Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Great American Adventure - Part One

I just let another two months pass us by, didn't I?  Now I really am almost TWO YEARS behind with this blog.  But I was never one to quit (much as some people would like me to) and so I am still determined to get this blog up to date.

I set this site to private for a few days for reasons I won't go into here, but I don't see why I should hide away.  I don't think I'm doing any harm with this blog - all the people featured within it know where to find it and if anyone is unhappy about specific things being written, I am always happy to edit my entries.  I try not to hurt anyone and I never tell lies, I just write things as they happen in order to give people a laugh.  You could make a sitcom out of this family - why shouldn't somebody benefit from all the misfortune that comes our way? 

Thank you to all of my loyal and dedicated readers who have encouraged me to keep writing.   I am a passionate writer and performer at heart and my blog is my only stage.  I am also extremely isolated here with no friends in the real world.  I need an outlet for all this stress and misery or else I would lose the few marbles I have left!  Besides, Google are paying me for this blog and I'm losing money while it's not online!

May 19th 2011

As I said in my last blog entry, rather than doing the sensible thing and getting a good night's rest before our grand adventure, I decided to do the exact opposite and stay up all night.  This gave me more time to finish doing Mum's jobs as I could pack my case overnight.  Even so, we still weren't really ready in time.  David left for his final journey to Grottsville and the storage depot (where he was distributing back up copies of Mum's photographs in negative and flash drive form) at 5am and arrived back just as our chauffeur pulled up outside.  Yes, it all sounds mighty posh on paper, doesn't it?  However, he apparently didn't get the message that he was transporting royalty to the airport, so instead of bringing his limousine, we found ourselves boarding a common people carrier...

Despite making the man wait for ages while he made some final adjustments to his suitcase, David failed to change into his new shoes.  He threw a fit when he realised this at the airport.  "Oh no, I look like a tramp!" he wailed.  Mum and I chuckled as he stomped ahead of us, still sulking...showing that the back of his jacket was tucked into his trousers!

He obviously hadn't done a very good job of checking his hand luggage either...as a security guard found a SCREWDRIVER in there of all things.  Mum was not too pleased as it was her dad's screwdriver and was, of course, destroyed as a "sharp object".

Mum had decided it would be a waste to get rid of the food we still had in the kitchen cupboard so decided to pack it all in her bag.  We weren't allowed to take it through customs though so ended up sitting on an uncomfortable chair at the airport, stuffing our faces with scones, sandwiches and buns.  Well, better to get a stomach ache than waste a few slices of bread, you know?  After all, we "didn't know what we'd be able to get on the other side", as Mum put it!

One thing I did know we wouldn't be able to buy in the US was Lucozade.  Mum can't survive long without her Lucozade so we agreed we'd stock up at the airport shops once we were through customs.  David's idea of "stocking up" was to buy three small bottles.  "Surely we'll be able to buy it somewhere over there!" he said.  I told him that I had been informed that Lucozade was banned from sale in America due to an artificial colouring in the drink but he wouldn't have it.

I made my way to a window and then I saw it... the beautiful machine that would take me to the right side of the Atlantic for the first time in my life...

Mum was scared of flying as always, but I was practically bursting with excitement.  It was really happening. Soon I would set foot on North American soil.  We took our seats, buckled up and then we were off, up into the clouds...  No way my parents could turn back now.  We were really going to the USA!

We were so late to book our seats that none of us got a place by the window.  We wouldn't have even been in the same row had a kind man not offered to swap seats.  He needn't have bothered.  David didn't say a word to Mum and I during the whole ten hour flight.  We had an interactive map on the screen in front of us which showed us where we were flying and I was annoyed to not be able to look out the window and think of the exotic lands below, not least when we flew over a little of Saskatchewan.  Too far south for Candle Lake but I would have been snapping pictures of the clouds regardless.  Instead, I watched David and the old couple next to him snoozing through the whole thing.  Grr...

I had to content myself with watching an extremely badly acted film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and listening to  my new MP3 player.  I tried to get a couple of hours of sleep too, but the seats were very tightly packed and our travelling companions were not the best.  There was a gross young man next to me who kept throwing his coat and blanket on top of me and dropping litter all over the floor...  Then there was the man who had kindly swapped seats with David who was talking loudly with his friends behind us about how he "only had a few thousand pounds to gamble".  So I couldn't sleep very well.

The flight seemed to pass quite quickly (or maybe I slept for longer than I thought) and soon I was taking my first steps off of the plane and into the airport at Las Vegas.  My goodness, going through customs there was very different to the relaxed British way.  They took our fingerprints and marched around with guns as though our plane was filled with the most suspicious-looking potential criminals on Earth!  Despite that, the old man who welcomed us into his country (by taking our fingerprints!) was extremely pleasant and charming, joking that I would have to take David shopping in Las Vegas as I was too young to play in the casinos!

