America 2018: Day Sixteen (7 September)

If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife
I’d thank my lucky stars to be livin’ here today
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away


And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA

From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee
Across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea
From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA
Well, there’s pride in every American heart
And it’s time we stand and say

That I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA

– Lee Greenwood

Friday 7 September

And so it comes to an end.

Late Friday night in Los Angeles and I’m at LAX waiting for my Virgin Australia flight home, reflecting on another fantastic sixteen days in the United States. I love this country and the people who call it home – though not always unreservedly – and I love visiting. Pound for pound, your everyday American might be the nicest and most polite anywhere in the world. That’s been my experience, anyway, talking to various people outside of the circle of friends I know here. Maybe it’s because I’m Australian and we’ve always had such a good relationship with America? Part of what makes this country such an easy place to visit.

Not a good start to the day, me waking up pretty hungover. That’s what happens when you don’t get in until just before midnight after sinking a good number of beers. I’ve definitely felt better. Actually, the alarm ringing scared the you-know-what out of me and I just about fell out of bed. Still, fun night last night at Arrowhead. I feel like there’s a no-drinking month or so ahead once I get home. I’ve consumed a lot of alcohol over these last two weeks. 

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Anyway, safely on the Chicago to Los Angeles flight. Dreary day in the Midwest, with rain and some morning traffic making our commute out to Midway a little more interesting and slow than it might otherwise have been. One thing is for certain: Sydney traffic has nothing on Chicago. 

Something really cool happened on the plane: a guy proposed to his flight-attendant girlfriend right there in the middle of the plane. Right there in front of us. Literally one seat back. You hear about that sort of thing and see it in social media, but actually being a part of it is kinda cool. She said ‘yes’ and we all gave them a huge round of applause. Pretty fun stuff. 

The proposal was the only eventful moment of the flight, except I can report that I felt a thousand percent better arriving in Los Angeles than I did departing Chicago. Nothing like some breakfast, headache tablets and black coffee for a bounce-back.

We picked up a hire car in Los Angeles and drove out into the suburbs to meet my buddy Nate. Years ago, in the era of MySpace, when Nate was House Band drummer on Rockstar: INXS I sent him a message saying I thought he was awesome – which he was, and still is – and from that, we’ve become firm friends. Kinda random, I know. Texting back and forth a tonne, especially during Laker basketball, and whenever I’m in town, he always makes an effort to hang out.

We went to a really cool little pizza joint called Pizzeria Mozza that Nate originally found out about because he plays in the band for on the American version of ‘The Voice’ and one of the judges on that show, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, gave the entire band gift cards for there a while back. Now Nate is apparently a regular, and I can see why: the food is amazing. We ate ourselves to a standstill, and probably talked ourselves to a standstill as well, if I’m honest. I feel like we covered everything from Laker basketball to Trump to The Voice (what a juggernaut that show is) and so much in between. Always a fun hang.

Headed over to the University of Southern California for a walk in the afternoon around that amazing campus and then on to Santa Monica out on the Pacific Ocean – and one of my favourite places anywhere in America – for the same reason. It’s a beautiful spot at the best of times, but especially this afternoon, with the weather so nice out here.

And that, as they say, is that. I’m tired. Ready for a meal and a sleep. Nathan and I have gone our separate ways now, as we make our way home on different flights. I’m taking stock of what has been an exciting and memorable two week stay here. I won’t forget my lucky charm weekend in St Louis at the IndyCar race – especially victory lane and the amazing generosity of Mark Jaynes and Nick Yeoman from IndyCar Radio – nor multiple fun times with so many friends in the Chicagoland area.

To my friends – ahh, who am I kidding? You’re like family now. Thank you all for your hospitality, for taking time out of your busy summertime schedules to hang out – it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed or unvalued. Alley’s, Longhini’s, Weller’s, Rovik’s, Hladik’s, Morton’s….you are the reason I keep coming back.

Am I looking forward to going home? Absolutely. I love Australia and I’m proud to be an Aussie. At the same time, I’m sad to be leaving because, with very few exceptions – a couple of travel snafus here and there – I haven’t had a bad experience.

America: stay safe, be happy and be kind. See you here in about nine months.

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One thought on “America 2018: Day Sixteen (7 September)

  1. Great to have another trip under our belts! Thanks for a fantastic time, filled with some new experiences. Totally echo your thanks to our American family – “Alley’s, Longhini’s, Weller’s, Rovik’s, Hladik’s, Morton’s….you are the reason I keep coming back”.

    Liked by 1 person

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