Ralph Martin is a writer, sometime journalist and a practically professional party host-cum-man-about-town (Berlin, that is). The story of Lydia and Ralph's providential meeting begins, as all these things do, at Bar Drei on a rainy Thanksgiving eve...

Following an invitation to Ralph's Thanksgiving Dinner Extravaganza the next evening, a stint of luxury housesitting that long, sunny summer, a profile of Ralph's place on Apartment Therapy, the fruitful meeting of new friends, and a severe case of in-home karaoke we arrive, more or less, at the present moment.

Ralph has Travelled Lightly as follows: 

  • Granville, Ohio (born and raised)
  • Middletown, CT (college)
  • Paris (student)
  • New York 
  • Berlin 

His ebook, ZOMBIES OF BERLIN (on city-status anxiety in the age of real estate), is out now (go get it!). And if you aren't already following our example, follow Ralph on Twitter (@sirralphalot)! 

Minimalist or Maximalist?

Wannabe minimalist. I suspect this is a rigged category. When I was young and broke I underpacked by necessity and proclaimed it a virtue. Now my life is clogged with stuff and I can’t bear to leave too much of it behind, though I hate clutter as much as any other self-respecting modern person. I wish I was truly rich so I could get by with a few silicon-titanium objects and garments. 

When you last packed to move, what was the thing or collection of things you couldn’t leave without?

A pair of eyeglasses known colloquially as ‘KLMs’. I acquired them sometime in the late 1990s after a fit of contact-lens abuse that left me unable to put anything corrective in my eye. I had to get glasses, quick, and as a broke person I went to Lens Crafters in Manhattan. Aviator frames were kind of in at the time, in a retro way, and they were the least hideous option for my budget. 

I didn’t reckon on the strength of my prescription, which resulted in coke-bottle lenses that changed the whole equation (see second photo, below). When I wore the glasses socially, it was remarked that I looked like the sort of Dutch businessman you might run into on an international flight at the time. And so the KLMs were born. But it went on from there- ‘KLM’ became as much a persona, my persona, as an object. Now, more than 15 years later, I can’t leave them behind, though I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them in public.

A much-missed object that formerly accompanied me in my moves was a pewter bust of Lenin that I got in Moscow right before the USSR broke up. For years it had pride of place on my bookshelves, with its vaguely impenetrable gaze that somehow suggested stern benevolence. But at some point I became convinced that the bust was a curse of sorts, holding me back in life. I was sure that if I got rid of Lenin, I would move effortlessly out of the rut I was in at the time. So I dumped him in the trash. The results, personally and professionally, were meager at best.  

(The image displayed here is from eBay – it’s the closest to MY Lenin I could find.)

Thank you, Ralph! 

For more Traveling Light, you can read the archive HERE.