Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about a little place called America. So we’re gonna get into the US of A, when we say America we speak about the USA, we’ll find out what it means to Barbara. She is an expert in it.
She will talk about her own state and town or city. What states she’s visited in the US of A. What she considers the wildest or strangest of those states, of all the states. What about New York, California and Florida – lots of people know about those and we’ll hear more.
Does what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas? We want to know that. Describing an all American day – what would it be like? Some maybe problems, like gun control. Is Americanization a problem for people in the world? Its globalization is sometimes called Americanization.
What makes her proud to be an American? The spirit of America and the symbol of America – all those great stuff. So we’ll find out more. What it’s like to live in America and maybe what it would be like to visit this great nation. Okay. So, Barbara, are you ready? Are you comfortable?
Good. I guess it’s a comfortable easy topic for you.
Yeah I think it is. I’m definitely an American.
Easy for me to listen to. I’ve never visited America, although my two brothers have, older and younger have been to America. Yeah, I would. I’m interested, as I think most people are to be honest. But… And… Yeah. That’s something I want to learn more about from your perspective. Okay, so what does the USA mean for you?
Okay. Big apple pie? It’s like a comforting thing I guess?
We say it’s a melting pot, that’s what we’re saying.
Right. Yeah, cultures and national things, they’re different. Okay, I can understand that. Is it a great place, do you think?
I think it’s a great place. I think that there’s potential. That’s what everyone thinks about America. They think if I go to America, there’s gonna be opportunity for me.
Right. That’s an American dream.
It is, it’s the American dream.
I think it is still alive, I still have hope for America and the American dream.
Okay, great. I’d say it’s a good place, it’s a positive place, it’s home.
And for me not, sorry, not American. But I’m gonna say my bad. I guess there’s nothing… That’s why I imagine apple pie, because there’s nothing quite like apple pie and custard for me that represents home, I don’t know why I thought… Maybe I’m not sure. I think it’s an American thing too though. Slice of an apple pie or whatever. Do you have custard in the US?
Custard I think is like pudding?
It’s sort of a milky creamy…
Yeah I think it doesn’t appeal to me really.
I’m sorry for you. Well, more for me.
Okay, but back to the US – tell us more about your home state and maybe a little bit about your town or something.
Well, first of all you need to congratulate me on happy California admissions day today. This is the day.
Congratulations. What does it mean?
September 9th is a national… Not national, a state holiday which commemorates our statehood in 1850 with the thirty-first state. We didn’t have to be a territory at all, we were allowed into the union.
Right. Okay. So you became part of the USA back in the day.
Great. Okay. So congratulations I suppose. I don’t… I don’t remember the date when my region became part of the UK, so… I don’t think we have. We’ve plenty of other things we celebrate, but I don’t think of that one. So, your home state is California.
It’s California. I consider that as my home state. I was born in New Jersey and if I’m telling anyone I was born in New Jersey, they come back always 100% times ‘Oh you were born in New Jersey!’ Of course they have to do the accent. Yes, I was born in New Jersey.
But you don’t talk like that.
I don’t talk like that. But early on we moved to California and I was raised in a Santa Cruz beach and my aunt and uncle had a …. grocery stores when first went there in Santa Cruz in the 60s. And yeah, that was the good California life.
Is it famous for the oranges or is that Florida?
That is famous with Florida, the oranges. But earlier on, when I first grew up in California, we had orchards, so we had the apricots and the peaches and the plums. And then the garlic fields.
Wow. Not good for vampires. There are sun-Maid raisins and believe it or not, you can buy them in the UK, but they’re from California.
Yeah we have them. Okay, so we have that valley and this is very good for agriculture, and I think it was the Japanese that brought irrigation. So we have this irrigation of the grapes and made into raisins for the UK. And wine.
Oh yeah, so you just send the raising to us. They need to go out. I see. Well that’s good business. But, you know. I guess the wine wouldn’t do as well. We’ve got a lot of European stuff.
Yeah you don’t need Californian ones, that’s for us.
Maybe it’s available, I don’t know. Okay. Wow. Okay. What do you think is important about California? What signifies California?
