Clueless in America. Chapter 47

47. Eat and get Absolutely Stinkin’ Fat.

This part of the nation is very Catholic. Catholic at least in the American sense of the word. Hence the ‘Friday Fish’ sign. The cafe was on the corner of ‘Co Road T’ and the ’45’ and ’47’ and was called the ‘Corner Cafe’. To start with that is a terribly American address and I have never experienced remotely similar addresses anywhere else in the world. This was the cafe with the huge eat sign in front of it and though we had had a few coffees in there previously, today, Friday was the day that Sharon thought we should obey the ‘Eat’ sign.

So in we waltzed, by this stage the waitress had become familiar with us and gave us a pleasant warm smile. The waitress herself was an American oxymoron. She was a little older than most, maybe about twenty, she did not have pimples, she was thin and she never assaulted us with American-service-industry-happiness. Not only that, she humoured me; humouring me is a trait that is not to be taken lightly, ask my long suffering wife and see what answer you get.

The cafe seemed as if it was taken straight from the set of the eighties and nineties sitcom ‘Roseanne(137)’. It was so so American, I totally loved the joint. Behind the counter was one of those really cool only-in-America-coffee-drip-thingamajigs, I had never seen one in real life before. The coffee was a lifeless brown. The machine could only drip one pot of coffee at a time, but it could keep two pots snug and warm on top. We had been drinking excitedly this cheap weak tar all week, but today was different, because I had my camera with me. I plucked up the courage and asked our lovely-clear-faced waitress if I could take a photo of her holding the coffee pot. She obliged and allowed me to click three very quick photos of her walking away from the coffee-thingamajig with the coffee pot in her hand. I was so excited, but in the poor light and the ecstasy of the moment I screwed up the photos.

We ordered our Friday-fish. Sharon with fries and me with hash-browns, it just seemed the American thang to do. Then we sat back and surveyed the hapless environs whilst staining our teeth on our atmospheric bottomless cups of coffee. I don’t mean that the cups had no bottoms, that would be a little impractical, I mean you could refill them for free.

I was just sitting there minding my own business admiring the shiny green bar stools, two of which were buried haplessly under two rather large pairs of buttocks when suddenly and slowly I noticed a rather large rusty classic sports car pull up. This thing was so low to the ground that its exhaust pipe was almost sparking off the bitumen. I watched with fascination as the rust bucket slumbered to an excruciatingly painful halt. Then slowly and surely, one at a time, its doors opened. The bag of nuts and bolts started frantically rolling from side to side. Just when I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, these people are having sex in the car-park on a Friday morning’, a leg lumbered out. This was no ordinary leg, this leg made the ‘Michelin Man(138)’ look positively anorexic. And to add insult to injury it was wrapped in a white sport shoe and green track pants. Why do the horrifically obese wear sports clothes? Are they fantasizing about thinner days or is it just some kind of weird blubbering sense of humour?

Anyhow by this stage the sports car was resembling a fair-ground attraction as it shook violently from side to side. Slowly but surely another horrifically oversized track-panted leg emerged and two chubby balls of flesh appeared on the door-jams, I presumed these were hands. Then something that could best be described as a red medicine-ball popped out, and it was smiling. This experience was clearly normal. I watched the fat in the fingers on the door jams tense up and slowly but surely this wobbling bundle of fat starting rising up. But it was weird and a little confusing, the face seemed to get further away from the ground, but not further away from the car. With stark horror it dawned upon me that they were not exiting a ground-scraping sports car, but rather a highly raised-suspension pick-up truck. It seemed like it took this couple a full five minutes to stand up and with each minute the pick-up truck suspension picked-up another foot of clean air between the ground and the bottom of the vehicle. Then wham, the Chevy rust-bucket was free from its burden. And there Ma and Pa Blue stood quadriceps rubbing but feet wide apart. Though their sport shoes were still, the blubber on their legs and belly was still bouncing slightly as it recovered from all of the pick-up exiting exercise.

Next was the adventure of forward motion without the support of their now lighter than life Chevy Stepside. The first noticeable sign of forward motion was the tension building up in the right hand side of Ma Blue’s mouth. Then very purposefully the fat in her legs started vibrating until eventually a foot plunged forward. These people walked with all of the gaiety of a hippopotamus trying to find the ever elusive sweet spot on a beanbag. The walk to the door was definitely and defiantly a ground-breaking exercise. But Ma and Pa Blue were happy, incidentally so was the rusty old Stepside. They thundered in the door with larger than life smiles on their pudgy faces and were shortly joined by a whole pod of cloned, cheap purple fleece wearing versions of themselves.

It was just exhausting watching the horrendous experience and it left me rather shaken. And that is when our orders arrived. Two very large oval plates, mine creaking under the weight of a huge piece of battered fish, underneath a gigantic greasy hash-brown. There was fat flowing like the Mississippi around the edge of my plate, but it smelt so good. I took a swig of coffee, shook the previous hefty memory from my noggin’ and dug in. It was so so good and so so cheap and I ate everything on my plate with a large greasy suety smile, whilst I politely shut out the agonising screams of my arteries.

