American Update #8

I’m becoming more American by the minute. Here’s evidence of my integration into their culture:

The other night we went round to the house of one of Natalie’s boyfriend’s pals. We drank, we played some card games, we cracked out a guitar and reluctantly sang some songs together, and it was generally a really cool, communal way to spend a night.

As time wore on, the ugly face of ‘politics’ rose up, and someone brought some deep-seated issues to the fore by continually using the old ‘nigger’ word to describe Obama.

After a fairly long time of discussing why they chose this term, I had had enough and said I was heading to bed, and that if they weren’t grown up enough to discuss issues that we had dealt with decades ago, then it wasn’t worth speaking about any further.

When I headed to bed, I overheard the conversation continuing, with some remarks being made about how I didn’t understand what they were saying etc. Given the amount of bile that I’d already heard so far, I went back through and told the person that if they wanted to speak about me, to do so to my face. An aggressive response prompted me to take off my glasses and tell them that if they were going to be so ignorant and speak in such wideo terms, that they should just punch me then and there.

A tad out of character, and definitely not the way to resolve a situation like that, but a situation that was so ridiculous and outwith anything that would happen back home that I felt like I had to stand my ground somehow. I actually feel a bit embarassed about it all, but then… given the time spent talking about it, it was one of the first examples I’ve had out here of a total crass, typical narrow minded ‘American’ mindset. Pretty stupid, as the person in question was in all other respects a fairly decent person to spend time with, and especially as you could see how easy such an extreme position can tar other people with the same brush. I’m not sure whether in Scotland we actually have any more advanced views when we consider the ridiculous sectarianism that exists, but maybe we’ve just learned to not bring it up in public in the same way… and actually, is that any better than being open about our prejudices?

All of that aside, and after all the joking about predators, we actually did come across some bears… and not just any bears:

That’s right. Polar bears. The same kind that mauled some Scots not that long ago in Norway. I may well be a bit in the shadows in this picture, but it adds to the sense of unexpectedness. Caroline should appreciate this shot, just as much as I appreciated the exaggerated and rather cute way she would ask “there’s bears?” with wide eyes when we were camping up in the mountains.

It’s the wee things that you notice when someone disappears, like how they’d pass you the seatbelt in the car when you couldn’t reach, or mannerisms that photographs never quite manage to capture. It’s the biggest downfall of the still picture.

Natalie was ‘babysitting’ a wee girl called Jasmine, who definitely had her own character, and marched us around the museum of Science and Nature. In particular she had an interest in the precious gems section. Watch out boyfriends of the future!

There was a section where you could write down your experiences with American wildlife. I described the one that we had when we were camping and left it out for all to see. It’s a bit difficult to make out at the regular size, so click on the shot to enlarge.

I found the beaver sign especially amusing.

The altitude seemed to be out to get me today, with a total fatigue, dehydrated feeling, pounding heartbeat and shallow breathing. If I was at home and rang NHS 24 I’d have been sent an ambulance straight away because of the whole terrible record of heart disease in Glasgow. It’s strange… most days seem to pass by without much of a noticeable effect, whilst others run into you like a freight train. I’m going to end up back in Scotland feeling as fit as a fiddle at this rate. The first thing I’m going to do (apart from ingest gallons of Irn-Bru) is take a massive inhalation of sweet, oxygen filled air.

As a result of this feeling, we decided a caffeinated beverage was in order before we attempted to do anything else.

Time marched on and we headed out for a few drinks at ‘Rock Bar’. When we arrived there were big screens with ‘sports’ on. The drinks were dirt cheap, but apparently the place is in the midst of a transition to a burger/sports joint, so it was having a bit of an identity crisis by the looks of things. The crazy loud music that came on to compensate meant that we headed elsewhere.

Wherever it was we ended up, it was the sort of place that managed to be genuine and cool without trying. The bar staff made up cocktails and chucked them your way for your opinion whilst they drank them themselves as they served, they got involved with your conversations, and generally were easy going folk. The kind of place where you can easily feel at home from the minute you walk in.

Oh, check out that bottle on the shelf.

Hendrick’s gin.

It seems to be everywhere here, which is surprising enough in of itself given that only a few bars in Glasgow have it, but it’s also cheaper… It’s made in Scotland!

They also had an old-school film photo-booth which only cost $2 a pop. I’m a sucker for those things.

I’m still working out the attitude to driving after drinking here. In some ways, it’s just as strict as back home. The law is about the same, if not harsher, but socially it doesn’t seem as big a deal. It’s not quite like Italy or some other places in Europe I’ve been where people get smashed and drive down tiny mountain roads without batting an eyelid, but it’s definitely not got the same taboo as we do. Even where it might be frowned upon, the same concern isn’t given to getting up the next day after lots of alcohol. It’s really strange in some respects, but is actually not too far from the attitude I’ve seen from people in some small English towns, where it just isn’t something to be concerned about.

Anyway, my time here is rapidly coming to a closec, but I’m not going to dwell on that just yet. Not here anyway. Too much still to do, and I feel like I’m only just starting to get to know some people properly (like the crazy blonde girl Grace doing the mental dance above).

Tomorrow we’re driving up to Wyoming, which is rather exciting, particularly because of the Douglas Coupland novel set in that state… What a sad reason to want to visit a place, eh?

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