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Thursday, 23 December 2010

Quick Scenes From America

I'm unused to hearing my native accent, so I keep looking up in surprise. There are so many American accents, some of which are almost never on TV or heard overseas. I want to record people talking, but I can't imagine them agreeing to it.


In the train station in Emerville (the town between Oakland and Berkeley), there is a young woman eating nori seaweed. These are the flat paper-like sheets of seaweed used to wrap sushi. I'm jealous that I don't have some. . . . Now she's reading a book about the oneness of the universe. . . . Now she's meditating in the busy train station waiting room. . . . Now she's writing in her journal. I do miss California so much when I'm away.


I've woken up quite early on the train and gone to the dining car where it's me and senior citizens. There are cups of coffee with free refills. It's not good, but it's not bad either. I have two cups. The man seated across from me asks what a croissant is. Later he makes a joke about shoot black and hispanic people. His wife gently chastises him. I'm unsure how angrily I should respond. I tell him it's "a bit alarming," which seems inadequate, but of course, I don't want to be rude when confronted with apalling racism. There are some things about California that I don't miss at all.


The man seated next to me at my regular seat spends an amount equal to half his rent money on health insurance that only covers sudden, catastrophic illness. He is unemployed. He wishes there was socialised medecine in the US, but understands, he says, that this is incompatible with rugged individualism, and doesn't see an answer that's compatible with American culture. We can't have nice things?

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