PAUSE. I'm not fond of the American way of ripping off other cultures to make a buck.
It didn't bother me until one day I was at a food fair, when
I saw a familiar Union Jack above one of the stalls with signs saying
'Real British Fish and Chips'. Now don't get me wrong, I'm the first person
to say that British home-cooking does deserve the 'it-sucks' reputation it has,
but fish and chips from a proper chippy (near the seaside pref), is something well
worth trying. Even in culinary Japan I craved for the occasional battered
sausage with cod occasionally. So, when I saw the stall I was eager to taste
some of the good old Brit food I'd missed, fat chips, soft almost to the point
of melting in your mouth, with vinegar, ketchup..oh yeah. But I was dissapointed,
all I got was a plate full of skanky old potatoes cut into weird shapes that
looked like they were just fried up in a pan. They weren't even good potatoes, being
totally unedible and I managed about three of them before I binned the lot.
Normally I'm not much of a confrontational guy, but this disgrace just plain pissed
me off, I went to the owner and I was like:
"This doesn't taste anything like the food in the UK? You can't sell this stuff, saying it's British food, come on.."
But all it resulted in was a shrugging "I don't give a f*ck, welcome to America, Jack" kind of look, that made me shake my head in anger. Oh well, the intelligent won't assume, it's the 'real' thing.so..
Sorry, back to working at Kyoto Palace.
Even getting there was fun. There was this one nutter who would usually catch the same bus as me to work everyday. I believe he was what the Americans would affectionately refer to as 'white trash'. Anyway, Yanks like the Aussies have this friendly habit of chatting to each-other whenever they're in social situations like waiting in a qeue, ordering a drink, sitting next to each-other on a bus or whatever. It's nice, but there was this one guy on the bus every day that just wouldn't shut his damn yap no matter how ackward the situation, or how much it irritated the rest of the people on the bus. He'd talk through the whole journey, and if there was no-one to talk to, his philosophy was 'Hey, why not just talk to myself!'..I dunno if the guy was just brain-dead or what, but I had to hold my hand over my mouth to stop myself laughing when he was chatting at the top of his voice to nothing but his own self.
"Yep, just coming up to the traffic lights now. Yep, going green, go-o-ing green, going green!, off we go...just driving past 7-11 now..yep..gotta pick up some pretzels from there later, wonder if Mrs.Gonzalez has got her dog fixed by now?..jeest a little further to go now...nearly there..yep, just a little further..little more..goin past the 7 leven..goin past the 7 leven.."
Waitering at Kyoto Palace was probably one of the most fun jobs I'd had,
and even though the manager was a dork, I got on well with most of the Yanks
and Mexicans I was working with. Jesus were those Yanks fake though, giving extra large
smiles to get good tips, then saying all the nasty shit they could think of about
their last customers as soon as they'd left the restaurant. I actually met people who were like
the spoilt brats from Beverly Hills 90210. You think there aren't people out there like that? let me tell you,
there was one little princess working there who was a babe until she opened her mouth, cos the things she said
were so unbelievably back-stabbing I just couldn't fathom that people like her existed in this world. And there was a time when
I saw this incredibly beautiful Korean girl come in with a bunch of American Koreans who were obviously well-to-do, and
once one of the waitresses clocked on that I had the hots for the girl, she went over and told her, much to my embaressment. The American Koreans
told me to come over, and so I did, and even though the situation was too ackward I tried to chat up the Korean girl, who, in my mind, actually seemed
pretty keen and interested. But the American Koreans just wouldn't have it:
"So you're like..Just a waiter?"
"Er..yeah..anyway, so.." (talking to the girl I was interested in) "yeah I've been to Korea, it was a great place"
(other girl interrupting again)
"So you're single? and just a waiter"
"You're gonna stay single then right?"
I just stared at the girl for a moment, and hurt must've been showing in my face. I walked away. All that night I was thinking, these fucking, fucking Americans can kiss my ass, why'd I even come here in the first place?..
The only *real* dude was a guy called Brad who worked behind the bar.
He was one of the few Americans I'd met who seemingly actually had a brain
and had feelings and depth. The shite the other ones talked about though -- money, girls, cars, money, girls,
cars, hey don't you think America's No.1 in the world right? money, girls, cars,
Too bad you weren't born American? right?. Christ give me strength.
I mean, I like a beautiful babe around my arm as much as the next man,
but (to contrast what you people think about me) I can appreciate a woman
who likes to chat and has her own opinions, not just some dolly bird.
