I really wanted to go to Africa
West of St Louis
It was September just yesterday




Random notes on where-how-if-when-why
  If you want to try the worst of Dutch cuisine combined with the worst of North American cooking, sit down in any restaurant that boasts “authentic Amish dishes”. Along with the refusal to use electricity, bad food may account for this population’s proverbial ill-tempered disposition.
  The Civil War came through these parts and the cemeteries – as crowded as they are numerous – are sad proof of this.
  Even the deer in the forest were awakened by the noisy greetings of the family that came from the four corners of the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving at the hotel in Pipestem State Park. The forest rangers came and complained, but when they found out that everyone was from the same family they left in an orderly fashion and went to sleep in the woods nearby.
  God looked at Kentucky that morning, and since everything was so beautiful that it approached perfection … He created Paintsville.
Cumberland Falls
  Christmas is around the corner and, alongside the turkeys and cashiers, the fir trees, holly and mistletoe also look nervous.
  According to experts, the equation for the economic crisis is the following: “the height of Christmas trees at department stores divided by the hypotenuse of the decorations times the pessimism of the cashiers”. The trees are small this year and you have to look at their branches very carefully to see anything. And the cashiers are very nervous.

Throughout Tennessee, it isn’t easy to find a turkey at the supermarket. Here the tradition of Thanksgiving is rigorously observed and the turkey has to be wild. It must be hunted in the woods and the chestnuts are picked from the tree in the backyard. The same holds true for the apples. Only in cities can you find those horrendous packages of “precooked-boned-sliced” turkey made for atheists and hasty housewives.

  Across Arkansas – and Paragould is proof – front yards are crowded with fawns, flags, antique cars, wrought-iron cowboys, yesterdays pumpkins, tomorrow’s Christmas trees, and plenty more. Therefore, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the house of a respectable city official actually belongs to a careless and untidy junk dealer.
Mountain Home

At Mountain Home, which has a population of 11,000, there are 18 churches pertaining to 18 different faiths. The Church of the Nazarene has two different sites, but if crowded parking lots are any indication, the Lutheran church is the one that draws the biggest number of people. Also in Mountain Home, the main street alone has six banks. Nowadays, one of the two – faith – is either expensive or profitable around here.

  Oklahoma welcomes you with a road sign that reads “Welcome to Oklahoma – Native America”. Personally, I find this to be in very poor taste, as all the Indian tribes were deported right here to Tahlequah and thousands died of hunger, poverty or simply nostalgia. It’s a bit as if some in Germany were to decide to refer to Dachau as “The New Jerusalem”.
  The old interstate Route 66 pompously passes through Tulsa, pretending to be a highway. As a result, where there were once countless unpretentious small businesses you now see miles and miles of used-car dealers, pizzerias, souvenir shops and plenty of other tasteless venues. It was a pleasure to see it again and a relief to leave.
  In a rush of consumer zeal, in Durango the Halloween jack-o-lanterns have been replaced by the first Christmas decorations.  The youngest and most inexpert turkeys have a relieved look in their eyes, but – who knows why – the older ones continue to look about warily.

If you think that the prairie can feel lonely sometimes, it’s nothing compared to the sensation you’ll get if you happen to walk down the main street of Pueblo during a November weekend.


It is not advisable to drive around Cortez at night. The passion for “firewater” is still strong among the natives and if mixed with beer it generates undesirable side effects.
The Wall Street bear is far from Cortez, and here the bull of auto parts and body repair shops reigns.

Tuba City
  Times change and the Navajo Nation no longer has a great chief but a president whose portrait is ubiquitous and James, the kind gentleman who sits at the house of the Navajo Museum, proudly tells me his Indian name: “James Two Hearts” or “James Two Bypasses”.
Cedar City
  Don’t let yourself be fooled by that simple small-town appearance, where on the main road the usual motels are alternated with gas stations and Mexican restaurants with supermarkets that are always packed. Every year Cedar City hosts a famous and sophisticated Shakespearean Festival.
  Giving in to the temptation of Italian food in Provo is a terrible idea and the price to pay is a sleepless night. So don’t be surprised the next day when you smile gratefully at the waitress who serves you a very comforting hotdog.
  Long ago, one sought fortune by digging in the mountainside to find a good vein of gold or silver. Now fortune arrives noisily from the slot machines strategically positioned virtually everywhere. Once fortune changed lives; today the most it can do is make an evening a little less boring.
Carson City

If the gas-station manager where you stop to fill up in Carson City is Lebanese, if the clerk at the souvenir shop you enter in search of an “authentic” Indian arrowhead is Bulgarian, if the conductor at the concert you’ve attended is Russian, if the waitresses at the restaurant where you go to dinner are invariably South American – and all of the above are also American citizens – this means that you’re in a great country: a great country where virtually anything can happen in early November.

Klamath Falls

Across the United States, hunters are “a protected species”… but one that is anything but dying out.

