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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Something Was Definitely Missing...

As it turned out, it was squirrels.

When you go away to a different land, there are things that you notice right off the bat that are different from the place where you were raised, and then there are things that are less obvious, that maybe you don't notice at first, that you have to really think about. Or, not think about and they just come to you at some moment when you're thinking about something else. Like perhaps the way ponytails bob and whip around when college-aged girls are out jogging.

For... example.

When Mrs. Apron and I were honeymooning in Bali, one thing we noticed straight away were all the dogs. There were goddamned dogs all over the fucking place-- stray dogs, feral dogs. Dogs eating garbage, dogs sniffing incense and rice and banana peel offerings left out on the sidewalk for this god or that god. Dogs masterfully avoiding getting run over by speeding mopeds containing entire families.

The Bali dogs.

The guidebooks we read mentioned this phenomenon, but we would have noticed anyway, because they were everywhere, and you'd have to have your head stuffed pretty far up your own ass to not notice it. I'm talking, like, smelling-your-own-spleen territory here.

One of the things that was less obvious to notice about Bali was that everybody spoke English. I didn't pick up on it for a couple days but, I can remember energetically bargaining with a street art vendor on a painting I really wanted and thinking to myself, "Holy shit-- here I am, all these thousands of miles away from... anything remotely English or American, and every goddamn person I've run into here speaks at least some English."

Even if it's, "Jut loo-keen, okay!" from a shopkeeper or a somewhat bewildering "un, too, see, por, pibe, six, seben, ten" count-off from a Balinese traditional dance instructor.

Something that was even less obvious than that was the observation that nobody seemed particularly anxious about, well, anything. And maybe that's a stupid thing to say-- anxiety is universal.... I suppose, and I admittedly wasn't sitting at the kitchen table of a Balinese couple trying to make ends meet, but you know how you can walk along the streets of Boston or Philly or D.C. or New York and see some anxious-looking motherfuckers? Brows furrowed, hands thrust deep into pockets, eyelids absolutely creased in worry? I don't know, maybe I'm just a dumb tourist, but I didn't see... that. And it led me to think that maybe anxiety isn't as universal as we may be tempted to think it is. Maybe it's more of a Western construct. Maybe it's manufactured by Woody Allen and Pfizer to keep us all in check and in analysis and in the pharmacy lines.

In Ireland, the thing I noticed immediately was that the cars were different.

Renault Clio

Skoda Octavia

Peugeot 308

Nissan Micra

Volkswagen Caddy

Toyota Avensis

Ford Mondeo

Opel Vectra

Renault Laguna

(And those are the ones I remember, just off the top of my head. Which is... desperately sad.)

It wasn't until two days into our trip when I remarked to my wife, while strolling through the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, that, as far as I could tell, there weren't any squirrels in Ireland.

Which, for a native of the Philadelphia area, is disconcerting. And wonderful.

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