In new places, certain things become oddly, weirdly precious just because of sheer context. Three things that have recently increased their value dramatically:
`1) Drugstores. Specifically, the drugstore on street 178 near the river. It’s like Tiffany’s was to Holly Golightly. Calms me down right away. No bigger than the convenience store of an average gas station but with the clean, white modern interior of the ship on 2001: A Space Odyssey. So many neat, orderly products with readable labels. Hair bands and Milano cookies, mosquito repellant and shampoo. Air-conditioned and cool in there; white floors and walls, and the cashiers dress in starched high-collared dresses like flight attendants. They greet you with hands pressed together in a traditional welcome. Sunscreen costs ten dollars, but I don’t even care. If I am nearby, I just go in to walk around and fondle the deodorants.
2) Pringles. Never ate them in the U.S. … but they are the best food ever, here. First of all, they come in indestructible cardboard tubes. Second, no crumbs. Eat them anywhere without fear of getting grease crumbles on your only t-shirt. Third? Salty. In hot places it’s good to drink water, but you’ll still pass out unless you’ve also got some salt. A big stack of Pringles is also so neutral-tasting, it can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.
3) American coins. A handful of loose change made its way into my messenger bag before I left, and this week I found it and dumped it on my desk. I do this all the time at home, periodically leave squirrely piles of change around, along with candy wrappers and old receipts. But here there are no coins, all currency is paper. And Sarina saw the little pile of pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters this morning. “Lindsay, you can use these to buy some things in the U.S.?” Yes, I said, but only very small things. “Can I have one?” Sure, I said. I displayed one of each coin in my palm and she looked each over before choosing the dime. She inspected it carefully and stumbled a bit as she read it. “Lie-berty?” Liberty, I said. “What this mean?” Freedom, I said. “One … deem?” Dime, I said, and explained it was the type of coin. She held it in her palm and smiled in admiration, the way I’d regard a sweet ladybug. “I will put this on my bag,” she said. “I will keep it forever and it make me think of you.” So… I started wishing I’d brought more change with me.