People wot know me and my stupid larynx in real life - especially those exposed to the Great Scottish Accent Horror of '01 - will be thrilled to hear that I'm picking up quite the bushel of Americanisms. I'm catching myself saying "sure" instead of yes, I'm asking if I can "get" food instead of "have" it, and I even said "oh my gosh, dude!" in place of my usual "FACKIN' HELL YOU CAHNT!" To complete the transformation from mild-mannered Londoner to fully-fledged hiding in the bins from Immigration Chicagoan, I have been ticking off various American cliches so that I can blend in totally unnoticed and react calmly when confronted with Big Gulps (enormous litre-cups full of fizzy drink you get at Circle Ks) and Half and Half (semi-skimmed milk) and American labor laws NO U (nine days holiday a year, set sick days after which you don't get paid, 12 weeks maternity leave, no redundancy rights, holy Jesus, don't work here)
And the IHOP! Like in those stoner movies: hey, man, let's go to the IHOP. Duuuude! IHOP! No? Well, it's the International House of Pancakes, it's open 24 hours, it's a breakfast-based menu - enormous - and it's so retro a Hackney Hipster would ejaculate himself to dessication with one step inside. It's basically Little Chef for Yankees, but with excellent service, delicious food and four different types of syrup. Oh my!
A quick note on where we're staying. It's the cutest little B&B, a gorgeous wooden building set back off the main road, all fresh-baked muffins and huge baskets of shiny fruit and wheatsheaf bundles artfully laying about the place. It's also smack bang in the middle of the biggest gay district in the northwest, called...wait for it...a little longer...looooonger...bereadynow! Boystown. Ho yay! So next door there's a leather sex shop, and opposite, there's a bathhouse boasting "70 private rooms, the best hunks in town, and a monthly Bear, Bath and Beyond night." A category Mr JRME fits into like a big gay bear dream; so if we run short of money, I'm going to pimp him out over there. The boys can stroke his beard while he talks like either Hugh Grant or Vinnie Jones, depending on their preference. They'll love it.
Anyway, we were going to go and see the beluga whales today and laugh at their stupid faces and inability to ovulate expensive foodstuffs, but it turns out the whole of Illinois had had that idea about ten minutes before us, and moreover, were willing to stand in 25 degree direct sunshine for hours to do so. Which we certainly weren't, so it was straight onto lunch, and our Man Vs Food-recommended double-dipped Italian beef sandwiches. Not pretty, but omnomnomnomnom...
It's roast beef, sliced mega mega thin, soaked in beef roasty juices, and then the sandwich itself is dipped in the juices. Yeah? So it's a roast dinner, complete with the bit of bread you smoosh around the plate after you've finished the dinner built right into it. All about convenience over here.
If I may be serious for one moment - maybe not quite as serious as cancer, perhaps the level of seriousness of one of those really bad colds that knocks you out for a couple of days, but not quite enough to prevent you from watching an entire box set of a quality US drama - there is a major racial segregation issue in Chicago. I know the same could be said for London, and yes, there are black areas and white areas etc, but there's also a little bit of a mish-mashery around the borders and the centre of London's pretty much a free-for-all. Not so Chicago, as we found out when we wandered one block into the black district and suddenly every single face, every single one, was black, and we were definitely not in Kansas any more. And along with that, the poverty level became noticably higher. More beggars, more empty shops, more payday loan sharks, the whole deal. Feeling like a total shitforbrains white woolly liberal is preventing me from thinking about this for any longer, so I'll just leave that point there, proudly stinking up the joint like a toddler's first potty-based twosie.
Anyway more food, right? A guest appearence by Mr JRME's plate tonight, as I had a rather boring (though obviously mammoth, enormous, gargantuan, size of an everage washing-up bowl) spaghetti and meatballs concoction.
*pushes half-moons up nose* Now, please to be noticing here, ze very, very unusual addition to ze normal combination of mini-hamburgers unt ze large potato sections. Zere is, as you can see, a cake located on ze western quadrant of ze plate in question. Zis is most peculiar unt requires much more in-depth research by my institute. So far, ve have only managed to surmise zat ze cake in qvestion contained a high level of incongrous yumminess. Ze danger to ze world if all meals were to be coming with ze cake as standard could be ze catastrophe! You! Achtung! Send ze wheelbarrows full of Deutchmarks to ze United States! Schnell schnell!