Wednesday, July 5, 2017

America

Heart still skips a beat over this sight at the end of the tunnel

There is still one chapter I need to write to finalize my series of catching up blog posts and what day could be better for this one than the 4th of July?  

Looking back a few months I openly confess that at first I underestimated the impact of what was happening in the US. I will not go too much into detail here, but while I was not a fan of Clinton (and no ... not her emails ... her foreign policy was my problem) I of course thought that the orange something was an un-electable joke. A very bad joke but a joke. Still ... as shocked and disgusted I was on the day after the election - like all the liberal snowflakes (I am wearing that title as a badge of honor) - as much I underestimated what was coming. I kind of thought it would be like a combination of the showman goes politician a la Reagan multiplied with the intellectually challenged appeal of Bush (W) scarily spiced up with some flat earthers which is actually already REALLY bad but still kind of within the boarder of a functional democracy even though in a version me and mine would not like much. Then came inauguration day and it all blew up and got so bad that it is hard to make satire that goes beyond reality.  And it gets worse and worse every day. 


In the middle of realizing how deep we are in shit the Biffy US dates were announced and I booked my flights to the States and planned - finally - my travel pal Gabi's and my return to our beloved Pittsburgh. During the wait time between booking and the actual trip lots of things happened like for example the "travel ban" and several times in those weeks I came very close to cancelling the trip. The USA were transforming into a country I do not want to visit (and yes I am aware of the irony because I live in Brexit Britain and in some aspects it is not much better) but it is still the home of so many people I love and so I wanted to still visit just as much. 

In a way coming to the Pittsburgh (same on the Biffy tour) was soothing because in most aspects daily life in the US still goes its way like it used to. It takes more time to fundamentally change that. Also our friends are still our friends and are as wonderful as they always were. 
The last thing is easily said, but we have not been in Pittsburgh for over three years. That is a long time. Life goes on and you cannot expect that people just wait for you to come back and open up like they would if you had just left the other day but luckily that is exactly what happened. 


Very Pittsburgh view from the bedroom

Life has changed a lot for me as well. A new city sneaked its way into my heart and even became home. My time as a restless wanderer came to an end when I settled down in Scotland. I still travel a lot and I still love it but it is not such an urgent need anymore. Pittsburgh used to be my vanishing point, my home-ish place. I do not need that anymore - at least not as much - and I wondered what that would do with my feelings towards Pittsburgh. 

I am happy to report:  it did nothing to my feelings. They are still the same. The moment we came out of the tunnel I burst into tears. Watching the sunset over the skyline from the parking lot behind our Lawrenceville town house was breathtaking and while it IS a pretty city I still do not know why I love it so much. It just is what it is. Driving around even after the long time away still barely requires a Sat Nav - it is that deep unconscious familiarity that you usually have with the place you grew up at. No idea where that comes from. Maybe reincarnation is a thing and in my last life that was home?  Or that is where I live in another layer of reality? I have no rational clue. 
One thing though changed: when I had to leave in the past and return to Munich I was devastated and used to grieve for weeks and weeks once I was back in Germany. This time as much as I loved being in Pittsburgh and could have well done with another week, I was looking forward to going home as well. I did not cry on the way to airport. It does not make the love for Pittsburgh smaller. It just shows there is more balance in my life and that I found my home and that is a good thing. 


Beauty at night


Rachel Carson Bridge light installation

The focus of our short week in Pittsburgh this time was not on sightseeing and not on sports (I did not even go to the Pens playoff game ... no time for that although it hurt!), but we of course still visited some of our fave places like 


The Strip District
or 


Braddock

And I even managed to stumble into Artisan Tattoo and score a walk in appointment with Kati Zmenkowski to get this lovely new ink based on the Biffy US Tour poster design! 




The best of the best things in this awesome week though was seeing our friends - you know who you are ;).  I am so grateful that everyone made time for us although we were not around during a weekend which made it harder for everyone. I cannot express how much that means to me and Gabi as well. We loved every minute we spent with you and we missed the ones we did not manage to see due to the really short stay of only 5 proper days.
When the trains come into Glasgow Central Station they pass the big "PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW" graffiti and it really fits so well to Pittsburgh, too because "PEOPLE MAKE PITTSBURGH". 


Coming back to where I started though ... the 4th of July. America. 
Times have changed and that includes Pittsburgh. Said Pittsburgh that Mr. Trump wants to represent instead of Paris. That Pittsburgh that is not having that AT ALL and rather joins forces with Paris than the White House at its recent state. 

My bubble is scarily intact. While I did nothing to actively prevent it I was not properly confronted with one single Trump supporter in all 11 days.  All I saw were some Trump / Pence signs splattered over the countryside outside the city levels (and ONE in the Strip).  It is ALMOST as if it wasn't real although it painfully enough is. I say almost because below the surface of normality the difference is tangible. 


What I always adored in the past in my US friends was this optimism, the trust in the future and their own ability to make things happen and make things work that enabled them do things I am too fearful for. I always felt that this mentality and the energy in it was what made the United States so special and in a way inspiring.  Lots of that spirit is gone now. In the many talks I had over the days I could hear and feel a lot more fear about the future, unpredictability, confusion, pessimism. While the surface so far appears still intact, the foundation is shaken.

Make America great again? All I can see in my version of the matrix, in my bubble is the total opposite. I honestly hope it is over soon. It will already take a lot more time to fix all the damage that was done and it will cost even more time and effort to resolve the deep division that is destroying the society - not only in the US but momentarily most significantly there.

Happy birthday, America,  I still adore you and I hope you make it out there alive.