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A house in Napa.
January 26th, 2000

Hopelessly Americanized
Wednesday: This is one of those evenings when it is best not to write.

Thursday: I don't know that I'm in any better condition to write an entry, but I scanned the banner photograph last night (so it's done and sitting there even as I write), the day has been a good relatively high energy day, the weather here you don't want to hear about since your weather (with the exception of the antipodeans and Los Angelenos) is probably much as it is being described in other journals. Supposed to rain this week. No rain, lots of sun, temperature during the day in the 50's, high of 61. I know, I know, but the traffic is terrible, rents are astronomical and there are some other things I don't even want to think about, so I give self a little pep talk here, but I judiciously stop before self (or anyone else) throws up.

The President is speaking behind me. The State of the Union, an annual event in the great American mix master universe of politics. My impression has always been that these events are only of interest to a small number of political mutants within the United States itself. People with a large appetite for sucrose and petroleum jelly. Now I'm less certain.

Today's paper has a small story taken from The Guardian in the back of its first section titled "Britain not so British anymore" quoting a fellow named A. H. Halsey who evidently knows about such things (I, personally, depend on the advice of Carpe Diem and Mr. Grinder in these matters). "Regarded as a founding father of comprehensive education and now emeritus fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, Halsey said in an interview that Britain was becoming "hopelessly Americanized" in everything from the decline of the high street to fixation with the individual and the free market. 'There's a lot to be said for the way we have changed, but being like everybody else is just a bit dreary,' he said."

As an American, of course, I've watched the homogenization process up close over about the same Fellow techie. period Halsey is talking about, from 1950 onward, although I wouldn't give myself any gold stars as an observer. I can remember a particularly gleeful drive up Highway 101 late one afternoon toward Tiburon with Susan, searching out a rumored new Mcdonald's. What can I say? I'm old. We did shit like that. We hadn't figured out the homogenization part yet. The corner grocery is now the same named corner grocery on every damned street in every damned town and every damned city in the nation (as is the corner pharmacy, hardware store, convenience store, pizza parlor, sandwich, coffee and video shop) and one does not have to endure surprises in one's coissants or lattes, one's choice of beers or boutiques and certainly not in one's hamburgers, although one does not anymore admit to eating hamburgers.

I, for one, have greatly improved my blood pressure through a reduction of surprises associated with shopping expeditions in non franchised clothing boutiques and the elimination of gastric unpleasantness generated in the not quite heated well enough cooking pots of mom and pop chili parlors. I have a FUBU shirt and although it's only recently I've known what that stands for (I was rather hoping for something less wholesome), I understand Levi's are passe and carry three Nikons and a laptop computer in the left leg of my Old Navy cargo pants. These are undoubtedly advances.

Still, if this homogenization process is occasionally depressing to us here in America (My father designed many of the shopping centers of the 50's, 60's and 70's, but I was out of school and long gone by the time American teenagers had started living in them.), how much more must it be for a European to find himself or herself rolled up in this hot and wet and humid American cultural blanket? I dunno. Culture to me is rock and roll, Coca Cola, HTML and Microsoft. As I get older I'm cutting down on Coca Cola. As I get older I talk about cutting down on Coca Cola. I have no regrets about the drastic changes in my American existence: the advent of autofocus, properly roasted coffee beans and the transformation of canned Chung King Chop Suey into hot wok cooking.

So, my original thought, this State of the Union message. (It's over now and Steven Hawking is talking about dark matter, but not of the spirit.) Dull stuff floating on the ever flowing political river (Clinton, not Hawking). Perhaps others outside our borders in the throes of Americanization may now have to watch these speeches to anticipate the next wave of political effluvium. Ideas of what may well come sooner than later. Grinder has mentioned Mr. Blair on more than one occasion, so he knows what they do with petroleum jelly. Sucrose has universal and historical coinage. Cargo pants? Does Europe dress in cargo pants? The thought of French chicky babes in cargo pants in depressing. Le Big Mac we already know about. The man who made that movie is a cultural icon in France (and, what the fuck, here).

I don't know if I like my analogy. Politics and cargo pants don't really mix, now, do they? At least at the superficial level. (Bullworth, Prop? You remember the movie?) Or perhaps only at the superficial level. What cultural constructs come out of politics? Working 24 by 7 to achieve the American Dream in London seems, um, a bit excessive, don't you think? But then again, I've never been there, and my one good British friend from long ago didn't discuss the subject.

I'm wandering again, aren't I? Steven Hawking has given way to a British detective program (that's right, another chapter of Touching Evil) and I'm getting tired. These cargo pants I'm wearing are heavy, what with the Nikons and the laptop in the pant leg, and these distractions eventually bleach and fizz away my words into the white of the paper itself.... (I know, I know.)

The photograph was taken in Napa two weeks ago. The photograph of a fellow techie was taken (where else) at lunch sometime in December.