Clueless in America. Chapter 34

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34. Emotionally Drained

Well the morning came, breakfast was breakfast and then the women enjoyed doing women things. Whereas us men went out and did men things. It was so great to be back in the Commonwealth, we didn’t have to talk about it, discuss it or even necessarily think about it, we just went out and did it. Though men being men, we did have to make one very important decision first. And that is, which one of us would drive? In the Commonwealth(110) it is an insult to a man’s masculinity to be the passenger, it simply cannot and must not be done. It is much better for two men to drive separately, than for one of them to be forced to be the passenger. But we were grown up and mature men and theoretically such things did not concern us. Saving face was needed, with little effort we came up with the possibility that the women might need a car. Sharon was not insured to drive Betsie, so my mate’s car was left behind and he became my passenger. It was the only option and the man thing to do. With that behind us, we could get on with our day.

Interestingly enough, Betsie had spent the evening breaking the law. Unbeknown to me she was not allowed to spend the night sleeping on the street. By law, the street had to be traffic free, so the snow ploughs could keep the streets clear of evening snow. My mate reckons the only reason why we did not get a ticket was because of the ‘US Marine’ sticker on Betsie’s back door.

So what did we do this morning? We went to my friend’s former workplace. After all, is not a man defined by his work? I needed to experiment with some printing and his family owned a printing company. We wasted away most of our day, tinkering with machines and computers. At the end of it we had clear-cut man results packed away for me in a cardboard box. It was very satisfying, very intimate and so, so good to not have to talk about everything and to just knuckle down and enjoy getting something done together. It was a great day. My friend’s wife had committed the ultimate sin to our masculinity and called us and asked when we were coming home. Shortly after the call and just as the dew was starting to set, we arrived hungry and willingly back at the house.

Now our friends wanted to take us out for a special meal and asked us what we wanted to eat. Oh such a joyous decision, my brain instantly switched into European mode and started ticking off the possibilities. Maybe Indian, Mexican, Malaysian or Thai. Just as I was about to celebrate the complexities of the decision and to start working out how to choose what food we wanted, Sharon in her New Zealand state of mind cut right through the mince(111), and stated fish ‘n’ chips(112). I quickly reply ‘This is North America, they do not have fish ‘n’ chips here’. How wrong I was and how quickly I forgot, North America or Canada is not the USA. Yes, they had fish ‘n’ chips and to my delight, Sharon’s quick uncomplicated thinking meant we were going to eat them. The words ‘Kiwi’ and ‘fish ‘n’ chips’ are kind of like the words ‘European Union’ and ‘mindless bureaucracy’, the former cannot exist without the latter.

But first in the fading, chilly Canadian evening light we had a tour of London. This tour consisted almost entirely of a walk along the banks of the Thames. Oh Canada you are just so cute, who else would name one of their cities London and then name its river the Thames? Or perhaps the correct question is, who else would want to?

Anyhow it soon got dark and colder. The kids started being kids and got hungry and cranky. We were all tired and the light was no longer reflecting off the beautiful golden maple leaves, so we packed up and went to Archie’s Seafood Restaurant.

Now I may be a little biased here, but the best fish ‘n’ chips in the world are on the corner of Selwyn Street and North Road in Dunedin, New Zealand. The second to the approximately 600,000th best fish ‘n’ chips shops are all on the islands of Aotearoa. Scottish and by default English fish ‘n’ chips are a worthy imitation when the real thing is not available. And Aussie fish ‘n’ chips are too hoity-toity and expensive. So here we were at Archies Seafood restaurant, London, Ontario, and where did this delightful chuppie(113) fit into my well researched scale? Well they were the real thing, but they were also not Kiwi, so I will put them in at the very honourable position of 600,001st. They were stinkin good fish ‘n’ chips and the best I had had since leaving New Zealand. Well done Canada.

And what better way to sleep than with a belly full of fish ‘n’ chips? Knowing that we had quite a long drive ahead of us, we left quite early in the morning. The cool, crisp, dark early morning Canadian air mixed with the aroma of fresh coffee really did feel like we were going somewhere.

For some reason Canada made me introspective and melancholic. Knowing that I was going to jump at least five years into the future upon crossing the border, I took the opportunity of the quiet highway to reflect a little.

Incidentally, whilst writing this, I am sitting in a cafe on the west coast of Scotland in front of an open fire, so getting back into that introspective mood is happening quite nicely. I could almost live in Canada. I think that I would find the subtle racism and the overt PC’ism quite difficult. But there is something about the unkept streets, the attitudes of especially the men, and the darkness, that just draws me in. Canadians are funny and cute, they are not up-themselves. And driving west leaving Canada was making me homesick. I was not even sure of what home I was sick for, but I was homesick. My bones were tired, tired of almost twenty years of living abroad. Then suddenly out of nowhere my falling spirits were interrupted by an adrenaline burst in the form of a border guard wanting to look in the back of the car. And suddenly the beautiful subtle greys of Canada were gone and I was back in the action-packed, brighter, faster and more intense USA. My favourite movie is the death-row musical ‘Dancer in the Dark’. I do not need the bright, happy-clappy, have-a-nice-day-sir emotions of the USA and would much rather opt out for a little Canadian angst. I wonder what makes America so hyped up, so intense and eager to feel good? What makes America so extremist? And the reverse, I wonder why Americans cannot understand why much of the rest of the world does not need to feel as if life needs to be eternally lived on cloud nine? Sometimes I wonder what would happen if sugar and caffeine where to be banned in America. But Scotland is also pumped up on caffeine and sugar and its people can be just as melodramatic as the rest of us. Why oh why, America, are you seemingly so steroid bound?

Anyhow back in the USA, Michigan went past, causing about as much excitement as a game of baseball(114). We stopped just before the start of the ‘Goat Track’, filled up with petrol, bought an ice-cream and took a few minutes in mental preparation for the hell of Chicago roads. We were shaking with the pre-empted terror of knowing what that ‘track’ would be like. Our reward was that we were going to stop at the first KFC that came across our path. We saw two KFC signs, both were beyond closed-off ramps. We played Russian-roulette with numerous trucks, but the short of it was, second time through, the memory was worse than the journey. And without any warning, we were in Wisconsin.

Tune in for the next issue and read more, though you may not actually notice, but we will be in Wisconsin.

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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!

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