So what’s America like? How are the people different? Are Americans all fat, lazy and pro-Trump? Difficult to answer. Maybe these words will help answer that question.
I have utilized part of my time and energy simply soaking in California, gobbling it up would be another way of putting it. Smelling the flowers, gazing up at the trees, walking barefoot on the hot sand, watching the sea lions in the bay, walking through the neighborhoods and examining homes, hiking up the local hills and gazing over the city.
Interacting with other humans is also part of my empirical study (hey, I could get grant money and publish my results!). Last night I was at a meeting of the SLO Progressives, previously SLO for Bernie. It’s basically a democratic club working on getting “left-leaning” candidates elected. They are new but many people are involved, they are cooperating with other organizations, and they are very well organized. The meeting was well structured; general announcements, short statements from candidates, then statements from three working groups. I already signed up to canvas Morro Bay about single-payer health care. That means knocking on doors and passing out information and dialoging about health care.
That was my second political event here and what was so cool is meeting other people. It seems very easy here in California to engage in conversation with strangers. I was at a talk recently by Jodi Evans, co-founder of Code Pink. I just walked into an almost empty lecture hall (it filled up later) and immediately elderly woman said, “Hi, what’s your name, nice to meet you.” To her friend she said “Hey Jill, this is Gus, he’s from Germany.” After the event she invited Theresa and I to her farm for dinner. Cool. After the event I started talking to this guy and it turns out he was also from Palos Verdes. We went to neighboring high schools.
Aside from just soaking in California, I have tons of energy to do things. I feel almost obsessed with hiking, surfing, biking, drinking coffee, working some. That’s good though, I think. Right now I am also working on a grant proposal with Christian Felber from the Economy for the Common Good. The proposal is about reforming the UN and making it more democratic. I think it’s a great proposal and if the jury does too we could get lots of dinero.
Part of my empirical study is the shopping experience in America. The other day the girls and I went shopping with my sister to the giga-store Costco. The first thing our friend Lisa noticed were the supersized shopping carts. They are about 50% larger than normal ones. As it turned out, it was too small for us and we needed a second one.
As I walked into the store, I was bothered by how bright it was and how high ceilings were. The shelves of products tower endlessly towards the rafters. It looks like a warehouse, except for the tasters. They have tons of little servings of bread, meat, fruit and drinks. I was told that I have to buy toilet paper at Costco. “It’s the best in the world,” they said. I’m thinking, what, it’s just toilet paper? What’s the difference. Is there really good and bad toilet paper. Sorry, never noticed the difference. Come to think of it, though, I have experienced really bad toilet paper. It was in the German Democratic Republic, behind the iron curtain while it still hung. The toilet paper was dark grey and rough. It actually didn’t look like paper, rather more like the surface of a poorly-maintained street.
Anyways, I bought the toilet paper. The 50 rolls filled the first of our two shopping carts and should last for the remaining 10 months of our stay.
I continued down the aisles and noticed myself being overcome by a strange, elated sensation. Everything is so cheap and of such high quality that I felt driven to just buy everything. Gallon-size containers of walnuts; yes, take them. Six high quality t-shirts for $10, yes. A life-size teddy bear for $20, yes, uh, well no. OK, I caught myself. I will not purchase the 6-foot stuffed bear. It’s pretty darn cute and cuddly, but I realized it will not fit in my bed. Ok how about the sheepskin blanket? Yes, blanket. It’s not just one sheep skin, it’s about four sewed together into a blanket. Its only $35, can you believe it? Ok, I won’t take it. Oh, but look over there! A 1.1 kg bag of tortilla chips for only 4 dollars. I cannot resist. I know it will make me fat as hell, but what a bargain. Hey, a 1.3 kg bag of pistachios, yes, no questions asked. This store is fantastic. Bargains everywhere.
I am elated, so happy. Then we get to the cashier and the super friendly cashier lady informs me that I get a second bag of bagels for free and the even friendlier bag girl (actually she looked to be about 45) said she’s a fast runner and she would be glad to run the 200 meters to the back corner of the store to get it for me. What an amazing place. Then I gave them my credit card, entered my PIN and pressed ok and happy as a clam. When I got to the car my daughter informed me that the escapade just cost us 230 dollars and 48 cents. “What,” I thought, “how in the world did that happen?”
It’s been a month and a half, well actually a month and three-quarters, since I landed here in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. That’s a strange line, isn’t it? Who is free and who are the brave? Comes out of the national anthem, holy stuff around here. Questioned by few. I was at a football game at my daughter’s high school and was surprised when everyone suddenly stood up before the game started. At first I didn’t know why they were standing up. But then I noticed them putting their hands to their hearts and singing along with the national anthem.
After that game the national news and social media have been full of discussions about the protests during the national anthem. Football players recently continued “taking the knee”. This means kneeling on one knee. They did this instead of standing during the national anthem. Trump continued his bigotry and went so far as to call the people protesting sons-of-bitches. Is this guy for real? What a racist, what a fool. He has gone way over the line once again.
I wanted to tell you about my Saturday. I first went for a guided hike up Madonna Mountain at 9am. My alarm clock forgot to wake me so I was ten minutes late. The first thing the guide told us was that Madonna Mountain is officially called Cerra called Cerro San Luis Obispo. The townsfolk call it Madonna Mountain because it is owned by the Madonna family (no relation to the singer and sometimes-actress).
The hike only took about an hour but there was a beautiful view of the city and I could see all the way to Morro Bay. The guide showed us the greenish rock, common to the area and called serpentinite.
After that the girls and I met my sister and her daughter for some surfing. The waves weren’t too great. I actually felt like most of the time I was diving over and under whitewater. For the Germans out there this is the Gischt. This is funny, because in German there is a distinct word for the white, foamy part of a wave after it breaks. The colloquial term in English is whitewater. Wikipedia, humankind’s newest source of THE TRUTH, says whitewater is the white, rough water found in rivers. I would actually agree, though I am no expert. Ask any surfer and they will say whitewater. Look it up on wikipedia, and you will find only “sea foam”.
It was a beautiful afternoon at the beach, though. The skies were clear and it wasn’t too windy. The waves sucked though. I noticed small, or miniscule, improvements in my surfing abilities. I am a patient guy, though.