Saturday, 1 January 2005


‘I have nothing to declare except my genius’ said Oscar Wilde smugly when he appeared at the New York Customs house early in the last century. I suspect if he tried the same trick in this day and age, he would be strip searched, accused of being an Islamic extremist and slung out of the country on his ear. Airport security have never been renowned for their sense of humour and now that the mythical ‘war on terror’ has erupted they have seized the opportunity to enact their Gestapo fantasies upon the unsuspecting general public. I suspect these people wanted to be in the F.B.I as kids, but something went badly wrong along the way. They spent great swathes of their early adult life watching episodes of Colombo, reading trashy spy dramas and perfecting the art of interrogation on their younger siblings, but ended up harassing innocent tourists. As I looked across the immigration desk to the bald headed buffoon with the ‘my hobby is groping children’ moustache I felt I was staring at a lifetime of failure. ‘What is the purpose of your visit?’. ‘To see my girlfriend’ I replied, tired and bored after 24 hours of continuous travel. He posed a few more questions and then asked me something that I failed for a moment to comprehend. ‘I see Mr Clarke, and are you visiting the States for business or for pleasure?’. In the context of my previous answer this seemed to be a rather stupid query. ‘Pleasure’ I answered after a short pause, I hope I never get so warped by capitalism as to regard seeing my nearest and dearest as a commercial venture, but they say that’s what happens to relationships over time.

And so I proceeded through the airport terminal to take a ride in Katie’s dad’s car. I recall a friend of mine who used to sit in her room with the lights off most of the time, not because she was a vampire or mentally disturbed but because she felt that a little goes a long way in helping preserve the environment. The Martin-mobile was the very antithesis of this dogma, a large red truck that greedily consumed vast quantities of gasoline as we sped through the Airport tunnel. This project is apparently leaking, not in a bathroom tap kind of way but more akin to the Titanic after a rather too close encounter with the Arctic Circle, I was much happier when we reached the opposite side. Having listened to the radio I discovered that the U.S.A seems to be pre-occupied with whether a woman who has been in a coma for seven years has the right to dribble. This kind of thing simply wouldn’t happen in the U.K. The N.H.S need the bed-space far to badly and would simply remove the tube when no-one was looking or prescribe a hefty dose of morphine. I have always suspected that the motive behind making Euthanasia legal in this country is to alleviate the pensions crisis by reducing the post-war bulge. For this reason I’m slightly wary of it.

It seemed to have escaped everyone’s attention that a rather disturbed chap had wandered into a high school out west and decide to practice ‘Death Wish’ style justice on his classmates. When interviewed about the massacre, most people seemed to say something along the lines of ‘well that’s those damn Indians for you’. When you consider the fuss they made about that little snowball fight cum shootout in Boston back in 1775, this seems a bit thick. The poor Native Americans have attracted a disproportionate amount of abuse across the centuries. Consider the words of the famed 19th century French naturalist, the Comte De Buffon, who claimed that America was a land where the water was stagnant, the soil unproductive and the animals without size or vigour, their constitutions weakened by the noxious vapours that rose from the rotting swamps and sunless forests. Of the native Indians he said ‘They have no beard or body hair and no ardour for the female’, their reproductive organs were ‘small and feeble’. Another naturalist, one Comille de Pauw described them as ‘So lacking in virility, they have milk in their breasts’. If that was the opinion of the leading minds of Europe one can only imagine what it was on the American frontier.

My principle issue with American television is that there are so many traps I fall straight into. For a start I keep thinking that the hour long infomercials are some form of documentary and –naïve and oblivious- I sit there watching for a considerable length of time before realising my mistake. The one I kept tuning in to involved one of my fellow countrymen displaying his new blender to an implausibly fascinated group of party guests. ‘Simply add margarita mix, lemon and ice, and then blend and voila!, Margarita’ said the repulsively ugly ex-pat in a mock-cockney accent. The guy couldn’t sell the Big Issue in the U.K but some Americans seem associate a British accent with authority and wisdom, a myth I strived to quash during the course of my visit by acting like a moron. The whole scenario seemed highly unrealistic. For instance, if I invited large numbers of my friends round to demonstrate my George Foreman grill, I doubt they would ever return and most would probably disown me.

My vacation gave me an ideal opportunity to catch up on what is possibly the greatest entertainment around today, the paternity tests on Maury. I’m not sure why these fascinate me so much, they always go exactly the same way every time. Enter the dissolute father, usually he is pictured sitting in a basketball court and has a peculiar inability to talk without waving his hand up and down.

‘Hey Maury, listen up dude, it aint ma kid man, I been talking to J-Zee and the so-simple crew down on southside and they been telling me ma woman been cheating. There aint no way the kid is mine, he don’t look like me man, he ugly’.

The camera pans back to Maury who is sitting with the girlfriend, she sits in tears as the screen behind them shows a picture comparison of their baby and her boyfriend, the two usually look identical.

‘Ah don’t understand Maury, he’s been callin me a dirty ho and sayin ah cheated, but I aint done nothing wrong, it’s his little boy but he don’t see it’

The father –for he clearly is- walks into the studio making V signs at the audience and strutting with a confidence that seems misplaced when you consider he is relying on the testimony of a bunch of other crackheads. He struts up to the monitor and points at the face of his son.

‘Exhibit A, this muthafucker don’t have the same nose, he don’t have the same forehead, he ugly, he aint mine, no way hose’

The envelope is opened with the D.N.A results, ‘Leroy, you are the father’ exclaims Maury with a complete lack of any surprise. The girlfriend erupts in triumph, ‘Ah told you so you retard!’. Leroy appears un-phased, he waves his hand a little more agitatedly and makes silly poses on the studio floor before retreating backstage. Later on he is pictured cradling the child he previously disowned and saying ‘ah he’s a cute little bastard’, the transition to fatherhood is complete.

Sadly I could only stay a week and am in the process of returning to my cell in Nottingham. Only spending a week with Katie and having to go home again is rather like those dreams I used to have at St Andrews. The ones where I would win a million pounds and then awake to discover I had a crippling hangover and my keys were missing. Please tell me someone else gets those.


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