“But a Stranger in a strange land, he is no one. Men know him not, and to know not is to care for.” (Bram Stoker, Dracula)
With apologies to Mr. Stoker, I have to disagree. I have been a stranger in a strange land all week, all alone, and multiple people have taken the time to talk or joke with me. Even in the bustle of London, there are friendly folks happy to get to know you. Last night I chatted with an Italian waiter who confessed to me that he has never like gnocchi. “I feel like I’m supposed to like it, but I just don’t” he explained. I told him that I am from Texas and am in danger of having my state citizenship revoked over my hatred for guacamole. “Oh,” he said, “isn’t guacamole supposed to be very nice?” “Yes,” I agreed, “and I wish I liked it, but I hate avocados.” He said I don’t sound like I’m from Texas. I busted out my West Texas accent, learned in my youth during summers in Lubbock, and he was satisfied. Then I told him the accents get thicker the further you go from the populated Dallas-San Antonio-Austin triangle. I didn’t know what to tell him about the cowboy and immigrant multi-cultural sauna that is Houston.
Our conversation drifted to the inevitable “How long will you be in Britain?” I told him of my visa woes and he expressed faith that it would all work out fine. My Welsh innkeeper held the same opinion. Is lack of faith in government, in systems, in life – is that an American thing? Surely, somewhere, there are other cultures who go through life with the fatalistic belief that if a government (any government) is involved, things will not go according to plan. Why do people here seem to sure? Is it because the trains run on time and trash gets picked up and they get their medicine for 6 pounds? Is it a belief shared across the European continent full of countries who feel that as long as we’re not at war, we’re doing pretty well? I must learn this Euro-zen method. Where can I buy it?
I’ll be in Texas in 24 hours with very mixed feelings. Tonight while watching Mastermind on BBC (the best quiz show ever if you’re a bookish nerd) I learned that the word “nostalgia” is derived of two Greek words meaning “homecoming” and “pain” respectively. That just about sums it up. A chance to see family and friends? Wonderful homecoming. Leaving my dreams up in the air? Pain. I think it’s time for a little Bob Dylan.
Song of the Day: Like a Rolling Stone