Saturday, July 23, 2005

My brush with Trump

America isn't Australia. It's a simple truth I'm reminded of each time I come here. Australia shares its language, devours its television and gets into bed with Bush, but even after all that we're not the same. There's the tipping thing, the insistent politeness ('How are you today, sir?'), the spirited conversations on public transport... the details are small but they accumulate, and I'm reminded that getting along over here requries a goodly amount of cultural interpretation and sensitivity.

It's always a happy realisation. If I wanted home I would have stayed there. Here's something I can't do in Canberra: stand in front of a giant kidney bean and look at myself. This is the Cloud Gate monument in Chicago's Millennium Park. 'The Bean', as it's known to locals, was designed by Indian artist Anish Kopoor and is meant to resemble a drop of liquid mercury at the point of landing on the park's plaza. It is made of a highly polished reflective steel, and when I was there it was surrounded by curious locals and tourists intrigued by the distorted reflection of themselves and the city behind them.

I also dropped by to see how Bill Rancic was doing. Bill, as you'll recall, was the winner of the first series of the Apprentice, and for the last 12 months he has been hard at work in Chicago building Trump International Hotel and Tower. (Kelly, the winner of the second series, was not so fortunate - on last report he was head of sales for Trump Ice, a brand of bottled water.) If today was any indication, the construction of this building is going to take a while - but it's a Saturday, so we can forgive Bill a day off. Just tonight I discovered an advert for this development - it featured a comely blonde and the promise that the reader could 'discover the elite lifestyle known only to a select few worldwide'. Residential condos start at US$506,000.

And a special thanks to American Airlines, whose glacial check-in queues caused me to miss my LA-Chicago connection and afforded me the unexpected delight of 4 additional hours in LAX. Next time I'm bringing my push bike.

A couple more photos

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bill Bryson on arriving

Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected check in the mail, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homey restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one? I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city.

Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There (1992)