These guys just didn't even give a shit if the girl couldn't spell her own name as
long as going out with her made them popular with the rest of the football
team or whatever. Everything was about being popular. The louder
the better, the more money the better, faster car the better. It was hard
not to get a head-ache just listening to the Yanks at Kyoto Palace chat
with each-other for half an hour, with their pointless babble. I remember
one dude I met was even like "Hey man, you're not American? You're
from England?? Oh wow, so what language do you guys speak over there then?"..I
just walked away man, just walked away..
The most embarassing thing about Kyoto Palace was that when it was a customers birthday, you had to bring them a cake and actually *sing* Happy Birthday to them. When they told me about that in the job description I was like 'No bloody way!! I'm British you know?!!'..Jesus Christ, would the Fonz put up with that shit?? nope! Neither would I, so I got some of the other waiters to do it for me when it was my turn. It made me wonder though, I mean, in England or the rest of Europe you'd absolutely cringe if someone sang you Happy Birthday in a room full of strangers, but in the States they love it...More to do with that 'wanting to be special' thing I guess. What's up with that?
Californians also have their own slang. See if you can understand this;
"That guy is off the hook, when be smoking dank he be talking about them hoochie-mummas with some hella bad words, totally. Yo, he got game."
They used to love it when I started talking in Cali slang with my Brit accent, heheh.
Talking to the Yanks I served was good fun, well, I mean, us Brits don't really care much for foreigners (other Brits, not myself), but the Americans were always fairly interested in getting to know a little bit about where you came from, and what you were doing in the States. I had a good time.
At weekends I'd go to a place called The Culture Club downtown. Man, the place was brimming with babes, even the bar-girl was hot. After drinking myself stupid, I went to smoke a fag and sat down still in awe of the amount of good-looking women in the same room. Some Indian guy must've seen the grin on my face, as he started talking to me:
"Hey man! what are you smiling at??" He said with a large smile on his own face.
"Ahhh, just, this place man, the babes, the BABES!!" I drunkenly replied more than a little enthusiastically.
We started chatting for awhile, trading stories about how we'd ended up in the States, and how we liked it. Khalid was working in a local software company, and was raking in nearly $50 dollars an hour, so I didn't refuse when he offered to get me a drink. I knew I shouldn't have another one as the room was already spinning, but hey, I'm a whino anyhow..After killing the Long Island, we started talking for half an hour about California and how much we loved it, before I slipped out an ever so slightly negative comment;
"Yeah, effin' love it here, but whats up with all the gold-diggers in Cali eh?"
He smiled and looked like he was just about to answer my question when suddenly a guy who'd obviously been in earshot turned around to me and said; "Hey man, if you don't like it here, then you can go the f*ck home!!"
"No man, you haven't been listening, the dude was just saying how much he loved the place before.." (Khalid raised his eyebrows as if to say 'Get your ass out of here man!')
"I JUST HEARD THIS LIMEY MOTHERF*CKER PUTTIN' DOWN OUR WOMEN!!"
Although the guy looked like he could've been a stage-extra for Arnold Schwarzenegger, I reckoned I could take him on (yes, I was that sloshed) and replied brashly;
"Well it's bloody true isn't it?? right asshole??"
Khalid gave me a look that shocked me into the reality of what I was getting into. I noticed that the guy was a true steroid head, he probably had a penis bigger than the combined muscles on my arms. He gritted his teeth and changed his face into what a zoologist studying humans would note was the classic 'Just about to kick the f*ck out of the enemy' contortion. Did I stay and fight? Does John Wayne Bobbitt work in a meat-chopping factory??..yeah option b) thanks. I got the hell out of there - the next Friday I was seriously panicked that I'd meet that dude, but thankfully it was not to be.
Of course, I tried to meet girls in clubs, but I dunno, it was true, it's like all the ones I talked to just seemed to be gold-diggers. Even the accent and the looks didn't work. When I was truly drunk I tried lines like "Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?", "Sorry I've got amnesia, er, do I come here often?"..but alas all to no avail. It was always "So Kris, what car you driving? No car..You earning any good money in here in California? Flat broke..Parents got any money? ..oh, your parents are pretty broke too..ooh hey theres my friend!! see ya!!".. Whoah for an asshole with no cash in sunny California. Some dude suggested that I just bullshit the women there, but I don't like to lie just to get laid, it goes against my upbringing. So, in my full two and a half months in the USA, I didn't have even one shag...sad..sad..sad. I know, it's enough to make you cry. But American chicks don't do it much for me anyway, with that grating accent.
