I'm Brewed Best at Oktoberfest

I left for Munich September 24th, because contrary to popular belief, Oktoberfest actually is celebrated the last two weeks of September.

The festival started hundreds of years ago, when a Bavarian king decided to throw a big party for his daughter’s wedding. It needed to be the biggest party imaginable, so the king demanded that everyone MUST party VERY HARD as part of the celebration. No wonder why this tradition has been carrying on for centuries, right?

On weekends, fest fanatics line up at beer tent entrances around eight in the morning. When the tents finally open two hours later there is a giant free-for-all rush to the benches. People leap over chairs like show jumping horses, slide across tables like they were waxed car hoods; it's a complete head to head, neck to neck, elbow to face battle for the perfect spot. It seems ridiculous -- the bier tents can fit up to 10,000 people, and there are 11 tents.

With this vision in mind, Verena and her friend Astrid insisted we be at the tents by 9:30 (Verena is a friend of mine from Austria, more than friends since we had spent the last eight months being roommates in Amsterdam.). Even though it was Tuesday morning with dismal weather and rain, I agreed. Even though I read weekdays at Oktoberfest did NOT mean hoards of people stampeding to and through tents, I agreed. Even though everyone in my hostel room, which was about ten, thought I was nuts and typically "American" for getting up at nine to drink beer, I agreed.

No one was there when we arrived at Oktoberfest, except for the employees. The place was peaceful, like a calm before the storm, and I was thankful for the opportunity to have this festival of chaos all to myself for a moment. Oktoberfest is an actual fair, well-equipped with rollercoaster rides, fun houses, carousels, horse rides, souvenir booths and food stands. Lots of food stands. Food stands with brats, currywursts, whole chickens, fish sandwiches, fish on massive skewers, pomme frites, schnitzel, sugared almonds and nuts, ice cream, big ginger heart-shaped cookies to wear around the neck, human-size pretzels and more.

Verena had a friend who was working one of the tents as a beer server, so we spent some time with her before getting our drink on. Inside, beer tents don't have much of a "tent" feeling. In fact, it takes about 8 weeks to set up and another 12 to tear down these mammoth constructions. There are hundreds of tables and benches lined beside each other, and a balcony in the back reserved for classy friends and families. In the middle of all the tables is a platform on stilts, a floating island that produces oompa music all evening. There are full kitchens that take up an entire side of the tent, and four different corners that pour beer in steins. The floors are wood paneling as well as the walls, the roof has giant colorful sheets that drape down from above. It's much more than a beer tent; it's an elaborate beer hall for the king's daughter's wedding. Right!?

As a beer server you have to be two things: a female, and a female with Wonderwoman biceps. As you probably already know, there is only one stein size to drink from and that's a liter. The women that serve try to lug up to six full liter steins in each hand (After hearing this, I told Verena's friend to flex so I could feel her guns. Impressive!). The shifts are usually 10 to 12 hours -- a nonstop, on your feet fiasco of rushing back and forth to deliver hundreds of beers to thousands of drunk Germans. Not your thing? For 3,000 euros a week, the latter is easy to overlook.

By 11a.m., Verena, Astrid and I sat down for our first round of beers. We had a prime spot -- right below the music stand. The beer tent was still very empty, a sea of vacant beer benches just waiting to be covered in sticky booze and brats. We belted a hearty "Prost!", held our liters of beer with our right hands, looked at each other straight in the eyes and took a drink of our first of many fine Bavarian beers. The southern part of Germany is known for their weissbier, or wheat beer. Yet Oktoberfest doesn't serve liters of weissbier, each brewery involved in the festival serves a special autumn dark and flavorful pilsner. There is no beer menu; it's either a liter of special beer from the brewery or special beer mixed with sparkling lemonade for the weak ones. My friends and I were not weak ones.

The rest of the trip is really blurry for me. Hah, no just kidding. The important thing when drinking beer at Oktoberfest with thousands of Germans is to pace yourself. For every liter you drink, eat a human-size pretzel or mouth-watering bratwurst. The whole time I was there, never did I see people being dragged out, passed out or flipping out at others. Everyone is friends with everyone and happy to be singing lame German oompa songs while dancing on the benches. Every night, that's how it ended -- people dancing on the benches. It was a group thing, too, usually happened around 5p.m. When one person stands, everyone in the entire beer tent will stand. When one person sings a prosting song, everyone in the entire beer tent will sing a prosting song. Those oompa players on the floating island brought the term "crowd control" to a new level.

Apparently, this festival is one of the few times where Bavarians can wear traditional clothes. By this I mean leather trousers that end at the calves and are held by suspenders for men, called leiderhozens; or dresses with lace underneath that puff out at the bottom and give women breast boosts, called dirndls. Both outfits can cost up to thousands of euros, and are worn on rare occasions only. The rest of Germany considers these outfits to be ridiculous and old-fashioned. I, however, though they were great and snagged the cheapest dirndl I could find.

In total, five of us survived three full days at Oktoberfest. At one point, my friend from Denmark turned to me as said, "I may have a SLIGHT drinking problem..." I thre in a "Whatever happens in Munich stays in Munich," and then mumbled something about two weeks of healthy food and no beer might be a good idea.

Towards the end, Rikke would tell me, "Everything stay in Munich except for last night when you turned to me in your dirty dirndl after dancing to that stupid Robbie Williams song with some old grandpa pinching your ass as you yelled 'I LOVE BEEEERRR!', right?"

