The Final Countdown

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
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113
117
Trip End Ongoing


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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's strange being back in civilisation, especially one where most people speak a language I sort of understand and everything you could possibly want - and a lot more you don't - is available 24/7. Having spent several years living here I knew what to expect but it still comes as a little bit of a shock: buy this, buy that, buy both, buy more. Eat this, eat that, eat both, eat more. Then buy something and eat more on your way home. One fast food company is running an ad campaign called Fourth Meal for those times when you get hungry between dinner and breakfast because you know portions are so small here. For example, I had a pizza the other day and it barely fit on the passenger seat (but then it was only a piddly Volkswagen Passat - an otherwise perfectly suitable, fuel-efficient car). That's probably why so many people here drive honking big gas-guzzling trucks and 4x4s: it's the only way to get their take-aways/groceries/stomachs home. Even commercial versions of a ridiculous army vehicle originally meant to invade evil-doers are now routinely used to invade the nation's drive-throughs and Wal*Marts.

[Insert oil/Iraq War/Bush rant here.]

Dodging said trucks I went into a 24-hour Wal*Mart the size of Liverpool with Diana (we left Gordon's jeep at home). Whilst there I thought I'd get some French Vanilla coffee creamer as I need my coffee in the morning before they put me to work. Here are the flavours I was was confronted with: Amaretto, Blueberry Cobbler, Chocolate Raspberry, Cinnamon Vanilla Crème Fat Free, Coconut Crème, Coconut Creme, Crème Brulée, Fat Free French Vanilla, French Vanilla, Hazelnut, Irish Crème, Original, Original Fat Free, Original Low Fat, Pralines & Crème, Soy French Vanilla, Soy Original, Sugar Free French Vanilla, Sugar Free Hazelnut, Sugar Free Vanilla Caramel, Toffee Nut, Vanilla Caramel, and Vanilla Chai Spice. Overwhelmed I left with some razors instead.

For the past couple of weeks I've been all over the place: North East, Baltimore, DC and the beach at Ocean City. Amongst other things over the past few weeks I've been to a graduation party (Hollywood completed his doctorate); I've gate-crashed a one-year old's pool party where I saw my first real-life piñata (I had to explain to disbelieving on-lookers that we don't have Mexicans in England); I went to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game but only saw two pitches as I found myself in a bar in the Camden Yards Warehouse; I've been laughing at the Beckham retirement soccerball circus over there in LALA-land; I've tried to teach my god-daughter some Cockney rhyming slang using a book written by my first cousin Ray; I've been on an 18-mile bike ride along the Potomac in Washington DC with the unlikliest triathlete you're likely to meet (Zak for those of you that know him from SMC); I've met up with a number of friends and former colleagues which of course led to a number of hangovers; I've seen my home-town of Leigh-on-Sea on the 60 Minutes TV show (Dame Helen Mirren lived there as a kid); I've been locked out of a house in 35+ degrees before Gordon jimmied the lock with his credit card just like in the movies; I've been reflecting on my journey over the past 10 months whilst conveniently forgetting the bad bits (Ashes? What Ashes?); I've been thinking about getting home next week and seeing my family and friends again; I've been looking forward to getting back on the cricket field for the last part of the season and helping the boys avoid relegation. Oh, and then there's the issue of a job and somewhere to live....

But my immediate problem is: what do I have tonight for my Fourth Meal?
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