So I’m on my way to the DC area, where I am homeless and jobless but friend- and family-ful. Eight hours of driving is tiresome.
Trying to leave my parents’ house was hard, too. Mom wanted to highlight the route in my 1996 RubberQueen (?) map book. OK, no problem. Then she was concerned because my friend had me going through Chicago. “I don’t want you going right through Chicago. It can be kind of rough.”
“Cabrini-Green, I know, I won’t get out of the car.”
“You don’t have a cell phone, I wish you had a cell phone,” Mom said. “George, give her your cell phone.”
“I need my cell phone,” he said.
“Mom, then give me your cell phone.”
“But I need it,” she said. Finally, she did give me her cell phone.
At the gas station she checked my tires. “Do you know how to check your oil?”
I stared at her. “Yes.”
“You know to look down every once in a while and check the temperature gauge?”
“Mom. I’ve been driving for seven years. I drove from Atlanta to Minnesota with no problem. I know how to drive and take care of my car. If the hood pops, slow down, hazards, pull over gently, look through that little crack,” I said, pointing to the crack. “If a tire blows, same thing. Most of the time when you want to slam on the brakes, it’s better to slow down gently if possible. If anything on the dash starts flashing or beeping, get off the road and get it looked at.”
“OK, OK, I just worry,” Mom said, being a mom.
“Your son goes off to Iraq. I lived in Korea. I can drive in America.”
“But Korea is safer than America,” she replied.
Hmm, that’s true. But I’ve traveled to Vietnam and managed to cross the street without getting killed, which says something.
As it is, I ended up going around Chicago because I got mixed up around one of the toll roads. Tolls! I swear, the tolls are going to cost more than the gas!
I also heard the ever popular “Jack and Diane” five times in an eight hour drive.
That song—and some rest stops—got me thinking about Good Man.
I really want to do a road trip with him. America is just so damn big that you really can’t understand how large it is until you’ve driven across parts of it. And despite the areas of ugly, ugly parking lots and strip malls with huge stores, there are areas of absolute beauty.
I wonder how people will react to us in the middle of nowhere. He’s not American, and it’s obvious the moment he opens up his mouth. What sort of reactions will we get?
Also, hearing “Jack and Diane” made me think about those songs I’ve grown up with. Were Good Man American, we’d have a shared bit of culture, even though he’d be Korean-American. Although a lot of American culture—especially music, movies, and TV shows—made it to Korea, often I can’t make references without explaining myself. “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”
In a way, this can be frustrating. If he’d grown up in America, he’d know these references. But at the same time, we learn a lot about each other by asking questions.
I wonder…if we both grew up in America, would I have a harder time understanding “his” culture (however his Korean culture worked its way into his American life)? I think so. If he were born in Korea but studied in America, if we met here—if I’d never lived in Korea—would I understand him as well? I don’t think so.