California symbolizes the west. So if… So I was raised with my mother who had the attitude of ‘If I get back to California, I can make it’. So it’s this kind of land of opportunity, the 49ers, in 1840 gold was discovered, so the 49ers went out there, you know, get their… their glory and their riches which they oftentimes did not pend out. But yeah, California is known for the state of opportunity.
Do you think it was actually the original American dream. Go out there and you get your fortune, get your gold.
Yeah, that’s our Western…. Moving west, that was the whole reason to move west, we have free land or cheap land, we could build our lives.
Yeah. Sounds good. I think….
Sounds good if you weren’t indigenous, it’s very good if you weren’t Native American, because those people were definitely… their culture and everything was destroyed. So you have two perspectives, right?
And I guess… forgive me if I’m wrong, I don’t want to sound anti-American in any way, but I’ve heard, and I don’t know if this is true, that cowboys actually did scalping, maybe more so than Indians?
Well I have to say that if you read Dan Brown’s book called ‘Bury my heart at wounded knee’ - that book came out several decades ago – he tributes scalping to the Dutch.
And that the indigenous learned that from the Dutch.
Right, so that was from Europe.
So all the stereotypes that we have of the Native Americans were just put on them. For instance, Indian giver- that’s supposed to be someone who give and take back. Things like that, that were not even true at all.
It’s like what we were speaking about earlier in another podcast – history is written by the Victor.
And I guess it’s kinda a bit like that too…
Well if you’ve the power, if you’ve the industrial power, which we were, which we had, we had had revolution, the industrial revolution, but then, you know, England came over and helped us with that technology. But we made it even better.
And we were able to push forward, and then Thomas Jefferson opened this whole mill area by purchasing Louisiana territory from Napoleon. And so that also helped us push westward. And then also Thomas Jefferson had Louis and Clarke who were out there with their expeditions to document everything that needs to be, all the flora and fauna.
This and… this facilitated our westward push.
So I guess historically it’s a land of exploration and opportunity. And even today I think, it’s a place for growth and for exploration. What states have you visited in America? So you’d mentioned New Jersey.
We would go, we would drive across the south, so we would go from California to Florida and I’ve done that many times in a car. And I have spent time in New York, which is, you know, ballet summers. And I once went up to Ohio.
I was going up to, I think, North Dakota, and I stopped in Ohio and I told this story to some other people before then. I knew I was a real southerner, because I lived in Atlanta, Georgia. When I asked for a sweet tea and in Ohio they looked at me like ‘what are you talking about? Sweet tea?’ So I’ve been to Ohio and they didn’t like my request for sweet tea there.
And what is sweet tea? You forgive me.
What? Okay, so you like regular hot tea, right?
I’m not a tea person actually, but…
You’re not a tea person. But you’ve been around tea, right?
Well down in the south they get a tall glass, put the tea in there and ice cubes and lots of sugar, it’s called sweet tea.
Oh it’s a bit like… It’s kinda like iced tea.
It is iced tea, but it’s sweet.
Yeah. And nowhere else do.. apparently no one else anywhere else in the region or in the states will drink sweet tea except for the south.
It wouldn’t appeal to me, honestly. Well, maybe it would if I tried it, but I don’t know if… Where I would get it actually, but… I’m not a big tea-drinker. Okay. Great. You traveled about…
Is it quite normal for Americans to travel so much between the states and driving long distances?
I always have to pull in history again, but after world war II there was this big consumerism and we were able to manufacture cars and when people got the car and the highway system, they were often running. So that’s a very American thing is to get in your car and drive.
You drive. Cause, I mean, of course there are planes between states if you need to, but… are they more popular? Is it more popular do you think to fly than to drive?
Probably not driving like we would across the states- I don’t think that’s very convenient for people, uncomfortable for people. Maybe not an adventure. But you know when a boy gets his license at the age 16, he wants his first car. So the car kinda symbolized independence, freedom, identity.
And it could… You don’t necessarily has to travel a lot.
I say a boy – a girl could too.
Wow. Well, yeah, I get your point though. What is for you, in your opinion, the wildest or strangest state in the US?
I don’t know. Wildest, strange. I remember being in New Mexico and viewing this beautiful desert flower. There this bright pink, like rose colored, and that was… And then there’s grand Canyon in Arizona. So these things I remember as being spectacular.
Yeah, right. Most spectacular things.
For the nature or geological future I suppose.
