Dying in America


18.12 (overture time) and I’m in McDonald’s (again), writing (again). There was a lengthy queue for the counter but as I know some of the staff now and have the ability to charm, I got table service. Cutlery next.

Two road vehicles of note: an ambulance which passed on blues and twos (he’s not going to sell many ice creams going at that speed) and a Ferrari, parked outside: personalised number plates and in Ferrari Red. I’m reminded of America in 2001: I was in Chicago on 9/11. It was on that day that myself and two friends were due to return to England but things went a bit tits up and we had to stay in the US for an extra week. During that time, we frequented a diner – Hannigan’s – and became acquainted with some of the servers. One day a Ferrari pulled up outside and one server made the observation that in the UK, certain waiting staff might be jealous; might covet the car and even feel the need to inflict damage upon the property of someone more successful as them; as though they’re hard done by and feel that they’re owed something. In America – for the most part – the American Dream prevails and the emotion is not one of jealousy but aspiration: one day. I’m starting again but I’m aspiring.

During the time I spend daily in McDonald’s, with my coffee, writing, I speak to the staff (as I mentioned). We’re on first name terms (as I’ve mentioned) and I’m a known feature. It has been observed that no-one can make a coffee last as long as I can. I’ve got to know two or three of the staff particularly well  and one of them – Max – tonight presented me with a token gift: I collect the stickers from my daily cups of coffees and affix them to a loyalty card (buy six and get the seventh free). Mine is almost complete but Max took it upon hiself to collect stickers from abandoned cups and present me with a completed loyalty card: a free cup of coffee (and Mc’Donald’s do surprisingly good coffee).

One day I plan to return to America, specifically to Chicago but I’d like to travel around; perhaps on business (print and publishing is big business in the US and out-sourcing is better understood there as a business model). I promised the kids I’d take them to America one day too.

I loved America: the ideals, the dream. Were I there now, I’d probably not be where I am now (get the gag, please). I’d probably be at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Although my visit to America was limited to Chicago, that city holds many fond memories: Downtown, The Loop, Navy Pier, Excalibur nightclub, Redfish restaurant, Hannigan’s; the lake, the bars, the grills, the food; Chicago pizza pie and Hannigan’s brunches: quite a thing. Bacon is only available in crispy form, sausages can be links or patties, eggs – scrambled, poached or fried – sunny side up or over easy; breakfast potatoes (saute on this side of the pond), hash browns, mushrooms and so on. We could never get beans or black pudding though, those presumably being a preserve of the English. As is tea apparently. Coffee: no problem and virtually on tap. Tea though is a cup of hot water, a tea bag and a wooden stick: DIY. The portions are huge, the prices are low and breakfast / brunch was usually offered as a two-course deal, with pancakes and syrup plus other choices to follow the main course, which also came with toast on the side.

I’m due a heart attack and I will hasten its arrival and expire in America some day. 

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