Sharp Monica

An honest voice in Italian paradise.

Update from America: Reverse Culture Shock

The world goes on in spite of us, if we’re lucky. Photo by Thomas Lipke on Unsplash

A few more observations from the Pacific Coast. Things that are different or that I do not remember.

Garbage disposals. Okay, so these are super convenient. Half my time in our Italian kitchen is spent wrist-deep in dinner sludge trying to clear out the drain. How wonderful to not worry about an extra teaspoon of salsa slithering out of a bowl, or a few fettuccine noodles slide off a plate into the sink. It’s not like I’m stuffing an anemically gnawed pork chop into the hole. Whiirrrrrrrr. Your problem is demolished. But now I wonder if this is an issue for wastewater treatment plants in America. I am sure it is. All the food sludge must be bacterial heaven.

Flip flops. Appropriate in every venue in America. So strange.

T-shirts as a single layer, screen printed or not.

Shorts. Ibid. Okay, I know that at present we are on an American coast.The west coast. But the proliferation of American shorts (short pants not underwear) is astonishing. To note, in Italy the ONLY place that shorts, t-shirts, or flip flops would be acceptable would be on the actual beach during a beach vacation. Perhaps my expectations are skewed after years in Florence, where everyone wears nice clothes, or Italy in general, where a retired grandfather will don a suit to sit in a piazza to bitch about the downfall of the latest Italian government. Clothes make the man! Even Salvini wears a damn suit (the Stephen Miller of Italy.)

The thin blue line flag bumper sticker. I had to look this up after a driver honked at me for pulling over to let emergency vehicles pass on Highway 101. He swerved and passed me at high speed. I saw the flag stuck to his back window and looked it up in the nail salon. Maybe BLM? Maybe Insurrectionists? who knows. Glad to know that police forces around America have nothing whatsoever to do with fomenting civil unrest. I think I’ll stop this line of thought for now.

It is possible to live in America, unplugged from 24h news but still very aware of the news. I am abreast. I do not feel obsessed. Perspective can be maintained.

The sheer weirdness of American culture. Our son Victor (age 11) has a magnificent, appreciative, offbeat sense of humour. Today we took the kids to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum of Newport, Oregon, and I can tell you, Victor felt like he found his people. Every shrunken head, wax replica of very small or very tall person, the Beatles band made of little beetles dressed up as the Beatles with original Ed Sullivan audio had him in stitches. (Never mind the fine line between racism and science on many of those exhibits, with no additional context whatsoever regarding eugenics, phrenology, gun culture, the Cold War, Evil Russians, etc.) For additional fees they opted in to LaseRace and Smashdash and loved it. Eleanor was totally into it too, mugging as an astronaut in a moon walk helmet and gamely folding herself into a contortionist’s glass box. We gawked at a cross-section of a giant sequioa tree, marked with historic events on its rings for context.

Wild whales. I want to end here. The only other time in my life I’ve ever seen gray whales breaching in nature was in Baja California in January 2000. I almost cried then and I cried now. To see these great creatures 30 feet from shore, on a misty morning on the Oregon coast, doing what they’ve done for millennia, gawking tourists and cameras be damned.. Really puts it all in context, much like the sequoias. World, please make me feel small.

Well done, Oregon. Well done.

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One Response

  1. Amusing to note the prevalence of short pants here in the UK during summer months, particularly on men and when the temperature goes above about 25 degrees C, which is considered hot here. Age seems to be no restraint when wearing shorts, or context. In church, at restaurants, anywhere.

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