America Update: #3 – Partying

This is the diner that Natalie works at. She had to do a shift whilst we were here, so me and Caroline propped up the bar, ate pizza and drank root beer, as well as other concoctions put together by Chris behind the bar. Ever had a ‘cheeseburger pizza’? No? Well it’s certainly something to contend with.

It’s quite hard to see in the picture, but the diner itself was named after the street on which it sits – the Bonnie Brae Tavern. So strange to see something so Scottish in the middle of Colorado. The translation apparently means ‘Pleasant Hill’, which is an interesting way to put it. Brae in particular is a word that, like lots of other Scottish words, don’t just directly correspond to a specific thing, but more like an idea… There’s a whole other element to being bonnie that isn’t easy to explain.

After work had finished up, we headed back to Natalie’s with a bunch of her colleagues to drink some more, and chat. Breaking all the rules, politics and religion were both discussed. That was completely Caroline’s fault, as she threw in a hand grenade asking who was a libertarian. Her innocent enquiring was an almost perfect example of Socratic questioning at work, although she denies that completely.

I know the truth.

It’s funny to be here in person and here the political interactions and views of a group of Americans on their home turf, rather than just those filtered through the media. The variety and thought put into things by most of the people involved was surprising.

Saying that, I guess it’s partly because such subjects are almost always avoided outwith small, private conversations back home. Politics are almost never mentioned or brought up seriously at parties or any other occasion, because it’s inevitable that some idiot will come out with something sectarian, and it’s easier to just let sleeping dogs lie. Natalie’s boyfriend Jeremiah later told me that this sort of discussion wasn’t exactly normal, but there definitely seemed a different approach to it – maybe a bit more openness that comes along with the American extolation of free speech.

Another thing that has had me thinking is the sheer size of America. You can drive for 30 hours and not be the full way across from coast to coast. It’s mental. Not just that, but the differences in culture and lifestyles from State to State are pretty substantial.

When people in the UK criticise Americans for not traveling abroad, and quote the statistics about the lack of passports that are actually issued, I think they (we?) fail to take into account the difference in scale. If you live somewhere like Belgium or Scotland, then of course you’ll have a passport, because you can see the whole country in less than a year. Try doing that over here and you’ll only have scratched the surface.

I’m pretty sure some people are falling over in shock back home at reading these defences coming from me the past few days. Having your prejudices challenged is never a bad thing, and if it makes you uncomfortable, then it’s even more reason to question why exactly that is. I’m sure there’ll be more of this to come…

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