Monday, 29 March 2004

Adventures in Ann Arbor


Welcome to Ann Arbor in Michigan, USA.

I flew into Detroit, Michigan's capital city, on Friday afternoon after leaving behind the awe inspiring metropolis that is New York City.

On my last morning in the Big Apple I managed to visit the American Museum of Natural History - though I only had about half an hour there - and then I rushed like crazy to get to the airport on time.

Sadly, I never did make it to the Bronx, though I did pass through Harlem on my way to LaGuardia.

Harlem is an interesting place and it looks exactly as I thought it would. It's quite rundown and the streets are full of young black men all wearing sunglasses, baseball caps and jewellery. It's certainly a place worth exploring and I hope to return there soon.

But now I'm in Michigan. I can't tell you how nervous I was about coming here. I haven't written about this before, but I came here to meet someone.

For the past twelve years I've had a friend in Ann Arbor. Her name is Amy Visel. Over the years, Amy and I have got to know each other well - I've told her things I've never told anyone. I've shared some of my deepest and darkest secrets with Amy, things I would never dare mention in this blog, things I may tell never anyone again.

Amy is one of the least judgemental people I have known and I think it's fair to say that I grew very fond of her over the years. And yet, until last Friday, Amy and I had never met...

Amy and I started out as pen pals, regularly sending each other twenty page letters about everything from politics to The Wonder Years, and then as technology moved on we moved on too and we started exchanging emails and then meeting online in chat rooms.

Then last Friday, after twelve years, hundreds of pieces of paper, litres of ink and oodles of electronic space, Amy and I finally met when I arrived at Detroit airport. And boy was I nervous!

If Amy and I hadn't known each other so well, if we hadn't shared so many secrets, then I don't think I would have been so anxious, although I do often tend to get nervous around girls anyway. But it was because I knew so much about this girl and yet at the same time knew nothing about this girl that made me so nervous.

Now, four years after meeting Amy, I can reveal the truth about the few days that I stayed with her. As much as I hate to say it, we didn't get on at all. In fact, I really didn't like her and we never felt comfortable together. The reason for this was quite simple: She just wasn't a very nice person.

She never took me out, never showed me around her town. She complained about little things that I did. She never offered me a thing to eat or drink, even though I was a guest in her home. After I left Michigan, I wrote to her one last time, and then never wrote to her again. We really were best of friends...until the day that we met.

In fact the only good thing about visiting her town was that I found a store selling Garbage Pail Kids. You're probably wondering what Garbage Pail Kids are. Well, they're trading stickers that were first issued in the mid-1980s. I collected them obsessively, they were a huge part of my childhood, but I lost all of them when I had a fire one night in my flat sixteen years ago.

I always regretted losing my Garbage Pail Kids. It was almost like I lost a part of my childhood that night. I really believed I would never see them again and yet here they were, a brand new series, on sale in a little shop in Ann Arbor. I bought boxes of the stickers and I was so happy to have found them again. My childhood was restored!

I'm glad I got the chance to see Ann Arbor. It's a nice college town - the kind of place that you could come to if you wanted to escape from the world and lead a safe, anonymous life. It's weird to compare some of the people of Michigan, with their funny accents, lumberjack shirts and hats, with the people of New York and Miami. America is most certainly a country of contrasts.

Tomorrow morning I leave Ann Arbor and fly via Chicago to Miami before heading back to London on Wednesday. I'm taking a break for a week - I plan to become the laziest person in Britain - before heading to Eastern Europe to begin the second part of my travels.

I return to England with a new collection of precious moments to add to my bulging bag of special memories. When I look back at these days spent travelling around America and the Caribbean I will remember many things.

I will remember jumping into the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas as a group of black tip reef sharks swam silently below me. I will remember finding my own private little beach on Blue Lagoon island. I will remember walking around the Art Deco District of Miami and feeling like I was in an episode of Happy Days. I will remember thinking how all of the beautiful people looked exactly the same.

I will remember running around New York City and being bowled over by everything I saw. I will remember ice skating on a warm night in Central Park. And I will try to forget a girl called Amy Visel.

This hasn't been a great visit, but it's been interesting. My three days in New York were the highlight of my visit. Miami was awful awful awful. After Wednesday I will never again holiday in Miami.

While this trip has not banished the negative view of America and the American people that I had before I came here (in fact it has only served to reinforce it) I have at least found one American city that I like and would like to visit again.

And that's it for this slice of American pie.

Take care and look after yourself. And each other.

From the memory box of a Professional Englishman.


Anonymous said...

"Professional Englishman," I ask you yet again to please respect my wishes and remove my surname from your little blog entry. I've done you the courtesy of keeping your full name (as well as your old name...) withheld when I've mentioned your misdeeds online (and I've never done it in such a public, googlable sphere such as this); a similar courtesy by you would be appreciated, especially when only one side of the story is being presented. Thank you.

PS- pyramids are fascinating, da?

Anonymous said...

You sound more like a professional arsehole.

Amy said...

Okay. Since "professional englishman," AKA Andrew Murray Hall, a pyramid scheme aficionado/scam artist from Merseyside, did not respect my requests to delete my surname (so whenever anyone googles me, they find this nonsense about me), anything is fair game. First. For months before his trip to the states, he was sending mass emails about how he hated America and all Americans. All of them. Because Bush was president (because that must mean that alll americans loved bush, right? Smh..) Then when Andrew inexplicably decided to tour america, he invited himself to my city... I didn't invite him. He pulled the whole guilt-trip "oh, I can get a hotel room if you don't want me to crash at your place" thing, but I foolishly took pity on him and let him stay. I didn't wait on him hand and foot because when I have guests, I make it clear that they should act like they're at home and just serve themselves. (Mr. Hall doesn't like cleaning up after himself, even when he spills juice all over, so perhaps that's what I was complaining about.) I was also sick, and less than a year after this visit, I wound up hospitalized for six weeks. I was unfit for company. I gave him a bus schedule and he took the bus and spent most of his time in Ann Arbor online at the public library; the homeless men who stay in the library during winter days were the locals he saw the most of, and this is where he got the impression that all of us wear "lumberjack shirts and hats." The funny accents thing comes from his impression that we'd have southern accents. He heard one of my African American friends talking on my voicemail, and the accent sounded southern to him, and how he thought I'd sound. I don't think he spoke to anyone else other than bus drivers. The small shop where HE happened to find GPKs was a hypermart called Meijer. I took him there to surprise him with GPKs, and upon entering the small shop, he commented on how huge it was, lol. I could say a lot more, but suffice it to say, I learned as much as Andrew ~ I learned to never succumb to guilt trips, and to keep uninvited guests out of my home.

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London, ENGLAND, United Kingdom
This is me. Read a few entries and they will tell you more about me than I can fit into these few paragraphs. Many of these entries started their lives as mass emails. That was before I discovered blogs. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for visiting my blog and reading about my life. Both a work in progress.