An A to Zed of the USA by a European Nomad

At the end of my thirteen amazing years in Nice before moving to the USA, and as a newbie to blogging, I wrote an A-Z about France. I have now been living in and around New York City for the past 6 years and have so far made it to 29 states, so I feel it is about time to share some musings of my time thus far State-side. I can’t promise as many gastronomic entries in this series, but there will be some!

 

Automobile

Already the term automobile instead of the only word used in the UK, car, conjures up for me a concept far more expansive and grandiose than merely a mode of transportation. Certainly outside a couple of major metropolises like NYC or San Francisco, with the vast distances between habitations, life without an automobile here is unimaginable. 

There’s perhaps no single person more associated with the automobile than Henry Ford. Ford is credited with bringing the car to the multitudes. Just imagine what the world would look like without the mass adoption of the automobile: We wouldn’t have countries crisscrossed by freeways, there’d be no truck diners, and no one would ever have to be trapped in a long drive-thru line at McDonalds. 

The automobile can arguably be considered a centerpiece of American culture.  Take into consideration how the car is still the second largest purchase among American households, and part of pop culture in a way it isn’t in Europe. In the US, an automobile doesn’t just represent options or status. That first second-hand Chevy or , with its personalized tweaks, shapes ideas of freedom and self-possession. Attaining one’s driver’s license here (between the ages of 14-16!) is a rite of passage in a society that maybe has fewer of them. It is the first major step into adulthood and independence. I suspect because cars have come to symbolize a kind of coming-of-age, freedom, and America’s pioneer spirit, they have become vital to a sense of identity, and not just to teens.

Blue at a West Virginia Air B n B on my first road trip.

When I bought my battered 2002 Subaru Outback (called Blue) for my first road trip three years ago, little did I know I had picked the perfect lesbian road trip vehicle… it’s all about identity, folks! But I will save “Road Trips” for another entry.

Baseball

In America, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” is probably one of summertime’s most-sung songs. Why? Because America’s favorite summer sport is baseball. Maybe not every American drives a Chevy (see A above), but almost every girl and boy learns to play baseball in school, and adults pay good money to watch the pros!

And you thought cricket was slow?!!! Bear with me, as cricket is my only real comparison. Everyone wears pajamas. Oh, and don’t forget the sox. Each side has 25 players but only 9 actually play. The pitch is aimed at an imaginary box in the air. The players and umpires can see this box, but no one else can. If the ball is going into this box, the batter tries to hit it. If cricketers missed the ball as often as baseball players, cricket matches would be over pretty quickly. They don’t, which is why cricket matches can take five days. But hey, that gives lots of downtime in baseball to chat to your match-buddies, which is the real reason I went.

I am told it was a good match (the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 4:2 ), and they must have sung the anthem and had some mid-time entertainment but I still don’t know most of the rules. What I do remember is the food!

Baseball is a summer game as I have said, but it was mid April (of my first year in New York) and still below freezing though not actually snowing. Thank goodness my Manhattan friend played mama, and had packed enough plaid blankets in her backpack to keep the four of us warm if we huddled together. My game partners (2 Yankee fans, and one lone Red Sox supporter) were committed to giving me the full-blown Yankee Stadium experience.

Remember, I came from the land of garlic, yet have never been garlicked-out before I tried Yankee garlic-fries. 😮 The fries would have been plenty for my not-so-delicate constitution, but no, there had to be more more. Add a foot-long hot-dog loaded up on all the fixings: ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, jalapenos, onions, tomato, a package or two of Cracker Jack (a concoction of molasses-flavored popcorn and peanuts), and domestic beer, and my digestive system was yelling “strike” way more often than any umpire. 

Yeah, baseball truly is an All-American thang! And if any of my US friends want to take me to see the Giants, or the Dodgers or the Mariners… I won’t say no. Just give me some prior warning so I can do a bit of fasting in preparation!

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7 Responses to An A to Zed of the USA by a European Nomad

  1. Bobbi says:

    I love this!! I have long been a super fan of reading about your adventures. I love the comparison between cricket and baseball, in which the teams wear pajamas. Ha! I can’t wait to read the rest of your ABC adventures!

  2. Joanna says:

    Thank you, Bobbi. It is fun to reflect on the differences I have noticed.

  3. I am very curious about this series, Joanna, as I have known from a young age that I was a misplaced European simply born in the wrong country. Thank goodness I was eventually able to come “home”! So far we’re two for two — I don’t care about cars or baseball. 😀

    • Joanna says:

      Haha! I too knew at such an early age that I could never be happy remaining in my own country. And my heart is definitely European, but I am so grateful for a season here. Not only have I made some of my best friends ever, but it has been a place of real personal growth for me (yes, even in my 50’s!)

      • Yes, I met the best people in my life in New York City, and I do miss that place, but that’s about it. Ditto on the personal growth — nothing like being a fish out of water to make you grow a different kind of gill!

  4. I love your take on things. In the Midwest we call automobiles, cars. Like you, I have a 2002 Honda Accord with only 70,000 miles on it. No way will I give up Golden Girl — she’s in perfect condition and I don’t own a cent. She is my transportation. But, I’m not like everyone else either.

    I loved playing baseball as a kid and played hardball with my dad. I like movies like “League of Their Own” and “Field of Dreams,” but watching a game — boring!

    Look forward to your other postings. Yes, I agree with you. You really have taken a huge leap in your personal growth. I remember our skype while you were in France.

    • Joanna says:

      Gosh yes, Pat, I remember Skyping with you in 2011 after we had just connected as writers and discussing my desire to move here.

      I really enjoyed the whole “event” that going to a baseball game is. And, I also love the way gas costs here make road trips so much more accessible, but more on that later.

      Your Golden Girl sounds like a keeper.

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