Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Real Life Game of Clue

Of all the bars I’ve visited in San Francisco, none left quite an impression on me as Bourbon and Branch. The Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco does not usually conjure up images of elegant bars and high-class society. However, Bourbon and Branch delivers just that. Without being overly pretentious, the bar offers a range of high quality cocktails, a classy atmosphere, and top service. Bourbon and Branch is located on a regular street in the Tenderloin, and can be hard to find considering that the entrance is an unmarked metal door on an inconspicuous wall. A Bourbon and Branch bouncer stands nonchalantly a few feet away from the door. Unless you had the inside scoop, you'd think he was just a regular person, waiting around with all the other interesting folk for which the Tendorloin is infamous.
What lays beyond the metal door, however, is nothing close to what one usually finds in the rundown Tendorloin. The decor in Bourbon and Branch is reminiscent of 1930s swank and glam, with a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling, blood red walls, and a bar made from soft, dark wood. Bourbon and Branch looks like something straight out of a mystery novel. Indeed, when I discovered that the large bookcase looming against the back wall actually revolved around to reveal a hidden library, containing another bar, I felt like I was in a real-life game of "Clue"- It was the man with the top hat, in the library, with the knife! Or was it the woman in the red dress in the study with the gun?
Luckily for the patrons, the only real danger at Bourbon and Branch would be drinking too many of the delicious drinks. While priced a little higher than average, one sip of any drink from Bourbon and Branch makes you forget about the few extra dollars. Mixed expertly well, and with only the finest ingredients, Bourbon and Branch can boast some of the best drinks in San Francisco. A scotch on the rocks? How about a Glenmorangie Margaux Finish scotch(one of 1,200 bottles in the U.S.), or the Balvenie 1971? Just a couple examples of the quality you can expect and why Bourbon and Branch is worth the visit.
Originally, the location of Bourbon and Branch served as a real speakeasy from 1921-1933, during the time of alcohol prohibition. The current bar seeks to recreate the setting of an era when serving alcohol became a mysterious business. There is even a set of "house rules" that patrons are expected to follow, which include no cell phone use, no standing at the bar, and "don't even of asking for a Cosmo!". Unfortunately, taking pictures is also prohibited, so if you want to relay your experience of Bourbon and Branch to your friends, you'll have to take them there so they can see for themselves.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Naked Brunch

The other day I was sitting in my friend’s kitchen in Berlin, flipping through her copy of “The Return of the Naked Chef”. Have you read that book? So yummy- and I’m not just talking about the recipes. The Naked Chef (Jamie Oliver) is smoking hot, and has some great views on food to boot.
However, as I was reading his rant about why breakfast should be elevated to a more important meal status- “Instead of meetings over lunch or dinner, why not meetings over breakfast?”- and how hard it was to find a good breakfast buffet, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had been to Berlin. And if he had, then did he ever miss out.
The Naked Chef’s cookbooks promote recipes using the bare essentials and that strip down restaurant food. Sounds like a Berlin buffet to me- the simplest of foods, but oh so delicious. Berlin’s restaurants are all about the breakfast/brunch crowd. And we’re not talking about the scrambled eggs with some bacon and hash browns type breakfasts that are the standard in so many countries. No, we’re talking about the kind of breakfast the Naked Chef had in mind: fresh juices, self-composed mueslis, and homemade breads. Add to the list a variety of fresh cheeses, a dozen kinds of meat, rolls, jam, fruit, and eggs, and you’ve got the typical Berlin breakfast buffet.
Some restaurants even take breakfast a step further than the food. One restaurant in the Neukolln neighborhood has a small stage and offers a “jazz brunch” every Sunday. How nice to eat breakfast while listening to live jazz. Plus, a buffet in Berlin won’t break your budget. The “jazz brunch” is only 7.50 euros. And other restaurants offer buffets for as low as 3 euros. There may be a lot of artists in Berlin, but you can bet that none of them are starving.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Iraq/Afghanistan- Some Inside Stories

