End of part one

So, it’s two in the morning and I’m sitting in my underwear in a flat in Baton Rouge.

Look, it’s really hot, okay?

Anyways, just before I set out, I took another look at my route (check out the mileage!), and decided that there were some fairly clear demarcations to be observed. Five, in fact. This is the end of the first.

Time for some reflection.

Thus far, America has been close to my expectations in many ways. Ideas I had about its scenery, demeanor, passions and fears have shown themselves to be much similar to what I’ve seen. But there has been a capacity to surprise as well. The underlying sense I get, irrespective of who I talk to or what views they may hold, is actually one of constant, low-level crisis. Everything seems to be a bit of a battleground here, some more serious than others. But whether it’s sports teams or states rights, it’s a zero-sum world. All or nothing. My side, your side. And God help you if you switch sides, because everything is always about to go catastrophically wrong, and so much is at stake.

In a way, I love it. I love that people over here have ideas and causes and commitments. The currency of enthusiasm has seemed long devalued back home, and whilst that might arguably lead to a more level-headed approach to things, there’s a sense that politics and beliefs and aims are something that happens to other people, which is why we get neo-nazi white supremacists elected to the European Parliament. The Britain I know is not one where one in ten people want to sink immigrant boats with the immigrants still in them, but when turnout is at 33% due to apathy, the zealots are going to get a bigger slice. At least that’s not a problem here.

Anyway, enough of politics. It extends beyond that. Almost every American I’ve talked to has some kind of passion or raison d’etre in their life, and that’s tremendously… well, gratifying. Maybe I’ve talked to a really unrepresentative sample in the UK, or here, but back home so many people just don’t seem to care. The contrast is noticeable.

Elsewhere, there’s been a much bigger emphasis on food than I had expected. Perhaps I should have seen that coming (it’s a joke!), but the tradition of the diner is something interesting to me. I will gladly confess that up until about 2000, England had really bad food. We’re better now, honest. But because we never really established a culinary tradition outside of the greasy back-ends of chip butties and Very Questionable Pies, we didn’t develop the idea of ‘quality’ everyday food. America did. I’ve eaten at a tonne of diners now, and whilst there is a certain (if often only slight) processed, mass-produced feel to even the most gourmet fare, it’s undeniably tasty stuff, and you sure get a lot of it. In the Mariatta Diner, Atlanta, $13 bought me a chicken and spaghetti dish where the ethos apparently involved taking a whole chicken and pounding it flat, then frying it. Twice. It was so much that I had to take half of it home in a polystyrene box, which I have learnt is a common thing over here, and did I mention it came with a complimentary bowl of soup and a weird little feta-cheese-puff-pasty-parcel-with-spinach-I’m-not-quite-sure-what-it-was?

A lot of bang for your collective buck, that’s for sure. And of course, in the south they take things like this seriously. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Twenty-pound steaks on fire off a 2000C grill. I watched french fries sizzle in the pan near a bucketful of liquid cheese. All those calories will be lost in time, like fat in oil. Time to eat.

You better have got that reference.

Anyway, what else… people are friendly. I heard folks say down here that people in, say, Philadelphia, are jerks. And it’s true I’m sadly missing New England and I won’t get to sample the legendary philanthropic delights of Boston etc., but I gotta say I think we’re operating on a different standard. People are much more ready to talk here. I mean, unlike in England, you can make an observation without fear that you’re going to be glared at, run away from and or punched. It means I’ve talked to a bunch of strangers whilst travelling, and gleaned a whole heap of interesting anecdotes, information and other titbits that I only wish I had the time to transcribe in full. For each story I’ve told you, I’ve missed a dozen others. Someday we shall sit around the campfire and talk as men.

However, I’ve gone on far too long now. 45 minutes have passed since I started the post, and I promised you all some media. So, I hope you, uh, enjoy these little moments I’ve tried to capture and not had a chance to show you before. Here’s the link to the hi-res album, where you can find more.

The first leg of my trip is over.

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10 Responses to “End of part one”


  1. 1 TheRoadVirus 29/07/2009 at 8:40 am

    Hey man, I apologize for the heat. I had the air conditioning turned on before we all went to bed, so I’m not quite sure what the hell happened on that one, but apparently the cooling system decided to take the night off.

  2. 2 Arminas 29/07/2009 at 10:00 am

    Way to roast our traveling British pet, TheRoadVirus!

    Also, I think I missed the reference. 😦 The pictures are pretty sweet and I love the travel log you’re keeping!

    • 3 TheRoadVirus 29/07/2009 at 10:53 am

      I figured, “what better way to get a true taste for Louisiana than to spend a night sweating your ass off in humidity and heat?”

      Was this a bad idea? Really? Because if this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

      Actually no. It sucked. My continued apologies.

    • 5 freakish light 29/07/2009 at 5:46 pm

      It’s from Roy Batty’s speech at the end of Blade Runner.

      “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die. “

  3. 6 Noisymunk 29/07/2009 at 12:05 pm

    Spinach-feta pastry thing? ‘Spanakopita’ a greek spinach pie.

  4. 7 Dylan 29/07/2009 at 4:53 pm

    All of this sounds brilliant but…

    What did you say about british food?

  5. 8 JonXP 29/07/2009 at 6:28 pm

    Yeah, Flippy, you left your chicken and pasta here. I’ll be sure to ship it back with the rest of your stuff.

  6. 9 Snappy 29/07/2009 at 8:57 pm

    I *loved* your Blade Runner-esque description of American food!!! haha

  7. 10 LordJezo 03/08/2009 at 8:11 am

    You liar.

    We don’t have “flats” in America.


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