Later I glanced over at Ma and Pa Blue’s table with their pod of clones to see how they were doing. They had finished their mains and now were literally digging into massive whipped-cream desserts. Oh yeah, they were enjoying themselves. Ironically enough they were sitting under a sign that read ‘Body Recall’. It appeared that the United Church of Christ was recalling bodies. I can just imagine what God said to the local minister. ‘Reverend Randy, this is God. Look I am sick and tired of all these fat people abusing the bodies I have given them. Clogged arteries, heart attacks and diabetes was not my plan. I want you to round up the obese masses, bring’em in and I am going to take back their bodies, recondition them and give them to someone who is going to look after them.’ According to the sign no registration was required and you could call the ‘Department of Aging’ for more information.

Which brings me to my finishing thought, do Americans actually decompose in the grave? I mean surely if you spend your whole life eating food crammed-packed full of preservatives, it must have some effect. And what if your soul only gets released to heaven upon the breaking down of your body? Heaven would be a very quiet place without any Americans or do Americans arrive in heaven ten years after everyone else? Ahh the mind boggling musings of a person who has had to much coffee and a Mississippi full of fatty fish.

Tune in next week and ‘don’t meet my penpal.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

Clueless in America. Chapter 46

46. Photos in the Mist.

I took a morning off from my holiday to go out and take some photos. The snow was gone by this stage, but everything was still shrouded in mist. This forced me to take a lot of black and white photos. So I spent the morning getting strange looks whilst pounding the pavement pointing my camera at things that clearly baffled the indigenous population.

It never ceases to amaze me just how American, America looks. I mean I do not know what I was expecting, we citizens of the outside world grow up suffering the blessings of a prolific American film and tele’ industry. But somehow we seem to confine it to the movie inspired section of our imagination and thus not real life. Then bizarrely enough we are genuinely surprised and excited when we visit America and encounter our first red fire hydrant or our first yellow school bus. And this cold misty morning was just one long wake up call, saying yes, this mystical gun-slinging cop and robber country really does exist. I took photos of rundown houses and empty roads. I took great delight in a bedraggled, fluorescent, American flag flanked, Ice and Friday Fish sign. Then there was a large rundown Pepsi, Corner Cafe sign, with a huge ‘eat’ command protruding roadward from halfway up the pole.

America has signs everywhere, I have said this before, but even in this sleepy hick town there was a  peloton of signs adventurously vying for my attention. Most of them were either simple commands like ‘eat’ or signs telling you what you cannot do. I managed to get a photo of a friendly lady walking her dog along the beach in front of a ‘NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE BEACH’ sign. Which was right beside the grammarless ‘BEYOND THIS POINT IS PRIVATE PROPERTY KEEP OUT’ sign. Which was right round the corner from the slightly better written for dummies, ‘Wisconsin Public Service Corp’. ‘WARNING High Voltage Above. KEEP OFF Can shock, burn or cause death’ sign. I tend to think that if you are dumb enough to climb power poles, then you get what you deserve. Across the road from this sign was another halfway up a tall pole. It simply read ‘Bird house’ and had an arrow pointing upwards. I followed the arrow up the pole and sure enough there was a little bird house sitting embarrassingly on top.

However my favourite sign came in the form of many little yellow flags which were rather prolifically and haphazardly stabbed into the grass on the side of the pick-up infested road. Each little flag was about the size of my hand and read ‘CAUTION BURIED GAS LINE HAND DIG WITHIN 18 INCHES WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE’. I was dumbfounded by these flags. Why does a Kiwi living in Lithuania need to know where the gas line is? Did I need to obey the command to ‘hand dig within eighteen inches’? Simply weird.

Being a boy, I took lots of photos of trucks, pick-up trucks and tractors. I stopped and even took a  photo of the local British Petroleum service station. Even something as British as BP looks American when placed in Hicksville ‘Up North’, Wisconsin. I guess the ‘BAIT BEER LIQUOR WINE PIZZA SUBS BURGERS’ sign helped the contextualisation a little.

I spent the whole morning freezing my fingers clicking away. I even got attacked by a rather camera shy dog who seemed to be protecting one of the local bars.

Most of the locals treated me with great suspicion. I got a hello from the ‘Miller Lite’ man. However that was it – but I didn’t care – I had a fun and extremely relaxing morning.

Tune in next week get absolutly stinkin’ fat.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

Clueless in America. Chapter 45

45. It was Bloody Rare, Part 2.

So, back to the meat-eater’s popsicle-paradise of Pitlik’s – dark and snowy – Sand Beach Resort.

I was aware that the racket of the bar-propping trio had increased to meet the clamour of the kitchen staff. Could have sworn I heard a death rendering moo at one stage. But after an eternity, a clearly struggling nappy-rashed, pimple-popping Mickey arrived burdened under the weight of our Bison Ribeyes. I had asked for rare meat. But I kid you not, this sucker jumped straight off my plate and started leaving a bloody trail as it stampeded towards the door. If it had not been for the clearly honed skills of one of the redneck bar proppers, my ribeye would still be out there somewhere eating grass and playing Russian-roulette with passing pick-ups.

