Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Observations from my Trip to MMMerica (fuck yeah!)

To most of the world American and Canadian culture are intistinguishable. For Canadians ballyhooing about Steve Earle's Ammerika 6.0, the differences can be overwhelming. Here are a few random observations from my Easter weekend sojourn to Sunbury Ohio and South Bend Indiana, where we visited some old friends (a Canadian ex-pat, Gabe from Louisville, and John from Anaheim Whoop Whoop):

1. Leftwing radio in the US is really obsessed with Iraq; I mean it's ALL they can talk about

2. Rightwing radio in the US is really obsessed with homosexuality; I mean it's ALL they can talk about

3. The interstate highway system is pretty impressive compared to Canada's east-west pothole. I really like the toll system - it's user-pay which is about as fair a system as I can think of. Funny that Toronto's mayor almost lost the election for daring to utter those words: "highway toll."

4. The answer to the question "can I have a small ______?" is 'No.' In America, capital of mindless consumption, everything is gigantic.

5. Despite number 4, there is a derth of roadside coffeeshops in America.

6. I think Americans are funnier than Canadians, on average. All the celebrity worshippers will counter with Jim Carey, John Candy, Mike Meyers, blahblahblah but your average good-natured American makes me laugh more frequently and harder than their Canadian counterpart. Americans are just more outgoing, and more outrageous. It might be the giant doughnuts.

7. This is probably more of a city-town thing than nation-based, but the food in America...sucks. I'm really going to miss Toronto's food one day soon.

8. Holy fucking flags! And ribbons. Although the electorate in America is clearly sporting a left-right split through its middle parts, you'd think from public discourse that it's a nation of forks and spoons marching ominously in a Pink Floyd video and you're the dude with the razor hovering over his nipples trying to find an escape route while Big Brother is watching.

9. Everything there is ranked. As in, "this is the sixth largest office building in America. This phone booked was given an award as the best phone book in Indiana. Detroit has the sixth largest art gallery (and the 3rd lowest number of annual visitors)...etc." I think this is because America is slightly more hierarchical in how it organizes itself so such protocol matters more.

10. I like the scenary in Ohio and Indiana more than I do the same in southern Ontario; maybe that's because it's new to me.

11. This isn't really a comparison but on our way back through Michigan we found a brochure for the US Army with the tagline "Join an army of one." I think those guys are really longing for the days of the draft.

12. I most definitely envy the southern climate.

Anyway, differences aside it was great to visit with 4 amazing friends, three of whom are American and the other probably wishes he was. We laughed the whole way through, relaxed like we rarely do, and the sun was shining, weather sweet, made me move my dancing feet.


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In reference to number six, it's probably because we're all jacked up on caffiene and sugar, which is not available for purchase in reasonable portions, only those the size of which might kill a bull elephant. Glad you had a great time.
I'm glad you got out of that #6 place. Sounds like Freakville VII (a script I've been working on) without the appropriate mood enhancement supplements.

While travel is unbeatable, as discovery looms over each horizon, being home is a close second.
Mob: definitely jacked.

AK6: home has purring kittens and a big ergonomically appropriate bed. unfortunately it also has a desperately unswept floor and desktop shackles, which are far less fun than I was led to believe.
"..a haggard land infested with wild beasts and wilder men, a region whose very fountains murmer the warning words 'Drink and away!' What can be more exciting?"*

I have to spend 10 days every year in South Bend for business reasons. I’m not sure I understand why anyone would visit by choice, but glad you had fun. And I hope you didn’t get to dumb or fat while down here.

1. Leftwing radio in the US is really obsessed with Iraq; I mean it's ALL they can talk about
It’s because the Democrats have NO ideas, NO plans, NO incentive to work with the Republicans to get anything done. What else can they talk about, abortion?

2. Rightwing radio in the US is really obsessed with homosexuality; I mean it's ALL they can talk about
It’s because the Republicans have NO ideas, NO plans, NO incentive to work with the Democrats to get anything done. What else can they talk about, abortion?

