Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Coming to America

All the children are blonde. The air is that kind of northern crisp and clean that I associate with autumn. The sky is so blue it hurts your eyes. The water glows. All the homes here seem to have flags, and when they wave, it seems like the colors will bleed out and turn everything red, white, and blue.

I feel like I'm in a movie about America.

I came home about ten days ago -- to a house that my great-grandfather built. I've been coming here since I was two years old. When I was a child, I used to wonder if the summers were a dream that I had had. Michigan is so different from Florida, especially this small town, on the small lake that feeds Lake Michigan. Florida is transient, strip-malled, humid, a hybrid of Old South meets retired New Jersey meets Cuba. Michigan is small town, traditional, full of 200-year old buildings, a Scandinavian-immigrant haven. And in thirty years, it hasn't changed much. I can see why I thought it was a dream when I was young.

China might as well be the moon for all its relevance here. But I've been away so long, America feels somewhat foreign to me. Okay, "somewhat" is inaccurate. "Quite" might be closer to the truth.

It's good to get back in touch though. I go to the local dive bar, Tuttens, and meet a guy in his 80s, Art. He's a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. But he says to me, "This government? Horrible." He's been involved in the party conventions since 1966, he says. He was a champion of Jack Kemp in 1988. A woman in the grocery store told his wife that they were traitors for not supporting Bush senior at the time.

It's a Friday night, and the bar is filled with young people who all seem to know each other. Apparently, my fascination with this 80-year old man makes me more appealing. I start getting hassled by some young women.

"Hey, who are you?" says an obviously drunk girl to my left. "I've never seen you before."

I say my hellos and then turn back to Art. He winks at me and says, "Nothing like aggresive women."

We talk for a long time, and then he leaves me with a stunner: "Well, my girlfriend lives up the road, I have to pay her a visit."

Not long after, I walk up the hill behind the bar with the drunk women and lots of their friends -- someone is having a house party. They light a bonfire in the yard, and put a mini-trampoline next to it, running and jumping over the fire. They jump deliberately close to the fire, as someone snaps pictures. A bottle goes around. Music blasts from the house. The night clouds over.

All I can think about is how this would never happen in China, and how freedom often seems to have little to do with politics and much more to do with culture, and how freedom has something to do with a people-to-space ratio...and how much I miss it.


MidgetViking said...

Very nice post, lovely description. Are you just on a holiday or will you be staying permanently in the US now? I've really enjoyed reading your China observations as it gives a such a different perspective to the general news.

Teresa said...

I found your post throuh a search on China blogs and I guess I'm the opposite of you: I'm about to move to China in a matter of days. I'm writing to ask for advice on blogging in China -- what's blocked, what's not, and if you have suggestions for the best site to use. I'm signed up for blogspot right now but have heard it's blocked ... Thanks in advance. (You can email me at teresattung@gmail.com if that's easier. Thanks.)

danda said...

Can't wait to see you John. I'd like to leave America for an experience soon, but the grass is always greener.
I think about you when I watch "Dangerous Catch."
I hate You very much was amazing. Talk to you soon.

Zhongyuan said...

Thank you guys for your comments, and sorry for the long delayed response. I've been remiss in my duties to the Melon.

Teresa, you must have arrived by now in China. Hope it's treating you well. It's an odd but interesting place.

Blogspot is indeed blocked in China -- sort of. You can post but can't read your own blog. Unless you use a proxy server, which is what I use. They are plentiful and easy to use -- just type in "proxy server" in Google.

Danda, I'll have to check out "Dangerous Catch" not familiar with it.