24 September 2010 § Leave a comment
Nearly every American traveler that steps off these emblematic shores to traipse about the globe knows that some of us do our best to abandon – or at least can joke about – our nationality while abroad. Whenever I hear an American accent outside of the US, I lower the brim of my hat and walk away in quite ignorable silence. When pressed, I divide Alaska from the United States – to the confusion of some, to the understanding of others. “Oh, I’m from Alaska. No, not America. Alaska.” _____ and I exchange knowing smiles. In a perfect world.
The other day, I had an encounter with another American traveler on my own shores, and I wonder if I’ve ever been met with such condescension. He stepped into a conversation in which I was talking about my own traveling, which is a rare occurrence in mixed company. Upon hearing a philosophy or two of mine regarding cities and towns, this arrogant college student made it known that I was wrong in my ways. After all, twenty four hours isn’t nearly enough time to capture the ‘flavor and aura’ of every town. It was absurd. It was invasive. I gave him my best ‘fuck-you-and-the-bastards-that-have-allowed-you-to-live-this-long’ look and stopped talking. Never again. I’d been raped by a USB drive, and had the scars to prove the robotnik attitude in the last rebellion of escape left in the world.
In Glasgow – that lovely, lovely city – I stumbled into a bookshop in the west end. They specialized in rare books. I gave the clerk a polite smile and went about my perusal. Hours and hours of a beautiful autumn afternoon were spent in that shop. I found a biography of Courtney Love written by none other than the author of some very grotesque and equally awesome horror books – Poppy Z. Brite. When I was fifteen, I was told to read Wormwood, and it formed a strange outlook on abortion that it took some years to shake from my head. I collect these connections to books, to authors, and I smile when I find them in shops.
At some point during that utopian afternoon, I found Hunter S. Thompson’s autobiography and a collection of Kafka’s stories with a damned awesome cover. I was headed to Ireland the next day, and maybe I could get some more reading done. Those were the books I bought, although the two volume, seven inch thick Compact Oxford Dictionary was very tempting to lug around Ireland in my backpack for the next week.
The next morning, I sat on a bench in Dublin watching the river Liffey flow by me with dreadfully industrial efficiency and the speed of the American political system. My eyelids were anvils, pulling my whole body into that sludgy river. I hadn’t slept all night – I’d love to say that it was because my newfound books had me so enraptured, but in reality it was for much better reasons. I struggled through a saturated, exhausted mind to focus on the addicting words of the suicided American dream, while sleep was alive in my eyes with the morning markets and bright sun. It looked as if Dublin had never seen rain. Where was all the emerald, the green, the potato fields, the subtle hills? Didn’t matter – there was a comfortable bench that begged to be napped on.