  There is no logical explanation for the unwarranted boom in restaurants serving “authentic Mongolian cuisine” or of the sale – virtually everywhere – of “Mongolian beef” appetizers. Based on my own informal survey of ten disgraceful samples, it turns out that only 1% can place Mongolia in Asia and 7% think it is somewhere south of Mexico (more or less), but the other 2% think there’s no such place on the map and that it is merely an advertising gimmick.
  The undeclared dream of those who live on the coast of Oregon is to wake up one morning to discover they are as sophisticated as the people of Seattle and as cosmopolitan as those from San Francisco.
  In the United States, the main difference between cities and small towns is that in cities a wall won’t stay clean for more than 12 hours before it’s covered with imaginative and colorful graffiti. But in small towns, as soon as people realize that there’s a blank space – regardless of where it is – they’ll promptly paint the ubiquitous Stars and Stripes or, as an alternative, the Statue of Liberty. The tablets with the Ten Commandments have also become popular lately.

The only difference between a prairie and a desert is that a prairie has less sand and there are Indians.

  One day the desert and the prairie met, but attempts to keep each other company were pointless.

These are times when people are not smiling very much. So if – as I believe – instigation to suicide is a crime, then the plangent song Danny Boy, sung by a certain McDemmond, should be outlawed.

  Country music has its rules and they must be followed to the letter. There’s a Bob or a “Johnny”, a McGuire or a McKeene (in any case, the “Mc” is indispensable), the sky (big or blue: take your pick), clouds (strictly plural) and, naturally, a horse, a herd of cattle and a woman whose name is unimportant. If any of these elements are missing, beware! The song is one of the many imitations.
  With everything you see and hear on Halloween, it’s no wonder that whenever I see a pumpkin I dash back to my hotel and lock myself in.
  Yogi Bear has turned fifty. Fifty years spent with a stupid and self-important midget, getting food by stealing apple pies and pawing through garbage, and hounded by pitiless national-park ranger constantly keeping him away from tourists’ tasty picnic baskets. Fifty years spent avoiding the shotguns of Sunday hunters anxious to turn him into a bedside rug. I don’t know if there’s a heaven for bears, but if there is Yogi has already had his share of purgatory on earth.
  One of the unresolved scientific questions that fascinates scholars and researchers alike is what came first: outstanding cheesecake or indispensable Alka-Seltzer.

Dry vermouth in Douglas? As far as I can tell, it’s never made it this far. Campari? Unknown. Gin and tonic? Only for a handful of sophisticated rancheros. It’s bourbon that accompanies the locals from the baptismal font to the grave. But if you see someone at a restaurant ordering a glass of iced tea to go with a humongous steak, be careful: it could be a cop.

Teetotalers? No, they get tarred and feathered, and then driven out of town.
  When you see the town of Custer, you understand why only a meager group of houses has been dedicated to him and why his name doesn’t even appear on classic T-shirts. In the United States, this is the height of oblivion.
Rapid City

At least once in his life a good Muslim must go to Mecca, just as a good American must see Mount Rushmore before dying.
The difference its that, for the former, it is a pilgrimage with the suffering of faith, but for the latter it is simply a pleasant outing.

  Murdo is the only place in South Dakota where the houses are outnumbered by gas stations, restaurants, hotels, motels and cafés (and, I would add, a touching drive-in). For all doubting Thomases, there is a sign citing this record at the entrance to town.

In Kearney, Nebraska, if you are enticed by the sign claiming “all you can eat for $10”, don’t be surprised if after an enormous dinner the portly owner glowers at you when you get your third serving of dessert. Smile, say “thank you” and leave.


I don’t understand why American ads teach young people how to become obese and senior citizens how to get back in shape.

  Come to Omaha, and go to the tobacconist at 503 11th Street. I don’t know how or why, but the shop has the best Cuban cigars in the United States.
Des Moines
  In Des Moines, avoid ordering the “Tuscan-style turkey sandwich” unless you have a strong stomach and hearty appetite. I tried – in vain – to discover the reason for that adjective.

When you ask the anonymous voice that answers the toll-free number of a famous chain if their Des Moines hotel is downtown, don’t believe the reassuring response: “Oh, it’s in West Des Moines … not far.” From the center of town, West Des Moines is a thirty-minute drive on a busy highway, plus 20 minutes to find parking … and then to get back out again.

Kansas City
  When you arrive in Kansas City, the first thing that comes to mind is, “All the parking is wonderful, but where’s the city?”
  When God created air conditioning, Divine Providence invented aspirin.
St. Louis
  If Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had ever imagined that, to honour their successful expedition, the city of St. Louis would have erected a gigantic and ugly arch identical to that of a famous producer of hamburgers and fried potatoes, they would undoubtedly have stayed home.
New York

New York is unquestionably the only place in the world where Orthodox Jews, who tranquilly don their black outfits with large matching hats and shirts that are always white, outnumber those in all of Jerusalem. On the other hand, the Palestinians far outnumber those in the Gaza Strip.
They live peacefully side by side and every week they go to the same place of worship ... oops! I mean bank.


In New York, if you see someone order an espresso and a bottle of San Pellegrino (small) there can be no mistake: it is someone who is unquestionably well-off.


 New York is the city where dry martinis still hold out, followed by weary gin and tonics and the up-and-coming Campari. Scotch? I’ve been told that some people still drink it in Harlem.


If you pause to observe the traffic on Eighth Avenue (it’s the first number that comes to mind), you realize that the sentence heard so often in films – “I’ll put you on traffic duty” – shouted by the police chief to his unruly detective is a threat that should not be underestimated.

  If you miss Italy, go to the Apple store or any cell-phone shop.
© Copyright Francesco de Marzio. Tutti i diritti riservati.
Contact: francescodemarzio@hotmail.com