"No," I groaned as I waited endlessly for my plane back to Amsterdam, "That should probably stay in Munich, too."

The one truly listening was my body -- my stomach gurgled, brain sloshed and eyed bled a unison "Yes it should.....SOS.....SOS....SOS!"

Audrey "Stein Me" Sykes

Aud Left Amsterdam

Well guys, this is it. Time to move on. I've spent the last eight months in Amsterdam running around like an obnoxious American woman, smoking weed in all 320 coffeeshops and drinking to a point where I'm found nightly wretching on all fours in rusted gutters at the Red Light District, surrounded by drug dealers and dirty, dirty prostitutes....

Come on! Don't be so quick to stereotype Amsterdam as the above description. Although, you should take pity on the weekend tourists -- they usually end up as the above description. This city is the heart of Dutch culture, and I was damn lucky to see it. The overall lifestyle here: do what makes you happy, and you'll blend in well.

Amsterdam was my playground:

Remember how I was a tour guide this summer? I was, and I was flippin good at it, too. Most summer days included me guiding young backpackers around the city, an attempt to open eyes and educate others on how the city is more than just smoking pot and indulging in the eye candy of the Red Light District. It was a three hour walking tour around the central area, and I would lead groups of 20 or 30, rambling on and on about Amsterdam's history. It was a free tour, however, so I worked my ass off for good tips. That means a certain level of entertainment was in order... It was more than joke telling, a tour was a three-hour performance.

I jumped on and off railings, steps, houseboats, tree stumps, really anything that made me taller. I shouted at Dam Square, and whispered at the Oude Kerk. At the Tower of Tears I pretended to cry. At the Rembrandt house I played Rembrandt. My hands would flail around for the Miracle of Amsterdam. My eyes would widen and arms would stretch for the story of Anne Frank. I was on an imaginary ship when telling the history of the East Indies Company. Each day I left physically and mentally exhausted.

I got real into it, and the feelings rubbed off on the crowds. Sometimes tourists would buy me beers, sometimes they would hug me. Sometimes they would laugh, sometimes they wouldn't get it. Other times they would applause after random stories, other times they would holler like sports fans. There was always a wide range of emotions on their faces, something I enjoyed to watch.

On average, I made 80 Euros a day -- for telling people how rad Amsterdam really is.

Amsterdam was my music mecca:

Off the top of my head, bands I saw while here: Atmosphere, Black Crowes, Jack Johnson, The Darkness, Death Cab, The Decemberists, Bouncing Souls, Pennywise, The Presidents of USA, The Infadels, The Kooks, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Spoon, Flaming Lips, Gabriel Rios, The Weakerthans, GunsNRoses, Planes Mistaken for Stars, Buena Vista Social Club.... Rolling Stones... El Gran Silencio...

These bands played at venues that were once maybe a Protestant church (the Paradiso) or a milk factory (The Melkweg) during the 1600s and 1700s. And the venues are incredible -- always more than one stage, a cafe somewhere, multiple bars around the club, and amazing acoustics, lights and architecture. Bands are always so ecstatic to be out here, they play only their good songs for the Dutch crowd -- though most are a good blend of locals and foreigners.
Then there is the jazz that makes your ears bleed saxophone. Every night it echoes throughout the city from small brown cafes, large music halls and student buildings. Ex pats that once played with James Brown flutter around these bars, tooting out solos from the crowd when they have a surge of urge.

In Amsterdam, there are punk rock bars, heavy metal bars, blues bars, hip hop bars, reggae bars; all well-equipped with weekend nights of endless gigs. But there's even more on the outside -- amphitheaters in parks, street musicians in Dam Square, and the random households enjoying jam sessions as they sit outside on the front steps, drinking beer and slurping on fresh herring and cheese. I'm telling you, this city sings and has a soundtrack impossible to rival against.

Amsterdam was my middle man:

Upon my arrival back in February I was placed within international student housing through the University van Amsterdam. There were around ten people on each floor studying abroad from countries all over the world.

I shared a floor with students from Russia, Hungary, England, Austria, US... Dave, a punk ass kid from Detroit, who was perma-stoned, ended up with a prostitute in his room at his going away party because his friends wanted to "surprise" him. Luke, an Iranian jazz bassist from Brighton, England, took me off guard many times when I passed by his room as he chanted Buddhist phrases and clanked his chimes... then blasted the White Stripes.

The tourists I met, that's another story of it's own. Gappi, a "citizen of the world" who was really from Germany, and decided to change his pants in front of the entire tour as I was telling the story of Anne Frank. "You're a free spirit, huh Gappi?" I asked after the tour. Gappi smiled at me, began to wave his arms like a bird and "flew" away down the street, yelling "I was born free, lady!"

There was a senior citizen couple from Florida on my tour once. The wife was small, her skin shriveled and body hunched over. The husband, tall and his head was a glossy bald. It began raining, and the wife held a poncho, camo army pattern, pitched like a tent over her head while her husband let the rain bounce off his face. Neither of them had pleasant face expressions. They looked so ridiculous I laughed so hard I was crying, in front of the entire tour group. I would try to keep going, but every time I looked over there they were, and I busted out in giggles again which caused everyone there to laugh with me. Oops.

