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299 pages, Paperback
First published August 1, 1989
I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to. When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question and settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever, or you spend your adolescence moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can’t wait to get out, and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever.
When I was growing up I used to think that the best thing about coming from Des Moines was that it meant you didn’t come from anywhere else in Iowa. By Iowa standards, Des Moines is a mecca of cosmopolitanism…. During the annual state high-school basketball tournament, when the hayseeds from out in the state would flood into the city for a week, we used to accost them downtown and snidely offer to show them how to ride an escalator or negotiate a revolving door.
Above all, Iowans are friendly. You go into a strange diner in the South and everything goes quiet, and you realize all the other customers are looking at you as if they are sizing up the risk involved in murdering you for your wallet and leaving your body in a shallow grave somewhere out in the swamps.
I was headed for Cairo [Illinois], which is pronounced ‘Kay-ro.’ I don’t know why…. At Cairo I stopped for gas and in fact did ask the old guy who doddered out to fill my tank why they pronounced Cairo as they did.
‘Because that’s its name,’ he explained as if I were kind of stupid.
‘But the one in Egypt is pronounced ‘Ki-Ro.’
‘So, I’ve heard,’ agreed the man.
‘And most people, when they see the name, think ‘Ki-ro, don’t they?’
‘Not in Kay-ro they don’t,’ he said a little hotly.
There didn’t seem to be much to be gained by pursuing the point, so I let it rest there, and I still don’t know why the people call it “Kay-ro.” Nor do I know why any citizen of a free country would choose to live in such a dump, however you pronounce it.
I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.
The whole of the global economy is based on supplying the cravings of two per cent of the world's population. If Americans suddenly stopped indulging themselves, or ran out of closet space, the world would fall apart.
When you grow up in America you are inculcated from the earliest age with the belief - no, the understanding - that America is the richest and most powerful nation on earth because God likes us best. It has the most perfect form of government, the most exciting sporting events, the tastiest food and amplest portions, the largest cars, the cheapest gasoline, the most abundant natural resources, the most productive farms, the most devastating nuclear arsenal and the friendliest, most decent and most patriotic folks on earth. Countries just don't come any better. So why anyone would want to live anywhere else is practically incomprehensible. In a foreigner it is puzzling; in a native it is seditious.
On Fifth Avenue I went into the Trump Tower, a new skyscraper. A guy named Donald Trump, a developer, is slowly taking over New York, building skyscrapers all over town with his name on them, so I went in and had a look around. The building had the most tasteless lobby I had ever seen - all brass and chrome and blotchy red and white marble that looked like the sort of thing that you would walk around if you saw it on the sidewalk. Here it was everywhere - on the floors, up the walls, on the ceiling. It was like being in somebody's stomach after he'd eaten pizza.
...there are three things you just can’t do in life. You can’t beat the phone company, you can’t make a waiter see you until he’s ready to see you, and you can’t go home again.
I don’t think I had ever been to a place quite so ugly, and it was jammed with tourists, almost all of them ugly also – fat people in noisy clothes with cameras dangling on their bellies. Why is it, I wondered idly, as I nosed the car through the throngs, that tourists are always fat and dress like morons?
…I listened to a fat young woman with a pair of ill-kempt children moaning in a loud voice about her financial problems to the woman behind the counter. ‘Harvey, he’s been at Fibberts for three years and he’s only just got his first raise.’ ...It didn’t sound as if God had blessed Harvey very much. Even his kids were ugly as sin. I was half tempted to give one of them a clout myself as I went out of the door. There was just something about his nasty little face that made you itch to smack him.
As my father always used to tell me, 'You see, son, there's always someone in the world worse off than you.' And I always used to think, 'So?'Bryson returns to England after ten years and decides to take a road trip full of nostalgic stops. He reflects on many a good adventure with his family and, in particular, his father. Wholly entertaining and engaging!
I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to. When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question and settle down with a local girl named Bobbie and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever, or you spend your adolescence moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can't wait to get out, and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever.