A Prince Moment

Photo via imdb.com

If you are like me, your social feeds — and your mind — blew up on April 21. It was the unbelievable, no-fucking-way day that Prince died.

Everyone over the age of 30 — hell, everyone period — should have a Prince story. A moment in time that transcended from good to EPIC simply because someone, somewhere had the wisdom to throw on some Prince jams.

Perhaps the best tribute came from fellow Twin Cities native son, Paul Westerberg of that scruffy bunch of nerf herders called the Replacements. Westerberg simply wrote, “I Can’t Think of Anyone Better.”

My first recollection of seeing him was a dress rehearsal for one of his early tours. I was next to another musician, a couple other guys that were up-and-comers and that thought they were hot shit, and we were watching Prince. The guy turned to me and said, “I’m fucking embarrassed to be alive.” And that’s how I felt. He was so good. It was like, “What are we doing? This guy is, like, on a different planet than we are.” — Westerberg

 

After reading this essay, I sat and tried to think of one modern-era musician who was/is better than Prince. I can think of no one. Not Dylan. Not Lennon/McCartney, not Jagger/Richards. Not even David Bowie. Prince was all those guys plus James Brown, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix turned up way over 11.

There is no one who had/has Prince’s level of musicianship, composition skills, creativity, style and just the right amount of cray-cray to push a person’s boundaries and buttons. He was transcendent. And every moment Prince touched? It suddenly and magically became transcendent, too.

I was lucky enough to see Prince twice — one was a “secret” late-night show in Vegas at the MGM Grand. I had heard from other musicians in Minneapolis that Prince would often “just show up” late at night at random bars throughout the Twin Cities and start jamming. He also did this everywhere he would travel. And Prince jams. And jams. And jams. He played for like three hours that night. I was astounded by his energy level. But also…

Image via Wikipedia

His guitar playing. I don’t think many people realize what an incredible guitarist he was. I’ve never seen anyone play the way Prince did, and still move around the stage and dance like it was nothing.

“You people want hits? I’ll tear this place down,” Prince yelled during his show at the Rio in Las Vegas during his 3121 residency. “I got too many hits!”

Every musician I’ve ever interviewed? They are completely in awe of his mad skills not only on the guitar but on every instrument.

Ever have a moment that seemed to transcend all space and time and awesomeness because of Prince? That is a Prince moment. Here are a few of mine:

– My trifecta of ’80s top albums goes back to the Big Three, brought to our small, rural farmhouse thanks to the Columbia Record and Tape Club. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and Prince’s “Purple Rain” fueled many impromptu living room dance parties, but no record felt as fun and delightfully bad as Prince. We didn’t know exactly what it all meant — we were in grade school — but we knew it was naughty and pissed off our parents. And we liked it.

Image via imdb.com

– When I still lived in Iowa, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we were out for the night and ended up at this fan-fucking-tastic gay dive bar. It was karaoke night, and we got on stage and did a bring-the-house-down version of “I Would Die 4 U.” Apparently, we also made enough tip money to go out for breakfast. I can’t remember what we had, but ideally, I would like to say it was pancakes. Prince would’ve wanted it that way.

– Speaking of karaoke, the Best Karaoke Performance I ever saw goes to an unknown transgender woman at Carol’s in Uptown, another stellar dive bar on the North Side of Chicago. This performer gave it her all on “Purple Rain,” belting out the long ending with the “Woo, woo, woo woos,” right on time and on key and killed it, which is saying something with Carol’s motley crew of old-timers, cowboys, rednecks, bluesmen, hookers, politicians, hipsters, you name it. Truly a drop-the-mic performance if I ever saw one.

– I can’t even count how many rocket-queen party nights in Brooklyn were powered by Prince. One particular evening, I remember smoking on my stoop and watching a little kid, maybe 6 or 7, doing sweet moves on this little electric motorbike to Prince! Back and forth he would zip on his bike, standing on the seat, standing on the handlebars, doing gymnastics, to his little radio that was blasting Prince. I was like, “Damn, that has got to be the coolest kid who ever lived.” The coolest kid since Prince was young anyway.

So, there you have it. Transcendent moments in life brought to you by Prince. I’m sure there will hopefully be dozens, hundreds, thousands more. Sure, he would’ve been the guy who recorded 30, 40, 100 more albums, and toured until they were rolling him on and off the stage. But sadly, we have what we have. And what we have is really so very damn much.

10 things that are better in Southeast Asia

Traveling is a superb way to try on what life might be like somewhere else. And like everything else in life, some aspects are better than others. Here are a few things that Southeast Asia does better than the U.S.

1. Mosquito repellent. Several years ago while traveling in Jamaica, I needed bug repellent, but all I could find was Johnson’s Baby mosquito lotion. I bought it figuring, “If it works for babies, why wouldn’t it work for adults?”

Guess what. It does. Better even. It smells great and has a light, non-greasy texture. I loved it, and when I brought it back to the States, my friends at the beach, barbecues and other outdoor shenanigans loved it, too.

I don’t know why our mosquito repellent is so awful — that chemically, greasy, strip-your-skin-off stuff that prevails in most American drugstores — but it is. Maybe it’s because these fancy-pants mosquito repellents have banned chemicals that give kids ADHD, but I could not have been more thrilled when I found Johnson’s delightful little green bottle of baby mosquito repellent in Thailand.

Other countries, like Vietnam and Indonesia, had their own awesome versions, too. In fact, I bought one in Vietnam called Remos thinking it was a light moisturizer and didn’t even realize what it was until it started burning my face off. Mistake noted, it ended up being a great repellent when used properly.

The aloe is deceptive but this is one hell of a repellent.

2. Natural food. Food is pretty much harvested, taken to market and served in a pretty tight timeline. When you’re sucking down coconut milk served from a coconut(!!!) for 50 cents and eating fresh pineapple, your digestion system starts to thank you for giving it a reprieve from all the preservatives, chemicals, hormones and nonsense we pump into ourselves in the States — even if we try to avoid it.

