Clueless in America. Chapter 55

55. Elvis has Left Building

Before I conclude,  I need to say that the correct spelling of  Minisota is Minnesota.

So here we are in O’Hare. We had a very smooth late night trip from the car through the airport to the plane. Just the usual sea of smiley, mostly black American faces. We were flying the very good SAS. Perhaps it would not come as a surprise to many of you that the closer we got to the plane, the better dressed the people started to become. As much as well-dressed Europe annoys me, it was so nice to see good looking people again wearing nice clothes well. I think the reason why Europeans have to dress so well is to compensate for the dourness of their faces. Having just flown around America where everyone was so happy, this came as quite a culture shock. Maybe they were just all sad to be returning home.

The flight was run with usual excellent Scandinavian efficiency, everything seemed to run perfectly as planned. No bags were misplaced, no big bags of peanuts were given, no one with an axe through their head jumped on the plane and no one sang us a song on arrival. Though I am sure that I probably ate some nice bread and cheese.

The flight arrived perfectly on Scandinavian time and we exited the plane in thoughtful, well dressed, meaningful silence, being very careful to avoid eye contact with strangers, let alone smile.

We were very quickly confronted by a long line of people waiting at immigration. I stood there in respectful silence wondering who had died, but took the opportunity to people watch. No one was indulging in frivolousness conversations, no one was talking about pumpkins, no one was overweight, no one even seemed to be praying. Just one short flight across the Atlantic and it was like everyone had grown up.

We took turns at going to the toilet whilst the other held our place in line. On the way back from the toilet I spotted another line with just three people in it. No track-suited business man had hollered over the crowd and struck up a deal to move things along quicker. Sharon and I discussed for a few minutes whether to take this line or not. Eventually we dashed for it and believe it or not, no-one followed. We were greeted by a stern individual who did not take my finger prints or scan my eyes. In fact he barely even spoke to me, he neither smiled nor called me sir. However he stamped my passport and let me back onto the Continent(157). This was it, we were back in the E.U, our adopted homeland.

It was morning, no one welcomed us or even seemed to care that we were here, we walked on in stunned depressed silence. Suddenly Sharon pointed at a sign. At last the Europeans in the form of a duty free shop had taken the liberty of hanging a welcome sign for us, its international guests and returning locals. And in reality this sign summed up rather tightly the differences between conservative quasi Christian America and liberal Europe. The Americans had given me a smiley face and a ‘Welcome to America Sir’ whereas the Europeans gave me a sign that simply read ‘Welcome to the land of seduction and sin(158)’.

The End.

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 54

This chapter was gratefully sponsored by contributors to coffee fuel. If you would like to sponsor a chapter of  ‘Clueless in America’, please click on the button.

54. Betsie’s Homecoming.

It is always hard saying good-bye to good friends. The friends that we were leaving this crisp cool Wisconsin morn’ I met over a table-tennis table on a Philippino island. It was this very table-tennis table and its American competitors that taught me that Americans are good people and that I had a lot to learn from them, and especially their encouraging attitude towards sporting opponents. So it was somewhat with a melancholic heavy heart that we headed south. Betsie, on the other hand, seemed to be bouncing down the road full of excitement at the prospect of heading home. When we crossed the invisible border back in Illinois she instantly started singing.

We more-or-less had to drive due south in a straight line then hang a left or east into Auroa. There were no turns on that straight road, the map said so, however we managed to find one and take it. The official line is, ‘We made a wrong turn on a straight road’. Poor Betsie, she seemed more than a little bit keen to get rid of us. We asked for directions and were once again pointed south. We still managed to arrive in Auroa early so stopped at a supermarket. In this supermarket I purchased two of the most useful things I have ever bought. They travelled home insulated and protected amongst my soft clothes in my bag, and are now treated with the utmost respect in our home. These two things really were America’s gift for me. I simply do not know how I have managed to survive for so, so long without my turkey baster (155) and my chook thermometer(156).

We met up with our friends in Auroa and promptly went out to their favourite local restaurant. It was Greek or Italian or something like that. Upon receiving the menu I aggressively hunted down the burgers, knowing that I could only be disappointed now that the La Crescent standard is part of my vocabulary. The burger was still pretty darn good, and so was the company. We left with the hope of returning in the morning for church. We visited one more friend in a cafe close by before venturing home or should I say, before venturing to Betsie’s home.

Betsie was excited, but I promise you I was not. Chicago’s roads are bumpy, overcrowded and generally terrifying for this lil-ole Kiwi. By the time we left, it was dark, the map needed to be read via flash-light, both navigator and driver were tired and I was sick of driving roads that I had never been on before.

With great relief we arrived back at the start in Elmhurst. We did not have Franklin Graham or a Care Net dinner waiting for us, just gladly the comfort of our friends and their home. Betsie on the other hand seemed to wait until we had dragged out of her our last Wisconsin souvenir before, if I am not mistaken, locking her own doors and letting out a very large sigh of relief. She not so quietly settled into her own driveway. This night she did not need a US military sticker to keep the parking police at bay.

