Posts Tagged ‘Columbus Ohio’

Today is April 1st, which as we all know is April Fool’s Day, a day to have an excuse to be cruel to one another by making jokes or putting people in embarrassing situations. I absolutely love this day, because I love a good joke, and I love being the one to tell it. Or in some cases, to pull it. So I thought, as a departure from the norm, I’d list some pranks and practical jokes I’ve been part of over the years. It’s a list I hope you find as hilarious reading it as I did doing the pranks in the first place. Enjoy!

That time with the Jason Voorhees costume. I’m a huge fan of the Friday the 13th franchise, and so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have the costume for the series’ main villain. So during my second year of college, when I still lived in the dorms, I decided, in honor of April Fool’s Day, to ride up and down the elevator in my dorm building, wait for people to get on, and scare the living daylights out of them as they got on. It worked like a charm. Most people jumped, a few didn’t really react. One girl I was friends with screamed like a murder victim and then cussed me out for scaring her.

To this day, I’m still surprised I wasn’t punched.

I make this costume work.

That time with Bones and Booth’s engagement. Going back a few years to high school, my mom was driving my sister and I to a youth group event, and my mom and sister were having a debate about the TV show Bones and the relationship of the main characters. My mom thought for some reason the leads were married, my sister insisted Booth, the male lead, was seeing someone else. Neither had seen the most recent episodes, and this gives me a great idea. I pull out my phone, and pretend to call a friend of mine. I have this whole fake conversation with my friend about the show, and my sister and mom buy it up without question. When I finish the fake call, I tell my mom and sister, “Bones and Booth are engaged.”

My sister freaks out! She’s screaming, “How is this possible! No! NO! How!” My mom and I are laughing hysterically, and I’m trying not to throw up in the car. This goes on for about five minutes before my sister fishes out her own phone and starts texting everyone she knows, trying to find someone who’s seen the most recent episodes. By the time we get to where we’re going, she’s finally found someone who’s seen the most recent episodes, and has found out the truth. Oh, I slept with one eye open that night.

The many times with the phone. How do you do a crank call in the age of Caller ID? Well, there are two ways: one is that you answer the phone in wacky ways. My dad and uncle are used to picking up the phone and getting a hello from a pest exterminator, a law firm with wacky partners, and even once or twice a kink shop (my dad hates that one!). The other is get transferred around a few times so that your number is hidden from Caller ID, and see where it lands you. I’ve called my high school headmaster a few times, pretending to be anyone from “Doris Widdershins,” a stuffy upper-class Pittsburgh socialite with a son she’d like to enroll in the school, “Kay Cappuchio,” a reality star with a dog, and “Rabbi Abraham Irving,” a rabbi from Yeshiva University who wanted to award the school for excellent graduates. He’s only figured out it’s me about half the time! And the best part is, I got away with it every time, which is remarkable considering some of them I did while still his student! He was way too lenient with me.

The time I got featured in a prank video. This one isn’t of my doing, but one I just happened to stumble into. This guy on YouTube named Dennis Roady does all these pranks, and during my last year in college, he did one where he went to various libraries around Columbus, including Ohio State’s Thompson Library, and used a Bluetooth connection to make us hear sex noises and wonder where the hell they’re coming from. The video is below, and I come in about two and a half minutes. It was actually pretty clever.

Naughty!

The time with the text and the drugs. A while back, there was this thing where you’d text your parents and pretend you had accidentally sent a text meant for your drug dealer, and see what happens. I did it on my parents back in 2014. My dad figured out pretty quickly that it was a prank. My mom actually called me right before one of my classes started to see if I was actually on drugs. It was pretty funny. I told my mom, “Ima, do you really think I’d do drugs?”” She replied, “You told me you were hit by a car last year, and I didn’t believe you! It actually happened!” (And it did, by the way. Story for another time).

Lesson learned: careful with what pranks I send my mother’s way.