Delicious and nutritious.

3. Outdoor showers. Nothing beats washing off a day of saltwater, sunscreen and sweat than an outdoor shower. It’s a luxury every warm-weather place in the U.S. should have. Plus, you can hose your kids and dogs off outside. What’s better than that? 

4. 4G in Thailand. When I popped my SIM card in and fired up my Thai 4G I was blown away by the almost instantaneous speed. America, we got a lot of catching up to do.

5. Paper face masks. They sell these paper face masks in practically every convenience store throughout SE Asia. Having a grimy day? Get too much sun? No worries. For about a buck, you can put on one of these masks that make you look like Jason from “Friday the 13th” for 15 to 20 minutes for a little skin-saving treat. I can’t wait until I can buy one of these things alongside a pack of gum and Lotto tickets here.

Once you get over looking like a 'Friday the 13th' extra, these face masks are awesome.

6. The idea that you don’t need to work all the time. While it might seem counterintuitive to the way Westerners have been programmed, businesses tend to open and close when the owners feel like it. Are they leaving some potential cash on the table? Sure. But they probably see their friends and family more.

7. Cheap massages. Amazing. $12-$20. Once-a-week treats isn’t unheard of even for the locals. Be sure to tip the practitioner a lot.

8. Cheap food. No meal was over $6 in Vietnam. And believe me, I tried.

9. Little hand-held spray hoses by every toilet. This should be self-explanatory.

10. The “it’s all gonna be all right” mentality. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But stressing out about stuff doesn’t help anything.

Walking into your room to these? Excellent.

Scuba diving, a love story

If you’ve ever been on your hands and knees on the upper deck of a rollicking boat, wiping up your own banana-chunked vomit with a sarong, then this story is for you.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.

I have a love/hate relationship with scuba diving. Unlike its sexier cousin, surfing, I never had any strong desire to scuba dive, and it certainly doesn’t hold the appeal of the rush you get when you catch an awesome wave.

To surfing’s “great kisser, fast guy on a motorcycle vibe,” scuba diving is like hanging out with a cute nerd who can add some awesome new features to your computer — you don’t want to see or care about how he got there, but damn, sometimes the results are great. But most of the time it’s boring. And you just want to see some cool shit and get out of the water.

Besides, I learned how to scuba dive with my ex, and it was always more his thing. In fact, he still loves it and even goes cold-water diving in the Pacific Northwest. There’s only one reason to go diving in murky, unfavorably cold waters as far as I’m concerned, and it better involve looking for a body.

So how did I find myself on a live-aboard dive boat in the Indian Ocean?

Well, as Virginia is for lovers, Thailand is for divers.  I am certified and there is supposed to be world-class diving, so I figured why the heck not? I’m here. I got my Padi dive card itching to get out. I need the practice. Let’s do this.

Originally, I had planned to dive the gulf side by the island of Ko Tao, but a diver friend said that the west side on the Andaman Sea was much better. This was an opinion that was supported by several other experienced divers I met (including my dive master on the boat who’s taught in both places). However, if you want to dive the Andaman Sea, you pretty much have to sign up for a live-aboard dive trip since the islands you dive around, the Similan Islands, are about 60 kilometers off the coast.

I’d never been on a live-aboard before, but since I have plenty of experience on boats and have never once experienced sea or motion sickness, I figured I could handle anything for three days. So I happily signed up for a dive shop that came recommended and looked like they had the nicest boats online.

Right before — and I mean literally 30 minutes before — I was to be picked up for my live-aboard dive boat experience, I was polishing off an espresso and had that dreaded feeling. That “uh-oh, I don’t feel so hot” feeling. At first I thought it was heat and dehydration, so I drank more water, popped a Pepto and did a power lap in the pool.

After the driver took me to the dive shop, I was breaking out in feverish sweats, and I realized I was getting full-on sick. I was met at the dive shop by Mark* (not his real name), a stern-looking, serious, blonde, tattooed German with those disgusting gauge ear piercings that make your earholes really big. On a side note, I would like to know why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to get these. When you want to take them out one day, and you probably will, you then have these huge gaping holes where your earlobes used to be. Nothing is a bigger boner killer than looking at the sad, saggy lobes of an ear that once was. 

“So, it says here that you’re open water certified,” he said. “You won’t be able to do any of the dives on this trip since most dives are around 30 meters, and you need deep water certification. But you can get certified on this trip for only 8,300 bhat (that’s about $230).”

“Ugh, classes,” I say, sweating and nauseous. The thought of taking more diving “courses” even when I’m feeling well would piss me off good, but when I’m sitting there with a fever trying to quell down the vomit train, it was enough to make me want to cut a bitch.

The dive “courses,” btw, are tedious. When you get open water certified, you basically have to take your equipment off and on a million times, and do a bunch of underwater drills. It’s important because it teaches you what to do if things go awry — and they will go awry — but it is a real pain. And I hate anyone messing with my mask and my eyes since I wear contacts and can barely see. It’s my thing. Knock my respirator, aka air, out, the one thing that keeps you alive underwater, and I’m like “no biggie.” Get a little water in my mask? I freak the fuck out like Kanye West at an awards show.

The thing is, Mark, who I later dubbed “Neo Nazi,” was quite adamant about following the regulations, which breaks all the “fast and loose cowboy rules” I’ve enjoyed with former shops, where if the dive master wanders past 20 meters you don’t spontaneously combust and die.

“Well, you won’t be able to do any of the deeper dives, and you’ll miss all the cool stuff and the fun,” Neo Nazi says.

“I’m too sick to make this decision right now,” I said. “I’ll tell you later.” Which was entirely true since I’d already told Neo Nazi that I wasn’t feeling well when I arrived.

From the get-go this dive shop really pissed me off. Not only was I sternly told that I was to be ready for pick up at 6 p.m., which I was. But guess what happened next? I spent the better part of the next three hours at the dive shop waiting for the other passengers to show up and watching a completely disorganized staff try to corral the ensuing chaos.