We rose kind of early in the morning, grabbed our coffee and walked out to Betsie. Betsie did not look impressed, but on the account that we were not carrying lots of bags, she humoured us and let us drive her back to Auroa and church, we only got lost once on the way. Church was in a building that perhaps was once a beautiful old stately home. We spoke a little in the service, received some prayer, caught up with old friends and acquaintances, then high-tailed it back to Elmhurst, spring-cleaned Betsie, filled her tank and did one last gift shopping trip. I am ashamed to say that it was at a Wal-Mart.

It was this evening that the seed for the idea of writing this story was planted. My friend took me to an Italian sandwich restaurant to buy some take-away. He being well aware of culture-shock and cross-culturalism prepped me in advance. He worked out what we wanted and told me what number it was. The plan was I just needed to ask for, well let’s say number twelve, pay and leave. This was my last night in America, so keeping things simple seemed perfect to me. The restaurant was way cool, it was set up like a fifties American diner, not too dissimilar to the one in ‘Happy Days’. I was like a kid in a candy store just gawking at all the memorabilia. By the time I got to the counter I was lost in another world, when suddenly a smiley, gawky, pimple-faced teenager asked me in a overly friendly voice ‘What would you like to order?’ I panicked as I was snapped back into twenty-first century American life. Being well prepped I blurted out ‘Twelve thanks, gi’me a twelve’. Relieved to get that over and done with, I logged off and shut down to the sound of a frantic, pimple-faced teenager in a red waistcoat wanting to know if I wanted fries and a drink with that. I was too tired and lost it. Going through my mind was ‘How the hang am I supposed to know if these are included in the price or not?’ But all that came out was a blood curdling cry for help in the form of shouting my friend’s name in hope that he would come and rescue me. Even though I actually got his name wrong, like a knight in shining armour with a hot Italian sandwich in his hand, he came to my rescue and cleaned up my mess. I had finally lost my patience for this beautiful country and realised that I needed to have a holiday from America. As we left the restaurant I thought, ‘I gotta write this crap down’. Little did I realise that I would be sitting in a snow laden Baltic cafe eighteen months later feeling rather lethargic finishing off my second to last chapter.

That evening we went to what we in churchianity call a home-group. This is just an excuse to fellowship together and study the Bible. It was a fitting finish to Christian America. Lovely people in a lovely house worshipping their God together in the freedom that their forefathers came seeking. In a sense our final hours in America were spent participating in one part of the American dream. Afterwards feeling uplifted and loved we were driven to the airport. Not the other one, but this time to O’Hare. We said our farewells to our friend, even Betsie seemed genuinely sad to see us go, then we entered the terminal.

Tune in next week for the final chapter.

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 53

This chapter was gratefully sponsored by contributors to coffee fuel. If you would like to sponsor a chapter of  ‘Clueless in America’, please click on the button.

53. Le burger et La Crescent.

At the moment I am sitting in a snow-laden cafe sucking down a barely passable cappuccino somewhere on the Baltic coast; thus no free internet, thus no search-engines, which means I am forced once again to write the old-fashioned way and rely on my non-existent research and non-existent notes for this chapter. So in advance please forgive my geographical vagueness.

However this chapter actually starts on the afore-mentioned Baltic coast. We had a friend who lived here. Not having a search-engine means that I cannot research her name, so for simplicity’s sake, lets just call her Natalie. Natalie is one of those people who you just cannot help but like and she had just recently moved from the Baltics to Minisota. I will spell Minisota correctly when I find the internet, but for now you will have to be content with knowing it is the western neighbouring state of Wisconsin. Natalie’s home town was just a wee tad out of our way, so we picked a dot on the map half way between Madison and her town and decided to meet there. The place happened to be just across the great, wonderful, wide and very, very cold Mississippi river from La Cross, Wisconsin. This dot on the map happened to be called La Crescent. One can only presume that with the obvious French and Muslim connections that this particular dot on the map was named by North Africans. However it does leave me rather perplexed as to why the other side is called La Cross. Perhaps it was named in the seventies by refugees neighbouring Mururoa Atoll(153) who were desperately clinging to God in order to survive their very own personal nuclear holocaust. Gosh,  how interesting our world would be if all the search-engines died.

I did not realise we were going to cross the Mississippi and it brought back a flood of memories. Even us Kiwi kids grew up hoping that one day we would float down the mighty Mississippi on a raft, sharing adventures with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I had been here a million times in the imagination of my boyhood. I suspect they never rafted at this end of the Mississippi, because if they did they would have either drowned or frozen to death. This end of the Mississippi, in this weather, was not to be messed with.

Gosh, what were those Indians thinking when they put four ‘I’s, four ‘S’s and two ‘P’s in the one word? Perhaps it was something like, ‘If those whities come over here and steal our land we are going to make it as hard as possible for them to write about’. Then along come the pre-emptive text that my computer has and screwed that idea up as well.

Never mind, I am off the subject. La Crescent; let me tell you every thing you need to know about it about it and a wee bit more. The ‘wee bit more’ was the pleasantly surprising delight that her architecture was surprisingly different to its Christian counterpart across the river. And the ‘every thing that you need to know’ is the fact that La Crescent, America’s Islamic African intersection on the map, simply had America’s, Africa’s and indeed the world’s best hamburgers. If I had a search-engine I would be able to find a website that proves that fact. La Crescent had two places to eat, one was called a ‘gas-station’ and the other was called a ‘pub’, though American’s would probably call it a ‘bar’.

