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Archive for February, 2010

Whirlwind journey that revisits the kaleidoscopic Americana experience

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

a good one! I don remember hearing this greeting the last time I visited the US, almost six years ago. It can mean anything have a good day, good night, happy holidays, Merry Christmas, whatever! Wannabe cool? Now you know how!

But the US was not really having a good one. Protests over the Ferguson, MO (Missouri) incident involving Michael Brown, Cheap Jerseys from china the African American teenager shot dead by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, heightened at the end of November, when I begin my trip, following a grand jury decision not to indict the officer. Barely a week later, a similar decision to let off another white policeman for what has come to be known as the chokehold death of Staten Island, NY, where I am based, results in more protests.

Exploring Princeton, NJ in sub zero temperature, I join several others who have stopped in their tracks when a long line of people shouting Lives Matter are spotted lying on the ground as part of the protest.

A few TV vans and cars arrive, spilling reporters and camera persons who shoot a few frames and leave. Later, New York is again in the news when two police offers are shot dead, an act widely assumed to have been provoked at least in part, by the deaths of the two African American youths.

A few days later, I am on the High Line, a linear park built along an old railway line in Manhattan Westside. Winter cloaks it in gray and brown, though holly, with its red berries, lends some colour.

It not as crowded as it would be in spring but there are several people walking the 1.45 mile length, and a few others selling prints and fridge magnets of NYC. It also the place where I first come across the selfie stick, which is now a popular Christmas gift in the Western world and a topic of hot debate.

Men at workIt is virtually impossible to find even a small portion of New York City without construction equipment jutting into the picture. Something is being built constantly. The 1,776 ft tall Freedom Tower which stands at the site of the twin World Trade Centre towers is being thrown open to businesses for leasing, but there is some construction going on there as well. On the previous visit, the site of 9/11 was still a piece of land cranes and other heavy equipment were ploughing through to build something that would lighten the dark memories. Now there is a memorial pool, and a wall runs around it, bearing the names of the dead. The last time I was there, there were boys hawking crude booklets filled with pictures of the attacks but this time, I didn notice any. It is built over and landscaped, a sombre memorial and a popular tourist spot.

Wedding vows in mallsLater, in Columbus, OH, on a trip to Easton Town Centre, which is a sprawling mall, I was surprised to see a newly married couple pose for photos in the square decorated with Christmas trees. My hosts tell me it not unusual for people to get married in malls.

An Internet search reveals quite a few malls that offer wedding facilities. Over 5,000 couples have gotten married or renewed vows in the Chapel of Love at the Mall of America, Minneapolis, over the past 15 years, says its website.

Quite a revelation to someone who wonders why people even want to get photographed in malls! Parking lots, strip malls, houses and gardens that seem to have come out of a mould combine to make suburbs and highways undistinguishable to a stranger that one lasting impression of the country fuelled by each successive visit.

And the wealth of curious stuff that one can buy in the stores in these malls is intriguing a piece of steel shaped like soap to use after you handle garlic, a cookbook that tells you how to make organic dog biscuits, Christmas issue red and green tortilla chips, an iPhone 5 cover shaped like a multi tiered hamburger, and a book that puts forth a theory of how ahles come to be, are just some of them.