Goodbye, Europe; Hello, Failed State
I found out about the end of Roe while on stage in The Hague. It was the last reading of my two-week European book tour and a member of the audience asked me how I felt about the Supreme Court decision. I said, “WHAT?” then stammered on for a while about a renegade court nominated by a coup plotter and so on…
But whilst stammering, I was already thinking: Where do we go next? My parents made one smart decision, they got me out of the Soviet Union in 1979, just as the whole bowl of kasha was falling apart. I was about the same age as my son when we left. Would my wife and I make the same decision? If so, where would we go? After touring through the Netherlands and Germany and Switzerland, I’ve seen some great places to live, but I think Ireland may be my favorite. It was never a colonizer (quite the opposite), never invaded Poland (like everyone else) nor never helped rich doofuses stash their corrupt money. It would be nice if Ireland had a summer, but you can’t have it all.
Some may be saying, it’s wrong to flee, one must stay and fight. I’m with you, but to a point. When major powers have come undone in the past, when countries decline, millions have fled their borders (I know this as a former Soviet). It’s part of the natural cycle of nations (just ask the Irish and the Southern Italians, or hell even the Germans and Scandinavians way back when). And Americans will make fine citizens elsewhere. No one is as hardworking as us. And wait until fleeing Americans get a load of the free health care and education they have out there.
I usually miss America when I go one one of these long tours, but this time when the plane banked over Long Island, I felt nothing. It felt like returning to a country without a future. I will give it some time, maybe the next two years, to see if the nosedive accelerates, but after that — life is too short.
The author abroad. This could be all of us.
Not that Europe is perfect either. My fellow Twitterer, former Estonian president Thomas Hendrick Ilves, once corrected my dated perception of German infrastructure. Deutsche Bahn is now officially worse than Amtrak. I have been stranded on that damn thing for hours, often without a morsel of food! Here are some sample Deutsche Bahn announcements from just a week in Germany:
“There is in front of us now, a broken locomotive.”
“Passengers in coach 35, there are seats with air conditioning available if you just walk up four cars.”
“I am all alone on this train. Therefore this bistro will be closed.”
“We apologize for the [ninety minute] delay. Please [go fuck yourself.]”
Here’s a photo of train tracks in Cologne strewn with beer containers. Sadly no beer (or any other food or libations) were available on the actual train.
And now a big hurray for Dutch cuisine, one of the most maligned in the world. Look, this ain’t Sicily or San Sebastian, but there’s some real peasant earthiness here, like being plopped right down among Van Gogh’s “Potato Eaters.”
Here’s me eating a Stammpot, in this case mashed potatoes mixed with what might be kale and these large very brown meatballs. Hearty beyond belief. After I was done I joined a work brigade and rebuild some dikes along the coast. It’s good energizing food. And don’t get me started about the delicious herring, which I accompanied with some kind of local “gin” and then, for good measure, a horse steak.
Oh, and the Europeans care a lot more about urological health than our circumcision-happy urologists. This urinal PSA almost made my schlong cry.
In any case, I’m back in the United States and I miss Europe already. Where else will readers actually color their nails to match the cover of your book?
Oh, and the drinking? We hit 25 drinks for the week, which is not, as they say, optimal. But 8 of them were those little kolsch-type things they have in Cologne so let’s call it 21 drinks, or 3 per day. For a trip to Central Europe, that’s within the realm of reason, Ja?