I also watched the dive shop employee at the counter try to up-sell every single person who came in on buying something else they didn’t need, especially Nitrox. Man, did he ever want you to get your Nitrox certification.

And then he refused to refill my water bottle and told me to go buy a bottle next door.

“I’m a paying customer who’s diving with you for the next three days and have been waiting here two hours,” I said, red-faced with clumps of vomit-streaked hair sticking to my face. “I know you have a water station back there somewhere. Refill my water bottle.”

They refilled my water bottle.

The dive shop also housed a frying station where they were deep-frying everything. Dive instructors and van drivers were chain-smoking cigarettes like, well, like everyone smokes in Thailand, and waiting vans and cars were pumping exhaust fumes into the shop, burning petrol like a Saudi Prince on spring break. All in 90-plus degree heat.

If you ever wanted to know what Hell’s waiting room looks/smells like, you’re welcome.

Fried food. Cigarettes. Car exhaust. I was in that filthy dive shop bathroom throwing up every 15 minutes. 

By the time we got to that fucking boat, it was probably close to 10 p.m. A shattered shell of a human being, I just needed to lie down. It took every ounce of energy I had not to throw up on the van ride there.

“Ok everyone gather on the main deck for the dive boat briefing,” Neo Nazi said.

“Is it Ok if I just go lie down and get the briefing later?” I asked.

He looked at me like I was insane. “No, it is very important safety information.”

I think I just stood there, blinking. After a few minutes, he finally relented, sighed and said, “Ok, you can go to your cabin.”

Now, I realize that boats are very small spaces, and I’ve been on many, and in no way was I expecting luxury accommodations, but when another very nice dive master/crew mate started leading me down to the lower deck, and then headed for the ladder one deck lower than that, I realized I was fucked. Totally fucked.

In other words, this is where they put all the poorest people on the Titanic, who subsequently were trapped below and drowned to death.

She opened the door to a tiny, airless, windowless cabin in the bottom of the hull, with four bunks, humming and vibrating with the sound of the engine.

Oh, HELL NO, I thought.

“Is there a bathroom on this level?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“Is there another cabin with a window open?” I asked.

“Let me go check,” she said.

I’ll let you guess if there was a cabin with a window available.

At this point, I just needed fresh air. I’d been puking for about five hours, and it was just painful dry heaves at this point, and I couldn’t even keep water down. After a few minutes in the tiny, airless cabin and after my last bout of dry heaving into a plastic bag, I headed for the upper deck.

“Oh, great, you’re up. Now you can get the safety briefing,” Neo Nazi says.

Do you want to know what the oh-so-important boat briefing was? “Write down what you take out of the mini-fridge, like beer or candy bars, here on this clipboard so we can bill you after the trip.” Oh, and don’t fall off the boat. Because they will never, ever find you in the Indian Ocean.

At this point Neo Nazi points to my plastic barf bag and tells me not to spill any vomit on the deck. I realized I would be getting zero empathy out of Neo Nazi. Ever.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I think I have food poisoning,” I said, vowing to never eat prawns again.

“There’s a virus going around Thailand,” he tells me. “I had it a week or so ago. We had a boat with 12 passengers who had it. It will pass in 24 hours. You’ll be fine.”

The thought of returning to my hellhole below sounded awful. But the main deck had a big day bed, and I spread out on that sucker, the sea air actually doing me good. Turns out, that day bed was also one of the Thai cooks slept (when you travel in developing nations on boats, much of the crew sacks out wherever they can while the guests sleep in their cabins. They don’t even get rooms. Tip generously to these hardworking folk.) She was super nice, asked me how I was, got me a blanket and some water. So it was me and this Thai lady on the day bed for the night. I will forever be grateful that she let me sleep there, remember those little acts of kindness and regard that woman as my own personal savior that night.

The next morning, I met the dive master of my group, a jovial American named Matt. I swear, if I hadn’t been assigned to Matt’s group, I would’ve chucked myself overboard.

Matt was the anti-Neo Nazi, in other words. He asked how you were doing, if you needed anything, you know, like a decent human being.

I pulled it together enough to do two dives that day. But in between the last dive and the night dive, we got some bad news.

“So, the wind is really bad here and where we’re going, so we have to change course,” I heard Neo Nazi tell the group. “So that means we are going to be moving. It will take another three or four hours to get to where we’re going, in probably 3 or 4 meters (9 to 12 feet) of chop, so it’s going to be a little bit of a rough ride.”

I could feel the illness creeping back, but I could not go back to my tiny room. With my handy day bed already claimed by other bodies, the only place to lie down was the top deck, which only had a few mats and partial cover from the sun.

At one point, curled up trying to get out of the sun, and after a few hours of the boat churning through this surf, I started to feel ill again. Then, it came on fast and furious. I was gonna barf and there was no way around it.

Problem was the bathrooms were two decks down. Two very steep, precarious ladder climbs in even the best of conditions, let alone a boat rollicking through 9-12 foot waves.

Fuck me. I knew there was no way to make it to the bathrooms without either A) falling down the ladders and killing myself, or B) not being able to make it and therefore vomiting in front of everyone hanging out on the main deck below me.

Frantically, I looked around the top deck. Not so much as a bucket or a trash can. I looked around the railing, factoring in what would be the best possible position to hurl from — front or back, starboard or port? (that’s fancy fucking boat talk.) I decided, with the wind factor, that the back would be best and to try and projectile it enough so it would move away from the boat.

I don’t think anyone has put as much thought into vomiting as I did on that fateful day in Thailand. Then I let it fly.

After a few heaves, silently hoping that no one below would look up and see a bunch of puke flying by from the top deck — a ridiculous wish, like shitting your pants on the subway and hoping nobody will notice (I’ve not done this btw, it’s just an example) — I hear from below:

“Molly, if you’re going to be sick, go to the lower deck,” Neo Nazi said.

Wow, like that thought NEVER crossed my mind.