My hunk of bison was slapped back onto my plate where I was forced to stab it relentlessly into submission. After a long blood-splattering few minutes, I gave it its final fatal blow, leaving it fresh, rare and pleasantly lifeless on my plate. Gosh I bet that in this part of the woods parents have trouble with their kids playing with their food. ‘But Mum, I just want to ride my steak one more time.’ ‘Chuckie, this is a restaurant not the rodeo’. ‘Aw Mum’. ‘CHUCK.’

I have never experienced anything like this before, I had blood running through my fries, flowing through my salad and running down my beard. It took all of my city dwelling strength just to slice the bugger(135). Then chewing the sucker was a carnivorous marathon. We were too Kiwi polite to send it back and ask for a little less blood in the ‘rare’. However it provided us with hours of chewing entertainment. The chewing started in the restaurant and finished weeks later when I had finally tooth-picked the last bloody piece from my cavities. I have never ever chewed so much to gain so little. But if you excuse the pun, it was a bloody good steak, a bloody cool place and a bloody good night.

And to top it off I bought a cheap nasty insulated coffee mug. It is white, with a picture on it of the lake and forest that we never saw. And at the bottom of it is written the word Dzie’kuje. I asked zit-Mick what it meant. He strained his pimples almost to the point of bursting, thought about it for a minute and said that he did not know. Months later I plugged the word into a search engine and was informed that it had indeed been spelt incorrect. The correct spelling of the word is dziękuję and it is Polish for thank you. So now whenever I have a cup of coffee I am reminded to be thankful for a blood soaked salad, blood splattered fries and a bison that almost got away. Incidentally I have used the coffee mug every Monday morning whilst smithing this monologue.

It was a horrendous trip home. The mist was so thick that we could not even see oncoming headlights until they were beside our door. Averaging thirty kilometres per hour, we drove for seemingly hours down a no-named backwoods road. The evening was dark, dismal and full of snow.

Out of desperation and a need to trade the car seat for a toilet seat, we stopped at some anonymous populated section of the road that was full of frazzled motorists and hung-up-hill-billies. Out-of-town Rednecks were in town growing increasingly frustrated with their inability to find alcohol, whilst cars crawled down the lonely only road. The atmosphere felt both hazily apocalyptic and weirdly American. The snow fell, the motorists motored and I took in a few moments to breath in America. To breath in this random dot on the map, where darkness enveloped the street lights, were the bitumen glistened with sleet and where the clamour of life was hushed by the intense overpowering mist. This was America, ‘Up North’, Wisconsin, a place where English as we know it is rarely heard and smiles greeted with suspicion.

We confined it to our memories and drove back out onto the highway leaving the town to survive in the squalor of its peacefulness. The motif was too beautiful, too raw and too real to even be spoilt with the silent clicking of a digital shutter.

And before we knew it, Betsie had rather sullenly deposited us back at Summit Lake, not that the lake could be seen. But its presence could be felt out there in the freezing mist and gentle breeze. The evening was laid to rest with an open-fire, smores(136), hot-chocolate, jazz and dreams of riding wild bison with dinner forks and bottles of tomato sauce.

Tune in next week for ‘photos in the mist’

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

Clueless in America. Chapter 44

44. It was Bloody Rare, Part 1.

One of the days we decided to take a drive further up north, we wanted to see a couple of towns, one called Eagle River and the other called Minocqua. I do not remember Eagle River at all. The problem was that Wisconsin is rather like Poland; it seems that most of its lakes have private residences right down to the water. This is great when you are like us and staying in a lakeside crib. However when visiting other lakes it is a pain in the butt, ’cause you just cannot get to see the water. But to tell you the truth, I do not remember seeing either a lake or a river, or even a town at that, so let me tell you about Minocqua.

Minocqua was wet, overcast, grey and damp. When we arrived it was somewhere between sleeting and raining. We stumbled upon a really good outdoor store. Like the best outdoor store that I have seen since leaving Aotearoa. Everything was so stinkin’ good and so stinkin’ expensive. It was called BJ’s Sportshop. The great thing was that the shop assistant actually knew what she was selling. She knew what was breathable and what wasn’t. Not only did they have one-hundred-strength fleeces, but they actually knew what they were. Unfortunately when you want the good stuff you have to pay for it and in this case I was not prepared to fork out the money. Sharon was, she needed an ‘icebreaker’ thermal and had been persistently hunting for one. This shop not only had them, but also supported large photos of New Zealand merinos standing in the wild. When I went into my usual predictable rant about how it is a shame that ‘icebreaker’ are making their products in China, the shop assistant agreed, like actually said something like ‘Yeah, I know it is sad, but it doesn’t compromise the quality.’ When I mentioned ‘human rights’, she lamented and agreed again. Like wow, this woman should start a business training shop assistants, because she is the only one who really got the Kel Fowler definition of right. After all, I do set the standard.

Anyhow after looking at much stuff we decided to see the rest of the town and mull things over.

So we went for a walk across a bridge through some trees but never really away from houses. This kind of sucked. But it was a nice walk, wet snow was on the ground and the bush was quiet and full of squirrels. Afterwards we went for a wander through the town. I met a lovely man in the Packers merchandise store where I finally replaced my seventeen-year- old authentic NFL Packers Cap with a new one. I was so, so happy.

