Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt.7

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

Sunday 27th March 1994,  11:47 (CST)  [17:47 GMT]

INSIDE MY RED MAN UTD TOP

I know the Coca-Cola Cup final has already been played; let’s just get that one thing cleared up before I begin.  It’s driving me mad enough as it is!  Of course, I fully intend to ring home within a couple of hours.  As long as somebody taped it – Oh yeah and as long as we won as well – there is no problem.  Anyway… [change the subject, change the subject!]

What happened yesterday?  Well, I have missed out Friday evening as well.

Friday, we walked to the Holiday Inn and had the Mexican buffet (‘Fajita Friday’) — damn hot and only $3 for the pleasure of having one’s internal organs systematically corroded.  We came back and caught a bus into downtown Austin.  It was Friday night and we checked out Emo’s, a live act night spot, one of many on 6th Street, for which Austin is apparently quite famous for <— oops, double prepositioning!

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Anyway, Friday was pretty quiet so we returned fairly early (about 1:30) and resolved to try the Saturday experience.  This we did and (last night), we had a more definitive tour of the city’s entertainment venues.  There is the Bates Motel; a small, mirrored rectangle which, in low lighting, looks like an organised Brooks*.  The chairs are easy chairs (padded, armrests, casters etc.) and flanking the stage are two TV monitors showing ‘Psycho’, on a loop, presumably.  We also went to a ‘shots’ bar and has ‘Sex on the beach’, a cocktail comprised of I know not what**, but Rice recommends it, and hearing him order it, reminded me of Westbrook UCI***: “can I have ‘A Few Good Men’, please?” — use your imagination.  I have to admit, I’d never had (a) sex on the beach before but it’s great and if anyone can remember how to do it, I’ll have it again (I think I got all the comic potential out of that one!)

Verily, we arrived at Emo’s again and it was busier than the night before but not, according to my companions, at its best.  Do I believe them or shall I nod and inwardly smile at such an obvious opportunity for them to tell me that Austin really is quite good, actually.  The thing was, deep down, I agreed and therefore why shouldn’t I believe it?  Besides, I’m not a cynic, am I?

Kicking out time from Emo’s was just after 2.  We walked to a dance club and decided to finish the night off in a state of cramp and breathless exhaustion — this predictably became a reality and at 4 o’clock, we took the now familiar route following the I35 over the river, turn left, left again and into the apartment.  4:30am, completely spent and CRASH, I fell asleep.

And now my mind turns to football again.  Actually, there’s a match on HSC, Channel 39: USA v Bolivia at 6 o’clock.  Hope someone else wants to watch it!

Oh ye; I forgot to mention we went on campus yesterday afternoon and we decided to sample the (get this) Union Bowling Alley!  Now we’re not talking GX or Superbowl 2000 but despite the pencil-scoring system, it was a great time and quite ridiculous that there should be a basement bowling alley beneath the Union building****.  In addition, we played 5 games and I won 3!  Watch out Adam/Catherine/Suddy — I’ve been practicing!

14:15 (CST)

SUPPLEMENTARY: WATCHING MEXICAN FOOTBALL

OK, so United lost, 3-1 apparently.  It’s a bit of a sod but life goes on.  Take this, for example: on Channel 12, Mexican football.  It’s America 3 Veracruz 0.  America have just score their third to the accompaniment of “GOOOOOAAAALLLL!”.  Sunday is sports day here, whatever your heritage is.  I have already watched Orlando Magic v New York Knicks (Shaquille O’Neal v Patrick Ewing).  There’s also been a bit of ice hockey (Channel 3): Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks.  Channel 2 is college basketball — Florida Gators v Boston College.  Not forgetting PGA golf on Channel 4 and on Channel 24, preseason baseball — Chicago Cubs versus Oakland A’s.  Tennis on 39 and motor racing on 40.  Does that cover it?  I think so…

“GOOOOAAAALLL!!!”… It’s 4-0.

