How to navigate a complicated world, one near-miss at a time.
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Q: My goal next year is to move to southwest France for less than one year (as that way I can get by with a long-stay visa). In asking around about financial matters, I’ve gotten a lot of conflicting advice. What would be the easiest way to handle landlord, utility payments, etc? Paypal or other forms of e-payments might work in limited situations, although something like a checking account would be way more useful.
When I lived in Budapest in 2004, renting an apartment for eight months was pretty much the hardest thing I’d ever done, until I started paying rent, which quickly claimed the title. It could easily take my roommates and I three days of running around like some extremely slowed-down poor man’s version of Run, Lola, Run. We couldn’t secure local bank accounts. Our landlord would only let us pay in euros (Hungary to this day uses the forint, although it joined the E.U. while I was living there). We could never pull all the funds we needed in dollars. It always ended with one of us trading a sketchy friend-of-a-friend bags of forints for euros in a laundromat, or some such nonsense. It sucked.
Flash-forward 13 years, and while one can hardly say we’ve felt the blessings of inexorable progress, some things have improved. When I similarly was skirting residency laws with a longish short-term stay in Paris, Airbnb was a great stopgap. Many listings are available for weeks or even months at a time, and payments are done online through your normal account credit card. Utilities aren’t an issue, addresses needn’t be fixed, and no need to submit to scrutiny by judge-y French bankers.
For other financial needs, if you are a U.S. resident, opening a Charles Schwab account is a great idea. It has no fees and will reimburse you for all ATM fees accrued each month, which can save hundreds of dollars and makes most banking transactions a breeze.
Q: I’m soon going to be flying back and forth between L.A. and New York regularly for work. I smoke pot pretty much every night and want to be able to bring some with me when I fly. Marijuana is legal in California and decriminalized in New York, so it seems like I shouldn’t have too much trouble bringing a small amount of weed—say, less than an eighth—in my bag. But should I be worried about the TSA?
As with so many things weed-related these days, there’s a bit of a haze (ha, ha!) around the exact legal implications of the substance’s changing legal status. According to TSA spokesperson Michael England:
“TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer. Whether marijuana is considered legal under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law. Federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.”
So most likely, a TSA officer would ignore some small amount of weed, and you’d be fine, especially assuming you don’t have it in a bomb-shaped bag with MARIJUANA emblazoned on the front. But, if some pot-hating agent did take issue with your stash, they would refer you to a NYC law enforcement officer, who could, in theory, decide to arrest you (although more likely would be the incursion of a fine, which would not prohibit you from subsequently boarding the plane). There’s just really no way to know for sure what would happen.
I also got some input from weed-conversant friends while asking for input on slang to make me sound cool. They largely advised traveling with edible pot products. “Here’s the thing: edibles,” one person told me. “You never fly with flower.” Flower! Is that what we say now? Kids these days. Buy some THC-laced gummies and be done with it.
Although for this particular route, why take the risk? You’re flying to a place where they essentially hand out weed leis at the airport upon arrival. Leave your sad sativa in NYC for next time and restock in the land of dank and honey.
Q: I’m looking for advice on where to base myself, my husband, and my 12-year-old in London. Looking for a cool neighborhood close to the Tube so we can easily get around. Any ideas you’d like to share?
For this one, I defer to our resident Tube expert, Alexa van Sickle. Alexa, school us, please:
The Tube map (and therefore, London) is divided into nine zones (Zone 1 being the Center of the Universe, Zone 6 being fields, cows, and country pub territory, past that, don’t ask). If you’re visiting, you’ll be spending a lot of time in Zone 1, which starts in Notting Hill and stretches west, containing Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Trafalgar Square, museums, galleries, etc). But staying there is a loud, busy, and expensive proposition, especially if you want to snag somewhere minutes from a Tube stop. Aim to stay in Zone 2 or Zone 3. In my opinion, the best Tube lines for getting to multiple destinations in London are the Central (Red) and the Piccadilly (Navy Blue) so anywhere near a station on those lines will be fairly convenient.
For neighborhoods, you can’t really go wrong with Islington (around Angel Tube station) which is just north of the center (still in Zone 1, just). It’s a bit of a genteel punchline these days, but it’s a pleasant, well-equipped neighborhood that feels like a suburb, and it’s close to town and King’s Cross train station. There are excellent restaurants on Upper Street, and plenty of quiet streets to retreat to for a rest. Shepherds Bush, a little further west of center, is a big transport hub for both the Tube and other train lines, and is walking distance to Notting Hill and Hyde Park. London’s eastern center of gravity might be buzzy, but keep in mind that Shoreditch, Hackney, and parts further east are not as well-connected (same goes for south of the river).
But if I could choose anywhere as a home-base in London, it would be the Farringdon/Clerkenwell neighborhood: a quiet patch next to the City of London—the historic zone that now serves as the financial district—with some of the city’s best restaurants, pubs, food markets, and walking distance to many points of interest, a rare thing.
Protip: The Tube may be more famous, but don’t discount the Overground, London’s network of um, overground trains (and a commuting godsend) that connect to many Tube stations. The trains aren’t as frequent as the Tube, but they’re the best antidote for the blind spots of Tube coverage—and for traveling between opposite corners of the city. Plus, you won’t spend 23 stations underground.