It was four o'clock in the morning and my chain smoking had once again run me out of cigarettes. I still had some work to do and I knew it would be hell trying to plow through it without tumor blasts to my black lungs at 10 minute intervals. I want to kick the habit some day, but not when I'm in the middle of writing a goddamn article. I tossed on my jacket and headed out to my car. It's creepy in the countryside at four in the morning, it's ten times creepier in the middle of the city at that unwholesome hour. Basically the only people out are murderers and people trying to evade murderers long enough to buy something absolutely necessary like cigarettes. In other words, the bogeyman are at least plausible in the city, out in the countryside you can keep reminding yourself it's just your imagination up until the exact moment that the moonbeast liquefies your face with its acid-palmed hands and tosses your skull into the crisp night air.
I didn't see any murders, but I got the car started in a hurry to avoid one of those situations where dozens of crackheads are slapping their nerveless hands at my windows trying to get at the rocks they think are hidden inside my brainpan. I didn't drive more than half a block when something caught my eye. Up ahead of me there was a fire burning in the street. No, not a fire, it was a raging inferno that had already consumed a van and a parked car. Flames were roaring off the vehicles ten or more feet into the air and I expected them to detonate at any minute. What struck me wasn't so much the fire - I've seen a surprising number of those in my neighborhood - it was the fact that the first thing my brain did was estimate how long it would take that car fire to spread to my apartment. At least twenty minutes I calculated, assuming no one called the fire department. Which meant it was safe to go get my cigarettes and ignore the vehicle-consuming fire raging, at least until I returned.
The reason I'm laying that little anecdote on you is because I would like to extend to our foreign readers some information and advice to keep in mind if they ever decide to visit the United Sates. I think the anecdote highlights one of many key differences between the US and Old Europe. We may be the richest, most prosperous, and (arguably) the most technologically advanced nation, but in our cities we have third world apathy for our fellow man. That only gets worse if you ain't from around here.
We Don't Want You Here
The first thing to remember when visiting the United States is that no matter what the board of tourism says, no one here actually wants you around. You may find some friendly people, you may find some ancestral relatives who are cool with you, but pretty much everyone else spends their life suspiciously eyeing everyone around them trying to spot "foreign behavior". Show up with an accent and you might as well be marked for death. Fifteen minutes after that first "danke" and Steven Segal is going to be pulling the knife out of your skull and tossing your twitching corpse into a dumpster.
Most Europeans probably don't really want Americans around in their countries. In much of Europe this translates to vicious condescension and brutal couched insults. In the United States these same Europeans will be treated to the US brand of xenophobia which involves beating them out of their rental car and then backing over their unconscious body. Keep in mind that if you are anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line and you speak with a foreign accent you are a literal United States dictionary definition of the word "faggot". Learn to accept this fact or learn to enjoy the feeling of your bloody teeth sliding down your throat. Try to pantomime your way through most conversations unless you can either fake a US accent or an Australian accent. The lingering miasma of Crocodile Dundee still imparts visiting Australians with a wary degree of respect.
If you are Asian you might get by if you can act "cute" enough and smile a lot. Most Americans view various Asian nationals as toys or robots, and if they behave in an endearing fashion they may earn the same sort of grudging respect as say, a helpful monkey. If you are "brown", regardless of your nation of origin, don't even think of coming to America because you're a fucking terrorist. Fun fact: Native Americans get hauled in by the Department of Homeland Security for taking pictures of their own adobe huts. How do you think a Spaniard - let alone a Middle Eastern person - is going to fare? Lastly, if you're black; run. The white people already hate you, the black people will like you until you talk and then they will treat you like an alien, and the best you can really hope for is a sort of confused fear. In most countries fear leads to flight. In the United States fear leads to double homicides.
