I am slowly beginning to grasp the concept of “walkability.” It’s not about whether there are wide sidewalks (although there better be). Spending my second week in California I realize the absolute key part is whether you need to cross multi-lane streets/roads every 50 meters. Nothing kills the joy of walking around than having to stop all the time.
(hint: in Amsterdam you can usually just walk through the street without paying attention to lights, because there’s either no traffic, or the traffic will let you do that)
It also helps if I’m not the only pedestrian within a 5 mile radius. The other day a lady in a huge SUV pulled over to ask if everything’s ok because I’m walking down the street; she thought my car broke down and I needed help. 🤦🏻♂️
(I’m biased towards everything American, so despite a relatively US-critical tone, you may be offended by this post if you’re too European.)
I remember watching “The Cosby Show” with my parents in the nineties. It was a crazy time of massive political change in Poland, and my parents were always pointing at the fictional Huxtables as role models. Me and my father were even replicating Cliff Huxtable’s way of making chili, and we’d make tons of inside jokes that we’d always gladly explain to any guests we’d be having. We didn’t realize at that point how controversial The Cosby Show was in the 80s in the US. What was lost on Polish viewers was that the show’s depiction of black people was atypical to say the least. The Huxtable family wasn’t poor, hell, it wasn’t even middle class. A lawyer (a black woman!) and a senior obstetrician, raising a family of 5 in a fantastic brownstone in Brooklyn Heights—that’s how all well-educated Americans lived, right? We didn’t see the controversy, and missed out on some of the social commentary, but we still enjoyed Bill Cosby’s jokes, his colorful sweaters, his fictional family’s great parenting advice, etc. Of course not only the Huxtables were our role models, but the US was depicted as the promised land, which in the 90s it clearly was. They won the cold war, they became the sole superpower, Fukuyama announced “the end of history”—no one had any doubts.
Then at the break of the century, a new world begun. 9.11 happened, W. & co. took power,1 the 2008 banking crisis hit the world hard, the US middle class shrinked, Wall Street was occupied, and, as a proverbial nail to the coffin, they now tell me that Bill Cosby, my beloved Dr. Huxtable, is (allegedly) a sex offender. America of my childhood is gone for good, along with the post-cold-war Reagan-Thatcher world order formerly known as “new.”
Yet besides all that, there has never been a country I felt so emotionally strong about as the United States.
Continue reading “Hi, America”