Two other guests unfortunate enough to witness my puke fest asked me if I needed help or was OK. It was then I looked at the few chunks on the deck and on the rail and began to wipe it up with my clothes since I had nothing else. I then retreated to my cabin to lie down like an injured animal waiting to die.

The good news? Neo Nazi was right. The virus did pass in a day, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t food poisoning since all I did was puke my lungs out. Thank goodness for small favors. The only thing worse than puking on a boat nonstop would be shitting and puking on a boat nonstop.

Since I was doing all the dives anyway, I figured I’d go ahead and get my Advance certification, which means that now I’m totally badass, or at least half badass, when it comes to diving, and I can roll up anywhere and do your stupid deep/wreck dive and no Neo Nazi will ever tell me differently again.

Here are a few other takeaways from my live-aboard dive experience:

I went from Never Fucking Again and vowing to quit scuba diving altogether at one point, to having a good time and doing some great dives.

I realized that Neo Nazi was in charge of keeping 20 divers from across the globe and his crew and boat safe, on schedule and so on. That’s a hard job for anyone. But damn, did he not have the disposition of a leader. He was certainly “business polite,” but his commanding tone and the way he presented info, like this dive trip was some sort of Navy Seal mission instead of a holiday, continued to annoy me. I also saw him be passive aggressive and condescending to his crew mate Matt in front of us so it only sealed my opinion that the guy was just an asshole to everyone.

Buddhists say that you are confronted with people/things that bring up your own weaknesses so that you might learn from them. I’m taking away that Neo Nazi was there to make me strive to be a more compassionate, patient and understanding person, especially to those who are down and out.

I still like surfing more.

I will never do a live-aboard with a bunch of strangers again. Now chartering a boat with some cool diver friends? That’s a completely different matter.

The End. 

Stuck in the Middle

“Where are all the people my age?”

“They’re breeding,” a travel friend told me in Vietnam.

Hello! After quite a long hiatus when a shit-ton of life stuff has happened (you’ll get filled in on the details here and there throughout these coming posts), I decided to take the Trip of a Lifetime, or the trip of at least of my midlife crisis, and spend at least three months traveling Southeast Asia.

If you are now rolling your eyes and thinking that I am on my Elizabeth Gilbert ‘Eat, Love, Pray’ Spirit Quest, you can quit imagining that right now. Here are the main differences between Liz’s journey and mine.

I will preface this by saying that I have interviewed Ms. Gilbert about her subsequent book on marriage, and she is one of the most delightful human beings on the planet. Really. So take issue with her writing however you like, but damn, is she a nice, humble person. Just watch one of her TED talks if you don’t believe me.

That said, my journey did not start like this:

Me: “I need a $200,000 advance so I can travel the world on my quest to get fat on awesome food, flirt w/ strangers, achieve enlightenment in a few short months and end the whole shebang by finding the love of my life!”

Book Agent: “Go fuck yourself.”

I’m kidding! I don’t even have a book agent!

My Spirit Journey was financed 100 percent by me. And the hundreds of Airbnb people who paid me to stay in my extra bedroom. I scrubbed my guest toilet for what felt like 1,000 times, wrote what felt like a bazillion blog posts, case studies, Google ads and a whole river of other piecemeal work trying to finance this little sojourn.

So, after the end of 2015, I closed up shop, put everything in storage, quit all my jobs and headed out.

Traveling is quite like a relationship — the first few weeks are glorious! Everything is new! Everything is special and for the Very First Time! Wee!

We all should know what begins to happen next.

Realities start to creep in. For example, I just changed locales yet again, and every time you do this, there’s this emotional dip, like ‘oh, what now?’ that comes with getting the grasp of the new lay of the land. It’s not a big deal, but a few weeks of this can become a little emotionally tiring.

I feel like this might be the equivalent of the “Oh, you again,” look you give/get at breakfast. Or when you ask your significant other how their day was, and they start in with the same tired bullshit of office politics, wasted time in meetings and issues with management. Which is probably a huge reason why I don’t work in an office anymore.

Look, travel is wonderful and glorious and opens you up and makes you be so super self-sufficient — something I’ve spent a lifetime proving and finally realized on this trip, “You know what? I don’t need to fucking prove how self-sufficient I am anymore.” If they gave awards out for being self-sufficient, I would be the Leonardo fucking DiCaprio of self-sufficiency right about now.

That’s when I let the 20-year-old surf guy assigned to me for the day in a strong current drag me behind him. Fuck it. I have nothing left to prove. Especially in heavy surf. Let the kid drag me.

This is a long round-about way of getting to my above point about traveling in middle life — it’s fucking lonely out here. No one — and I mean hardly anyone — travels in middle age. Or at least extensively and in exotic locations.

There are two big universally accepted moments in one’s life when people really grab the horns of that travel bull and go batshit for it — right after college, packed down like miserable, sunburnt pack mules, and when they’re retired and therefore kinda old and cooking themselves like rotisserie chickens on some godforsaken, all-inclusive fucking beach in Thailand.

Now, a few reasons why you shouldn’t put off a journey — a real one, no resorts or cruise ships here — to Cambodia or your nearest national park much longer:

1. Travel is physically hard, yo. Even for me, and I’m in pretty great shape, hiking up and down a lot of stuff, the hot weather, the stairs of ancient temples, the mountains, the ocean, etc. It’s all a grind. And if you leave this shit for the end of your life you will regret it big time. Or not even be able to see it.

2. Traveling flat-ass broke is only fun when you’re a kid. In midlife, I can afford some boutique hotels, nice spots on Airbnb and decent meals. I don’t sweat paying for a sweet 45-minute plane ride instead of a 16-hour hellish bus ride sitting next to a chicken and hungover German. (I’m going to make fun of Germans a lot here).

3. You are actually sober enough most of the time to enjoy it. Aka, you don’t spend every night in a shitty night club and the entire next day fighting a hangover.

4. You are kind of in that sweet spot of knowing better and still being able to have a conversation with whatever smart, worldly people you meet.

