Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Merry Christmas, bong on a bench

OK, so I know these guys. They’re good friends, former college roommates, and they recently met after a long time spent apart. Let’s call them Joe and Fred.

Fred lives here in the Midwest, and Joe lives on the West Coast. Joe came to visit Fred, and Fred showed Joe something he had not seen in over a dozen years: his blue plastic Grateful Dead bong. Married now with children, facing a cross-continental flight following the holidays (daze), as much as he loved it, Joe could not accept this gift. So the friends did what all good men should do during the holiday season.

They packed the bong with marijuana, included two “strike anywhere matches”, and packed the gift in a box of Glenfiddish whiskey. Then they left the festival on a bus stop bench near the corner of Austin and Roosevelt Road here in Chicago. Merry Christmas to the neighborhood friends who picked that shit up. (It’s gone. I checked.) May all your wishes come true, and may cheer greet you in the new year.

Every part of this story, except for the names, is 100% true. Deny it and face hellfire.

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Becoming a global citizen

Just a few days ago, I got the best Christmas present I could have imagined (besides a massive book deal). The documents confirming my Lithuanian citizenship arrived in my mailbox. The next step is to head down to the consulate to arrange for a passport. I’m officially a dual citizen.

This has been almost a three year process. It took longer than it should have, perhaps, because of contradictory and otherwise problematic documents, but I don’t want to get into that. This is a watershed experience in my life. It changes so much so quickly that I can hardly think about it.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding dual-citizenship in Lithuania because it’s forbidden for most Lithuanians. I’ll have more to say about this in the future, but for now I want to say that, yes, dual citizenship should be available either for everyone or no one. I see the idea behind the laws, at least in theory: dual citizenship should be allowed to those who have a high chance of coming back to live in Lithuania but illegal for those who are most likely to leave the country and never come back. In a globalized economy, it’s short-sighted, and the “us and them”¬†mentality behind it might be a symptom of the reasons people choose to leave Lithuania in the first place.

That said, I can tell you how I feel. Identity is a construct, I agree, and given that I have always looked at myself as a global citizen, I should not have felt, you’d think, any particular identity shift following the arrival of a document. However, I feel completely different. It’s one thing to feel one’s a global citizen philosophically but completely different to have documents that allow you to apply for work in about a third of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s also a validation of sorts: “Yes,” a voice says, “There’s a difference between theory and practice.”

So, anyway, hello, world. I have a new way of joining the global community, the one we feel so strongly when we do something as simple as dial in to CNN-World in a hotel in Poland. I used to feel stuck, trapped. Now I feel the intimidating awe that comes when one faces enormous possibility.

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Here’s a picture of me waiting for a flight in the Vilnius airport in the summer of 2014.