Monday, July 30, 2007

Liberty Cliff

Here's something I wrote almost 10 years ago (!!!) after my first trip to America. I was so earnest and naive:

Our next adventure came in the form of two close friends, both of whom are of course overzealous fools, my favourite kind. DC is a bundle of pure energy that bursts all over you like soap bubbles, and infects you with excitement and a feeling that nothing can go wrong. MZ is a cool character who takes things easy, studies and works hard and has a good head on his shoulders, but dresses like Don Ho or John Travolta, depending on the day, dances like a battery commercial, strips at bars whenever the song 'You Sexy Thing' is played, calls everybody "his bitch" and very rarely gets embarrassed by anything.

The three of us decided to take a road trip in DC’s parents' 1998 Toyota Corolla, the most practical and fuel efficient car on the market, down the East Coast of the United States, as far as we could get in the time we had off. I had only a week, and ended up flying home from Jersey. The other two got as far as Washington, or maybe even Philly.

In Boston we hooked up with another old friend of mine, The Polar Bear (PB) from Sackville, a fellow business school survivor. He is not your typical biz-knob either, his goal in life is to make enough money to retire when he's forty. PB is a high-level slave for a computer consulting firm. He's addicted to everything, especially work, and has spurts of intense energy followed by moments of deep depression.

As soon as we arrived from our 14 hour drive from Hali he poured us full of drinks and pretty soon we were dancing around his living room to the Back Street Boys. It got weirder from there; I have one clear memory of PB laughing uncontrollably at the half-priced club security device we got at the Walmart. “It’s a baby club,” he shouted with tears streaming from his eyes, us trying to figure out what was so funny.

The next day PB woke up at 7:00 am and was at work before we saw the sun. We had some good times roaming around Boston for a few days, then piled back into the Corolla and headed for New York. We stayed in a cheap motel in Jersey where they had hourly rates, which most guests made use of, and there was 24 hour access to a porn channel, and a mirror on the ceiling. The greasy owner checked us in with a knowing wink and a smile, and when we checked out two days later we felt pretty dirty for having used the bedding provided. It fit our budget and the Canadian dollar was weak.

We saw lady liberty and flashed her the finger for a picture that I guess was supposed to represent an expression of defiance to the power and materialism that is America. When I look back it was a mistake because lady liberty doesn't really represent that, but rather what is great about the country, the freedom its founders had in mind and their friendship with like-minded allies. It’s something so sublime that it drives one to thrust her torch high, lighting the way for an entire nation to move forward, knowing that they are free to do as they choose, the kind of freedom Woody Guthrie sang and wrote about, like Kerouac did too, like many young fools for generations experienced and never wrote about it. We were using that same freedom as Canadians, yet we were making a statement against it, which even in jest seemed inappropriate.

We made a similar statement toward the World Trade Centre that made a lot more sense. Once I thought that world trade was the answer, that unifying all nations under a common bond was the ultimate solution to problems such as oppression and war. Now I see how cultures are quickly becoming assimilated, with the resulting mono-culture of consumers fighting a battle against the nonviolent resister Mother Nature, to whom the greats like Christ and Gandhi were ultimately devoted. I see the danger that world trade poses to nations like St. Lucia. I see how every individual strives to be like Westerners, who hold the money and the materials, so that their wasteful practices are mimicked by the spiraling populations of the growing third world.

World trade be damned and it feels better to remember flashing defiance at its centre than it did to do so at the time, because in retrospect, with greater understanding, I better understand the power and importance of such defiance, because only with defiance and self empowerment can the individual stand up to the tide of destructive practices that so many people, hiding behind faceless corporations and governments, practice with such devotion.

Our trip was not as liberating as I'd hoped; I hadn't moved to the dark soulful rhythms of Charlie Parker's dancing melodies and I hadn't taken in the joyful bliss of the American Woman and I hadn't driven like a madman over the cliff of liberty at 90 miles an hour through cross-town traffic; but I had seen America for the first time and I'd seen the most exciting city in the world and I'd listened to some good rock and roll in the car, plus I'd mooned a camera for the first time. And when I returned to Ontario, life became very blissful for a while.

Labels: , , ,

How sad that some damn maniacs agreed with your world trade postulatins in spirit, but uiltimately took woefully misguided actions in doing something about it.
he Backstreet Boys, I think I would have left that part out.