Three words that means fun: Large Spanish Groups (LSG). These people are STOAKED to be in Amsterdam, and they are even MORE stoaked to be on a free tour! Every place we'd walk to, would receive a round of applause. I would say "Ok, guys our next stop is that bridge over there" and the LSG would clap like lunatic fans."Alright, now were headed down the street, please don't take pictures of the ladies in the windows" LSG roars with laughter, applause, hoots and hollars. I felt like a street performer. In a sense, I was.

I led girl scout groups from Canada through the Red Light District, as well as boy scout groups from Ohio. I guided kids high as a kite, or tripping on mushrooms so hard I held their hand. I led a blind guy who had a giant bloodshot eyeball on the bottom of his walking stick that rotated as he walked. So many people with so many stories and so many different backgrounds. I can't tell it all in one email, and I can only hope I remember it all.

Amsterdam was my muse:

These snippets of examples listed above will be everlasting stories. So many experiences to remember, write, share and reminisce. Enough to last my entire life. It's a satisfying feeling to have, this idea of bottomless material.

So I'll continue to write my experiences as long as you guys promise to remain my audience.

Audrey "A'dam is Awesome to the max, and beyond" Sykes

Danish Tales

Odd Danish Tradition: Birthdays

I was invited to a Danish 25th birthday last year when I lived in Aarhus, Denmark. The tradition is that if you're unmarried you get blasted with cinnamon powder all night long. So, as my friends and I approached the front door, an aroma of cinnamon stung my nostrils. Looking down I notice cement pathways showered with spice. We knock on the door and there he is, the birthday boy named Chris. It's traditional for the birthday boy to greet you at the door, look you in the eye and shake your hand regardless on how much cinnamon is caked on his skin and clothes, or how drunk he is.

Upstairs is the party, or a bunch of tanked Danes singing songs I can't understand at long tables that are covered with leftover food (we missed the dinner, which is usually really hearty sausage and potatoes). It was a great night because I learned how to open a beer bottle with another beer bottle, and believe me THAT'S impressive! Chris, the bday boy, was at war with cinnamon packets all night. He would take a shower, walk out of the bathroom and then BAM! his friends whack the poor sap with cinnamon again.

I got handed a packet as well, and my drunken friend Morton slurred, "We're going to get him outside now, again!" So we go outside and are standing around in a cinnamon cloud when I open my package and give it a whiff.

"Um, Morten this isn't cinnamon, it’s curry powder." His face drops, almost in terror, like he had handed me a gun to blast Chris instead of cinnamon.

"NO, you can't use curry! Oh my GOD! Who gave you that?"

"You did."

"Well you CAN'T use it!" and he snatches it from me. (it's extreme bad luck and I would have probably gotten kicked out of the party.) I sit there baffled and Morton hands me another packet, this time cinnamon, and Chris stumbles outside with a "Please dear God make it stop" look on his face.

Unable to resist, I rip open the package and give him a high-class cinnamon dump on his head and down his back. Happy Birthday, BAM!


GREAT Danish Tradition: Food

When drinking beer it's all about peanuts and pretzels, but the meals here are heavy and everyone knows how to cook. Every month in my dorm (I live with 14 other Danes) there is someone who cooks for us all. This month it was Potter. I don't know his real name, we call him Potter because he looks like Harry Potter (see picture below). Potter puts on the white board: Pork Patties with a Bacon and Pork Sauce, and Potatoes.

Now I'm not the biggest meat fan, but I decide to give him a chance. All day he's in our kitchen making the sauce, cooking bacon, cooking pork patties, and it looks like a meat factory in there. Curious because I keep hearing the occasional "Shit!" being shouted, I cracked open the kitchen door: it's a sauna, the Beatles are playing and Potter is looking very serious with the pans. He’s cooking pork patties and very frustrated with the fact that his glasses keep fogging each time he checks the potatoes in the oven.

"Uh, Potter, do you need help in here?"

"No, it's fine. Everything is just fine. It's fucking hot."

"Yeah, do you want me to keep the door open?"

"No! I need my privacy. I'm almost done."

And with that I close the door as Potter yells "Shit!" again and then something in Danish. A few hours later we eat, and the food, as grotesque as it may sound, was great. It was one of the best tasting meals I've had since I got here. That's the meal picture I have attached.

Besides Potter’s pork patties in bacon sauce, Danes love to make big breakfasts. I awoke one afternoon to two other roommates of mine, Jakob and Torsten making the most elaborate breakfast I'd ever seen (Jakob is a short stubby guy with a long blonde pony tail who wears a lot of black, plays a lot of video games and is really into medieval swords (he's got a collection in his room) and Star Wars. Torsten is a HUGE Hulk Hogan/Santa Claus of a dude with a long brown beard and long brown hair who plays a lot of video games and is really into zombies and Star Wars (his cell phone rings the Dark Side theme)). Crepes with butter, sugar or jam, bacon, sausage, toast, eggs with onion and tomatoes, potatoes, milk, apple juice and oj, three different cheeses. It was incredible. I followed the smell downstairs and saw the buffet. I asked Jakob and Torsten if this all was just for them and they said yet. Out of guilt and same for feasting in front of me, I think, they told me I could help myself. YES!

Danish food rocks.

