DC / Cherokee / New York / Chattanooga: The penultimate blog post on the American journey in which the author-traveller does a National Mall stroll and reveals his dismal view on the future for an unlucky surveyor in NYC.
– To the White House, please.
– You got an appointment with President Obama, asks Mr. Abdul Khan, our friendly taxi driver.
– Yes, we’re his nine o’clock.
– Haha – you know I drove Obama once, back when he was a senator.
– Oh really? Was he a nice passenger?
– No, man, he paid the right money – right on the meter!
So there you have it. The President is a bad tipper. Also, the White House is way smaller than I imagined. Other than that, DC feels extremely familiar to someone who’s never been there before. Okay, the White House isn’t a marble fortress prone to exploding in the beginning of the third act, the Lincoln memorial statue doesn’t rise from his stone throne to run for re-election and the Washington monument (probably) isn’t a camouflaged above-ground missile silo – but other than that the capital handles the transition from pop culture to real life reasonably well.
PS – Disillusioning Dave
At some point during our travel I think I said jokingly that the US is a big and friendly country that is fond of melted cheese, Jesus and fireworks, in that order. We certainly had our shares of cheese and massive displays of fireworks, but were actually spared any real run-ins with folks preaching the gospel in our general direction. Yes, somewhere in the Midwest we did see a series of billboards proclaiming that adherence to the theory of evolution led to eternal damnation, but that’s so off the charts that it ain’t offensive in the slightest. Actually I think the 20-something hipsters folding hands for a mealtime prayer in a fancy NYC place is almost more shocking to my irreligious Northern European sensibilities. Anyway, my point is that no one had tried to proselytize me or even engage me in a religious conversation. Not until the very last day.
It’s the morning of our last day in the US. I’m having breakfast in Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan and have already had some more or less meaningful conversations with strangers on topics ranging from cilantro to organ donation, when a new guy approaches. He introduces himself as Dave and tells me that he is from some sort of ministry but seems like a nice enough fellow.
Dave: – We have some questions that we ask visitors here in Bryant Park – would you mind if we spoke for a few minutes?
Me: – Sure, I don’t mind.
Dave: – How do you think it all began?
Me: – Life, you mean? It originated from a beautiful bio-chemical coincidence – then evolved through a process of natural selection.
Dave: – Oh.
Me: – I gather you and I have quite different opinions on this?
Dave: – Yes. But that’s okay. Let’s continue. What do you believe went wrong for us humans?
Me: – Oh, that’s easy. Our single measure of success is progress, but you can’t have unlimited growth based on a system of limited resources. At the same time we lack the cognitive ability of thinking and planning long-term. Our brains are wired just the same way as when fight or flight were the only decisions of importance, making it very hard for us to actually fathom the consequences of problems such as overpopulation and climate change.
Dave: – Hmm. Is there any hope?
Me: – No, I don’t think so.
Dave: – So how will it end?
Me: – Horribly.
Ah yes. That was Dave’s encounter with the smiling happy and dreadfully pessimistic Norwegians in Bryant Park. And actually also my last really memorable interaction with anyone in the States. Well except for the staff of five at the Irish pub in Newark Airport, who deemed the question of whether or not Vin Diesel is gay as far more important than me having a steady supply of Guinness.
This is America part nine. Read also