I would get down on my knees and lick America today. I don’t usually think of myself as super patriotic (and licking the tarmac at SAN probably isn’t the greatest way to express patriotism anyway), but today I am jonesing. I have the shakes and would kick a puppy* if it would mean I could inject a cool, soothing shot of a 4th of July parade or a corn dog or an infomercial for battery operated adult diapers.
Not forever, I’m not saying I’m giving up or want to leave the Viking. But I am done in, exhausted by the unrelenting Swedishness of Sweden, and would eat my own hand if it meant I could step off and breathe in the familiar and easy, just for a moment.
It started yesterday when a bunch of guys came to rent kayaks, and almost as soon as they opened their mouths I knew they were from my town. Not because of their accents, unlike Europeans who insist they can tell what street a person grew up on by how they talk, unless somebody has an extreme accent if they’re from Brooklyn or Tennessee or Minnesota, I’m the first to admit that we all sound pretty close to the same. Okay, I admit one of them was wearing a Chargers jersey, but I swear I didn’t even see him to begin with; it was their manner, their smiles, the way they talked, I just knew and a craving to go home hit me so hard it was like an electric shock.
Like I said, I’m not especially patriotic, I’ve never believed there is anything inherently special about where you happen to be born – which isn’t the same as not thinking that America is a concept is amazing and impressive, it’s more that I don’t believe I deserve any credit for it. Not least because, if I take personal pride in the Declaration and Constitution, then surely I have to take responsibility for slavery and Drone strikes… and I ‘aint touching those 😉 Being abroad, being identified as “the American” has made me think a little more about what my nationality means to my personal identity, but I don’t think I’ll be tearfully pledging allegiance every morning any time soon.
Further, other than affection for it because it’s where my Grandma was, and “is”, I don’t feel a strong sense of my hometown either, so it’s not so much that these dudes were magically kindred spirits or anything, it was more the unexpected jolt of familiar that shook me.
So then I did something kind of ridiculous. A few weeks ago, the Viking and I went for a walk into the city center of Stockholm, and along the way passed a TGI Fridays. I could think of about a thousand other eateries I’d chose for a taste of home before TGI Fridays, but it was either there or McDonalds, so I managed to re-trace our steps, with the pretty ridiculous notion that a milkshake and chicken strips or something would be a little bit of methadone.
To be fair, the decor wasn’t a million miles from how I remember TGI Fridays – not that I’ve been to one in maybe 20 years – but there was something so self conscious about Swedes wearing visors and smiles, and being all, “hi I’ll be your server today!” that right away I knew it wasn’t going to work. All the same, I ordered nachos and sat back on the authentically sticky vinyl booth, marveling over the realization that it’s been almost three months since I last had nachos.
It has still been almost three months since I last had nachos. What I was served (and charged around $17 for) could charitably be called chips and dip. Charitably. It didn’t even come with sour cream! The whole POINT of nachos is sour cream! Well, that and spicy salsa in order to require the sour cream: the “salsa” was basically ketchup with aspirations. No jalapenos, no guacamole, the cheese some kind of weird cheese flavored dip (WTF?!). I could feel myself actually starting to get angry, then checked myself and started to giggle. I’m in Sweden, I should have known better.
USA! USA! 😉
*I would never kick a puppy