Molly's Miscellany

Pep Talk

When I was in the seventh grade, two of my friends and I decided to sign up for the junior high talent show. It was held in our school’s cafetorium, and we were going to be stars.

After some brainstorming, we decided our best bet was to perform Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” as singing chin people. You know, the googly-eyed chin heads that have upside down mouths and performed alongside Stick Stickly on Nickelodeon in the 90s. Chin people. Of course. We would tie bandanas around the tops of our heads (the bottoms of the chin people’s heads), lay upside down on a table, and perform behind a purple bathtub cardboard cut-out. Our plan was flawless.

We had a minor setback after searching high and low for a recording of “Splish Splash.” This was in the days before iTunes and YouTube, and all our local entertainment centers were fresh out of the latest CD copies of Bobby Darin’s greatest hits. It was okay, though, we told ourselves. We would would simply sing it loud and proud and a capella. Fine.

The big day drew closer, and we collected all our keys to success: bandanas, googly eyes, and, of course, the centerpiece of our performance: the purple bathtub. It was a magnificent feat of seventh grade artistic engineering. Purpler than an iris in May thanks to a can of metallic purple spray paint, it stood three feet tall on two-dimensional claw feet that had been meticulously cut out with a box-cutter. We had gone all out.

On the day of the performance, we gathered backstage and waited our turn. We were sandwiched between an 8th grader singing “Kryptonite” and two 7th graders performing a juggling routine. As the 8th grader watched the world float to the dark side of the moon, the drama teacher came up to us. She had some bad news: the tech crew couldn’t get the microphone stands to lower down to the level we would need them for our chin people to sing into, so they weren’t going to put them out at all. We were going to have to go without vocal amplification.

At this point, my two fellow splish-splashers were in full-fledged panic mode. “I don’t think we should do this, Molly. This is going to be terrible. We are going to be terrible.” One of them had started to cry a little bit.

I realized right then what the best thing to do was: I needed to give everyone a pep talk.

“Y’all. We are going to be fine. We have worked so hard to get to this point, and we are going to do great. We are going to go out there and sing our song, and people are going to love it.”

That did the trick. The Kryptonite crooner finished his song and exited stage right. We shuffled into the stage left corridor, watching as the production crew set up our two folding tables on the stage.

“You have to close the curtain!” I whisper-shouted to the stage manager on the opposite side of the stage. I made exaggerated hand jerks to the front of the stage where the curtain stood gapingly, apathetically open.

“Just go!” The stage manager shouted, no whisper this time, back to me.

Someone must have pushed us from behind, because the next thing I knew, we were on stage, staring out at the entire junior high population staring back at us from the cafeteria side of the cafetorium. The stage lights created hazy halos around the otherwise darkened faces of our peers in the audience.

We climbed onto our tables and realized that the purple bathtub wasn’t in front of us. They had positioned the tables too close to the edge of the stage, and there was no room for it. We laid down on the tables, leaned our heads backwards, and pulled our bandanas over our faces. I counted us off: “One, two, three!”

And off we went. We splished and splashed, knowing everything was not all right, but committing ourselves to the performance. We rolled and strolled, the audience yelled, “What?” and “We can’t hear you!”, and we moved and grooved. Our synchroneity ebbed and flowed, and a few times we got lost in the song. But finally we finished.

I don’t remember if the audience applauded or not. I don’t remember if we took a bow. I don’t even remember climbing off the tables and walking off the stage. I blocked it out of my memory.

I do remember, though, that from that point on, my friends never trusted my little pep talks.

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Adventures in Arkansas

What You’ll Find in a Glory Hole

Several places in Arkansas have unusual names. Here are some examples:

  • Bald Knob
  • Possum Grape
  • Toad Suck
  • Goobertown

My personal favorite strangely-named attraction is Glory Hole Falls. This glory hole of the gods is a waterfall that goes through a hole and is glorious. If you ever want to visit it, I recommend doing so after it has rained a little, because then the Glory will be magnified tenfold. But beware if you go here after it has rained in the springtime! You may encounter some creatures stranger than the aforementioned names of Arkansas’s hottest destinations.