Our Cities Are Not Your Cities
Europe is quaint. I know it hurts to hear it, but from an American perspective, it's true. Do you know how many murders Chicago had in 2002? 665. SIX FUCKING HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE MURDERS. Do you know how many all of Europe had? I don't know, because I'm an American and we don't give a shit about Europe, but I bet it was like three. However, a quick Internet search tells me that London is shitting its pants because there were 61 murders in 2003. In Chicago there were 61 people murdered with fucking boomerangs. There were 75 murdered with screwdrivers. Here in the United States we have homicide statistics in the double digits for specific types of murder that people in Europe haven't even thought up yet. Last year 12 people were murdered with dolphins. I don't know how or why, but it's right there in the Department of Justice aggregate crime statistics.
Big cities in the United States are what Tokyo is like in every Japanese science fiction movie. You know where the sky is red and filled with smoke and future helicopters fly around and there are gangs of wild teenagers on weird motorcycles and crime is out of control. Yeah, that's wild. Peoria is like that. Boise is like that. From Mount Rainer Seattle looks like a huge black crater crawling with giant kill bots that collect flesh for the genovats that the techocrats in the high city use for their rejuvenation treatments. On one corner you can get a grande mocha from Starbucks and then on the facing corner you can have your corneas harvested by a 16-armed Reaper Mark-V that has been dispatched for organ reclamation because Jeb Bush has vision spotting.
How about the Big Apple? America's great melting pot! Have you ever actually seen a melting pot? Heat and sublimation fumes will blind you from ten feet away and even with the right breathing equipment you can feel the caustic shit scourging your skin. Stick your hand into the melting pot and you're going to pull back a stump. That's a great lesson right there. That's a melting pot.
You remember 9/11? I mean I know you're foreign but I don't think America will let the world forget 9/11 if it has to thermite bomb every patch of land outside the lower 48. So yeah, you remember 9/11, planes into the towers, crying eagle, Dale Earnhart, etc. What you might not know is that the 9/11 hijackers were not hijackers, they were part of a tour group from Qatar, and when the pilots found out they had foreigners on their planes they just radioed into the Twin Towers and said "boys, we're bringing 'em on in." Hell, that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was actually being flown towards the White House by the passengers, but the tour group fought back and tried to arrange a safe landing, so the passengers crashed it into the Pennsylvania countryside. Let's Roll© those fucking ragheads into a magic carpet and send them back to Zanzibar.
Ty-rah-rah-ny of the Majority
The United States of America is the greatest country on earth. Did you know that in the 1930s the government offered black people in the United States medical treatment for free? It's true! They offered medical treatment to people they had secretly diagnosed with syphilis and then for the next 40 years they charted how the disease would progress if left untreated. While the study progressed dozens of people were infected by the test subjects who were never informed of their syphilis diagnosis. Hooray!
You think that's awesome? Get this: in 1907 the world's first eugenics law was passed allowing the government to sterilize everyone from the retarded to debtors against their will. I know what you're thinking; eugenics, racial superiority, Nazism, Hitler, Germany, etc. Well, think again fraulein, because Indiana passed this law! Not only that, but Indiana's law was so totally awesome that a number of other states took it up. By the time someone said "hey, maybe castrating people for petty theft isn't nearly as radical to the max as we thought" some 60,000 people had been hit in the jewels with tin snips.
This is thanks to a little side effect of democracy we all like to call "the tyranny of the majority", wherein the majority of the population imposes its will on the minority. We gentiles have been holding down good old Fort Whitey in the US ever since small pox and genocide significantly decimated the Native American population. Before long the white tide was washing ashore in New England and those poor simple-minded red savages never had a chance. They just slunk off down their trail of tears with their firewater to become another footnote in the history books about the awesomeness of the United States. Since the red man was no longer a significant minority for us to boss around we had some Irish indentured servants come over and we imposed our will on them. Of course, anyone who has known an Irishman knows they are lazy and stupid, so we quickly turned to America's breadbasket; the negro slave.
For more than a century the negroes became the captive audience for our 3rd grade play entitled democracy, and they were the best kind of minority because they couldn't even complain about our tyranny. Then silly old Abe Lincoln decided to set them loose and the South has never been the same. The bad news is that negroes lurk in every shadow, converting to Islam and conspiring against our proud nation with terrorists. The good news is that the tyranny of the majority still exists today and we intend to use every last scrap of it.