I really like the toll system
Yes, until you’ve sat in your car for 2 hours trying to get across the Bay Bridge while traffic is stopped to pay the toll.

Holy fucking flags! And ribbons
And every single one of them made in China.

*Desert Traveller, The Life of Jean Louis Burckhardt by Katharine Sim
Speaking of dumb, please make that "too dumb" in the post above.

Perhaps it's time for me to take a trip to Canada to, well, bone up a bit!
I was thinking of "home" in a broader sense of the definition, having myself been in another country for almost three years to this homicidal point.

However, those shackles you write of can be used in many ways other than the traditional metaphoric sense you used them in: for securing large sized rodents (once captured); for showing off your skills during those familiar "cock-off" contests with your American friends; for pawning for profit; for porning for physical betterment; for arresting the tide*; as an alternative to the humble frisbee.

* May not work in the northern hemisphere.
Glad you had a superb trip.

I too wish to cruise the yankee highways and stir up some feelings.

Then i'll go home and write about it.
Anon: re: #1, Right now I'd think the democrats have a huge incentive to work with (or at least take some strategy lessons from) Republicans i.e. Republicans rule the roost at the moment.

AK: I don't even wanna know what a cockoff is, but I like the rodent catching idea because the cats sure as hell aren't holding their own in that department - though they are mighty effective bug-snatchers.

Ultra: I spent 7 months hitching around Canada and the US and journaling about it as I went - great times. I have a vivid memory of sitting on a clothing-optional beach in Vancouver writing about recent memories before they escaped. This naked old hippie said to me something like "the experience isn't in there [my journal], it's all around you, man." But he was full of shit, because reflecting on it is at least as important as living it.
Right now I'd think the democrats have a huge incentive to work with..

I just read an article in the Guardian about the Socialist Party/Left in France, and it's stance after the "victory" with the CPE law. It is exactly the same situation that we have in the US, between the Dems and Reps.

The leftwing coalition was jubilant. The right-of-centre government had been defeated, the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, humiliated and the already weakened president, Jacques Chirac, given another damaging kick while he was down.

The problem is that we're not getting much, if any debate on the left. There is a real demand for a real debate and it just isn't happening.

The crisis is not so much in the country but in the politics."

The first paragraph sounds like they could be talking about Bush and conservatives. The other lines could just as easily be about our two parties.

Our leaders have forgotten why they were elected. They were elected to actually do something, not just to be obstructionists until their own party is in power.

The Dems don’t want to debate anything because then something might actually get done. And Bush might get some credit (not that it would ever be reported in the papers). It’s just easier to sit back blame Bush.

On the Right, they don’t want to make any compromises because they feel they have the power and shouldn’t have to bend to anyone’s will.

Our leaders have forgotten that they are citizens as well. And the second they are elected they become a representative of the minority that did not elect them as well as representing the majority that did. The elected owe credence to the opinion of all citizens.

Part II
Canada (since we hit France and US, let us not ignore you!)

When Martin was in office, he actually was in the papers here quite a bit. Mostly, I’m presuming, because of the Anti-US comments, etc.

I must note that the coverage of Harper has dropped 90 fold. As if there could even be less coverage of Canada in our papers.

When your new Conservative government gave the “Speech from the Throne” it was covered only in the Washington Times. The Washington Post ignored it entirely. Read the story here .

Yup, that is the entire article. It does not even mention Harper (now I realize that he did not make the speech, but...).

I understand that Harper is giving (well, gave) a major speech in Montreal today. I’m going to guess I won’t see it in the paper here. I guess our press only likes those who don’t like us.

Part III
Travel writing.

In the late 1300’s John Mandeville wrote his experiences in a book entitled The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. A very interesting book, albeit a bit far fetched at times, with stories of 28 foot tall giants, huge jewels, demons that he sees, etc. It also borrows heavily from the bible and some earlier books, which led to a great comment from one of his critics, who suggested that Mandeville’s “longest journey was to the nearest library”.
Apparently many folks believed Gulliver's Travels to be true when it was first published. People (Europeans) also fell for the myths written by travellers to Africa, who greatly exaggerated the witnessed exotica.
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