A love letter to America

Dear America,

It's been a long time, hasn't it?  There is so much to tell you.   We've both been through some interesting times,  and it feels right to tell you now, I still love you;  Your rivers run through my veins.

I never had the financial luxury to leave your shores in my formative years. The wide world seemed so impossibly far away and I resigned to never leaving. Things change and then they change again -and I now know to expect the absolutely unexpected.

In the time that I've been away I have seen the image of you darken, perhaps like never before.  It's a confusing time to be a human in general,  but as for us?  What occurs to me is that excepting some musicians and some very driven hillwalkers, the world at large is somewhat lacking the voices of regular folk who can't typically afford the flight over. It's clearly, in part, that most people are so informed by TV, they comprehend nothing else....and those few who have seen you in the flesh have visited places like Las Vegas, Florida or New York, New York.  I often have people tell me how much they dislike you and then come to find out they've only been to Orlando.  Even worse,  they judge you by the rare tourists that get to travel to Europe.  American tourists do provide a special brand of stomach churning. Did you know that rich American tourists talk a LOT, and loudly?  They also say random unintellectual things with some alarming regularity, and have no ability to read. It's a wonder their ancestors found you in the first place with map deciphering skills so lacking. It's pretty embarrassing. 

“The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad.” – Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

I know you though. You are vast, and your size is something folks here can't really wrap their brains around.  I love your chaos within chaos, your elephant cloud skies, your 300 mile drives to nowhere (as long as it's not to a gig), your fabulous gay pride parades and fancy cocktails.  I miss your the lightning storms on the desert, your snaky sagebrush, your jalepéno poppers, worn flannel shirts, neon-lit seedy bars and Pow-wows.  I miss mountains.  Oh do I miss your mountains of absolute majesty -and the National Parks system that preserves them for everybody.  I miss the pacific ocean, artful sushi, Organic farms, farmers markets and recycling programs that make sense. I miss more than I can actually tell you.  Sometimes my heart hurts, and sometimes I wake up and realize I will have to build my own extended family from sratch.

I've now not had the luxury to be able to return and see you in eight long years.  The world, in this time has found a comfortable place in my lap, out my loins, in my ear. It's kept me busy by scraping my teeth and itching my bones in unexpected ways.  Berlin, previous to Edinburgh was crash course in European history, it's inhabitants ranging from the Spanish Vagabond, to African Refugee, Turkish immigrant to the Pinocchio run-away-with-the-circus type that seems to hail from all corners.  Can you still remember what it's like to hear so many languages? It's  not so long ago you too had your doors open to the world and reaped the rewards therein. Like my familia! My great Nana's, both Sicilian, never learned to speak English.  They never had to, they had children, (AKA old-fashioned insurance). 

I can tell you from a life made in music that it's those that take time to listen first that learn first.  Please keep listening to the voices that call you home.  With every new tongue  -a new song to sing, a new food to taste, a new old way of doing a very common thing; living.  You take the blame, but it's not just you, it's the world that's caught in its own reflection.  We have all to some extent become Narscissus in the pool, forgetting our roots, fixing our face while losing our smile ....and a slower way of enjoying life.  

I know what I know, you know what you know. 
Let's take the long way,
cause the highway, is just an illusion
you think you're goin somewhere
You're goin nowhere,.. fast

It's not always been ideal to be American abroad.  There are certain assumptions about any group of people,.. and Americans definitely get labeled clueless if not stupid right out the gate. That, and that we have good teeth (which I do, but they are coincidentally all natural, -thanks Dad.)  Bush the II was still in office in 2007 when we made the plunge.  I have been often asked by bewildered Europeans at a party and on the street with their arms in the air, their furrowed brows questioning....  "How this could happen?!"  Jeez. What do I know? I don't know a single person that voted for that faux-Texan flagpin flaunting elite.  I feel ashamed because I take it as a compliment that most people think I'm from Canada.  I don't know whether to sigh or give them a 'her-story' lesson.  Did you know that Canada is a part of North America.  I guess that makes Canadians Americans to some extent.
You can go the same bar everywhere in the world and talk to the same people.  I have gone to secluded islands and talked to inhabitants more worldy and open-minded, never having stepped out their front door than those world travelers in major cities accross the globe.  It's as simple as this: Your sense of the macro-within-the-micro is in the palm of you hand,... and it's not your phone, it's you.

