Thursday, February 7, 2008

I'm afraid this bagel is burning my flesh

I was born in Texas. You might have picked that up. And in Texas, from the moment we take that first earthly breath it is drilled into us that our state is the best place, with the best people, ever. Indeed, the indoctrination may begin sooner -- it is not at all hard for me to imagine a cowboy standing and screaming Lone Star patriotism at my mother's stomach. That famous scene in "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" is factually based.

I'm more mature now, I've seen a little of the world; I realise that Texas is not actually better than every place else. There are some places that, in their own sort of way, are as good as Texas -- for example, Minnesota and Wales.

But having said that, it's important to remember that no place is better than Texas. Any persons having the audacity to claim otherwise are not only intolerably arrogant but an insult to intelligent people everywhere. This fact is at the heart of why I do not like New York City (a).

Natives of that city haven't a fucking clue about the rest of America. They don't even know where we are -- a New Yorker once looked blankly at me when I told her I was from Minnesota and said: "That's down near Idaho, isn't it?"

No. No it is not. Neither Idaho nor Minnesota are "down" from a New York perspective, and they are only near each other in the way that they are not near China. How massive is the distance that encompasses Minnesota and Idaho? How many millions of square acres does it contain? It is a fucking great huge chunk of the country and she doesn't have a clue about it.

Yet New Yorkers bill themselves as being all you need to know about America; everything that is America lies within the five boroughs and any venture beyond is academic.

My mind fires when I think about NYC and all the things I don't like about it. The deep insult to my Texas core is too much for me to handle, I suppose.

I was thinking about all this stuff on the train Wednesday, mumbling angrily to myself like a mad man as I bounced toward Cardiff Central station. I was thinking about it because I was going to be interviewed for Welsh-language television and was psyching myself up to take a stand.

I was being interviewed for politics programme "CF99" about the Super Tuesday results. The interview was to be held in Cardiff's New York Deli (b). I was OK with that. Although I have always refused to go there because if its name, I realised that it made sense to do an interview about U.S. politics in a place that had lots of U.S. flags. Admittedly, when the producer had told me where he wanted to do the interview I had blurted out, in English, "I'm not from New York," but that's not what was eating at me.

What I was mulling on the train ride into town was his suggestion that he would film me eating a bagel and drinking a Coca-Cola.

Now, generally, I want to be an easy interview. They pay you to do interviews in this country and I would be happy to build a reputation as someone to turn to when the Average American opinion is desired. I am eager to please -- how else would I have once found myself wearing a baseball cap ('cause it looks American, see) and sitting in a tree (never understood that bit) reading a Welsh dictionary for the sake of a South Wales Echo photographer? (c)

But a bagel and a Coke. No. I couldn't do it.

First off, would you do that sort of thing to anyone else? If you were interviewing someone about Irish politics, would you give them props of Guinness and a potato? But even that I could get beyond. You know, I'm American but I'm speaking Welsh. My accent when speaking Welsh doesn't really betray my being from the United States, so, you know, it's nice to have visual clues. Otherwise I'm just some bloke.

And the Coca-Cola I could handle. It's an international beverage. In my head I associate it as much with soccer as anything else.

The bagel, though...

Just thinking about it, I could feel my soul dying. I don't have a great deal of shame. I will lower myself to all sorts of things. I am no man of high principle. But I will not be filmed in a New-York-themed deli eating a quintessentially New York foodstuff.

Thankfully, the issue never came up.

When I got to the deli, the producer bought me a cup of tea and set up for the interview. No Coke. No bagel.

Maybe the deli doesn't have bagels. Maybe he picked up from my "I'm not from New York" outburst that I wouldn't be keen. Maybe he thought better of it. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had, in fact, been taking the piss -- Welsh people have their own experience with being put into silly boxes.

We went through the interview and, with the exception of my stumbling in trying to pronounce "dychymyg," I was pretty happy with it. Although, when it aired, my words were at times difficult to hear because someone had confusingly chosen to add a sound bed of "America" from "West Side Story."

Being associated with Puerto Ricans -- Yeah, I'm fine with that.

