Tomorrow is Thanksgiving – that means it’s just about time for my annual retreat to Old Europe. Going to Europe feels somehow more significant now, as I arrive with a resident’s visa and I have actually been looking for work there, though more with a sense of capitulation then of adventure. (Before you jump on me for abandoning ship, know that anything I decide to do regarding living in Europe also means being back in time to get residency in a swing state in 2008. At least, that’s the current plan).
Anyhow, as I gather the things I need to pack, I’ve been thinking about what I have to be thankful for that has an American flavor, about things that carry some essence of Americana. Globalization means that you can buy pretty much all the same stuff everywhere, especially if it’s just Europe you’re headed to, so I don’t think so much anymore about how I wish I could get, oh, I dunno, peanut butter. But there are other, sometimes ethereal, American things that I’m thankful for. So in addition to the usual “friends, family, and good health,” here’s a handful of American induced miscellanea for which I am grateful.
1. Al Gore’s World Wide Interweb. Oh my god, I honestly can’t imagine how we got by before the Internet. After all, it’s the web that connected me with you, the nonfamousi! The web keeps my long distance phone bills down when the husband and I are on opposite sides of the Atlantic – hooray for teleconferencing – and keeps me connected with all my friends when I’m snowbound in Austria.
2. Multiculturalism. I’ve got friends of all religions, plus, is there anywhere else in the world where you can have huevos rancheros for breakfast, cous cous for lunch, and pad thai for dinner?
3. Road Trips. I was driving around in my car the other day listening to dinosaur rock and Tom Petty was singing “She was – an American girl…” Then I started thinking about one of my favorite Bowie tracks ever, Young American. Then I started thinking about driving in places where you only get old rock and roll, country western, or Jesus on the radio. I’ve done lots of traveling, but there’s something about hearing “Stuck in Lodi Again” while you’re driving south from Blackfoot with the Rockies on your right….
4. Levis. Yeah, they’re not even made in the US anymore, but they always fit, they last forever, and maybe they go in and out of style, but they’re the most comfortable jeans on the market.
5. “I can do that.” American mentality is just busting with possibility. Europeans I know are always inventing these elaborate schemes around how they’ll get all these necessary people involved with the correct licenses and paperwork and then, they’ll skim off the top while others do the work, and they’ll be rich, rich I tellya! Americans just don’t seem to think that way. They want to start a business? They start a business. They’re not bogged down in credentials and systems. They have an inventiveness of spirit that you rarely encounter in Old Europe. Freelancers, contractors, the free agents you see at Victrola and 11 am on a weekday? Virtually unheard of in my other home.
Another surprising thing I found is that in spite of my heartbreak, it wasn’t that hard to come up with American things I’m thankful for. Yet another reason to be thankful on the holiday. Enjoy the holiday. And thanks.