Last week my boss sent out a company-wide email saying, “Just a reminder that, while Columbus did not discover America, we will have Monday off. Enjoy the long weekend.”
I did. I finished Middlesex, which I will not bother to review here because what brilliant conclusions am I going to make about its brilliance that the Pulitzer committee didn’t already make? (Suffice it to say, they were right.) I finished draft one of the novel I’ve been working on—the one about the nuclear family vs. the global family, featuring bicycle rentals in Malaysia. I’m hoping that its brilliance emerges—like the late and surprisingly blooming Calliope Stephanides—in draft two. I also discovered that Jamie, whom I’ve known a year and a half now, is not only an excellent poet but a bold, riveting performer. I discovered that Brendan Constantine, whom I’d never encountered until Saturday night at Beyond Baroque, is both of those things too.
And on Sunday, AK and friends and I gave two British boys a favorable impression of postcolonial SoCal, I’m pretty sure.
AK’s roommate Alberto hosted a semi-spur-of-the-moment brunch, attended by a handful of his Highland Park high school friends, a newer kickball friend and the kickball friend’s two very new British buddies, Matt and Chris, who had found him through this really cool-sounding website called couchsurfing.com.
We all bombarded Matt and Chris with the sort of questions that Americans bombard foreigners with:
“What surprised you about America?” (Big cars. Stores that stay open all night.)
“Do Americans just seem horribly fat to you?” (No, not especially.)
“How much does gas cost in England?” (About $6 a gallon, but their tiny cars get twice the mileage.)
“What part of London are you from?” (Cambridge, which is not a part of London.)
All this over mimosas, baked tomatoes, watermelon, AK’s cumin potatoes, Tony’s buttery bread pudding, Veronica’s slightly under-fried plantains, my chocolate cake from a mix and Alberto’s tortillas (which, in this case, were big flat omelets pinwheeled with bell peppers).
Then AK and I started playing frisbee—outside the Craftsman bungalow, underneath the lemon tree. As we did little between-throw salsa steps to the music punctuating from the boom box perched atop the barbeque, Veronica laughed, “Wow, this scene is so California.”
It was true: All we needed was a volleyball net and some guacamole. Despite its sordid origins, this was a California (dare I say an America?) I liked and felt happy to share with two nice guys from a rainy empire.
It’s probably good that they were long gone by the time we started organizing a grassroots campaign to get Oprah elected president.