The time at camp. This prank actually backfired on me: the summer before eighth grade, I was at sleep away camp, and a couple of my friends and I decided to sneak over to one of the girls’ bunks in our year and scare them on a night the counselors would be at a staff meeting, just for the heck of it. The older bunks at our camp back then had trap doors in the back storage rooms in case of fire, so we sneak out those and somehow get to the girls’ bunks without getting caught. We disguise ourselves with masks one of my friends smuggled in, intending to pop up through the trap door in their bunk, run around screaming to get the girls screaming, and then run out and back home before security or counselors can catch us. We find the trap door, and I go first.

I pop up through the closet, screaming like a ghoul. And I see a girl sitting on an empty milk crate, reading a paperback with a skull on the cover by flashlight (I think it may have been some edition of Silence of the Lambs) in the back storage room I’ve appeared in. And the girl falls off the crate screaming, flashlight shining everywhere. At the same time, something wet and yellow flies through the air and hits me right in the mask, getting into my eyes and mouth. Apparently I scared her enough to pee her shorts and me with them.

Naturally, I fall out the trap door, spitting and laughing and trying not to vomit. My friends are asking me what happened, but I can’t tell them, and anyway, it doesn’t matter, because there’s a passing security team, and they hear the noise. We run for home before we can get caught, and somehow make it back safe, at which point I throw away the mask, take a second shower, and brush my teeth about ten times. Never found out who the girl was, but I think we both got stuck in each other’s memories that day.

That time with the cult. This actually happened last year. I met up with a friend of mine at Starbucks and, because it was April 1st, decided to play a prank on her. I told her my dad and I had had a fight because I was leaving Judaism for a religious group called The One (complete with cult-like hand motions when referring to the group or anything associated with it). She bought it until I said we worshiped a fox god, at which point she asked if this was an April Fool’s prank. I admitted it was, though I did also blow her mind by telling her that The One is a real thing. It’s just not a cult: The One is the name for fans of Babymetal, the Japanese J-Pop/metal fusion band I’m a huge fan of (so I technically am part of The One), and the band’s members say they get their ability to rock out from a fox god.

Weirdness never ceases, does it?

The Fox God

That time I pranked you. That’s right, you’ve been pranked. How, you ask? One of these stories is actually fake! That’s right, you read them, and you may have believed all of them! But the question is, which one is it? Give your thoughts in the comments below. Here’s a hint; it’s not the one with the video.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you laughed yourself silly reading this, and I hope you have a hilarious April Fools’ Day. I know I will. Until next time!

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Today has been one of the scariest days of my life.

A little before ten this morning, a man named Abdul Artan rammed his car into Ohio State students as they evacuated Watts Hall, a material engineering and science building. The students had evacuated because someone had pulled an alarm in the building over a gas leak (no word on if this leak was a coincidence or planned). Artan then stepped out of his car with a butcher knife and started slashing students. A police officer nearby responded immediately, shooting Artan and killing him. The gunshots triggered a campus-wide lockdown and reaction from law enforcement throughout and outside Central Ohio. Somewhere between 7 and 10 people (reports still vary) were rushed to hospitals in the area, with one person in critical condition.

I was notified by a friend while at work. Immediately a coworker who had been in my graduating class at Ohio State with me and I were glued to my phone as we checked for updates through Twitter. We both knew that Twitter news can be very inaccurate sometimes, but we were scared and we didn’t care. We’re not just alumni of the university, we still have friends and family there. My old roommate is still a student there. My sister works at a bakery near campus. I still have former coworkers from the Student Financial Aid office whom I consider very good friends. Not to mention the number of fellow students and professors whom I still care for and was worried sick about.

For the best part of an hour, my coworker and I devoured updates, my fingers refreshing the feed every three seconds or so. Rumors were flying throughout that hour. There was a shooter at Watts Hall. There were two shooters at Watts Hall. Someone got slashed by a machete. There was another assailant in the garage at Lane and Tuttle Ave, connected to the building I used to work part-time in. There was a body on campus. There were five injured students. Seven injured students. Nine. Ten. One assailant had a machete, the other a gun. An assailant had been caught. An assailant had been killed. Two people had been arrested and were being escorted off campus for interrogation.  Watts had been cleared, and the surrounding buildings were being searched.

