A dozen simple joys of life in America

23:10, Oct 27 2011

Flush off hitting 50 blogs, I thought that maybe I could now drop the pretence of seriousness.

Goodbye politics! Goodbye cultural comparisons!

Well... I kid.

But today I do want to walk on the ever so slightly more trivial than usual side of the tracks.

See, I've been contemplating recently the smaller joys of my new life in America and I even got as far as compiling a list of a dozen of them to share with you.

These are not tectonic new additions to my life, by any stretch. They're small additions and fringe benefits that I didn't actively know I was missing out on when I was in New Zealand, but they bring a smile to my face now that I'm abroad.


Talking about how there's a different amount of water in the toilet in the USA

This is an alarming difference when you move between countries, but you quickly get over it. The American toilet is wider. It is greater in girth and two-thirds filled with water. The New Zealand toilet is narrow and elongated with just a small amount of water at its base.

I'm over it. But I love how into talking about it some Americans get, as it is such a grimy and weird little difference that the conversation always travels an odd path.

Really awesome statues

There's a statue of George Washington at the entrance to the Boston Public Garden that I'm never not pleased by. The horse has one its hind legs kind of sashayed upwards. George Washington is looking off into the horizon: poignant, valiant.

The two statues of lions facing each other in the Boston Public Library amaze me. There are two tigers facing each other on top of the pillars of the gate at the entrance of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I liked this immensely.

Old immigrant neighbourhoods

In New Zealand we just don't have the history to have a section of town that has at some point been taken over by an ethnic group that entrenched themselves in the area and forever imparted a pervasive personality and set of unique characteristics. I've discussed the Italian North End on this blog and the large Jewish population of Brookline, but because of its age these neighbourhoods pop up right across the East Coast.

Double-paned windows

Being able to stay warm in the winter will never, ever get old.

Entertainment services unavailable in New Zealand

For $15 a month I get an unlimited stream of movies from Netflix and they send me whatever I ask for by mail. For $10 a month I get access to every album I could ever conceive of through Spotify. I realise I've subcontracted out delivery of my entertainment provisions, which leaves me vulnerable to corporate chicanery, but this is just so damn convenient.

Narrangansett/Pabst Blue Ribbon beer

In America there's a backlash against the hipster appreciation of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Narrangansett. The two beers were regarded for a long time as traditional working-class drops, and the hipster appropriation was classified as a desperate attempt by intellectuals to be middle class. So, I avoided them initially, but I've found that if you can accept this resentment they're no better or worse than, say, a Heineken, and come at about half the price.

99-cent secondhand books on Amazon

Granted, I need to factor in $3.99 in shipping and receiving fees. But, if there's a book you need, there's about a 90 per cent chance you can get it sent to your door for less than five bucks. For this reason, in just 14 months in town I have cause for a second bookshelf. (This secondhand market, however, is apparently destroying the publishing industry.)

Actively recognising places that you've been in movies

This is a brainless joy. LP and I will be engrossed in something, and in reflex will succumb to mugging grins and itemised acknowledgment of when we were in that particular place. When we first got to Boston we watched The Town, in which Boston is almost the second lead actor behind Ben Affleck. It was electric to us. We loved the movie. Sadly, watching the movie a second time a year later without this to fall back on, it did not really hold up. 

Cheap shoes

I hate shopping. But this I've got used to. A quality, middle of the range shoe in America costs between $60 and $80. I bought a new pair of Nike sneakers recently. They're bouncy and red and the price didn't make me weep.

Movies on the same day they come out

Three movies in American cinemas right now: Moneyball, The Big Year and The Ides of March. In New Zealand, The Ides of March and Moneyball are scheduled for release on February 16 and The Big Year is out on March 2.

This is unequivocally better and the comparative advantage is made more excellent by a subconscious assumption in me that the delay must still exist, allowing me to get some residual pleasure every time I go to the movies. 

Free drink refills

It is pretty ridiculous to pay three dollars for a cheap soft drink mix that cost a restaurant 20 cents. In America, the price comes down, and the cup is bottomless. Every soft drink ordered becomes an episode of value appreciation and endurance. And I'm always compelled to really dig in and get mine. 

(This simple joy comes with ensuing bladder strain. Be warned.)

The Sunday New York Times

Two magazines, a week-in-review section, the daily news, business, arts, style, travel... it comes as two separate thick papers to my doorstep, stuffed inside a plastic bag. Its street value and appreciation is shown by the fact that as I live in an apartment, if I take too long to get the paper from the street, it'll get stolen mercilessly.

It is a veritable doorstop: a day of reading, good reading, and the best way to end the week.

So what're your simple joys then?

Don't tell me you don't have them. Everyone needs their simple joys.

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