This is the slightly more bitesize counterpart to Part 1, where I’m just going to randomly list stuff I like from the USA, with an anecdote or two, and a few writing references.
I actually wonder if this whole idea of celebrating all things USA on my blog / in writing started when I noticed Aldi were stocking bottles of root beer for 34p a litre (yes you read that right!) I hadn’t had it since I was 16, when I didn’t like it. I turned 35 last month. I bought a bottle to see if my palate had changed. Man that stuff is tasty! Yeah it’s a bit like mouthwash, but mouthwash you can swallow without it burning like crazy. I think I’ll make it Todd’s favourite drink. And no I haven’t tried it with vodka yet, I don’t think it would work at all!
The Shelby Mustang
Yeah this one started with Gone in 60 Seconds. So the reviewers hated it. Fuck em, there’s nothing cooler than that car. Apart from maybe a Corvette, I love those too. Colton the fox stealing one in my first furry story was a dark wish fulfilment. One reader even said to me ‘If Colton wrecks that Shelby I’m gonna jump through cyberspace and punch his muzzle off’ or something similar. I even found one at an outdoor car show recently and spent a good long time talking with the owner, who let me take this awesome pic:
If I ever get that bestseller, guess what’s gonna be in my driveway.
I don’t care how much sugar’s in it, just gimme a bottle! If anyone knows where I can get this in England or how I could order it, you PM me! Right now, I’m thinking of the apocalypse in Zombieland where Woody Harrelson just wants one more Hostess Twinky. I’d want this stuff. (Twinkies are shit, actually.) Just about any will do except orange. Fruit Punch was the king until I discovered a blue one that I think was called ‘Frosted Ice.’ Next time I get over that pond, the first thing I want is a trip to a supermarket to get my hands on the biggest bottle going!
I first heard of the NBA from a promotion on the back of a cereal box. In England, no less! Everyone else at my school like football and supported Manchester United (Glory hunters mostly; bet they regret that now.) I just said ‘Meh, I’m gonna make basketball my thing’ and I supported the Charlotte Hornets – they had the coolest logo. I even took up the sport for a couple of years myself. Every time I went to Arizona I looked forward to actually being able to play on an outdoor court. All the UK had was wet football (soccer) fields with rotting goal posts. The USA had hoops, and hoops were my thing, baby! I knew I’d never be tall enough to dunk the ball, so I was going to be a shooter, and longed for the day my strength would let me do 3’s. I still have the Hornets jacket my parents bought me in a Tucson mall for my 11th birthday. I’d post a pic except it would mean a 40 mile drive and a dig through their attic. Fastforward 24 years and I’ve just created a raccoon character who plays basketball and am wondering how I can watch those games again without getting Sky TV.
Orange Juice in England just doesn’t compare to what you can get in AZ. Sorry, but no matter where you import the oranges from, they just aint fresh enough to even get close. And the smell. Man I miss it. It’s my favourite smell in the world, orange blossom. I first heard that guitar solo from Sweet Child of Mine sitting in my grandparents back yard in the summer, where the smell of orange trees was inescapable. It ever overpowered the smell of those Winstons my grandfather smoked. Jump forward 19 years, and I find myself writing the line ‘I don’t do safety words, raccoon. I want to be dangerous. Ah what the hell, “Oranges.” Think you can make me say it?’ On the worst of days I can now make myself smile by thinking of Todd didn’t make him say it, until he grabbed Colton’s legs and tickled his feet and then it was ‘Oranges, oranges motherfucker!’ Just like me to take one of my favourite things and smut it up.
However beautiful some of Britain’s birds are, none of them are that bright red Angry Birds inspiring cardinal. No wonder Arizona picked it as their state bird.
A note to all British supermarkets: give it up with trying to do American style cookies. You all suck at them. Every time I see your pathetic attempts, I think ‘I’ll happily wait till I get out there before I ever eat another one.’ Even baking them at home with my grandmother’s recipe, I just can’t quite reproduce the taste that hers had.
I really envy US truckers. I’d never be one here (have you ever driven on a British motorway? It’s like a trust in God even if you don’t believe in him) but if I’d ever moved over there I wonder if nowadays people would be saying ‘That there’s English Tommy and he’s never missed a shipment…’
In the stories recently, I came up with Todd’s brother saying ‘We’re not meant to do sports like you do. We’re lazy, we’re pudgy, we grow up to be….’ and I sat there for a good ten minutes, doing that thing I still do where I keep putting my hand to my mouth as if I still smoke, and thinking ‘Come on, what?’ and then I got my lightbulb moment and wrote ‘truckers.’ Todd’s and Rocco’s father became one at that moment, complete with ‘You can laugh but you boys never went without dinner thanks to me.’ No offence intended, not all of them are lazy or fat or would want to be likened to a raccoon, but the picture of a cartoon raccoon who’d had one too many steaks driving a truck with a baseball cap on just fitted so damn well!
Cowboy shirts and hats
Thank God social media didn’t exist when I was in my late teenage, because my cowboy phase is probably best forgotten, but hey, it’s part of my story: I really went through a phase with this one. I bought those crazy shirts every time I went to Tucson. They were half my wardrobe at one point. I recently found my not-quite-a-Stetson-coz-I-couldn’t-afford-one hat at the back of a cupboard, thick with green mould, and decided it was time to part ways.
Country and Rock Radio Stations
Yeah I can tune into them online now, but something just doesn’t feel right it. There’s an ‘I’m not in Tucson or Phoenix’ vibe about hearing the adver…sorry, commercials and not being a few blocks away from whatever they’re selling. Planet Rock in the UK does a reasonably good job at comparing, but it’s another ‘Not quite’ of reproducing what I loved about America in England.
They’re a menace if you’re a golf course manager, I’m sure, but gophers are amazing fun to watch doing their thing. In the rangers’ office at work I’ve been known to say ‘You think the grey squirrel’s a problem, wait till some zoo loses its gophers.’ I know why Lion King Three had meerkats doing that Dig a Tunnel thing, but I’m always thinking of gophers when I watch it. And here’s a rough copy of an amusing conversation that happened about 3 years ago:
Me: I don’t think I ever saw a gopher when we went to America.
Mum: you saw hundreds of them, there’s a picture of you feeding one in that old photo album.
Me: Huh? That’s a prairie dog.
Dad: It’s the same thing, that’s just what your grandparents always called them.
Me: That’s actually kind of cool that I never realised that…
I saved this one for last because here’s the irony: I don’t think I ever actually saw on in 5 trips to the USA. Why do I like them so much? Maybe I can blame the cartoon ‘The Raccoons’ for starting this one off. And there was a story my teacher read our class when I was 6 that had a raccoon that was meant to be a villain, trapped with two frogs during a flood, and it turned out he actually made a pact with them to help them to safety and not eat them. The word itself actually sounds quite funny. There’s an episode of The Simpsons where I laughed my head off at how Grandpa goes off saying ‘I’ll just spend Christmas with the raccoons then’ and one of them offers him a present. ‘What the…rancid lard?! Awwww, you shouldn’t have.’
And why is the tail stripy when the rest of the animal isn’t? Does the natural bandit mask actually serve some kind of purpose or did evolution just produce another animal for us to stereotype in cartoons?
I think I need to put the laptop down and get out of bed now.