One of the great things about dating a talented musician is that he occasionally gets noticed and gets commissioned to do some interesting gig. Wilson Gil’s most interesting gigs by far were the two week music tours he did with his band, the Willful Sinners, in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2007.
Now, I’ve heard my fill of crazy war stories from Wilson, but after a visit last weekend from a friend of his whom he met in Iraq, I’ve got some more bizarre things to add to the list. I’m going to refer to this friend as Miss X, just so that I don’t step on anyone’s toes.
First off, Miss X was so nice and down to earth. She looks more like a cute housewife than a woman who spends much of her time working in war zones (I think Demi Moore ruined it for all the normal girls working in the military. Seriously, women in the military related fields are just normal people). And Miss X is bad-ass. She’s a communications consultant and specializes in solving problems related to suicide bombings. How’s that for intense?
Miss X, Wilson, and I wondered through Alexander Platz and looked at the historical buildings- all lit up because of the Festival of Lights- and chatted about cheerful topics such as searching for body parts, army bases being rocketed, people blowing themselves up, and so forth. We really are happy people, I swear. It’s not all doom and gloom.
So, want the inside scoop on some things the media doesn’t really cover? Just a couple tidbits for you: Fingerprinting is new in Iraq, and a friend of Miss X has the job of updating files with fingerprints- which means that she is often sent the fingers of dead people. Yup, just the finger. Imagine getting that package in the mail. Everyday.
Did you know that Saddam Hussein had a thing for the Flintstones? He had the whole town of Bed Rock constructed for his enjoyment. He also bred these giant fish with scales that looked like diamonds. Wilson was trying to feed the fish pieces of bread and it wasn’t really working. Then a soldier threw the fish a chicken bone- that did the trick.
Apparently, the United States has claimed all of the sites of archeological importance for themselves- Wilson got taken on one field trip after another to see pyramids, the foundation of the house of the prophet Abraham, palaces, you name it. The oldest pyramid structure known to man is just languishing in the desert. It's too bad archeology isn't the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about Iraq these days!
Wilson Gil, Miss X, and I also touched on how there are certain ways being in a war affects you, things you wouldn’t have thought of before you signed up for the job. Dealing with suicide bombing has given Miss X a large crowd complex. She said that one day her friend called her and asked what she was up to and Miss X replied that she was hiding in a supermarket aisle. She couldn’t quite recall why she was hiding, just that the crowds of shoppers had started to freak her out.
What I appreciated most about our visit with Miss X was how we could sip hot chocolate in a café in Berlin while discussing topics that are changing the world. It made me appreciate Berlin for what it is- an international city. Berlin feels safe, it feels comfortable, it feels peaceful, and yet Berlin itself carries the scars of war. Maybe one day it will be the same for Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe one day Wilson and I will visit Miss X in Baghdad and we’ll sip some hot chocolate in a café and talk about lighter things. One can only hope.
For more pics, check out Wilson Gil on Facebook.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good-Bye Zadiraks

An interesting thing has come to my attention. While belly dance is popular in Berlin, the scene lacks a sense of community. In San Francisco, almost everyone supports one another. Teachers encourage you to study with other teachers, company directors are fine with their members being in more than one company, and dancers come to each other’s shows, even if they are not affiliated with the same people.
In Berlin, belly dance (or oriental dance as it is called here), is highly competitive. Teachers vie for students and discourage dancers from taking classes from anyone but them, dancers refuse to help one another get gigs because they don’t want to risk being outdone, and company directors want dancers to only be in one company. Within dance companies and classes themselves, there is a sense of family and camaraderie, but straying outside your circle can result in exile.
The company I am in, however, is a gem. Zadiraks is led by Zadiel Sasmaz and he wants his students to train with other teachers, dance with other dancers, and support shows from other companies. He understands that it only harms the belly dance community as a whole if we work against one another. I know there are other belly dancers in Berlin who follow Zadiel’s ethics and I applaud them for it, but there are too many dancers who take a cut-throat approach to the business.
A fellow Zadiraks dancer told me how she was in a company for several years and got kicked out when her instructor heard that she wanted to audition for Zadiraks. I’ve witnessed one teacher yelling at another teacher because he was ending his rent contract with her in order to rent a larger studio space. She basically gave him an ultimatum, saying that if he rented with another studio, then he would be her competition. Yikes.
All of this makes me thankful to be in Zadiraks, and sad to say good-bye. Zadiel performed at Maroosh restaurant last Friday and he organized a little farewell party there for me with his two companies, Zadiraks and Velvet Snake. Maroosh has quite the Oriental vibe with images of hieroglyphics on the walls, a giant cat statue, and Middle-Eastern clientele. It was awesome to see Zadiel perform in a restaurant atmosphere. The reactions from the diners were hilarious. The women looked like they were getting their jollies while the men looked mortified, avoiding eye contact with Zadiel at all costs. I wanted to tell them that it was okay to look- watching a guy dance does not make you a homosexual!
At least my boyfriend appreciated Zadiel’s performance. He’s open-minded that way. Plus, Zadiel redefines belly dance by taking the stereotype of the “sexy woman” out of the equation, which allows you to focus on the technique of the dance. Zadiel is graceful, innovative, and a perfectionist when it comes to technique. He truly makes the art form high class.
I’m glad I got to see Zadiel perform one last time before I leave for California, and it was so nice of my fellow dancers to come out to say good-bye. I’ll be returning to Berlin in the late spring, and looking forward to dancing with all the wonderful Zadiraks dancers once again.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Oldest Pub in Berlin

