Brian Blickenstaff

Writer | Editor

Notes from a Trip Abroad

My wife and I recently visited the United States for the first time in two years. We spent time with friends and family in four states, attended two weddings, ate some amazing food, and drank some great beer. In addition to enjoying ourselves, we noticed some things about America that were either different last time we were there or that we’d simply taken for granted before moving to Germany.

1) Where did all this IPA come from? Before I left for Germany, bars promoted Sierra Nevada as a kind of new thing, and there were only a few other IPAs available. On my trip, it seemed like I was lucky to find a beer that wasn’t an IPA, and at several bars the only beers they carried were brewed locally. In LA, I got served a Sierra Nevada in a tallboy can!

2) Boy did I miss Mexican food! I once got a “taco” in Germany that was pita bread with a pork schnitzel inside garnished with sauerkraut and lima beans. I wanted to cry. By contrast, if I had to, I could survive on burritos from Patty’s restaurant--the best burrito place in my home town--for the rest of my life, and I would still look forward to ever meal. The burritos were just as I remembered them.

3) Eavesdropping on people is a luxury. Although my German is coming along, jumping into a conversation without context or even just understanding the details of a conversation between two strangers on a train can be tricky. (And if the people are speaking dialect, forget it.) Stepping off the plane in the US and suddenly understanding everything without even trying wasn’t just nice, it was kind of relaxing.

4) Hipsters are everywhere. Yes, we have hipsters in Germany too, but they tend to keep to Berlin. (At least for now, that is. Rumor has it, Leipzig is the new Berlin.) The ones in Heidelberg are huge posers. The amount that downtown LA has changed to accommodate the hipsters and other middle-class (mostly) white folk was pretty amazing.

5) The US is really, really big. Americans take the size of the US for granted and Europeans don’t really appreciate just how big it is. From Frankfurt, you can fly to the farthest corners of Europe in about two hours. By contrast, when I flew from Charlotte to Chicago, it took two hours. But it wasn’t just the distance between places that struck me. The suburbs seemed vaster than I remembered them. And the streets seemed wider. Irene and I found one LA street so wide we stopped to take a picture.  

© 2014 Brian Blickenstaff

All Images courtesy of Tom Sekula.