Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who are you?


It dawned on me that the photo above and the previous photo of the Chrysler Building are no longer "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" American. Anheuser-Busch has been sold to a Belgian company and the Chrysler Building is now owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. Who owns Chevrolet these days??

This slow sell-off of America is scary. As an American living overseas, I have gotten used to questions about who am I going to vote for, where am I from, what do I miss most... but these days, I have to wonder about the stability of my native country. I'll be very honest and say if given a choice, I don't think I could move back to the US. That has more to do with the way I was raised and how I grew up than anything else. If I had family roots in one area, I don't think there would be an issue, but I grew up on military bases, spent most of my life moving and I don't really have anywhere I would call "home" in the US. In fact, after living overseas for 16 years, I don't have anywhere in the world that I would call home right now. The transitions I am currently going through will result in another move at some point in the not-to-distant future. Where that takes me, who knows?

Right now, I wonder about my friends and family here in the US. Some have spouses who have lost their jobs through cut backs or bankruptcies. No one (yet) has lost their home, but there is a cautious holding back of spending that I am seeing. Even for me, although I have the advantage of the exchange rate right now, it's still expensive. I went to D'Agostino's this morning, spent $65 and walked away with 2 bags of groceries. (Okay, so I bought a six-pack of Coronas for $7.99) but still... 2 bags?

The other thing that floored me was the size of the portions of food served in restaurants and the amount of those portions that gets thrown away. After we dropped my son off at his camp, Brad and I went to a diner for lunch. I got a Reuben and iced tea. The order arrived... I almost fell out of the booth at the size of the portion. The Reuben came with a pickle, potato salad and a side of cole slaw on an over-sized plate and the food was hanging off the edges. The side of cole slaw came in a separate bowl. The refillable iced tea kept coming and then the waiter asked if we wanted desert. No thanks. I watched a couple next to us get their order. French fries with melted cheese on top, gigantic cheeseburger with all the fixings and endless glasses of DIET soda!! Where does the excess go? When the busboy cleared the table next to us half the food was left behind and got tossed into a plastic bin along with the dishes, obviously not to be reused anywhere. You could have fed a family of 4 on what was thrown away.

Where am I going with all this? I'm not sure. I go through this feeling every time I come back to the states. Reverse culture shock... the huge portions, feeling rushed through every meal in a restaurant, one person's plate is whisked away even though the other guests are still eating, no pause between courses... have I assimilated into French dining rituals? If I have, amen for that. Each course is sized to please the palate, knowing the next will do the same. There is time between the courses to enjoy your company and your dining experience. Even in the smallest cafes, the pace is slower and the portions smaller. Bite-sized... if you will allow me that comparison.

I guess what is hitting me on this trip is the abject consumerism in the US. The gluttony and need for bigger and more of it... I came with a shopping list of things I wanted to bring back (shoes, a few things I can't get in France, a book or two...) but I watch as people buy for no particular reason except that it is there and why not?

Life is simpler in France. Sunday is family day, the stores are closed. The average living space is smaller, no need to amass a lot of junk. Five weeks of vacation so you can actually take some time off and recharge your inner soul... I'm scaring myself with this post. I have no borders or cultural identity anymore. I've become a citizen of the world and the world is hurting. It's time to start healing it.

Tell me, who are you?

1 comment:

An American in France said...

You came to France for love and stayed for the health insurance. I have to say that I came for the insurance. I wasn't sick either, just a little scared... and I was supposed to feel safe in America.