Quite rightly the highlight of this day was Natalie, but in a very, very close second place was the burger that I ate in this cutsie gas-station diner. I could go into a long detailed description of the diner for you, but just put America, gas-station and diner in your head and I am sure you will have the right picture, they all look the same. I kind of ignorantly and hesitantly ordered a burger. My not so humble or personal opinion is that McDonalds is an insult and an assault to the culinary world. McDonalds is to the food world what ABBA is to the music world, both terrify me. So, resting my hands on a plastic flowery tablecloth whilst staring down the barrel of a plastic cup, I ordered a burger and quickly qualified it with the line of ‘well, when in Rome do as the Romans do’.

Within a few minutes, two burly chaps lumbered out with a huge ceramic dish which supported a huge bread bun, a ceremonial splash of green, an obligatory pickle and a complete cow that had been recently rounded up, squeezed through a meat grinder, shoved into a bowl with a poultry farm and a wheat field, mixed together, slapped on a grill and then into my oversized burger-bun. You may not realise, but I am exaggerating a little, however I kid you not that this burger was at least a metre round and the beef was so fresh that when I bit into it, the stinkin’ thing mooed. And the best thing was that because I was in a one-traffic-light town, no do-gooder had come along and tried to nancy it up with some lame attempt of a poncy foreign side-salad. Burger, fries and Route Beer, don’t mess with the combination. If this is American food, well then I claim the amendment that gives me the right to honorary citizenship. And from now on whenever I am forced to go to a McDonalds, I will know that it is not the real thing and I will be overly nice to the staff, knowing that they will be suffering being forced to work with the poor cousin of the real thing.

It is quite profound really that perhaps the best American food I have ever eaten, I ate in a gas-station in a northern African Midwestern one-horse town. Pop-psychologise that!

We returned to Madison in the dark, drove past a rather invitingly lit ski-field and generally just spent the trip digesting and buying pyjamas. I realise that previously I gave Madison a good rap for me, ’cause I liked the place, but if you live there you may be feeling a little bit tender after reading my descriptions. Madison does have some beautiful lakes in the centre. We went for a very quiet and peaceful walk out to the end of a peninsular. The lake was just starting to freeze and was quite beautiful. Due to the fact that seemingly outside of Colorado (thanks Sarah(154)) no one in America seems to exercise, we had the place mostly to ourselves. It was cold, it was wild and windy and all this just made it more beautiful.

I really, really liked insecure Madison, the capital of a state that was trying desperately hard to be noticed. Rest well Wisconsin; for what it worth, I noticed you. You ain’t Texas but you’re okay!!! And on that note, with some sadness our time in Wisconsin drew to close. In the morning we were scheduled to drive to Chicago, return Betsie and return to Europe.

Tune in next week for the second last chapter and Betsie’s homecoming..

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 52

52. Sometimes Breaking Ice Hurts

Nearing the end of our particularly dreary Madison day, we were darting down the street, passionately rushing to nowhere, when I spied a sheep. Not just any sheep, but a Kiwi sheep standing on the top of a Kiwi mountain. You are right, I couldn’t be looking at anything else other than a ‘Icebreaker’ poster. And Sharon was yet to find her thermal.

Most outdoor stores encourage you to buy their stuff by being bright, with beautiful posters of beautiful people, climbing beautiful mountains or walking beautiful tracks. This leads us to buy beautiful outlandishly expensive clothing under the delusion of thinking that if we buy it we will look beautiful and be able to climb those beautiful mountains with ease and without sweat or dirt. However this outdoor store used the opposite tack to sell its over-priced merchandise. This shop was dark, it had unkempt wooden floors, unpainted wooden walls, and racks of stuff cluttered into an intrusively small space. This shop was so yucky and sucky that it just drove you to the outdoors in fear of having to hang-out in dark dismal shops like this one. In its defence it did have a lot of quality outdoor equipment, including a cramped overflowing stand of women’s ‘Icebreaker’ thermals.

The young blond shop assistant was sluggishly eager to serve us and after a little prompting, provided Sharon with a selection of sizes of exactly what she was looking for. In the meantime I chose to engage blond-and-sluggish in conversation. For the some stupid reason I informed her that we were Kiwis and very familiar with ‘Icebreaker’s New Zealand merino wool. I told her how we had been hunting the USA for these very thermals. Then as with the last shop assistant in wherever that no-name town was, I lamented that they were now made off-shore and wondered how that had affected the quality. Blond-and-sluggish had a rather slow and instant response to this. Suddenly her young face tautened, wrinkles appeared around her lips and her hair started to appear grey. She nonchalantly informed me that yes, they were no longer made in New Zealand and were now made in China. She went into a long, terse and defensive monologue about the quality of Chinese made goods and then followed this act up with waffling on about ‘Icebreaker’ representatives inspecting Chinese factories. I mean for a minute I thought she might be a blond white Chinese herself. I had heard the speech before and it had not impressed me then. For some stupid reason I replied to her insidious monologue with the ever so subtle line of ‘yeah but that doesn’t account for China’s human rights record’. Oh my goodness blond-and-sluggish had already been as cold as ice and this sentence well and truly broke that ice revealing a freezing, sea lion infested ocean below. We both sensed the slippery precipice on which we were standing. She replied ‘It still doesn’t affect the quality of the goods’ and stomped back to the counter. To my relief Sharon returned from the changing room with her Kiwi symbol of the restriction of the Chinese press, peasants being forcibly evicted from their homes and so so much more. We purchased the garment, because we still could not find anything better, and hurriedly and me guiltily made our exits, leaving blond-and-sluggish to pout, think about  and celebrate her sale.

One other thing I just have to mention about America which we encountered in Madison a few times were the banks. On the outskirts of Madison we encountered some rather large shopping malls, most of these were flanked with other shops, burger joints and banks. I think the norm was to drive from the mall to the outdoor store on the southern end and then drive back to the bank on the northern end, etc etc. But sorry this just seemed wrong to do. We actually parked on the northern side. It took us about twenty minutes to walk through the mall, across the car-park and to the outdoor store. Indecently, this store was full of confident, sprightly and enthusiastic young people, who knew their products and were almost friendly enough to be Texans. They just didn’t sell ‘Icebreaker’.

I digress. We needed a bank, so we walked back through the mall, past the car to my local branch. I scoured the outside walls for an ATM, walked inside and searched the surrounds, then feeling somewhat lost I walked up to the counter and asked the delightful teller where the ATM was. Her reply was ‘We don’t have one, you will have to go to the drive-through(152)’. I did not know what else to do, other than go outside and get in line with the cars. I felt stupid, I got stupid looks, but I did not know what else to do.

Picture it like this. A nice large blue pick-up in front of me, a red Honda behind me and me standing there looking rather car-less in my tacky orange Australian-Dutch jacket and green winter boots, with my lips pursed against the cold and my ATM card tightly gripped in my fingers. I could see the bank tellers looking out the windows with confused looks on their faces wondering if they would  need to call the police or not. I put the card in the hole, received my money and drove or rather walked away, happy but still delightfully suffering the incredulous looks of both bystanders and bymotorist. Sharon and I thought this was a hilarious encounter with American car culture, giggled all the way back to the car and drove off. I am not too sure why we couldn’t have just got the car first, driven through the bank and then driven home. This was one of three walk-through encounters that we had with drive through banks. Americans, try it sometime, it is fun.

Tune in next week to read about burgers, real burgers.

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 51

This chapter was gratefully sponsored by contributors to coffee fuel. If you would like to sponsor a chapter of the ‘Clueless in America’, please click on the button.

51. Burglars and Thieves, Please do not Read.

From abroad we form the impression that America is a place of crime, everyone is being beaten, raped and homes broken into on a daily basis. Not only that, every bank is consistently being robbed, every car being stolen and every state official is corrupt. Okay I exaggerate a tad, but you understand. The fact of the matter is, America is a very different place. Most people are very generous, very kind and very giving. On a previous visit someone who picked me up hitch-hiking returned to our camp-site the next day to give us food and a ride to the airport. How kind was that?

In my very, very humble and personal opinion, when most Europeans talk about America, before they open their racist mouths, they need to fly to America and visit her everyday people. Then what actually comes out could be worth listening to. Also Americans who travel abroad, you could help matters a lot by doing two things. One: behave abroad as you do at home. Two: lower the voice a whole lot.

Something little known about America is that seemingly everyone leaves their houses unlocked and their cars in their driveways with the keys in the ignition. Our next port of call was not an exception.

We followed Betsie and sadly, but perhaps more peacefully, we followed MapQuest to suburban Madison. Our friend had given us his address, told us that the door was unlocked and to let ourselves in and hang out until he returned from work. Naturally enough in the absence of Ronnan, our trip was a lot smoother than expected, which meant that we arrived early afternoon. We dumped Betsie in the driveway and under the diligent eye of a clearly concerned neighbour we let ourselves in.

Now our friends had recently moved up from hot Arizona to freeze in Wisconsin. I am not sure if this is related to the fact that we could not find any photos of them on the wall. But for our first fifteen minutes or so we did not totally know if we were actually in the correct house or not. It was a tense time realising that the next time the door opened it could either be the police to cuff us or our friends to hug us. Eventually after much searching I found a pile of mail. Most of it seemed to be addressed to presumably a previous resident, but after guiltily fumbling through it I found a bill addressed to our friends. At last we could relax and bring in our luggage. The neighbour still had her I’m-going-to-call-the-police pose, but this time we didn’t care.

Now our friends are American and as I have said before, this means that they are inherently generous. So like so many Americans before them, they told us to help ourselves to anything in the fridge. Now American fridges are interesting places, they all seem to be overflowing with giant bottles and buckets of this and that. If I raided one of these fridges, I could take some of the contents south into Mexico and feed a family of six for about a week. The worst thing that would happen back in the home of the fridge is that their son might get into trouble for using too much peanut butter. Or in other words, there is so much stuff in these fridges that we could eat half of it and the average owner would never notice.

The point is, telling a Kiwi to help themselves to anything that is in the fridge is actually a culturally insensitive thing to do. We are too scared to help ourselves, we start thinking ‘What if I eat the very thing that they planned on cooking for supper?’ Or ‘What if I drunk the last of their juice?’ It is torture for us, especially when we see that tin of salted cashew nuts and realise just how good it would go with that can of Dr Pepper. Then we spend the rest of our stay salivating over what we could be eating but are unable to because we are too scared and culturally-bound to take our kind hosts at their word.

