My first visit to the United States occurred about thirty years too late. If only I could have arrived as a ten year old, when I was obsessed with Yankee comic books. For years I lusted after Hershey bars , fudge brownies, double malts and root beer. But above all I wanted a pogo stick; unheard of in the back-blocks of Tasmania where I grew up. Our garden spade was a very poor substitute. Sometimes I would fill out a form on the back of an old comic in which I undertook to sell fifty boxes of Christmas cards in return for a pogo stick. Sadly I was always defeated when I could not supply a zip code.
When I finally reached America my illusions were shattered almost immediately. Los Angeles was an exciting city full of beautiful people, but Hershey bars were not a patch on Cherry Ripes and root beer tasted suspiciously like cough medicine. Never mind, there was still the pogo stick, and after flying on to the Big Apple I headed straight for the famous toy store, F.A.O. Schwarz.
The $500 model that caught my eye had an enormous steel spring promising a lift-off to rival a space rocket. My trial hops were a good deal less spectacular. Impaired balance seemed to be the problem, or perhaps I had simply lost the wild confidence of youth. As a small bystander explained kindly; ‘You’re not giving it enough oomph Lady! ‘ I relinquished the pogo stick in disgust, and watched him smirk a little less kindly as he bounced away on it like Old Man Kangaroo.
To cheer myself up I did what middle aged ladies in New York are supposed to do; I walked down Fifth Avenue and bought myself a designer label jacket which completely blew my budget. Two days later I wore it for the first time on a visit to Niagara Falls. My sense of wonder returned in this spectacular setting and I was as wide eyed and open mouthed as the school children milling about me. At the end of an exhausting day my partner and I returned to our overheated motel room , where I collapsed on the bed and dozed off, fully clothed. I woke an hour later to find myself bound to the bedcovers by a thousand sticky threads. It was like a scene from Gulliver’s Travels; the sort of book I probably should have been reading in my youth instead of comics.
Children are practical little blighters. When they gape at something in awe they take the precaution of removing their bubblegum and parking it in a handy spot. I feel sure the boy beside me at the Falls meant to retrieve his precious wad before he left. It was my misfortune that he forgot. It was also my misfortune that I failed to spot the gum before leaning against the railing while my partner took my photograph
The staff at Howard Johnson were remarkably understanding about the damage to their duvet cover. I was also thankful that my new jacket responded so well to dry cleaning, although I can’t help feeling that some of its designer aura was removed along with the bubblegum.
My friends think I’m joking when I say that I left my trip to the States too late, but I remind them that at the age of ten I would have been wearing my sister’s hand-me-down windcheater to Niagara Falls. Not that it would have mattered, because the sticky pink glob on the guard rail would almost certainly have been my own.
My next trip to the United States was a good deal more positive. Click her to find out why….. Serendipity.
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