Skip to content

Brown Eyed Handsome Man

It was about two years ago, in San Francisco, some time before my second exodus. I’d been holed up inside all day, bogged down in a typically cloistered mindset, and ventured out to a local watering hole for a late night drink. He was English, the guy next to me, and somewhere in his early thirties. And he was going on about George Bush (the more recent), and the despair he’d bred. “You don’t get it mate,” he told me, “no matter what your politics. I used to look at America as something different. It’s not some long lost story of immigrants passed. Not my parents or your parents, but me. I always dreamed of coming here, to this place that held such promise.”

He was right, I didn’t get it. Not his dissatisfaction with Bush, but the idea that this country –  one that, in historical perspective, only gained independence from his own yesterday – could somehow “get it right.” It’s gotten a lot right, to be sure. As cliched a story as it is, it still holds up. My great grandfather and his brother came here broke and speaking only Italian, and managed to open several successful photography studios in Nevada and California. My mother came here from Scotland and, together with my father, ran a business and attained a level of success only dreamed of by most in her home town. But the disillusionment and disproportionate expectation that outsiders place in America is both astonishing and inspiring to me. It seems to mean that, despite our much maligned reputation and status as an international bully, people still hold high hopes for this place.

I hate talking politics with most people. There’s a reason that these conversations breed such contention and division. No matter how reasonably they begin, this tone typically dissipates and evolves in to something different. Assumptions about hardship and privilege are made with alarming frequency, and by people who wouldn’t do so in any other context. On the rare occasion that emotions are held in check and allowances made for respect and the validity of opposing views, the results can be enlightening. Unfortunatley, this wouldn’t seem to be the way of the masses. And in this fact lies my confusion with outsiders who somehow figure that this country – this “great experiment” – would possess some fast track to answers that have eluded other groups since the dawn of man.

The result of this election marks a change in American history so profound that even the most jaded among us would be hard pressed to argue differently. This has nothing to do with where the country is going, whether this man was the better choice, or how the rest of the world will now perceive us. All of this is yet to be determined, and I don’t envy the guy his assignment. It’s still a cynical business and one that operates on power, influence and money, no matter who the candidate. This idea that “anyone can be president” is largely a technicality and nice idea. But in strictly superficial terms – and in this particular instance the word can’t be taken lightly – something significant has transpired here.

Perhaps my buddy from across the pond would see it as a step in the right direction, and I would hope he’d be right. My response to him that night was a rambling discourse touching on baseball, Chuck Berry, and the Lend-Lease Act. But it could have been summed up more eloquently with a fact that’s never changed for me. There’s nowhere else I’d rather live, and there never has been. Thankfully, Alec Baldwin can now join me in good conscience.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *