Thursday, October 01, 2009

America

Today was the first day Autumn really hit me.

It was cold - cold enough to hang up my 'summer' coat (the Indiana Jones leather bomber jacket) and switch to the 'winter' coat (an ankle length Spike coat) and the whiff of creaking leather was enough to send me reminiscing about arriving in America again for the first time in October of 2006.

Nostalgia's a good thing because it reminds you of all the things you love about a place, even when months and years have made you complacent about those advantages.

Today was a rare, but welcome occasion in which I remembered why I loved moving here so much.

For example, I started my day by clambering behind the wheel of a big, old car. Wooden dashboard, leather steering wheel and six-feet of long, sleek bonnet stretching out in front of me. Old cars are a passion for me - and it wasn't until America that I got to drive one again.

As I filled up with petrol, I realised that a tank of 'gas' cost the same number of dollars as it did pounds in Britain - about $35. So many things here in America are cheaper. It's honestly like every dollar buys you what a quid does in the UK. For that reason, we're in the black - whereas in the UK, we always scrimped, saved and hovered one paycheque from oblivion.

At work, I got an email from the editor of a magazine I write for. The fact that I've been able to launch a modest freelance writing career in America - and earn money for it - reveals that opportunities exist here that simply don't back in England.

I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps it's because Americans appreciate people who do things, rather than people who are qualified to do things. Or maybe it's because I had an opportunity to redefine myself in America - whereas British society defines you - by your accent, your school, where you live and even the color of your hair.

At work, I argued (good naturedly) with somebody who was offended by the adverts being posted across New York for the new Tucker Max movie I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. It made me grateful for the fact that we live in a country in which freedom of expression is a constitutional right and the politically correct mafia can't ban things indiscriminately like they seem to in England.

During my lunchbreak, I discovered a great new blog by a Colorado librarian called Jamie LaRue - who made a particularly noteworthy comment that I enjoyed because it tied into my reading on the American War of Independence (yes, I'm still wading through The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789)
"...our whole system of government was based on the idea that the purpose of the state was to preserve individual liberties, not to dictate them."
It reinforced my belief that Stephen King's 'The Stand' is coming true and all the awesome people gravitate towards Colorado (Sasha, Sarah and Coffee Bean, for example) and it reminded me that America was a nation founded on secular freedoms, not religious restrictions (as some people would have you believe.)

As I drove home, I noticed that the Halloween Store on US1 opened today - reminding me that we're one step closer to my favorite holiday of the year (and an excuse to dress up in silly costume.) We've already got Mini Militant's. Watch for pictures soon!

And finally, I came home to my lovely wife and my adorable son and I realised that everything in my life has blossomed in unexpected ways since coming to the United States.

Sure, I grow frustrated with life here sometimes. I'm adopting an almost libertarian distrust of the federal government, even while I argue that we need public involvement in the private health care industry.

[Hey, conservatives argue that the government can't run anything right, and then claim that public health care will so so efficient it'll put private insurers out of business. That's no less retarded! - Editorial Bear]

But America is an opportunity. I realise that your destiny here is largely of your own creation and I never felt like that in Britain.

I look at my brother in law, who started a million-dollar business without ever going to college. I see the example of Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg, who built their fortunes gambling with pennies. I even look at Barack Obama, who was an undistinguished kid from a modest background who made history when he strode into the White House.

Sometimes I feel deflated, living in our tiny rented house and living our modest little lives. But then I remember that all my hopes and dreams are out here, in America. At least, they are if I can just summon the power to seize them. Maybe I never will, but for some reason, I still feel like I'm inching my way closer and closer to them each day that I spend here.

4 comments:

CBB said...

Very nice! This is a wonderful blog... I had a great time browsing and reading your posts. You may also drop by my site if you have time. It's about christian books . I'm sure you'd find my site useful.

Joanna Cake said...

It's very interesting since, at the same time as I was reading your post, the national news was reporting on Harriet Harman's instruction to Governor Arnie to close down PunterNet. Doesnt she have better things to do with her time and resources?

We really are a nation that likes to build people up and then cut them off at the knees. One day's celebrity is the next day's focus of venom. We cannot celebrate another's good fortune without a sense of schadenfreude, waiting for something bad to reverse their fortunes.

We stand up for thing that do not actually affect us but put it in our own backyard and we are vociferously against it.

America was built by people who made sacrifices to get there and then survive. They worked hard and, mostly, together to make it work whereas here the culture is about the good of the one over the rest which is why we have such a huge divide between those who have and those who have not with the rich treading all over the poor to feather their own nests even further - look at the bankers still awarding themselves huge bonuses when their banks have been bailed out with public money.

A close friend is married to an artist who could not make a living here. He moved to the States and things started to take off. He moved back to the UK but we just dont appreciate art in the same way, so it was back to California and a very comfortable lifestyle.

As you say, it was the feeling that anything was possible, rather than being squeezed as a small business by banks which charge fees for everything in a fragile financial environment where most people are only just breaking even. There seems to be no desire to help them to flourish, only to grind them down to make bigger profits for the fat cats.

However... there's always a but isnt there.

When I found myself in a delicate condition a few years ago, the NHS took care of my embarrassment without me enduring any more emotional strain about the decision itself. I didnt have to travel to another state and run a gauntlet of protesters before undergoing the procedure.

AND our laws also permit same sex marriage.

So, we're not all bad and today the sun is shining when it's October :)

Jodi said...

how long did it take you to get your green card? from application to approval. it's something Wil and I talk about from time to time. I still don't have my VISA, but we are already thinking about applying for his, because he is somewhat interested in living in the States. Which thrills me no end, believe me.

Roland Hulme said...

Hi CBB! Thanks for stopping by! I will certainly check out your blog.

Joanna! Lovely to see you! Your comment was, as is typical with you, very well-written and thought provoking and I know exactly which experience you're referring to. You're absolutely right. There are some things about America that are seemingly irreconcilable - but I like to think we can change them. America is a place where change seems tangible and achievable, whereas the UK has such a disconnect with politics these days.

Thanks for stopping by!

Hi Jodi! Whatever you do, DON'T follow my example. From marriage to being legally allowed into America took four years in all. Our visa was lost, sent to the wrong country and mucked about with deliriously. My family and friends all wondered why I made it such a crusade to come to America given all the hassle we went through! But it was worth it in the end.