The Un-American American

It’s the 4th of July back in the US. And it likely surprised only me today, when I wished Jeff Happy 4th of July, I was swiftly reminded that it’s actually the 4th of July here and everywhere else in the world. Duh.

In the US, the 4th of July is by default shorthand for Happy Independence Day. The day we kicked those arrogant Brits out of our land. OK. Well, it wasn’t really ‘our land’. But they sort of skipped over that in the elementary school history pageant. I didn’t really understand the complexities of what truly incited the American Revolution until I was an adult and went to Boston – where it all started. The tour guide had a decidedly different story that diverged greatly from what I was taught as a small child.

Knowing your own history is an important part of defining our identity as citizens of a particular country. But we aren’t alone in the US. History is written by the victors and rose colored glasses are part of the national identity of any nation. We wave flags and try not to remember the less than perfect motives of our founding fathers.

Being Americans here in Galicia – and the only ones in our area – celebrating American Independence Day means we are out of luck on the fireworks. Petardos, as fireworks are called in Valencia, were easy to find in a city where fireworks are a part of every celebration in everyday life. But in Galicia, fireworks are not de rigueur. I don’t really know how holidays are celebrated here, yet. But I am pretty sure blowing things up, or lighting them on fire isn’t part of it. Sorry Valencia.

One thing I have noticed here, is that people have their own ideas about what being an American is all about. From things they have seen in movies or tv. Often they will tell me about it when we meet.

‘Kelli. You know how Americans like xyz.’

As though what they are telling me is common knowledge to us Americanos. Usually, I have no idea what they’re talking about, as their description is so foreign to my own experience. This happened when we moved into our new house in Palas and the sellers came to meet us with the keys when the moving trucks arrived. It was clear they had not mowed the lawn or done any property maintenance in quite a while.

‘My husband said maybe we should hire someone to cut it all back (they live in A Coruña), but I told him ‘It’s like on Gilmore Girls. Americans love to garden.’ So I figure you will be happy with a lot of things to do once you arrived.’

As though moving across the country would leave me idle with nothing do to, and they were doing us a favor. You could have picked my jaw off the ground. In the US, I know people who love to garden, and people who hate it. Just like in any country, I suppose. But none of the Americans I know, no matter their predilection for, or against digging in the dirt would want to arrive at their new house with a jungle to sort through. Thanks, Gilmore Girls.

And, it seems The Gilmore Girls tv show is a huge source of information here. I have never watched it (even when I lived in the US) but perhaps I should fire it up on Netflix or Amazon, just so I would understand what they’re all referring to. So many Spaniards I meet seem to have derived their view of what it means to be American from that particular show. It makes me wonder what it’s teaching them. Here is just a small sample of things I’ve been told about Americans based on the Gilmore Girls.

‘Americans like to talk.’

‘People really care about their neighbors in America.’

‘Americans are so emotional. And feel free to express their feelings.’

Which is so funny to hear people say, because all of these things I would say about Spaniards and my experience of living in Spain. Go to any cafe in Spain and you’ll hear talking. A lot of it all at the same time, and loud. And I would say Spaniards care about their neighbors more than anything I have experienced, since I was a little kid in the neighborhood where I grew up. Here, people reach out. They help, without agenda. And without fail. Thank Goodness. And in Galica, much more than even Valencia, mere acquaintances will tell you what they think. Even if you aren’t 100% sure you want to hear it.

One family, when they found out I am American, told me they were planning a trip to the US post-pandemic. I asked them if they were going to NYC and offered to give them some tips on places to go. Not the usual tourist stuff. But they said ‘No!. We want to go to the real America. Like on the Gilmore Girls.’ Again, that show has a hypnotic effect. They looked so eager for my approval I didn’t have the heart to disappoint them, so I said ‘Oh yeah. Totally.’ Even though I have no idea what they’re talking about. Where the hell do The Gilmore Girls live? A sound stage in Hollywood? And could that possibly beat New York as a travel destination?

My post-pandemic plans include a stretch in NYC. I want to shop, eat, and shop. I want to order food from any country that strikes my fancy at 3am, and have it delivered to my hotel. Walk the High Line in any weather. I want to go to random pop up shops, Dover Street Market, and Brooklyn Flea. Have a wander down Bleecker Street. I want to almost be run over by a taxi at least 20 times, and I want to take the subway. The smelly broken down subway, not the nice one like we had in Valencia. An evening of Jazz at the Carlyle. I want to go to the Frick, and the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side, and eat sausages and sauerkraut in their Viennese lobby cafe.

Sitting here with my eyes closed, I can almost smell it. All of that, to me, the melting pot of NYC, is America. And unless that’s what they’re selling on The Gilmore Girls, then I guess on this 4th of July, I’m happily the local un-American American.

7 thoughts on “The Un-American American

  • I have never seen the Gilmore Girls. The Spaniards that I know talk continuously about anything and everything. At family dinners I have to go outside to give my ears a rest.
    The ones who would like to go to the US want to see Route 66 and Native Americans. They watch too many Westerns . 😅

    Liked by 1 person

      • So many Galicians I’ve met either have been or want to do a route that includes Route 66, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite (pronounced in the Spanish way – took me a while to catch on the first time) and San Francisco. Route 66 being the big pull.

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        • Yes, and Native Americans. I don’t know what they expect to see…maybe wigwams and colorful headdresses instead of the reality of trailers and casinos. Sad

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          • You’ll laugh, but when my parents moved us from Los Angeles to Oregon in the late 1960’s, the neighbors in LA thought we would be living like pioneers and that there would be ‘real cowboys and Indians up there.’ I was a baby and the neighbors worried I might die of pneumonia. So its not just Spaniards who have historically bought into the myths promoted by Hollywood.

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