It wasn’t until around one o’clock, where I caught a news conference on the TV in the breakroom, that I started getting facts. And even then it didn’t reduce my fear. It just left me exhausted and anxious.

Understand, none of my friends or family were hurt. In the case of a few, including my sister, they weren’t even near campus when they happened. And I was a few miles southeast of campus, so I was in no danger whatsoever But it was still terrifying. For all I knew, a Columbine-style attack was happening at my alma mater, and no one was safe. I thought for sure that there was a definite chance someone I knew was going to get hurt or even killed.

And unlike when I want to get scared, where there’s a bit of a thrill, this fear was all-consuming. It filled me like a balloon with air, only instead the air within the balloon was dark and corrosive and wanted me to panic and feel that the worst was inevitable. And it left me cold and empty and with the promise that the moment there was more bad news, my fear would come back in full force.

Even now, I’m still a little shaky just writing this. I’m hoping that writing it out helps me process this, and maybe helps others process what happened today. I know quite a few people are going to be coming back to classes or work tomorrow wondering if the normally-safe campus will be attacked again by someone with a knife, or even an actual gun. They’re not alone. Everyone is scared and hoping that nothing like this happens again.

I hope you’ll join me in praying that the injured students and staff come out of today stronger than what they were before, that nothing like this ever happens again, and that we can stand up to fear and walk on proudly.

I’m taking a break from setting up Video Rage (more on that in a later post) to talk about a serious subject that needs to be talked about before serious damage is done to my state and to the transgender community here.

If you’ve been paying attention to developments in LGBT rights here in America, you’re probably aware that North Carolina has a transgender bathroom law that effectively bars transgender people from using the bathroom aligning with their gender identity, forcing them to instead use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex. Mississippi has a much broader anti-LGBT law that includes this provision, and Kansas is considering a law that would force school districts to pay twenty-five hundred dollars to any kid who finds a transgender kid in their bathroom (how the schools are supposed to pay for that, I’m not sure. Kansas is flat broke).

Now Ohio’s got a bathroom bill. Or it will. A representative named John Becker from Clermont County is planning on introducing a bill that would “protect” families from “predators” who take advantage of businesses’ LGBT-friendly policies that allow customers to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities. Becker says that the bill will have an exemption from LGBT individuals, which would make it different from the law in North Carolina. But with a bill like this, can you really just say there’ll be an exemption and expect people not to get worried?

And we should be worried about this bill, no matter what promises of exemptions or assurances that the transgender community isn’t the problem here. You know how I know this? Because people who would harass or harm men, women and children already exist! Not just in bathrooms, but in schools, homes, places of worship, government buildings, private businesses, public parks, and more than I can list in a single blog post! And you know what else? They don’t need to pretend to be transgender to do the attacking! They’ll just do it! I’m surprised we’re not getting more laws and outrage over that?

In fact, where is that anger? Where is that outrage, those proposed laws? Why aren’t we more upset about the rape that occurs everyday whether there’s a non-discrimination ordinance or not? Ke$ha was assaulted by her producer but is still stuck in a contract with a guy, even after several legal battles with him. A former Speaker of the House raped young boys in the shower (without putting on a dress, I might add), but nobody seems to care that he was only convicted for another crime. A well-known media critic has been constantly harassed online by people threatening to rape and kill her, but where’s the rush of politicians and clergy to pass laws to protect her? I find it very odd that the outrage only comes when there’s transgender people involved. Like allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice, rather than forcing them to use one aligning to their biological sex and possibly face physical assault, is somehow a recipe for increased assaults.

We should not be punishing the trans community for an imaginary fear!

