Voyages in America

James Robinson is a New Zealand journalist who moved to the United States in 2010 and is now settling into San Francisco with his American wife. Join him as he continues to make sense of American culture and politics as an immigrant with a funny accent in the land of the free.

Can America be fixed?

08:30am 07 Oct 2013

The American Government (pre- and post-shutdown) has descended into the legislative equivalent of a gang of rival monkeys throwing poop at each other for space in the cage.

It is not a good time in America at the moment. Any question I ask myself about where this country is headed or its collected mental health ends with me staring wistfully out the window and feeling like the world is going to end.

mechanicBut can America be fixed?

Is America one of those snagged up, maddening sets of still-functioning Christmas lights that you pull out come the holidays only to find that it is much more knotted and twisted than even your worst fears?

Or is it a bombed-out vehicle on which the repairs will end up costing more than the value of the car?

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American malpractice

09:00am 04 Oct 2013

Recently, I got a small taste of how broken American healthcare is.

When LP got a job in February we upgraded to health insurance through her work.

For a little less than a $100 a month each, we were now provided with less medical cover than $0 would buy us in New Zealand. But the plan was good, for here. It held some relief through co-pays and deductibles for us to go to the doctor or get prescription medication, if we were so inclined, compared to our last plan, which was only any use come catastrophe. 

And so, a couple of months after that I had a strange pain in my side. Blessed with health insurance, I thought I would go to a doctor for the first time ever in the USA.

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Turning American in Santa Monica

11:30am 02 Oct 2013


Any Sunday where you've knocked off a stack of banana pancakes and spied actress Chloe Sevigny walking her dog, all before noon, is probably going to be a good day.

But from pancakes and star-sightings, my Sunday in Santa Monica only got more awesome... and much more American.

Santa Monica is the California that comes to mind whenever I hear a Beach Boys song. New Zealand is a nation of startling beaches but ours are more rugged, isolated, with a hint of danger. The beach here has textbook golden sand and waves that break with such arcing precision I can only imagine the people surfing them look like they could have been extras in Point Break.

Stop one for the afternoon was to join in on a Pedal...Or Not electric bike tour down the California coast. I'm suspicious of any enterprise that involves me wearing a helmet for extended stretches of time (on account of my freakishly large head). But this I could do. The electric cycles have a motor on the back wheel that propels you with a simple squeeze of the throttle and a battery that can take you 30km without having to pedal once. All you have to do is balance. Even I could do that.

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The sounds of travel

09:15am 30 Sep 2013

The past couple of days, I've been in West Hollywood and Santa Monica on a trip, looking for celebrities or looking out at the beach.

It has been an efficient way of pushing the memory of the America's Cup out of mind.

smIn travel, as in life, my constant walking companion is a large pair of headphones. Over the past few days, spurred by a listening funk that I was in, I have left them in my backpack.

I've liked removing the distraction. I feel I've been a little more engaged with the places I've been.  LP has often told me that my headphones were a way of shutting the world out.

I'm wondering maybe if she was right? (Shhhh... Don't tell her!)

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The San Francisco heartbreak

10:00am 27 Sep 2013

Welp. That happened.

From 8-1 up Team New Zealand lost eight straight to Oracle.

I know somewhere out there in San Francisco, Russell Coutts and Jimmy Spithill lifted the America's Cup and a lot of Oracle sailors sprayed each other with champagne and looked elated. Probably.

I can't look.

People are going to talk about how this was the greatest comeback in sports history. But, they're wrong.

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