Bloody hell, not 2 minutes later, Veracruz get a consolation — 4-1

Final score 5-1.

* Brooks was a nightclub in Lancaster, which (and I’d forgotten this) had a lot of mirrors in it.  I say ‘was’ because a Google search today yields no mention in a dated article since 2006 and the only social footprint it has is a Myspace page.  If that’s not a sign of demise, I don’t know what is.

** According to Wikipedia, there are two variants.  I’m pretty sure we had the one with peach schnapps in it (vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice).  I’m actually quite tempted to have that again some time…

*** Cinema complex in Warrington, still going, I believe.  We once went to watch the Tom Cruise film ‘A Few Good Men’ there. Being right-on students, we asked for tickets in the obvious ‘comedy’ way.  What larks!

**** So pleased to see this still exists!  Long may it continue.  It was one of the best afternoons of that year.

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 6

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

Friday 25th March 1994,  12:05 (CST)

WATCHING MTV, AUSTIN, TX

Yesterday was a full day and so there was little time to pause for the purposes of this book.  We went to the Mall and I bought the jeans that Andy and Martin ordered*.  Well I did owe them a favour.  I just hope they fit. 

In the evening, we went to this place called Double Dave’s, a pizza place that serves beer for 25 cents!  Rice and Dan disappeared early so when Paul and I walked back and found no-one in, I remembered that Rice had been chatting to this lad (Frampton, everyone calls him).  Anyway, he told Rice he was having a few people round and to stop in.  Sure enough, we called and found them there.  I also found a custom-made yellow Ibanez and huge amp.  Immediately, the common axemanship removed my already lowered inhibitions and in the flick of an amp switch, I was there, wearing it, playing it, willing my obstinate digits to co-ordinate properly, struggling to overcome the ‘like poles’ magnetic effect induced by the outlay of a couple of dollars at Double Dave’s.  The sound was amazing — more to do with the impressive array of effects, boxes and pre-amps than my fumbling ineptitude.  I have resolved to return, if only to prove I really can play ‘Live & Let Die’ and possibly attempt to re-acquaint myself with ‘Estranged’.  God I need a guitar!

I just watched an advert for a guitar shop in town.  I think that if I find myself with nothing to do next week, Austin will join the list of Wigan, Lancaster and Leeds; I’ll go and do my “prospective buyer” act — 10 minutes can be so therapeutic.

13:08 (CST)

[STARDATE 5109.39  SUPPLEMENTARY]

American TV has to be seen to be believed.  In a quiet moment on MTV, I travel through the lost passageways of daytime television.  Ch 2, 3 and 4, there are the usual crappy soap operas that all seem exactly the same; flicking through them, you see an identical man/woman scene with a sort of strained silence, with slightly different variations in the room and in the faces.  Its quite amusing to flick back and forth through them; all the mush blends into on huge entity, like a barrel full of different flavours of the Slush Puppy.

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On Channel 5, there is an even more ludicrous specimen.  An Oprah Winfrey derivative — Jenny Jones** — considering the case of the man who proposed to two women in the space of a month.  The conversation progresses and the audience gasps or cheers ever-louder.  Apart from the traditional objections about these programmes, issues such as “all men are bastards”-type mentality, of dysfunctional people or that it becomes a moral court of judgement, the one thing I’d like to know most is: where the hell do they find the audience for these things?

Ahh, they recruit from feminist groups (by the sound of the last questioner)

What a freakshow!

Oh no!  Channel 13 is even worse: “You don’t have peace, brother”

What is happening here?

Oh shit!  I’ve been missing ‘Moonlighting’ (Channel 27)

On CNN (Ch 31), there’s an English reporter.  After all this US crap, I really miss the BBC.

* As soon as I’d told my friends at Lancaster I was going to Texas, I was met with a barrage of requests to buy Levis 501s, American prices being significantly cheaper than those in the UK. 

