Showing posts from 2010


As a follow-up to the mistaken identity post , here's the story I wrote on Christiania. I'm kinda proud of it. To pique your interest, I give you the first few paragraphs: In 2006, the people of Freetown Christiania had one of their epic, soul-crushing consensus-democracy meetings. It wasn’t going well. The subject was the future of Christiania itself. Up for debate was a plan by the conservative government that offered a devil’s bargain. Option 1, accept the Danish government’s plan to normalize Christiania, the self-governed, three-decade-old hippie commune in the middle of Copenhagen, by putting it officially under Danish rule and allowing the government to construct housing for 400 new residents, opening it up for people to move there. Also, the Christianites would see their well-below-market rents raised through the roof. In short, it would be the end of Chris

How to Expert When You're Expatting

My high school buddy Jeremy came to visit Sarah and me this weekend. He flew out to Sweden for work and then rerouted himself through Copenhagen to put a Danish notch on his passport belt. In the "What should we show Jeremy?" planning process, Sarah and I compiled a list of things to do that probably would've taken about a week, and could in no way be shoehorned into the day and half Jeremy had to see the city. Whenever we found a new kebab place (the one under Nørrebro Station) or remembered how much we liked our jazz spot ( Blågård's Apotek ) we added it to the impossibly large list of things to do in our new city. Sarah asked me why I wanted to have so many things on the list, and it's because having someone visit you is the test of whether or not you've done a good job of making a place your home. By comparison, you're now the expert. Sure, you're not a native, but you're a local, or at least the closest thing they have to one. There's o

How Three Cases of Mistaken Identity Got Me on the Guest List for a Rock Show

So there I am in Christiania, the rootingest tootingest frontier hippie commune imaginable, replete with a shady hash trade and a cozy vegetarian cafe, all within a five minute walk. I'm looking for that free tour I've heard so much about because I need to research life in Christiania for a news piece I've been commissioned to write. I go to a place that I think is the Infocafe to get a tour, see two girls behind the counter, one of them is making kanelsnegl . She tells me to go to the next place over to get a tour. I look around and end up at the top a stairwell inside a music venue with a woman with an English accent asking me if I work there. I tell her no, and that I’m looking for a tour. I ask her if she works there and she says no, she's the tour manager for a band called Warpaint that's playing here tonight. A guy in the back says he’ll be out in a minute. We hunt around for a lighter for the English woman's cigarette, peaking behind the abandoned bar,

Welcome back to Denmark

It’s 1:26 AM and we’re home on a Friday night. I would’ve thought that 1:26 AM would be a fine time to be at home, all hygge and happy, and yet for our neighbors one floor down, there seems to be something distasteful about a quiet night at this hour. And so I enjoy what appears to be a mix of polka, Louis Armstrong, and the voices of alcohol-lubed Danish youth creeping through the floorboards. Now they’re laughing. I know it would take a particularly virulent kind of crank to get mad at other people for laughter, but I think laughter has to be one of the least pleasant things when you’re not in on the joke. There’s nothing like hearing a group of people at the table next to you in your quirky little coffeehouse cracking up to make you realize just how joyless your life is, and how much duller your companions are by comparison. Make no mistake: laughter, music, and good times are all fine things, as long as you are the direct cause of each of them. Surely these strangers in apartmen

Hitler's Car Park

While in Berlin, Sarah and I took a free walking tour. The tour guide stopped at a car park. About 8 meters below us, Adolph Hitler shot himself 65 years ago. And right after his guards found his body in the bunker, they all lit up a cigarette. Apparently, Hitler hated the smell of smoke, so all the soldiers were prevented from smoking in his presence. But with him dead, and the war going as badly as it was, a cigarette must've seemed like a pretty good idea. Berlin's a weird place. There's no way to reconcile its oppressive, fascist past with its fun, vibrant present. It gets even weirder when you layer in a second oppressive regime on top of it, so walking around you can't help but bump into the austere concrete slabs of the holocaust memorial, a fake military checkpoint with fake US and East German soldiers posing for photos, and the most delicious and cheapest pastries and roasted bratwurst imaginable. The experience is like watching TVs that are playing "Sch

Dollars to Danishes

There's no getting around it: this place is expensive. And it's expensive in a really bizarre way. Like at the supermarket, there's a $2 box of cereal next to an equally tasty $9 one. The thing is, $9 isn't an insane amount of money on its own... I mean, I've spent $9 before. In fact, $9 is totally okay to spend on a lot of things, like flourless chocolate tortes, Gap clearance jeans that happen to be in your size, and matinees of 3-D movies staring blue cats in love. There's nothing wrong with $9. Furthermore, there's nothing wrong with boxes of cereal. I like cereal, it's delicious, keeps well, and if we are to believe John Harvey Kellogg, limits the body's baser passions. (It's true: I don't want to watch Jersey Shore after a bowl of corn flakes.) Now, in the case of cereal, my choice is an easy one. I simply buy the $2 box and convince myself that I like it better. However, what am I to do when I don't have cheap alternatives and t

