a wandering woman writes

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Mirror view

I got a nice mirror view of a Spaniard wandering through the Western US, today, thanks to Alex who sent me the link to Mestre Tites in my comments box. If you can read Spanish, it's thoroughly entertaining and really well written.

A few highlights:

He goes clothes shopping at Macy's in San Francisco, where he is overjoyed by the abundance of parking at the shopping mall, and discovers that he is a size "small" in the US, where European visitors are made small "just by contrast."

Later he tries to find public transportation in LA, center of the I Am What I Drive culture. (I can say that, I lived there. And I had a really nice car.

Taking public in LA is an appropriately quixotic quest for a Spaniard wandering through Southern California, I think.

I cringed as he watched Maury Povitch (now that's embarrassing) and visited Las Vegas, deciding, as he found himself both attracted to and turned off by the Vegas fake perfect world (Venice with clean canals, he asks?), that millions of Americans spend the best weekend of their lives there. Maybe, maybe, ok you're right, but millions don't, I have to add, millions don't!

He eats at Denny's. And seems to like it!! A very down to earth visitor, this Spaniard. He hears Latinos talk about him in Spanish, thinking he's "American" and doesn't understand. (Careful, there, mestre, most of the Latinos I know think of themselves as American, too -- just American and Latino.) And he predicts that Spanish will some day be an official language in the US. Here I hope he's wrong. The US has no official language, despite some current right-wing efforts to give English the official nod before Spanish gets too deeply entrenched. I hope we'll never have an official language, and I hope that more fervently every day as I read the Spanish papers and visit language-divided Belgium and see Europeans use languages as weapons. That's one vice I happily haven't seen in the US yet, aside from the current English-Only campaign which I don't think has much popular support. In the bakeries of Fox Point in RI or Fall River in Massachusetts, close to where I grew up, the official language is Portuguese. And in the delicatessens in neighboring Federal Hill it's Italian. You'll hear nothing but Spanish in some Chicago neighborhoods now, but you'll still hear just as much Chinese in Chinatown and Polish, well, everywhere. And I like it that way.

My favorite of his US entries is Como en las Peliculas - Just Like in the Movies. At the risk of making this a really long post, here's a bit of it:

When you arrive in the States for the first time, the phrase that most comes to mind is "just like in the movies". We have so been nursed on the culture of this country that everything is familiar to us.......What strikes you as strange is not seeing a single murder! But everything is familiar - even the police when you see them patrolling on the highways.

In one of those cafeterias (diners)...Pulp Fiction or American Grafitti pops into your mind. You go shopping at Walmart and look for the rifle and gun section, to make yourself believe that they really can buy guns at the superstore. You sleep in a hotel (in fact, you look for the chance to sleep in one) and you are secretly disappointed that the police don't bust through the door and throw you to the floor looking for some delinquent....

Hysterical. I remember a similar feeling when I spent weeks looking forward to my first train trip home from grad school. I had never travelled by train but I had spent most of my waking childhood hours reading Agathie Christie novels. What a disappointment. Not a drop of blood or arsenic, very few people and an extremely rude porter.

His movies entry reminded me of one of my first nights out here in Salamanca, when I saw a Woody Allen movie (Melinda and Melinda) with 3 or 4 couples, all Spanish. I spent the entire pincho crawl after the movie fielding questions. No, all Americans do not hate Woody Allen movies, (only those that spend the best weekend of their lives in Vegas :-)) and no, not all Americans live in luxury trilevel Manhatten lofts, see a shrink twice a week, or take taxicabs everywhere they go.

I'm hoping in the end that mestre will come to the same conclusion that I did after my murderless train trip. You can't recapture fiction. There's always something they didn't tell you.

I also hope he heads back to the US soon - and samples a few more states.

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  • Well thank you for so long comments!
    I appreciate your mirrow views as well, and I hope to come back to the States soon, too.

    By Blogger Mestre, at 9:07 AM  

  • My pleasure, I loved reading your posts, Mestre!

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:14 PM  

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