“Awesome!” said my waitress and spun on her heels to fetch my double-shot Guatemalan Americano with half-water and a side of steamed milk.
This two syllable superlative is a word you will hear constantly in the United States, a land brimming with hyperbole and rich in metaphor. Whereas in England an order might be acknowledged with an ‘ok’ or a ‘fine’ in the US pretty much everything is ‘awesome’. We are masters of understatement and they are the undoubted rulers of overstatement and therein lies a huge cultural divide.
But when everything is awesome where do you go from there? I wanted to discover what separates the truly magnificent and stupendous from the workaday ok. American scenery is awe-inspiring on so many levels and in so many shapes and forms that it fully deserves the moniker ‘awesome’. But it was on the 4th July, when America celebrates its independence and separation from the old Mother country, that the penny – or nickel – finally dropped. What is truly awesome about travelling in the United States of America is the unbounded hospitality of its people. We were staying with our fourth host family and had dropped into their home life with the same sense of ease and genuine friendliness that we had encountered with all our hosts since our arrival in California. Doors are flung wide open and you are ushered in with no hint of pretension or stuffiness. Generous, warm-hearted and thoughtful from beginning to end. It has been a revelation.
The 4th July party that we were invited to merely on the strength of our being ‘on the block’ was a glorious affair. The street had been closed and everyone was out beneath a cloudless sky. A huge bouncy castle was being tested to breaking point by dozens of happy children. The local petting zoo had been called in and attendants were informing older children about their charges: a Porcupine, a Joey, a Lemur and an Owl respectively. The adult entertainment came in the form of a mobile barbecue trailer the size of a double bed. Piled with beef ribs, pork chops and chicken joints it was a smoking testimonial to grilled meat. Half a dozen plastic troughs as large as baths were full of ice and a varied assortment of soft and hard drinks. Tables were packed with snacks and nibbles. We were introduced to everyone and on all fronts met with warmth and good naturedness. I played the British card to maximum effect and joked that there were no hard feeling on our side, we had deserved to be kicked out, ‘no taxation without representation’ was an eminently sensible request. A 1955 Chevrolet was started up for our benefit and tales of 1960s drag racing told.
We rocked gently home with our hosts where we danced in their front room to one of my favourite Irish bands, The Pogues. Another bottle of the delicious Paso Robles wine was opened and to the background of our host Rick’s excellent music selection we chatted until the wee hours with a group of their friends who dropped by.
You can’t help but love a country where such hospitality is so freely available to complete strangers. Awesome!