5. You can walk into a fancy hotel or restaurant without looking like a vagrant and get served.

6. A lot of this stuff out here in the world is degrading fast — especially the natural world — and will be gone. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer about it, but there you go. Find an environmental scientist to argue differently and I’ll be amazed.

7. You have zero guarantees in life that you will even make it to retirement to see any of this. Do. It. Now.

But Evil Molly, you say, I have jobs, kids, responsibilities. Yeah? We all do. Somehow, it’s important to life engineer travel in — or adequate breaks. In fact, I’ve seen enough nice European couples hauling their well-behaved kids around to think that travel only broadens kids’ minds and makes them better. It always makes a person better when they meet/see/do things different from their native cultures.

I don’t know how you’re going to do it — I hate those whimsical “I quit it all and lived my dream!” travel websites. Unless you are independently wealthy, or just sold a company to Zuckerberg, you’re gonna have to do it the hard way. But somehow I think it’s imperative that we all make time for more travel in mid-life, which really is the best time of life to travel when you think about it.

 

It’s official: I’m the bitch on the porch with a shotgun

These damn kids these days…

I think there’s a point in everyone’s life where there is a discernible shift from tolerance, indifference and acceptance, to “oh, hell no.” And this shift occurs somewhere from your mid to late 30s, but well before your 40s. It’s called, “I am officially getting old, and you fucking kids are pissing me off.”

I hit my moment when I was walking the dog before work one morning. We live just a few blocks south of the local high school, and there were some girls, I’d say 15-ish, smoking cigarettes in the alley, all gothed out, black jeans, punky hair, I’m sure before their school day. Me, in my classic London Fog trenchcoat, decked out for my office gig, looked at them and my first impulse wasn’t “Oh, yeah, suck in that sweet temptress nicotine. Fuck the man!” But “I really should call the police on them and scare the living shit out of them.”

It was then that I officially realized I was old.

This is not a new scene in my life. When I was 22 and living in London, I used to see a gaggle of school girls in their Catholic uniforms smoking in the alley by my apartment every single day on the way to the Tube. What was my first impulse? To light up, myself a very enthusiastic lover of cigarettes? Yes, and then to laugh and move on, thinking how pathetic their lives were because they couldn’t sit in a pub and puff away to the Smiths and talk about shit over a proper pint.

But these kids, these little Seattle riot grrrrls in the making, or just gutter punks, really pissed me off. And it didn’t have anything to do with their smoking. It was envy. Envy that there are seemingly few roadblocks left for me, rights of passage if you will, things that I can’t do that are illegal or just a little naughty that will piss off my elders–because there merely aren’t that many elders left to piss off and the ones who are left could really give zero fucks. Much like me. I mean I can smoke in alleys and swig beer out of tallboys, but that doesn’t make me reckless or defiant. It just makes me the token neighborhood pathetic, crazy alcoholic lady who keeps flashing everyone her tits. And our neighborhood already has one of those.

Public service message: Also, smoking is just really fucking stupid. There really is no justification for it. I’m pretty lucky that I look young for my age (thanks acne and an early introduction to Retin A and exercise and sunscreen!), but sometimes I wonder, “Shit, if I hadn’t done all that damage to myself as a younger person, just how hot could I be? Like Jane-Fonda hot when I hit 70?” As it stands now, I’m just shooting for Phyllis Diller hot, and I’ll be lucky if I hit that.

On a sick note: I still love cigs and can’t wait to start smoking again when I hit 75, maybe 80 (we’ll see how things are going…).

This also leads into my daily life, which I feel has a large part of lecturing to my boyfriend’s 13-year-old daughter about “wasting energy and turning lights off and don’t throw away perfectly good food,” and all that shit. Holy fuck. I’m my parents. Also, living with a teenager is like living with a really shitty, freeloading roommate who has absolutely no incentive to listen to you whatsoever. They also tend to have really crap taste in music. And you can’t kick them out.

I'm pretty sure I've seen the lady on the right's tits. You keep on chillin' the most!

So, there you go. If old age is enjoying a decent glass of wine and listening to vinyl and playing card games, then fucking sign me up.

When did you first realize you were officially getting old?

Let’s talk about Rad Stuff: The end of 2013

I just....no.

I had the pleasure of having a couple New York friends in town over the last couple weeks. And they both asked me why I don’t write on Evil Molly anymore.

I realize it’s been over six months (six months!) since my last post on the summertime wonders of indoor water parks. The truth is, there are several reasons, which are more like the sad, pitiful excuses of a lazy-ass American: A lot of it is burnout, writer’s block, not having enough adventure time and so forth.

But, as a book I recently read on dharma told me: “If you bring forth what is within you it will save you. If you do not, it will destroy you.” That is some heavy shit. What is my dharma, probably the only thing that is hardest yet brings me the most joy? Writing. And I have been ignoring my dharma. And, much like Justin Bieber on a Brazilian bender, it has been wreaking its karmic revenge.

The truth is the last half of this year has been some heavy shit: relationship woes, late 30s woman baby-making issues (oh, boy, is that a fucking fun ride, about as fun-sounding as menopause), a bumpy path in career decisions–every path has seemed like the path of the most resistance, covered in broken glass and Sarah McLachlan-abused-puppy commercials. This Winter Solstice day I feel tired, wretched, fed up and pretty much like I’m wasting my life away on meaningless shit.

Welcome to the Christmas season.

I think a lot of this time of year brings forth, a final pounding crescendo if you will, your year’s accomplishments, pressures and problems into one shitstorm of pressured happy good time holiday feelings. If you’re not dealing with the guilt to spend hundreds of dollars and precious few vacation hours to go sit with family, then perhaps your kids are hounding you for a new gaming system. Since I don’t play video games, I have no idea what this year’s release is, but I’m sure it’s some barely updated piece of plastic shit you bought them last year, so there you go. Last Christmas I watched my boyfriend’s extended family open their Kindles and gadgets and smartphones in a fury, the conversation then came to a screeching halt, while everyone shut down and hunkered over their screens. It was probably one of the most depressing displays of humanity I’ve seen yet.

