On Black Friday, I took advantage of various online shopping sales and bought my dad a present for Christmas: a 14 x14 inch wooden chess set. But before I continue with my editorial, reader, please do me a favor and keep this information “under wraps” (see what I did there?), because presents are always a surprise, except for newborn babies and chocolates from Advent calendars. (As I typed that sentence, however, I realized that my advisory is pretty much useless, since most of my audience doesn’t even know my dad’s name or what he looks like. The only Bryan County News subscriber I can think of who knows my dad is my mom, but fortunately she’s well-versed in the subtle nuances of holiday gift-giving etiquette.
I just need to remember not to reveal her Christmas present while writing this column, which I also bought online at [REDACTED] and is a [REDACTED] from [REDACTED] and came with [REDACTED] [REDACTED] and arrives on [REDACTED] with expedited shipping.) Buying gifts for my parents gives me a strange sense of wistfulness. My heart yearns for the holidays of my childhood when I was barely taller than a nightstand, when I ate chocolate chip cookies like it was a food group, and when my grubby left hand scribbled down in my diary the list of toys and games I wanted Mr. Santa Claus to give me. My parents are certainly not millionaires or miracle workers, but they always did their best to buy me the gifts I asked for--although my dad’s failure in finding a technicolor pet unicorn is a small mark against him.
In the good ol’ days, I had no actual responsibilities. I was more familiar with Mario Bros. than the Lehman Brothers, and TikTok was just a pop song by Kesha.
Anyways, I bought a chess set for my dad because he’s been getting really into chess in the past year, regularly watching chess streamers on YouTube every evening on our smart TV. I think it’s great that he’s found a hobby--my dad is set to retire sooner rather than later, and having him trying to learn from Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov is probably healthier than him yelling at nagging relatives from the old country over the phone until his heart gives out.
My chess knowledge is…elementary, my dear Watson. But I did at least download a free chess app on my phone to help me get better at the game.
Hopefully my dad and I can play chess together on Christmas—so long as he lets me win. (After all, I never did get that unicorn, so this will even things out in my book).
What Americans don’t say on House Hunters I don’t believe in guilty pleasures; I think it’s a dumb concept invented by miserable men who wish to make women feel bad for eating chocolate.
But if I did believe in guilty pleasures, I would have to cite the HGTV program “House Hunters” as my biggest weakness. As a person under the age of 40, I have made peace with the fact that I will never become a homeowner in this millennium--so I instead choose to live vicariously through indecisive couples who seemingly have a laundry list of “must-haves” for their new home despite having subpar salaries like the rest of us schlubs.
But I’m telling you, nothing beats a cozy fall afternoon hate-watching “House Hunters” on your parents’ couch, rolling your eyes at some lady who absolutely needs an island in her kitchen or some dude begging for a basement for his “man-cave” instead of just getting a divorce (which would probably cost less than a new house, to be honest).
But House Hunters: International is by far my favorite iteration of the show; it is the crown jewel of ridiculous real estate requests. In fact, it’s probably easier to list the things Americans don’t say on that show, just to give you an idea of the types of characters who help live up to the “Ugly American” stereotype abroad: “I can get by in the local language.”
“No pets in our Vienna apartment?
That’s okay, we’ll leave Fido in Philly.”
“I actually prefer not having air conditioning.”
“I’m a pro at parallel parking--street parking in Paris will be a piece of cake!”
“Ideally, we want a space where we can air-dry our clothes instead of using a dryer---it’s better for the environment.”
“Yes, I understand that kitchens in Barcelona cannot accommodate American-style refridgerators.” “We’re not looking for British charm.”
The entitlement is astonishing, but at least it makes for great television. If I ever live abroad, remind me to never reveal my nationality lest I be associated with the Americans on House Hunters.
I mean, if you’re going to move to a different country, the least you can do is try and temper your real estate expectations and adapt to the locale. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is for a certain subset of our compatriots. If this doesn’t apply to you, if you consider yourself worldly and knowledgeable about different cultures and customs, then relax–this column isn’t about you. Only a hit dog will holler, as they say in my country.
A Hairy Situation
Somebody alert the media–another populist politician with a strange haircut got elected! Javier Milei, Argentina’s president-elect, is a self-described anarcho-capitalist who has previously praised gangster Al Capone as a “hero” and claims to have communicated with his dead dog via telepathy. Normally, my Western liberal democratic inclinations would lead me to condemn him--but this is Argentina, a country most economists and political scientists declare a lost cause anyway. (There are four types of economies: developed, underdeveloped, Japan, and Argentina.)
If you think inflation is bad in the States, try living in Buenos Aires or Rosario where inflation hit a sky-high 185% in November, where wages literally can’t rise high enough to cover the costs of living, and nearly half the Argentine population is living in poverty.
It doesn’t surprise me one bit that Argentines saw in Javier Milei a man who could change things for the better, and for their sakes I hope they’re right. One of his plans is to dollarize Argentina, which would be a tough pill to swallow for Latin America’s third-largest economy– essentially giving up control of the nation’s currency and letting Uncle Sam run things. But to dollarize the country they need to actually find the dollars, though—and since Argentina owes so much to the IMF, it’s going to be next to impossible for them to borrow even more money to dollarize.
My mom says that revolutions are for people with nothing to lose, and I think Argentina fits that description quite nicely. If nothing else, Javier Milei’s cloned dogs can try and provide telepathic financial advice to anxious Argentines sleeping with mattresses full of devalued pesos.
Andrea Gutierrez is the editor of Bryan County News.