Further Observations from the US of "god-damn it's hot" A.
What follows are some mostly random observations made over the course of the past week:
An entertaining table at my local (chain) bookshop piled high with “Dummies” books. Titles include:
Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies
U.S. History for Dummies
Menopause for Dummies
IBS for Dummies
Bipolar Disorder for Dummies (I’m not joking)
Foreclosure Self-Defense for Dummies
Depression for Dummies
Stress Management for Dummies
I think you can tell a lot about the state of a nation from its Dummies books…
It’s 40 degrees Centigrade (about 110 Fahrenheit) and the fast-food restaurants a) have patios OUTSIDE and b) have MISTERS on the patios OUTSIDE. There is something quintessentially American about having misters outside on the patio of a fast-food joint to cool off the people who aren’t sitting there, but who might, you know, feel like it. How no one seems to notice that all the water is evaporating before it reaches the tables is beyond me.
Petrol costs an average of $4.10 per gallon. Milk is going for about $3.50 per gallon. No one seems to mind that milk is so expensive, but they don’t seem to be able to have a conversation about anything other than how expensive it is to “fill up.” Discussing the outrageous cost of petrol has become the new national pastime. At least it isn’t whinging…
Despite the fact that petrol now costs a small fortune, four-wheel drive, gas guzzling vehicles still seem to be as popular as ever.
You can’t actually buy food in the supermarket any more. You can buy Cheez-its, Apple Jacks, frozen TV dinners, Coca-cola, Starbucks coffee, Twizzlers, Ramen Noodles, and oh yes, expensive milk. Fresh produce is by far the smallest section in most grocery stores. And the self-styled “European” grocery stores (don’t ask) sell produce bundled up, which is incredibly annoying. If you only want one courgette, it’s impossible to purchase – you have to buy a pre-wrapped package of at least ten of them.
In the interest of balance, let me mention the good things, because despite the above, saving graces abound:
- Phoenix sunsets are pretty unbelievable
- As are the monsoon storms
- National Public Radio – BBC Radio 4 ain’t got nothing on my beloved NPR
- Eliana's Authentic Salvadorian Cuisine, an El Salvadorian restaurant which provokes an aesthetically unappealing bout of Pavlovian slobbering
- Air conditioning
- Bookman’s Bookshop
On a completely different note, I read Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead last night. Absolutely cracking stuff: Beckett marries Shakespeare and then convinces Descartes to join in for a threesome. I’ve never seen a production of it, so if anyone comes across a staging, let me know. I was crushed to discover (thanks Max) that this is standard school reading, which means most likely everyone else has already read it, but hey, it feels like a new discovery to me, and thus it shall remain. Exciting stuff.