It was the advent of having a Japanese room-mate move in to the Mexican household that made me revise prior thoughts I'd had about hanging around and studying in the USA. I knew a Hong Kong lady at work that had originally suggested the idea of sticking around in the States and I thought, why not? being a foreigner in any country's better than being back in England (Before I came to Oxford that was, which is a good place to be) Anyway, I'd been down to San Jose state and from a financial stand-point, it had looked as though possibly I could've supported myself through school. But after talking with Junpei the Japanese guy, I felt nostalgic, it was like the first time I'd met an guy with two brain cells to rub together in two months, and I realised I just had to go back to the UK, and eventually back to Japan. I did meet a lot of nice, pleasant, and hugely intelligent Americans, for sure. Just reading the Young Dudes forum is proof they're out there. The guy I lived with in San Jose especially impressed me, he was a diamond of a guy, and as smart as they come. But let's just say ratio of genius to dip-shit in the States seems a lot narrower than in Europe or Japan.
I visited San Francisco around 5 times during my stay in California. My first impressions were fairly good, it wasn't such a bland place as San Jose, but was a pain in the arse to walk around in due to the steep hills you need to walk up to access certain parts of the city. The China-town in SF was the biggest I've seen, but I wasn't impressed with San Frans Japan Town, or the Japanese Gardens on the edge of the city that everyone had told me was supposed to be great.
The atmosphere of San Francisco is a lot more relaxed than faster paced places like New York during the day, but seems even more dangerous than NY at night-time, where the place seems to be crawling with gangs, and the homeless. In fact, it's bloody easy to become homeless in SF when you realise the cost of accomdation there. They seem to have a serious problem with rent control, as it's even more expensive to live in SF than on the East Coast, with the average rent soaring at around $900 minimum a month. That means that even the average person needs to flat-share with someone else - usually a complete stranger. Bugger that. I've heard that SF is AAA central, and it seems like a fairly accurate description. There are so many Asian women there it's hard to believe. They start to lose their attraction once you realise that a heavy percentage of them are actually natives though, born in America, and about as feminine as Mr.T.
Since SF is basically a city surrounded by a large bay, the weather is pretty temperamental and often chilly, though that doesn't seem to stop the hordes of locals and tourists filling up the pavement. People from SF seem alot more chilled out than people from other parts of California. You can definately feel a kind of laid back atmosphere, almost comparable to that of Amsterdam, with lots of mixed race and homosexual couples milling about. There's also a heeeell of a lot of employment in SF and also the rest of the Silicon Valley area - it's definately a good place to make some heavy cash as long as you've got some buddy's couch to crash on whilst you save up the massive amount of green it takes to get started in SF. There's quite a few weird and wonderfuls here, but for some reason everytime I meet people from SF they always trip me out. I used to live with a guy from SF in Japan, and all he used to talk about all day was tree-hugging hippy-shit like 'you're having a bad day because you're not concentrating your karma' or some other meaningless bollucks. I don't know, the hippies always come from SF, must be something in the weather. SF is a good city, I was fairly impressed. If I had to live in America, SF would be a good choice, but I'd probably rather be in NY, it's similar but on a larger scale.
The thing is, if I wasn't gonna live in Japan I'd probably rather go back to
the UK and live in London than go back to the States. Or if the States then New York
I guess. People seem to see Silicon Valley or even the States as *the* place to be,
that when they get there they'll suddenly find it's some kind of paradise,
where if you've got brains and ambition you can get rich quick. The getting rich easily part may be true, but
for standards of living there's just something missing in the USA that's hard
to put a finger on. I think that perhaps it's just that the USA lacks culture, or it has too many
cultures clashing at the same time. The place just seems to lack heart. Have any
of you other visitors of the USA ever felt that?? I don't hate the States,
but I never felt attached to the States like I do with Japan, or even the UK.
I never felt dissapointed that I was going home when I did from America.
I just felt a kind of disinterest when I was over there, like as though it
were only Ireland or Scotland or someplace near home. Before I went to
the US, I felt kind of pissed off when I heard Americans bragging and
boasting about how their country was superior to all others. But now I feel
nothing because I know it simply isn't true.
America's good for what it's famous for, movies, and cheeseburgers. Some Americans are very, very charismatic. But that alone is not gonna change the world. Immigrants who flock there instead of Europe believe all the 'streets paved with gold' bullshit that's fed to them through Hollywood and the media. Well, I just hope for some of them, they discovered a part of America that I didn't. Well, that's all there is to be said. Thats enough of America for me for one life-time.
Here's a dirty joke to cheer you up
Three guys go to a ski lodge, and there aren't enough rooms, so they all have to share the same bed. In the middle of the night, the guy on the right wakes up and says, "Oh shit I think I had a wet-dream last night thinking I'd had this wild, vivid dream of getting a hand job!" The guy on the left wakes up, and unbelievably, he's had the same dream, too. Then the guy in the middle wakes up and says, "That's funny, I dreamed I was skiing!"