Metaphors for America: a road trip

When prompted, we tell the U.S. Customs agents we’re heading to New Jersey. “On purpose?” he asks. We’ll be staying in New Jersey but day-tripping into Manhattan, later going to the Jersey Shore for a few days, but the agent doesn’t need to know that, only that we don’t have any citrus.

Traffic is heavy, and somewhere in Connecticut it’s slow but moving steady when a motorcycle pulls alongside. The driver shifts his body, then pops up on his rear wheel, revs the engine and weaves through traffic, monocycle style.

“You got to admit, that’s impressive,” I say to Deb.

“Seriously? He crashes and we all go,” she says.

“Yeah, sure, he’s an idiot, but still…”

Metaphor for America.

*

We visit the Statue of Liberty because it’s a thing to do. The statue is quite something up close, but there is this compulsion to get even closer, inside if you can. We, along with other tourists, pay to climb the pedestal, which is 196 stairs up to a narrow walkway below Liberty’s feet. It is jammed with people taking selfies in front of the Manhattan skyline, which are exactly like selfies at ground level, only slightly higher. It’s too much for me, too claustrophobic, so I bail, walking back down the 196 steps.

The meaning of the statue has evolved over the years, from a symbol of French resistance to an American emblem of freedom, to a welcome to immigrants from all lands, to a highly secure tourist trap. Will it continue to evolve, maybe into a symbol of American protectionism?

Unfortunately, I am in too much discomfort to think about these things because, due to circumstances I’d rather not get into, the nearly 400 steps up and down have resulted in severe chafing of certain nether regions.

Multiple metaphors for America.

*

We go to Times Square at night because it’s a thing the girls want to do. The lights and crowds are overwhelming. Interspersed among the superheroes posing for photos (for pay) are several women, essentially naked, their bodies and breasts painted to represent the Stars and Stripes or Lady Liberty. They charge at people asking if they want a photo  with them. An 11-year-old boy takes up the offer. So many questions. Where are his parents? Do they approve? Do you need a licence for this? Or do you just one day decide to be naked in Times Square? It feels like desperation, and I can’t get away from them quickly enough.

Metaphor for America as well as my sexual hangups.

*

We meet up with Mark, a blogger friend. It’s always uncertain meeting the modern equivalent of a pen pal, but Mark turns out to be exactly like he writes: clever, generous and affable. We have a great day together on a personalized tour of Manhattan, ending the day at Mark’s Midtown office, 50 floors up with a 360-degree view of the city. It’s marvellous watching the lights in the early evening, and I think about the engineering, the human know-how, the sheer infrastructure to make all this run.

I look out to a street stretching in front of me far below, all the way to the edge of the island. If I stand directly in front of that street, I think, if I align myself with it, I will become a part of that continuity, part of that infrastructure. I will become New York. I edge to my left, then a bit more, a couple more steps.

Bam! I slam into a glass partition. The impact of my glasses opens a gash below my eyebrow. Mark has to find a first-aid kit for me, and that’s it for the tour.

Possible metaphor for America but mostly a metaphor for my dorkiness.

Red, white and black-and-blue

*

Continental breakfast-wise, people sure do like their make-your-own waffles.
Metaphor for America.

*

At Ocean City, New Jersey, I’m intrigued by a young woman in glasses, one of the few non-caucasians at the beach (metaphor!). She scampers to the shore, wades into the surf, skips out, then back in. She turns and waves, claps her hands, kicks at the water, then hurries back to her beach chair on shore. She does all this with a huge grin on her face, and she does it over and over throughout the day. She never goes all the way into the water. I kind of wonder about her. But there’s such joy. She’s just so happy to be in this amazing place.

Metaphor for America.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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18 Responses to Metaphors for America: a road trip

  1. Yes, definitely metaphors.

    Did you have any trouble getting back into Canada with that eye?

  2. ksbeth says:

    nether region chafing and eyebrow lacerating, two great american pastimes

  3. markbialczak says:

    You could have fabricated one helluva Manhattan story about how you got that eye, Ross. Oh, wait, maybe you did.
    It’s awesome that you got to meet Mark in person. I imagine that he’s one fine person from his words and photos over the years. Just as I think you are. Oh, now I’m mush in the morning before Friday work.
    I’m glad America treated you well except for that dang glass partition …

  4. List of X says:

    Real Americans don’t use the foreign elitist words like “metaphor”!

  5. Great post Ross! I love the metaphors, especially the motorcycle in CT traffic and your wife’s comment: If he goes, we all go. Gosh, that is a scary thought, considering…ya know, the idiot.

  6. cat9984 says:

    My son and I went to Stratford yesterday. Canadians are so nice! (I say that every time I go. I grew up around Detroit.) The lady in Sarnia who explained how to get on the 402 when there was a vehicle on fire at the bridge. The parking lot attendant who told us the best spot for shade in the afternoon. The man who stopped while we were looking around to see if he could help us find something. And even your metaphors for us.

  7. That eye is a beauty. But you missed an opportunity. Instead of walking into a glass wall you could’ve said you fought off a team of ninja assassins while on a speeding subway train. What the heck, bro! I thought you were a writer!

    A genuine pleasure to meet you and your fam. 10,000 thank-yous for reaching out and sharing some of your vacation time with me. Hope the girls found the whisper corner in Grand Central charming.

  8. pinklightsabre says:

    That’s gorgeous. And totally awkward moment for you and Mark, how perfect! Won’t forget that any time soon. Metaphor for America.

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