Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another Country

Strange the way I can feel a sense of duty when I go travelling – to keep busy and active, to visit all that there is to visit, see all there is to see. Am I living my life for myself or am I on stage being watched and judged by some audience? Is there no getting away, even outside work, from the examining eye of assessment, in this case an eye driven purely by the superego, by nothing conventionally official.

Possibly because of the enervating effects of a lingering, waning depression (I trust), my interest in summoning up a fervent commitment to be ‘engaged’ with the Bay has been less avid than it might have been. To an extent, this makes me feel guilty. But then I remind myself that I’ve already been to San Francisco twice (in 1992 and 2002), that I’m essentially here to visit friends (Patrick and Sasha) and to relax and drift with the clouds or with whatever it is that happens here, even if it's little.

Still, I haven’t been entirely inactive. Well, except on my first day when I was undermined by a jet lag that paralysed time and wheeled it backwards. Can a day really last that long?

Seeing Patrick was weird. We agreed that in each other’s mind we both belong in another country (Kuwait); but the uncanniness was greater for him. I was merely seeing him in a very different locale, but to him I'd crossed the dividing line between his two worlds. I was pottering around in his flat, amongst his friends, in a domain that for the period of his Gulf wanderings he'd managed to keep completely separate from his life in the desert (two years in Saudi Arabia, six months in Kuwait).

Things are much bigger and wider in the States. I don’t just mean the roads and the cars. It must have something to do with the relatively low population density. England, after all, fits by land size into the USA 75 times, but the population of the States is only six times bigger. Into each square mile of Planet Earth, indeed, 928 more people are squeezed into the land of the Angles than the land of the Eagle.

Things are also, at least in the California I’ve seen, very clean and sparkly, far more so than in Kuwait at least. There’s also far less dust, and far fewer roads hacked up and being reconstructed, frightening off pedestrians. The Americans I have met so far, it must be said, have been almost entirely friendly, chatty, warm and helpful. Except for one guy, that is, at Oakland Coliseum Bart station who berated me for not immediately understanding his offer of transport to Oakland airport, and for therefore wasting his time.

More to follow…I must spend more time walking up and down San Franciscan hills.

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