Yeah, and the importance of conserving, preserving our national treasure, which would be the land, and it’s unique. Mountains and rivers…
Yeah, yeah. Great. Okay. So I guess… Forgive me, Grand Canyon – which state is that?
That runs through Arizona.
Arizona. Alright. Okay. So we’re saying Arizona and New Mexico, I guess?
Yeah, that’s the south-west.
And I’m sure lots of people know and are interested in this thing, those places. Okay.
There’s a place called Four Corners where four states that look very similar to a square meet in the middle, so that’s Arizona, New Mexico, and what is it? Colorado and Utah I think, meet together. That’s called Four Corners when the four boundaries borders intersect.
And actually I’ve been to the Hoover Dam, where I put one foot in Nevada and one foot in Arizona. And that’s pretty spectacular I think.
No, those were the days that you didn’t have those.
Yeah cause nowadays people will be ‘this is my Facebook picture’, but I guess… yeah. Back in the day, and I remember them too, you weren’t worried about Facebook, you were just ‘this is a great event and I’ve put one foot in both states’, so yeah.
Okay. Great. By the way, maybe backtrack a little bit – California… Have you experienced many earthquakes? You grew up there.
That’s the whole reason why I left. 1989 there was this huge earthquake in the bay area which really collapsed the bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, it’s called the Bay Bridge. And I had a baby at the time.
And we were always taught to stand in the doorways, so I had my baby and I stood in the doorway for the earthquake and I’m thinking ‘you know what? This is the last earthquake I’m gonna be in’. Cause if you know geology, there is going to be…
eventually LA and San Francisco are going to be next to each other because of the… there are two tectonic plates, one is on the pacific plate, and the other is on the North American plate. The earthquake is there.
Yeah, that’s the huge one, and there was a bunch of, you know, little…..
Right. Is it a difficult place to live because of that?
It’s very expensive, very expensive. The earthquakes, if you don’t mind, you know, the earth sounding like a train going through your dining room or something. But they are always talking about preparing for ‘the big one’, the one that’s going to break San Francisco off into the Pacific ocean, the big one, that’s what it is.
You know… Do they have any Idea when that might be?
No, you can’t predict such a thing.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to live . I mean, it’s got a beautiful… Well, my impression, I know I’ve never been there, is beautiful weather, great culture…
We have different though. California is sliced up in different regions, cause we don’t all get along, we don’t have the same kind of politics. But we’ve got this Southern, we’ve got the Mojave desert, and the Santa Ana winds blowing to LA so it makes it a really hot area. And then we’ve got beautiful valley where we’ve got the grapes, we’ve got the coast, and Northern is very cold. So it’s very different.
So you got a mixture as well.
You can go skiing, if you like the desert…. All temperatures.
And terrain in California.
this is the place of real thrive.
It’s hard to imagine for me because I’ve never experienced an earthquake. I mean, we live… If you’re form the UK – I’ve heard that there are tremors that were felt in Scotland but, like, nobody noticed. I mean, certainly I didn’t notice, and we live kinda in the middle of the plate if I’m correct.
So we really don’t.. From that point of view…. I mean, there are other little problems and natural disasters and flooding and stuff, but… A little bit too much rain for some people.
But we don’t have kinda earthquake threat or anything. Wow. So it’s a big negative I think for living in California. But a lot of positives.
And the expense of it – it’s so expensive. I don’t even know, cause I haven’t been back in a couple of decades. But it’s more expensive.
Do you, I mean, how do the insurance companies cover that?
Yeah we have some kind of earthquake protection and anything.
But that’s not cheap, I’m sure. Okay. So let’s go to New York – you’ve spoken a little bit about, you’ve been there. So what makes New York special?
Well, my experience with New York… the very first time I went was in January 1977 and later, looking back or reading on it, that’s supposedly was when a very cold cold winter, one of the most cold winters. I don’t know if it’s true, but I remember reading about it.
And it was at that time Times Square was really seedy, and the mayor of the city was trying to improve the image of New York. And so that’s when I heart NYC came out – I love New York city.
That’s really popular today.
Yeah. And so now when I look at New York on the TV, Times Square is this big beautiful place.
Yeah. It’s been rejuvenated or changed, right. And do you think New York is a good place to live?