There are places in Berlin that lead you back to an era of cobblestone roads, red-bricked buildings, churches fitted with wrought iron and stained glass windows, and ancient oak trees lining the pathways. You can almost hear the clip-clop a horses’ hooves, can almost see a carriage coming around the corner carrying people in old-fashioned dress.
Zur letzten Instanz, the oldest pub in Berlin, is one of those places. The pub first opened its doors in 1621, but the first documented mention of the building is from 1561. Zur letzten Instanz sits at the end of Waisenstrasse, an alley that also features the oldest building in Berlin- the “Graues Kloster” (Grey Monastery). A historic courthouse and the skeleton of a bombed out church can be found just around the corner.
I’ve heard stories that prisoners from the courthouse used to be taken to Zur letzten Instanz for their last meal in the days of old. The pub also boasts a repertoire of famous guests, ranging from Napoleon to Mikhel Gorbachev.
I loved how the candles on the tables and the large chandeliers bathed the pub in a warm glow. Rows of antique beer steins lined wooden shelves, stained glass windows and brick walls aptly portrayed the century in which the pub was born, and a heavy, wrought iron staircase wound a spiral of dark green to the restaurant on the top floor. Everything looked antique and I couldn’t help but feel the history of the place, as if there were ghosts milling about, mingling their laughter and chatter with the sounds of the guests from present day.
The wait staff wore classy black and white uniforms, and offered the luxury of service reserved for fine dining. The prices, however, were only slightly higher than the average Berlin restaurant and the food was well worth the few extra euros. The menu featured several meat-based dishes, with the meat often served on the bone, and always dripping with tender juiciness. Sides included beets, dumplings, cabbage, and potatoes prepared like I’ve never tasted before- sweet and savoury and bursting with so much flavour that I’ll never think of cabbage as a boring side dish again.
My own meal was one of the few vegetarian options listed on the menu and it was literally one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Fennel, rosemary, and other savoury herbs complimented tomatoes that tasted like they’d been picked fresh from the vine. I can’t remember what the dish was called, but I’m tempted to go back to Zur letzten Instanz for a second round so I can find out.

Visit the restaurant's website for more information:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Berlin Vampires