** Her show, ‘The Jenny Jones Show‘ ran from 1991-2003.

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 5

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

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The University of Texas campus in Austin.  Photo: UT Austin

Wednesday 23rd March 1994,  16:53 (CST)

COMPUTER LAB IN LIBRARY, UT, AUSTIN, TX

Well, here I am, replete with new pen and ready to take on the world in my “journal” as Chris puts it [Reminder: Chris’s email number is IFZE530*].  This is going to be a waffly entry, I can tell.  Here, seated in between Paul’s and Chris’s monitors, and I’ll get distracted a lot…    …(see!)…

Anyway, I went for a wander round Austin today and bought a Charles Manson CD**.  I’ve just emailed Matt and written a couple more postcards.  It’s possible to play a CD and listen to it while you work on a computer here…   …That would be cool; if we could only do it at Lancaster!***

(Chris has just disappeared for a bit so I’m now writing this whilst listening to said CD)

(Ah, now he’s re-appeared, and I’ll have to stop now) — see, I knew I’d get distracted…

I can’t believe I’ve actually got very little to say at this juncture — this is a new experience.

Oh yes…   …soap-box time.

Without getting all political on you, cherished reader, I’d just like to point out a sinister side-effect of Americanisation.  We don’t have this in Britain right now but we might soon — after all, we didn’t have Sunday trading or car-jacking until not very long ago.  The point is the open warfare that most natives refer to as ‘TV advertising’.  Whereas in Britain, firms are not allowed to say things like: “Fly British Airways because Virgin is shite and Richard Branson is a tosser”, this is standard practice over here.  Granted, Richard Branson is not the Nobel award winner for being an OK bloke but when this type of message is dumped into the houses of a nation, the underlying message is one of a twisted sense of morals.  It isn’t really cricket.  In principle, the idea of slagging off your bitterest rival is the commonest of common sense but when you get the ‘bickering’ effect of AT&T appearing, saying “MCI is crap, they don’t really save you money”, immediately followed by MCI saying “AT&T is useless and they charge more than they should”, it all gets a little shambolic.  I’m all for free enterprise but negative advertising is depressing to the intelligent viewer, not just because of the infantile method of reaching the masses.  The really depressing thing is the masses actually lap all this up; i.e. it is their lack of intelligence that dictates the parameters of the marketing battle — if everyone was intelligent enough to see through the pantomime, then AT&T and MCI aren’t stupid enough not to change tack.  No, America is (has been and always will be) market-led and it is the ignorance of the public in general (i.e. the marketplace) that is to blame.  That is ultimately what is so depressing about it all.  After all, it is not merely the cable & wireless companies; everyone is at it: Coke v Pepsi, all the car manufacturers are after each other.  All the insurance firms are in there — everyone.  Where it gets absolutely ridiculous is during election time, when believe it or not, even the political parties get involved!

Sheesh, sometimes this place is so unbelievably over-the-top, I just laugh, be glad I’m British and try to imagine John Major and John Smith**** appearing on adverts saying nasty things about each other…   …Oh no, Party Political Broadcasts!  What are we turning into?

At least it’s not:  “That John Smith, he’s so stupid, he’s fat, he’s bald, he wears glasses, er…   …he’s Scottish” etc. etc.

Except in John Major’s case, it may give him a little credibility!

Anyway, enough of these musings.  Beware, Britain.  Beware of the demon negative advertising, for it will try to encompass us all!!!

<<That was Paul’s soap-box for the day.  Tomorrow at the same time, he will investigate the disturbing plight of misogyny amongst the tree-dwelling Indians of the Venezuelan Amazon.>>*****

I don’t think I did so badly for someone who didn’t have much to say, did I?

PS JCB = Jalapeño Cheeseburger.  Jalapeño = VERY****** hot Mexican chilli.

* …@utexas.edu

** Yes, you read that correctly.  Charles Manson, convicted multiple murderer had a song, ‘Look At Your Game, Girl’ covered by Guns ‘N Roses as an unlisted bonus track on their 1993 punk covers album ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’.  I was browsing in Tower Records on Guadeloupe St. (more commonly known as “The Drag”) and found it.  I had to buy it and still have the CD.  Occasionally one of the tracks on it pops up when my iDevices are set to ‘Shuffle’.

*** Wow!  Playing a CD in the CD tray of a computer while working on another task on the same computer!  Imagine that!!

**** John Smith MP.  Remember him?  He died less than two months after I wrote this, creating a vacuum in the Labour leadership – which would be filled by an up-and-coming politician by the name of Tony Blair.

***** To be clear, this was the most random thing I could come up with, in the name of satire.  It’s not really a thing.  Or at least I’m not aware that it is. 

****** See earlier post for relevance of this post-script.  Not that hot, relatively speaking – as I’ve since learned…

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 3

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

Sunday 20th March 1994,  11:39 (CST)

PAUL’S FLOOR, AUSTIN, TX

Well, early to bed, early to rise makes Paul a dull boy!  No question of that particular accusation applying.  Yesterday, we did what most people go abroad specifically to do: we swam and sunbathed, played pool rugby, hung out next to a river, ate inordinate amounts of various fast food and sat outside until the early hours, watching the world go by.  I’m sure there’s one missing there…   …I don’t think we did anything else, though.

Well, apart from the fast food reliance, this *is* European too.  Granted the scenery is not up to Italian Alp/Dolomite standard but since when did they have 24-hour supermarkets, eh?  No, I won’t open up that old debate but I will say the two sides did seem fairly well reconciled here last night.  Dan* brought his (American) girlfriend to see us last night (the English one doesn’t know about her yet).  She was born in Greenwich Village in Noo Yawk.

I really wish I’d rang Dad on Friday night — not only because (whoops) I woke him up but also because if I’d rang him yesterday, he would have told me the scores.  Well, I won’t be making *that* mistake again.  We found the channel on the TV that shows English football (remember Keystone**: United v Spurs).  Yesterday was Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle United.  I knew I was at home for this match and confidently told Rice et al it was 1-1, Cole for Newcastle, Andy Preece sent off, and I can’t remember who scored for Sheff Wed.  Well, Rice was predictably jubilant (again!) when Andy Cole’s goal went in; Paul muttering something obscene and magpie-oriented in the corner***.  Then the final whistle went and he (Paul) looked painfully at him as if I’d denied him the pleasure of seeing Wednesday equalise.  All I could say was “That’s why I couldn’t remember who scored!”.  I was right about the rest, though.

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I’ve cultivated the beginnings of a rather nice tan in one day, which I’m afraid means cream and T-shirts for a couple of days and hopefully, I’ll look like Grandad after a month in California by next week.  To all the detractors reading this, I’d just like to say a quick ‘I’M NOT BURNING’, so there.

Although this is a Sunday, it will not, I know, carry the atmosphere of a Sunday because Sundays are not allowed in the States, at least not Sundays like I or Luke know them (side-swipe)****.  There will probably be a doubling of evangelical TV programmes and that’s all.  Can’t hear any lawnmowers, though.  Sorry, Luke, it had to be said!

* Paul & Rice’s room-mate.

** Keystone was the place we stayed in when we were skiing in Colorado, two months earlier.

*** Rice is a Newcastle fan, Paul is a Sunderland fan.  In football terms, the two are sworn enemies.

**** I think this stems from a late-night, drink-fuelled ‘debate’ Luke, Matt and I had in our student house in Lancaster about the pros and cons of the American lifestyle (freedom from restriction) versus the European model (where some areas had by-laws that could force residents to cut their lawn each Sunday). 

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 2

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

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Saturday 19th March 1994,  08:39 (CST)

PAUL’S FLOOR, AUSTIN, TX

Firstly, this isn’t the important announcement I was going to make*.  Would you believe it, my pen exploded shortly after I wrote that.  In fact it wasn’t really yay important anyway; I’d just taken a photo of the Mississippi/Missouri and was thinking how it must have dried up because it seemed to be but a trickle in a really wide river bed, but no.  The ‘really wide river bed’ is where the flood** happened.  Anyway, it doesn’t require any more about that story.