We went back to BJ’s to get that ‘icebreaker’, but they did not have the right size.

So now it was time to find some supper. This was to be our special meal out, so we wanted something special. We stopped at the information centre at Eagle River and they directed us to a place on a lake around twenty kilometres south west.

So off we went, like two adventure-starved dumb Kiwis. By now it was dark, starless and snowing. It felt like we had about thirty millimetres of visibility and an army of deer and letterboxes waiting for us. Our map lacked detail, but who cared; our tummies were empty and the lady at the information centre said that this place sold meat.

We probably only managed about forty or fifty kilometres per hour for the drive and in the nothingness we missed our turn off by about ten kilometres. Saw some beautiful deer before eventually pulling into the almost empty car park of Pitliks.

Before entering we decided to go see the lake, after all this was one of the reasons why we chose this place. So we walked around this nice rustic building. Put our backs to the restaurant and looked forward. The sleety snow gently fell into our eyes. But we couldn’t really see anything, so we took a few steps forward until we were almost in the lake. I raised my hand above my eyes to shield out the sleet, leaned forward, strained my eyes and there it was, a beautiful lake shrouded in sleet, mist and darkness. And for all I knew, it was no wider than thirty centimetres. But at least now I could honestly write home to my Mum and say that we had a beautiful lakeside dinner.

I was after meat and the inside did not let me down. The first thing that I noticed was a stuffed deer head hanging above the fireplace. If they stuff ’em they probably eat ’em. The bar was divided into two redneck halves. One for smokers and one for non-smokers, both halves supported mounted road-kill, and open fires and set picnic style-tables with check tablecloths. Once again we instantly felt as if we were in the movies. We chose the smokers’ side, nothing like a nice long hard drag with your meal. Well, if the truth be known the non-smoking section was empty, whilst the smokers’ section supported a long wild-west bar complete with a barman and two loud-speaking men and one louder speaking woman, draped over it as if it had been their life support for the entire afternoon. None of them were smoking.

Being suckers for punishment, we chose what was possibly a lakeside table as close to the action as possible and waited with much mouthwatering anticipation for the meat to arrive. I was expecting a tobacco-chewing cowboy-hat-wearing trigger-happy outlaw to suddenly appear with his six-shooters and our menu. I mean the atmosphere reeked of dead animals and masculinity, this was a realistic expectation. Whilst enjoying the view, aka our reflections in the steamed up window, I heard a squeak. I turned round rather hesitantly to be greeted by our waiter. He was a boy lost  somewhere between nappy-training and pimple popping adolescence and I could be wrong here but I think he was struggling under the weight of the menus.

Child labour is illegal in many countries, but here in the USA it seems to be a right of passage. No sooner have Americans learned to use the toilet, than they are cast out onto the highways, byways and roadside restaurants to grow their pimples, pay for college and study polarisation though the conversations of the general public.

This boy, and I know I exaggerate but calling him a child just seems a little too harsh, stood there and squeaked at us. Someone needed to smack this kid around the ears, a boy should at least have a broken voice before he is allowed to sell meat and beer. Anyhow sounding rather like a zit-faced Mickey Mouse, he welcomed us and asked if we wanted a drink before we ordered. In my deepest voice I said ‘No thanks’. I was in meat eating country, I was not going to drink anything unless it had a picture of a four-legged future meal on the label. Zit-Mickey unburdened the menus and scurried away to who knows where. I was left to scan the bar of its vast array of Americanly bright beer taps, I found one with a picture of antlered road-kill on it and was instantly content.

Bear and meat go together, single syllable words easy for men with guns to grunt out. ‘Beer, meat, me, want’. Whereas wine on the other hand is not a description of the drink, it is a description of what people do when they drink it.

Squeaky-zit-Mickey scurried back, I grunted, pointed to the road-kill on the tap and said ‘Beer’ then pointed to the menu and said ‘Meat meat’. That was meat for the entrée and the main. Then we waited and waited and then waited some more. We passed the time away this romantic evening by watching the condensation run down the inside of the window, whilst imagining the lake. During the brief periods that we could actually hear each other above the din of the three at the bar spouting off about each other’s partners and ex’s, we actually talked. Occasionally we could actually hear the fire crackling but mostly we had to be content with just like the lake, knowing that it was actually there.

Then finally squeaky-Mickey-zit scurried over with our entrées. I do not know what is was about America and me, but once again my order was totally screwed up. Here in Lithuania I have watched pouty-faced blond-bombshells take an order for a dozen people and not make a single mistake. But here in America, I have struggled with pimply, smiley, gangly teenagers meticulously scribbling every detail of a two person order and totally screwing it up. I think a little less smiling practice and a little more memory exercise is called for. It didn’t matter, I came for meat and the menu was mostly meat. I ended up with some kind of hot chilli meat swirling in a bowl. I suffered gladly. Because of having to have only the one driver’s beer, I requested that it arrive with the meat.  Dutifully a few minutes later, squeaky-Mickey arrived under the burden of my meaty beer. And thus another popsicle-paradise was upon me.

I think we should take a chapter break here.