Which it isn’t. Look at the research. A non-discrimination ordinance doesn’t increase sexual assaults. There are no recorded cases of NDOs leading to an assault in a bathroom. This is fact. This is just trying to punish transgender individuals. Sure, perhaps some of it is actual fear of sexual assault, but if this was the real focus, then we’d be seeing bills that more heavily punished sex offenders or took steps to do away with rape culture and the systemic causes of it. We’d be seeing all this outrage 24/7, no matter who is perpetrating the raping.

But these aren’t the only reasons this bill shouldn’t be passed. Oh, all that I’ve talked about are definitely the most important reasons, but they’re not the only reasons. No, there are other reasons, and these are the reasons that politicians who aren’t that sympathetic to the transgender community. The reason that they should get these folks against this bill is that if it passed, all of Ohio would be punished. Not just the transgender community in Ohio. All of Ohio.

Since North Carolina and Mississippi passed their bills, they’ve received such a backlash. Celebrities have canceled concerts or filming movies in those states due to these laws. Large companies like Paypal or the NBA have said they won’t do or expand business in North Carolina or Mississippi if these laws stay on the books. Entire towns and states have even passed resolutions not to have business with these states unless absolutely essential (my own Columbus passed such a resolution for North Carolina).

What would happen if that happened in Ohio? I don’t think we’d lose our swing state status come November (especially with the GOP convention in Cleveland in July), but we’d lose a whole lot in the process! Nationwide has its headquarters here in Columbus, and a lot of other major businesses have important branches in our metropolitan areas. We have several sports teams throughout the state at the college and professional levels. And prior to contrary belief, we get a lot of musical stars in Ohio during their tours. If this bill gets passed, those businesses may want to halt expanding in the state or relocate elsewhere, hurting our economy. Sports teams and celebrities may not want to play in our state, to the detriment of people who just want to see their favorite celebrities do their thing.* Entire states will say, “Sorry Ohio, we don’t agree with your human rights laws. Unless it’s absolutely essential, we’re discontinuing our business with the Buckeye State.”

This bill won’t deter sexual predators. It’ll just hurt Ohio, hurt its citizens, no matter if they’re trans or cisgender. So even if you don’t care for or dislike the the LGBT community, you should be worried for that very reason.

Now the good news is that there’s at least one petition out right now against this bill. At the time I’m posting, it’s got 7,022 signatures out of 7,500, and depending on how many people sign, it may go for even more signatures. This is great, and I hope more people, including you, my dear Followers of Fear, sign this petition. However, it’s not enough. It’s far from enough.

Not now. Not ever.

In order to stop this bill from becoming law and damaging Ohio, we need to make our voices heard. Writing blog posts, or writing or calling or tweeting Ohio representatives and Governor John Kasich, telling them that this bill is just plain wrong and that Ohioans will not stand for it. We have to make sure that when Representative Becker comes to the Legislature in Columbus, which happens to be one of the LGBT capitals of the Midwest,** that this bill is dead on arrival, and that no one is going to support such a hateful bill.

So do what I’m doing now. Make your voices heard, and don’t let anyone shut you up. Encourage others to speak their minds. Start petitions, talk to your elected officials. Make sure they know how the public feels about Becker’s bill. Because we can’t afford a bill like this, and we can’t afford hate in the Buckeye State. Not under any circumstances.

*We have a heavy metal festival in Columbus every year called Rock on the Range, that attracts bands and fans from all over the world. Imagine how bad next year’s festival will be if this bill is passed! Believe it or not, we heavy metal fans can be pretty liberal, and so can our bands.

**No seriously, Columbus is an LGBT power center! Our Gay Pride Parade and Festival attracts thousands of people every year. Not to mention that the rest of the year, we have a vibrant LGBT community active in our city. And a couple of really fun gay bars, more than a few within walking distance of each other. Believe me, I know.

Pat Bertram with her famous blue 1972 Volkswagon.

Pat Bertram with her famous blue 1972 Volkswagon.

Earlier this week I had a most pleasant surprise: my friend and fellow novelist Pat Bertram came to Ohio to visit.

