Los Angeles - The Day After
November 2004©Nigel Spiers

Swooping down through the murk into Los Angeles on the day after the U.S. Presidential Elections. I'd forgotten I was now in a country at war until it takes 2 hours to clear customs and pickup my bags. Instead of the obligatory questions they want to know all about the software I sell. Whether it is used for military purposes or defence related. Also how am I going to sell it and to whom and do those companies have any relationship with the US military.
I was waiting outside the terminal for my hotel courtesy coach when I heard the following announcement. “Any unattended bags will be removed and terminated”.

At the hotel it quickly becomes obvious that this country is also dominated by brands. At the lobby shop I ask for some film. After a lot of shoulder shrugging the assistant finally twigs and says “ohh yeah you want some Kodak”. I also needed ear buds and after a lot of roll playing and “sounds like” she smiled broadly saying “I know – you want Q-tips”. By this time I had the hang of the game and when it came to the toothpaste said. “Give me some Colgate”. A word of advice to travellers – Americans dropped please and thank you many years ago. Don’t say please when you want something it’ll just confuse them.

The evening comes quickly in LA and its time for a few beers. I haul up to the bar tucking in my shirt to hide the middle aged spread. I needn’t have worried. The bar is brimming with travelling salesmen and all of them have fabulous beer guts. They don’t so much sit at the bar as stomach it and reach over for their Bud Lites. I’ve been here before, know to stay clear of that cat’s piss, and order a Stella Artois. An eerie silence descends over the bar as the patrons recognise an outsider. I suspect the barman is going to ask “so what will it be this time slim?” Emboldened by a few of Belgium’s finest I lean over to ask the guy next to me who he voted for yesterday. I look up to find a man mountain spread over the stool, at least a head taller than me and with a fist which completely encloses his glass. His voice is so deep it causes a tremor on the top of my beer. Instead I ask the skinny Mexican barman. He shyly admits he didn’t vote.
“Why not” I ask
“To vote I must-a-register and I am not a ceetizen senor”
“But did it surprise you that Bush got re-elected? I press
“We voted for Carey here and in New York – I know nothing about thees other country in the middle of America senor”.

Day 2 in LA and my host for the day, Michael, asks “So where to from here Nargelle?” “Off to London tonight on the 8.45” I reply “Well you may as well stay here cos that arshole Bush has probably already put an embargo on England”. I look around the board room table and there’s a lot of resigned nodding from his executives. I’ve always thought that Americans thoroughly deserved their leader. However it’s clear from talking to these folks in LA that the US is politically at least 2 quite separate countries. Despite the pathetic toadying of their governor (Arnie the Terminator) the West voted with the East. I really do feel sorry for these folks who by their geography, culture and work are often more closely aligned with their European and Pacific neighbours than the vast bible belt of red central US.

At the airport check-in counter a sign says “You must unload your gun and place it in the plastic tray” Shit I’ve left mine at home.

Day 3 and an endless grey dawn greets the weary as we descend into Heathrow. 3 more young soldiers from the Black Watch regiment have been killed in Iraq overnight in the fight to kill as many Iraqi’s as possible this side of the Xmas. Tony Blair takes yet another opportunity to appear on TV and apologise to the grieving families. He now officially holds the British record for public grovelling easily outstripping his great rival Geoffrey Archer. While his mate George Bush has achieved all his war aims of getting re-elected the vaulting ambition of the young British leader is hardly whetted. It appears that Britain is about to get at least a bloody nose in Iraq and possibly worse. It also appears that Tony has been tricked by his older bully boy brother across the Atlantic with promises of fabulous wealth through arms sales, cheap oil and lucrative American business contracts. Most importantly, like the Genie with the lamp, George promised him everlasting glory as the President of Great Britain. Unfortunately Tony forgot to read the fine print.

God save the people of Iraq because no one else will.

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