Tune in later to hear about just how bloody rare is was.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

Clueless in America. Chapter 43

43. The Irish Shooting Season.

When on holiday I walk, when on holiday we walk. It is just one of those things we do to relax. I walked into town a couple of times and we walked up to the local Corner Cafe. Recreational walking is such a strange thing to do in America that everyone notices you. One morning upon tentatively bounding into the cafe, I was greeted with the words, ‘So you’re burning the shoe leather this morning’. It was such a strange comment that it actually took me most of my cup of coffee to work out what the hang he was talking about.

One particular day Sharon and I were out marvelling at Summit Lake’s need to have multiple mail boxes in front of each home. One for the post, one for the Antigo Journal, one for the Antigo Area Shoppers Guide and often many more. The whole display looked like a leftover from Halloween and why the hang they couldn’t use the one letter box with perhaps four little placards on it saying what they do collect, I don’t know. Anyhow I digress.

So we walked. Ronnan’s owner had suggested that we walk a track near some local lake. So off we toddled(133). It was a rather typical, dreary, overcast and misty ‘Up North’ autumn day. The lake, the trees, their reflections and even seemingly the sky seemed to be all shades of brown, but a beautiful brown nonetheless. We were strolling along, chatting away, minding our own business when suddenly a man with a gun popped out of the bush. Sharon instantly tensed up; personally, over the years, I had encountered a few North American guns pointed at me. Plus why should we fear, in this part of the universe the local vicar probably strolls though the bush with his shot gun? So I let out a cheerful ‘Hello’. He replied. I thought gosh this is fun, talking to a nice man with a gun in the middle of nowhere, so I said ‘How’s hunting? Are you getting anything?’ His reply was ‘Are you Irish?’ He did not call us Australian or English, so we were not offended, but instead rather bemused. I said ‘No, we are from New Zealand. Why?’ He said ‘Are you staying on such-a-such road?’ I freaked a little and said, ‘Yeah why?’ And he said ‘My sister was out collecting the mail the other morning, saw you walking and heard you talking, she came in and told me that there were some people from Ireland walking down the road.’

America, if you would put in some footpaths and exercise your sport shoes, then we foreigners would not look like total freaks pounding your bitumen whilst desperately trying to subtract those nasty food additives. Can you believe it, here we are in the middle of the bush, perhaps an hour in and we were speaking to someone who had heard of us; we had only been in the town for a couple of days.

Anyhow oblivious to what a hunter walking through the bush actually meant, we kept on walking. When all of a sudden on this cool autumn morning, I heard a firework go off, then we heard another one, and another, they were going off all around us. Oh my goodness, how stupid could we be? We were in the middle of the bush during hunting season and suddenly it seemed as if every local redneck had spotted a deer right beside us and was shooting. We never saw the sucker, but I promise you, we got our butts out of there, lest they fall prey to some hapless hunter and our mugs(134) become stuffed and displayed above someone’s fireplace.

I had never been caught in crossfire before, but gosh I was cross with myself for such an ignorant display. Never mind, such is life ‘Up North’.

Tune in next week to read about a lot of blood.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

Clueless in America. Chapter 42

42. Summit Lake

I woke in the morning, meandered downstairs, drew the curtains and realised that the day before perhaps was not hell, but rather the mystical concept of purgatory. And that perhaps we had spent the whole previous day of excruciating pain atoning for our sins in preparation for the paradise that greeted me on the other side of the window. My eyes were hit by the view of a placid and tranquil lake, laced in a fresh light sprinkling of snow. My ‘jamy-clad’ body also became aware of a fresh intake of cold air. It was time for me to do one of my favourite things and light a fire in paradise.

Well I do not think that you need to hear every detail of our holiday. I guess you wouldn’t be interested in us drinking hot chocolate and eating s’mores in front of the fire. Or us watching the American Country Music awards and Democrats and Republicans fighting on the local news. You probably won’t be interested in me watching football and reading my book either.

By the time Sharon rose from her slumber, both the fire and the coffee were nice and cosy. Sharon had a cold, which meant it was my duty to trek the twenty-nine kilometres back into that horrible oversized intersection and do the grocery shopping for our next four days.

Men should be banned from entering supermarkets without suitable feminine company. It probably was not the dreadful toppling of the ‘Twin-Towers’ that triggered George Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan, it was probably the fact that Laura had sent him out to do the week’s supermarket shopping all by himself. George being left all alone trying work out the difference between Coke Classic, Diet Coke, Diet Coke Caffeine Free, Diet Coke Cherry and Coke Zero would have been enough for him to race back to the Oval Office and aggressively push that fatal red button. Thus, boom, Afghanistan was invaded.

When I know what I want and where it is, then I can shop and exit the supermarket with a few frazzled follicles left on my scalp. My method is to be quick and keep my head down. I fair-dinkum storm down the aisles and sweep the merchandise catapulting into my trolley whilst speeding from the corn chips to the water.

On this occasion, on account that I knew nothing, I was doomed before I started. What a way to start a holiday, being stuck in an oversized country, in an oversized supermarket, with oversized people, searching oversized shelves for oversized produce. Whereas I was one little person, buying for two small eaters, for four days, wanting healthy, additive-free food on a very limited budget.