I think people who love New York, love New York. And then there’s the city, and there’s upstate New York, which is rural and land, which I’ve never been. So when I say New York, I always think of the city. And most people probably do.
Well that’s what I’m thinking, yeah. Not the state, but the city, yeah. I can imagine what it must like to visit, it’s a huge city, isn’t it?
It’s on the grid, so all the avenues go north and south if I remember correctly. And then the streets go east-west.
So it’s quite well laid out.
I’m sure… I mean, definitely to visit would be an amazing place, and of course it’s got that appeal because you’ve seen it in all the films.
Yes, and people think if I can make it in New York, I can make it anywhere. Oftentimes they would have dreams to go there, for some kind of reason to make it in New York.
It’s a big test I suppose. Okay. So we spoke of New York, California. What about Florida? What’s different about it?
Florida is really flat, it’s swamps. And you don’t wanna ruin that area and I think the influx of population has probably eroded some of the, you know, nice areas. And of course it’s with the alligators and things, but it’s not…
It’s very humid and I’ve lived there. But it’s not a place I want to live at all. But they say New Yorkers go down there to get warm.
Right. I guess in the winter that definitely would be ideal. Is it… What’s it like to live in a place where there are alligators? That’s a new idea for me.
I think occasionally someone will snap a shot of an alligator in their yard or something, or an alligator specialist will come. I’m completely against any kind of abuse of animals, so I don’t want anyone to have some kind of show of wrestling alligators.
Or making them into shoes or something. So I’m a little bit nervous and please be nice to alligators. Yes, they’re dangerous, but stay away from them.
Do you have… I mean, in California, forgive me if I’m wrong, they have a lot of snakes there too, so it’s not separate from wild animals.
Well yes, while we expand our neighborhoods we go into other creatures’ homes, their habitats, and then we’re saying ‘oh, they’re invading us!’ But really these poor wolves, or fox, or bears – they have no place to live cause we’re pushing them out.
Yeah. It’s unusual… it’s an unusual idea for me because in Northern Ireland probably the most dangerous thing is a bee. Or a wasp. Wasps are more dangerous. They tend to sting you. Nowadays we don’t have snakes. No snakes in Ireland, North or South.
Wolves don’t exist – I mean, a few dogs, yeah. No bears. So we’ve kinda lack of dangerous animals – pretty dangerous people, I guess, but no dangerous animals, so I think if you’re allergic of wasps or something, which could be, you know, really dangerous, but yeah, we don’t have a lot.
You can go hiking and you don’t have to think ‘will there be a snake there’ or anything, but. It’s an interesting concept to me that there could be an alligator in my backyard today, you know. What do I do? I have a number, don’t worry.
My neighbor Jenn she has a number, I remember she called. So that’s an interesting concept to me. Okay. So we all know the slogan ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’. Is that really true do you think?
It probably is true now. I have two perceptions of Las Vegas, because I used to dance in a show in 1980-1981. And then I went back, I flew back there in 2008 and it was completely different. But my experience in the early 80s was that it was led by the mafia.
I mean the mafia of Las Vegas. And it was a town where the gamblers would go, if you wanted to be rowdy or naughty, you’d go to Las Vegas and whatever you do, it probably stayed in Las Vegas. Prostitution and drugs were legalized by BunnyRanch.
Yeah, people would go to las Vegas to pull off steam and do whatever. But then the corporations started moving in, and they took over this position of the mafia had previously. And so they changed things a lot, and they got a bigger idea of ‘let’s invite families, let’s be family-oriented’.
so this big family kind of propaganda started, and they started moving in, having families, so when I went back in 2008 I was like ‘what are all these kids doing here?’ And it really inherited all the social heels of a big city.
So there’s huge homelessness, huge this poor teenagers just doing what… lost, you know. These lost teenagers. And it was a horrible place and then it spread out immensely. But when I first went in the 80s, everything was just a range in close proximity to the strip.
and the Las Vegas Strip – that’s where everyone wanted to be. And on the plane you see just this one lit area. But in 2008 when I flew over the whole thing, it was so sad. But I wanted to tell you about how to become a dancer, how to get a dancing gig there in the 80s.
So in 1980s, this is how you get it, kid, call up the hotel and, let’s say, at Tropicana, and you ask for backstage. No problem, they’re giving you backstage and pat you through, and when you get to backstage, you ask for the line captain.