Now, through the powers of the Internet, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a variety of authors and editors and just plain lovers of literature. I’ve read hundreds upon hundreds of their blog posts, reading about their new books or their thoughts on the Craft of Writing, reviews on books or movies, milestones in their careers or lives or whatever. And through podcasts or videos, I’ve even been able to hear their voices.

Never had the opportunity to meet them though. Distance in real life has made that difficult. Until yesterday, that was.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Pat Bertram, let me introduce her to you. She’s a writer out of Colorado who has written four suspense novels and one memoir on grief. She’s a very smart woman whose posts focus on her life and the strange things that happen in it, as well as writing and reflections on the many experiences she’s had. For the past couple of months, Pat’s been travelling across the country, seeing new sites, hiking and camping and staying with friends. And when I found out she was going on this big trip, I asked if she wouldn’t mind visiting me in good ol’ Ohio.

Not only did Pat say she would, she ended up staying overnight at my place (which is also my dad’s place, considering that I’m staying with him until I move into a place of my own).

Honestly, I was a little nervous. This was the first time I got to meet one of my online friends in person. Without the context of a blog and all the commonalities that we as bloggers have, would we get along? Pat was also staying overnight, so would it be a pleasant stay or would things go south at some point?

Me with Pat's car.

Me with Pat’s car.

Turns out, it was an unnecessary worry. From the moment we met, we had plenty to talk about. I was so curious to hear about Pat’s adventures, from her camping trip to some of the strange people she met (she told me one story about a family in the Blue Ridge Mountains she stayed with who could be the basis for a horror story someday). And Pat was really interested in my family’s Passover traditions, which I (and later my dad) were all too happy to explain. And that wasn’t the full range of our conversations: we talked about writing, childhood experiences, how you never know what will go viral, my family’s complicated structure (ask about me about why I have three mothers, but only two live in Columbus. I dare you!), where we hoped we might go in our lives from here, ballet, Tarot, and more subjects than I can remember, let alone list. We talked late into the night and quite a bit of the morning when we met for breakfast. We were talking even while we were taking photos and while I was helping her load up her car. We were talking right before she drove away!

As you can probably tell, this was a really fun experience for me. And it also made me realize something. Part of my worry was that Pat and I are such different people. I’m an eccentric young adult who still doesn’t have a car and, while well-traveled for someone of my age and means, still has a lot to experience in this world. Pat, on the other hand, is a much more reserved and introspective person who has been driving the same car since she got it over forty years ago and has had a lot more experiences in her life than I have. Without our blogs or Facebook as buffers, I feared we couldn’t connect to each other in the real world because of those differences.

The reality is, we’re both human beings. And that’s really all that matters. We’re both human beings, and human beings have endless ways to connect. Even without a blog or computers to act as connections. Heck, sometimes you just need to meet someone and you can connect with them: my dad met Pat, after only finding out a few hours beforehand that she was coming over to stay, and they immediately got to talking. You’d think they were older friends than I was with her, the way they got on!

Like I said, I had a great time. And so did Pat, even if she didn’t get a T-shirt that said “I SURVIVED A NIGHT WITH THE UNGAR FAMILY.” I was very sad to see her go, but I’m glad we had this chance to connect with each other in the real world. I hope that we get to meet again someday, and that all my future meetings with online and author friends in the real world go just as well.” Because in the end, I think we can all make a connection, no matter what our experiences in

Selfie with Pat/

Selfie with Pat.

life have been. And those connections can lead to the most wonderful memories being made.

And if you’d like to meet Pat for yourself, check out her blog here. Trust me, she’s having some really interesting adventures, and you’ll want to keep up with her on them.

*Just remember that before we meet I know who you are and I feel cool with us meeting. Otherwise it could get creepy very fast. And not in a way I like.

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday! It’s also the second to last day of Passover. I’ve somehow survived seven days of matzah and a diet known to make grown men cry. Funny thing, the reason we eat this diet is because when our ancestors left Egypt they didn’t have time to make anything else, but some scholars suggest that the Israelite slaves were fed matzah by the Egyptians because it lasted so long and was easy to make. So maybe we’re taking this “we all should feel like we left Egypt” thing a little too seriously.

