Xpat Interview 2: Daniel "TreeHugger Dan" Swartz

  • 9 Sep 2012 12:00 PM
Xpat Interview 2: Daniel "TreeHugger Dan" Swartz
What’s been happening at work and at home since your first Xpat Interview?

Click here to read his first interview

Treehugger Dan's Bookstore Cafe, now 6.5 years old, consolidated and expanded at one location in cooperation with Discover Budapest. We now have about 18000 quality used books on the shelves, mostly English, but also Spanish, German, French and Italian. There is comfortable seating and proper heat again, as well as much more space for our weekly concerts, book launches and wine tastings. Personally, I just completed my second Balaton Swim, bettering my previous time by 15 minutes and finishing in the top 6%; and cycled the north shore of Lake Balaton with the associated morally imperative wine tasting.

What’s your favourite drink?
Dry red wine. I just had a very good 100% Shiraz from the small Badacsony vineyard Skizo. For white this season I would go with Soptei's Chardonnay (Csopak) or Dobosi's organic Italian Riesling 2011. Accompany this with good black Croatian or Serbian olives and goat cheese and I am in heaven.

What hidden talents do you have?
I can mimic a barking seal. I can unerringly step into holes in the pavement by accident. Also, give me a subject and I can tell you a story incorporating it.

What was the most interesting travel trip you have ever taken?
I rode the Trans-Siberian Express twice in one year (1997); once for fun as far as Lake Baikal where I hitchhiked around, and once all the way to Kyoto doing environmental actions all the way across to lobby on the Kyoto Climate Change Convention.

If you were given a wish that could come true, what would you ask for?
Very selfishly, medical improvement for my eyesight and back. I play Santa at a number of schools and I am always fearful of throwing my back out while picking up the kids.

What’s the last book you read, and movie you watched?
I am currently reading the very enjoyable and interesting Pulitzer prize winning The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman about the first 30 days of WWI. I have been watching Will & Grace, Life on Mars and the Deadwood series on DVD.

What is the perfect pizza toppings combination for you?
Gorgonzola and ruccola with lots of garlic and NO Ketchup

What’s the best website you’ve ever visited, and why?
I do not know about the best, but I find the League of Conservation Voters site useful when I am deciding who to vote for, and the Ethical Consumer when researching the ethical backgrounds of companies whose products I might buy.

What do you like best and least about living in Hungary?
I appreciate the excellent and affordable public transport system, state health insurance (for all its problems, at least it exists, unlike the US), national parks, reusable bottle systems, folk dancing, accessible theater, thermal baths, and of course turo...

What has made the biggest impact on your life so far, and why?
When I was 10 or 11 years old in Mansfield, MA, I heard that the Great Woods, a 600 acre (?) conservation area was going to be sold off to make an extension of route 140 to save 15 minutes getting to the beach and to build a performing arts centre. I used to do Boy Scout projects there, camp there, and spend hours shuffling my feet through the autumn leaves, I was so angry! My mother drove me to town hall and I walked in by myself and asked to be appointed to the town's conservation committee. I was told since I was not of voting age, I could not be considered for the committee. I came out in tears. I wrote my first letter to the editor of the Mansfield News, "For Ourselves and Our Posterity." They built the highway and arts centre, and the Great Woods are no more. However, it changed my life, and I have been fighting to protect the environment ever since. I think Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance," and Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael" also had a significant impact on me. One helped me understand that being self-reliant was possible and there were others of a similar outlook in the world. Quinn's book opened my eyes to the fact that we do not have to suffer and be stuck in ways of doing things (culture, agriculture, politics, family) that do not work - there is nothing stopping us from trying different ways of doing things until we find what works.

If you won USD 30 million, what would you do with the money?
Pay off my Swiss Franc loan, then buy the biggest piece of land I could in the most ecologically threatened area of the world and designate it "forever wild" with associated guarantees for protection.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Hungary, but they sure are making it more and more difficult. I also like Croatia, Ukraine and Kosova.

In ten years from now what will you be doing?
I don't have the faintest idea.

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