Posted on Friday, November 24th, 2006
I posted this first on flickr, but it’s been far far too long so I thought I’d reproduce it here. There are a few other things I have half-formed posts on. Maybe this week. Maybe…
My earliest memories of America look like this. I must have been 4, and it would be another year before I’d actually visit the US on a holiday in Florida, but I had an overwhelmingly strong image of America that I’d picked up from the television.
Even though it was deeply American to its core, we got a lot of repeated 70′s episodes of Sesame Street on TV in the UK, and one of the features I remember most clearly were the filmed segments about aspects of the “real world” beyond a neighbourhood where the most esteemed resident was a freakishly gigantic talking canary.
I imagine that most of these segments must have been filmed in LA. The difference of it all from the semi-rural English “housing experiment” I grew up in was startling. I dreamed of big, chunky vans and beige garages. And the light (the thing that really made today a “Sesame Street day) – it was startlingly clear, almost painful, but somehow optimistic and beautiful.
My dad was always a big fan of America and all things American, and I think that some of his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I never imagined though, right up until the moment the offer was presented, that I’d end up living here.
Like any society which is attempting to balance the prejudices, fears, hopes and dreams of millions of people, the US is far from perfect. Too much of the “culture” is based on conspicuous consumption (although the UK suffers from that malaise too); too many people talk of “making their peace with God” whilst failing to make their peace with themselves.
But somehow there’s space here. Space to be what you want to be; just a little more space than I ever found in London. It’s those “Sesame Street” days which really bring that home to me and marry my childhood dreams with my life as it is now. And they make me glad, at least for the time being, to call America (and San Francisco in particular) “home”.