Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 10.3

The final excerpt of 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 1st April 1994,  18:30 (CST) / Saturday 2nd April 1994,  00:30 (GMT)

OVER LAKE MICHIGAN AND CLIMBING

With a setting red sun on the left and what seems like an ocean on my right, we’re climbing out of Chicago, out of the USA and out of my Easter adventure.  The good news is:

I have a window seat

There is no-one next to me

Filet Mignon is still on the menu

The bad news:

‘Beethoven’s 2nd’ is the film.

Ah well, maybe I will sleep well.  As always, travelling eastwards, the dusk is short.  At a rate of climb, this is negated but at 26,000 feet, we only have 11,000 left to go.  We’re an hour ahead of schedule (07:50 ETA) and heading for Detroit.

sunset-above-the-clouds-from-an-airplane

The reason I said “seems like an ocean” is because Lake Michigan is huge, about twice the size of Wales*, by my reckoning and therefore, you can’t see the shores — I guess they don’t call them “Great Lakes” for nothing!  It’s practically dark outside now and hopefully, it may induce some sleep!

The flight time is approx. 6½ hours as opposed to 9 hours westbound.  That’s the Jetstream for you!

I see land again. We’ve crossed Michigan lake…  …into Michigan state (presumably).  I see lights below but we have absolutely no idea what town it is!  The sky behind us goes red, orange, yellow, green, blue; while in front, it’s a sort of murky navy blue.  It’s still very clear and, from the black floor, you can see lights arranged in that familiar criss-cross pattern Americans call towns and cities.

The colours behind fade as the navy blue consumes all.  And yet, looking along the plane (inside), there is illumination, a duty-free video, a hive of steward(/ess) activity and the occasional remark (or child’s shriek) of those adjacent.  Eventually, the sky will darken (inevitably), the ground will darken (in Canada) and even the cabin will darken as people decide they would like to be awake during their first day in England.

What have I learned in Austin?

Despite my insistences that the US is not to be viewed as a single entity, I think for the purposes of this observation, I should contradict myself.  Therefore, we have the UK and the USA.  In many ways, Austin is extremely similar to Lancaster.  Lancaster does not have a cityscape skyline, a ‘downtown’, an airport or any shopping malls.  The similarity lies in equivalent terms. Austin, like Lancaster, is an historic, provincial capital.  It is now a university town, partly dependent upon the adjacent campus for its wealth.  It is relatively of similar proportion (in relation to overall population) although Austin is slightly proportionately bigger.

So what?  If we see Austin and Lancaster as equivalents, microcosms of the United States and United Kingdom respectively, here’s the difference: the amazing things I’ve seen and written about — the stadium, the airport, the shopping malls, the trading and commerce therein.  The number and variation of food emporia, the transport systems and the television channel variation.  That is the distance between us and them.  I haven’t mentioned the weather because that’s not Lancaster’s fault, but it does make a helluva bonus!

America is a place where, if you have the money, you have the choice also.  Attempt to draw me into an argument about the ethics of wholesale commercialism if you may, but I warn you: it’s not nearly so linear as you think I mean.  Yes, there are people without.  Yes, it does not prohibit the creation of an underclass.  It is not, however, simply a case of more money = more fun.  While I concede that money increases the choice of fun, you can still exist in America on a moderate allowance.  The temptations to overspend may be greater (who is this addressed to?) but I can testify 2 weeks of US living for under £200 — and that’s a holiday.  Ask Paul or Rice how much you need to *live* in America.

The inherent advantage of the American Dream is not simply to earn more money.  The financial motivations act as a catalyst to self-improvement, the desire to ‘make it’.  If everyone believes this, life improves.  Even the postage stamp salesman knows that if he strives, he can sell more stamps.  By striving, he improves his standard of service.  If everyone’s service improves, so do expectations.  Then the stamp salesman must strive further.  Some dismiss this as greed or money-grabbing.  Does this negate the value of a country where motivation to please the customer is almost a religion?  I say no.  Yes, there are dangers in the plan; aren’t there dangers anywhere?  “Try telling that to the people who have to work Sundays”. you cry.  I agree.  No-one should be *made* to do what they don’t want to do.  Isn’t life about compromises, though?  Do these people consider that their inconveniences are a by-product of a system which offers greater potential for them than any other country on earth.

Do you realise the cost of living in the States is remarkably low?  Fast food, borne of competition and old-fashioned economics, much cheaper than at home — because it *has* to be.

I’m not trying to indoctrinate anti-Marxism onto the globe but remember this message the next time your meal is under-cooked or your train has been motionless for an hour.  Something has gone wrong because someone has let it go wrong…  …de-motivation.

I hope I’ve motivated you to understand why I never tire of the USA.

I’m sure your next question goes like this: “If you’re so bloody enamoured with the USA, why don’t you sod off there, then?”.  The answer is simple.  As Roy Walker puts it: “It’s good but it’s not right.”

The United States has achieved so much in its 200 years-plus of independence.  Without the constraints of tradition or nepotistic perpetuation, it has excelled on its own merit.  It has mineral wealth, room to spare and (if necessary) waste, a variety of climes and a massive resource of labour.  We have a lot to learn from America but it does not embody utopia.  We may not be able to match its impressive wealth of resources but what we can match and in many ways improve upon are much more important than mere commodities.  We need the attitude of success if we are to succeed; how many champion athletes just walk onto the track and simply run?  None.  They have the attitude for success.  We have the foundations for success: the best and most respected education system in the world, a history of innovation in science, technology and arts.  Yet all this from a small, seemingly inconsequential nation.  We have got something in the system right.  What we do not seem to have is the knowledge of what is right, what else needs to be right and the belief that it can be made right.  We tolerate ineptitude, we limit our ambition, we pretend to be the poorer cousins of the fold and we spread pessimism like a plague.  We can never compete with the acreage-related strongholds of leading agricultural produce worldwide.  We can use our advantages properly and have faith in our ability.  This sounds like an assertion seminar because we need one.  If this was a preach to the converted, the message would seem as regular as the Queen’s speech.  America has these advantages but they are not exclusive.  And the sooner we learn to appreciate this, the sooner we can stare them, as a nation eye-to-eye, instead of squarely in the navel.**

I’m sorry if this sounds like a combination of ‘Mein Kampf’ and the American constitution but a visit to America provides so much insight as to what we in Britain lack.  It is only through reflecting on the successes across the pond that we can be made to fulfil our own potential.  Just as denial of what we take for granted helps us appreciate it so does exposure to that which we choose to ignore in the pursuit of ‘fitting in’, which is fine as a day-to-day existence but limits the horizons to which you can aspire.  Travel, as they say, broadens the mind.  Does that go for travellers too?

POST-SCRIPT

03:25 (BST) <— Yes!

Yes, it’s completely black now (as promised).  The steak was divine, as was the caramel ice cream which followed.  I’m hoping that the Bailey’s that I’m now sipping will facilitate my quest for sleep.  It’s been a pleasure talking to you.  If you do feel preached to, there remains one final piece of advice: go to America.  See for yourself!!

In the meantime, here’s to being British and being in Britain.  Cheers!

Thank you; Goodnight.

PB (SOMEWHERE OVER CANADA)

* My reckoning was a little inaccurate: Wikipedia says Lake Michigan has a surface area of 22,404 sq mi and Wales covers an area of 8,023 sq mi.  Lake Michigan is therefore 2.79 times the size of Wales.  I’ve no idea why Wales is considered to be a standard unit of measurement for such purposes.

** Is any of this any less true in 2017 than it was in 1994?

 

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Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 10.2

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.

Friday 1st April 1994,  16:14 (CST)

TERMINAL 3, O’HARE AIRPORT, CHICAGO, IL

Flying into Chicago was equally as impressive as flying over Dallas.  Marginally cloudier, it was still easy to pick out O’Hare as we flew PAST it!  Why?  Because we had to approach from the east.  This meant flying over Chicago itself, five miles out over Lake Michigan, and turning around, thus presenting a near-perfect view of downtown Chicago.  Remember ‘FlightSim’?  Taking off from Meigs airport on the lake shore?  Past that tall , black building with its two antennae*?  I’ve just re-lived it — for real (except we didn’t take off from Meigs**) — but I did see it!