Anyway, I digress. If you’re not familiar with #FirstLineFriday, here’s the deal. On Fridays, you:

  1. Create a post on your blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential work, a work-in-progress, or a completed or published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and then encourage them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging isn’t required, but is encouraged).

This week’s entry doesn’t come from any particular story. It’s just something that came to me while thinking about my day Monday during dinner. So you could say that this entry is based on true events. In fact, it is based on true events. So I guess I’m doing memoir this week? Perhaps I am. Also, I’m counting everything after the colon and until the period as one sentence, so don’t get on my case saying I did three sentences. Though if I did, who cares? It’s my blog, and if I want to slightly modify the tag, why not?

Anyway, enjoy:

Summer and winter in central Ohio are marked by two things: extreme temperatures and power outages. So when, in late April, I walked into my house from a eighty-degree heat to find that my power was out, I knew summer had come early to Columbus.

Thoughts? Errors? Too long? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And while you’re at it, why not try #FirstLineFriday yourself? It’s fun, and for those of us with the writing bug, it’s great practice on openings.

In fact, I think I’ll tag someone to show them the joys of #FirstLineFriday. And I’m tagging my friend and colleague, Ruth Ann Nordin. Ruth, you’ve been tagged. You have to do your own post this or next Friday. Good luck and have fun.

That’s all for now. Wish me luck as I try to survive the last two days of matzah. If I live, I’m ordering pizza. Have a good weekend, my Followers of Fear!

I was going to wait a little longer to announce this, but I’ve already announced it on Facebook and Twitter, so I’d be a bit of an ass if I didn’t let you guys know. As you can tell from the title of this post, after about five months of job searching and wondering how long this period of unemployment will last, I’ve finally been given a new job!

To be more specific, it’s another three-month internship with the United States Armed Forces. Instead of the Army though, I’ll be working with the Air Force. Instead of the Equal Employment Opportunity office, I’ll be working in their legal office doing customer support work (more on that later if it’s allowed), and I’ll be working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base here in my home state of Ohio, rather than halfway across the world. Not that I wouldn’t love to travel to Europe again, but I think it’ll cost a bit less money to go and live near work this time (especially without having to buy really expensive plane tickets! Those were a real drain on my bank account).

To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether or not I should take this internship when it was offered to me. Five months into a job search, and I was still holding out for a permanent, full-time job. But I asked for a day to think about it, and after talking about it with some people and thinking about it, I realized that while I had job history, I only had so much history and job skills, and that could be a huge barrier in getting me a permanent job. Doing this internship would change that, it would give me a few more skills and some income while I was at it. And while I worked, I could continue the job search without having to worry about my finances drying up (and maybe get out of my dad’s house while I’m at it). So I decided to take it, and I’ve been on a high ever since.

And honestly, I needed this high*. These months of unemployment have been some of the worse in my life, and they only got worse as they went on. There were days I sat on my bed at home, looking for jobs and filling out applications, hoping against hope for a phone call or an email and feeling lower than the earth when none came. Plus there was the occasional friction between me and the folks, which happens when several people are living in one house and at least one or two wish they or others were living elsewhere. Add in the bank account slowly losing income every month, the feeling of being useless if you’re not bringing in money, and a few other things (possibly the winter blues?), and you’ve got a slight case of situation-based depression.

Now that I’ve accepted a job, I’m definitely not going to be feeling that down anymore. We’re aiming for an April 1st start date (since I previously worked for the Armed Forces, the background check and everything else should be much quicker than last year), so in the meantime I’m going to be looking for a place to sublease or do a rent by the month thing, as well as doing whatever else I can to make sure I have a wonderful and productive time in my new position. Hopefully by the time I show up for work, it will all fall into place and I’ll have a blast being there.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank everyone who helped me get this far. My family and friends, and all my supporters online and in-person for making me feel loved and making sure I never gave up. Jewish Family Services of Columbus for their invaluable support and advice they gave me while I searched, and their MAX program for Young Professionals for giving me excuses to socialize and get out of the house. The Big Guy Upstairs, because I like to think that He has a Hand in all the good stuff that happens in my life. And…well, you know. Thanks. I could not have done this without all of you.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s getting late, so I’ll be signing off now. Expect another post from me in the next day or two, I’ve got more stuff to post about here that I’m eager to share with you. Until then, have a great weekend!