If the end of this year has somewhat got you down–and that’s a perfectly natural way to feel (it’s 4:16 p.m. and the sun is already setting here…Welcome, Dark Lord, Seasonal Affective Disorder)–why wait til New Year’s to take stock of all the wonderful, life-affirming, little things you did and learned this year? Here are a few things that make me feel better already:

1. We finally shut off the cable. I had full intentions of not having cable when I moved to Seattle. Then, of course, the Evil Empire known as Comcast (one of the WORST companies in the world, as far as I’m concerned) basically told me that it would nearly cost as much to have internet and phone alone as it would to bundle that all up into a neat little package of $99 a month. Well, after an introductory period, $99 turns to $150, then to $160 and so forth. It keeps creeping up. And while I love my ‘Real Housewives’ and ‘Fashion Police,’ they’re hardly worth nearly $200 a month. The combination of Brian’s daughter watching TV all the time and my last three-hour bout with Comcast on the phone finally pissed me off enough to cut the cord. I can say we’ve been happily cable-free for nearly nine months, and I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing.

2. I quit my stupid gym and tried something new. I grew up outdoors and played sports all my high school life, so this year marks the 20th anniversary of taking care of my own physical fitness regime. I feel like I am down to try almost anything, but there are a couple things I’ve learned over the past two decades: I hate exercising on machines, and while I have my cardio discipline down, I need someone to yell at me and tell me what to do on lifting weights. There’s a Cross Fit studio a few blocks from my house. I finally tried it. I like it. It’s not a cult. It’s fucking hard (but not too hard), and everyone makes you feel positive and like every action is doable. Pushups are now the easiest part of the workout for me. And I fucking hate pushups.

3. I joined Air BnB. A friend of mine has been doing this successfully for years in NYC and I’ve always wanted to give it a try. This past summer I finally did it. I figured I’d get one or two people a month, and it would be a nice supplement to offset my rent. From the moment I posted, I got three requests within an hour. That was July. I was basically fully booked until the end of October, with a few stragglers here and there for the low season. It paid my rent for a few months, which allowed me to pay off a student loan. People always ask, “Do you get any weirdos? Is it creepy to have someone in your house? Do they steal stuff?” While we’ve really only had one guest we weren’t wild about, everyone has been right cool in their own way. No one’s stolen or destroyed anything. In fact, it’s been downright fun at times. We’ve met and made friends with people who live all over the world–it’s almost like traveling in your own home–including one guy who really taught me something about how to approach life. (More on that later).

4. I’ve met a lot of rad new people I didn’t know a year ago. Sure, it’s great to work at home, but that first year in Seattle I didn’t meet many new people. Now, my network is easily three times as strong, and I’m extremely lucky to work with talented people who make me laugh all day long.

5. And I’ve met a lot of strangers who have really taught me a thing or two…If there’s one word I would use to sum up this year, it would probably be frustration. Frustration nation, kids. But nobody ever learned anything from smooth sailing all the time. Just take a gander at anybody who’s never had any real barriers in life and has always pretty much gotten what they wanted. There are particularly three people who were albeit brief presences in life who taught me valuable lifelong lessons.

Our second Air BnB guest, Willie, was a visiting professor from Germany. This guy showed up, all smiles and curiosity. I usually just give folks the house tour, hand over the keys and that’s that. But Willie wanted to see the neighborhood, so he went with me when I walked the dog. And we walked and walked on a warm July night all over the place, had a beer, some pizza and sushi. Willie became a fast friend to both Brian and I, and he showed us some good stuff: One, he was always optimistic and curious about life, and had an appetite for exploring the Great American West, often embarking on long roadtrips and adventures. Two, he had very little disregard for money. “If we wanted to be rich and just make money, we could set our focus on that. But that’s not really what makes people in life,” he once told me. And three, Willie could have fun just about doing anything. That German loved to party.

This second guy, Ed, really made the comeback of the year as far as I’m concerned, proving that anyone, at any time in life, can make a change for the better. I met him while traveling. He had just lost his wife and was recovering from some pretty serious health problems. Ed not only resolved to lose weight, exercise more to recover from health problems, but to move forward and continue to enjoy everything in life, wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready for more. He was in his 80s. If someone in their 80s can overcome all that and rebound in such a damn inspiring way, then we all can.

The third lady was a random we met while surfing on the Oregon Coast. Now that day was pretty rowdy wave-wise. I’m a novice surfer at best, but I’m usually pretty decent at getting up on the board. That day, my first go at cold-water surfing, I just could not time it right. I had a problem finding a decent wave break and then I just could not get up. After about an hour and a half of this, I came back to the beach, stripped off my wetsuit, and hunkered down by the bonfire. Linda was sitting behind our group, I’d say a lady in her late 50s who had driven from Portland (she says she does it at least once a week, maybe twice if she can swing it) to surf. Linda, enjoying her red wine after her surf session was all sparkly eyes and cool chill–this is the lady you want to be when you turn 50. When the guys went back to surf, she asked me, “Why aren’t you out there?” When I told her I’d given up on the day, she said, “Ah, they’re not all gonna be great. Just think of it as a training day.”

So that’s what I’m taking out of this year. When it gets rugged out there, just think of it as a training day. At the end of 2013, I can do more pushups, have a stronger personal network, and a new German friend who also happens to have a lake house in Italy. And that ain’t half bad.

22 hours in hell, or what it’s like to be trapped inside a kid casino

“Just what is this place like?”

Long pause. “I imagine it’s like a kid casino.”

If you have never experienced the all-American greatness that is an indoor water theme park that may be like, say the Great Wolf Lodge just off I-5 in Grand Mound, Wash., then I have to say, good for you. You are winning at life so far.