133259-fs4meigs

My flight is at 6:10 and there’s an aeroplane to Paris at my gate (K11) right now.  I’m still in Terminal 3 so no need to take the monorail today.

I’ve made the customary ‘phone call to ensure Dad gets to bed early — it’s 20 to midnight there, right now.

I met a bloke on the last flight from Cleveland, Ohio who was thinking about holidaying in England.  Naturally, I did my bit for the North West Tourist Board but I still had to tell him: “Manchester — it’s 200 miles north of London”.  GRRRR!!

He went to University in Columbus (Ohio, again) and we swapped student stories.  He asked me how well-travelled I was and I think I surprised him with the ensuing list — especially Moscow!!

Looking around this place, it’s scary.  As I’ve mentioned, this airport is unbelievably large but so is its volume of traffic.  For example, when we landed, we crossed (at an altitude of lower than 50 feet) another runway from which a plane, in the distance, was in the process of taking off!!  I’m surrounded by stationary ‘planes, there are more taxi-ing behind them and yet more swarming around, incoming and outgoing.  It really is like a bee-hive, with continuous, seemingly ad hoc arrival and departure.  I’d just rather not try and think about how difficult it is to co-ordinate a place like this!  And then there’s Heathrow, which although (or is it because) it is smaller, it is the busiest airport in the world.  Now, there’s a comforting thought, and that’s not even accounting for the IRA!!  God, I’m glad I’m flying into Manchester!

By the way, ‘Cowboys from Hell’ was sold out and just in case you think we deluded ourselves in assuming it was Pantera, Rice saw their drummer in Town Lake Foods — ordering nachos!!

“Nachos rule!!”

[I think I’ll check in now, as Paris has gone and the board now says “Flight 54 Manchester” — Yes!!!]

18:00 (CST)

ABOARD FLIGHT 54, STATIONARY

Sunset in Chicago.  We take off in 10 minutes.  It’s going to be a long flight (believe it or not).  I may sleep.  I’ll try to watch the film (which looks crap) but I am planning a finale to this, an all-consuming Palinesque summary of the US, warts and all, but to also attempt to quantify the expectations one should have if you are planning to visit.  I know I’m waffling a bit but I feel I should depart from Chicago first, before I depart on my journey into the life of a Texan traveller.

The sun has gone down now; only a red hue exists over Chicago — and the vapour trails of another plane as presumably, others are going home too.  The seat-belt sign is on, the (video) emergency performance is about to begin and we’re asked not to use electrical instruments until we are in flight.

Did I mention I got another window seat?  3 out of 4!

I’m also praying that no-one comes and sits next to me.  That vacant seat here would be very useful if I fancy a sleep.  We’ve had the “prepare for departure” notice; I think I’m sleeping on a padded surface again!  Yes!!

There goes the door — it’s official — we’re moving!

Time to conclude *this* entry.  A handful of boiled sweets and a peep out of the window are on the agenda now.

See you later!

* The John Hancock Center.

** Meigs Airfield was a single-strip airfield on a man-made peninsula in Lake Michigan, just south of Chicago.  It closed in 2003 and the land is now used as parkland.

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 10.1

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.

Friday 1st April 1994,  13:53 (CST)

37,000 FEET, JUST NORTH OF DALLAS, TX

This is (if you hadn’t already guessed) the flight to Chicago.  As I mentioned, we’ve just flown directly above Dallas, Texas.  Virtually cloudless, you could see downtown Dallas, Texas Stadium and DFW Airport right in a straight line together.  In fact, you can again because I took a photograph of it.  Hope it comes out*.

DFW Area Aerial

Last night, we went to Double Dave’s again.  In a bout of wanton decadence, I bought us two huge pizzas – unlimited toppings.  We all but demolished them, leaving enough only for breakfast this morning.  Ahhh, wake up and smell the pizza!

We got a lift to the airport from Frampton in his bright blue GMC truck, with as much power in the stereo as presumably there is to be found under its considerable hood…   …bonnet! (I’m nearly in England now)

Anyway, I glimpsed my last of Texas, and now I’m looking forward to the aforementioned list which in its entirety is only to be found in bonny England.

