Practical and Good.

Along with tap water and free toilets, before this trip, I didn’t appreciate how in America, you can pay to eat any fruit you want any time of year. But in Sofia, Istanbul and Berlin, there is only seasonal fruit. In Bulgaria, my friend was canning cherries before I came, and in Germany, white asparagus season, which I missed, is a big deal because when it’s over, there’s no more white asparagus.

Out of season fruit and vegetables don’t add much to my life. Generally, people in Sofia, Istanbul and Berlin seem to enjoy the same conveniences, save for nectarines in the winter, that Americans have, like indoor plumbing, the internet and fashion scarves. And since individuals have less money in those places, there are less private cars, and more public infrastructure. There was no need for a car in any of the places I visited, which to me is the ultimate amenity of living in New York.

In the case of Berlin, there is some pride that basic luxuries come cheap. The city’s unofficial slogan is “poor, but sexy.” And Berlin, which was sexy to me, is kind of broke. It’s possible to live very well on a bad job in Berlin, but there are few good jobs to be had. This is especially true for people without EU passports. I met a few ex-ex-pats whose hearts belong to Berlin, but whose wallets demand they work elsewhere. But still, it wasn’t like people in Berlin had bad teeth, which was sometimes the case in Sofia and Istanbul. (Also, isn’t it funny how if you have good teeth, no one thinks you’re rich, but having bad teeth means you’re poor?)

Back to the title of this post, which is a play on the “Square. Practical. Good.“ slogan of Ritter Sport, a German chocolate bar which can be found out of season at many New York bodegas. An ex-pat friend said that slogan is so German: direct, not exactly wrong, and without the same kind of consumer wish fulfillment that is so common in American ads. She also says Germans identify themselves less with the products they own. And like buying fruit only when it’s in season, that seems practical and good.

Dateline: Sofia

Hey Team Internet,

So I’m in Bulgaria right now, visiting my BFF since middle school, exploring the city and drinking lots of fresh mineral water. This European interlude comes after a ten-day vacation in the Adirondacks, where I did a lot of hiking and eating of cheese.

There's a thing in the Adirondacks about doing all 46 peaks over 4000 feet. Last summer, I stayed at Johns Brook Lodge, a full service cabin 3.5 miles into the woods, to better approach the Saddleback and Basin peaks. There was this teenager who was also staying at the lodge and also doing Saddleback and Basin. Every time he reached the top, he would scream out the number of peaks he had done. So when he got to Saddleback, he yelled out  “37!" triumphantly only to get to Basin and do the same thing with the number 38. I did four High Peaks on this trip, and when I got to the top of each one, I yelled out my number ironically. I have a feeling this is the kind of joke which will get less ironic and more obnoxious over time. Other highlights of the trip included taking a nap on Hough and going trail running on my friend’s property with two unleashed dogs and then swimming in a pond with my running clothes on.

Coming back to New Rochelle, I had a brief bout of anxiety over all the travel (and I suppose glamour) my summer includes, but once I was on my way to Heathrow, I gave into the momentum of the plane and all of my summer plans. I slept the whole way on the second flight from London to Sofia, while the couple next to me was having a romantic meet cute. Now I’m a towel and about to go to a Roma neighborhood with my friend.

PS This computer doesn’t have a spell check, so no judgment.

Just A Thing I Was Thinking About After Signing My New, And Soon To Be Used, Passport

I remember going to the supermarket with my dad when I was a little kid, and watching him sign his credit card bill, and thinking his J… A… signature was a pretense. I was like 7, and had probably signed my name, I don’t know, four times in my whole life. No one could really be as lazy as my dad with a signature. 

And yet adult life gives one countless opportunities to sign things. And my signature is usually something like R… A… While signing my passport forty minutes ago, I tried to spell out the whole thing, though I got disenchanted somewhere around “au.”

Boring story aside, I just bought a ticket to Sofia, Bulgaria.