Saturday, 14 August 2010

Going Native

I love my new job. Seriously. Well especially the bit about having to spend all this time in New York.

Life here is easy, you know? Just finished my grocery shopping and it's 8 o'clock at night and all the stores are open and they sell everything you could possibly desire or hanker after and then some. And people look happy, floating on a combination of contentment and a total absence of awareness of the outside world.

There's money here, lots of it. And a sense that if you work hard you'll succeed. No matter who you are or where you come from. There's a sense of expectation and of a greater purpose - we're all going somewhere on the great ship of life, and it's going to be great!

I find myself floating too, and smiling with a sense of relaxed detachment which is decidedly pleasant. But that could be the effect of the jet lag. I don't even seem to mind the prospect of having to work this Sunday. Do you think maybe they sprinkle prozac in the tap water in addition to the fluoride? Healthy happy teeth (oh dear... did I mention that my job involves working on a wellknown brand of toothpaste?) courtesy of the NY City Water Supply.

I don't know. But that's what happens to me every time I spend any length of time in the States (and I lived here for 7 years during my formative years). A kind of assimilation into the Borg of Capitalism.

In Europe, the sound of an American accent (usually from a whinning middle aged tourist complaining about things not being "like back home") can raise my hackles. Their politics appear simplistic if not downright bigoted. Their societal woes echo the final decades of the Roman Empire.

But hop off that plane, run the gauntlet of immigration, retrieve your luggage, brave the tedium of the queue (they say "line" here) for a cab (they say "taxi) into town, settle into your hotel room, unpack, take a shower, step out for a bite of dinner and presto! you're home. Except it's better than home. It's bigger, cheaper, with more options, and if you can't finish your meal, they'll give you a doggy bag.

I don't think it's universal. Two blocks from here I walked past a homeless woman who was crouching on the pavement. She seemed to be in opiate-induced semi coma. Her wordly possessions distributed into two of those stripey canvas bags. She held her hands out. Everyone ignored her. Not in an embarrassed I'd-rather-look-the-other-way fashion. No one seemed to see her. The invisibility of the dispossessed and the unlucky.

No wonder it's such a happy place. They can't see the monster within. Well, with the exception of Lady Gaga who embraces all monsters with gusto and generosity.

Me? All I know is that  - right now -  I'm feeling good.

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