Tag Archives: America

Thank You, Christopher Columbus

No, not this Christopher Columbus... though Gremlins, The Goonies, and Home Alone? Maybe we should have a holiday for him...

No, not this Christopher Columbus… although Gremlins, The Goonies, and Home Alone? Maybe we should have a holiday for him…

It’s Columbus Day here in the states and I actually have the day off… paid! The advantages to working for a giant, multinational financial institution are starting to pay off. I’ve decided to celebrate this most worthless of holidays by planting Spanish flags in random objects possessed by strangers, yelling at them to show me where their gold is, and spreading diseases to them that I brought over from Europe. Before I head out though, I feel like I need to sit on my balcony, have some coffee, and take a moment to remember all that Christopher Columbus has done for me.

Here’s a little known historical fact: Columbus came to America because he hated how close everything was. (Warning: historical facts may not be facts… or historical.) Can you blame him? I mean who would honestly want to live close by everything you could possibly want or need? Columbus set sail because honestly, he just needed some fucking space! This attitude has thankfully been implemented into suburban American culture. After having to endure walking to any of the small shops dotting the Parisian landscape and having a relaxing dinner outside with friends, now I get to drive through traffic to a chain restaurant and sit inside while deciding which one of the fifteen televisions I want to watch. Plus, there’s the obvious advantage of already knowing what’s on the menu. Now instead of wasting all that time exploring the menu for new food options, I can spend that time on my phone while waiting for my bloomin’ onion to come.

Another historical fact: Columbus hated water, fresh air, and non-processed food. Since he was born in Genoa, Columbus had grown up with a cool breeze blowing off the Mediterranean every morning, the smells of freshly baked bread he had purchased from the local bakery, and the taste of that bread paired with a locally-produced olive oil and a bottle of red wine from the vineyards nearby. He hated that life so much that he said, “Fuck this shit! I don’t care where I go, but I can’t deal this anymore. I’m just going to sail in the opposite direction until I run into any sort of landmass.” Unfortunately for Columbus, he died long before he could have discovered Cedar Rapids, where I currently reside. Thankfully, I can honor his memory by enjoying the genetically enhanced food at and endless number of supermarkets, all conveniently located outside of walking distance. Instead of the smells of that god-forsaken, award-winning local bakery, I get to enjoy the smells of a massive cereal processing plant that actually set off my carbon monoxide detector last week because my windows were open.

Columbus is having a really tough time of it lately. Some people would say that Columbus didn’t discover America, or that he was a miserable human being who should never be celebrated. However, I just really I just wanted to thank you, Christopher Columbus. If it wasn’t for you, my family might have never traveled to this country. I could have been born in some dump like London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Prague, Barcelona, Stockholm, Florence, or Vienna. I really dodged a bullet there!

The Five Stages of Coming Home

Iowa: it's not just corn... though there is a lot of it...

Iowa: it’s not just corn… though there is a lot of it…

They say you can’t go home again. They are wrong. You absolutely can go home again… it’s just really, really weird. After spending the majority of the last five months in Paris, I’ve come back to Iowa. Not only that, but I’ve picked up plenty of new followers recently. I’ve been trying to come up with an amazing follow-up to my “Freshly Pressed” debut that will appeal to my newfound fan base. Obviously, my first thought was to just write a series of dick jokes and end it with a statement about how Obama is going to take our guns and force us to eat government-assisted euthanasia candidates. (That’s right. You just got a double dose of Charlton Heston. You’re now ready to defend your property from miscreants or part the Red Sea.) However, I decided to use my experience to help guide others through the grieving process of coming home.

Denial

That moment the voice in the back of your head says, “Hey, so our visa is expired and we’re almost out of money… maybe we should think about going home…” followed by you drowning that voice with enough wine to make it sound like this. Yep, you’re in denial. Enjoy it! Ignorance truly is bliss, but eventually all that drinking will lead to the next stage. No, not that…

Anger

You start cursing the universe. Why wasn’t I born with an unlimited amount of funds and diplomatic immunity? You curse your middle-class, midwestern heritage. If only your parents had been hardened spies or criminals. Maybe you could murder a rich guy and take over his life? Now you’ve entered the third stage.

Bargaining

You start to realize that you probably don’t have the huevos to kill someone. Then you start to realize that you could happen upon an already dead rich man and find his safety deposit box key. The only problem is you have to perform a voodoo ceremony on his corpse in order for it to lead you to the box, which you screw up, limiting his corpse’s ability to walk only when it hears reggae music, only you don’t have enough money to spring for underwater headphones and your ability to handle a spear gun is sub-par at best. (That was the single greatest sentence I have ever penned.) This realization leads you to the fourth stage.

Depression

You now know your fate. You walk around the place you’ve come to love that you will now be forced to leave with a look on your face that’s so heart-wrenching Sarah McLachlan is following you around, filming her next commercial. No one has ever had it more difficult than you. You have to leave this first-world major metropolis for a first-world rural area. No one can possibly understand the depths of your sorrow.

Acceptance

You start to realize the things that you truly missed. Obviously you’re excited to see friends and family, but also the little things you forgot about as well. Like spreadable butter (Seriously France? Even your butter is high maintenance.), some spice to your food (I get it France. Your palates are so sophisticated that my uneducated American tongue could not possibly grasp the levels of your culinary superiority. Would it have honestly killed you to have a bottle of Sriracha somewhere in your country though?), and getting to wear T-shirts and shorts out in public. (Sorry to break this to you France, but not all of you are models.) More importantly you figure out that the grass isn’t necessarily greener, just a different shade. Sure, there are plenty of differences, but your happiness is defined by you, not where you are.

