Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

London and the US. 12

Authenticity (Athens, Tennessee)

Many of us grew up watching and "hearing" the US through screens and loudspeakers. Some of us were overexposed to these images and sounds and thus they became familiar to us as a (half-) culture we could almost call our own. Consequently, when europeans travell to the US, they might be affected by an eerie feeling - on one hand, they sense their surrounings to be familiar; on the other, they perceive them to be dream-like, unreal, artificial.

A cinematic veil shrouds everyday experiences, rendering them less real, less authentic...ephemeral in nature.

This feeling may trigger a reaction on part of the traveller: the longing and search for the authentic experience in the US. A struggle against the pervading sensations of artificial, superficial, ephemeral, etc; a search for the unveiled experience, a longing for strong emotional interactions, to override the dream-like encounters.

I stumbled over a bit of the authentic right there, near Athens, Tennessee. Gathered around the family house porch, the southern folk talked about baseball, the evils of socialism and the lastest travell gossip from Europe. The gently sloping landscapes where cattle grazed was lush with green; the muddy creek had filled up some and was lined by crooked trees with bear branches scratching the blue skies. A tornado had come and gone and there we were, all gathered for easter sunday.

All was bound by the southern accent and the fragile patriarchal figure of Popa, in overalls and checkered shirt and a straw hat.

After lunch, the family gathered on the porch. One of the older brothers spat to the side, in that unmistakable way. And there it was, in that very gesture, the authentic spirit of America.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

London and the US. 11

Memories of Playmobil

As we sat at our places in the arena of the Dixie Stampede, I had an eerie feeling when our waiter presented himself in a basic confederate uniform; he definitely reminded me of something familiar...but not from a movie scene - I could not put my finger on it, though. Later, I recalled the moment and the flashback became clear: the waiter reminded me of the playmobil figures from my childhood.

The waiter, the cowboys, the so-called audience volunteer partaking in the magic trick, the host, Dolly Parton's plastic image on the tv screens, the other waiters, they were all part of a thematic circus that complimented Dollywood, just across Pigeon Forge's river.

It's not a light-hearted affair to see how such a traumatic experience as the american civil war can and has been mellowed down into light entertainment shows like this one. Sure enough, the show ended with a patriotic display and message of unity, in spite of its cashing in on the north-south divide that clings on to american core values.

a nickname for the Southern United States [probably derived from] privately issued currency from banks in Louisiana [...] labeled "Dix", French for "ten", on the reverse side. [...] The notes were known as "Dixies" by English-speaking southerners, and the area around New Orleans and the Cajun-speaking parts of Louisiana came to be known as "Dixieland" [...]

an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd (or crowd) collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose [...]

Dolly Parton.
(born January 19, 1946) an [...] American [..] known for her prolific work in country music [...]

a theme park owned by country music singer Dolly Parton [...] It is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In addition to standard amusement park thrill rides, Dollywood features traditional crafts and music of the Smoky Mountains area. Dollywood also owns the adjacent Dollywood's Splash Country, and the chain of Dixie Stampede dinner theaters [...] as well as other national and local musical acts [...]

London and the US. 10

Networking # 2

We were walking along the road prong trail, close to the Sugarlands entry to the Smokies, just like - or almost - many other americans. The trail was a 2m paved strip that meandered up to a small waterfall; as people crossed each other in opposite directions, casual greeting were sometimes exchanged. I remembered the "Berg Heil" story from another mountain range...and how mountains have the curious effect of making man feel smaller and closer to his creator.

Up ahead, as two parties were crossing each other along the path, I heard one young american ask out loud "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?"; the other one answered "Yes, I'm a born again Christian". I noticed how the question had been triggered by a conspicuous tshirt. "Me too. Where are you from?"; "Minnesota".

Back in Cleveland, I gave up trying to keep track or distinguish between the various churches that line up the roads. My uncle told me that there were maybe two hundred churches in Bradley county average of 185 inhabitants per church. Just maybe...this is stout Republican ground, sure enough.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

mais do mesmo

(deve ser a vigésima terceira notícia com este título em periódicos indianos...)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

London and the US. 9


- "Have we met?"

That was and is the most practical way to initiate networking on a given event of your field. Especially if your self-confidence is high and your skills valuable. And you assume it natural that you should meet everyone else attending the same event as you. I guess I would have heard that line quite a few times if I had attended all the gatherings of this particular event and stayed in one of its HQ hotels (Hilton, Sheraton or Westin). And maybe people were also put off by the unfamiliar name - both my own and that of my affiliation. Accordingly, I only heard this sentence once; and it was in the bar queue, trying to get a beer on the opening reception at the convention centre.

He turned out to be one of the curators at the Library of Congress...and eventually guaranteed me an adequate help and facilities if my research would ever take that side of the world's library trail.

I still wonder what networking is all about.

Friday, April 03, 2009

London and the US. 8

Arriving on first impressions

There was some fuss leaving the town of London due to my previous travels to Germany, India, etc. and because of my mixed background. However, arriving in Newark - and after waiting for over an hour in the queue - the customs officer that cleared me was indeed polite and caused a remarkable first impression. Maybe he was of portuguese origin...he literally welcomed me to the US after two or three simple questions about my business.

Next was a crowded flight to LA (the belly of the woman sitting next to me actually spilled over the armrest into my seat); and a shuttle to Pasadena. My room at the V. Inn felt as ample as the avenues that line this city and that extend it to the edge of the mountains on the north.

When you sense your room to be adequate to your travelling needs, it always feels good to spread your stuff around and make use of the available appliances to create an ephemeral stage of transitorial permanence.

Hotel rooms should come with a documentation of their most notable previous usages and guests.