July
20
2012

Two years later

Is this thing still on?

July
20
2010

Heat pushes New York over the edge

Walking in New York right now is like stepping into the welcoming heat curtain that greets you in department stores in the winter, only to find that you never make it through to the other side. Shirts are drenched through within seconds, and your only hope of looking vaguely respectable at work is if the laws of evaporation kick into major effect in the sub-zero climes of the air conditioned subway cars and offices.

Of course, in the near 100 degree heat/100% humidity that New York has been experiencing recently, thermometers aren’t the only indication of temperatures are rising. Everybody may be in a good mood in the warmth of the sun on a day off, but when you’re weary after a day at the coalface, the punishing heat can be enough to send people over the edge.

Right now, New Yorkers have approximately 37% less patience than they would on a normal grey day in the city, according to official government studies. That means that they honk their horns at cars that fail to move off from traffic lights within 0.04 seconds of the light turning green, rather than the normal 0.06. The pavementssidewalks are littered with tourists who’ve been skittled out of the way for walking slowly, rather than just being shoulder-barged and sworn at in normal circumstances. And insurance companies are refusing to cover Starbucks baristas, just in case they forget to leave the whipped cream off a customer’s iced soy vanilla macchiato.

But it’s on the subway that tempers flair most, largely due to the fact that the stations are hotter than an out-of-condition Bulgarian weightlifter’s armpit. The subway system is hardly the most convivial place in the first place, but right now it’s how I would imagine the atmosphere to be at the Jerry Springer Show if the whole audience had just been told that each of their mothers had been sleeping with the 17 year old greasemonkey who’d just wandered on stage chewing tobacco.

Last week, as my train pulled into the furnace that they laughingly call a station, a middle aged woman attempted to barge past a younger woman so that she’d be ahead of her when the doors opened. The younger woman gently but firmly reasserted her position, and stepped on to the train first.

Behind her the middle aged woman tutted loudly, and then turned to a seeming stranger, and launches into a vicious fifteen minute tirade about people who only look out for themselves.

“The problem with people is that these days they’re all about themselves. I used to let people on first, but it got me nowhere. Everybody would take all the seats. Now I make sure it’s all about me.”

Clearly I gave her my best ‘you realise that what you’ve said makes no sense, right?’ look, but to no avail. She continued apace.

“You know, it’s not the New York City people who are like that.”

Given that she’d by this point given the coffee cup-toting woman next to her (who happened to be wearing a hijab) a mouthful about not spilling it all over her, I mentally readied myself for the worst.

“No no, New Yorkers have been brought up properly. They know how to behave. No, it’s the people from elsewhere you have to watch.”

Here we go, I thought. Which ethnic group is she going to have a pop at first? My money was on the Indian sub-continent, although you never can rule out the Chinese in circumstances such as this. I braced myself for the xenophobic onslaught.

“You know, like people from Ohio. Or Kansas City.”

She may not have had much of an understanding of the world at large, but the ranting misanthrope had a fairly clear understanding of her future direction of travel when she finally pops off this mortal coil.

“I’m going up. That’s my plan. I’m looking out for myself, because I’m going upstairs.”

Personally I reckon the universe might have something a little warmer in store for her.

An eternity spent on New York City subway platforms would seem to be a good start.

June
30
2010

Move to America, never watch a movie again

When The Special One first started waxing lyrical about “a British ending”, I have to confess that I started locking up the knives at night, and surreptitiously switched drinks with her whenever she kindly poured me a glass of wine. After all, you can’t be too careful when you’re married to a woman who can paralyse innocent passing squirrels with just one withering look.

As it turned out, she was simply talking about the narrative style of British film producers and directors. Now, clearly the British movie industry is a body that these days has as much influence as the French World Cup 2010 Victory Parade committee. But once upon a time, the British made movies that captivated the world, from Brief Encounter to Trainspotting. It’s almost enough to make people forgive us for inadvertently foisting Jason Statham on the world.

While The Special One loves a British actor as much as the next man (and in this case, the man next to her just so happens to be Rupert Everett), it’s actually the endings of British movies that completely enraptures her. Not the rolling of the credits, or the ‘hilarious’ bloopers of Hugh Grant forgetting the same line 27 times, I hasten to add. Instead, it’s the willingness of the British to finish a movie or even a TV show with an ambiguous close.