I guess that's why I'm writing you.  I have to tell you how beautiful you are, and what it seems you've got figured out.  There is so much folks don't know about the wonderful you.   You are me, and I am you, and I'm not going anywhere.  I'm slowly seeking freedom in the old world,.. which reminds me, things are tough all over - but life IS better with healthcare.

I'm from a lot of places which I feel gives me some insight on some of the better things about you in the broader sense. First and foremost  I'm from a gunsligin' red state,  Arizona. Flagstaff AZ, that's me.  I never saw or used a gun growing up, and I never had the inclination.  Most people I knew kept them for scaring animals.  'A mountain girl knows how to love', or so the song goes,  and there is no denying that lovely pure mountain air, water, trees, rocks and sky that I sometimes see when I close my eyes had something to do with my love of nature.  My mothers Viginia-rooted Irish family ended up there because the car broke down on an experimental trip west;  Route 66 in all it's romance.  The Santa Fe train tracks and Ponderosa pine as far as the eye can see.  At 14 I then moved to Portland OR, one of the best cities on the planet.  It's fair to say, I'd probably still live there if given the chance but I got a scholarship to a fancy-pants liberal arts college called Sarah Lawrence in 1997 and moved to New York,.. where, I put on the appropriate costume, boots and hat,  loved it for a time, but became overwhelmed by the massiveness of the east coast,..not to mention the class tension that really felt very in-your-face me. I thrived in ways and New York taught me a lot of things and made me appreciate the mellowness of the west.   I  happily soaked up the truly unique theater, music and dance that was offered to me and  New York, while I could never call it home, called me to it for a time and taught me limits. It showed me the bravery of generations.  In the end it revealed a near complete lack of wild nature, and therefore brought me back to the Pacific Northwest to the rain, ...the quiet, lovely settling mist, fog, drizzling rain, ferns and evergreen trees as tall as your neck can stretch to look up at. I needed to be around trees and less people.

"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."
Olympia Washington.  North of Portland and a similar vibe, but tiny.  It was for many years I nestled into your sound, the I-5 corridor a road to everywhere at arms length.  Mostly though, this is where I came to learn the ways of the organic farm, bluegrass circle, and Evergreen State mentality. The Olympic National Forest beckoned, and many a bog-party with questionable homemade blackberry wine.  I reflect now on how people from all over the country ended up in your soft pocket with dreams of a better way and made it happen.  Hippie-shit a-plenty to be sure, but a true haven for folks with some vision and know-how.  The annual procession of species was a highlight, and I was fond of the brand of madness that ran ramnpant there.

Over the years I traveled all over California, Oregon, washington, the Southwest states, Texas, even Oklahoma and my favorite, New Orleans where I once had a dear uncle who stayed there on Dumaine.  I was meant to move there, I fanatizised I would read palms and busk (what else?) -but that's a story for another day.  New Orleans has so captivated me for most of my adult life, it's dark magic complex and dangerous;  A bitter buttery cacao, with worthy stories underneath the paint peeled cobble .  I hope one day to go back and drench myself in it's songs and wet warmth.  Which brings me to the of the things you do best...

Music. Food. Fun.  In no particular order, and all together at once,.. well, if you insist.  And you do.  This music is timeless and unique, it smashes and swirls an array of histories jettisoned out from the mouths of freed slaves,  soldiers, housewives, hobos and murders.  Everyone with their song to sing, a place from which they came and you gave them a common ground.  Your competitive nature says 'Go hard or go home'.  I love you madly.  From here, I can taste your gumbo, your arugula, your Nappa valley wine, your expensive mocha cheescake, your home delivered box of heirloom veg, your free range quirk and wide open wonder because all of it is JAZZ.  My favorite. Yes you with your nerd wit, crass one-liners, off-the-grid Do-It-Your-DAMN-self Earthships, hand blown glass, your Wrangler cowboy jeans, and and Life's too short to not say-what-you-mean attitude,  ...you've taught me well.  I'm still yours.

I'll see you in September