Friday, January 07, 2011

Grumpy In San Francisco


I've covered quite a lot of ground on what has become Grumpy's World Tour Of Friends. In five months I've lived approximately 35 Cities or towns in nine different countries... not bad for a lazy bastard like me. There has been all the stress and hitches you expect in such a long haul and somehow Mrs Grumpy (aka The Dreaded One) has put up with me through it all. I'm not exactly a stress head, but for a chilled out dude I do have me share of neuroses and occasional outbursts of sartorially-induced hysteria. It's best you don't ask.

I've learned a lot about all the places I've visited, and this week's column is a bit of an over-view.

In Madrid I discovered that most of the male waiters appeared to be frustrated matadors. Some of them were some of the angriest bastards I've encountered, especially if you ask a barista to make a cappuccino, which I did time after time because the reaction was so funny. It infuriates them, which is a cack. Arrogance of the French? The French don't have anything on the Madrid guys. In fact the French were lovely people. My time in France was basically one long party followed by one long hangover. In Berlin I realised that no one goes anywhere without a drink in their hand, preferably bagged bottles of beer but wine is also acceptable. God knows what it's like in October. No kidding, the very efficient Berlin trains were jam-packed with drinkers at all hours. In Portugal I discovered that no matter what restaurant you went to, no matter what they called the dishes, the menus were identical. Same six options on every single menu no matter if you ate at a cheapy in a back lane in or a five star place, all the same. I got excited about something called 'Secret Pork' in one place, thinking it was some esoteric variation of the ubiquitous sauceless grilled pork only to discover there was no secret about it, it was exactly the same sauceless grilled pork as all the other sauceless grilled pork. In Italy the most striking national trait was passion. They are passionate about everything from art to icecream. In random places you'll even come across bridges almost collapsing under the weight of thousands of padlocks, tributes of passion between couples with their names engraved on the locks and the keys thrown away. You have to love that kind of shit. And football? The Italians start singing their myriad team songs hours before the game... and all we Australians can come up with is Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie oi oi oi. In snowy England I found another national stereotype alive and kicking: The Whinging Pom. With climate change being harder and harder to ignore, England is being more snowed under than ever. The snow belts down each year, roads turn to chaos, airports are closed and letters to the editor flood in: someone is to blame and something must be done. I asked why no one has snow chains and was met with the reply, “Why should I buy snow chains when I will only use them once or twice a year?” Erm... because once or twice a year those snow chains are going to save your arse. Same snow stuff happens in America and the Yanks get up like a cowboy thrown from a horse, they dust themselves off and get on with things.

And this has been the biggest revelation for me – Americans. I came over here and kicked the saloon doors open armed with a whole bunch of preconceptions and it turns out I was firing blanks. For example, hands up who thinks New Yorkers are arseholes? Just as I thought, heaps of you. Well you're all wrong. New Yorkers and San Franciscans are so polite and friendly and helpful and just all round nice that at first I was suspicious. Was this some new mugging tactic? Stun them with nice and then attack? Because one thing I knew without a doubt was that I was going to get mugged in America by some arsehole American. And while I'm sure there is a fair bit of crime about, aside from the minority of shooty and stabby Americans, most of them are just so... nice. The more time I spend here, the more I realise I could live here, not something I ever expected to say.

Who knows – I might even end up being nice.


Margarita Milonguita said...

What a fabulous life Lee! When are you moving to M Town?

Lee said...

It's a wonderful life indeed, MM. In Melbourne for Rainbow Serpent, living there sometime after that. Unless we relocate to San Fran. We are discussing.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I like reading about other people's neuroses because it makes me feel...ahem...normal :-D But I won't ask as I'm too polite.

If you write about Melbourne this way, it will be verrrry interesting...

Birdy said...

In defence of the whingers, we actually only normally get snow about once every five years and never enough for snow chains (if you use them without enough snow you mash up the roads and your tyres something chronic and since it's illegal to damage the roads there's very little point in using them). A couple of days of the country grinding to a halt every five years isn't a problem. We've just had freak weather recently with three massive snow drops really close together. The whinging was more about 'if climate change means more of this, what do we do about it?'

But yes, mostly the English are well whingy and frikken useless. Like, unbelievably useless. Don't ask about the trains. FFS.

Lee said...

I spent a morning reading through pages of discussion on various forums and read very little about climate change. The overall tone of the stuff that I read was more about how this keeps happening and something must be done. I read very little about climate change but saw lts of finger-pointing.

The snow chain thing was not about doing damage to the road - the guy in question just resented having to purchase snow chains because he might only use them once or twice a year. We had to carry them in the States. Somehow their roads are okay. The roads seemed to be pretty clear even in the heaviest snow. Cars tend to not get stuck when they are able to deal with bad conditions.

Just saying.

Birdy said...

yeah coz they get snow ALL THE TIME. We don't. That's the point.

Also, all of our media is owned by an Australian guy.

Just sayin'


Lee said...

No the point I was making is that even once or twice a year, if you're carrying snow chains they might just save your arse or at least stop the roads getting jammed with idiots heading out onto icy roads unprepared, but it's the British way to not do that, then complain. From my observation.

Climate change, yes, that's the point you'd like to make of everything and that's fine but it wasn't the point I was making. But if the snow is happening more often and if we are going to keep making it worse for ourselves (which we probably are), do stuff rather than just complain.