c o u n t e r  s e r v i c e

Issue Three: Travel

Issue Three: Travel 


How far have you gone? Have you been to Scotland’s Highlands, the food markets of Marrakech, half of the places on your travel bucket list?

A few years ago while visiting a friend in Northern California, we made the thirty minute drive from Arcata to Orick (population under 400), which borders Fern Canyon in the Redwoods State Park. Scenes from Jurassic Park and Star Wars were filmed amidst the green-drenched walls of the mossy canyon, Redwood trees towering above. Maybe the cinematic lineage draws some people there, but it feels like an unneeded tourism pitch for such an otherworldly place.

On the way back to Humboldt County, we stopped at a roadside diner for lunch — grilled cheese and french fries with a slice of lemon meringue to bookend the meal. The dining room was sparse — a couple of tables and a long silver countertop bar, framed above by the state flags of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Our waitress, a middle aged woman with graying blonde hair pulled back in a tight thin ponytail, asked for our order and then where we were from — with a town so small, it's likely she knew everyone who regularly came through the doors.

“Ah, New York,” she said, explaining that thirty years ago, she’d set out for New York herself. A place as much a Shangri-La as Fern Canyon. “I only made it twenty miles,” she added, with a laugh. Driving North from Trinidad, a coastal California town, she stopped in Orick — fell in love, settled down, raised a family, met countless visitors while clocking hours at the diner.

Those twenty miles ended up taking her farther than the map lets on. — K.T.

Postcards from berlin

By Lyz Pfister


Who do you want your Berlin to be? She’ll be anything for you. Do you want her in glitter? Stripped down to sweat-broken tights and a cuffed white shirt, she’ll be the half-drunk beer loosely cupped in an open hand, feet sticky on the floor of the train. She’ll be neon lights on the rotisserie stand, one chicken’s fat runneling onto another speared bird, where grease-slicked lips kiss new night strangers, hands shoveling globby red-white gobs of fries into those same mouths, all washed down with Club Mate like an ashy aftertaste. She’ll be the three a.m. döner, spilling with salad, bloody tomatoes and sweet white onions, crusted meat and the trinity scharf, Kräuter, Knoblauch.

Do you want her to speak Berlinerisch? The clipped icks and innes and dets decorating an already guttural tongue like parsley on a bald potato, white, a mirror for ghostly asparagus stalks, pale hollandaise, a yellow beer the color of melted butter bubbling in the glass. When she ditches blue worker’s overalls to don her nighttime leather jackets and greying blonde, she just orders a beer and a beer is a beer is a beer unless it’s a Weizen. She’s at the Stammtisch with the other regulars at the corner bar where the paneling is wooden and the curtains are lace and the succulents in the window are not that kind of succulent but the kind we called cactuses before they were hip.

Do you want your Berlin barefoot? Smelling of calendula oil and crusted with dirt from the community garden plot? She’ll be the organically-raised, free-range, home-grown, hand-killed, never-killed chicken or tempeh faux. She’ll be foraged in the strangely sandy Brandenburg forests and shared in apartments covered in peeling posters and sandalwood candles.

And she’ll be bio everything, crossing all boundaries. Bio bread and bio Wurst, green bio stickers slapped on cheese at the discount grocery store, bio meat on your burger, bio döner, bio Currywurst, bio hot sauce. She’ll be the soft-lit bio supermarket funneling high-end stroller-traffic, with shelves of grains and cereals, buffalo milk, herbal teas, and tiny vegetables scrubbed clean in baby bins.

But Berlin can be newsletter writeup-friendly, her exposed brick everything, custom-poured concrete and thick wood slabs, serving up charcuterie in measured portions. She’ll be the third wave coffee hand-roasted, the new wave classic cocktail hand-shaken; she’ll be the ten-course tasting menu shaved daikon, cucumber water, red beet glacé, smoked watercress; she’ll be the fifteen euro food truck pulled pork sandwich slow-roasted smoky and rich with reproach that says, “Remember when I was punk? Remember when I was cheap? Remember when there was no such thing as an iced galão to go?”  

And you do. And you don’t. And you eat your pulled pork sandwich and wash it down with a craft beer, an IPA — another thing that wasn’t here before. And you walk to the canal, mist-shorn in Berlin’s gray fall, she’s in the swans, graceful gliders nipping at each other in the chill; she’s in the grass banks pockmarked with beer caps and the ugly Späti on the corner, inside walls lined with plastic-wrapped cigarette packs and refrigerators full of beer. You buy a Tyskie or Staropramen, an Augustiner, the best of the Späti beers, and walk to the water. You pop the top and sit on the stone wall watching the water whirl, looking into the leafy, wet scrub across the shore. This is your Berlin, you think; whatever Berlin you’re in is yours.

Songs in our heads

Josh Hamlet 

We woke up with songs in our heads and laughter remaining from the day before and Muesli on the table, waiting for us to shove our hands into to prepare for the day. Our bellies were still full from the lunch that lasted from noon to nearly four in the afternoon.

We started with crawfish or lobster or Chablis or leaves twice dehydrated and reconstituted with brandy made from the cloudberries native to that one region that gets no rain but all at once. We had beer poured twice a tasting pour and saw the Wine Cellar. We chatted restaurants and giggled under our breaths because we were humble and didn't think we deserved it.

We strolled around the water intersecting the gorgeous city, astounded by where we were. We laughed and took pictures and went to museums and talked about wealth. Wealth and politics and art and the pursuit of passions and dreams and how do we fit into all of it.

We woke up with a bit of panic: are we going to miss our train? Pack up the rest of your clothes and throw on those boots and grab the Muesli. Send Hannah a text to say thank you, but now because you're in WiFi.



BY DEVOnn francis 

Little one, this letter is for you. It is 6 a.m. and I’m watching you at the tail end of last night’s rest. Very soon you will sit up with outstretched arms to meet me in this new day and it's got me imagining hunger pangs before they even happen. I know how you like your porridge in the morning. It makes your eyes come alight and the raisins have a sugary sweetness that softens the little palate they land on, allowing room for your voice to come out from its hiding place. You release the sweetest “Thank you, good morning!”

It is the first utterance to surface from the depths of your insatiable belly.

We live in a shoebox of a place. It may not look like much but I have done my best to fix it up with all the finest odds and ends that I could pull together from the four corners of the world. You have your grandfather's eyes and his gut too. You are always looking for things that you may have missed and you never skip dessert. He was a sailor and he wanted you to know that you are free to roam as far as you please so long as you do so with your head held high. I am training you young. When we walk down the halls of our building complex we greet each and every neighbor with a clear “Hello, how are you?” and make space for those we walk down the road with. You are a part of this community, not a bystander.




by nicolle rose borrero 

I woke up in a panic.

Did I leave my phone on silent and miss my alarm? What time was it? How long had I overslept? Where is my phone? I start tossing pillows and blankets, reaching blindly in the dark, my heart pumping. My friends are getting married today and I’m already behind the wave.

Morgan and Noni are one of those couples everyone already assumes is married. I have never known them apart. They are a perfect compliment to one another, a unit: Morgan & Noni. I first met Noni when we worked together in a restaurant in Chinatown and I currently have the pleasure of working with Morgan at a restaurant in Brooklyn. These beautiful people live a few short blocks away from me in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a blessing in this city where an inter-borough relationship is considered “long distance.” Radio silence from your nearest and dearest is common when a train transfer is involved. In New York, extra effort is necessary to sustain community. You must create a warm tiny corner of this city to call your own, or perish! I am eternally grateful that my neighbors are my friends. It has saved me more times than I can count.

You see, Morgan & Noni specialize in hospitality. They’re wonderful, thoughtful hosts with great taste. Many bottles of wine have been shared over heated games of Scrabble, Rummy, and Settlers of Catan. (It is worth noting that Morgan & Noni are fierce competitors. They will lay down 100-point words, take all your sheep, and crush you mercilessly. You won’t leave with your dignity but you might leave with leftovers. It all evens out, I suppose.) Separately, they work at two of the most popular and busy restaurants in Brooklyn: Morgan, talented chef, and Noni, general manager,and thus the hours leave little room for anything else outside the hospitality bubble. I have watched Morgan & Noni balance their demanding lives and dedicate time to each other and their families all while planning a wedding. Their relationship has set an example and left an impression on me. My wedding gift to Morgan & Noni had to be as thoughtful and as in great taste as they are.



By alex manning 

I spontaneously quit a job and left a great city in order to travel for a few months. My life felt like one long dilemma, but this was one decision that felt right. I planned hastily, and packed light. It worked out well.

My travels started nicely, with some slow days in Cologne wandering through Gerhard Richter exhibits and sitting at Kölsch breweries writing emails. I received timely and friendly responses from the requests I had sent to winemakers in the Mosel Valley, and soon enough I was working on the steep slopes of the Marienburg for Clemens Busch. After a half a week’s work, I left with a new appreciation for his big, bold rieslings, his commitment to biodynamic winemaking, a newfound fear of falling from high, unstable rocky slopes, and many blisters on my palms. Needless to say, it was a rude awakening to my ‘vacation’ in the Mosel.



By Catherine DiSanto

Alaska — Maggie Rogers
Get Low — James Vincent McMorrow
Babe I'm Yours — Whilk & Misky
Devil Like Me — Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Smoke — Luke Levenson
The Wild Hunt — The Tallest Man on Earth
Madness — Lucius
Cranes in the Sky — Solange
Treat Me Like Fire — Lion Babe
I Need a Forest Fire — James Blake Bon Iver

Listen to the full playlist on Spotify...