We stepped out of the airport and into the street and the heat hit us.  God, it was only May and it was so humid there.  I really don't know how anybody lives in the southern states during the summer.

The tour company had given us a voucher to use in order to get a taxi to the Hilton Hotel where we were staying.  It took a while to find a driver who would accept the voucher but, after staggering around between  a few different cabs, we eventually found someone who would.  At least the car had air conditioning.

We passed the MGM Hotel which I had promised to photograph for somebody who had stayed there a few years ago (somebody who had his photo taken on the balcony with his...er, now my camera).  "Take that camera to the nearest spot you can and get a photo of yourself there", I believe he said.  I think I was still in shock from all the excitement as I didn't even pull the camera out of my bag.  I was too busy drinking in the sights and sounds of Vegas as we made our way to the hotel.  I can't say I was very keen on the city - a little too insincere, tacky and full of sin for my tastes - but heck, I was in America and I can honestly say I felt happy and at peace for the first time in my life!

Then we drove past some rather run down buildings - dusty, tattered laundry strung up from lines on rough-looking balconies with scantily-clad women smoking cigarettes standing on them.  I saw Mum's face and knew that was going on the "things to say against America list".  I didn't realise it would be said so soon...

Our tour guide was late and made us wait ages for keys to our hotel room.  There was nowhere comfortable to sit and Mum was tired and too hot.  She began ranting, a barrage of how "she hated this place full of prostitutes" and Vegas was "a dive full of car parks and council estates".  The people on our tour gave her strange looks.  A great way to start a fortnight with those people, I must say.  Yep, that's the way to make friends and influence people for sure!

The tour guide finally gave us our keys and we proceeded up to our room.  It was a lovely, comfortable and spacious room but there were a couple of things I noticed that one would never find in an English hotel.

The lavatory stood next to a full length mirror.  Uh...why?  Do people enjoy seeing themselves with their trousers around their ankles?  I found myself sitting sideways just so that I didn't have to see myself in such a situation!  One could argue that the mirror was there for those who were preening themselves ready for a night out...but the basin was OUTSIDE the bathroom with no door to close it off from the rest of the hotel room.  So people enjoy seeing themselves on the loo and washing in front of their families/hotel room mates in the US, right?  This would be only our first of many observations about American bathrooms!

I also noticed that there was an adjoining door between our room and the one next to us.  The door was right next to my bed and, while there was a catch on it, I didn't like the idea that whoever was sleeping next door could push the door partially open at any time.  Don't people over there want any privacy?  As if washing in front of your hotel room mates wasn't enough, why don't we invite the people from next door to push open the secret door and watch us as well?!

Mum was "too tired to go out" and also claimed it was "too cold" in the hotel room.  I understand jet lag and being tired (though I live my life in such a topsy turvey way that it was a relief to be in my own time zone for once and not staying up all night to talk to people who are eight hours behind me!)  I've never understood how even she could be too cold in the middle of the desert though, but she turned the air conditioning off regardless and made it SO HOT in the room that we all fell fast asleep until 8.30pm.  At this point, David jumped in the bathroom (er...restroom as the washing part of the bathroom was outside, of course!) which meant that I couldn't even change out of my dress and get ready for bed.  Mum decided that she "didn't want to sleep in a bed" as she was "used to sleeping on the floor".  She then got down on what she described as "the hardest floor she'd ever felt in her life" (apparently American floors are worse than ours too!) and pretended to be asleep which meant, once again, I was all on my own.

What a terrible waste to finally make it to the country I had longed to see for so long and just to sit in a hotel room.  I knew I wasn't allowed to leave the hotel room on my own.  David wanted to go for a wander around the hotel to look for something to eat and drink but Mum even put her foot down about that as she was too tired to go and didn't want us to go without her. "Why did the pair of you go to sleep if you wanted to go out?" David snapped.  "We've got two days here at the end of our tour." (As though that made up for wasting this day!)  Why must every trip descend into arguments and nastiness?  I feared this was a bad sign for the days ahead.  I tried to block out the argument and focus on just being there.  I gazed out of the window facing west and quietly sang "Evermore Without You".  Whatever I got to see here was better than if I'd never been.  I just had to keep reminding myself that I was in North America and, if home is where the heart is, had finally found my way home...

Well, I'll never catch up at this rate!  (Perhaps it would help if I started writing BEFORE midnight one night though!)  Well, there are far more interesting American blogs to come.  I'll try to get it done in another four or five chapters but there is an awful lot to say about this trip...

Best wishes, and thanks again for your support,
Desirée  xxx

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