With a weekend off and time to kill I decided to go to Copenhagen with a
group of students from my class. After lecture we headed to the train
station and arrived in Copenhagen that night. For those of you who don't
know, Copenhagen is Denmark's capital, the largest city in the country on an
island called Zealand. Yep.
We searched for the Sleep In Green Hostel, a place known to be
eviro-friendly... but really offered nothing more than an expensive organic
breakfast consisting of bread and coffee. Still, we hadn't found the hostel
yet and the group of us stood there in an intersection, wondering what to do
"Are you looking for the hostel?" asked a guy from behind. He, his friend
and a dog had crept behind us and stood inches away from my face. Somewhat
startled but relieved I said yes and they offered to lead the way. Putting
all my trust in a few strange Danes was probably a bad idea, but I did itanyway.
"So, I'm Audrey, and..."
"I'm Pick!" shouts one of the Danes, even though we were walking right
beside each other. "Or Dick, Cock, however you say penis in English," says
Pick. Pick dressed in black layers with holes in everything he wore. He had
is eyebrows pierced, his nose, septum, lip, ears, tongue; and a buzzed head
with long green bangs. He was my height, short that is, and never stopped
"I'm Michael, and this is Fleek," said the other Dane, pointing to his jack
russell terrier that ran in circles around him. Michael was taller, a softer
voice and wore a tie-dye vest that said in Danish "Take me, use me and abuse
me". Fleek, who is going on 9 in people years, never left Michael's side the
entire time we walked. the dog would always stay within a certain diameter
of Michael, walk in-between us, in front of us, behind us, but never too far
or on roads.
They're both from Cristiana, a place in Copenhagen famous for many reasons.
It was once set up in the late 1960s as a place without rule, an actual free
market that developed into a village in the heart of Copenhagen that has
seen itself a separate state ever since. Thirty years ago the main street
was filled with hippies selling marijuana, hash and hemp clothes among the
fruit and vegetable stands; now it's not so utopian-like though drugs are
readily available and taken anywhere in the village.
Legal drug use and Amsterdam-style coffee shops aren't the only reason why
Cristiana is popular, there is much more to it. The people that live there
try to preserve the hippie lifestyle to the best of their abilities: murals
on every building, music in every corner, organic and all natural products--
people visit for the atmosphere more than the weed, or at least it's about
Pick and Michael are part of the Cristiana circus, Pick a flame thrower and
Michael the world's strongest man's assistant. On our way to check out their
circus that night, Michael tells me that many people live in the circus tent
at night and the perform during the day. Most of the kids are our age and
don't have much talent, so they all become clowns, which Michael admits,
they have too many of.
"They even are going to have a clown party tomorrow night. It will be lots
of fun, a lot of people, but they will all dress up as clowns and there will
probably be more of them than normal-dressed people."
Michael doesn't really live in a circus tent in Cristiana, he just pretends
to. He actually has a nice bed at his parents place, a cell phone in his
hand and an ATM card in his pocket.
Pick, on the other hand, does live in a circus tent in Cristiana, along with
six others we hung out with that night. When I asked him how much longer
will he be living in a circus tent, he replied, "It took me a long time to
throw fire down my chest without burning myself. Now I can put it in my
mouth, down my pants, anywhere I want without burning myself. Well, mostly."
The shows are always free and open to whoever wants to come, but I told them
I never saw any fliers. "That's because we don't use any. Whenever we want
to tell people about the circus, we just go downtown to the main walking
area and yell 'Hey everyone! There is a circus going on tonight in
Cristiana! Free! Please come and watch it!" says Michael, hand cupped over
his lips.
"Does it work?"
"Yeah, actually, we have a full house every time."
Upon our arrival in Cristiana we passed St Cristiana's church, the place
where Hans Christian Anderson is buried, as well as Michael's mother. Pick
ran ahead of us, and a few meters later he had opened the circus gate and
was holding it back, pressing his fingertips together like Mr. Burns.
"Welcome to the Cristiana circus, Enter if you DARE!" he shouts, again, this
time louder and with an evil laugh. What a weird guy.
But there it was, a vintage-style circus tent, even with a little flag on
top, stars and red ball patters painted on, old ropes and canvas that
flapped to the Pink Floyd beat was playing from inside. Fleek ran in,
followed by Michael, then the rest of us. Oh, and then Pick and his evil
Instead of elephants, cotton candy, trapeze performers and tigers sat a
group of kids huddled around a heater on a small stage. Bare mattresses
covered the stage, dirty plates, empty beer cans and ashtrays full of
smokes, dead joints and broken pipes. It didn't fit right at all, although
things just aren't supposed to fit right in Cristiana.
We hung around, talked to the locals about their fight to keep Cristiana
free from outside influence, about the circus, about how to roll the perfect
joint, about how someone promised Flick a beer and he hasn't gotten it yet,
about how Fleek is real good at fetching and how Danes are the best at
smoking anything put in front of them.

The next afternoon we went to Cristiana again to look around. The
unfortunate thing about the place is that it can be dangerous taking
pictures there, people will literally grab your camera and destroy it if you
get a shot with a drug dealer in there. So I don't have any pictures of the
place, Michael, Pick or Fleek. But there is a website if you're curious
about the place.
We stayed there that afternoon until the sun began to set and Michael had to
get to his clown party. And as the church bells in Cristiana rang Love Me
Tender by Elvis Presley I watched the sun sink into Copenhagen skyline, wine
in one hand and Fleek in the other.