Last weekend Ben and I decided to do some hiking, so we ventured out to the Glory Hole. To get there, we hiked down a trail that sported the best of early spring’s fern coils, mushrooms, and covered-in-bright-green-exuberance trees.

We saw the Glory Hole and picnicked on top of a boulder and bushwhacked our way to the stream that runs out from the Hole. And everything was bright and warm and wonderful.

Everything was bright and warm and wonderful except that I forgot to mention what we found in the trail puddles.

Like I mentioned earlier, it had rained a few days before, so every now and then along the trail we would come to a water-filled rut. As we walked past one of them, Ben called out, “Hey, what’s that?”

I turned around, looked into the water, and saw a long, coiled telephone cord. “It’s a long, coiled telephone cord,” I replied.

Being environmentally conscious, and not wanting to have some fool from 1997 pollute the lovely Glory Hole Falls trail with his telecommunications technology, Ben got some sticks and set to gently pulling a part of the cord out of the water.

This was roundabout the point where I started what would become an unending exclamation of, “YUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!”

Because that long, coiled cord was not telecommunications technology at all. Instead, we discovered with horror that it was THE SLIMY BIRTH CORD OF TINY ALIEN EGG BABIES.

We were fairly disturbed at that point, but our terror increased when we broadened our focus to inspect the rest of the puddle. All around us, in giant globs of solidarity, were dozens of fist-sized clear balls of Neptune-only-knows-what.

After poking and prodding the globs for a good while longer, we decided that these wee alien babes were most probably planted here to grow in obscurity until a time when their tiny black dot alien brains were big enough for them to FORCIBLY TAKE OVER THE EARTH. We then got the Hades out of there pretty quick and continued on our merry adventure.

Later we found out that these seeming monstrosities were actually just toad and salamander eggs. But if I had had any say in the matter, these puddles would have been the secret breeding ground of tiny extraterrestrials, who any day now would birth themselves out of the primordial sludge and shout out, “Boo! We scared you! We were hiding in the gloop of your Glory Hole the whole time, and you didn’t even notice!”

They just want you to think that these are Mother Nature's best and beautifulest.

These may look like Mother Nature’s best and beautifulest, but we both know the truth.

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Being a Tourist, Traveling

Gravity is Weirder and Scarier in Kansas City

Kansas City is one of my favorite US cities. Because it’s a fun-filled land, my boyfriend, Ben, and I decided to visit it over the holidays. We stayed there for a week and had a lot of adventures that centered around:

-developing my coffee addiction at coffee shops like Parisi, Quay, and the Roasterie
-sailing the high seas of fine cuisine at restaurants like Cooper’s Hawk, Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue, Thai Place, and Gram & Dun
-getting our smarts on by touring the Boulevard brewery, the National World War I museum, the Nelson-Atkins art museum, and the Science City museum.

As you can see, there are lots of great things to do and see in Kansas City. One important thing you may not realize about this town, though, is that there are some spots where gravity exerts its will on you in strange and terrifying ways. This sounds frightening, but lucky for you, Ben and I have located most of these locations, and I am here now to tell you where they are so you can beware.

IKEA is the first of these places where you should watch out for weird gravity. In IKEA, you will find a world of wonder and magic and inexpensive home goods, but you may also find danger! At first whiff, you might think that the danger lies in the scent of hot cinnamon rolls that fills IKEA and the four-mile circumference around it. They call out to you and say, “Buy me in bulk and put me in your belly and then groan in stuffed misery forevermore!” But, as it turns out, it is possible to resist these siren rolls.