* I don’t recall ever developing any of the pictures I took on this trip (I must have done, but can’t remember). but this image from Google Earth (1993 satellite imagery) is an accurate representation of the view I have described.

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 9

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.

Thursday 31st March 1994,  12:56 (CST)

DIGESTING A TUNA CURRY*, AUSTIN, TX

Well, what happened since the last time I wrote?

Tuesday: woke up and met Paul on campus at 4:00 in the Longhorns souvenir shop.  I’d (thankfully) got some money and already bought some souvenirs.  We went and sat in the Memorial Stadium to watch the Longhorns (American Football team) in spring practice.  Then we went to Dishwasher, sorry, Disch-Falk Field to watch the Longhorns (funnily enough) play San Antonio Roadrunners at baseball.  Anyway, the Longhorns (!) won 9-6 and we got some groovy photos.

Crown and Anchor Austin

Wednesday: awoke to find Paul and Rice were still asleep (as usual).  Eventually, they got up and we went to campus, as always.  We then went to the Crown & Anchor**, followed by a few bars to take in the stereotypical bar-life of Austin.  Imagine the bar in any Burt Reynolds film, the bar out of ‘Terminator 2’, the bar off the Carlsberg ad: (“You English”?***), blur them all together and there you have it; a stereotypical American bar.  After five pints of assorted American beers, we’d had as much gas as we could take and came back.  I’ve just rung home and ‘Beavis & Butt-head’ is on soon.  There’s talk of us going to watch Pantera tomorrow****, which would be pretty good as a final fling for the vacation.

The main thing, though, is to make sure we front up for the All-You-Can-Eat at Pizza Hut tomorrow.

Still, seeing as I’m returning home soon, I should really be thinking of the things that I’m missing, then I’ll look forward more to going home (theoretically).  So, here’s a brief list, just to give you an idea:  Fish & chips, brown sauce, Old Peculiar, ‘Coronation Street’, right-hand drive cars, ‘Match of the Day’, a real bed, MY GUITAR, my dog, correct spellings and grammar, any mention of cricket, people who don’t say “Ohreally”, adverts that don’t suck, my guitar, Old Peculiar, the weather (only kidding) and that good old Englishness that is there when you wake up in the morning, that you can breathe, and surrounds all that there is to behold and appreciate — no, not the cold, the indescribable entity, the ‘je ne sais qui’ (English version), the feeling that you only recognise when it isn’t there.

* Cheap student meal: 1x tin of tuna, 1x tin of tomato soup and curry powder to taste (lots)

** Great to see the Crown & Anchor is still there and still serving the JCB, looking just as I remember it, from the look of it on Google Street View (Sept 2016)

*** A quick Google search suggests this was the advert I was probably referring to, featuring Angus Deayton.  The ball stopping on the pool table does seem like the kind of point I was trying to make.  As I remember, it was largely a student hang-out so the comparison would have been a little unfair.

**** It didn’t happen, sadly.

Diaries of a Texan Traveller – pt. 8

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.

Tuesday 29th March 1994,  13:12 (CST)

WATCHING MTV (AGAIN!)

Well, what a whirlwind of activity and excitement today was…   …not exactly!  I had a totally lazy day here today, checking up on a few things such as flight times, how much money I have left and ‘America’s Most Wanted’ top 10 (MTV again).  I wouldn’t have minded a little sunbathing quality time but unfortunately, the weather wasn’t up to it — sunny but a mere 65°!  What is this place coming to ?!?  Anyway, the old forecast says it’s going to warm up more during the week, so there’s still time to make it look like I sunbathed non-stop!

Last night, Paul and I went onto campus for a kick about with the football.  More or less as soon as we ran onto the field, four other lads asked us did we want a match.  Paul had played them before and before you knew it, we were away.  I had originally assumed that they were Americans and was looking forward to skinning them but Paul told me that one of them was from Argentina, which made me think twice.  Obviously, I needn’t have worried, they weren’t outstandingly good, but good enough for us to have an enjoyable match.