Danish Beer-Drinking Skills:

In my Xenophobes Guide to Denmark, the chapter about beer starts off with "Danes are Olympic beer drinkers..." ...that's putting it lightly. Danes don't go out to buy six packs, they buy crates of 30 bottled beers -- Touborg, Carlsberg, Royal and Ceres are the popular ones. And yes, all have more alcohol content than U.S. 3.2. Usually it takes three guys to buy the beer, one to load it up on the dolly and wheel it back home, and two to keep him company and get an early start on things.

The beer shop might only be a hundred meters away, still two breaks are ABSOLUTELY necessary on beer runs. One right after the purchase to celebrate getting there before close or something I don't understand, and another midway between the shop and home. This midway stop can be treacherous -- sometimes the three beer amigos easily entertain each other for hours, from just standing on the sidewalk, and forget about the people back home waiting for them and their dolly.

Meeting a Dane that doesn't drink beer is NOT a respectable thing, it's an insult to their culture and he or she will probably never have any friends. Go to a bar and order Jack and Coke? Not unless you want to sit alone and be singled out as the jerk with the liquor drink. Wine? Screw you, what are you trying to be, classy? Beer beer beer, and sometimes suds flow down the streets. Literally.

The first Friday of November is Jule Day, or J Day, Denmark's official holiday for beer. It's the yearly celebration for breweries nationwide (the size of Illinois) to release the Danish Christmas Beer. Bottled in dark glass with holiday decoration, the Christmas Beer is available to all in pubs and on the streets at exactly 8:59p.m. I don't know why. Exactly 150 free Christmas beers are given out -- the rest of the night every town in Denmark, every sensible Dane, goes apeshit.

Beer trucks decked out in Christmas flare fill the streets, spewing clouds of foam in every direction. The song Here Comes Santa Clause sings from the truck speakers. Hottie boom-bottie blondies prance around in Santa Helper skirts and tops, graciously giving holiday beer to all those present and following. It's an actual beer parade.

And you know what? You don't even have to worry about beer bottles littering the streets -- the homeless follow close behind collecting every container because it's worth 3Dkk, or fifty cents.

Now this holiday used to be the first Wednesday of every November. But due to the DRASTIC lack of student and job attendance nationwide the following day, it was decided just to move the holiday to a weekend day. That way Danes of all ages (this includes grade school) can get wasted and not have to worry about school or work, and everyone is happily hungover.

Exactly, this would never happen in the states.

A friend of mine told me that the only way Danes maintain a steady birthrate is from drunken hookups. I thought he was liar until last week when I went to a stoplight party.

It's a stoplight party because, sadly enough, the color you wear indicates your availability. Red means you're taken, green you're single, and yellow is you're in between (whatever the hell that means, cheaters I guess). I wore brown and blue. But the color can be a big deal, some people who wore the wrong color by accident (so they say) and got into fights with their significant other at the party.

But my friend is right. By midnight the place was covered with wasted Danes sucking face with anyone who looked their way. It was impossible to go to the bathroom because too many couples were waiting in line to use it...together. It was impossible to sit or stand, it was impossible to look. Danes would literally make their rounds, and I found the true definition of meat market.

"Hi how's it going"

"Hi, no thanks"

The guy turns to my friend,

"Hi, how's it going"

Another sneaks up from the side, "Hi, how are you"

"Ah! Where the hell did you come from?"

"Oh, you're American, that's hot."

You get the point...I got the hell out of there.

And then there are the Friday bars. Think your university was special because there was ONE bar on campus? HAH! At Denmark universities, there are bars for each department. Yep, not each college, each department. Every Friday beginning around 2p.m. the eating areas turn into cheap beer bars. Fresh off the tap in your hands for 2 bucks a cup, the college streets lead stumbling wasted students to their bus stops by six. The best one I think is the Chemistry bar because it's really great to see Danish nerds get hosed, as well as Danish professors.

My Inner European and Beer self

This is just plain sad, or exciting, either way I've been in A'dam too dam long... I don't like Heinekin! I swear!

Your Inner European is Dutch!

Open minded and tolerant.
You're up for just about anything.

You Are Heineken

You appreciate a good beer, but you're not a snob about it.
You like your beer mild and easy to drink, so you can concentrate on being drunk.
Overall, you're a friendly drunk who's likely to buy a whole round for your friends... many times.
Sometimes you can be a bit boring when you drink. You may be prone to go on about topics no one cares about.

Stone Fever

Alright guys, here is another amazing rock and roll tale about how I kind of met the Rolling Stones today. Please, take some time out of your day to read this.


Preface: About 38 years ago my mother, Judy, and her sister, my aunt Geri, were hot catholic school girls gone 70s rock. They saw all the big names -- Hendrix, The Who, Elton John, Janis, Zeppelin, Santana, Rolling Stones, etc. It was easy, they lived in South Florida and I guess it was a hotspot for big rock and roll festivals.

One time Aunt Geri was working at one of these Woodstock-ish festivals, the main band was the Rolling Stones. Her job was at the hotel where the bands stayed at -- responsible for knocking on musician doors and informing them about when they played. Charlie Watts, the drummer of The Rolling Stones, apparently had been flirting with my Aunt Geri all day. I don't know exactly what was going on, but I do know when the time came for The Stones to play, Aunt Geri was there to let them know their helicopter was ready.

