The story of why I spent August in Kansas, USA, goes like this: About two years ago my local friend Chris was doing his PhD in Astronomy at Armagh Observatory. His boss said, “I want you to attend a conference in Spain.” Chris sighed, bowed his head in resignation, and went. Whilst in Spain, he met an American lass called Stacey. It came to light that both were big fans of Farscape, and Chris just happened to have in his possession a laptop full of Farscape episodes. This ensured that these two spent plenty of time in each other’s company … alone. And so, Stacey soon swept my best friend off to the Land of the Free … or not so soon. Bravely, Chris battled the evil Red Tape for a year, until finally becoming an American citizen. Now he’s married with a kid. So off I flew to Kansas, to see my buddy for the first time in over a year.
One of the unexpected highlights of the vacation was spending time with Isabel, Chris and Stacey’s one-year-old girl. She got accustomed to this big six-foot-four monster quite quickly and we had a lot of fun. It’s amusing figuring out things that make babies laugh. One not so amusing moment was when Stacey decided to sneak out and do some shopping, leaving me alone with Isabel. I was able to keep the kid occupied for about fifteen minutes, then her wee head started looking around for mummy continually and nothing would distract her. After crawling around in frustration, she had a complete tearful, snot-filled meltdown. Luckily, Stacey arrived back within a few minutes.
One evening, Stacey and Chris put the baby to sleep in the bedroom and went out on a date. I watched some DVDs, keeping one eye on the baby monitor. For the most part, Isabel kept still, but occasionally she would give a little moan, then I would give a panicked glance at the monitor and see her changing position in the cot. Don’t wake up! I thought. Please don’t wake up! Thankfully I got through that evening without trauma.
Someone who comments occasionally on this blog is Jeffrey Allen Davis, a fellow indie author from Springfield, Missouri. I always remembered Jeff linking to my site with the words: “A brother in Christ from Ireland that I’ll probably never get to meet.” Well, it turns out that Springfield is only a four-hour drive from Chris’s abode in Olathe, Kansas, and it happens to be the town where Stacey went to college. So, we took a trip down there. Stacey went off to meet up with her old college buds while I met up with Jeff and two of his friends, Evan and Karen. It’s not often that I’ve met up with someone that I know purely from email, and it’s pretty amazing to be able to meet with someone so far from home. The four of us had a great time, chatting mostly about writing and filmmaking. Hopefully we’ll meet again on future trips to the US.
Some snippets of unusual things you don’t experience in Ireland.
- Walking out of Kansas City Airport for the first time and being slapped across the face by a wall of heat.
- Driving down the highway and spotting hawks with a five-foot wing-span gliding overhead.
- Standing in a garden and looking at a tree that’s making more noise than a radio tuned to static. Cicadas are very noisy critters.
- Motorcyclists without helmets, with fashion senses somewhere between Easy Rider and Mad Max.
- Big flatbed trucks with deliberately raised suspensions and tyres that are much too wide for the body.
- Obese people whizzing around indoors on motorised granny carts, far too young to be grannies. It’s a tragedy what some people regard as normal life.
- Watching an incredible lightning storm. The sky flashed every few seconds; the forks were long and laboured. Over here it’s a quick flash every few minutes, if we’re lucky.
The vacation also afforded me an opportunity to obtain a couple of items that are unavailable in Ireland and the UK. I picked up season one of The Fall Guy and the complete series of The Greatest American Hero, two shows that I enjoyed as a kid, and which thus far have not appeared on region 2 DVD. Also purchased Bruce Campbell’s autobiography If Chins Could Kill, which looks like a fun read. Oh, and I bought some new trainers. Over here, they don’t stock my size (13″, although it’s called 14″ in the US; yes, I’m a freak) in shops and I have to mail order. So, it was pleasant actually being able to try-before-you-buy for once.
Americans seem to love the Northern Irish accent. As an experiment, I tried to put on the American accent, but apparently I sound effeminate when I do! You should hear the Americans trying to speak like a Northern Irishman. The ultimate test is to ask them to say, “How Now, Brown Cow.”
I enjoyed my holiday, but it’s good to be home, too. If there’s one thing I just can’t stand about Kansas, it’s the terrible humidity of mid-summer and the afternoon temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s necessary to be indoors most of the time. On one occasion, Stacey’s brother Loren travelled the fifteen-or-so miles to visit me at Chris’s apartment. Unfortunately the air conditioning in his car wasn’t working properly, and when he arrived, he was soaked with sweat, to the degree that it looked as if someone had thrown a water balloon at his back. I love the cool summers of Ireland and the ability to go cycling whenever and wherever I want. Unlike Chris, if I ever hit it off with an American chick, I will be dragging her back here.