We were greatly relieved when our friends arrived home and our reunion could begin.

The next day we travelled into Wisconsin’s capital, Madison City. As far as American cities go, with the possible exception of my fading memories of New York, I think Madison could be my favourite. November in Madison was so insipid, dark and, well, tedious. This city seemed so insecure that it clearly deserved the role of being the pinnacle of Wisconsin. Not only that, the city was full of students desperately searching to be different and to find themselves, thus all ending up totally lost and looking the same.

I loved this city, even the leafless trees that lined the main drag seemed to be standing there looking apologetic. People dragged their feet as they walked, their heads were bunkered down against the cold, the regiments of homeless people anonymously and silently shuffled around in search of food, shoes and love. Madison was eerily quiet, randomly alternative and totally full of character.

I stopped at a second-hand clothing shop and asked the drab, dark, stern shop assistant if they sold bib-type overalls. His lifeless, smile-less reply was ‘We had ’em for Halloween, but sent them back afterwards’. When he answered he looked straight through me from dark lifeless eyes.

I walked into a nice enough student-infested cafe and instantly felt as if I had stumbled into a scene from the Matrix.(147) There they were, about fifty of them, all sitting, all drinking, collectively alone, all in dark drab clothes and all plugged into their laptops. I do not know what would have happened if I had somehow been able to turn off the electricity and kill all those batteries. Maybe everyone’s heads would have simply dropped into a collective lifeless slump as they awaited the return of their master. Or maybe they would have all risen up like lifeless zombies separated from the motherboard. Either way, I doubt anyone would have noticed.

Down-town Madison had two saviours for me, the nice bright man in the camera shop who was happy to sell me a one dollar pair of white photography gloves and the dude in the DVD shop.

If ever your life is particularly lacklustre, well then find a dour, poky book or DVD shop and ask the zenith of humanity behind the counter an impossible related question. Suddenly it will appear as if a whole new dimension of life and colour has rainbowed into the room. The picture of staidness, boredom and insecurity behind the counter will start radiating life and oozing confidence as it rants away about books and movies you have never heard of. They will cast their spell all over you and have you totally engrossed in their every word. Frowns will turn into smiles, ugly wrinkles will turn into beautiful dancing laugh lines, dourness will turn into happiness and the possibilities of life between the pages or on the screen will be overwhelmingly beautiful and infinite.

The second hand DVD store in down-town Madison exactly fits this description. It was dark, square and boring, with metal shelves displaying doggy DVD spines. The place was drab and uninteresting. Behind the counter was a twenty or thirty something year old man, looking totally bored whilst playing a computer game. He was wearing shades of black to match the wall of mundane heavy metal music that was being loudly pumped though the store. This guy seemed uninterested in life, the universe and everything and lightly bothered by my intrusion into his empty lair. I somewhat timidly walked up to the counter and asked, ‘My wife and I like ’24(148)’ and ‘Frazier'(149), can you sell us something similar?’ Then I stood, waited and watched. It was a truly holy moment as the darkness evaporated and light permeated. The frown lines on his forehead and around his eyes took on the tranquillity and texture of a Monet lily pond and as each part of his crusty exterior fell away, a beautiful monologue about a random tele series took flight. It was a truly baffling display of intellect interwoven with passion and knowledge. I walked out of the door with a comfortable grin on my face, feeling like a mainframe of knowledge on American television and carrying a bag containing box-collections of ‘MI5(150)’ and ‘House(151)’. The store truly was a remarkable experience of insecure beauty and majesty.

Tune in next week to read about walk through banking.

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 to those of you who have been sponsoring ‘Clueless in America’, I really enjoy these writing times.

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

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 50

This chapter was gratefully sponsored by contributors to coffee fuel. If you would like to sponsor a chapter of  ‘Clueless in America’, please click on the button.

50. Come Hell or High Water.

Well it was not hell of course. It was church, maybe the chapter should be called ‘Heaven or High Water’. It was Sunday and Sunday is the day that millions and millions of Christians traditionally skip their way along to church and this morning we were part of that universal clan. Once again it was so cute being with pastors on a Sunday morning, they seem to get so pleasantly focused, whilst their kids just seem to be pleasantly unfocused.

Now the previous Sunday we went to a church that had survived many a fund-raising drive. Well this church was a little different, they were in the process of being given a building(142) and not just any building, but simply the coolest place in town. They were being given a down-town night club. From what I saw of down-town Green Bay, there isn’t really that much to talk about, wide streets and light coloured buildings, which for America could be considered old. Though to be fair, I am not one hundred percent sure that I was actually in the down-town.