There are 11 of these motherfuckin’ things spread about our fine nation in such glorious vacation spots including the Wisconsin Dells, Williamsburg, Va., and Niagara Falls. And may I say to the planners, makers and owners of such establishments, well done. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good ol’ fleecing of the lower and middle-class upfront, and the folks who built these things are fucking geniuses when it comes to taking money from people who likely can’t afford to part with it. Geniuses.

We, however, not of the geniuses, were taking my boyfriend Brian’s daughter and her friend there for her birthday weekend. This is, apparently, what happens when you allow children to make choices. Or have children for that matter.

In my mind, I imagined this place might actually be a real, you know, lodge, in the woods, surrounded by picturesque hiking trails, scenic lakes and such.

What I had in mind...

What actually happened.

A co-worker once went here to escape the winter drudgery and forewarned me, as he, too, had a rustic Pacific Northwest lodge weekend in mind. Apparently the indoor water aspect, a smooth, controlled 84 degrees year-round, was calling. Then he told me what it was really like. “It’s like you’re being peed on by children. Constantly. Everywhere. Oh, look, there’s another drop. Of pee.”

A sign encourages parents to take their kids to the bathroom often. The bathroom was the only part of this park that didn't have a line.

Once we walked through the door, we knew what we were in for…hundreds of barely watched spawn running through the halls, waving sharp, projectile instruments, or “magic wands” that they had to buy at a “magic shop” to play a game called Magic Quest. What kind of game is this, you may be asking, gentle reader? Several points were marked out on the first five floors with stops and clues, where a handy bear or wolf would talk to you, but only if you inserted your “magic wand” into the slot. These plastic pieces of shit cost about $15. Oh, want a deluxe one? That’ll be $22. Not satisfied with your wand performance? You can upgrade your wand with several accessories, for a few more bucks! Oh, and there are no prizes or winners of this game. It’s just a hellish kid free-for-all all over the damn hotel.

But fuck wands. Let’s talk water slides. The place was mayhem, a shitshow if you will, of mass proportions packed into teeny-tiny bikinis and swim trunks. And an employee told me there aren’t even into high season yet, which is July and August. I watched throngs of people playing in an ocean simulator, and while, yes, the Pacific is a bit chilly this time of year, I thought, “Holy fuck, the ocean is right over there–how many of these people have even taken their kids to see it?

Tired of the water slides? Why, step into the Arcade, aka the hard-core casino part of the kid casino, where games look like actual slot machines and no thought or skill is required to win prizes! Just tickets…Lots and lots of $2 tickets to play a game.

Kid casino has many of the fine aspects of a real casino.

What else did this place have? Why, dream it up, and you can do it, as long as it involves sugar and plastic. Want to get a mani-pedi with your kid, while sitting on a ridiculous piece of plastic and eating an ice-cream sundae? You can do it! For about $50 a pop.

Step into the Scoops Salon for all your Pepto Bismal pink needs.

Are you ready to eat a real meal? Great! We have multiple options–the Loose Moose Cottage, buffet-style options, all-you-can eat, of course, only $14 for breakfast! Or try the Camp Critter Bar and Grille for its less-than-an-airport-quality $16 burger! I ordered a vegetable pasta dish for nearly $20. “That looks like they fucking took a frozen bag of Barilla with that cube of melt-in-the-dish sauce,” Brian said.

Would you care for a classy cocktail to wash away your frozen pasta dish?

Oh, and sugar was everywhere. Around 7 p.m., the sugar-crashing, pre-bedtime battle was ramped up to mythical proportions. If one of the world’s most pleasant sounds is a child’s laugh, one of the worst is truly their cries: “Do you hear the screams?” Brian asked as we walked down our hallway, the chorus of dozens of tantrum-throwing children echoing throughout the Great Wolf Lodge’s halls.

We roughly calculated, based on the Best-Western-in-the-middle-of-nowhere look and feel of our hotel room — which was around $300 per weekend night — that the average family of four would part with about $1,200 for a weekend here. Twelve. Hundred. Dollars. And that’s a pretty conservative estimate.

Brian: "This place is just nice enough to keep the pubes off the floor."

And when a kid allegedly pooped in the wading pool, with that, it was time to go. We made it through nearly 22 hours of the kid casino.

So, what did we learn from this experience, gentle reader? Nearly two weeks later, I sit here, with that forlorn, lost, dazed look on my face, trying to figure out how to sum up this experience. I can’t. Perhaps the best way is this: Sitting back in Seattle, at a local restaurant, before biting into a local grass-fed burger, Brian said, “I am so glad to be back in the city.” Hallelujah.

The end.

 

 

 

 

Dear Daniel Day-Lewis

Dear Daniel Day-Lewis,

I happened to catch your latest flick, “Lincoln,” via the old Pirate Bay the other weekend, and after the two and a half hour pomp and circumstance of enough 19th-century minutiae that would make any Civil War buff cream his or her pants, I am here to make an impassioned plea: Please fucking stop making movies.

That’s right. You heard me. Seriously, are you really this serious all the time? Doesn’t it get to be a drag, literally, to stomp around in a stovepipe hat, or loincloth, or irritating fake mustache and act like A) an incredible asshole, B) an incredibly important figure in history or C) both? Aren’t you tired yet?

I get it. Yes, you are a brilliant actor. Maybe the best of all time! But, to paraphrase as Joan Rivers so brilliantly put it during ‘Fashion Police,’ last week, ‘Lincoln’ was ‘flawless, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it, but I was bored out of my mind.’

It’s not just ‘Lincoln,’ pal. In fact, if you can’t sniff Oscar butt gold when a script hits your coffee table, you don’t even take a look. “Gangs of New York,” “There Will be Blood,” “Last of the Mohicans.” Every single one of your films is heavy, heavy shit. Would it kill you to go outside your range, and say do a Quentin Tarantino or Danny Boyle flick? Now, that I’d actually like to see. You could still get in some of the ultra-violence and asshole depravity you crave–you just don’t have to wear a fucking period costume and take on some horrible dialect to do it. Well, you might have to do the dialect part.