Berlin is a city that has carried its history like multiple scars throughout the centuries. Even in this present day of ramped up technology and flashy, modern architecture, one can still see the shadows of Berlin’s past lurking in the corners. Cobblestone streets, museums riddled with bullet holes, remnants of a great wall, and buildings still crumbling from bombs dropped sixty years ago live side by side with newly paved freeways, shopping mall complexes, and a radio tower that looks like something out of the Jetsons.
Berlin is like a vampire, forever trying to change with the times, but retaining its past with subtle nuances that appear when you least expect it. Which makes Berlin the perfect setting to shoot a music video about vampires. Wilson Gil and Orit Shimoni co-wrote a song called “The Choice“. Wilson sings the first half of the song with deep and haunting lyrics: “It’s too late to pray/For what I just took away/In the morning sunrise/I’ll be closing my eyes”. He narrates the tale of a vampire on the prowl. This vampire meets a girl and narrows in on her as his prey. Little does he know that the girl is also a vampire.
Orit enters on the second half of the song with a voice that sounds like a wounded angel. She is the girl that Wilson has targeted and becomes the ultimate predator as she fanes humanity and then takes her revenge by killing Wilson when his guard is down.
Guitar, violin, mandolin, and acoustic bass give the song an old-time feel. The music builds into crescendos of eerie notes that would send shivers up anyone’s spine.
The video is being shot in Mitte in Kloster Strasse, which is one of Berlin’s oldest U-Bahn stations. Large orbs of light hang from the ceiling like shimmering ghosts. Photos of historic trains adorn the walls, wrought iron accents give the station a graveyard-like vibe, and voices echo off the ceiling like ghouls moaning in a haunted house.
The film director, Karim Rateb, adds suspense and the element of surprise with sweeping views of the station, close ups of bloody mouths, and point of view shots.
As for my part in the video, I get to play Wilson the vampire’s first victim. I’ll be sitting on a bench in the station, innocently waiting for my train. The part should be easy to act, because the Kloster Strasse station already fills me with exciting chills whenever I’m there. Entering that station is like going back through time. I just hope I don’t meet any real vampires along the way.

Monday, October 12, 2009

OMG! I Ate Some Meat!

Germans sure love their meat, to the point where even a vegetarian can start to get cravings for a piece of crisp juicy animal flesh. I’ve been a vegetarian for eleven years, and like most vegetarians, I’ve “cheated” from time to time. I should have known from the start that Berlin had it in for me, with its sausage stands and low prices and döner (kebab) vendors and supermarkets offering every kind of meat you could think of.
Alexander Platz was a particularly tempting place for a vegetarian like me. After hours of busking (performing by the street), a girl can work up quite an appetite. There are easily six bratwurst stands by the Alexander Platz U Bahn. Sausage, sausage everywhere and not a bite to eat! Until I totally caved. I couldn’t help it. One day I was so hungry and the sausages were sizzling on the grill and my friend was beside me, sinking his teeth into a perfectly crisp bratwurst. Man, that sausage was so good.
I told myself it wouldn’t happen again. It was just one sausage. A girl can cheat once in a while. It’ okay, right? Well, apparently not, because now I’m freaking addicted to bratwurst. It’s the best bang for my buck at a euro and twenty cents. And the bratwurst are all lined up, waiting to be munched. No lines to wait in. Fast, cheap, convenient, filling, and so damn delicious.
Bratwurst has been my only exception, though. Germans can get downright weird with their meat. I went to a dinner party and there were several jars on the table next to a plate of crackers. I thought that the jars contained maybe hummus or cheese or some kind of spread. Nope. It was meat in a jar! All kinds of strange, processed meats: blood sausage, liver, and god knows what else. It looked like cat food. And kind of smelled like it, too.
Now, some people don’t classify fish as meat, but most vegetarians do. If you add fish to your definition of meat, then the meat in Germany gets even stranger. Pickled herring on a bun? Germans love it. Fish burgers, fish filets, fish with the scales still on, you name it and you can find it, at least in Berlin. They even have fish bakeries.
There was a jar of herring in the fridge of the apartment we’re renting. My fiance, Wilson, had the brilliant idea of opening up the jar to sample its contents. He didn’t get that far, though, because after one whiff the lid was back on and the fridge was slammed shut.
Wilson didn’t warn me about the jar of herring, though. I only found out because he gave me a hug and I couldn’t believe how bad he smelled. He must have washed his hands a dozen times before the smell started to wear off. But our fridge still smells like fish whenever we open it up.
After the jar of herring experience, I feel like my bratwurst addiction is acceptable. Because hey, it could be a lot worse. I could be addicted to pickled herring instead.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Night in Friedrichshain