“If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain” is the expression that springs to mind. But it would have been a more pleasant experience to sharpen my toes in an electric pencil sharpener than conform to this particularly torturous corner of American culture.

Did you know that in America you can buy 100% pure orange juice with additives? I guess either the additives were pure, or I have a totally wrong concept of what 100% means, or an incorrect understanding of the word pure. And butter, oh my goodness, buying butter caused an udderly ridiculous spread of milky emotions. First, buying butter in anything less that a forty-four gallon drum(130) was near on impossible. Almost every container had picture-postcard-perfect pictures of cows, grass or butter on them, but only about ten percent of those containers actually had butter in them. The rest were all kinds of slick-additive-packed oily spreads. It probably took me about thirty minutes to read the copious amounts of fine print, before I had narrowed down my selection to about three brands of possibly 100% additive-free pure butter. Then I plucked out of the fridge the one with the lowest fat count, but promptly put it back on account that it was about the size of your average Kiwi hay bale(131). I am not 100% sure of what I left with, but there was a lot of it, it was almost too yellow and was high in fat content.

Now should we talk about buying corn chips? They come in sacks big enough to have sack races in. The big problem was actually the size versus price factor and again finding the natural without the additives. But on account of that there was a whole aisle of them, that was another thirty minutes gone. I will spare you the details. And the final thing that I learned, was that there seems to be no such thing a 100% cranberry juice. Beats me why?

And lastly what needs to be mentioned is paying, or perhaps rather, with what I paid. America, where are your stinkin’ fifty cent coins and why do you not have one and two dollar coins? And for goodness sake, what nation in the world would be so, so mean as to write ‘one dime’ on a coin and not tell us that it is actually a ten cent piece. And thanks, thanks a lot for actually writing ‘quarter dollar’ on your twenty five cent coin. Do you think it would be at little easier and understandable to just write twenty five cents? I mean surely it is not just foreigners and immigrants who have to learn your money, I presume your kids need to learn it as well? I note that you very cheekily plaster the word liberty on all of your coins, I presume this is your humour in reminding us that you have taken the liberty to confuse anyone who dares enter into your capitalistic spirit. Now correct me if I am wrong, but are all of your notes the same colour and even possibly the same size? If so, then putting ‘In God we trust’ on all your notes makes perfect sense. For indeed when I buy a fifty cent can of fizzy on the run, I am really trusting God that I am handing you a one dollar bill rather than a one-hundred dollar bill. I know I am being harsh. If I want to use it, I need to get over it and adapt to it. It is just why did your forefathers make it so hard for you?

Finally I drove across the supermarket car park across the road and across another car park to an op-shop(132). The driving distance was about the same as between any two rural Kiwi towns. I was still in search of my bib-type-overalls. Came up empty handed here as well.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

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So far I have written in the Hotel Pagegiai cafe, Pagegiai, Lithuania, the Katiyas Tejai Tirgotava, Sigulda, Latvia, Chu Chus Cafe, West Kildbride, Scotland and the Tinderbox cafe  in Merchant City, Glasgow, Scotland.

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Clueless in America. Chapter 41

41. Blind Faith

It was practically dark by the time we left Grafton. We slid a ‘Saturday Morning with Kim Hill'(126) podcast into the stereo and submitted to the rhythms of Ronnan and the road. We got lost in oh-my-gosh-Oshkosh; with no warning Ronnan got all ambiguous on us, which forced Sharon and I out of our slumber and into thinking for ourselves. But I followed my natural instincts and eventually Ronnan stopped telling us to turn around and plotted us a corrected course. Now because we were still green with the GPS, we still had the thing plotted for the shortest route, so Ronnan was taking us away from the highways and down all of the country lanes. This would have been fine if we had wanted a tiki tour(127). But being tired and cranky, we just wanted to get the 185km behind us. The problem was this was a particularly dark, sleety, misty evening and there seemed to once again be almost no cars on the road.

Deer. We had heard many Americans talk about deer, hunting etc. Americans talk about hunting and deer on the roads like Scots talk about the weather. The subject had always been somewhat of a curious amusement for us, but this night all those conversations were justified and it became our reality. Kim had long since expended herself and rather appropriately, country music had found its way into the car. Whilst merrily bouncing our way around a dark, misty, moonless corner, suddenly two sets of glowing eyes seated in two almost invisible bodies appeared in the middle of the road. In an effort to have more control for sudden movement on a wet road, I quickly jammed my foot on the clutch and reached for the gear lever, only to discover that I had been duped once again by America’s infatuation with the automatic transmission. Next effort was the brakes. If I was to hit them too hard, I would only lose control and probably speed up as I either collected the deer or veered off the road into the trees, whence they should have been. I braked, and braked hard, Betsie did not lock-up, I pulled out onto the wrong side of the road, took my foot off the brakes and coasted past the deer. I am not sure if they even bothered to get off the road. This experience both shook us and as I said, validated many previous conversations.