Last of the Mohicans, or "the Deathface of Fun."

We get that you can play these complicated, dark historical figures–and no one can wear a mustache quite like you and start screaming insane shit like, “I drink your milkshake!” But it’s getting kind of old. And dull. And if anyone says they actually enjoy sitting through one of your films more than once, I call bullshit. These are the same kinds of people who say they enjoy things like quarterly juice cleanses and reading the New Yorker cover to cover. Bull. Shit.

So, you’ve pretty much already got this year’s Oscar for leading actor locked up. How can the Academy not give you the award–I mean, the greatest U.S. president combined with the complex, highly contentious issue of slavery, and one of the most important events in American history? You’re like the kid in the wheelchair with the speech impediment who showed up every day for class with a B-plus average. Maybe not the brightest, but the one who’s gonna snag all those Lions Club scholarships. It’s almost enough to make me root for Bradley Cooper for best actor. And that poor son-of-a-bitch Joaquin Phoenix, shit, he’s gotta be hating life. First he gets screwed out of winning for Johnny Cash, and now he’s gotta sit there and watch this shitshow unfold on Sunday. I’d rather stay home, sit on my couch, and eat a bag of Doritos with one hand down my pants.

XOXO,

EM

P.S. Oh, and while I’m at it, will you tell your friend Steven Spielberg to stop making this heartstrings-yanking Americana schlock as well? I’d really like it if he’d go back to stuff like big sharks eating stupid people in the ocean.

Things I Could Give a Crap Less About That Make People Go Apeshit

Did you know there’s a football game this weekend?

The other day, when I pulled up my head and asked, “Hey, just who is in the Super Bowl anyway?” I got nothing but dead silence from my co-workers. Not from shock that I didn’t know. It’s just that none of them give a shit about the Super Bowl either.

I really dislike football. Period. Always have. I think it is excruciatingly boring to watch. And I can’t follow the rules for shit, nor do I care to learn. Any sport that was hands off for the chicks in high school was dead to me. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a first or second down. Or what “off sides” means. Or why roided up giants tend to be the most violent dudes on campus. The excitement/slash/support-the-team mentality that was forced upon us in high school marching band–especially those 7 a.m. in the fucking freezing cold rehearsals–didn’t help either.

I mean, it is Green Bay. I suppose there's nothing else to do there.

After a drunk kid threw up next to us at the very beginning of a Big Ten game when my parents were visiting, and we had to sit over that vile pile of puke in the stands, I vowed never to attend another football event again.

However, that “Friday Night Lights” program was pretty fucking good. I think it had something to do with that hot blonde kid who plays action heroes now.

And, due to some stupid anti-gay remarks from the 49ers Chris Culliver, may I just say, dude, you are playing for the fucking San Francisco 49ers. Get with the program! Oh, and if someone has to win this thing, go Ravens.

Here are a few other socially accepted and celebrated things I can’t fucking stand:

1. Holidays. Nothing gets me more irritated than forced emotion and socializing. And the holidays are primed and ripe to make you feel nothing less than an inferior, socially inept human being who has failed your parents and/or children. Now that the consumerist nightmare called Christmas is over, Hallmark, Zales and the Cheesecake Factory are chomping at the bits to sink their fangs into you for the worst one yet–Valentine’s Day. That’s right, fellas, get those orders into 1-800 Flowers now lest you be shut off from the vag until Easter.

The only holidays that are acceptable are the ones that allow for spending time outdoors and eating things with your hands–Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and so forth–with no forced gift-giving or spending time with the in-laws. You don’t need to suffer through church, or a pageant about Baby Jeebus, or make any trips to Target and get trapped in the parking garage for an hour. And that is just winning, Charlie Sheen style.

2. Live Concerts. Holy, shit, did you know Rihanna is coming to town? No, no I didn’t. Nor am I going to spend over $100 to buy her tickets that support her dumbass lifestyle. Are you a plus-40-year-old human being who gets excited when the Stones announce another tour, and pour your muffin top into your hot pants and too-tight T-shirt you bought during the “Bridges to Babylon” tour, just to get too drunk in the pre-concert tailgating party only to be puking your guts out during “Tumbling Dice”? Did you know that live, mega-concerts that cost more than $100 are the ultimate fleecing of the music fan? Now, you know.

Did you know Beyonce is in the Super Bowl? Did you know that soda and major athletic sponsors, like Coke and Pepsi, contribute to the obesity epidemic and childhood diabetes?

3. Chocolate. We get it. Chocolate’s great. It’s fucking tasty as hell. But it’s not on par with a) winning the Powerball, b) sex with a vampire or c) sitting outside and eating various things with your hands in the sun. I feel about the same way about chocolate commercials as I do about flavored vodka–and we all know how I feel about that.

4. Cheap alcohol. If you are out of college, and/or over the age of 25, the thrill of cheap alcohol–or getting a deal on a bucket of Pabst–should not be a big deal for you. You are an adult. Cheap booze doesn’t equal good booze–and probably nothing you should be putting in your body if you value your stomach lining or your rectum. The same goes for spilling a beverage or leaving a half-drunk glass on the table. It is not a big deal. As a tax-paying adult, one of the few things you are entitled to is not slamming a beverage before you leave, or having some 43-year-old jackass yell “party foul” at you.

5. In fact, getting free anything. I used to review movies–and it was awesome. The best screenings were the private press ones, where only a handful of you sat in an empty theater and got to enjoy a film in silence. The worst? When they made you attend an “open screening” that some KISS radio station gave out free promotional tickets to. Those cattle calls made my skin fucking crawl. If you are the kind of person who obsesses over getting ultimately worthless, free, tacky shit, you must stop it. Free doesn’t equate with something of value. And it certainly isn’t worth getting into a fistfight over and spilling your bucket of popcorn at a free screening of “American Pie: The Ultimate Reunion Reunion 2020.”

I'm quite certain that this entire franchise exists to allow those involved to pay their mortgages.