Tag Archives: manifest destiny

We have reminded them of the circumstances of our migration and settlement here

The occasion appropriated my wardrobe

headband earrings red-neck cut off

to travel back through the city for the cake

infinite-in-one what now?

Where the oxen forded not the river but the highway

pulllll!

And the rickshaw interior was fated for the day.

Patriotic Padding

At the bakery they wondered if every American dressed for their pastry.

This was confusing as is so why a picture? they thought

but we soon assimilated them to our spirit

good riddance, he says

It must be the only one in the city of its kind.

Sweet freedom!
We didn’t have a mit or a pigskin, so we played cards instead. Get those redcoats out of here! Kelly proclaimed.

P1080106

6 lungs inflated 70 balloons; a mosquito held them; a tailor’s string shared with all.

my bed is America for scale P1080028

We requested a special dinner themed America.

bland

3/4 of it required salt so we knew they had succeeded.

Cake realized

When I said Americans weren’t louder than us I was lying, Norwegian Ann admitted over her green beans when we sang the anthem. It’s manifest destiny, I replied. We had so much more space than you to fill.

America!

But as soon as we shouted at everyone for fireworks, rain threatened to deflate us

what now?

but we paused with the clouds to scare the neighborhood.

lungis and fireworks

That’s not supposed to look like that! she said in this moment. Neither was the messy white ground flame that followed, but it glowed better and brighter.

futile

Is it a war? the ghostly congregation at the boy’s hostel wanted to know.

curious

Still the rain pixeled the air in white dots all around us, the callous sky collapsing in downward arrows as we fixed to send the biggest sparks higher.

damper P1080072

In the end, two managed an opposing current.

finally P1080067

When they burst low and fast, we danced and danced and danced in the sand turned mud.

reach

It wasn’t the explosion we loved, but the lighting of it. We saluted the floating ashes and shouted freedom! as the monsoon fell into our open, wild mouths.

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Articles of Confectionation

“What country?” The question always interjects from the madness. It catches me off guard and I look for the face of the inquirer – people passing by on the train platform, school children crammed in the adjacent auto, the auto driver.

“America!” we chirp. Reaction prize goes to the young boy in the auto who repeated “America?” with wide wondrous eyes as if the word itself surprised his mouth with delicious enunciation. Most people just grin and then walk away, apparently edified that they’d discovered the whole of us.

This simplicity precisely explains my intense admiration for the 4th of July. I don’t especially enjoy lighting fireworks or grilling or Old Navy shirts, but I do appreciate the holiday’s theory. It celebrates a premature victory. Thomas Jefferson stood up and  said, “Okay, guys, we decided are free. Now, corroborate that.”  We don’t mark the end of the war, when all the great minds argued in Paris and then in Philadelphia and then until they formed the Constitution which formed SCOTUS, and they could properly continue the arguing in D.C. We celebrate our imminent victory over everything.

Our celebration, too, will precede action. We are 10.5 hours  in the future here. By the time the tailgates pop in parks all over the homeland, the guards will have swept up the remnants of the ten fireworks we can scrape together. The barbeque paneer, the closest analog to meat we could find, will have been long devoured. We’ll become those people who set off their poppers too early at party and start eating their cake before everyone’s received a piece.

Still, we had an obligation to spit watermelon seeds and nearly light someone’s hair on fire with a sparkler, I said to the group. And being beyond America’s borders, I had found quite a bit to appreciate about it. I valued paved roads, tall men, and jumbo-sized Doritos bags. If we couldn’t eat them, we could at least celebrate their memory.

At breakfast, I made my own declaration: I would find us a flag cake. I set myself to it – our dutiful but ultimately deflated celebration required one. The task required all the fibers comprising my American spirit – enterprise, navigation, neurotic time-sensitivity and forcefulness covered with a Midwestern smile. I didn’t even know where to find a bakery or how I planned to carry this dumb thing back in a rickshaw, but God bless America when I did.

So, I made a black-and-white print out of a flag, in turn using that to flag down a rickshaw at the front gate. After ten minutes, we stopped in a promising area on the busy highway. Anna, Isabelle, and I bummed around until we found KS Bakery. KS for the Wheat State. Perfect.

The bakery pleasantly displayed rows of trays of Indian sweets. Sweet shops are the nail salons of India – every corner, basement, and chat stand sells gulab and ice cream. Coinci(dental)ly, the city owns nearly equal numbers of dental clinics.

I tracked down someone behind the counter and showed them the print-out with my best “Howdy!” manners.

He shook his head. “It’s not possible.”

“Why not?” I inquired, deflated. I wasn’t about to admit defeat on the day America swore itself against the idea. “No American flag?”

He shook his head again, and walked through the swinging door to the kitchen. The customer at the counter was looking at my print-out and snickering. Then the employee returned hanging onto the arm of his coworker, laughing even harder than Guy 1.

