When I think of America I think mainly of Texas. Of the Superbowl and sports bars. Of Hustler and Playboy magazine. I think of people obsessed with barbequeing, steak sauces, and of fireworks being a national token of happiness. I think of the credit card being a perfect fit for Americans, always borrowing what they can’t wait for. Forever indebted. I think of people flicking cigarette butts out car windows, young couples with dreadlocks shopping at the co-operative grocery for flaxseed granola bars, and suburban moms shopping at Sam’s Club for soymilk and fruit rollups.
I think of Chicago, and yachts, and baseball. Of dollarstores and our entanglement of highways. Forgotten railroad tracks and books about anything and everything. I think of elementary school children creating turkeys out of their hands and reciting, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. I think of lawn signs and bumperstickers and PTA meetings. Of political dazzle in front of the void. HIV clinics and police sirens in the night. I think of the commentaries, the commentatries on commentaries, and People Magazine. How on each channel there are talking heads, experts, talking and talking and nothing being addressed.
I think of how news anchors pretend to shuffle papers and smile and joke after they sign off. And shuffleboard. Being famous after you die. Nick Drake. I think of Waco and Berkley. I think of Allen Ginsberg, Neil Cassidy, and Jack. I think of our collective conscience. Of Barbie, Superman, Lincoln, and all our idols. Sinatra, blasphemy. Seeger, tragedy. I think of America as a swimming pool where all you need is a hammer and a pair of boots. Fake boobs and karma sutra manuals for fifty year olds. I think of youth and toilets and death. Of Thomas Lynch, his golf course cemetery ,and all the sense he makes. I think of Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn. Of slashers, Grammies, Oscars, fallen heros, propagandists, and experts giving their expert opinion on all these. I think of garden decorations, home improvement centers, and church on sunday.
I think of drugs – crack mostly. Off-road vehicles, jet skis, summer homes, and rustic cabins where businessmen take their exiled families when they can “get away”. I think of millions of broken hearts. Vegas weddings. Little girls thinking they want to be a princess. Jim, Janis, Jimi. Hemmingway. Ketchup. I think of diverse sexuality. Of terrible beer. Festivals. Family reunions. Disrespect of the old. I think a lot about ignorance and faith. Of fear. Of duck and cover. I think of MTV and Catholics coexisting. Rivalries. Fueds. Sparknotes. Definitely of smiling commercials for medicine. Detroit, the fallen beauty. New York, the city that can eat you alive. Miami, the underworld. The blushing horror of going bald. I think of teen issues, coddled, neglected, melodramatic, average teens, wanting raves, wanting the same sex, wanting suicide. Fat kids, too-skinny kids, too many kids in their basements building bombs to blow up their cafeteria when whole other countries are being blown up. Of libraries, cool and quiet. Of Tom Petty. Of Howard Hawks. The Wright Brothers. Oil. ATM. CNN. CBS. Saturday Night Live. Rockafellers, the grand canyon, and skyscrapers.
I think of public vs private. West coast vs East coast. Then there’s Montana. Daytime smut, soaps, and everyone talking, talking to hosts. America getting all touchy feely now, men crying, sharing problems with tv doctors. Segregation. Skeletons in the closet. “The closet”. Purposeless scraps dubbed cultural phenomenons. Being invaded by the British, twice. Zimmerman. Coal mines. Fast food. The American Dream. And, of course, the great American novel.
I am an American. But sometimes when I am in my bed at night I think maybe I am destined to roam the world alone. To be the seer, searcher, nomadic, nocturnal huntress. America is my birth place, but am I one of you? Probably. Grown up tall with milk and liberty and the strict order to be an individual – but not too much. Still get a job. Do I need this safety net with its 401K and its retirement homes and its father-figure president? I already have a father. But maybe. I’d still like to know what its like…out there.