Shortly after breaking off my physics study I went on a journey through North America in August and September 1993, during which I kept a diary. After a visit in Baltimore I travelled across the US with bits of Canada and Mexico by Greyhound bus. It was a life-changing experience. Names and details have been changed to fit the medium.
Baltimore – DC – New Orleans – San Antonio – Juárez – San Francisco – Detroit – Toronto – NY
Part 1: Arrival in Pikesville
Baltimore, Wednesday, August 18, 1993, 22:10 local time
Eight days since I’ve been here. Let’s start with the beginning.
My mother joined me on the train from The Hague to Amsterdam Schiphol airport and waved me off. After the passport control I bought 2 film roles and a Dutch newspaper. It was a small aircraft from Iceland Air filled with odd looking and even odder speaking people.
On my way to America! Taking off was one of the most exciting moments of my life.
My seat was next to the window. It was sunny and the green and yellow patches of England were clearly visible flying over them.
There were some really cute stewardesses, and next to me sat a sweet Icelandic girl, flanked by her mute boyfriend. Approaching Iceland was like approaching the moon, completely barren, with some Fuji-style mountains on top. Spent some time at Keflavik Airport, where I bought a cassette tape from Björk, her Debut, even though I didn’t bring my Walkman.
The next plane was a similar sized one; although this time I had an aisle seat. A sweet little girl, probably 11-year-old, was sitting next to me. This time it felt colder in the craft.
Once arrived at “W-Ball” (Washington-Baltimore International Airport) I needed to be checked. I had to provide an address of where I was staying and for how long. Out in the main hall the people whose address I just gave weren’t there yet. Apparently I was about an hour early. For my feeling it was past midnight, even though it was only around 7 in the evening and humidly-hot and bright outside. Clearly a different climate, and my first jet lag. I got to chat with some guy from “DC” – I had to get used to listening to and speaking American English, when Jake walked in the hall.
Jake is the father of Sam, a guy I knew when I was around 12 or so, who I came to visit. His and my parents where sort of friends. I hadn’t seen him since he moved back to the US with his dad after his parents got divorced. His Dutch mom stayed in Holland. Jake, once a hippy street guitarist now working in a paint store was now living together with Jen, a woman working at the University of Maryland. I would be staying with Jake and Jen for the first couple of days before meeting up with Sam, who was “busy”. With what, I didn’t know yet.
Jake, in his mid-to-late-40s, had hardly changed in the 10 years or so I hadn’t seen him, still sort of jovial, relatively short guy (I was now the same height), with curly shoulder-length hair, slightly resembling Bob Dylan – including the hoarse voice. He was wearing a loose T-shirt, jeans and sandals. He gave a nod to the guy I was chatting to and sort of made a gesture to me to go outside without that strange guy. Outside in the car was Jen whom I had not met before and seemed miles away from the hippy flair that Jake still had hanging around him. She had a grey quiff and a permanent friendly smile on her face. She seemed more educated than Jake, but they had a funny chemistry together. After we got introduced, we drove through Baltimore via the new harbour.
The next morning I met Jon, Jen’s teenage son who exactly looked like Beavis or Butt-Head, including Metallica T-shirt and giggly voice and small eyes, and very shy. The rest of the day I tried to keep up with my sleep. That evening we went to the Taco Bell restaurant in town at the harbour where Sam was working. Never before had I seen obese people before, let alone so many.
Sam, now 21, had changed. I don’t know if “grown up” is the proper description; he had matured, yes, but he sported some weird sideburns, slick hair combed backwards and a ponytail on top of his restaurant uniform. He didn’t say much as he seemed to be very much in his waiting role. Little did I know he was just stoned.
The next evening he showed up at Jen and Jake’s place with his girlfriend Kacey and a friend called Ricky to collect me. From then on everything went completely upside down.
To be continued…
Part 1: Arrival in Pikesville