Tuesday, 12 June 2018

And finally. .

This is the front lawn of our motel in Havelock. There are two US military facilities in this town and just up the road is a newer and snazzier fighter jet also presented as a public artwork. You see a lot of this. In 2009 we stayed in a tiny town motel in Utah that was opposite a recreation ground with a 20 foot missile standing on a plinth. Bit like North Korea.

There's no escaping just how huge a domestic deal the US military is. Expressions of support are evident everywhere. On T-shirts, baseball caps, bumper stickers, billboards, radio and TV ads and in lots of named memorial highways.

Since the advent of Trump's caricature presidency, coverage of the US has become all about him which inevitably ends up negatively caricaturing the whole nation and its people as well. This a shame because the people aren't the president. I like Americans. I love the fact that I get a chorus of good mornings and big smiles when I walk into a diner for breakfast in the morning feeling like shit after a shit night's sleep. That huge shot of positive has rescued me several times on this trip and I really appreciate it. 

It is inevitable that I am comparing how I am now to the person I was on the last road trip in 2009. It has not been a comfortable reflection on time and getting older but a realisation (for both of us) of the impact of events over the past 5 years on our mental health and on our relationship. Just to recap that includes the suicide of two, close family members, a reactive relocation to a tiny village after more than three decades of a life and career in international cities and finally, caring for my mother until her death 3 months ago. That's quite a lot of stuff and there's actually more in the backstories..... but that'll do for now!

Anyway, the upshot is a cycle of mutually reinforcing anxiety that at times, makes us each feel we are constantly under attack from the other. It's exhausting and can turn even the simplest decisions into a minefield. The most crushing part is that being aware of it doesn't actually help that much. Still we have managed to get to the final day of the trip without killing each other and the serendipity of finding a vacant room in Smithfield, Virginia with a balcony and this view has been pretty amazing. Especially sitting here last night watching the lightning show that preceded a tropical southern downpour.

The original plan for this trip was to go North to the lakes and mountains of the Adirondacks in upstate New York.  Despite the occasionally unbearable heat, humidity and mosquitoes,  I am very happy that we had a last minute shift and decided to come South. That laid back, positive and hospitable southern vibe has been very calmimg when the tension has been as high as the humidity. Saturday was particularly good. We ended up in the 'original Washington' - a North Carolina coastal town - on their festival night.  This meant we spent the evening in a waterfront park listening to a great band called the Embers and watching what seemed like the entire town, country line-dancing to pretty much anything the band played. This was a lot of fun and hugely enjoyable to unexpectedly be part of such a local experience.

However, before I get too carried away on the US feelgood factor that I appreciate so much, I have to acknowledge that it can go a little over the top. Not from the generosity and openess of the people but certainly from motel publicity executives. Having to look at this every time I sat on the toilet in the Hampton Inn, knowing there was a fighter jet parked on the front lawn, did make me consider random acts of violence....

1 comment: