through the wipers racing feverishly across my windshield were the drops of water bouncing off the asphalt, three feet in front of the hood of my car.  The sky was dark.  I gripped the steering wheel, focusing intently on the painted white lines along the road to guide me.

After some time, the pavement had dried, and the surroundings were once again visible. The sun began to peek through dark grey clouds.  A streak of blue sky, long forgotten, was resting on the horizon.  The sea of green had been replaced by stretches of brown and a scattering of windmills.

As the time passed, the canvas of sky became adorned with splashes of purple and puffs of milky white.

There was something so incredibly soothing about being alone on the road with no destination in mind.

I trekked on like this for a few good hours.

I was about 100 miles West of Spokane when the sun began to disappear.  I decided I’d had enough.

It suddenly occurred to me that my stomach was growling.  I took the nearest exit to who the hell knows where, and pulled into the parking lot of Dairy Queen. Although it was thirty-nine degrees outside, I selected a chocolate milkshake.  I hopped back into my little white Civic, cranked up the heat, and proceeded to follow the signs leading back to Seattle.

Tomorrow, I will return to a voicemailbox full of, “I need this yesterdays”.  I’ll spend the day making unhappy people happy again, and prevent the ones who are not angry from becoming it.

But, I’ll be ready for it.

I may suck at meditation; but I suppose, sometimes all you need is a little ride on the road to nowhere, and absolutely nothing, to get your mind right.

Greeting Cards from Grandma

I’m a fan of greeting cards.

I save them, and hang them on a string on the wall in my apartment.

I enjoy sending them, even more so than receiving them.

I suppose I inherited this facet of my personality from my Grandmother.

Tonight, I pulled the collection of cards down from the wall.  I sat on my living room floor and sifted through the sea of colorful paper.

I reached for one; the cover, deep green.  It featured three peanut cartoon characters with word bubbles over their heads.  The inscription inside: “Thought you might want some complimentary nuts to go with your birthday celebration!”  I laughed.

I shifted my gaze to the cursive scribbles at the bottom of the page.  My eyes welled as I began to read:

“I’m the biggest nut.  I’ve thought about you and the good times we’ve had together.  I treasure those memories.  You are special – I’m just slow.  Love you, Grandma”

I remember the day perfectly.  It was about two weeks past my twenty-fifth birthday.  The card was late.  That didn’t matter to me.  I was sitting in my office in Maui, after just hanging up the phone with a disgruntled mother-of-the-bride, when Simone walked in with the envelope.  The note made me laugh, first.  The smile grew as I remembered the summers in her backyard growing up, and the long conversations in her living room during my college years.  At the conclusion of sixty seconds, a tear had crept out of the corner of my eye, as yet again, she hadn’t failed to remind me how “amazing” and “special” I am.

A year and a half later, the card has the same effect.

I pressed onward through the pile, reliving the memories; recalling exactly where I was, and how I felt.

Finally, the carpet was visible again.  I’d seen them all.

That’s when it hit me.  I had received my last card from Grandma.

I thought about how I might experience an emptiness come every birthday, and every Christmas; or maybe even each time I passed the Hallmark aisle in Target.

Instead, I quickly realized that the reason I love greeting cards, is because they remind me of Grandma.  And I realized that instead of symbolizing what I’ve lost, they should allow me to appreciate all that I was given.

IMG_0248