I will apologize upfront for the horrendous butcher job I’ve done on The Americanization of Emily in my attempt to be “cute.” Apologies also to the late great Paddy Chayefsky who penned the film. The phrase jumped into my head, originally as just The Re-Americanization of Michael, which does sound a lot more intelligent than the title finally chosen. I do have an inclination to be cutesy with my titles, something that readers of my paper do not, apparently, appreciate. Since I cannot break myself of this irritating habit, I’ll use it here instead.
Those of you who have stuck by me through thick and thin, pre heart attack and after same, my learning to deal with life as an ill health retired chap at the early age of 54 and my moving back to the country of my birth after a lifetime spent living as an honorary, and legal, Brit for over 31 years will be aware of all these “life changing events” already.
Since returning “home,” and yes that is a very subjective idea since home is where you live or hang your hat or insert cliche here; I’ve been acutely aware that I’m more of a foreigner than I ever imagined I would be. Silly things throw me. I’ll list a few examples down below, but before I do, I’ll start by mentioning an odd sort of “tic” that I’ve noticed. It has to do with speaking.
When I lived in the United Kingdom and while I worked as a prison officer, the lads I was in charge of would all say the same thing. “Gov? You sound fairly English until you get angry and then you sound very American.” Oddly, since I’ve been back the reverse seems to be true. Almost as American as apple pie until I get angry and then it’s all “effing and blinding” with topical terms such as “Sunshine” popping up in my speech.
I was also told during a meeting with other editors that I had an English accent. I had to laugh as I’d tried very strenuously to get my “Yankee” drawl back when my agent told me years ago that I needed to. It seems I didn’t do a very good job. Just an odd tic that I cannot for the life of me understand where it came from. Now on to the “issues.”
A lot of my problem seems to be that everything changed back here in the 31 years I’d been gone and some things have stayed the same. The money for instance. Ages ago, in England, they discarded the use of the pound note. It was turned into a heavy smallish coin by the mint and it became second nature to reach into your front pocket for a couple of coins for an item that cost £1.50.
In the USA, the dollar bill is still being used. Despite being here now for over three and a half months, I still reach automatically for my front pocket when I go to buy something for under two dollars. I should explain that my “paper” money usually resides in my wallet. Sightly irritating and sometimes embarrassing.
There are a myriad of other cultural things that serve to trip me up on a daily basis. The most recent, however, has to do with food. For the entire time I lived in England there were certain foods that I dearly missed. Most were particular dishes. Fried green tomatoes and fried okra was one such thing I droolingly dreamed about.
Now that I’ve moved back I cannot find anything I like to eat, apart from white powdered donuts, which I stuff greedily down my throat at every given opportunity, and beef jerky. Nearly everything else tastes odd or “off” or not as I remember. Each time I go shopping, I wander aimlessly up and down aisles not sure of what I’m looking for or where I’ll find it when I get there.
I managed to burn myself out on smoked chicken and swiss cheese sarnies (sandwiches) and I’ve just about done the same with pre-packaged salads. But not those, most likely very bad for you, powdered donuts boy. Un-uh, no way…excuse me for a moment while I nip downstairs to satisfy a craving…
On top of this money and food dilemma, I’ve found that I’m not used to the bloody heat! Certainly it is hot in Vegas. It is, after all, in the desert. However, it isn’t really even hot yet. The temperature has not passed 100 yet but I sweat, as Scully says in Drake’s Fortune, “Like a hooker in church.” If I were to come across me on the sidewalk sweating buckets, with my clothes sticking to my body like wet glue, I would not get too close for fear of catching whatever that poor sweaty chap has.
These are really only a small amount of things that I’m having to get re-used to. Or perhaps, to learn, I’m not sure which. Another funny thing since I”ve been here is the homesickness. I find myself missing “home” only to realize that I’m there! I think most of it has to do with habits that have been forcibly changed, different television, food, etc. It probably also has a lot to do with missing my daughter.
All the combined things that are going toward the re-Americanization of M, i.e. me, are sometimes a little overwhelming and leaving me feeling a bit out of sorts or slightly out of step with the modern “new” world I’ve returned to.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m having the time of my life, but I do feel more like an Englishman abroad than a homegrown “yank” returning home. If I’ve been talking to my daughter the night before, I even sound like an Englishman in Vegas. I have been studiously avoiding Robin Leach (who lives in Las Vegas) since my arrival, although I do follow him on Twitter.
I wouldn’t have mentioned the issues I’ve been having at all except that today, as I went food shopping yet again, I could not find one bloody thing to eat, with the exception of a bag of powdered donuts and a pre-packaged chef salad. After going to the till, I once again had that awkward experience of using the card machine which is so different from the ones in the U.K.
Home, there’s no place like it. Even when you don’t recognize it anymore.
Las Vegas, Nevada
May 13, 2014