Put simply, when it comes to cinematic works, it seems as if Americans want to have all their t’s crossed and their i’s dotted. So when, for instance, you force one of them to sit down and watch the tour de force that is The Italian Job (the original, that is, not that pathetic Mark Wahlberg vehicle), you can expect a certain amount of dismay and a volley of questions when Michael Caine announces that he’s got an idea for preventing the gold from toppling down the mountain face from the precariously positioned bus.

Similarly, the Life On Mars TV show (the British version, not the godawful American retread) ended with you not exactly knowing what had happened to Sam Tyler, driving its loyal viewers into apoplexy (until they watched the follow up Ashes To Ashes, at least).

That’s not to say that American movies don’t occasionally employ the same technique. Anyone who has watched Lost In Translation – or even Lost – will testify to that. But The Special One insists that they’re just being influenced by the British, and if filmmakers were to do it on a regular basis, there would be an uprising on the streets.

Maybe Americans have been born with 17% less imagination than the people of other nations, and that they have to lend less thought to certain things – like movie endings and toiletrestroom design – in order to ensure that they can still invent things that change the world. You know, like the gun and the nuclear bomb.

Or maybe it’s just that Americans have grown used to watching movie trailers that cover every storyline, plot development and epochal moment within a 60 second burst?

I swear that my film watching has reduced by around 90% since I moved to the States. A chunk of that is understandable – I’ve become a husband and father, and so I’ve got less freetime to go to the cinematheater to see Iron Man 2 simply for the purpose of perving over Scarlett Johanssen.

But with movies on demand on cable, you’re never that far from watching a classic Fellini, Cassavetes or Kurosawa. Or more likely, the intellectual powerhouse flicks like Hot Tub Time Machine, Couples Retreat or Tropic Thunder. The shame is that after watching the trailer in order to help resolve the dispute about whether to view the new Jackie Chan or the latest Amy Adams schlockfest (The Special One wanted Jackie, just for the avoidance of doubt), you suddenly realise that you’ve essentially already seen the whole of both movies. Before you know it, you’re being forced into the loving arms of Two & A Half Men re-runs.

It’s my guess that no plot twist is too sacred to be withheld from an American movie trailer. Half way through the preview for The Sixth Sense, the narrator coughs surreptitiously and mutters under his breath “Bruce Willis is dead.” Nicole Kidman and her kids wear sheets over their heads and rush around shouting “We’re ghosts, you know!” in the trailer for The Others. And the shots of Norman Bates being made up to look like a woman in the trailer for Psycho were just unnecessary if you ask me.

Oh, and by the way, every purchase of Seven comes with a tiny box featuring a perfect scale reproduction of Gwyneth Paltrow’s head. We use ours as a toy for the cat.

June
9
2010

A love of second place

Proudly tell an American that you once came second in a three-legged race, and he will tell you that he once won an egg-and-spoon competition. Show off your collection of New Order rarities, and she’ll open a cupboard and reveal recordings that even Peter Hook didn’t know existed. And woe betide he who claims to be able to drink a pint of water in 3.1 seconds, as he’ll suddenly find himself battling off against an American who claims he can do it in half the time. Through a straw.

Yes, Americans are competitive – something I have learned extensively through my marriage to The Special One. To be fair, she would never claim that she is competitive – just that she’s better than me at everything. Given that any reductive argument between two parents (and whether it’s about world poverty, or who peels the carrots) always boils down eventually to the comment “When you’ve gone through childbirth, then you can talk to me about that”, I’ve learned to treasure the runners up spot and make it my own.

The fact is that America and Americans always do seem to take things one step further than the Brits. We grow nice looking aubergines that can do a perfectly serviceable job in moussaka or ratatouille; Americans grow eggplants that can feed a family of four for a month. Britain’s summer lasts between the third Tuesday in July until the following Monday; American winters and summers run so long that they’d be more accurately known as dynasties rather than seasons. And so on.

All that is fine, and I’m very proud of my adopted country for its consistent pattern of oneupmanship.

That said, all bets are off when it comes to the World Cup.

A little back story first. As long time readers will know, I was born in England but feel a greater affinity with the Welsh, having been brought up in North Wales. Maybe it was a reaction against the arcane rule that still allows an Englishman to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow in my hometown Chester (as long as it’s after midnight, obviously)? But whatever the case, whenever Wales are in the same competition as England, I’m firmly in the Anyone But England camp.

With the World Cup, there’s frankly more chance of me taking a starring role in Zoolander 2 than Wales qualifying. Given that I have as much need to waste six weeks of my life as the next man, the lack of a Welsh presence means that my allegiance then has to switch to Wayne Rooney and his dubious crew of adulterous inbreds.

Which brings me to Saturday, and the International Kickball Chanmpionships game between the country that I rarely admit to being born in, and the country that I still have trouble believing that I live in. So my allegiances are torn, right?

Wrong. The last three days have witnessed me daydreaming at length about dipping Rooney volleys from 25 yards, elaborate back heels into the net through the legs of 10 US outfielders, and a sudden discovery of Cruyff’s Total Football ethic by Emile Heskey. To be frank, I may be in the lion’s den, but nothing would make me happier than a crushing Three Lions victory, and a demonstration that second place isn’t that bad after all.

Saturday’s game aside, it’s nice to have a second team to support in the World Cup. Given that a UN mandate requires the elimination of the England team at the quarter finals stage on penalties, it’s always good to have a reason to follow a team that can occasionally spring a surprise.

Let’s just hope it’s not on Saturday, eh?

May
21
2010

It’s all down hill from here

One thing that I think should always be cherished about the UK is the number of regional accents that co-exist within such a remarkably small place. Given that we’re talking about a country which could practically fit within New York State, it’s pretty astonishing that you can get as diverse range of styles of speech as Brummie (Birmingham), Cockney (London), Geordie (Newcastle), Scouse (Liverpool) and so on. And that’s before you even think about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ask a random Brit to identify which part of the country I come from, and I think most of them would probably struggle. Of course, part of that assumption comes from everybody’s belief that they “don’t really have an accent”. Even when that person speaks like someone rejected at the auditions for “Liverpool: The Musical” for being too unintelligible. But really any unambiguous accent I might once upon a time have had has been beaten out of me by years of school, ten years in London, and my current sojourn in New York.

My desire for belonging, however, is such that whenever I make a trip back home (as I did this weekend), my native accent ratchets up a few notches, until I’m sounding a little like Liam Gallagher from Oasis on occasions. It’s an experience that is particularly odd given that I don’t even come from Manchester.

In part, it’s probably a reaction to my abject terror of ever being thought of as having an American accent. Every time I head home, I’ll be part way through a conversation and somebody will inevitably pipe up with “glad to hear that you haven’t lost your British accent”, as if they’ve been expecting me to come back talking like Janice from Friends. Little do they realise that I employ the services of a small Filipino lady who once lived in Chiswick, to follow me around and attach electrodes to my testicles in the event of me saying a-loo-min-um.

Sadly I couldn’t afford the plane ticket for Juanita to join me in the UK this weekend. And while I managed to get through with my reputation largely unscathed, I now have to concede that I am unable to pronounce one particular word in the way that language experts (also known as ‘the English’) intended.

Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

Three times during the course of the weekend, I attempted to use the word that has come to represent the 26th letter of the alphabet. Yet whether I was trying to get from A-Z, or was considering the implications of x, y and z, my brain reached into its well thumbed dictionary and provided me with the word ‘zee’.

Each time it happened, I looked at the person I was talking to in order to gauge whether they had noticed. And each time my head dropped as the listener recoiled in horror at the z-bomb that I had just dropped into conversation.

Sure, I attempted to explain that I had been talking about a conversation with an American, or that I had been referencing something that happened to me in New York. And people nodded understandingly. But we all knew that the game was up. After many years of good service, zed is packing up its bags and saying goodbye to its vocabulary chums. It’s a dark day.

One down, 19,999 to go.

###

I don’t really talk about personal things on this blog, certainly not in specifics. But I can’t really write about being in the UK this weekend without saying why I was there.

Long-time readers might recall a character within these pages called The Beancounter. His real name is Jonny, and he’s been a great friend to me since we were both 11. And just to be fair to him, the only beans he counts these days are the baked variety that he shovels into his mouth.

On May 4, Jonny’s lovely wife Jo passed away at the all too young age of 32. I spent a few months living with the two of them a few years ago when Jonny and Jo were looking for a new place to live. While they both thought that they were a burden to be taking up a room in my house, little did they realise that I was gutted to see them leave, such were the happy times we’d shared while they were there. What was clear then, and what was clear from the words of the packed church at the service to celebrate her life, is that Jo had a huge impact on everybody that she came into contact with. She was kind, compassionate, funny, smart and great company. Frankly, the world’s a less well-off place without her in it.

Words can’t really do justice to anyone who leaves us far too early, but I couldn’t let Jo’s passing go unmentioned. She will truly be missed.

May
6
2010

A need for speed – electorally speaking

For a relatively relaxed person like myself, everything in New York is just slightly too fast-paced. Easing yourself into a day is a practical impossibility. Everywhere you look there are people acting as if they’re starring in a bus-less version of the movie Speed, and that if they slow down below 50 mph, they’ll spontaneously combust. Rather like Sandra Bullock’s marriage and Keanu Reeves’ career, to be honest.

Everything has to be done at high pace. Order coffee, and you’ve got bitter black liquid in your mouth before you can spit out the words “…and don’t put any of that whipped cream crap in there”. Push your accelerator even half a second after the green light has flicked on, and you’ll be greeted with the kind of felicitations offered to John TerryTiki Barber at the World Feminist Council’s Annual General Meeting. And don’t even think about walking down the street with anything less than industrial springs in your step, unless being trampled to death is what butters your proverbial crumpet.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. The subway to Coney Island, for instance, is required to take at least three times longer than federal authorities have deemed ‘strictly necessary’. Post office staff are not allowed to serve any customers whatsoever until there are more than 19 people in the queueline. And the immigration procedure in the US was recently the winner of the Ballon D’Or at the International Festival of Snail-Like Slow, held annually in Luxembourg.

If you really want slow though, then the UK is the place for you. British Sunday drivers go so slowly that it took a £3.2m study to determine whether they were actually moving at all. We cut the crusts off cucumber sandwiches, as otherwise we have to move our teeth too quickly. And the newspapers regularly feature stories about how a postcard sent by a woman in Falmouth in 1932 has just turned up in Birmingham. That’s not an anomaly, by the way, that’s just second-class mail UK-style.

One place where the UK bucks the trend though is the election process to find a new government. On April 6, Gordon Brown (or, as Americans call him, ‘Who?”) announced that he was calling an election. Twenty nine days later, and Britain is currently going to the polls. Like the young lady who gave into the smooth-talking charms of the well-groomed man from the Home Counties (only to wake up the next day and find herself in bed with an ill-mannered oik who holds her head under the covers as he farts), the country is almost certainly going to make a frankly regrettable decision and not even be able to blame it on too many shots of Jagermeister. But you can’t say fairer than an election campaign that lasts less than a month.

Here in the US, the election campaign for president appears to kick off two months before the previous election is completed. Given that Americans have eschewed the ‘put a cross in a box’ method of voting in favour of a complicated series of buttons, pulleys, levers and chads, it can take almost four years for that vote to be registered. If I ever get to vote in an election, it’ll be unclear whether I’m voting to bring Obama’s successor into office, or to try to keep Nixon out of office.

This is my first UK election living in the US, and the brilliance of it is that I can watch the whole thing unfold in primetime. No more waiting up until 5am to see the smile wiped off the face of this year’s Michael Portillo, and no poking myself in the eye in a bid to stay awake during John Prescott’s ramblings.

Still, it does mean that I will need to explain the Sunderland South phenomena to The Special One. After all, sometimes speed really is of the essence.

April
27
2010

Learning to be a grown-up

I’m proud to say that The Special One treats me like an adult. It comes as a shock sometimes, given that internally I still feel like the 10 year old putting penny sweets in a paper bag in the local sweetshopcandy store. But for some reason she still insists on talking to me like a 36 year old.

Of course, the problem with that is that she expects me to act like an adult. And so, when she asked me to read some passages of a book on birth to prepare me for the arrival of The Little One, she didn’t bother chasing me up like a kid with their homework to make sure that it had been done. She trusted me.

Of course, that was her big mistake. Well, my big mistake, but you know what I mean. Like all big mistakes, it eventually gets found out. Now, it would be embarrassing enough for any father to be caught out like this. It’s particularly embarrassing for me, given that The Special One actually wrote the book in question.

I guess the problem for me (apart from surviving the slings and arrows of an outraged wife) is that the best lessons I’ve ever learned have not come from books or classrooms, but through experience. You learn not to put your hand on the side of a hot oven by putting the aforementioned hand on the side of the aforementioned oven. You learn not to go all-in on a pair of threes by going all-in on a pair of threes. Life is a great teacher.

Now, learning through mistake and misadventure is all fine when it’s your own life you’re messing up. It’s a whole different matter when it’s a defenceless child you’re dealing with. And the problem is that there are some childraising issues that no book is ever going to be able to help you with.

Take fecal matter, for instance. No, please, take it. I have no idea why The Little One’s nappydiaper will one day contain half a litre of deep yellow Coleman’s mustard, and the next day resemble the aftermath left behind by a small group of partying rabbits. And unless a book contains a comprehensive colour chart vaguely reminiscent of a paint catalogue to help me identify the likely cause of today’s particular hue, it’s going to be of no use whatsoever.

