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another excerpt from my perzine "EXTRANJERO" about my first trip back to the USA in 3 years By Kris

3 April: After about 5 hours of sleep I´m wide awake & quietly get out of bed & walk out into the sunroom. The sun is just coming up over the horizon & I spot 3 deer grazing on some of the bushes in my parent´s back yard. My father is making a pot of coffee & telling me that the local deer have been wandering down into their yard &, much to my mother´s dismay, eating everything in sight.

“The god damned builders have ripped up 40 acres of forest down by Pheasant Hill Road to put in more of those gigantic million dollar houses that nobody can afford anyway & now all the deer are confused & running all over the place because their habitat has been destroyed.”

And then, without missing a beat, he adds, “Oh, and I hid my Polygrip so Lola wouldn´t use it again.” The first time Lola stayed at my parent´s house she accidentally put Polygrip (denture adhesive) on her toothbrush thinking it was toothpaste. She didn´t brush for very long before she realized that something was very wrong.

My father & I are sitting there at 7 am drinking coffee & watching the finches attack the birdfeeders outside the kitchen window when I realize something: everything in the house is digital. The TV, the radio, the microwave, the refrigerator, the telephone - even the fucking coffee maker! My father shows me how to “program” the coffee maker. I watch him go through an elaborate set of steps, pushing all sorts of buttons so the machine will start making coffee the following morning while we are all still in bed. Needless to say, during the month long stay at my parent´s house I never once make a pot of coffee. Our coffee maker in Spain has one button: “on/off”. That´s all the buttons a coffee maker needs.

Then my father proceeds to tell me that by early 2009 all U.S. television broadcasts will be digital under the – get a load of this – “Digital Television & Public Safety Act of 2005”. What being forced to convert to digital TV has to do with public safety is beyond my comprehension. Apparently, once U.S. broadcasters shut down their analog transmissions, non-digital TVs (or what I would refer to as “normal televisions”) will become obsolete, unable to receive broadcasts.

“How is Spain dealing with the switch to digital?”
“Beats me. We still don´t have a television.”
“It boggles my mind that you still haven´t bought a TV. How can you live without a TV?!”
“Technically, I don´t. It´s impossible to live without TV these days. Everywhere you go – friends´ homes, cafés, bars… there is always a TV! It´s unavoidable. But when I get home at the end of the day, the last thing I want is to be bombarded by the noise & stupidity that is constantly spewing out of a TV set.”
“You need to get with the times.”
“I am with the times. It´s just not this time in particular.” My father laughs & shakes his head. I´m with another, older, less complicated time, I think to myself. A time when there seemed to be a lot less bullshit to have to deal with on a daily basis. Or maybe I´m just too romantic & naïve. Maybe that time never existed.

My parents head off to work & Lola & I decide to walk to the nearby Keystone Diner for breakfast. It´s a beautiful walk along a country lane lined with lots of trees & cornfields & a few scattered houses. It´s typical to see lots of squirrels, a handful of ducks & a couple of wild turkeys along this road. But about half a mile up the road we reach the destruction the builders have created in their never-ending quest for profit. A large chunk of forest, where I used to play “War” & “Cowboys & Indians” as a boy, has completely disappeared. They even tore down a beautiful old stone farmhouse & plopped down one of those awful McMansions in its place. We quicken our pace as we pass to avoid the exhaust fumes belching out of a bulldozer. The road has been completely annihilated from the heavy machinery & I wonder who is going to pick up the tab for road repairs: the construction companies or the taxpayers like my parents? It´s depressing & sad, but there isn´t a damn thing I can do about it.

A few minutes later, the destruction now behind us, I´m shocked at what now stands in front of me. The field where my friends & I used to steal pumpkins as teenagers is now a retirement community. “Village at Dorchester: An Adult 55-Plus Housing Community” the sign reads. The fucking builders managed to squeeze 80 little “independent living units” into that field. (And, as I found out later, they were charging $210,000 for the cheapest ones.) But what really upsets me is the “No Trespassing” sign on the walking path leading through the “community” that will get us to the diner a few minutes faster. We ignore it, of course.

We arrive at the diner & I´m shaken out of the shock & awe caused by all this dreadful change going on around me by the smell of hot coffee, frying eggs, bacon & sausage, the smell of maple syrup… All is not lost. At least, not yet. There is still some good in the world. We grab a table & when the waitress arrives & asks us what we´d like, I, like a complete idiot, start speaking to her in Spanish. I quickly recover, as Lola laughs her ass off, & manage to order about half the items on the breakfast menu. The food arrives & everything is going well, Lola has her first experience with whipped butter on pancakes, & then the bill comes. And now, for the first time in 3 years, I have to do the math to figure out how much of a tip to leave. In Extremadura, if we go to a topnotch restaurant & the bill comes to €30 or (God forbid) €40 a person, it is customary to toss only a couple of €1 coins on the table at the end of the meal. So I´m mentally trying to figure out what 20% of $12.85 equals & I have a rough idea that it´s about 3 bucks. But, not having any one dollar bills, I leave the girl $5. She filled our coffee cups three times &, hell, I figure we´re lucky she didn´t call Homeland Security when I started ordering in Spanish.

We exit the diner, stuffed to the gills at 10 am, & take notice of the alarming amount of trucks & SUVs in the parking lot sporting American flag stickers & patriotic bumper stickers with slogans like “If you burn the flag, wrap yourself in it first” & (my personal favorite) “My American flag offend you? Then move to Iraq”. On the walk home, shortly after trespassing our way through the “Village at Dorchester” again, I see a sign in the front yard of a house just a few doors down from my parent´s place that reads: “The Creation Controversy” with a time & a date for anybody who wants to stop by & chat about creationism. I don´t know if these folks are for or against the idea of creationism, but I have a feeling that anybody around these parts who is against the idea of creationism wouldn´t dare place a sign in their front yard publicizing the fact.

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