On 9/11 they took down 3000 lives and two buildings and a piece of the pentagon. All it did was not stop America from still having a huge economy but it most certainly made most Americans want that torch put out and every illegal immigrant put out with it no matter if they have American born children or not.

But it seems to me that no one here realizes that there is very little middle class left in this nation. Bush took that wealth to pay his Saudi masters with, most Americans now are in fear of their future, at least those making less than 6 digits. Another by product of the burgeoning mono-economy.

peace Benji



Ultra: Extremely sad, and a what a terrible legacy it's left the world.

TWM: I really think he'll go down as the worst prez in history, and that will be why. he screwed his own people.
I feel sorry for American people.

When I was growing up, American people were regarded as cool, free and very popular. Now, as an adult, under Bush' Regime, it's very much people saying they're glad they're not American.

That's an appalling turning of the tide... but you know, America has alot of strength left. Let's hope the new government can pull its socks up and rebuild its image internationally. I loved my visits there and will go back some day. Also desparately want to visit Canada! I have a few good friends there.
talk abt nostalgikick huh? :)
That's very cool. I haven't even been to NYC though I've been to DC. I was surprised how shabby DC was. I wasn't expecting that.

I have very mixed feelings about America. The first time he stole the election, but he was actually voted in. The US is decidedly antil-intellectual. And they are proud of that. Obviously, it shows. I grew up in a catholic community and a lot of people voted for Bush because he is anti-abortion. That is the only reason they voted for him. They didn't even know anything else about him.

The Dems need to quit standing for such leftist issues and find something that middle america can relate to. One of the big things is gay marriage. Myself, I don't care. I mean, let them get married, who cares, but it doesn't fire me up so much that I will go out and vote jsut so gays can get married. Dems don't have any issues that they stand for that gets a lot of people excited. Republicans do. There are a lot of people who think that Dems stand for the poor and the left, but not for thew middle class. I agree with that. These same people seem to think however that the Reps stand for the middle class. I do not agree with that. None of them stand for the middle class.

You know though, we get a lot of criticism from Europe (particularly France) who seems to assume that the US can basically solve it's internal problems the same way that they do and that is simply wrong. It's like comparing apples to oranges. I remember the British saying...what are Americans complaining about, our gas has been high for years. Take public transportation like we do. Do they realize how big it is over here? Apparently not. Oh well....I am just rambling. I could go on and on, but I'm glad you got to come over and visit. Did you ever read Trevor's post about his trip to the US. Very worth reading.
Just read what I wrote. guess I should have proof-read it before I posted it. Hopefully, you will be able to get what I was trying to say. (Not awake yet.)
Benji, I like the reflections on Lady Liberty. As long as Bush reigns, she will continue to cry herself to sleep at night.

Behind Blue, the Democrats have real issues: minimum wage, health care, restoring constitutional freedom, and more. What the republicans have is sophistic pseudo issues that stir up sheeple. Unfortunately the US has too many sheeple, too.
Miss Smack

Don't feel sorry for us. To be honest for my entire adult life (I am 53) I feel that the rest of the world truly vilified America, because of our industrial might and wealth and now specifically because of the policies of this current ni-lateral administration it has gotten to true hatred, even amongst our so called allies. But we have survived it so far.

Yet at the same time in our short history there is not one country in this world that we have not helped. While at the same time we were black bagging many countries internal political system, so maybe we deserve the disdain we have been regarded with since the turn of the 20th century. History is still telling the story.

Behind Blue Eyes

I have to agree with Tom Cat, Dems do have issues that will carry them but what they don't have is the support of the mainstream churches which illegally preach politics from the pulpit. A fact that should have and most likely would have in a Democratic non federalist administration cost them their tax exempts status.

As for solving our own problems, not once in a hundred years of past American history has any government so much as offered us aid during a national disaster, what we get though is the Chinese, the European banking cartels and others trying to take over our economy with a an almost 400,000,000,000 dollar trade deficit which is nearly ten times what it was during the Clinton administration.

and this country is as intellectual as any nation on earth, we may not be philosophical but as a whole we can think and come to proper conclusions. GW is an exception to that thought as are all who work in his administration.


