“I was offered the dream. While working on a demonstration in Earls Court, Case, a big machine company from the States offered me the job of a lifetime. Impressed with my driving skills, they wanted me to work for them as a demonstrator in America. All expenses paid. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell your mother. That’s the night she told me that we were expecting you”. (Extract taken from Prince, new Publication).
These were my father’s words, while I sat opposite him at the dining room table. Part of me wanted to grab him by the juggler, and another part of me sympathised with him. Recognising this opportunity missed, I couldn’t help wondering, what if?
What if my father had taken that job? Would my mother had gone with him? Would I have been born in the States? How different could life have been? And then I found myself asking the inevitable question, was I really the direct cause that denied my father of his, or even my own, dream?
When we were kids we were all plugged into America. Taped into Hollywood like it was on a drip. We were the tail-end of an MTV generation, overdosing on a new wave of music energy and visual candy that the British music industry just couldn’t deliver. It came down the wire at breakneck speed, while we lapped it up with swirly eyes. It promised it all, and it delivered everything.
Video games, Nintendo’s. American Wrestling, baseball, basketball. Nike. Michael Jordan. Disney Land. Florida, LA, (the City of Angels). The Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, 24/7. 7/11s. Cable TV, with hundreds of channels; McDonalds on every corner; the Wild West, West Side, East Side. Grand canyon, Death Valley, Cowboys and Indians, American ninjas.
Up until then we had 4 channels, top of the pops, songs of praise, church on Sunday. Everything was nine till five, literally, and everything was closed on the seventh day, which was the Sabbath. You couldn’t even watch anything on the box after midnight, and would have to wait again until 6am, before anything would return to its shiny screen. Unenthused, in search of kicks, America was a beacon of hope that offered the limitless, the endless, the everlasting.
Now, in a world where everything is available through the touch of a button, through smart phones, tablets, Internet TV, we wait for nothing. There is hardly three miles between each McDonalds, or the next KFC. Petrol Stations are “24/7”, and Supermarkets are not far behind. What was once an American culture, is now everywhere. Most sports are played by most countries, even Britain have an American football league. Where once we might have attached the words high school, dude or awesome to one of our largest neighbouring countries, these words are now as common as any.
Through the inter connection of modern communication technologies, the world is now a much smaller place, arguably affecting the scale of its cultural diversity, and even though I now feel hard done by to define or separate our cultures at a glance, without being too silly, when I think of America, every so often, I remember that enchantment, that sense of wonder and adventure offered by a promised land. Somewhat like Peter Pan in Neverland. And every now and again I wonder, What if?