I arrived at Austin Airport, picked up my case (which came out early, for a change) and just walked out.  Austin is not an international airport so there’s no passport control and certainly no deluded customs officials who think everyone nipped over to Holland for some contraband before they left for America.  Anyway, Paul & Rice were stood outside and after the customary greetings, everything instantly became normal — only it was in 85° heat.  Well, 98° was a bit ridiculous.  Bloody exaggerating Americans!!

I dropped my stuff off at Chris’s — the guy with the ‘phone.  He’s actually really cool — he’s got an acoustic and a bass.  His mate’s got an Epiphone telecaster.  Yeah, so we walked to this ‘English Pub’ place for a — I’ve forgotten what Paul called them, the initials I definitely remember — JCB and why do I remember that?  Because it’s a chilli burger and JCB is about right, ‘cause it’s that powerful!

I picked up my bags from Chris’s place and we bussed it to Paul’s (shit, my jeans are still at Chris’s — they were the first things to go in this heat!).  As we approached 1333 Arena Drive, it was sort of how I imagined it, except the apartment complex is on the right hand side, yet I’d somehow imagined the left.  Actually, ‘complex’ is a good word.  It must be the size of, say, Fylde residence rooms*** — much bigger than I’d expected.  Anyway, as we approached, there was a police car stopped, but with lights flashing and two cops talking to two guys.  Paul said “Oh crap, there’s not been another shooting, has there?”, at which point, I nearly did (crap).

The apartment, I can tell you, has charms beyond the capability of a camera lens.  Of course, I probably will take some photographs**** but I think people should read this first — to be warned, as it were.  It’s very modern, both in the fact that the building is new and that there’s no furniture.  The living room consists of a TV set and what I would call a viewing area — i.e. the rest is just floor.  Paul, Rice and Dan all have mattresses  now — I don’t but hey!  Who cares?  I’m writing this in ‘bed’ — lying on a cotton sheet on the floor.  It’s a good job I brought this pillow!

Just a couple more things of interest: when it came to the gift-giving, Rice looked like a seven year-old on Christmas morning and because it was from (lickle, ickle) Lyndsey, he had the inevitable inane grin from the rest of the evening.  Paul was a little less overt — well, he’s like that, isn’t he?  You know on the Pink Panther when you can see what he’s thinking in a bubble above his head, well when he got his salad cream and curry powder, I could just envisage salad cream and curry powder sandwiches over his head…   …don’t ask me why.

Also (and I kick myself for not staying awake throughout) was a new episode of ‘Beavis and Butt-head’(!!) where Beavis gets bitten by a dog and pretends to have rabies.  Yes, I slipped in and out of consciousness and didn’t last much longer than 10:30 — but I had been up 22 1/2 hours by then!

Anyway, it’s apparently going to get pretty warm so I’m afraid, girls, I shall be forced into getting a sun-tan!  Ha ha ha ha ha!

Oh yes, Paul & Rice found Luke quite amusing when I told them about Vicky — I wonder what happened on Thursday night.  I’m praying that Matt emailed the night’s events through.*****

Well, gotta get up!

PS Sorry for waking you up, Dad.

* See final entry of ~Pt.1.  There are lots of back references so it’s probable best to read all the entries in sequence.

** The ‘Great Flood of 1993‘.

*** A reference to part of the campus at Lancaster.  According to Wikipedia, there are 16 blocks of student accommodation within Fylde College.

**** I’m sure I did take photographs on this trip but I can’t remember seeing any of them developed – another sign of the time!

***** I have no memory of this at all.

Diaries Of A Texan Traveller – pt. 1

A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994.  Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry.  2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.

Synopsis:

I call this account “a video diary in non-video form” because ‘diary’ sounds…   …well a little drab and soft really, doesn’t it?