Suddenly we were flung out of the beautiful lethargic rhythms of the road into the cold hard reality, that if we did not wake from our slumber and peel our eyes for the road ahead, that we could be meeting our maker with deer antler protruding from our foreheads in dark, dank, misty, nowhereville hicksville ‘Up North’ Wisconsin. It is no accident that both Satan and deer are rumoured to have horns.

It took us a wee while to recover from this Godly-stroke-of-the-smite-button. And then seemingly just as I was allowing the country music to invade my thoughts and the stillness of the road to settle in again, I was coldly woken by a terse, tense shrill from Sharon. The piercing shriek of ‘deer’ invaded my consciousness . I fumbled for the clutch and braked, swerving to the right of the road on a blind corner. It was about here when I realised that some mean, truly nasty and callous infidel had put two reflectors on their letterbox. Grrrr, they looked just like deer eyes to these untrained loopies(128). Over the next hour there was many a terrified shout of ‘deer’ and many a time when Betsie’s brake lights burst into bright red action. About seventy percent of the time we were taking evasive action to avoid stinkin’ letter boxes and the other thirty percent really were stupid, lazy deer who seemed to prefer suicide by motor car rather than a safe evening’s sleep.

By the time Betsie dumped us in Antigio, we were frazzled wrecks who had suffered one country song too many. We needed milk and bread, so set out exploring this oversized intersection of a town for a supermarket. And oddly enough we found one which was open. We parked in a huge empty car-park right outside the supermarket door. Sharon went searching for bread and milk whilst I recovered from my driving ordeal by dreamily meandering through the cheap Packer’s merchandise. It was quite a large supermarket and it eerily felt as though we had the whole shop to ourselves, this feeling being perhaps encouraged by the seemingly total absence of anyone else. Sharon eventually found me and we tiredly dragged our sad and sorry bodies up to the check-outs. We walked along a row of about ten identical check-out booths, they all seemed to be open, but no one was there. It was odd, eventually we just chose a check-out and stood there and waited. It was a bit weird. We waiting a long time, I suggested to Sharon that perhaps this was a help-yourself shop and that we did not have to pay. Either that or Jesus had returned and taken all of his believers away with him to the new heaven and new earth and left Sharon and I behind realising that we had spelt his name wrong and had been spending all of this time worshipping Mesus, rather than Jesus, thus missing out on our ticket to a better afterlife.

Anyhow, just when hell was settling in, we heard a voice from some far off corner yelling, ‘I will be there in a minute’. Shortly afterwards an elderly, beer-bellied figure who looked surprisingly like an over-weight Jesus came jogging down the aisle, with a big smile and a bouncing belly. Perhaps this dude really was omnipresent and was jogging to prove to me that Americans, if only to move quicker between the doughnuts and the maple syrup, actually do use their sport shoes for sport. This part of Wisconsin was particularly over-weight. Anyhow, with a bead of sweat, Christ-like smile and wilting halo, he offered a rather hefty apology and we set forth, bread and milk in tow, out into the wet, empty apocalyptic car-park.

We pulled out of the car-park, kicked over Ronnan and somehow expected that there was another adventure waiting for us on the final eighteen mile leg of our trip. How hard could it be? Ronnan had said, ‘Drive north on the US-45’. Well about thirty minutes later we were breathing in relaxed and relieved tones as we entered Summit Lake. Ronnan said ‘turn right’, we turned right, Ronnan said ‘ turn left’, we turned left and then Ronnan said ‘turn left’ again. We didn’t see the left hand turn, so we carried on hoping to find it. Then Ronnan said ‘you have missed your turn please turn around’. We turned around and drove back, then Ronnan said ‘turn right’, we stopped. We peered out the window, through the mist, rain and darkness and spotted a lonely, deserted track and thought surely not.  So we drove away with the beautiful Ronnan persistently and irritatingly protesting. We drove around the same rather large rural block a few times and every time we went past this little track Ronnan chirped in with ‘turn left now’.

Finally for a second time we stopped beside this track. I mentioned to Sharon that it was possible that our crib was down there. Our friends called it a cabin and I had seen such things on the tele, a single rustic log room with a pot-bellied stove(129) nestled amongst the trees of a Indian-infested forest. After some hesitation and turning our lights onto high beam, we tentatively set off down the track. With a head full of stories about Polish truck drivers getting stuck blindly following equally as innate GPSs up narrow English lanes, we set off down this dark, dismal, narrow and hellish forest track. Fortunately for Betsie’s sake it was only five minutes long, flat and well drained. Before we knew it, we popped out onto the same road at the other side of the block we had just driven round a number of times. However now that we had passed through this forested track, the rather snarkie Ronnan gave us a fresh set of instructions. I spent the last two hundred metres driving to the sound of Betsie and Ronnan arguing about directions and forests and listening to Sharon talk about her growing dislike of technology. With heavenly anticipation, we pulled down the driveway and gleefully shut down both Betsie and Ronnan with the turn of a key, opened our doors and stepped into the freezing paradise of an ‘Up North’, Wisconsin evening.