What to do on a Sunday night in Berlin? Friedrichshain is one of those up and coming neighborhoods, full of misfits, beat necks, artists and musicians. Wilson Gil and I knew we’d happen upon something cool if we ventured out there. Friedrichshain is gritty and in your face. Right when you get out of the subway, you’re hit with the beauty and awe of the city as you walk across the Warschauer bridge. The radio tower in Alexander Platz looms in the distance, the buildings cast their twinkling lights on the canal, and a mob of people rushes past as everyone exits from the subway trains.
The neighborhood is awash in restaurants. We had a craving for Thai food, so we took the advice of a friend and went to “Lemongrass”. The joint was slamming. The food was rocking. And the international vibe was intense. There must have been at least twenty nationalities represented in that one tiny restaurant. That’s the flavor of Berlin.
Wilson Gil’s favorite little music bar, Art Liners, is in Friedrichshain. Art Liners has an open jam every Sunday night and all sorts of musicians congregate there to have their go at the mike. Everything from banjo to accordion to the kazoo.
The bar brings attracts some interesting fans, as well. One in particular, whom everyone knows (because how could you not), is a punk rock chick named Vina. I’m not sure what exactly, but something happened to that girl along the way and now she’s, well, let’s just call her a free spirit. Wilson Gil played a show at Art Liners a few weeks back and Vina just loved him- so much that she decided to wrap her arms around his legs half way through his set, all the while screaming something incoherent in German. I think she was trying to say that she really liked his music.
On this particular Sunday night, however, Vina had it in for me. She came up to me, threw her arms around me, and proceeded to grab my ass and kiss my cheek. “You a nice woman!” she said as she looked me up and down. I managed to crawl out from her grasp and made sure to stay far away for the rest of the night.
The crazy characters really just add to the jacked up vibe of the bar, though. It’s so great to smoke a cigarette, down a glass of beer, and listen to various musicians do Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash covers, while people are dancing around between the tables. Lots of great original music, too. I hope one day to be able to hear one of the musicians on the radio and say, “Hey! I knew them when…”
The rain was pouring down by the time we left Art Liners, but we didn’t mind. The air was still, and it was kind of nice to walk through the streets in the rain, hand in hand with my love.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Will Pay Cash for Panties

Craigslist has been a great resource for my dancing career. The site has provided me with instructors, dance mates, and lots of dance gigs. (If any of you don’t know what Craigslist is, check it out:
I’ve got just a couple weeks left in Berlin, so I was perusing Craigslist today to see if there were any dance opportunities for me when I get to California. Just a couple of things looked promising, so out of curiosity, I decided to see what was available under the other “gigs” categories.
“Domestic” gigs had some nanny, housekeeping, and tutoring jobs listed. I could do any of those. There were lots of Halloween gigs listed under “talent” and “event”. Waiting tables in a costume for $100/hour? Sounds like a good deal, but I don’t know if I want to give up my Halloween night. I was hoping to find something cool under “writing” gigs, but the pickings were slim. So, what to do?
I ventured into “adult” gigs, just to take a peek. Holy moly. That’s where all the money is! Did you know there are men willing to buy my used panties for $50? Hell, they’re not just willing, they’re begging for it. And I wear panties anyway, why not make some money off of it? Of course, there’s a little more involved than just wearing the panties, but I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.
Nude modeling? The prices ranged from hundreds of dollars to “it will be good for your portfolio”. Seemed a little shady to me. Adult videos, web camming, and other porn related gigs offered lots of Gs, but I guess I’m not as open-minded as I thought, ‘cause I just can’t go there.
Aside from selling my panties, there really wasn’t much for me under “adult” gigs. One last place to check. There is a “etcetera” section under the job listings. After looking through the job offers I understood why it was called “etcetera”. There was everything from market research surveys to taste testing to egg donation.
Do you know how much you get paid to donate your eggs? Around $7,000. (Sorry fellas, no boys allowed). The process seems intensive, but for $7,000 a month, I’m seriously considering it. And it would make a good daily blog, too: “My Month as an Egg Donor”. And it’s for a good cause.
Now I have to figure out what to tell people when they ask me what my occupation is. “I’m a panty-selling-belly-dancing-egg-donor”? I’m just not sure if it has the right ring to it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Berlin's Dichotomies