* This is not encouragement to do drugs. Rami Ungar does not endorse the use of any sort of narcotic substance. Even marijuana. That stuff will mess with you in seriously bad ways.

So in five days I’ll be getting on a plane and heading home (cue the patriotic Neil Diamond music). Since my time in Germany is running out, I figured that I’d go over the highlights of my trip, the things I’ll remember and talk about for years to come.

And that will make their way into a story or two, because that’s what happens when you’re me. Everything is fodder for my dark, twisted imagination.

So here they are, the highlights of my time in Germany:

Working for the US Army

Me at the office.

Me at the office.

Obviously this has to come first. It’s the whole reason that I’m here in the first place. I got to work for three months in the US Army Civilian Corps, working in the Equal Employment Opportunity office on a variety of projects, including a few articles and newsletters. I gained a lot of experience that will no doubt help me with future jobs (can’t confirm anything on that front yet, but I do think good news is on its way). I also made a few friends while on base, and I got to experience firsthand what it’s like to live and work for the US Army. Sure it was only three months, but what a period of three months! You can definitely expect a story or several coming out of this experience.

Living in Germany

Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a foreign country beyond a vacation of a couple of weeks. I got to do it for four months! And you know, it’s a lot of fun, as well as very educational. Sure, my German still sucks (though I find a lot of people here speak enough English for me to get by), but that didn’t get in the way too much. From trying the train and bus systems, to learning that bakeries here have a weird tolerance for letting flies or bees crawl over their food in the summer (yeah, I found it a little gross too), to even getting lost and learning to rely on the natives for directions, every week seemed to have some new adventure for me, and I can’t wait to tell everyone about some of those adventures I couldn’t talk about here in more detail, either in person or through stories.

My Trip to Munich

German silver mark from 1937. Cool, right?

German silver mark from 1937. Cool, right?

That was my first big trip in Germany. Before that I’d explored parts of Wiesbaden and made trips to Frankfurt and been to nearby Mainz once or twice, but this was really going out to see the country. And it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of being here in Germany, especially since visiting Munich was top of my list of things to do while in Germany. I was given a personal tour of Munich by a WWII scholar who showed me how Munich was such an essential part of the rise of Nazism and some of Nazi Germany’s most formative event. I had such a great time that day, and I would gladly do it again given the chance and maybe someone to share the experience with. In any case, I will have to look up my Holocaust Studies professor once I get back to Columbus and talk to her about my trip. I bet she’d be very interested in seeing some of my photos and souvenirs, including an actual German silver mark from 1937! Now having that is scholarly street cred right there.

For a fuller account of my trip to Munich, read my post here.

Seeing BABYMETAL in concert

BABYMETAL rocking it out in Frankfurt.

BABYMETAL rocking it out in Frankfurt.

If you have no idea who or what BABYMETAL is, they’re a Japanese pop-metal fusion band fronted by three teenage girls. Yes, it is kind of weird, but it is really awesome and they’re making tons of waves in the metal world (if you want to sample them and see what the big deal is, I highly recommend their Road of Resistance video). To say the least, I am a gigantic fan, and this was my second time seeing them in concert. The first time was at the Rock on the Range music festival in Columbus this past May, but they were on a smaller stage and allotted a shorter performance time, so it wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped. When I heard they were going to be in Germany while I was there, and that they’d be doing a full concert, I immediately got tickets to go.

