Cooper Brown: He's Out There

'I've become Anglicised. I'm a stranger in my own country. And, Jesus, do Americans love strangers'
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The Cooperman is back in the good ol' USA. I flew out here two days ago to see Mom and try to arrange stuff with her for the wedding. If I'm being honest I'd prefer she wasn't there for the big day as she's a bit of an embarrassment. But she's my Mom and I've got a fairly decent inheritance to think about - so best play it safe.

To be blunt, Mom is a big fat hippy and not going to do me many favors on the social front. I'm going to try and fly her in and fly her out as quickly as possible and hope everyone takes her to be some thing to do with the organising. She lives in a Redwood forest just outside the town of Eureka, in northern California, where I grew up. It's weird going back having made such a success of myself to find people I knew back in the day still doing the same shit.

I walked into my hotel (there's no way I'm staying with Mom in her "commune") and I thought I recognised the guy behind the reception desk. I was struggling to come up with a name when he comes out and gives me a big hug. It's Chip Walker and we used to be friends at high school. He starts blathering away about how great it is to see me and how happy he is and how he's got three kids but all I can think is: "Dude, why are you working as a hotel receptionist?"

I tell him about how well I'm doing and he smiles but you can see thatit means absolutely nothing to him. This guy has never even been to SanFrancisco, let alone left the country. I might as well be telling him about a trip to Mars for all he understands. Chip invites me to his home that evening for dinner and he won't take no for an answer. I finally get away by accepting and go for a walk downtown as Mom is doing a "silent retreat" until the next day. As I walk down Main St I'm continually accosted by over-friendly passers-by.

"Hey, how you doing today?"

"Hello, how is your morning going so far?"

"Good morning. Nice day for a walk, huh?"

This is after a hundred yards and none of these people know me. I end up having to keep a steady stream of chatter that becomes very tiring.

"Hi – yes, I'm fine, thank you. How are you? How was your morning? How are you doing..." It's almost insane – you can't get any time to yourself. I go into a Starbucks, and the barista chick comes up to me twice while I'm reading the newspaper and asks me how my coffee is? In the end I snap and ask her (Candy, they all wear name badges, everybody...) to leave me the fuck alone. She looks at me like I'm from Outer Space and then snaps back into a smile and tells me to let her know if I need anything.

I realise, with increasing panic, that I've become Anglicised. I'm a stranger in my own country and, Jesus, do Americans love strangers. I'm used to the London way of telling everyone to fuck off and to ignore people in public and grunt in shops and scowl at people as you pass them. It's much more my style and I don't think that I'd ever be able to go back to US behaviour patterns. Imagine that – I've actually gained something from living in the UK? Who'd have thought it? I guess I should thank you... but now I think like you guys – so go take a running jump, you Limey bastards.

I start reacting to the stranger danger by beating them at their own game. If someone asks me how was my morning, I reply by asking them about their morning... and then their previous evening... and afternoon. How was Monday for them? They look all freaked out but are programmed to continue, so they struggle on trying to remember how everything was. It's hilarious and I start going out of my way to talk to strangers so I can fuck with their heads. Suddenly I'm enjoying myself – attack really is the best form of defence.

That evening I head over to Chip's house near the bay where I meet his wife and kids. The wife is surprisingly attractive and I cheer up a bit. Over dinner we talk about the elections and how they really hope Obama can pull through against Hillary and what a dream ticket they would be if they united. I tell them I'm guns blazing for McCain and there's a bit of an awkward moment, as it's technically illegal to vote Republican up here, but the moment passes.

Chip eventually calls it a night as he has the early shift the following morning but I stay shooting the breeze with his wife, who treats me like some visiting movie star. One thing leads to another and I end up banging her on the couch in her own living room while her husband and kids are asleep upstairs. This considerably improves my evening and I eventually stagger back to my hotel feeling very good about myself.

I offer Chip a particularly big "Hi, good morning, how you doing?" thefollowing morning and he gives me an effusive reply and tells me that his wife loved meeting me. There's a spring in my step as I head off to my Momma in the Redwoods. God bless the USA. Cooper out.

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