Ben will be the first to say that you will have a much harder time avoiding the real hazards: IKEA’s curbs. These monsters are in cahoots with gravity, and they have combined their evil forces in an attempt to destroy you. If you don’t stay on your guard and keep your hands away from packs of gum, these curbs will trip you up so fast that your body will be horizontal in the air and your face will be one foot away from the concrete sidewalk before you even have time to ponder the physics of free-falling objects accelerating through the air at 9.8 meters per second squared. If you are watching this horizontalization from the sidelines, like I was, you will actually see the person’s life flash before your eyes. Ben, let me tell you that your life is shaped like an apple and filled with billions of bike rides and coffee beans and home brewed beer. It is also narrated by Carl Sagan.

The other place to be mindful of gravity’s tricks is the Science City museum. At first glance, this place seems like your average children’s museum. There are games about DNA, light-up floor tiles, and even LIVE CHAMELEONS. But once you reach the heart of the building, you will realize that you have found a place where gravity will have its mind-bending way with you if you let it.

The center of the museum has an exhibit called Skybike, which is a bike with a 200-pound counterweight underneath it. This counterweighted bike is attached to a one-inch cable twenty feet above the ground. It sounds simple enough, but when you actually strap yourself onto the Skybike and pedal out onto the one-inch cable twenty feet above the ground, you will be reminded of how much you love the good solid terra firma that you just left behind. The whole point of the exhibit is to learn about counterweights, so you are supposed to wibble wobble your way along the cable, letting the counterweight of 200 pounds worth of bricks interact with your own pounds worth of body mass and rock you back and forth.

My problem with the Skybike was that my brain bubbled over with fear, overheated, and shut down the entire time I was out on the cable. This did not put me in a good position to science. Therefore, instead of wibble wobbling, I rode that bike as if I were on a tight wire, keeping my spine, the bike, and its pile-of-bricks counterweight as upright as an airplane seat during takeoff and landing.

After my straight-laced dance with the Skybike’s center of gravity, Ben tried it out too, and told gravity that it wasn’t gonna play cruel tricks on him again, oh no not this time. He rocked and swayed and had a jolly old time, showing me that gravity has a kinder side too if you trust it just the right amount. But all the while that I watched his merry counterweight dance, I knew the truth: gravity felt bad for nearly splatting him into non-existence the day before and wanted to be friends again. What a capricious friend we have in gravity!

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Behold the stately wibble wobble of the counterweight. Trust it as much as you dare.

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German Living

Germany and America and the World Cup

For the past ten months, I’ve faithfully chronicled for you the tensions that have been slowly building between the US and Germany. You’ve followed along as German doors have refused to cooperate with me and as German words like Handschuhe have laughed haughtily at me. You’ve also witnessed me grrrowl and snarrrl at Germans with my American accent and occasionally ride the train without paying for a ticket.

On Thursday, y’all, all of this strife is finally going to come to a head. The US is playing against Germany in their third and final first-round match of the World Cup. My roommate has described the situation as a Level “Hamburger vs. Leberkässemmel” Emergency.

This crisis has occurred because both teams are tied with each other and also at the top of their first-round group. The best scenario is a tie, which would take both teams to the next round with no questions asked and no hard feelings felt. If either the US or Germany wins, though, that winning team will shout loudly, beat their chests proudly, and sidle on into the next round.  With the win-lose scenario, the losing team will be immediately released into the Limbo that is the Brazilian rainforest. There they will search their souls and hail their Marys while their total points from the first-round matches are compared against Ghana’s and Portugal’s, the other two teams in this first-round group that are already in World Cup Limbo. The team in Limbo with the highest number of match points will then be released and allowed to foot some balls another day.

I am mentally preparing myself for this epic America-vs.-Germany battle by singing the Star-Spangled Banner nonstop in as many keys as my vocal range will pretend to allow. I have also been waving an American flag as frenetically as a palm tree waves its branches in a hurricane. It’s a given that I will also probably chant USA! USA! throughout the entire match.

All this America juju I’m drumming up should be enough to ensure that the US team wins. At the very least, it will be more than enough good vibrations for everyone in a 300-yard radius around me to know that I am proud to be an American, where at least I know the sport’s called soccer.

US vs. Germany

Let’s all ignore the fact that this American flag is my roommate’s and the German flag is mine.

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