The weather was bad, rainy, stormy, muddy -- not a place for babes to walk around in according to Cahrlie Watts. Especially babes like Aunt Geri. So, figuring there was room for one more lady in the chopper, Charlie Watts from The Rolling Stones swept her off her feet, carried Aunt Geri to the helicopter, sat her down on his lap, and she rode with the entire band in a helicopter to the concert.

(Aunt Geri never tells anyone this story because now she likes to live the humble Christian life -- I heard it from my mom. In fact, I once brought it up at Aunt Geri's daughter's wedding. Just straight up asked her, in front of her three kids, if the story was true. Basically, her kids' mouths drop and they flip out (they're all big classic rock fans, too). The 26-year-old daughter didn't even know.)


Yesterday afternoon I was cooking up a mean chicken curry dish. I've become obsessed with curry, guys, really I can never get enough. But that's not the point of the story. See? I'm having a hard time writing this I’m so excited still. Haha, ok...

So I'm in the kitchen doing my thing and Roxanne, a law student on my floor from L.A., comes in. I asked her what she was up to today.

Not much, she said, not much.

Me neither, I said, me neither.

Then Roxanne mentioned that she's been throwing around the idea of going to the sold out Rolling Stones concert tonight at Amstel Arena, just to listen outside and drink some beers...

Now I am a big time life long Rolling Stones fan. But I've never been to their shows because a) they're expensive as hell, and b) they're in giant arenas which I never like because I think it's impersonal, the sound is never great, and there’s too many people in one place. Still, my mom has always told me that I have to see them once in my life -- you know, because she's seen them, like, 30 times.

I felt that this could be the closest I could get to a Stones concert, so I decided to join her. Scottish, a girl named Diane from Scotland so I call her Scottish, came along. The concert began at 7, but my work meeting didn't get out until 8. I biked as hard as I could back home -- we grabbed beers, towels, jackets, and headed for the metro.

I started to get super excited. Like little a girl going to see New Kids On The Block excited. But wait, I wouldn't even be able to see the Stones because scalpers would sell tickets for hundreds of euros. Right? Anyway, Scottish was also freaking out, so together we belted out songs and played air guitar as we slammed our beers and waited for the 54 metro.

Scottish and I also decided to take a time out from air guitar to say a little prayer that we could maybe, somehow, manage to get in the concert. She crossed her chest for the Big Guy and said amen; I held up my beer for the Big Guy and said amen. Roxanne hoped that the luck my Aunt Geri had was hereditary...

The Stones concert Scottish and I were performing carried on to the metro, where a fat old Englishman joined in from the other side of the train car.

"Yeah! No satis-FACTion! Duh Duh, da na naaah, na na nah!" Englishman sang, fists in the air and grin on his face.

Scottish and I turned around and hollered back, "Duh Duh, da na naaah, na na nah!"

He took this as an invite and sat beside us. The three of us finished our Satisfaction cover and I asked the man what's up. He was going to the concert, but running late as well, because apparently his son bailed on him. He explained why this came to be, but his accent was so thick Roxanne and I couldn't understand him, only Scottish could. But I knew where this UK-chatter conversation was going: he had an extra ticket, for the ground floor.

Yep, he pulled that baby out of his wallet and I just stared at it. We all did. We all were Charlie staring at a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. He wanted face value for it, a whopping 117 euros. Roxanne had no money, Scottish had around 20, I looked in my wallet and saw 70.

"I'll give you seventy for it, that's all I have, look," I said and showed him my wallet. "Englishman, I've never seen this band. This might be my only chance. If you give this ticket to me I will be the happiest person in the world right now."

Englishman looked in my wallet, looked at the desperation on my face and decided to do the right thing. I hugged that man like a long lost brother.

We had one ticket, we needed two more.

The outside of the arena was abandoned, only mounds of trash remained from the thousands of people who were now inside. The Stones hadn't come on yet, we had about five minutes. I made signs for all of us and we set out looking for potential ticket sellers. I didn't really know how to do this, and we needed things to work out fast. So with one finger raised in the air I just started yelling, "One ticket! We need one ticket!"

On the metro escalator a woman turns to me and says, very nonchalantly, she has an extra ticket. I asked how much, she said 12 euros.


"I said twelve euros."


"Yes, twelve."

"Twelve euros?”


“Twelve euros for a Rolling Stones ticket?" Her friends start laughing.

"OHHH! No, I thought you meant for the movie theater that’s nearby!"


Anyway, our search moved to the outside of the arena. Soon we found one; another ground floor ticket. He was selling it for face value, we said 70. He said no. We said we got this one for 70. He thought about it, and then said ok. Two was easy, and it gave us hope for a final find.

We had two, we needed one more.

Then people who were stuck without tickets began to notice what was going on, and started to follow us. Seriously. Around ten of them. I told Scottish we were being followed, she said to start running. So we did. And they ran after us!.... They ran after us!

So here we were, Scottish, Roxanne and I, being chased by a bunch of fans who wanted our luck and we're screaming for one ticket while running with fingers in the air! The music starts, and I can faintly hear Jumping Jack Flash being played. As SOON as the music travels to our ears a man stops us in our tracks. I don't even know where he came from; he just popped out from a pillar somewhere. He had one ticket, we said 70 but he hesitated. He saw all the people following us, yet still took pity on us girls and gave us the ticket.

VICTORY! Holy crap we were going! This was the point where Scottish and I lost it. Roxanne took the third one and had seating while the two of us ran, skipped, hooted and hollered all the way to the ground floor. I was in shock. Complete, flippin, shock.