Today I got my first real “gee you have a really cute accent — are you English?”.  This is a much stronger form of accent recognition, more than the generic “Are you from England?”, especially in this case where the woman in question asked me to say her name — presumably so she could hear it pronounced properly!  Unfortunately, she was an assistant in ‘Jack in the Box’, a burger bar.  Oh well…

meh-ro2594

Yess!!  Beavis & Butt-head!!  Cool!

[There may follow a slight distortion in the logical thread of the narration as I watch this…..]

…Sod this, I’m going go to bed!

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!

p-emos-austin-tx-usa-nightlife-live-music-live-music-1526051_54_990x660_201406011101

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.

finaljenny

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.

14767409950_56b297ffd0_o
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. 4

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.

Tuesday 22nd March 1994,  11:15 (CST)

LYING ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF THE TV, AUSTIN, TX

I didn’t have time to write yesterday because I was up early and went on campus with Rice.  I went to Physics lectures , walked around campus, went with Rice to check his email (nothing from Matt!!).  In the afternoon, I decided to have a look at this stadium of the University’s.  It was no secret that Texas University has a 75,000 seater stadium; I’d seen it on Paul’s prospectus last year.  I’d also heard about it at Christmas from Paul & Rice.  I’d seen it from the plane when we came in to land and it wasn’t exactly anonymous by the time I’d got to campus.  It’s about 5 minutes’ walk from the Physics building (where I’d left Rice to enjoy his fourth lecture).  The main stand is absolutely enormous, towering above campus along with such structures as the main admin building and only one or two others (one’s called ‘Dobie’ and is their equivalent of Bowland Tower, said Rice).  Anyway, I walked up 10 of the 11 levels of the *bottom* part of the main stand and couldn’t get any farther.  Undaunted, I walked around the other side of the stadium and got in.  I sat on the back row, facing the main stand, exactly on the 50-yard line.  The twist is this: the main stand is so huge, it gives a 75,000 capacity…   …and yet it is only 3-sided!  I sat there in awe for about 20 minutes, trying to take in a stadium the size of Wembley, built exclusively for the use of students!

 

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The West Stand of the Texas Memorial Stadium (now the Darrell K Royal Stadium) dominates the skyline around the University.  In 1994, the stadium had three sides and a capacity of over 75,000.  Today, the capacity is over 100,000.  Photo: Daniel Drier

No matter how often you visit America and think you’re prepared for any excess it can throw at you, you’re never quite immune.  I’ve now seen Cape Canaveral, the World Trade Center, Denver’s doomed Stapleton Airport* and DisneyWorld.  Surely I am beyond such schoolboy wide-eyedness.  I am the last person to be shocked by the American capacity to get something so ridiculously right, and yet, even through all my experiences and knowledge of the American Way, when it’s there in front of you (or if you’re sat in it), its compulsion to amaze is irresistible and the inevitable symptom is that annoying British trait of staring like tramps at the feast; a combination of the innate comparison with home and the knowledge that, try as we might, there can be no way we in Britain will equal this.

Anyway, I’m not going to write any more on that stadium — so it’s impressive but just because I’m British, doesn’t mean I have to look like a dumbstruck tourist!

We went to watch ‘Wayne’s World 2’ again last night but there was an unfortunate side-effect: I wanted my guitar by the end of it and I also realised I left my amp in Lancaster…   …oh well, writing about it isn’t going to bring it all here!

I’m starving now.

[having eaten, later]

Paul & Rice have gone only campus — I decided to stay here because I’ve got a few things to do.

It’s 1:15, 7:15 at home — I’ll ring today.

I’ve just been flicking round the channels: MTV, Prime English Soccer, the evangelical channels and of course, not forgetting the, shall we say, liberated attitude to advertising.  Anyway, I’ll resist the draw of the soap-box for another time…   …but it would suffice to neatly contrast the phenomenal ability of this country to impress with its attitude to exhibit, against its phenomenally sad unimpressive class of inhabitant.

* At a time when arguments and protests about a second runway at Manchester Airport had raged on for years, Denver, having outgrown its own airport, Stapleton International, simply demolished it and built a whole new airport (Denver International Airport) on an entirely different site.

 

 

 

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.

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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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