Great post! I love Washington D.C. it is a fun place to vacation.
wow, this has sparked a much more interesting discussion than i anticipated. well done fair readers.

a few general comments about america, from a canadian perspective: first, i'm not sure if americans realize how rightwing their democrats are. the democrats would be laughed out of canada as rightwing extremists. this obama character just threatened to invade pakistan (possibly america's most valuable ally in the war on war), for chrissakes. even our conservative guy only threatens gays and feminists. the only true liberal who runs for anything, ralph nader, is panned by the right as a fanatic and by the left as a gore-killer, when in fact the biggest gore-killer is gore's personality, and the dems are so desperate they're trying to resurrect that loser's political career against his will. meanwhile he's flying around in his jet telling everybody how bad climate change is.

i do feel bad for americans, not so much because of world opinion, but because the class gap is widening and most people are getting shafted, because the debt is now insurmountable and worse than it's ever been, because they have one of the worst healthcare systems in the wealthy world, and their only champion of universal healthcare, hillary clinton, sold out and became an HMO whore (if you believe michael moore and in this case i do). and first the 'liberal' media wanted to invade iraq and now it wants the troops out, and it's both ideas are basically catastrophic.

i also fear america, because as everyone outside america knows, the empire is falling, and i'm afraid it's going to land on me and on everyone i love. it's already fallen on the people of iraq and numerous other countries in the world. it is in fact much like the roman empire with all the weird extremities (like the backstreet boys) bolstered by moder-day technology. its once great, and very intellectual and philisophical, culture, is becoming increasingly warped, pornographied, vaccuous, and lame.

on later trips to the country i saw a great deal of anti-intellectualism. i was told on the greyhound, numerous times, that i should put my book away. "what else is there to do on a 40 hour bus ride?" i asked.

"sleep," I was told.

but, I still do love america. the people on the greyhound who weren't sleeping were bantering and arguing, loudly, and telling tall tales. a bunch of guys hopped on, straight out of jail and ready to roll, free at last. it was boisterous and wild and opinionated. one thing americans aren't afraid of is an argument - and that debate is healthy when it isn't monopolized by suited dumbographers on fox and other cheap facsimilies.

god bless america indeed, and god save it, and save us all from it.

having said that, Ms Smack: let's hope there is a new govt, and let's hope they stop making wars and start making peace.

Crash: sometimes it beats caffeine.

BBE: good points. on gay marriage, i honestly wish more straight people would get fired up about gay marriage. If anyone�s rights are trampled on, all our rights are trampled on. I�ll have to look for Trevor�s thing on the states.

Tomcat: unfortunately the Republics have also done a much better job framing issues in ways that people can easily understand.

TWM: I believe Cuba offered America relief money after 9-11. Their offer was declined. I read in the New York Times today that polls show that Americans are taking much more interest in the upcoming election at this time than they did at the equivalent time last time (if that makes any sense), especially democrats and women. Hopefully that will effect the outcome in a good way.

Mytopia: I was in Washington but not until two years after I wrote this post. I was at an anti-World Bank demonstration and the city was kind of under siege, so it wasn�t at its best. Mostly though I have not heard good things about the state of its inner core.
I laughed out loud at this, especially flipping the bird at Lady Liberty. I imagine she is used to that by now. I have to admit that when I first saw her, I wasn't impressed, but then I went on a night boat ride and saw her all lit up. She was amazing. But then so is New York. I'm a die hard Chicagoan, but I tell you: New York is the place--I adore it.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tomcat: for more on framing, see The Rockridge Institute

EOTR: Chicago is a place I've never been but would very much like to. Here in my old age NYC has become a bit too fast-paced for me, but it's a nice place to visit that's for sure.
No wonder you hate being prophetic. It's all good, though.

This was strong. I liked all the music references, Hendrix, Guess Who. Even the backstreet boy ref wasn't bad. It captures a moment and tells the reader of a date in time, without dating the piece specifically.

The american woman is a lie, though.

The American woman is currently our vp in drag. That's why I love looking out this window at the world. It gives me hope that isn't present in my actual environment.

I hear you. But, the politics and power aside, there's a lotta good people.
You were pretty good at 22.

TWM, your point on preaching politics is well taken.

Benji, on framing the issue, take a look at my top post today. The short explanation: a carefully thought well conceived solution to any complex problem won't fit on a bumper sticker.
Ivan: huh, I wonder what happened.

TC: You're right (in fact I used that very metaphor here, but this is part of the problem with the left. We think that detailed sets of facts win elections. They don't. People vote based on their values. Republicans talk values. Democrats respond, thus walking into the very frame set for them by their opponents. Which is why you have Obama, who is extremely informed and progressive, talking about invading Pakistan as if he was applying to work for Haliburton.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?