Sometimes you don't realize how proud you really are to be American until you leave America again. Living in California, I often feel like an outsider. After all, I don't know how to skateboard to work and it's hard to find shampoo in the drugstores. It's difficult there, whatwith all the people speaking a strange dialect of Mexican and Uptalk, to really get a handle on one's American identity.
That was why I felt strangely at home amongst some of my students yesterday, while sitting in a restaurant in Covent Garden. We are here for three weeks doing walking tours of historical literary-spots. Greg, a former Marine who is completing college after serving in Iraq, ordered the "American Supreme Pizza" and a Budweiser. I knew then that I'd found a kindred spirit. "I'm offended that the 'American Supreme' pizza has pepperoni and onions on it," he said with no further explanation. A student named Robert, unlike me, understood what Greg meant. He leaned over to him reassuringly and explained, "It's called that because in Italy, pizza just has tomatoes and cheese. In the US we do things all zany!" He gesticulated with some jazz-hands to clarify. "You know, with pepperoni and crazy stuff in it!"
"I feel so out of my comfort zone here," Greg confessed as we ate and drank as dinner wore on. "Last year I went on a trip to Disneyland for a week. Every day was planned out. It was so much fun." Robert took a photograph of his own dish: Fish 'n Chips (which had no chips as far as I could tell). I asked him how it tasted. "Adequate," he said. It looked soggy. I'm so glad he captured an image of that dish on film. He also took pictures of some trees he liked, some buildings he liked, and of an accident we witnessed where a taxi driver hit a biker. Robert is clearly an American who knows how to travel properly!
We completed our evening's adventure by taking a photograph of Robert standing in a London phone-booth pretending to dial up the Ministry of Magic. The photo-session became funnier when we realized that there were "tarty" sex-phone ads posted above the phone itself.
I am sure that Robert, Greg, and the other students I was with (one of whom was carrying around her Harry Potter notebook she bought especially for this trip) will make me, you, and all of our fellow Americans proud as they examine the mother country this month.