It’s really slow at work tonight, which just gives me more time to understand how sleepy I am. My body thinks it’s about 2:30am right now, and I still have 2-3 hours of work left on a 12 hour shift. A few more days will clearly be required for me to reacclimate my system. I seem to be having much more difficulty with jetlag after the return than I did adapting the the UK. The fact that I’m staring at a computer screen for 12 hours today and tomorrow doesn’t help either. Ah well. It’s my reality, and I’m sticking to it.
Not sure what else to say about the trip. Everyone keeps asking me what my favorite part of it was. I’d be hard-pressed to choose from among 4 elements: 1) the Marillion weekend, 2) Glastonbury, 3) Inverness/Loch Ness, and 4) hanging out in Cornwall with the Beowulfs. After I thought about this list I was surprised that London wasn’t included it in; not that I have anything against London (on the contrary; it’s a remarkable city), I think this just is a reflection of the fact that in general I don’t much care for large cities. But it was great to see everything in London, and to meet Massimo and his family.
The worst part was simple: flying. I hate flying, not because of anything inherent in actually flying, but because the seats for the unwealthy are designed for anorexic barbie-dolls, actual size. Every time I sit in a plane seat, I feel like a sardine. There just isn’t enough space on the Airbus planes designed to accomodate 600 passengers. But it’s not that big of a deal; I can simply endure 7 hours of physical discomfort in order to experience another country. Definitely worth it.
I have been thinking about the differences between the US and the UK. I never felt like I was in danger in the UK. Of course, there aren’t any guns in the UK (or at least not like there are here), but I think the difference is bigger than that. I strongly think it’s related to what Michael Moore reported as the “culture of fear” in America in his film Bowling for Columbine. That doesn’t seem to exist over there. Even in London, I felt safe. There isn’t the same kind of poverty in the UK that we have here, not that there isn’t poverty but the government programs over there are far superior to what we have in the states. For example, I was talking to one single mother there who gets 800 pounds per month in child support; that’s equivalent to about $1500/month, which if you stretch it is enough to live on, albeit without luxury. But this person also worked fulltime with a salary, which did not disqualify her from the benefits as it would in the states. So people have an underlying sense of security, I think, that they will be taken care of no matter how bad things get, a sense that is missing the US which so prides itself on its “rugged individualism” and “social Darwinism” that is so deeply ingrained in US culture.
Going through customs/immigration in both countries was very telling. When we arrived in the UK, the immigration officer was polite, pleasant, dressed in a simple uniform, and asked us basic questions about how long we planned to stay in the UK and what our business was there (“we’re just on holiday”). We chatted for a bit, and he stamped our passports, smiled, and told us to have a wonderful time in his country.
When we got to the US, we were confronted with a huge line, the workers behind each customs station peering out from behind thick bulletproof glass, everyone in a uniform heavily armed with guns, stuck sheepishly holding out the paperwork we were required to fill out. They wanted to know everything we were bringing back into the country and its cash value. Certain things are prohibited, innocuous things like fresh food items, and if you are caught with them you will be fined on the spot and denied entry until you pay the fine.
A culture of fear, indeed…
All in all, it was a fantastic trip on so many levels. I got to see things I’d wanted to see for many years (ie, Glastonbury, Scotland, a European Marillion audience), got to meet some great people, and we did it all within our budget. I literally arrived home with a pound or two of UK change left out of all our travel money. So we didn’t have to tap in to our credit cards, which is of course wonderful.
I played some music last night with Freakwitch, and I was of course rusty. And exhausted. But it fed the fires again; I’m really eager to dive back in to the recordings and to develop a solid live show. It looks like our bassist is considering relocating south, which would be good news in terms of his accessibility to the band. Either way, forward momentum….