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Rob Jenkinson's Letters from America #2
by Rob Jenkinson
Issue 16
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Well summer is finally here in the Midwest USA. It took a couple of false starts, but we’re finally here.

A few things have surprised me about the American summer. First, it’s hot. Not just a bit hot, it’s really, really hot and humid.

Secondly, there are mosquitoes everywhere. I’m sure that as you live in Finland that this doesn’t seem like such a big deal, well for an Englishman, it is. I liken it to this: For the mosquitoes around here, it’s like they’ve been feeding on stale bread for years and years and then pizza comes along. I am the pizza and they’re hungry.

Last but not least, in America, Summer = Parades. I seriously thought that I’d seen all the weirdness that America had to offer me. I tell you, my friends, I was wrong.

The first parade came on Memorial Day, a day to remember all the veterans who have served in America’s numerous wars. So off we went to the local Main Street and waited. More and more people turned up, more prepared than me, with their portable seats and sun parasols and set themselves up. We then waited some more and the sides of the street slowly packed up with people.

Now, in the UK, we don’t really celebrate anything. We’re very moody and cynical people and any effort in doing anything community based is usually left down to the Christians. So I was very surprised at the fact that everyone had turned up to watch this spectacle (as I was beginning to believe it must be, surely it must be something fantastic for all these people to turn up). Just as I was beginning to get hot and pissed off, I heard some drumming coming from down the other end of the street.

Slowly, the parade approached where I was. Then it arrived and kept coming and coming and coming. Now, there were some decent things to look at, like Miss Lake Villa and the runner-ups, but that was about it. Mainly it was just a load of companies advertising themselves.

Sounds odd? Well, they happen practically every other week for apparently no reason at all. I just don’t get it.

To be fair, the 4th of July parade was a bit more. There were bands playing on floats, people showing off old cars and a company who sell lawnmowers did a musical version of 'Brokeback Mountain' with lawn mowers and sheep. Seriously. I’m not joking.

So what’ve I learnt from all this? Americans are over worked and bored. So if they want to break the boredom by walking down a street, then that’s fair enough.

Anyway, before I go, I promised you an anecdote about seeing real street crime. This was one of the scariest moments I’ve had in the USA… so far. I’d driven down the airport to drop the Missus off and had just set off home. The domestic airport in Chicago is in a decidedly dodgy area called “Cicero”, you may know the name from the musical Chicago. Anyway, I’d just got back on the main road and then this people carrier came shooting past me, almost hit the person in front of me, got into a spin and then hit the kerb and flipped over. A couple of seconds later a teenager came crawling out of the window and started running towards my car. I immediately slammed on the brakes and locked all doors, this would have been scary enough in the UK, but here there’s always that chance of getting your face blown off.

Luckily, scary youth decided to turn around and run the other way and then another car pulled up and scary youth jumped in the window and they sped off. It was like watching an episode of 'Police, Camera, Action' right before your very eyes. Ace stuff. If not a little scary.

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Hank W.2006-09-13 21:52:44
Oi, you should go to Lewes for Guy Fawkes Day.

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