I aim to make the reader feel part of every entry.  I hope to match the style of Michael Palin or Clive James* but I’m not sure how that will go.  I aim to include the unexpected aspects of visiting America, to educate, evaluate, criticise, elucidate, inform, encourage and probably mislead your perception of real life in this nation look upon as some sort of elevated monolith of the world community, when basically its peoples are the same as us with ambitions, fears, traumas and ‘Roseanne’…   …just like we are!

I also aim to stop writing like I’m at University – this is my holiday for God’s sake!!

Finally and most importantly, I would like to share my most fundamental motivation with you.  As Garth Algar** once said: “I just hope you didn’t think it sucked”

I think there’s a lesson there for us all…

Enjoy.

PB

* They both were, and still are, amongst my greatest influences of travelogue writing.

** sidekick to Wayne Campbell in ‘Wayne’s World’, 1992 film.

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Friday 18th March 1994,  16:49 (GMT)

MID-ATLANTIC – ACTUALLY, MORE LIKE SOMEWHERE OVER CANADA

Took off from Manchester this morning with no problems.  As always*, I had the filet mignon for lunch; an American Airlines speciality I must say.  The film (‘The Addams Family Values’) has just finished.  This means I have successfully endured the first 6½ hours without turning to this diary to keep me occupied – I thought I would have written reams and reams by now!  Well, there’s always the Austin flight (in addition to the 1½ more hours here!)

The reason I have not yet got bored is partly because of the bloke I met.  An artist from Huddersfield** no less!  More later – snack time!

* Stretching credulity a little!  Two months previously, I’d flown to Denver, via Chicago, also with American Airlines for a skiing holiday.  I’d had the filet mignon on that flight as well.

** Another friend from University (Matt) is from Huddersfield.

—————————————————————————————————

Friday 18th March 1994,  17:40 (GMT)

PROBABLY STILL OVER CANADA

The Immigration and Customs forms have just been filled in.  Still just over an hour to go.  Everything looks white down below but as I do not have a window seat, I can’t confirm what’s happening right now.  The newspaper says ‘unseasonably cold’ for Chicago.  Oh well!

Austin is supposed to be 29°C – Chicago’s probably going to be 29°F!!  Anyway this bloke (Andrew) lives about 3 miles from Highburton*.  He’s into skiing and has watched Manchester United for over 20 years — now is it obvious why I haven’t started ‘The Liar’** yet?!  He’s going to Toronto to sell his paintings and we had an interesting chat about marketing art — you learn something every day!

* Matt’s family lived in the Highburton area of Huddersfield at the time.

** Semi-autobiographical novel by Stephen Fry.

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Friday 18th March 1994,  13:46 (CENTRAL; GMT-6)

CHICAGO O’HARE AIRPORT (T3)

I don’t fly to Austin for another hour yet so there’s plenty of time to hang out and take in the scenery — again!

Yes I’m once again sat in the little café in Terminal 3.  Everything is the same (Michael Jordan is everywhere!) — except it’s not snowing.  Little things spark off my memory like those bending iron columns — what were the initials again?  Must remember to ask Martin!*  Well, yes, they’re still here, not surprisingly!

It was a weight off my mind to ring Chris (whoever he is!)** who confirmed that Rice and Paul will be at the airport in 3½ hours’ time.  I think Dad was pleased I rang — from the very same ‘phone booth from which he rang Grandma only 8 weeks ago!  Not that he was to know that, but it sort of seemed right.

Blasé as I appeared before I left (well I probably was blasé), I’m not now; I can’t really comprehend that I was sat in that very yellow plastic chair 2 months ago (unless they swapped them around for some reason) — but the effect is just the same anyway!

OK: an in-joke for anyone who has been to an American airport before:  “Mr Bloggs; Mr Joe Bloggs.  Please contact the information desk.” — it really is the little things, isn’t it?!!

[Somebody’s just sat in my chair — the yellow plastic one!]

I wonder why that Customs official was convinced I’d been to the Netherlands***.  I don’t look like Jan****, do I?

