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  • My friend Jacob is a roadie for Jack Johnson, the musician. Since I was living in Moscow on a fat research grant, Jacob and I made plans to meet up as the band toured Europe, in Berlin, the closest they would get to Moscow. Jacob had one night off in Berlin, then the next night the band would play then get on the bus and go. I decided to stay a few extra days there, and since I had a big wad of US government money, I would stay at the same five-star hotel as the band.

    But even though I was flying from Moscow to Berlin to hang out backstage with Jack Johnson and stay at a five-star hotel, I was still going to take mass transit from the airport to the hotel. My mistake was not buying any Euros in Moscow. The flight landed in Berlin very late at night and all the currency exchange boots were closed. I had maybe three Euros, not enough to get to the hotel where I was staying. Because a Russian bank had eaten my ATM card, the only plastic I had on me was an American Express card which did me no good. So I started hitting people up, not begging, but asking them if they wanted to trade some currency. Very quickly a man just gave me some Euros and offered to help with directions. When I told him what hotel I was staying at, he was quite surprised. After all, I was just a backpacker asking for change at the airport. It’s always cool when someone thinks you’re bullshitting them, but then they realize you’re not. But on the whole the experience was rather humbling.

    I finally made it to the hotel, checked in, changed some money, left the west for the east, and partied until the sun was up Berlin-style. The next night Jacob and I went out, the next was the concert, then two days of being a tourist alone, when I bought this snow globe somewhere. I spent a lot of money (I had a couple insane hotel buffet breakfasts, etc.) over that time period, but I only took one cab, and that was to get to the concert. And that remains to this day, wherever I go, I memorize the metro lines. I guess a part of me will always be broke.
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