An American in New York (…Me)

First, the bombings in Boston on Patriot’s Day prompted a surge of nostalgia and bonhomie among me and about a dozen fellow Boston University graduates. All of us sharing the same basic sentiment: that was a great time we had, and a great city we had it in. So we agreed upon a reunion of some sort next year – realizing, in the process, that September 2014 will be a full decade on from when we all first met. How did that happen?!

Second, I got a phone call at work from our graphic designer, Jennifer, who helps us out remotely from California. For the most part, Jennifer works with two of us – and the both of us are called Jon (the other one adds a superfluous ‘h’ to his name, but let’s not split hairs). When I said “Hi, it’s Jon” – this one time at least – she didn’t realize it was me. Because of how I pronounced those three simple syllables, she thought I was John… the American one out of the two of us.

Both of which (among much else besides) forces me to conclude that, more and more, my past truly is a foreign country. Since that extraordinary year when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1918, I’ve near-as-dammit lived continuously in America – and England, home for the first 22 years of my life, gets a little fuzzier every time I think of it. (As if, somehow, to emphasize the point, I type these words while passing the Phillies ballpark on an Acela train bound for Washington, D.C., on my way to a work-related training.)

Flag of Saint George

I talk and email regularly with many people back in Blighty. I read the Guardian online, watch almost every Arsenal game on TV, and listen to BBC6 Music and a load of British podcasts (Frank Skinner on Absolute, Desert Island Discs, Kermode and Mayo, The Danny Baker Show, and so on and so on.) But still all the familiar sights and sounds of ‘home’ seem increasingly indistinct.

And whenever I’m back in town on holiday (or should that be vacation), and each time a little more so than the time before, I can’t fully escape the sense that I know what’s going on, but not as much as I used to. It’s weird. I changed and it changed, and we didn’t do it together.

For instance, wasn’t there some sort of ad campaign featuring meerkats? I think so, but what was the product and how did the whole thing seemingly slip into the cultural mainstream? Likewise, someone singing opera for something called Go Compare? Compare what, though? Insurance rates, I’m guessing… but I couldn’t say for sure. In any case, was Go Compare funny, or annoying, or simply ubiquitous? No clue: just some blurry bits of it filtered through to my unwitting subconscious.

What else is a big deal these days? Quiz shows Egg Heads and Pointless, I think – but I’d be hard-pressed to say anything else about them (someone in one of these has a brother in Suede).

Does everyone still go to Nandos a lot? (I’ve never had the pleasure.) Is UKIP slowly ruining everything, or will better sense prevail after all? (Ultra Konservative Idiot Pinheads, right?)

Or did people stop saying anything about Nando’s about three years ago? Urgh. I’m clearly flailing. (Ronnie won the snooker, at least. That much I do know….) Am I as English as I used to be, or no? Or am I, in fact, sort of, you know, American?

Jasper Johns American Flag

And to cap it all (I’m writing this last bit on the train back from D.C.), there was a woman from Bristol at the training. Just like an American would, I really loved the accent.

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About newjonnytransit

Same as ever, only better.
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5 Responses to An American in New York (…Me)

  1. Sister says:

    You are NOT American, never will be YOU ARE ENGLISH and proud bro xxxx

  2. Mum says:

    You should consider yourself very fortunate indeed not to remember much about ‘Go Compare’ A more irritating advert I can’t recall seeing. The latest has a ridiculous looking man with a stupidly long mustache, and I mute him as soon as he appears. Couldn’t tell you what he is advertising, which is normal for me – can’t abide advertisements, except for the convenience of visiting the loo! Funnily enough, I can recall adverts from way way back, and their products, so perhaps I am now falling into that category of ‘long term memory good’ recent stuff, memory poor.

    Shouldn’t be too concerned about feeling more American than English, I feel more East Anglian than a Surrey girl, and that’s after living 59 years in Surrey and only 6 in Suffolk.

    • Haha, yes I figured the Go Compare adverts were annoying, one way or another. That usually is true for most commercials, isn’t it? Maybe even the better ones…

      Not much love from Surrey, then? I don’t know: Carshalton and Croydon both have their charms… and Wallington too! Also impossible not to feel a warm, nostalgic glow when I picture the walk from Hazel’s gate to front door, for example. Same for Reigate Way, although obviously more of a bittersweet memory, that one. In any case, it’s great that you feel so at home in Suffolk. Of course, I can see why – I’m already looking forward to cold beer or two in your back garden this summer. x

  3. dad says:

    As I write this I am waiting for the FA Cup Final to begin and hope that Wigan will pull it off. Its David versus Goliath, a team struggling to stay in the Premier [ again! ] against one with obscene amounts of money to splash around and more talent than it needs but nothing to show for all its oodles of dosh. If you are interested in today’s game then you are still and Englishman, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still follow the Red Sox !
    I know you love football and that other game [ cricket ] and are a baseball buff too, but does the fact that I simply can’t stand cricket make me any less English or you more so because you like it AND football ?
    If your alter ego were the other side of the English Channel I would have serious reservations, but its not, its the other side of The Pond, so that’s okay, okay !
    Speaking of the other side of the channel, I am one of those Ultra Konservative Idiot Pinheads and proud of it.

    • I didn’t end up watching the whole FA Cup final… but I did the see the last few minutes. Well played Wigan! A shame they got relegated, but, then again, they can’t have too many complaints given how leaky there defence was all season.

      As for “that other game” – what can I say? You’re missing out! It’s still not too late though… back-to-back ashes series coming up over the next few months, so plenty of opportunities for you to make up for lost time and strap some figurative pads on. (And back on this side of the pond, the Red Sox are shaping up very nicely so far this year – after a few dire predictions a month or so ago.)

      On the UKIP front, I think I’ll bite my tongue this time round… Better just to say thanks for the comment! It’s great that my folks are still checking in on my blog every now and then… x

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