A few years ago an old friend from childhood called me out on Facebook for being “un-American” and deleted me. I’m not really sure what I did to give him that impression but I was living in the Middle East at the time, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. I certainly didn’t miss seeing his Dodge trucks, Budweiser, and “where’s the birth certificate” posts on my news feed.
As I’m coming up on six years of permanent roaming I’ve been in the United States for a total of about two months, more or less. Most of that time has been spent visiting family or for quick visa runs. The truth is that — outside of spending time with family and friends — I don’t really like being in the United States. I feel awkward, my senses are overwhelmed, and now there’s the real possibility that Donald Trump could be the next president. That should be enough to frighten anyone who is considering a visit, and I know it frightens many people who live there.
I just returned from a long weekend in Miami. I fretted and fumed for a week leading up to the trip. Ugh, TSA. Ugh, crowds. Ugh, Florida. Crazy shit always happens in Florida. People throw alligators through fast food drive up windows in Florida. People use bath salts and eat the faces of other people in Florida. Frankly, if I weren’t coming down to the wire on my 180 days in Mexico I wouldn’t have gone. But I sucked it up and got on the plane, and the minute I emerged from the dark side of immigration I felt a strange sort of elation.
I was in the United States! I was in Miami! This is going to be awesome!
And it was.
I realize that Miami is one of the most international cities in the country, which may have softened the blow a bit, but it’s still America. And in the three days that I was there, I realized there are some things I actually miss about life in the USA, and these are five of them.
We rented a car for this trip and I had a blast with the radio. I’d kind of expected radio to be following the path of the dinosaur, as most people simply listen to the exact music they love and keep handy on their phones.
Neither one of us has much in the way of music on our phones so I scanned through the stations until I found the one that most closely resembled modern rock. I loved how I never knew what was going to be played next unless the DJ announced it, and I loved that the radio had an info button that gave me the song and artist for the tunes I didn’t know. So not only did I get to ride around Miami with the window down and the radio up, I became acquainted with some new music that I really liked.
This might be the most unusual things that I’ve ever said, but the commercials that I heard while listening to the aforementioned radio were ridiculously entertaining. I had completely forgotten how radio was the preferred advertising medium for mid-level, less than corporate stores and businesses, and the prime breeding ground for lawyers who have a fondness for class-action lawsuits.
I saw a few television commercials as well, but it was the radio ads that really got me. And apparently the lawyers are not only pandering to mesothelioma patients these days; head injuries suffered by NFL players are this season’s hottest lawsuits.
Ambulance chasing is bad, but the ads they use to further their goals are hilarious.
Americans are often labeled as uncouth, aggressive, and boorish by people from other parts of the world, and that’s not entirely untrue. But uncouth, aggressive, and boorish people exist everywhere, and you don’t always have to look very far to find them.
I was frankly stunned by the level of politeness and courtesy I encountered everywhere. From other drivers slowing down to let us change lanes to the wonderfully helpful salesperson at Victoria’s Secret who patiently helped me fumble my way to $400 worth of undergarments, everyone was just so damn nice! Bartenders, servers, the people at the gas station… it didn’t really matter where we went, someone was ready to smile and help in any way they could.
For everyone who saw my Taco Bell post on Facebook last week, please know that I never ended up actually eating at Taco Bell. I wish that I had, but I also ate so many other delicious things that I can almost forgive myself for not staying true to my convictions and desires.
I watch enough cooking shows to know that the United States has some of the best and most inventive chefs in the world. No matter what type of cuisine or mash-up of cuisines you choose, you’ll find dishes that are carefully planned and perfectly executed.
The food highlight of this trip? Brisket wonton ravioli in a mango cheese sauce at a little Latin Asian fusion joint called Finka. Savory, slightly sweet, and so rich I thought I might die a little, these brisket filled pillows of awesome were incredible. As I not so delicately wiped dribbles of sauce from my lips all I could think was Holy shit that’s good.
But I also know that, had we chosen any other restaurant, it would have been equally as good.
We have grocery stores in Mexico. They run the gamut from teeny little mercados to Wal-Mart and Chedraui, which is Mexico’s slightly altered version of Wal-Mart. However, unless you’re in Mexico City or one of the expat-heavy cities like Playa del Carmen or San Miguel, you’re forced to accept the fact that you won’t always find your favorite and familiar brands or items.
And, let’s face it, there’s almost always that underlying smell of raw and slightly off meat in virtually every grocery in Mexico.
When I visit the groceries in the United States I feel like a refugee. I saw a movie years ago about a Cambodian refugee family who had settled in the United States. In one of the scenes, the sponsors took the family to the grocery store and these Cambodians (actors, of course) were visibly shocked and almost scared at the dizzying array of food items available, so colorful and neatly arranged.
Now I’m obviously not a refugee and with the current crisis that involves actual refugees I don’t use that term lightly, but whenever I’m in a US grocery I’m reminded of the scene in that movie, and I get it.
Of course, there are many more things that I miss about the United States, and that list is long enough for a year’s worth of blog posts. However, it’s not long enough to make me want to move back there any time soon.
But I may just have to search Youtube for some of those ridiculously entertaining lawsuit commercials, just for the laughs.
Aw, thanks for reminding me of the flip side of USA! USA!
Keep the writing skills going, you and Will are awesome!
Charlie Magnuson says
Hello, my friend. I was talking about you the other day and realize I have known you for 20 years this year. I hope all is well and it seems that it is.
Will Brubaker says
20 Years? That can’t be….Good to hear from you. All is well, indeed. Here’s to hoping all is well with you too.