Berlin is at once a massive yet tiny city. It is a city of ghosts and of vibrant life. It is a place where the East meets the West, and everything in between.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came to Berlin. But the one thing I didn’t expect was to feel severely depressed for my first month of being there.
After weeks of pondering and agonizing over why I was feeling so down, I finally figured it out: I wasn’t able to ground myself. I was lost. And yet I wasn’t. That was it. Berlin has so many dichotomies, that I wasn’t sure how to feel half the time. There is a constant shift from “hot” to “cold” and my body wasn’t sure how to react.
Most Berliners speak some English, to the point where one can be deceived into thinking that they don’t need to learn Deutsch. Big mistake. While it’s a total blessing to communicate in English while in a foreign country, one has to be aware that all media, websites, signs, and vital information is not in English. Germany is not a bilingual country, even though it sometimes appears to be. Mein Deutsch ist schlect, but I thought I could get by without knowing the language. In reality, one can just get by in Berlin with only speaking English. But if you want any level of success, knowing Deutsch is crucial.
Berlin has so much to offer, but when you just arrive, it’s almost too much. Where do you start? As a dancer, there was a million studios, instructors, and venues to choose from, but it was hard to get an “in”. Even when you think you have an “in”, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. For every club you’ve been to, there are a hundred that you don’t even know about.
There is also a contrast between East and West Berlin, and at the same time a unity amongst all Berliners. So, where to live? I still haven’t figured that one out, although I have found some neighborhoods that I love. Neukölln and Kreuzburg are my favorite, but I love Mitte and Charlottenburg and Prenzlauer berg, as well. And each neighborhood offers a totally different experience, so it’s a tough decision.
There are way too many dichotomies to list. What I do find comfort in is knowing that I’m not the only one who has felt depressed upon arriving in Berlin. I met a singer/song writer named Orit Shimoni. She wrote a wonderful song called "Sadder Music" that sums up exactly how I was feeling. It was a great moment to be sitting outside at a picnic table on a hot summer night, surrounded by people from all walks of life, listening to Orit spill her soul about Berlin. It’s always nice knowing there is someone to whom I can relate.
After being in Berlin for three months, the depression has passed. I love the city, and all of its quirks and charms. And I sympathize with Berlin. Despite being over 700 years old, Berlin is somewhat like a teenager with an identity crisis. Is the city Gothic, punk, historical, modern, hip, rundown, or just content with being all of the above? Whichever the case, Berlin has a little something for everyone. You just have to be content with whatever the city throws your way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hamburg's Red-Light District

What better way to top off a rock and roll weekend in Hamburg than to explore the Red Light District in St. Pauli?
The main street in the St. Pauli district is the “Reeperbahn”. The street is awash in strip clubs, fetish stores, adult DVD shops, bars, cheap eats, and alternative fashion. A walk down a particular side road called Herbertstrasse reveals an ally with ladies on display in lit windows. I only caught a glimpse, however, because I was warned that women are not welcome to stroll through the ally. Apparently, it’s bad for the window ladies’ business. But what if a girl wanted to hire a girl? Nope. Heterosexual area only. Doesn’t make much sense to me. Even if you were straight, which would you rather have: a fat, old, smelly bald guy… or me? I’d take a hot belly dancer over an ugly man any day.
Disappointed with the lack of access available to me on Herbertstrasse, I decided to hit the strip clubs with my fiance, Wilson, and two of our Hamburg friends. Amazingly, the Hamburgers (I love that people from Hamburg are called “Hamburgers”), didn’t know which clubs were worth checking out. I mean, these guys are metal-head-rock-and-rollers- aren’t strip clubs part of their scene?
We decided to go with the most advertised strip club, “Dollhouse”. It turned out to be a bad move on our part. It was 12 euro to get in, drinks were crazy expensive, and you had to pay an additional 30 euro for a girl to strip, plus tips. And here’s the kicker: after removing all of their clothes, and right as they’re pulling off their underwear, the girls covered their pussy with one of their hands. No pussy viewing allowed! Club policy. What a rip off. I can see naked girls anytime I want. If I am going to pay to see a girl naked, her pussy better be in my face.
We left the Dollhouse and opted for a cheaper venue. I can’t remember the name of the place we went to, but there was no cover and the first drink was only 4 euro. That guaranteed you one strip show on stage. The girls weren’t quite as hot as the Dollhouse girls, but at least they got totally naked.
Overall, I’d have to say that my first strip club experience was pretty boring. I guess I went to the wrong clubs. I was expecting crazy pole dancing acrobatics (only two of the girls I saw that night knew anything about a pole), gyrating hips (some of the girls were so bad at dancing that they looked like they were doing the funky chicken), and ping pong balls shooting out of vaginas (but the vaginas were few and far between).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tipsy Apes