I repeated the request, unfolding the print-out. “Can you put this on top of a cake?” I mimed icing with my hands like an umpire making a safe call on a base. The lethal, flailing arms seemed to hack off words from their matching sentences. We spoke in a parsed-down pigeon English.

“Cake?”  he said.

“Yes, yes. American flag.” I looked up, doe-eyed and eager.

“No stars,” he said when scrutinizing the black-and-white design.

“Five at most?” I said, smiling.

“No stars.”

“Not all,” Anna helped. “We don’t even need stars, really.”

“Little dots okay,” I said trying to strike a compromise with him.

“Dots?”

“Yes. If that is easier?” Okay, he shook his head.

“What size?” I inquired.

“1 kg 2 kg?”

“One cage?”

“Kg”

“How big is a cage?”  I thought “cage” might be a nuanced baking unit of measure. I am always willing to concede I know less than an expert when any misunderstanding occurs, bakers included. This time, cage sounded about as accurate as the rest of our conversation.

“1 kg,” he said writing it down. “Oh no, no. I said.”  I still didn’t know how to judge this cage.  I pointed to a square cake of an appropriate size in the display case. “That size?”

“Rectangle,” he insisted. “3 kg”

“Kg!” I realized finally. “Kilograms!” I said with laughing with Anna.

“Only rectangle,” he insisted. “3 kg”

“Oh no, it doesn’t have to be a rectangle. We aren’t that patriotic.”

“Rectangle!”

“Square?”

This reciprocal geometry lasted at least five minutes. We couldn’t find the straightest path to understanding. Finally when Anna physically folded the print-out into a square did we calculate a hypotenuse together. We wrote down the colors on the black-and-white print out, and he wrote down our order on a receipt. He dashed into the back. “Saturday morning?” I suggested. Stale cake might indicate our mood, but I wasn’t paying 400 rupees for us to chuck it. If you’re forbidden to drop a flag on the ground, I’m pretty sure you can’t throw its more delicious forms into the trash. Another head wag, and I paid the advance.

On July 4th 1776, the conglomerate colonies awoke to find themselves suddenly lumped together by freedom because some guys spit, shook on it, and whipped out their quills.  The new nation waited for the new patriots to open fire with their arms against the British. Come July 4th, 2009, I will awake to find a cake decked out in stars ‘n stripes, smelling of fresh butterscotch and patriotism, waiting for my open arms.

I think.

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Americana

I don’t leave the country for two days, but today marked my last stationary day of the summer. Tomorrow transit to the airport begins, and some last goodbyes with friends and family. I have spent the majority of the week shuffling aimlessly through the aforementioned superstores, trying to decide which travel-sized shampoo would be most compact yet conditioning. I didn’t want dandruff protection to dictate my lasting memory of America.

So, I took a drive.

I jumped in my dad’s beat-up gray Nissan truck and chugged along until I hit the countryside. And by “beat-up,” I mean it is so old and dilapidated that when a couple of teenagers once stole it from the curb outside of our house they abandoned it by parking it around the corner. I had been brambling around town all week in it. In the city, we fight over who has to drive it. The shiny Lexuses and hybrids make the ripped upholstery and busted bumpers even more apparent. The oily engine gargle attracts attention that the rusted exterior does not deserve. It’s a lemon through-and-through. Those who might have recognized me from high school would never suspect my education or soon-to-be world travels.

But while I drove with my elbow hanging out the manual roll-down window, blowing past fields soaked green from the rain that falling every night in the summer, it didn’t matter if the cloud billowing from the rear was from the road or a flat tire or a rotten engine. I felt as if I were living an Aaron Copeland soundtrack, which could have been playing if the radio wasn’t busted. Just as the 29th street turned to dirt, I saw an eagle on a telephone wire. At least it was a hawk or some other large fowl that looked enough like an eagle for my city eye to fit it as a sign of my immanent American-ness in the moment. Then at one intersection, a man in a large tractor nearly flattened me, so perhaps I should have searched for a less folksy aesthetic.

I was traveling with only a general knowledge of my location to the city. I found the small town of St. Mark’s. I had never been there, but it couldn’t have been more than eight miles from my house. I passed through and onward. I wasn’t paying any attention to my speed, although the speedometer gives an Olympic-sized ballpark estimate to be of much use anyway.

In one wheat field, small white egrets were tiptoeing through the stubble stalks. The birds aren’t rare in Kansas. They flock along subdivision lakes and in Sedgwick County Park. But the egrets always seem foreign to me. Their angular creeping looks exotic imposed upon the typical flat fields and big sky. Beyond them in the distance another storm bruised the open blue. I could see a line of rain falling on Goddard. I could see some people very close having a much different day than my sun-saturated evening.

The air cooled as I drove on, and I could see the storms edges reaching those the suburbs’ developing skeletons. In the bright sun I could even predict its landing. My windshield flattening cotton wisps as I drove home, missing that certainty already.

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