Wild Wild West

By the time you read this, odds are I'll be elsewhere, since tomorrow begins the first full-blown TC Trip of 2000. Once again, the destination is Western America, with Phoenix and Las Vegas the main targets. British Airways will be flying me out, and I hope the in-flight entertainment system doesn't break down on the way, as it did last time -- it is particularly irritating to see semi-random five minute chunks of a film, but such are the joys of what used to be Economy class, but is now called "World Traveller". However, at current rate of air-mile collection, I should get into the BA Executive Club later this year - and not the scummy blue card anyone can get, a proper Silver one. I look forward to striking fear and terror into Executive Lounges around the world.

There are multiple facets to this trip, not least of which is preparation for eventual emigration. There are three big hurdles to be overcome: house, visa, and job. The first-named is largely a case of catching up with seven years of unexecuted maintenance, though given the current housing market, we could probably sell it in milliseconds for more than we paid for it. The job & visa things are inextricably intertwined, and Chris + I are still ploughing through the bureaucratic web of green cards and H1Bs, up to and including the possibility of marriage -- a prospect that no longer quite sends me running and screaming, I may add, but I'd rather wait and do it for the right reasons! This has also caused some frantic searching: I know I graduated from Aberdeen University back in 1987, but do I have any bits of paper to prove it? Needless to say my mother, inevitably, came up trumps on that one...

There will, however, be plenty of time for pleasure, in a variety of delightful ways, including my third trip to Las Vegas. I doubt if I'll ever be able to recapture the heady shock of that first drive down the Strip, gawking at olympic gold-medal levels, but it's always fun to try. No doubt Chris + I will some time "predating", Velociraptor-like, around the casinos, stalking the senior citizens who don't know how the hell to play the fruit machines. Merciless and ruthless it may be, but it's a jungle out there... Back in Phoenix and Tempe, there will also be the first baseball games of the year (I will finally get to see my beloved Arizona Diamondbacks play!), as well as the, er, local Scottish Highland Games.

There is something bizarre about this: I never usually bothered going to the Forres Highland Games, when they were in the park at the end of our road, but fly 5,000 miles and they suddenly become an object of great interest. I saw video of last year's event, and the severely surreal imagery of people tossing the caber, while palm trees swayed gently in the background, takes a lot of beating. But home culture never seems so appealing as when you're away from it -- I remember an English pub on Sunset Boulevard serving draught Newcastle Brown Ale, and this Scottish ex-pat is far more patriotic than I was when I actually lived there.

But that's part of the joy of travel. In these days of the "global village", there is very little truly local culture, unless your idea of a holiday involves festering swamps and the casual fending off of cannibalistic natives. For a satellite- and Internet-handy individual, the world is shrinking and, so for this as well as other reasons, it's very comforting to realise that I won't be thinking of myself as emigrating, so much as coming home. After all, home is where the heart is,

See you in a fortnight!


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