The Soul of a City

When we last left our intrepid travelers they had settled into a new apartment and went to IKEA. They followed this up by realizing you can't cook on a mattress and went back to IKEA the next day for pots, pans, replacement pillows (turns out Gosa Klätt actually wasn't the right call), bath mats, shower curtains, and all the 20 kroner accouterments that make a house a home... plus three extra things that they'll never use but thought they needed at the time. Now might be a good time to talk about the soul of the city. First the good news: it has one. I talked a lot of trash about Milan and one reason why it was so professionally terrible was it was soulless. But even if I feel it when it's gone, I'm still not sure what makes a city's soul. To investigate further, I listened to Empire State of Mind and watched full seasons of How I Met Your Mother. These works of art/entertainment are love letters to New York. They express appreciation for the things that are

IKEA is Fresher Here

Spoiler Alert: Denmark is different than Italy. It's hard to believe we've been here for almost two weeks already, but it makes sense. We've shifted into living-mode, which is decidedly easier than traveling-mode, but you blow through days a whole lot quicker. This post finds me in our small Nørrebro apartment listening to Danish radio on the internet which oscillates between a vowelly word-soup and the very pop songs I was hoping on escaping. Katy Perry follows me everywhere. Two weeks is a little late to do a first impressions blog, but I'll do my best to remember those first few days. We arrived in Copenhagen a little frazzled since this time Sarah's bag had some things stolen from it. One could blame Italian baggage handlers, but we preferred to think it was a Robin Hood type of forced donation, and the money he/she got from selling the stolen goods will shortly go to getting orphans their gout vaccines. Still, we lugged our (slightly lighter) bags from v

Italy in a Nutshell

So I'm already a week out of Italy and I'm way behind. If I don't do some legendary condensing I might never catch up. So without further ado, I'm going to give myself 2-5 minutes to talk about each of the remaining Italian cities: Milan... ...was terrible. Our first meal was the tourist pit of despair. There was burnt/soggy pizza and raw pasta, and a 6 dollar Diet Coke, no ice. The whole meal was 5 Euros more than the heaven we had just come from. Also the streets were deserted and the hotel manager yelled at Sarah for being on the computer. I got him to apologize after, but we were just happy to get out of Milan alive. Cinque Terre Beautiful little towns tucked into cliffsides. We hiked a path connecting all of them together, stopping for food along the way. There was sand, beaches where you had to pay for an umbrella and a chair (but totally worth it), and a tunnel with music. Also, we made friends with an Israeli traveler and her Italian friend when I accide

Il Om Nom Nom-o

Another few days later it’s time for another blog. We’ve left Lake Garda behind along with its pristine waters, verdant meadows, and (allegedly) topless beaches. Next is Milan. Everything I know about Milan comes from some vague associations with the fashion industry and an abiding respect for the Pepperidge Farms cookie. I can therefore expect to find women wearing ridiculously uncomfortable shoes and a dark or mint chocolate filling whenever two identical things are near each other… possibly between uncomfortable pairs of shoes. If you ever want to see if a woman is a tourist or not, check the shoes. From what I can tell, no self-respecting Italiana would ever embarrass her country by wearing something as pedestrian as a sneaker. It simply isn’t done. But more on Lake Garda. We took the train from Venice to Desenzano, then a bus from Desenzano to Salo’. Of course, in keeping with the rest of the trip, our hotel was cheap by virtue of the fact that it wasn’t exactly in Salo’. It

Ah, Venice

I’m writing this as a train speeds me away from Venice and on to Lake Garda. Venice is kind of like The Godfather. Even if you’ve never seen it, you already know so much about it that a true first impression is impossible. You know all about the gondolas pushed by skinny men in striped shirts and flat straw hats. You know it’s very old, very wet, and of course, the most romantic place in the world. It’s also hard to have a real first impression of Venice because there are so many people having the same impression at the same time. I cannot say this enough: there were a ton of tourists there. It’s like Disneyland if half of the rides were churches, and the other half were waiting in line to go into churches. But acknowledging the inherent problems with any discussion of Venice, let’s talk about Venice. For the first full day we were there, I was convinced that it was a miserable place. It was as if you reenacted the last days of the Roman Empire and the last 10 minutes of the Titanic