The outside of the building was irrelevant, it was the inside that said ‘Yes this the kind of church that I want to go to’. Immediately upon walking through the doors one got the sense that this was something else. The sense that this is a re-used, recycled building. The sense of a down-to-earth   abode. The first thing that caught my eye was a bar or at least an ex-bar. This is America, where the church and state are joined at the hip and alcohol is the bane of the church, so naturally unlike some of their European counterparts, they did not sell alcohol. However, like all good American churches this bar had coffee, numerous bits of paper promoting stuff and of course the foyer had the obligatory toilets.  It was cold inside, but felt like God and felt like church. We, having arrived with the pastoral family were early. Nevertheless we grabbed coffee and headed into the meeting room. If we go to church in heaven, this is exactly what I expect the inside of the church building will look like. It had booths!!! I kid you not, it had a grandstand kind of thing with booths lined up on each tier. Each booth had great big shiny seats that flanked three sides of a table, leaving the front empty so that we, the congregation, could have an unobstructed view of the stage. These booths were so big and so cosy that we could hide in them. The room in itself was large, airy, and dimly lit. To the right and the left of our boothed grandstand were pool-tables, unfortunately they were covered, but imagine how cool it would be to play pool and listen to the teaching. There was a dance floor at the front, but it was mostly covered with chairs around coffee tables. And of course at the front of the dance floor was a space for a worship team and a pulpit. I was secretly hoping that the preacher was going to turn up the music, spin the disco ball and boogie out his sermon. I was disappointed.

A building in itself does not constitute church. What undoubtedly one hundred percent constitutes church is her people. And this church somehow had lost its cookie cutter, her people were not identical clones of each other. Some were big, some were small, some were rich, some were poor, some were black and some were white and some looked good and like me, others did not. This church seemed so normal that it was almost weird. And best of all, I could hide in my booth, be shy, be a ‘nigel’ and watch everything pass me by. The worship was good, the teaching was good, the only thing was, that no one really reached out and made the effort to include this shy person. Afterwards I spent a long time standing in the foyer sucking my cappuccino, just hoping that somebody would be interested enough to talk to me. No one did, but it didn’t matter. However I loved the place, it smelt like God and if it was any more not-together, it would have practically been Christ-like. And to put the icing on the cake, the pastor’s name was Bill, how inconspicuous and cool is that?

I spoke about the building to Bill afterwards, he said that the first thing that they needed to do was fix the leak in the roof, then gut the inside, like get rid of the booths and put in more practical and and inclusive seating. The whole idea of gutting the inside of this lovely building left me feeling totally gutted, knowing that on my next visit that I may not be able to hide. We pastors seem to have a lack of understanding on how to pastor shy people and seem to think that everybody needs to be involved all of the time. Then again I think that it is a fair presumption that people come to church to worship God in community and that us shy people actually come secretly hoping that somebody will encourage us out of our shells. Anyhow I loved the church, because it did not have the crinks polished out of it; for me, it is through the crinks that I find God. Oh yeah a good drummer helps as well.

Anyhow, that was the Heaven part, now it is the time to move onto the high water part.

We ventured back from Green Bay to our Hartland empty nester friends. Once again it was an embarrassing trip for Betsie, due to the fact that once again we were blindly following Ronnan. Personally I enjoyed the Ronnan adventures. But Sharon on the other hand was totally frustrated by the thing. We still had it set on the shortest possible route. Which meant instead of Ronnan skirting us around Milwaukee on the major roads, it took us diagonally through suburbia. By now we probably could have driven most of the way without a GPS, but for me Ronnan was still a cool novelty and a sure way to get into trouble and not get lost. In this case we travelled through a snow storm, through endless traffic lights and instructions of ‘turn left in one hundred yards, turn right in fifty yards’. It was a miserable dark, slippery, snowy journey.

However the journey was worth it and our friends’ empty nest was as warm, homey and as all American as it could be. Before we went to bed that night we were encouraged to step outside into the snow and enjoy a hot spa(143). We at first somewhat reluctantly agreed. We were presented with warm bathrobes and pointed in the direction of a secluded balcony. Oh my goodness what a delightful treat this was. As soon as we opened the outside door of their house, we got blasted by a rush of cold snowy air. We slid our way across the snow laden balcony, took a deep breath, kicked off our sandals, chucked(144) our bath robe over the rail and carefully but quickly oozed our way into the piping hot spa pool. I so needed this hot/cold, prickly, bubble sensation, I could feel a million American service industry conversations leaving me.

I very quickly formed the opinion that one is below the poverty line if one does not have a spa pool attached to their house, therefore the government should step in and provide us all with our very own personal spa pool. But of course America or at least the ‘we-hate-healthcare’ version, does not want to be a socialist society, and thus cannot have a government funded spa pool scheme. Let me tell you a secret – ninety-nine percent of the modern world does not want to be a socialist society either. Every time I hear an American call New Zealand and many other countries socialist, I am offended. Let me quote for you from an American dictionary(145).


a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state


a: government by the people; especially: rule of the majority
b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

Hey, at least when we hold an election, the people with the most votes win, unlike George Bush versus Al Gore in 2000. Socialism and democracy contradict each other. The fact is we are both democracies, just different flavours of the same capitalist candy. The problem is when America’s newsreel stars start calling European countries socialist, we hear communist and many of us are still scrubbing those scars and shedding those shackles. You hotheaded-nobody-newsreel-stars, you have no idea what you are talking about and just how offensive you are.  And on that note once again I will climb off my well balanced high-horse.

Oh before I finish the chapter, I need to inform you that I regrettably and Sharon thankfully surrendered Ronnan back to her owner before leaving Wisconsin. For me it was a sad parting and I long for the day of either our reunion or when a cousin comes to visit our hapless Opel(146).