Tune in next week to find out why George Bush invaded Afghanistan.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

Clueless in America. Chapter 40

40. Leave the Lights Off Please

Well the first thing we noticed coming into Cedarburg was again, all of the cute houses and then the second thing we noticed upon turning into the main street was that Cedarburg looked one hang of a lot nicer in the dark than it did this dreary, overcast fall afternoon. In fact I was so disappointed that we needed coffee. We had once been given some Cedarburg Coffee Roastery coffee beans, so we set out to find their main street cafe. We drove the main street twice before we found it sitting pensively between the matching grey foot-path and grey clouds. We found a park and in anticipation of alleviating our GPS tension with a good dose of freshly roasted coffee, we hurriedly dashed down the damp side-walk. Upon entering our place of asylum, we were suddenly overcome with the fresh smell of burnt coffee beans. Did God have his finger on the smite button(126) this day or what?

But never mind, cafes are our natural environment and any cafe which roasted its own coffee was definitely good enough to become our wildlife sanctuary. In case you missed it, we were the wildlife. We de-stressed here and plotted our next plan of action. I also took the chance to view their merchandise; I was still looking for my insulated coffee mug. Over the last week or so I have pondered as to why this coffee roastery was seemingly burning its beans with such a passion. I have been in the presence of many roasting beans over the years and have even attended coffee school, but nothing had really prepared me for the rancid smell of these burning beans. The dude doing the deed did not seem to be fazed by it at all. One of the many things that Europeans sling at Americans is how they do not have decent coffee. Of course, what they really mean is that they cannot roast their coffee. Most of the world’s coffee comes from the equatorial regions of the world and often times European and American coffee comes from the same country. Europeans seem to like their coffee bitter, strong and useless without a bucket load of sugar. Whereas Americans seem to enjoy theirs tasting rather washed out and weak. And thus their beans are roasted accordingly. This lad at Cedarburg was in such a rush to roast his beans, it seemed to me that he had his roaster on far too high a heat and it seemed that no sooner were those beans hitting the inside of the roaster, than the beans were cracking and crackling and then being released as roasted coffee. It seemed to be that this dude was roasting his beans as a function, not as a romance or an art. Thus, though the coffee was good, it tasted washed out and functional. I wonder if I could apply this experience and theory to the great transatlantic coffee debates and secure myself a seat in the European Union parliament. I am sure they have a department to discuss such things. Anyhow, I will move on.

From here we went back to Kohl’s. Or at least Sharon did, I was too scared to go back in and be overwhelmed. We parked in a typically innate and boring parking lot which was flanked by equally innate and boring square windowless buildings. I do not know what these places are called, maybe strip malls, maybe shopping centres. But can someone tell me, does a wee man sit in a wee office and try to work out how to make these places as boring as possible? No wonder the church is so consumerist; if we had taken the ‘Kohl’s’ sign off the building and put a ‘More Grace Pentecostal’ sign on, well then we all would have gone in and worshipped something quite different. My point is that churches, shop, warehouses and factories in America all look basically the same and can be quite confusing.

We parked the car in the middle of this huge, empty car park. Sharon took a five-minute walk to Kohl’s, whilst I stuck Ronnan in my pocket and walked five minutes in a different direction to an electronic store. Upon entering the store, I presented myself to the first shop assistant and presented my rather flat and dead borrowed GPS system. Oblivious to the morning’s turmoil, a pimply faced, smiling geek presented me with a new cigarette lighter charger. It was on sale, but still cost a packet, it seemed that I was not the first loser that had been done over by his GPS system. From here I walked the five minutes back to the car and then five minutes in the other direction to the outdoor store. I wonder, do Americans drive from shop to shop in these car parks or are they like me and actually walk?

In the outdoor store I was still looking for my 100-strength fleece. I learned a lesson in this store. But first to put things in context; I was jaded, we had stopped at McDonald’s for lunch. Once again we did not know how to order, then they couldn’t understand our accents and eventually I was left eating something I hadn’t meant to order. So I was a tad miffed walking into the store. This was Wisconsin and not Kohl’s, so the staff did not really care about serving me. Well I searched and searched, got fed up and asked for some help. This lassie was friendly, but not from Texas. She showed me a number of fleeces; with each one I asked, ‘Is it breathable and where is it made?’ She never knew if they were breathable or not. Eventually I said to her, ‘Look if they do not say on their label that they are breathable, I am not buying it, so please do not bother showing me’. I learned that there is nothing that annoys an American or at least Wisconsin shop assistant more than being proven to not know their product or a customer expressing that they are not happy with what they find. This woman became quite snarkie with me. She eventually found an outlandishly-priced breathable fleece for me but I was silly enough to say ‘No thanks, I do not want it’. She miffed me even more by asking ‘Why?’ To which I explained rather emphatically ‘Because it is made in China’. Her reply was something like, ‘Well everything is made in China these days’. Before I had even managed to find my way through the maze of illogically placed shelves, she had managed to get to the front desk and tell her colleagues about this strange and rude foreigner. So by the time I walked out there was a gaggle of teenagers standing at the counter all scowling at me.

I trudged my way back to the car, plugged in Ronnan, set the co-ordinates for Summit Lake and drove to Kohl’s to pick-up Sharon. The day had politely sucked and we were both keen to get away from Grafton traffic, shops and civilisation, and get up north and on holiday.

Tune in next week to read about killer letter boxes.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.