This arena fits just over 51,000 people. At a sold out show the crowd looked unbelievable. And there we were, in the thick of one massive room where 51,000+ people stood together with the Rolling Stones. I was in awe.

The set list:

Jumpin' Jack Flash

It's Only Rock 'n' Roll

Oh No, Not You Again



As Tears Go By

Streets Of Love

Tumbling Dice

Night Time Is The Right Time

Slipping Away

Before They Make Me Run

B Stage

Miss You

Rough Justice

Get Off Of My Cloud

Honky Tonk Women

Sympathy For The Devil (one of my top three favorites)

Start Me Up

Brown Sugar


You Can't Always Get What You Want (another one of my top three favorites)


They had elaborate costumes -- Mick had a crazy top hat at one point. Scottish and I drank lots of beer from the guy with a mini Heineken keg on his back. The stage could detach in the middle and move up to the thick of the ground floor with the band on it, which was amazing. The lights and effects were well-equipped with fireworks and explosions. A giant screen with close-up shots of the band was of course the backdrop. Saxophonist Bobby Keys was there jamming. I sent text messages to friends from England. I called my mom and held up the phone during Get Off Of My Cloud.

Scottish and I rocked out harder than anyone had anytime before. We jumped on each others shoulders to get brief better views. I jumped, twirled, dipped, bounced, knee bent, sang, clapped, shouted, whistled, kicked, air guitar-ed, air drummed, air everything-ed, worked a sweat, drank lots of beer, did cheers to everyone around me, did cheers to Scottish, did cheers to The Stones about twenty times... really just an all around freak out that I never knew was in me.

Before I knew it the show was over. I didn't even see it coming. I was expecting another encore, I think because I didn't even notice the first one even happened.

Even when the original members put their arms around each other and bowed in unison -- I still expected more.

Even when the lights turned on and people began to walk away -- I was the one yelling, "One more song! One more song!"

"It's over, ok?" said people as they passed me.

"No! Come on! Stay! If we all stay together they'll have to play more!" Ok, that sounded logical to me at the time, but now I realize now I wasn't making sense.

Scottish and I left, arms around each other's shoulders, including a random couple I thought would like to join us. I don't remember why, but they stayed and hung out.

Even when Scottish and I belted out the song "Roxanne" while we were waiting for Roxanne these people hung out.

Even when we went to get more beer from a stand and I, not looking at who was around me, accidentally rammed my backpack into an old lady... almost knocking her over... they hung out. (I know I know it's really really bad to knock over old people!)

We missed the last metro back to Amsterdam central. Actually, we got on it, then got off because someone told us it was the wrong one, when it really wasn't. Scottish and I didn't care. Our minds were still stuck in the concert.

Even when we had no idea how to get back and we were sitting under the metro confused and clueless, I couldn't stop imitating Mick Jagger's strut and dance moves.

Even when the random couple left us and we rode in a taxi from I don't even know where, I still air guitared to whatever songs I remembered them playing.

We got back, I passed out and awoke this morning without a voice. No tour guiding for me today. Instead I went for a long bike ride and tried to work off my hangover.


As I biked along the Amstel River, I took a different route back home and wound up at the Amstel Hotel. The Amstel Hotel is the posh place where all the celebrities like to stay at. Well, I didn't know this at the time, so when I passed by a group of people standing outside the front entrance I got curious. I asked someone what was up, and he said The Rolling Stones were coming out of the hotel at any time.

Little did I know he had been saying this since his morning arrival. It still sounded interesting, so I stick around. Hell, my mind was still intoxicated with rock from the night before, I was useless today. So I stood there with about 30 groupies, or maybe just overly-obsessed fans. Most of them were over 40 years old. Some were families, some had brought their dogs. One woman was in her 50s with old, dry hair that reached her knees. Another man had an acoustic and played the set list from last night. His voice was so horrible, it sounded like a horse was being attacked by some crazy pissed off alien. Haha, no it was really really bad though. And sometimes I would just watch him and laugh, and try to cover my ears.

Every time a taxi would roll up to the entrance, the overly-obsessed fans would panic with excitement. I had never seen people's ears perk, backs tighten and eyes widen, simultaneously, before. Many would position themselves for picture taking by holding giant cameras close to their noses with two hands. It was weird to watch. And funny. The whole emotion of fandom amazes me.

And then it happened, again and again. I stood there for one hour and saw The Stones walk out of the hotel, wave, sign a few autographs, take a few pictures with the fans, and walk into the taxi. But not all at once, and no, not Mick Jagger or Keith Richards. First there was bassist Darryl Jones. Second was saxophonist Bobby Keys. With those two guys I sat back and watched as the fans toppled over themselves to get to the musicians.

Then came out drummer Charlie Watts. Charlie was cool, a favorite among the fans because he was more personal. He hung out for a while, and I hung out in the back, standing on a tree stump so I could see what was going on. I said, under my breath, "You took my Aunt Geri for a helicopter ride!" Everyone around me took it completely the wrong way. Still, Charlie Watts looked up at the little girl on the tree stump as she smiled. And he smiled back.

Finally there was Ron Wood, one of the guitarists. Ron Wood was just recently released from rehab, so a lot of the fans were curious about how he was feeling. He moved quickly, and wasn't willing to spend a lot of time talking to these fans. I wouldn't want to myself. Frankly, the guy with the brutal horse voice was killing me. On top of it feeling just strange and awkward to stand in front of a hotel for an hour just to get a glimpse of these guys.