How does this affect you, the foreign traveler? I'm glad I asked!
Because of the way in which our great democracy works sweeping changes can come down the pipe suddenly and unexpectedly. By electing representative officials we are basically mailing a package of anti-minority legislation that will be opened whenever the government gets around to it. Sometimes the packages get lost in the mail, the rest of the time, when you least expect it, they will be opened to wreak joy on the population. For example, in 2002 Akumfor Hadi from the Republic of Congo was visiting Boston when the "No Blacks in Hats" legislation was passed. Overnight a "snappy hat" moratorium blanketed the country, but the unsuspecting Hadi went ahead and donned his favorite fedora before stepping outside. He was spotted by passerby who called the sighting in to the national "Blacks in Hats" tips hotline. Within the hour a black helicopter had swooped in to disappear Hadi into one of several semi-secret Federal prisons.
There really isn't a way to prepare oneself for this sort of thing. However, when you're staying in the United States it would be wise to regularly check the Internet or call 1-800-MAJORITY to get your latest updates on the tyranny of the majority.
Keep Your Religion Out of My Rapture
In case you weren't aware, it's the End Times right now, and any religicizing you bring with you to America is just going to get in the way of the big steamroller in the sky we call Christ Our Lord. I remember when I was 13 we watched a documentary that included footage of a Buddhist monk in Vietnam dousing himself in gasoline and lighting himself on fire. We all had a good laugh at that guy's crazy idolatry. I mean jeez-o-petes, burning yourself alive! Everyone knows you're supposed to kill OTHER people for religion. We all calmed down and then went back to handling rattlesnakes and drinking jars of Kentucky Strychnine while dancing ecstatically.
Until such a time as a fiery dragon with seven heads and seven diadems rises in the East we have a lot of other good Christian business to take care of here in the United States. Like creationism! I mean, we all know it's a big bucket of hot manure, but we just can't help ourselves. We get to prayerifying and evangelizing and the next thing we know we wake up on the floor of the high school auditorium with a gem encrusted ten commandments placard next to our 1988 intramural girls softball champions banner. We can't stop ourselves, and there's no way in hell you foreign dandies are going to stop us either. By God, we are America, and here in America we don't have to take no sass from the Nobel whosits winning scholars who think they know better than the Good Book what Jesus writ himself. God made the earth 250 years ago and we all evolved from George Washington end of story. I SAID END OF FUCKING STORY.
I don't know if they still do things this way in New Orleans, but the last time I was there every night they close down the French Quarter to vehicular traffic so that inebriated pedestrians can choke the streets without fear of being crushed under the wheels of someone's shiny new Escalade. College kids, gawping tourists, and immodest young women stagger around bleary eyed, occasionally pausing to press against a wall and publicly dry hump or hunch over suddenly and empty their guts out across cobbled stones. Despite its name the French Quarter is so very American, a clash of cultures stewing up into a dangerous amusement that's half theme park and half encounter with a back alley hooker. The bright lights are dazzling and the mixture of noise and music only adds to the disorientation, but as you move past an occasional patch of dark you can't ignore that all of the high stone walls are topped with shards of broken glass. Poor man's razor wire.
Come dawn people crawl back to their hotels or leave the city entirely. A few, maybe, end up in the hospital or even the morgue. Left in the wake of this great and totally pointless nightly celebration is a swampy tide of beer, urine, cups, bottles, wrappers, receipts, condoms, and all manner of detritus. The sheer ugliness of it all is laid bare in the painful light of day, but before the revelers have awakened a methodical crew of machine sweepers and men and women with brooms and trash bins moves down Bourbon Street. By seven the streets are clean, enticing, beckoning again to visitors to see just what the next night holds, what violence it can inflict on them in their weakest moments.
Ask your travel agent for a brochure.
Sir Mix-a-Lot's classic follow up to "Baby Got Back" has serious unintended consequences.
"Really, Holmes!" I dropped into my seat, shocked. "You are remarkably tall! What are you, six foot six? Six foot eight?"
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.