Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Memories of America: New York State

The first time I remember being influenced by America was when my father visited on a business trip and brought back some American artifacts. I particularly remember some Superhero comics, one of which contained adverts for fabulous toys including a submarine which you could actually get inside. Of course, I wanted one of those desperately and I would go to sleep at night imagining American boys plumbing the depths of swimming pools and lakes in their tiny submersibles.

My first visit to America was when I was fourteen. We visited my Uncle and Aunt in Toronto and made a tour of New York State, passing by Niagara Falls and the Finger Lakes. We refilled the car with petrol in Niagara and the forecourt assistant leant over our windscreen to clean it with a cloth. When he'd finished he gave us a wide smile and said "Have a nice day."

This first trip, taught me what a large and provincial country America is: travelling almost constantly for three weeks, staying in motels, driving day after day through hilly forests and flat farmlands where many of the farm gates had a few crates loaded with cucumbers and a sign saying 'CUKES 5c'.

As we neared New York city, people we stayed with warned us not to go there, and so we didn't, fearing that we would be attacked on the freeway and dragged from our car. One night we stayed in a small town near the Finger Lakes and went to a pasta restaurant. The portions were huge and flavourless. Seeing that none of us could eat more than a third of the serving, the waitress asked: "Would you like a doggy bag?" to which my father replied: "No thank you, we haven't got a doggy."

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