And you know what? I had a blast! They did their whole repertoire (easily enough when you only have one album and a digital single) before a crowd of about a hundred and fifty people, and I just had the best time. I got really close to the stage by the end of the concert, which was good because in addition to tall fans seeing the show from several yards back is no fun, and I got to see a ton of the action up close. Honestly, when they played my favorite song, “Doki Doki Morning”, I nearly died from happiness. At the end of the concert, I felt drunk despite having not had a drop of alcohol all day, and couldn’t help but sing the tune to some of their songs for quite a while after the concert was over. It was just a magical night for me.

Me and my new friend Itamar.

Me and my new friend Itamar.

That concert was also special because, besides a T-shirt I got as a souvenir, I made a new friend at the concert, an Israeli named Itamar who had recently been discharged from the IDF and was traveling around Europe and going to BABYMETAL concerts whenever he could. To him, those concerts were fun and relaxing (considering my own experience and the studies that show heavy metal is a mood lifter for fans, plus the fact that plenty of the band’s songs feature positive messages, I didn’t find that too surprising). We started talking before the show started, realized we had a lot in common, including a thing for horror stories, and hit it off. After the show we found each other and promised to stay in contact, and he said he’d check out my books. The very next day we became Facebook friends. Isn’t that nice?

I also had a great idea for a novel while I was at the concert, but I think I’ll wrap up this entry in the list and say this was a big event for me and I had a ton of fun. And if I get the chance, I hope I can see BABYMETAL in concert again someday.

And I’m jamming out to them while I write this post, but does that surprise you in any way?

Wewelsburg Castle

Wewelsburg castle.

Wewelsburg castle.

A trip to Europe is not complete without a castle or two, in my opinion. Last year on my study abroad trip it was the Tower of London, and this year it was Wewelsburg Castle, a three-sided German castle in Paderborn that was once the seat of the local Prince-Bishop. During WWII, the SS used the castle as a training center, and some say it was also where they did mystical rituals meant to empower themselves as Aryan men (there’s both evidence to support and oppose this theory, but I wouldn’t discount it). Ever since last year when I did a paper on the connections between National Socialism and mysticism and I discovered the castle in my studies, I’ve wanted to check it out, and being able to do so on this trip was a very big deal for me. I learned a lot while I was there, and I even got a story idea while I was there. Wewelsburg is definitely a place I’d recommend anyone visiting Germany visit if they’re in the mood for seeing a castle with an interesting and dark history.

For a fuller account of my trip to the castle, you can read my post here.

German food and drink

Love that German beer!

Love that German beer!

Now, because I keep kosher and because I can’t read German, my access to German food was limited. Still, when I could have it, I found that it was pretty good. They definitely know how to make some tasty baked fish dishes, the Germans do. They use plenty of spices to give it flavor, I think.

And German beer and wine is definitely some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I know Germany is known for its beers, but the wine is pretty extraordinary too. In fact, Frankfurt and plenty of other German cities and provinces make a lot of money off wine, and there’s even a university in Frankfurt where they teach wine and beer making. If I wasn’t such a writer, I might consider applying to that school and started a winery or something.

Definitely don’t miss out on eating actual authentic German cuisine while you’re here. You’ll miss out on a central part of the country if you do.

And finally…

All the story ideas!

Last year when I was in Europe, I kept track of how many ideas I had while I was abroad and came up with 40 ideas. This year I did the same, and after four months and so many experiences, the amount of ideas I had was staggering. 81 ideas as of this past Saturday. Yeah, that’s a lot of ideas. Novels, short stories, articles, even a video game or two, inspired by anything from dreams to stories I read and shows or movies I watched, to all these experiences and several more experiences I had while in Germany. Yeah, it’s definitely been a good time for me creatively while I’ve been here. I just wonder when I’m going to write all these stories! Hopefully not never.

 

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I have to say, I’m going to miss Germany terribly. It’s been quite an experience while I was here, and I hope that maybe someday I can visit again, maybe see a few things I didn’t get the chance to see during my four months here (I probably would’ve seen more if I could, but time and money are always a factor in these sort of things). And who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll get that chance after all.

One can always hope. Right my Followers of Fear?