Similarly, for years I’ve watched friends expertly turn a bottle upside down and dab a little bit of milk on the inside of the wrist before feeding their baby. So when The Special One left me with a bottle of breast milk to feed our daughter, I instinctively put a droplet on my wrist, as if I was a young ingenue applying Chanel No 5 ahead of a secret assignation. And then I realised that I had no frame of reference to tell me what I was looking for. I was guessing that it was for heat, but was it too little or too much, or was I actually testing for some skin-based poison, or to make sure that I hadn’t inadvertently filled the bottle with Sprite?

The fact is that mums either have innate knowledge that dads are not born with, or they read a hell of lot more about this childraising lark, or they make full use of their network of fellow mums to get their questions answered. My money’s on the latter (unless The Special One is reading this, in which case it’s clearly innate knowledge, darling).

If I’m right, then why is it that there aren’t some more ‘dads groups’ so that I can ask the unaskable among a group of my peers? A gathering of fathers would allow me determine whether purple trousers go with yellow tops, without being given the look usually reserved for the moments when I’ve accidentally stepped in cat vomit and trailed it through the house. Or to ascertain whether a particular type of crying is caused by actual pain, or an intense disappointment at my recent haircut.

Of course, the problem is that if you put a group of men in a room together, the closest you’re likely to get to baby talk is whether it’s possible to put day old pizza into a food grinder and serve it to your child. In the absence of any other foodstuffs, obviously – we’re men, not animals. And while I have every interest in a full and frank exchange on the weekend’s sports, it’s not going to help me work out where to insert that thermometer…

Frankly, I think it’s time for The Special One to write a book on childraising. I will definitely read it this time, I promise. I’m an adult, after all.

April
19
2010

Preparing for a Chinese future

The school bully is always scared of someone, whatever they tell you. And if you think of the United States as the one time big kid in the playground, then China is the 6ft 7in guy from the neighboring school that deep down has Johnny America quaking in his boots.

Personally, I’ve got no problem with a Chinese takeover. I mean, what’s not to like about literacy rates in the 90% range, pandas, and all the General Tso’s chicken you can eat. OK, the picky amongst you might have some kind of issue with their human rights policies and prevalence of female infanticide, but these are all details that we can work out in the surrender agreement.

Anyway, in readiness for the US transition to Chinese rule, I thought I’d take a look at a few Chinese proverbs and translate them for use in New York life. After all, you can never be too prepared.

1. The fish that nibbles at every bait will be caught
New York version – The attorney general who enjoys sleeping with prostitutes will eventually find himself on the wrong end of a wire tap.

2. He who asks is a fool for five minutes. But he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
New York version – He who asks a question of his server at a sandwich shop will be sneered at forever. But he who does not ask will end up with peanut butter and sundried tomatoes on focaccia.

3. A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
New York version – The crazy lady in the diner is not crazy because she is clinically insane. She is crazy because she hopes to be spotted for a new reality TV show on Bravo.

4. Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.
New York version – Be not afraid of walking slowly, be afraid only of impatient New Yorkers trampling you to death in a bid to get past you.

5. When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other.
New York version – When you only have two dollars left in the world, get on the subway and start asking for spare change.

6. Virtue is never left to stand alone. He who has it will have neighbors.
New York version – A person with an iPad, iPhone or other expensive device is never left to stand alone in a public place. He who has it will have neighbors, with snatchy hands and an ability to run quickly.

7. Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
New York version – Our greatest glory is not in never being pushed over by impatient commuters as the subway door closes, but in ensuring that your scarf doesn’t get caught in the door in the process.

8. There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same
New York version – There are many ways to the same subway station, but none of them go express at the weekend.

9. One mouse dropping ruins the whole pot of rice porridge
New York version – one mouse dropping is a sign of cleanliness at your local Taco Bell

10. When your horse is on the brink of a precipice it is too late to pull the reins.
New York version – When your taxi is doing 90mph on the FDR, it’s your own damn fault that you accepted that dodgy cab at La Guardia in the first place.

April
9
2010

Losing track

Sometimes I long for simplicity. You know, the days when the only thing you had to worry about was how you were going to get away with hiding that pile of liver (with accompanying ventricles) on your plate, so that your mum would let you get down from the table. Or for the Saturday mornings that involved nothing more taxing than reading Whizzer and Chips, and idly pondering whether Bucks Fizz’s Cheryl Baker was prettier than her slightly grubbier cohort Jay Aston.

