We had now visited the brain of the United States (AKA Washington DC), but we wanted to go back further in history. Who were Americans before they were American, and what were these pre-Americans like?
I wanted to trace their history, and instead of finding clues in ancient cave paintings, I found my answer in a travel guide. Next, we packed up the car for a weekend trip, and printed out directions to the quaint little state of Rhode Island.
Almost two months of living amongst the cramped, concrete jungle of New York City was beginning to get to us, and we felt like we needed a break from urban life – somewhere we could get back to nature, and away from the hustle and bustle of modern living. We wanted the simple life.
Researching into where we could find this kind of lifestyle, we read about the Amish communities and their shunning of modern technology. We read about their horse-drawn buggies, and their black and white clothes. Then we read that they lived only two and a half hours away from New York in the state of Pennsylvania. Throw in visits to the chocolate town of Hershey and the city of Philadelphia, and we had found our next American trip.
We had now been in the United States of America for over a month, but I still felt like I knew nothing about the place. I’d had a taste of the American dream in LA and NYC, but who was running the show? Who called the shots here? It was time to head to America’s central nervous system – the brain of the country.
Soon enough, we had a bus ticket to Washington, DC, and I was on a mission to visit the president.
I grew up in the Bronx. Well, I lived there for almost seven months, in a wealthy, historic Jewish neighbourhood, but I did grow there in various ways, so technically, it’s a true statement. I mean, I had like five different loyalty stamp cards and a gym membership. Then I moved to Manhattan for almost three months, and grew up there, too.
New York was our home base while exploring the United States, and while living there, we got to see quite a bit. This is how I saw the city of all cities.
This is an update to explain why I haven’t updated in a long time, what’s been happening, and what’s going to happen.
My travel plans have changed in a big way. I was supposed to be finished with the USA in July after exploring this vast land, but something happened. It involved mumbling crackheads, an Amish dairy farm, the Declaration of Independence, US Visa forms, and the Boston Red Sox. Now, my planned stay of 6 months has turned into exactly eight months and counting.
After spending a total of twenty days in the region known as Southern California, staying in places around Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Diego, I already feel like I’ve been dipped into the hot chocolate fondue that is American pop culture.
I’ve experienced the glorious palace that is the Cheesecake Factory, and I have tasted America’s obesity epidemic. I’ve met the mouse, bought the souvenirs, and stood in the concrete footprints of the rich and famous. I’m pretty sure I was even accidentally initiated into a Mexican gang at one point.
Allow me to explain, as I recall my adventures of Southern California in blurry detail. Let’s begin with the beginning, in Anaheim, Orange County.
It was about 9AM on the 23rd of January, 2011, and I was officially in Los Angeles, California. After around thirteen hours of overnight flying with a brief stop in a very dark and rainy Tahiti, I had finally touched down on American soil for the first time in my life (this does not include the make-believe American soil of the US Embassy in Auckland, where I applied for my US Visa).
What better place to start seeing the world than the seemingly self-proclaimed centre of the globe, the United States of America. Everything I knew of America was what I’d seen and heard in films and music – cops shoot first, blow things up, and ask questions later, everybody is entitled to a gun and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, and most black people are rappers.
I wondered to myself – is America really as sensational as it makes out, or is it all just a bit of movie magic? It was time for me to go behind the scenes and find out.
The following is a very summarised version of my first-hand research into American life.