(a) Or, to a lesser extent, California.

(b) My aversion to all things NYC aside, it actually looked like an OK place and the woman who ran it seemed really nice, so I will go to the trouble to tell you that it can be found in High Street Arcade.

(c) Thankfully, that picture, and the story that went with it, never ran.


Chris Cope said...

I think it's important to point out, for Anthony's sake, that I've got no problem with the other parts of New York state.

Anonymous said...

When I went to New York on a art college trip, a guy asked where we were from and we all shouted 'Scotland!' in a jolly way. He just looked confused and said 'Where the hell's that? Over the ocean somewhere!' and waved his hands at us in a dismissive manner.

It was brilliant!

Zoe said...

>>And in Texas, from the moment we take that first earthly breath it is drilled into us that our state is the best place, with the best people, ever. Indeed, the indoctrination may begin sooner <<

I think this is true. I was born in Missouri but moved to Texas when I was a year and a half and lived there until I was 18. So all of my schooling was in TX, I was taught to revere the Alamo and I heard all of the "It's a whole other country" rhetoric.

But I never bought in to it. I never got the whole "I'm from Texas, I'm gonna die in Texas, and there's no need to go anywhere else" mentality that my entire family (all TX born) and friends feel. I got the hell out as soon as I could.

My family calls me a Yankee...

asuka said...

ie, ie.
os taw yn efrog newydd ti'n byw, ti wedi hen arfer â chlywed pobl eraill yn gwadu bod arnynt eisiau byw yma.
rhaid ichwi i gyd ymdopi rywsut â'r ffaith fod ti'n byw rywle arall. rwy'n deall. :)

heatherfeather said...

I think it's important to point out as someone who spent more than 20 years living in California that I most certainly do not think it's the center of the universe... Ugh... I'm suddenly having uncomfortable flashbacks of going out to eat in Orange County...

Anonymous said...

When I was in college in very-small-town Ohio (where a lot of people from New York and New Jersey went) I got into an ongoing "discussion" with someone from New Jersey. He had asked where I was from and when I told him Missouri, he said something like "oh that's down there in the deep south, isn't it?" Eventually I had to show him on a map that where he lived in New Jersey was actually farther south than where I lived in Missouri. The general ignorance of basic geography in this country is SO bad I often despair. I must admit, though, that that college was where I learned to like bagels, which I had never had before.

Carwyn Edwards said...

At least they didn't make you ride a bull and say "Praise the Lord" every other sentence!!!

Could have been a lot worse!!!

Dwedodd Dewi Sant/Saint David said
"Do the little things"
"Gwnewch y pethau bychain"
Carwyn Edwards
1109 E Del Rio Street
Tel: 480 560 1577 neu 480 963 1673 neu fax 480 963 1673

Anonymous said...

In my experience, parochialism is not limited to certain places, but rather tends to be common to people who haven’t lived in very many places or traveled much in general. I could site many examples, but one comes from a person much younger than me, who grew up in Syracuse, New York – a beautiful place, but come on, hardly the seat of civilization, and who now lives in the DC area. That’s it. He’s lived in two places. Anyway, he took over my old program that required travel out to Nevada. After his first trip, he thought it noteworthy enough to tell me that when riding with men I previously worked with, they were quite loose in their choice of topics and words, and he noted that it was a side of them they hadn’t shown to me, a woman. In other words, this guy was surprised that men who lived and worked in that wild west state of Nevada actually had manners!

Peggi Rodgers said...

"Or to a lesser extent California"?! Them thar's fighten words my Texas friend. Anyone will tell you California beats Texas hands down in everything but the production of beef and dust. I'll give you guys that much. *grin*

mo** said...

I always thought they taught you all about the states and their capitals when in school which is why some Americans were more ignorant when it came to world geography..ahh the stereotypes never will die...
I've never been to Texas, but for a while I had a t-shirt saying" don't mess with Texas" which you have to admit is really a pretty funny state logo (I don't know if they are logos perse, but you know what I mean!!) :)

Tom Parsons said...

Umm, isn't West Side Story set on the West Side of NYC? ;)