Modena, Mo' Problems

About 4 years ago I picked up a book called “Heat” from the library. I originally thought I was reading the book version of the 1995 action movie staring Pacino and DeNiro . Instead it was a nonfiction book about Bill Buford’s quest to become a kitchen slave to Mario Batali and, eventually, to learn from master butcher, Dario Cecchini in the small Italian town of Panzano. There were few high-octane shootouts, but I loved Buford's encounters with Dario, the Dante-quoting butcher who screams at offending customers, bites a raw piece of meat when a tourist asks if the cut he just bought was good, and generally seems like a knife-wielding badass. I wanted to meet this butcher. While planning this trip to Italy, I figured this was the closest I’d yet been to Panzano, so I might as well stop by Dario’s butcher shop, hear some Dante and get yelled at. And so, I look up Panzano, find it on the map 10 km away from the balsamic-producing city of Modena (pronounced MOH-dena, if you want

My Team

So it's been a busy few days and lots of interesting things have happened. Unfortunately, so many interesting things have happened that I've been far too busy to write about all of them, and as a result, I have a bit of a backlog on half-formed fascinating travel stories. I will first do a quick run-down of everything I'm not posting on: 1. There's a guy at the Sistine Chapel whose only job is to shush people and tell them not to take photos. First, I kinda want that job. Second, he totally failed. That's right, guy. You had two jobs and you messed up half of them. That's like a bed and breakfast that only serves flan. 2. If you want to be a part of a statue that survives for hundreds of years, I have two bits of advice: first, don't be male genitalia. Second, be made out of bronze. There's a collection of marble junk that's been broken off over the centuries and when it's gone, man, it's not coming back. 3. If you're a kid and you c

Rome If You Want To

Editor’s Note: For the next 3 weeks, Ezra and Sarah will be traveling through Italy. Then there will be 4 months of studying abroad Denmark. Or “Eat, Bike, Eat”. Also, I wish I actually had an editor. -The Editor...? Morning, world. I’m writing this at 2am Roman time. I’m awake because, when in Rome, get really jetlagged, as the saying goes. Sarah and I stumbled through our first day in a blur of pizza, panninis, and pasta. Since I’ve just recognized a pattern of P-only foods, I can look forward to polenta, prosciutto, and pimentos. Lots of pimentos. So far we’ve met a middle-aged couple from Orange County outside of a museum who was bummed about nothing in Rome being open at the times they wanted. “It’s really hard to see anything in Rome,” they said. “And parking’s terrible.” While I do want to make fun of them an appropriate amount for wanting to experience genuine Roman traffic culture up close and stupidal, I can get behind this idea of “it’s really hard to see anything.” Fir

Sandwich Fail

Dear World, I am a simple man with simple needs. In fact, I am typing this on a laptop nearly 7 years old held together by duct tape and extra strips of aluminum. I do not ask for much. One thing I do ask for, however, is sandwiches. They are beautiful, pure, and delicious. They are versatile, they are humble, and they are there when you need them. Therefore, I do not think it is asking for too much to be able to make a sandwich for myself without having a cockroach crawl out from inside the toaster. Well, technically, it just popped its head out of the toaster, much in the way one might when encountering a giant who was converting your home into an oven to brown two slices of bread. That is to say, it looked slightly annoyed and assumed that I would shortly stop. And what else could I do? I unplugged the toaster, took out the very lightly toasted toast, and carried the roach/bread duplex and shook the crap out of the it until the roach conceded the fight to gravity and my blind fur

34 Ways of Looking at a Dead Rat

"Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day. " - Nicolas de Chamfort If you can't find any toads, just clean up a dead rat. Dead rat removal is now my least favorite thing I have done more than once. While their dying might have been mildly more traumatic for the rats than for myself, their deaths are over whereas I have to deal with the memories of their corpses forever. FOR-EV-ER. But I know why you're here. You want to know how to do it. As I have become the resident rat remover, you've come to the right place. Here are my 34 easy steps to getting rid of a rat: 1. Notice that the house smells bad. 2. Ignore the smell. 3. Convince yourself that the smell is getting better. Maybe it wasn't a dead rat after all, you think. 4. See a lot of flies in parts of the house that were previously fly-free. 5. Ignore the flies. 6. Wake up one morning and realize that the smell is getting worse, the flies are get

Literary Fame

Hey, for anyone who hasn't see it yet, I was published in the highly prestigious literary journal, Precipitate . As part of my hilarious work with Read it and Weep , I read Sarah Palin's "book" Going Rogue to make fun of it. As is the case with everything we read, it was terrible. But the upside is now you never have to read it. I can assure you that my literary review is much shorter, funnier, and better written than anything that Palin has to offer. Enjoy.