I knew I wasn't going to be there much longer -- Ron Wood was as much rock star as I was going to see. With that in mind, I said screw it and leaped back on to my tree stump.

Now if you had one chance to say something short and sweet to The Rolling Stones, what would you say? You're awesome? You suck? You're old, please stop? You're old, keep going? Peace? I love you? Or would you just let out a shrill scream? I didn't know what to do. So being the cheesy music lover I am, I said the first thing that came to mind.

"Hey, Ron Wood."

His head lifts and he looks at me.

"Thanks for rock and roll. I...love it."

Ron Wood smiles, laughs a bit, nods in approval and walks to his taxi. He gets inside, the taxi leaves, the fans are surprised with the whole moment, and I walk to my bike. I hop on the seat, bike away, smile and wait until I'm away from the hotel and overly-obsessed fans and then scream,


Someone pinch me,

Audrey "If you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need" Sykes

If you want to see pictures from my life out here in Europe, you can check them out at


The Colo Euro

The other day a friend of mine asked me if I thought I had changed at all since my stay in Europe. Besides calling myself "aud aud euro trash" on MySpace, I never gave the idea much attention. So last night I sat down with a notepad, pencil and bottle of wine and began to list any sort of contrasts I might between Colo Audrey and Euro Audrey. Here are my top ten:

1. Rarely did I sit with a notepad, pencil and bottle of wine in Colorado. It was usually a bottle of vodka.

Just kidding.

2. Colorado Audrey rocked out on her piano, or on any piano she passed really. Euro Audrey doesn't have a piano nearby, so she bought a harmonica and a kazoo, and now rocks out wherever she goes and whenever she wants – on her bike, outside of class, beside the canals, at the bars, at shows, one the sides of the street with the bums…

3. I threw on snowboard clothes, band shirts and skate shoes when going out. Here I slap on tights, skirts and flats. In short, Colo Audrey would kick my ass and slap a Vans shoe in my face.

4. I was a high-fiver, but I don't even have time to raise my hand anymore, people go right in for the Dutch greet before I can stop them. This involved three cheek kisses, back and forth, and I can never remember which side to start from. Since I can't remember which side to kiss first, things gets awkward, I give up, give them a hug and say "Sorry, I'm American." For some reason they understand...

5. Colorado weekend nights meant going to indie rock, punk rock, really horrible rock, hipster rock, or just some kind of rock show. I'd try to get in for free, either by scoring a spot on the guest list or sneaking in through the back (and front), because shows are just too damn expensive.

In Amsterdam, shows are never expensive (9 Euros for Atmosphere was is the cheapest so far), but never mind if I can't get in because behind me sit about a dozen jazz and blues bars open til four. So now I go to shows where people snap their fingers, twirl their hands in the air and wear gangster hats.

Ok, I still go to punk shows, too.... but I'm not that punk...

6. In Colorado I drunk dialed friends, my grandmother... Here I drunk email... I don't know which one is worse.

7. Transportation: Back home I got stuck in the snow one too many times in a crappy Honda. I cursed at it when I scraped off the ice, kick it when it decided to house a wasp nest, and sometimes just leave it on the side of I70 when it overheated.

Here I get stuck in the rain on an old-school bicycle. I sing it songs when I wipe off the rain on my seat, pet it when its back light shattered to pieces, and sometimes just sit with it in a park.

Back home I would skate or longboard to class, here I bike.

Back home I would drive to the grocery store, bars, friend's houses, shopping areas, eateries.

Here I bike and am ten pounds lighter because I can't carry as much food as a car, and my legs are my bike fuel.

8. On a journalistic note, Colorado Audrey would write leads, inverted pyramid stories, read the New York Times and get down with the Triple S Mag.

Now I write academic essays on how and why journalists write leads and use inverted pyramids, read (a very left) Yahoo news online or (a very right) International Financial Times and get down with the ethical scholar articles. Not nearly as fun, but enlightening!

9. Which leads me to my study habits: I have no more of them. I don't study here because I don't have exams here. Instead, I read and write academic essays. This gives me the freedom to go where I please without ever having to cram. It's a very stress-less lifestyle.

Ok that's a lie. Truth: Instead of pulling "all-nighters" to whip up a 2000-word piece like I did at CSU, I pull "all-weekers" to form an 8000-word argument. This leads me to say that I don’t drink coffee anymore, I drink espresso.

10. And finally, back home my weakness was three things: enchiladas, New Belgium and sushi (Hapa's Orgasm Roll, oh man). Now it's Belgian chocolates, Hoegaarden bier and falafels. Of course, this isn't some sort of replacement, more of a substitution. I’d kill for a Fat Tire, I’d kick for a chocolate.

Hope all is well back home, everyone. I'm in Amsterdam until September; my place is still open to anyone and everyone. Think of you all everyday and miss you like crazy. I want to apologize for not being able to email each one of you individually. I wish I had the time to do so. I hope no one takes these emails as a lousy and impersonal attempt to "KIT", it's just not true.

I have TWO spaces left on my hostel reservation for Oktoberfest in Munich this year. The dates are from September 25 to the 29, I'm pretty sure. PLEASE guys, fill in these two spots!

Much love,

Audrey “time can’t change me” Sykes