Oops, I also forgot to mention something very important. Our empty nester friends asked us if there was anything that we needed that we could not get back home. We had a very definite answer, we wanted what Americans rather embarrassingly call baggies. What this translates into in my English is plastic bags that are often about the right size to put sandwiches in. They have a fastening system that involves a zip that locks the bag. I would go into much more detail for you, but unfortunately I cannot because the company that makes the bags is preventing me from using their registered-trademarked name. This whole story was originally going to be about those bags and American society, but they wouldn’t let me use their name, so now in my writing I am left rather clueless in America. Oh well, they probably made the right decision; though I like the product, I am not a fan of supporting multi-national companies and probably would have taken the chance to have some fun at their expense. Next time you put your lunch into a bag with a zip, remember it was them who caused me hours of work to take their brand off my blog and out of my story. And thus the title ‘Clueless in America’ was born.

Tune in next week to learn about mad mad Madison.

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 to those of you who donated to the writing of this posting of Clueless in America. This chapter was writtenn in Costa Coffee, Milngavie, Glasgow, Scotland.

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

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 49

49. Green Bay Socialites.

We arrived in Green Bay somewhat late. Guess it was all that soul searching girl scouting deliberating. Quite fortunately our friends were still politely sucking cappuccinos and waiting for us. It was a nice cafe with strange art hanging on the walls. The art was totally created with medical equipment. Great if you slipped over on some coffee, but perhaps rather perplexing if you happen to be a straight laced tow truck driver. If I remember I will write a little later what relevance this cafe holds to the story.

We had our coffee and rather dully allowed Ronnan to direct us to our friend’s house. Our friends are in a multi-cultural marriage thus giving me some breathing space in a rather suffocating culturally ghettoised nation. I should probably leave that point alone for now.

Green Bay was a little sad for me. Being a huge Packers fan visiting Green Bay for the very first-time, I was so so disappointed that the best I managed to do was watch a game on the tele. I never even got to go and look at the stadium, let alone get inside to watch a game. Perhaps it can be best compared to going to heaven and not getting to see God. Very sad indeed.

But moving on, we got to go to a party. A real party, you know one of those places that young people go to and get drunk, do drugs and all sorts of things that I am not going to write about. However at the party most people were above thirty, thus not really that young.

Now one of the cruelest things that one can do to this naturally shy person is to take me to a party and then disappear and hang out with your own friends. On account that I am always telling stories, most people do not realise how painfully shy I really am. As a youth it was easy to mask my shyness by drinking another beer. But even then I was so shy that I had to start drinking before the party. Without the alcohol I was as stranded as a helpless ‘nigel’. Of course now that I have grown up, got boring and somewhat comfortable in my own skin, I realise that using alcohol as a crutch is not only destroying my brain cells and making me look either stupid or cool, but also it is an insecure person’s lie.

So now when I am in such tortuous places as parties, I look for the corners where I can blend with other slinking ‘nigels’. By now most readers outside my personal Dunedin(139) eighties culture should be thinking, ‘what is a nigel?’ Nigel, naturally is a man’s name. But in my culture, Nigel was the person who was uncomfortable in his own skin, who had few friends and most of them were total dweebs(140). A ‘nigel’ often carries a visible pen in his pocket and has bad hair. The horror for anyone who happens to get stuck at a party with a ‘nigel’ is; though they are usually totally socially inept, when they do get a chance to shine linguistically beside a life-of-the-party cool person, it is hard to shut them up or to get them on a subject that is of any interest. I am a ‘nigel’. If ever you hold a party, never invite me, unless you invite another ‘nigel’ with whom I can uncomfortably fumble through a conversation.

And Praise God there was another ‘nigel’ at this party. It took me all of two minutes to find him. We walked into the room. Some perfect stranger took my jacket, our friends who seemingly knew everyone disappeared, leaving me traumatised, gawking at a room full of horrifically scary looking strangers who all spoke in a foreign accent. I scanned the room quickly and spotted an adjacent room with a tele on. I beelined for the room and discovered it was a ‘nigel’ haven. Waiting in the room was a forlorn Japanese student sitting with his ‘nigel’ American girlfriend perplexing over a game of cricket(141). This was perfect; three ‘nigels’, a tolerant Sharon, a game of cricket at a Green Bay party. It was a scene waiting for a punch-line. Within minutes, as the cricket-as-a-first-culture person, I was asked to explain the rules. I explained them as if I really cared and the ‘nigel’ Japanese/American couple listened as if they really cared. Then perhaps much to their delight, Sharon and I started debating the enormously complex rules of cricket, thus allowing them the delight of not having to even act interested, let alone torture themselves by having to converse. We were all rescued from the ordeal upon being socially forced into the main room for the obligatory singing of the birthday song.

It was at this stage that I decided that I had to corner a non-‘nigel’ and pretend to be socially capable.  So like all wanna-be cool people, I went to hang out at the food table, ’cause anyone who is anyone will eventually get hungry, thus falling into the wanna-be’s lure. And that is exactly what happened, right in the middle of me trying to look intelligent whilst studying the brie and the blue-vein, some university lecturer in his late forties was silly enough to try start up a conversation with me. Oh I was in the ‘nigel’ hell and the wanna-be’s heaven and was frantically conversationally searching for safe or even familiar ground. At one stage a woman walked into our attempts of conversation and asked me where I was from. I replied ‘from New Zealand’. To which she said ‘Were you in ‘such-a-such’ cafe yesterday?’ I said ‘Yeah’. She replied ‘My flat-mate works there and told me that some foreigners were there’. Thus confirming to me that Wisconsin really is just a large small town wanting to be noticed. Then she fluttered off to that place unknown to the likes of me, where all social-butterflies rendezvous.

