Eleven Things A Brit Must Do In The USA

  1. Begin at Newark. Don’t pay the extra for a sat nav. The hire car will take you to a disused-warehousey, cardboard-boxey, burning-trashcanny, wet-and-windy wasteground: death-dark, Shakespearean, haunted by Scorsesan ghosts. Panic, just long enough and hard enough to ensure you’ve spent more time there than it takes to watch an entire episode of The Sopranos.
  2. Stay, for a while longer, in New Jersey. Put on jaunty hat. As you listen to the jabber of crickets, narrowly avoid stepping on a skulking skunk, wonder if that was a cicada that just fell on your head, sing drunkenly along to a slowed-down ‘Born To Run‘ and eat a thousand sticky buffalo wings, remember that friendship and love and family and hope and the places we’ve come from are all we have. Those and the ability to pronounce ‘aluminium’ properly.
  3. Stroll around Asbury Park. Imagine what Madame Marie would say. Feel prose become poetry, bars become stadiums. Watch a Queen tribute band. Deny knowing any of the words.
  4. Leave Jersey. Drive. Drive. Drive some more. Later, as you sit, aching-ankled, eating crab and drinking beer through a wry Maryland dusk, look out across the glistening bay and remember heaven is always here, now.
  5. Shoot at barrels. Drink some Eagle Rare. Drink some more Eagle Rare. Shoot more confidently at barrels. Hide from the sheriff. Wonder where Daisy is.
  6. When the sweet girl who wants to be a nurse asks, ‘Do you have a King and Queen?’, remember the question is far, far too complicated for a conservative, lefty Englishman (alone in a land so like Ireland!) to even begin to answer. And then try.
  7. On a tie-undone, half-pissed evening, as Christy sings out across the valley, as Nina pleads and you start to cry with love and loss, remember this is the first Wedding In A Vineyard On A Beautiful Hillside In North Carolina that’s ever heard Chas and Dave.
  8. Head back through Virginia’s proud-oak miles, take photos of tired sepia roadhouses and unconscious fairgrounds. Wave to Paradise and Moriarty as their ’49 Hudson passes you. Look forward to your appearance in Kerouac’s first posthumously-written novel.
  9. It’s time for NYC, time to listen to the clumsy majesty of ‘Empire State Of Mind‘ again and again. But first – as you jerk, doors locked, through Jersey City, as you smell and hear and touch the strangle of a new/old apartheid – first remember the kindness of the black guy in the car in front showing you the way, remember the kindness of the white people you’ve met, remember kindness is all we have. That and an unnecessary ‘u’ in honour.
  10. Go to the 9/11 memorial. Look down into the depths of our fears and up at the heights of our transcendence. Watch kids take smiling selfies. Remember we’re all tourists, all the time.
  11. Breathe. Take your different self back to the airport. Explain it to the nice customs officers. Head home. Wonder where your hat is. Wonder, for the last time, where home is.