“America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.”
– Oscar Wilde
So here it is, happy Thanksgiving.
There’s very little in my life – all of our lives, I suppose, but at the moment it feels like particularly mine – that isn’t affected one way or another by Americans. And, appropriately, Thanksgiving is the ‘holiday’ that makes me feel happy for all the good American things, and sad for all the less good ones.
So, a brief Thanksgiving thank you to the ten best American things that I can think of off the top of my head (in no particular order)…
1) American women. They don’t do things by halves in America; it’s all about the extremes. Take Manhatten (Staten Island too) – spend some time there and you’ll find every woman is apparently either totally single or totally married. Boyfriends are too – you know – mushy middle. And it’s not just New York. American women (and I’ve been out with the odd one or two, so please know I speak from experience) are without doubt the most loving, hating, funny, lunatic, balanced, psychotic, professional, flighty, essential distractions you will ever meet. There is no feeling on earth when you find a good one, and no feeling on earth when it ends. It’s no accidence there’s a song called ‘I wish they all could be Californian’ and about a zillion called ‘American Girls’, and yet no iTunes results for ‘I wish they could all come from Croydon’ or ‘Welsh Girls’. Quite a few results on Kazza for the latter, though.
2) Aaron Sorkin. Sorry, quite a jump there. But to anyone who says Americans don’t understand irony (or, rather that they do, but they don’t recognise it), I say watch any two minutes The West Wing, or Studio 60, or Sports Night. I’m using Sorkin as a figurehead here. See also Groening, MacFarlane, Trudeau etc etc etc.
3) American Journalism. They actually give a shit when journalists lie in America. Read that back. It actually matters in America. A made up quote is grounds for dismissal. A made up story is so dramatic that they made a film about you. Same goes for autobiographical books. Can you imagine that here? If every news outlet and every author faced the same scrutiny as the BBC? I did a round of interviews with US publications for the St. Martin’s Press edition of the Second Life book last year and two of the reporters called back to fact check. To fact check a puff interview with an author of a book on a fake world. I literally couldn’t make it up.
4) American Journalists. Thompson, Woodward, Bernstein, Wolfe, Mailer, Talese, Capote and on and on and on and on. Oh, and there are some decent ones working today too.
5) Fox News. News 24, as imagined by Stephen Colbert. 24-hours a day. It is impossible to be bored in a US hotel room.
6) US Hotels. And restaurants. And bars. Ice machines in every corner, barmen that talk to you and call you ‘buddy’, sandwiches the size of the moon, 24-hour everything, refills. Refills! If only they could make decent beer, but nowhere’s perfect.
7) The behavioural concept of ‘inappropriateness’. More fun to fuck with than a Playmate holding a can of Cool Whip.
8) Cool Whip.
9) The Dollar. Iconic, surrounded by cool sounding slang, and absolutely in the toilet. America may not quite be the land of the free, but if the greenback keeps heading south, it’s only a matter of time. iPod? I’ll take twelve.
Nah, just messing with you. Everyone hates America for their freedoms.
10) The Constitution. A (literally) paper-thin barrier between freedom and the police state. And yet, like that joke paper you used to get, the bastard just won’t tear. By contrast, unwritten constitutions, like ours, consisting of hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper, all piled on top of each other, not particularly neatly and with no index and no plan look about as unstable as a pro-lifer on a unicycle. It’s a marvel of science.
That’s my ten. If I spent another ten minutes, I could probably come up with another list, and another, and another. I suppose the idea of Thanksgiving itself should probably be on there somewhere.
But, no, that’s it for this year.
Happy Thanksgiving, America, Americans and all who sail in them.