Suddenly our conversation brushed over a subject that was safe for me. Fortunately I was quick enough to spot it and clumsy enough to redirect the conversation back to it. The subject was evolution, which quickly moved on to the subjects of church and Catholicism. Upon the unveiling of the word Catholic, his wife let out a rather theatrical eye roll before exiting the stage. She clearly had been embarrassed by her husband’s hobby-horse on more than one previous occasion and wisely fled the scene. He was a Catholic and a theology lecturer who had some rather interesting intellectual views on the origin of the human race and his role in society as a small ‘c’ catholic. Forty minutes later both my wife and our re-appeared hosts were dragging this party animal out of the house to the sound of me telling them just how I missed such parties. Oh how short my ‘nigel’ memory is.

Tune in next week to learn about hell and high water.

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 48

48. Wheel Out the Doughnuts and Get Out of Town.

Well I must say that our corner cafe experience for me was one of only two overtly obese American experiences. The second experience happened to be the very next day.

When in America, we like to do as Americans do, and all Americans like to drive, drink coffee and eat doughnuts, right? I mean if the yellow school buses on the movies are true, then everything thing else on the movies is true, right?

It was time for us to leave the foreign speaking ‘Up-North’, so this was our morning for doughnuts, coffee and the rhythms of the road. We drove into the oversized intersection of Antigo and searched for a bakery. I parked in front of the bakery and waltzed on in. It was as you would have expected: an L shaped counter flanked by all sorts of fresh, warm delights. But at the same time it was an odd place, either Antigo has a very low socioeconomic demographic or all the poor-fat people congregated at the bakery on a Saturday morning. I was forced to wait for a strenuous amount of time, whilst watching fleece clad and sport clothed obese statistics buy most of the outlandishly brightly coloured doughnuts. Some of them even wheeling themselves in on their mobility scooters and leaving with their baskets overflowing with food colouring wrapped around cream and attached to preservatives.

To be perfectly honest the whole experienced grossed me out a little. I am sure these people are wonderful people, it is just that sometimes the unknown scares me a little. Also coupled with this was the fact that these people seemed to be their own little or perhaps large community and that little ole me was feeling rather unnoticed and insignificant. Evidence of this was that many of the people who came in after me seemed to have some kind of priority over me. I just stood there gob-smacked and watched them buy all the doughnuts I had wanted to buy. Eventually I was served by a middle aged, plump but not obese woman who clearly resented having a healthy non-obese customer giving her bakery a bad name.

I grabbed my doughnuts, fled to the car and got the hang out of town. We were on our way to Green Bay and since it was not far out of the way, decided to drive through the Menominee Indian Reserve.

I cannot pretend to know anything about American Indians and most Americans that I spoke to could only tell me that their indigenous populations like to be left alone. Which is a rather strange concept, considering that most Reserves support at least one large casino full of outsiders. Upon entering the reservation I noticed that the standard of living decreased dramatically, houses turned into trailers surrounded by fleets of rusted out cars. This reserve had a high police presence, but very few people could be seen. We stopped at a service station and asked for directions. The first two or three people ignored me, then a middle aged non-obese man pointed us in the right direction. He did not look at me when he spoke to me and he had a rather nice and interesting accent.

This encounter was the only known encounter that I had with an American Indian or should I say Native American on this trip, and it only served to freak me out even more over how ghettoised America is. I wonder how much more super the superpower would be if it were to pour a super amount of time into integrating its divided people into ‘one nation under God’. I wonder how tall and proud the flag would stand then or indeed I wonder if the same flag would be standing or if the Americans who have been oppressed by it would request a new one and if the oppressing American populous would be humble enough to grant such a request.

‘One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’, it is a very big claim that obviously does not include race-relations, the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and especially healthcare. Still I guess it sounds nice.

And speaking of ‘pledging allegiance to the flag’, my next stop was the town of a former Girl Scout pen-friend of mine. I had been waiting twenty-three years to visit Pulaski, Wisconsin and this day was the day.

As a teenager I had been totally spellbound reading Pamela Sue Sarah’s letters. I loved the stories of snow, ski-doos, the Great Lakes and American High School culture. Twenty three years ago America and Pulaski were totally foreign cultures for me. And today driving though this boring middle America town, I realised that nothing had changed, America still is a totally foreign culture for me. We stopped and took a photo of the totally exciting Pulaski water tower. It was white, with a brown stripe and had its name written on it. Pulaski, in capital letters.

I had not been in touch with Pam for probably twenty of those twenty-six years. We lost contact during her college years. Something inside of me wanted to re-connect, so we stopped at a local service station and asked the middle aged woman behind the counter if she knew Pamela. Pulaski is a small town, so of course she did, they both went to the same school. She promptly flicked through a telephone book and gave me Pam’s family address. In five minutes time we were parked in front of her childhood house. I hummed and haa’ed about going in and knocking on the door, curiosity as to who Pam turned out to be was killing me, but in the end I took a photo of the house, jumped in Betsie and headed to Green Bay. Maybe next time we will catch up.

Tune in next week to learn about the secret social tactics of Nigel.

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 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.