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In Essays/ Travel

So You’ve Just Found Out You’re Jewish. What’s Next?

A former Jewish home in Kurima, Slovakia

Thanks to the boom of DNA kits promising to reveal your ancestry, people are starting to identify some surprises within their heritage. A common one is finding Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

When I got my results in early 2018, it made sense. And it didn’t. I knew I had a Jewish grandmother, but I never really thought of her as Jewish. She didn’t raise her kids (my father and aunt) to be Jewish and never celebrated any Jewish holidays within my lifetime––at least that I’m aware of. Plus, I never thought of being Jewish as an ethnicity or heritage. It was just a religion in my young, naive eyes.

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In Essays/ Europe/ Outdoors

Like A Bat Out Of Hell: Running the Panoramalauf Rund um die Burg Are

View of Ahrtal from the AhrSteig

“Fuck this. I’m never doing this again. No more running.”

That’s all I could say to myself as I started another 200-meter climb with about six kilometers to go in the race. My legs wouldn’t let me run up anything resembling even the slightest ascent. They were shot from the previous 800 or so meters of climbing.

I was out of water to boot, having felt a false sense of relief after taking a drink at the last aid station. My throat was so dry, I couldn’t swallow a tiny bite of my Clif Bar without nearly activating my gag reflex. All I wanted in the world was to cross the damn finish line and be done with this mistake.

That said, I’d happily sign up again.

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In Essays/ Europe

On Visiting Auschwitz in the Age of Instagram and Mass Tourism

visit auschwitz
Photo by Filippo Bonadiman on Unsplash

The following is part of my ongoing writing about exploring my Jewish heritage and ancestry through travel, religion, history, language, and food.

Planning a trip to Auschwitz is an awkward experience—and not necessarily for the reasons you’re thinking. First of all, “a trip to Auschwitz?” What is this, the Catskills? You’re not planning a trip, but, I don’t know, a visit, maybe? But it’s also not a nursing home where you might plan to visit your great-uncle, kept alive past his expiration date thanks to the miracles of modern medicine.

Language simply lacks the proper vocabulary for what a contemporary traveler is doing at Auschwitz. Paying your respects is the best option, but you don’t see that in the gobs of tourist material advertising a tour of Auschwitz. And that, in part, is why planning the whole endeavor is awkward. Booking transport in Poland isn’t straightforward and it’s a chore to find the right websites to make your bookings. Then after you schedule your tour at Auschwitz, you might realize your only option for a return to Krakow is a bus because the last train back has already left.

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In Europe/ There Must Be Order

“I Will Practice My English With You”

silhouette of a man in blacka nd white
Photo by Fortyozsteak on Unsplash

The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

It started out like so many pivotal scenes from a psychological thriller. The dim festival lighting, the crowds of unwitting drinkers enjoying themselves, the spitting rain on a chilly September night. Then, out of the shadows, the creepily cheery voice of a man who knows something you don’t.


I was at a craft beer festival in Düsseldorf with my friend Chris at the time. We had just debated heading out for some food, having had more than our fair share of brews over the past three or so hours.

“Let’s go back to that one brewery with the guy from Tennessee and talk to him before we go,” suggested Chris. “He seemed like a cool guy.”

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In Europe/ There Must Be Order

The (Not So) Awful German Language

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

Mark Twain once penned an essay titled, “The Awful German Language” that originally appeared in his book A Tramp Abroad. The book takes place in the late 1870s shortly after the unification of Germany’s hodgepodge of kingdoms in 1871 by Otto von Bismarck, a frumpy Prussian man with an overhanging mustache, with the assistance of Kaiser Wilhelm I, another Prussian man but this time with a curly mustache and mutton chops that looked like a loofah.

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In Europe/ There Must Be Order


Inside Hamburg German Train Station

The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

Germans take their reservations seriously. You’re a fool if you go out at night, expecting to just waltz in and grab a table at anything above a decent restaurant. Anyone who does so on a Friday or Saturday night is escorted out and sent immediately to solitary confinement at an asylum to think about what they did.

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In Essays/ Europe/ There Must Be Order

The Fancy Marriage Certificate

close up of hands with wedding rings
Photo by Rachael Crowe on Unsplash

The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

Melanie and I arrived early for our appointment with the German consulate in downtown Chicago. If we couldn’t meet German language expectations, we would at least hit the punctuality stereotype. We even had time to circle the block and grab a bagel before heading in. I know the German officials couldn’t see that, but I suppose I hoped for some karmic points.

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