Hamburg is a rock and roll town, especially when it comes to metal. Wilson Gil and I rolled out last Friday to perform at one of the oldest rocker hangouts in Hamburg: the Tipsy Apes. A perfect place to hold the film release party for a short-Western film that was created by metal head Flint, from the band Razorheads.
The Tipsy Apes is in a field in the middle of no where on the outskirts of Hamburg. Spooky and isolated, with no one around to file a noise complaint. There’s a big covered stage, a cabin with couches and a bar, and a stand that sells killer sausages. The audience area is simply open field, with a bonfire usually raging off to the side.
Wilson Gil’s country-rock set was a little out of place sandwiched between three metal bands, but it somehow worked. Wilson Gil rocked out hard, harder than any of the metal heads that were at the Tipsy Apes that night, so he made even the most country of his songs seem totally raw and bad ass. Plus, he had a hot belly dancer to spice things up!
For our last song, “Solid Gold”, this crazy drunk chick got up on stage with us. She was dancing with me and getting really into it, so I was shaking it with her, and then she grabbed me and poured her drink over my head! Rum and coke all through my hair, in my coin bra and costume. My hair was so sticky by the end of the night that it didn’t even budge when I took out my ponytail holder. I think I’ve found a replacement for hair gel!
I was a good sport about the whole thing, though, ‘cause that’s rock and roll, baby.
I also learned a new dance move that night- head banging. Seriously, there is an art to doing it properly. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to after watching a guy do his head banging move for twenty minutes straight. You stand with your legs slightly apart, with your hands placed on your thighs, and your back slightly hunched. Then you hang your head down so your hair is dangling, and then it’s something like “down, down, down, up!” and you throw your hair back. I wanted to audition that guy for “So You Think You Can Dance”! But I figured that he probably wouldn’t go for it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bad Harzburg

I love a town that loves its witches. On the eve of every April 30th, the people of Bad Harzburg celebrate Walpurgisnacht (Night of the Witches). Legend has it that the witches convene with the devil on this night. However, some sources say that the witches fight the devil and others say that the witches convene with themselves.
Whichever the case, these days the festival is more symbolic of springtime; the fairytale is that witches fly in during the night, sweeping away all of the negativity and bad spirits from winter. A glorified spring cleaning and a celebration of light over darkness (the coming of spring).
While Walpurgisnacht is celebrated in the spring, figures of witches are found in Bad Harzburg throughout the year- as souvenirs for tourists, in shop windows, on the roofs of houses, on labels for various products. It’s like perpetual Halloween.
And Halloween is my favourite holiday. I was in Bad Harzburg just this past weekend, and was delighted to discover that Bad Harzburg was celebrating yet another festival: KastanienFest (Kastanien means “chestnut”). The streets were filled with vendors selling everything from scarves to wooden toys. Smells drifted from food stalls selling goodies such as candy apples and bratwurst, crisp and hot off the grill. Music from buskers playing accordions, bag pipes, flutes, and other instruments mingled with the chatter and laughter of the people milling about.
Bad Harzburg appears to be this sleepy little mountain town, evident by its population of old people. However, a closer look reveals that there is a mischievous and mystical character about the town and its people. In addition to the witches, other fairytale delights freckle the town. For example, a large fountain sits just off of the main street. Numerous sculptures of strange creatures- mermaids, dwarves, nymphs- perch on the fountain, most of them naked, some of them shooting water out of their penises or from wine bottles, and all of them with a naughty twinkle in their eye. One of the dwarves even has his hand around his dick as he gazes at another naked dwarf with huge breasts (check out the dwarf to the right in the picture). Alcohol, debauchery, and sex. And that’s all just in one fountain.
If you take the sky tram up the mountain and into the forest that’s at the edge of the town, you’ll enter a real fairytale, or what‘s left of it. Hidden from site deep within the forest is the Harzburg Castle. Once mighty and strong, the castle is now in ruins, making the grounds feel spooky and haunted.
Hiking trails criss-cross the mountains and forests, leading to waterfalls and spectacular views. Bad Harzburg may be renowned for its spas and as a place to retire, but the town also offers mischief and fun for a person who’s more of the adventurous type. While much of Bad Harzburg’s residents may be elderly, if you look closely, you’ll notice that they all have a twinkle in their eye.