What you don’t realise when you’re 12 years old is that these truly are the salad days – times to be enjoyed and savoured before you have to start making weightier decisions than ‘should I drop this pile of clothes on my bedroom floor, or is there somewhere more annoying I can leave them?’

When you move countries well into your adult life, it’s not just friends and family you leave behind; you’re also abandoning all the shortcuts through life that makes everything that little bit easier. Like where to locate that difficult-to-find essential ingredient for your world-beating fish pie, or where to get a haircut that doesn’t make you look like Yahoo Serious. On a bad day. Put simply, moving abroad generally robs you of you comforts and your go-to people. You may establish a new set after a while, but it’s never quite the same.

Of course, losing your geographical shortcuts is particularly difficult, especially when you’re in a car with a screaming small person who knows no better. And if driving with The Special One wasn’t tough enough, we now have a baby daughter to travel with as well. Every saved metremeter is a leap forward in averting Crymaggedon*, so knowing that you can avoid traffic meltdown by taking a quick right turn is invaluable knowledge. Or rather it would be, but for the fact I have as much spatial awareness in New York as a half-blind cockroach with an alcohol problem.

Nowhere is my lack of locational understanding more telling than on the New York subway. In London, I knew every shortcut, every sign to ignore, and every tactic in the book for navigating around the inevitable engineering overruns or closed stations. In New York, even after two and a half years of daily commuting, I’m often lucky to get home.

I used to think that the issue was my rank idiocy. But now, my dear friend New York, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem’s not me – it’s you.

See, the good thing about the London Underground is that the tunnels are essentially separate. I mean, sure, there are occasional spurs off the main line if for some inexplicable reason, say, you want to go to Totteridge & Whetstone. But basically any given train can go down one tunnel, and come back up the other side. You know where you are. Even if ‘where you are’ is ‘on the way to Totteridge & Sodding Whetstone’.

In New York, it seems that every train has access to every tunnel. And while that’s great for avoiding the results of some unfortunate driver’s latest magic trick (“Roll up, roll up, watch the incredible Martino turn one body into 872 largely unrecognizable parts with just one leap!”), it’s less good when you don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the train system. Three times this week I’ve got on a train only to be told that it’s actually running on another line. Intense discussion raged between various passengers each time about the ramifications for various journeys, and the tortuous alternative routes that could be used instead. And I just sat there like a wide-eyed mole who’s just been electrocuted, wondering if The Special One would lose respect for me if I went above ground and phoned her for help.

Simple is as simple does, it would appear.

* Coincidentally, Crymageddon is a small town in South Wales. The Little One’s version is less welcoming to coachloads of tourists though.

April
2
2010

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

I love America. No, that’s really not a day-late April Fool’s joke, for the doubting thomases amongst you. This summer will mark the 16th anniversary of me first coming to the States, and from that first trip to the present day, I’ve had an endless fascination with all things American. Marrying one of them may seem like an excessive demonstration of that; playing a part in creating a whole new one, even more so. But each to their own, huh?

However, there are two things that I fear I will never come to terms with – the obsession with college sports, and tabloid newspapers.

It’s fitting that I should mention the American obsession with college sports ahead of a weekend in which a crew from my old university will row four or so miles up a British river against a crew from another university 65 miles away, with millions of people watching on television. The irony is not lost on me, fear not. But the frenzy that accompanies March Madness (a basketball competition between various US universities, I believe) or the start of the college football season makes the Boat Race look like the non-event it almost certainly is.

Similarly, for a man who hails from a country boasting The Sun, The Mirror and the Daily Mail, some might say that it would be hard for a Brit to complain about the quality of the American tabloid. But I’ve been in The Sun’s newsroom, and for every “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster”, there’s a hard-hitting news story that brings about true change. The same cannot be said about, say, the National Enquirer.

Anyway, every so often, these two worlds collide, as they did this week with this stunning frontpage headline from the New York Daily News.

Now, my journalist days are long behind me, but last time I looked, “New Local College Basketball Coach Has Hot Wife” is not listed in the ‘no brainer’ section of the Dummies Guide To Front Page News. Nor does it suggest that the “stunning starlet” ((c) New York Daily News) need to be still taking up valuable column inches three days later. I’ve heard of slow news days, but come on people…

By the way, the coach himself is set to earn $9 million over the course of his six month contract. For teaching college kids. I’m clearly in the wrong business. And Mary Ann Jarou knows a good thing when she sees it.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/britoutofwater/cFbz