I spent 25 years in Oklahoma. That’s a long time for any place, but longer in Oklahoma. The flow of time there is frozen. I didn’t know that I hated Oklahoma for a very long while. I simply thought that life was meant to be lived in all the glory that American suburbia had to offer.
I drove to Denver once. I had to pass through Kansas to get there. Denver itself was Oklahoma City by a mountain range. Same Americans. Same malls, same Chili’s.
I drove to Houston a little later. I had to pass through Dallas/Ft. Worth to get there and the rest of the Texan wasteland. Houston was Oklahoma City with a humidity that gave me record-high swamp ass. Same Americans/illegal Mexicans, just fatter. Same malls, same Olive Garden.
Then I met a European girl. She had been in Oklahoma for 3 years at that point, hated it, but still had a little bit of college to finish up. She assured me that all of America wasn’t like Oklahoma.
So we took a trip to Boston, and she showed me what culture was. Immediately following college, we moved to San Francisco (because I’m a software engineer. Where else?). SF blew my mind. Who knew that all artists would live in the Haight, all dirty hipsters in the Mission, all well-established cougars in Pac Heights, and all douchebags in the Marina? More so, I implanted myself in a melting pot of culture. Chinese people (actually from China), Indians, Europeans. All with a story to tell. All refusing to eat at McDonald’s. People were driven to explore, to learn, to create a better future for everyone. I was having the time of my life. I wanted to share this experience with my friends from Oklahoma.
The hammer and the feather I dropped as I left Oklahoma were still floating there in air when I returned. Nothing had changed. My friends still worked the same jobs. They were getting pregnant, or married, or worse - religious. They went to the same bars we went to 5 years before, and the same clubs redesigned over and over. Some didn’t get that far off their couch. TV became their leisure activity.
"Did you watch the new Ice Road Truckers episode?" No, I didn’t, and fuck you for thinking that I’m an asshole.
I wanted to know things I couldn’t learn from a TV. The next couple years, I went to Mexico, and Vegas, New York, Paris, Eastern Europe, and Puerto Rico. Where I’ll go next is up to my imagination.
I didn’t stay in traditional hotels (except the 3 times in Vegas, baby, yeah!). I tried to suck as much from the local vibe as possible. Places like Airbnb, vrbo and couchsurfing make this a unique time for people. You can go to a place to where you don’t know anything, and immediately find friendly local advice for a bite to eat, where to catch the bus, or an event happening that night. If you can’t find anyone to show you around, there’s always Google, Twitter, Yelp, or Reddit to help you along the way. Here are a few gems I’ve experienced with a little help from my friends:
- The best pizza I’ve ever had in my life was at a small corner brickhouse grill on 33rd and 3rd in NYC.
- You can find unlimited fresh mineral water from a hot spring in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria. I drank right out of the well.
- I drove the entirety of Puerto Rico and didn’t find a single beach worth while, but I did rent a sweet ass boat and was shit on by a parrot.
- I’ve been forcefully removed from Rain at the Palms in Vegas.
- Don’t get too excited for topless beaches on the Black Sea, because there are a ton of kids running around completely nude, and that ruins everything.
- I’ve danced traditional Turkish and Bulgarian хоро dances in механи, watched men walk barefoot across hot coals and kiss fucking cobras, meditated at monasteries deep in mountains, eaten things I can’t pronounce, cornered on the streets by Gypsies, and made my way through countries fumbling my best to speak their languages.
My mom asked recently, “When are you going to buy a house? Have a kid? Y’know, the American Dream.” When did the American Dream become job, marriage, house, and kids? Not my American Dream. Mine is knowledge, culture, health, technology, friends and soulmates. My US passport is accepted in most countries, and I’m lucky enough to have citizenship in one of the most enabling countries in the world.
It wasn’t them who changed. I changed.
I don’t have too many friends from middle America these days. I’m not a douchebag to them though (I don’t live in the Marina). Simply can’t relate. I don’t own a TV. Most of my friends weren’t born in the US, and the ones that were are well-traveled or at least they can fake it. I wouldn’t necessarily call them Europeans or Asians or Other (I always check this box). I’d call them citizens of the world.