Actually, I didn’t handle that very well.  We both knew it was kidology but instead of being British and saying “I’m sorry but I’m afraid there’s some mistake here”, I overdid the staunch defence bit and sort of whined “but I havennn’t been there!!!”  Oh well, better luck next time — there probably will be a next time.

At least I didn’t bleep here.  In Manchester, I couldn’t believe being bleeped a second time!  10 years of air travel… (sigh)

Oh I think I found some Pepsi in my regular cup of ice cubes! — oh no, it’s just a trick of the light.

5 past 8 now at home…   …I wonder what happened on Coronation Street…   …Shit!  What time did I ring?  25 past I think…   …well that was a close one!  I know I’m in Chicago and all but CORONATION STREET!  Sorry Mum!*****

* My brother Martin and I had discussed the RSJs visible from the departure gate area (for some reason) during my previous visit, two months earlier.

** Another British overseas student at the University of Texas who had become friends with Paul & Rice,  Crucially (and a sign of the time), he was the only person among their circle who had access to a telephone.

*** Looking very bedraggled and student-like as I did, it’s no surprise that I was spotted by a US Customs official who came over to ask me if I’d “brought anything in from Amsterdam”.  I took him literally because I couldn’t believe that he would need to speak in euphemisms, even though it was perfectly clear what he meant.

**** Another friend from University, Jan came from Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire but had a Dutch mother.

***** My Mum was a regular ‘Coronation Street’ viewer then.  She isn’t now.

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Friday 18th March 1994,  15:03 (CST)

CLIMBING OUT OF CHICAGO

As I see the last, faint cloud-obscured features of Illinois disappear, my mind turns to filling the time on this 2hr 20min flight.  It hardly seems worth starting ‘The Liar’ now.  There’s certainly no opportunity for conversation as there’s no-one next to me — but I got a window seat!

I realised that, unlike many of the passengers, admittedly American and ‘frequent flyers’; who were perhaps nervy about the take-off, I was hugely relieved, probably because I know Paul and Rice are waiting for me and that after a 9hr flight, this little ‘hop’ is a mere formality.  OK, so I’m blasé again!

Sometimes though, I sort of catch myself off-guard and have to remind myself that I’m now in the USA all alone (for the time being) and despite the facade of casual ‘shit happens’ acceptance, sometimes it is all a little unreal.

I heard a Texan in front of me chatting to an Illinoian (?)*, saying that they wouldn’t need warm clothes as it’s (I’m sure he said) 98°!!  So that’s what “damn hot” means!

The captain just said there’s some “bumpy air” on the way, although it’s pretty clear right now.

What can I see?  Well, a large, (very) straight road, probably an Interstate and just lots of fields, like the plains of Eastern Colorado — no circular fields here, though!

There is a grid of roads at right angles separating the fields and tiny houses are dotted randomly about.  In the distance, I can see a small town where two roads cross.  It just looks like a gigantic patchwork blanket!

Well we are in the Midwest here.  Agricultural heartland of the US.  There’s absolutely no variation for as far as I can see (probably about 40 miles) and it’s completely flat.

Whoahh!  A large town *quick look at the map*.  Could be Springfield, Illinois — I dunno!

8:25 at home; I wonder what’s happening at home.  More to the point, I wonder what’s happening in Lancaster.  Hmmm… Paul & Rice will be told.  Oh yes, Paul & Rice *will* be told**.

This clock-watching is a bad idea.  I’ll have to do something or this flight will seem the same as the other one — which for a 9-hour flight, wasn’t that bad, but for a 2½?!

Wait!  Captain announced we’re going over St. Louis.  I can’t see it but I can see a river.  Mississippi or Missouri, I don’t know.

<<Important announcement coming up!>>  (hereafter referred to as !*!)

* Actually, it’s an “Illinoisan”, according to statesymbolsusa.org.

** I have no idea what this was specifically a reference to, although it’s worded in a ‘Wayne’s World’ style.  I think it had something to do with a rumoured sexual encounter of one of my house-mates.

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