Walk Like an American

stewart-colbert-patriotic

I’m currently laid over in the Philly airport for around five hours and after demolishing a cheesesteak it dawned on me that I was probably supposed to have some sort of epiphany about this experience. Unfortunately, I think I’m all out of those, possibly due to that same cheesesteak. Instead, I’m going to give my American brethren the second greatest gift they’ll receive this week. (The first of course being the fact that I have gloriously returned after five months away.) So here’s my guide to being a better American while abroad. Make sure you click on the links… it makes me a better writer when I can distract you with pictures and videos.

1. Flags (If you watch the last minute of that… I promise the link makes sense)

A big mistake most Americans make when overseas is trying to blend in with the local crowd. This is dumb. You are an American! Show off that star spangled awesomeness!

2. Regional Flavor

Now that you’ve let everyone know that you’re from America, it’s time to let them know where exactly. This can be easily accomplished by wearing shirts or hats from your local university or your favorite sports team. I, for instance, wore a Chicago Cubs shirt every time I went for a run in Paris. This insured the locals knew that not only did I enjoy a cold beer and delicious tube-shaped meat while sitting on aluminum benches, but also that I have a staggering amount of self-hatred. (What’s that you say Skeptical American? The French don’t watch baseball and would have no concept about what being a Cubs fan entails? Sorry, I can’t hear your facts over this song…)

3. Speak English

Everyone speaks English anyway, why should you inconvenience yourself attempting to learn the basic formalities of the native language? That’s valuable time you’d waste researching other important topics. If they’re having difficulty understanding you, it’s probably because you’re not speaking loud enough. Americans are known around the world for being understated. If they’re still struggling to understand you… well, you know what to say.

4. Ask about Wi-Fi everywhere

Just because you left the comfort of your cellular network doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of all the wonder provided by mobile social networking. After all, what would you do if you couldn’t check into a café on Facebook, tweet about how the server totally checked you out, and instagram a photo of what you ordered? Converse with friends? Please…

Follow these four steps and you’ll be on your way to a more American way of traveling. When you come back, be sure to tell all your friends and family how the place you visited was not like America. I’m sure where you went was really dirty, or old and in need of renovating, or the food was weird. Lastly, if you’ve taken offense to this post, feel free to ignore all of the advice given. You are already prepared to travel like an American.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Normally, this is a place where I tell you what or how I’m doing while I’m away from the states. This time however, I’m concerning myself with an issue that’s happening back in the states. The marriage equality debate has hit a fever pitch and I’m sure people are tired of reading statuses, tweets, and seeing profile pictures changed. However, this issue is too important to me to not speak out. Not for me, though I’m getting better at fighting for what I want, but for people who are close to me.

Many of you know I’m extremely close with multiple homosexual people, and while I won’t be mentioning them by name, they know exactly who they are. These are people I count amongst my greatest friends. People who have supported me during my best times and my worst times, and continue to do so now. To not support them would be a disservice to the love I have for them. How could I tell them I love them, which I do, and then not fight for their happiness? Make no mistake, that’s what this entire debate is about, happiness.

I’m not going to approach it from a political perspective, but instead only as a moral issue. So let’s dispel some notions about marriage equality that have nothing to do with the reality, first and foremost being the religious issue. This is a completely irrelevant argument to me. Currently, I can get married to anyone at anytime I want. All it takes is a plane ticket to Vegas, which is admittedly more expensive now that I’m in Paris. There’s no need to get married in a church, or even by a man of the cloth. These marriages that take place outside of religious institutions or are completely devoid of religion whatsoever still count the exact same way when being viewed by the state. If churches want to deny homosexual couples getting married in their church, let them live in the past. However, just like heterosexual marriages that take place outside religious dogma, why wouldn’t we allow homosexuals the same exact rights? Who exactly is judge of how we treat the citizens of our nation, religious institutions or we the people? Furthermore, I’m not exactly a theology scholar, but I’m pretty confident a key component of almost every major religion would be to treat others as you would like to be treated. I don’t understand how people can label themselves religious and actively fight for the right to deny a portion of the population the opportunity to be happy. I know that there are many tolerant religious people in the world, but it makes me happy that I don’t subscribe to that label.

Moving to a different type of notion, one of the biggest stereotypes about homosexual men specifically is that they are not strong, but are in fact weak. That could not be more false. For my heterosexual friends who are in love, imagine being told by someone that your love for the person you care about more than anything else in the world was not right. They told you the way you want to pursue your happiness was immoral, wrong, and would not be accepted. This isn’t just by strangers or the state, but possibly by some of your friends and even your family. Now imagine the courage it would take to stand up against all of that pressure and pursue what makes you feel happy. Sound like weakness to you? When have you had that kind of courage in your lifetime?

Ultimately, this entire debate comes down to equal rights. What exactly are homosexual people asking for? Are they asking to corrupt your children, your ideals, or your religion? Not even in the slightest. They are simply asking for the same rights afforded heterosexuals, first and foremost being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is the kind of strength and pursuit that literally built this country. We have a moral obligation as a nation to treat all people equally, so stop worrying about whether being homosexual is right for you, and start worrying about it being a right.