Finding Nemo

Sunday, March 13, 2011

You will be missed (a.k.a. "Great things about America we take for granted")

Yes, these are the little pleasures I take for granted every day in the good 'ol USA.  I know from experience that sometime in Nepal, when I'm into my 3rd plate of Dal Bhat for the day (lentils and greens), I will think longingly of these little bits of americana.  Here they are, in somewhat arbitrary ranking:

1) Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, and Guinness.  See my earlier post on Lovely Beers of the West.  At some point in China, I will look at my flaccid TsingTao lager and sigh.
2) Quality dark chocolate.  Its weird, I never really liked dark chocolate as a kid.  Around the age of 30, something switched in either my tongue or brain.  I will definitely have cravings, and I have a feeling Mongolian goat-head stew just won't be the same.
3) California wine.  See #1.  Why is good wine so hard to find outside of Western Europe and North America? (Yes Dawn I know they are trying very very hard in Oz.  But their experiments, albeit interesting, weren't quite there yet when I visited in 2001)
4) Clean, well-maintained, paved highways.  Yes, I know any readers from LA will cross their eyes in pain and confusion at this statement . But after you ride a shockless land rover across teeth-chattering washboard dirt roads filled with bomb craters for a month, the sight of clean smooth asphalt is strangely refreshing.
5) Good old un-accented American.  I love Aussie and Brit accents, they are funny.  But overhearing an American voice when you are far away is like hearing an old familiar song.  Its uncommon.  And the farther from home you are, the more likely the speaker is a fellow interesting traveler, not an "Ugly American".
6) KCRW and Pandora.  KCRW is one of those things most people in LA really do take for granted.  Tune to 89.9 FM, its always just there.  Even with 1000 songs on my iphone, I will most certainly get sick of the 1000th time I hear "Jammin'" by Bob Marley.  And god forbid if I lose my iphone.  That could be grounds calling my trip cancellation insurance!
7) Yummy quality coffee.  When I was in northern Sumatra, I looked out upon fields of Arabica beans.  These were the special "Blue Sumatra" beans that would fetch up to $40 per pound in the West.  But the locals couldn't afford a single cup, in fact they couldn't get any even if they could afford it.  It was all packaged and directly shipped out of the country.  The locals drank instant coffee powder that was poured directly into a hot cup of off-color tap water.  It tasted just like it sounds.
8) Kiteboarding.  Yes I will kiteboard a few times in certain exotic places.  But most of the time on this trip, I will be land-locked.  When the wind blows on the prairies of the Mongolian Steppe, I assure you I will be wondering if its averaging 15 knots, the minimum for decent kiting.
9) Friends and family.  Yes it sounds corny, but even someone like me does eventually miss their annoying friends.  I will be wondering who is getting married, how the family reunion is going, who is having children, who just got kicked out of Sidedoor, and whether Sharkeez will be burned down again.

1 comment:

  1. I never thought Australian wine was that bad even 10 years ago. That said, it is very true that many of the wineries especially from the Margaret River wine region are quite "young". I believe that Australian wine will continue to improve. In the meantime, there is very drinkable wine here, but like California most of it is not exported, so you have to just try it and go on local recommendations to find the best wines. I think we're starting to have a few local favorites at this point.