The line captain is the head grow dancer who’s going to audition you. And every time I auditioned she’d ask me ‘Yeah could you come in after the 2 o’clock show?’ meaning the 2am show, ‘Could you come at 3:30 in the morning?’ Yeah, sure, I’d go in, I’d do my audition, I’d get it or I’d not get it.
And that’s how you did it in those days. But then when I went there in 2008, you know what? I thought I’m gonna call the hotel and see if I can get an audition, I wasn’t planning on auditioning, but I want to see.
So I called probably the Flamingo or the Tropicana, I can’t remember, which one, and I called them and I asked for a backstage. And they said ‘why do you wanna talk to backstage?’. ‘I want to audition for a show’. ‘You can’t talk to backstage! You gotta go through a corporation!’
It depressed me so much! And I thought oh the good old mafia time was so simple, and personal. It was so…. But then these big corporations taking over.
Yeah, so it’s not the same at all. Wow. It’s funny. The mafia was better than the businesses.
Well, that’s just... But on a serious note, with the mafia – there would be stories of the head being dug up, or found in the desert. That was one of their ways of taking care of their business going on. Decapitated.
Okay, so we’re gonna get imaginative here. If you can imagine the all American day like, this is a relaxing day. What would you do that would be super American? Eating hot dogs?
Right, so that’s your view. If you’re going to paint a picture, you’re going to have barbecue, you’re gonna have a hot dog, the hamburgers, you’re gonna have maybe the flags flying or something. But nowadays. .. I think people just…. You know I associate people with their cellphones, and I just don’t really see that… I don’t know, that interaction like that.
You mean the family would be having a barbecue, and just all of them on their phones?
Yeah, I think so. Is that true? I don’t know. Guess it depends on the family, but… it seems to be the attitude now.
Okay. What… I guess we’ll leave it. What about globalization? It’s sometimes called Americanization.
Well there’s definitely very good things for and really bad. Definitely the negatives and the positives. Can I go back to a little bit of history? About the word globalization. So we were talking about each time around the Mediterranean we had this big train loop there, and so people exchanged ideas, religions, cultures, foods, probably slaves.
So everything was happening around this, and this was called globalization too, cause it’s different countries and the silk road. And then the first active real globalization was in 1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed the blue and he ended up in what we call West Indies.
And that was the first active globalization. So now we talk about Americanization. So that means these maybe corporations coming in. So this is a real downfall – corporations, they’re called multinational corporations in seas.
And they can come in, lease the land, buy the land, because there is little to no regulations, they can dump in the rivers, they can dump in the sky, and they can really wreak havoc on the environment. But they make good money, so, you know, that’s good for them, right.
Yeah, Is it good for the country they go to?
It’s always cause people, you know, some kind of good income or something. But when you’re eroding the land and you’re eroding people’s lifestyle, and I’ll give you an example. Let’s say somewhere on the continent of Africa, someone’s having a nice farming, they’re farming and making crops for themselves, their little family, their little village or something, they have a good life.
A corporation comes in, takes over that land, and now it says ‘okay, we’re not going to plant any kind of things that you can eat, we’re gonna have cash crops, or tobacco, or cotton or something’. And you can work on it if you want. So they’re now making money off this, they’re making income off this agricultural corporation.
And their lifestyle has lost, they’ve lost it. Or maybe the man has to go elsewhere and get a job or something, or drives the family away. Currently the Amazon fires – this benefits the meat packers, the meat industry.
Because when you have the deforestation then you have the ability to cattle slaughter the cattle, pack them up, and also to grow soy beans which affect the livestock globally. So this is benefiting McDonalds to have that.
Yeah, a lot of food for thought there.
But what about the positives though in globalization. Okay, so, we have somebody out in the rural area, and they’re hooked up to some fiber optic, and they’re hooked up to the internet, and now this person, a very clever, can now get the cheapest rubber in Brazil,
or cheap parts in Mexico, or highly skilled people to work for them, or the highest technology in South Korea and they can have their own little business. And flourish. And now what happens with them, what occurs?
So the poverty rises, I mean, the poverty lowers, so these people are rising out of poverty and having a quality life, but then the US, our power will decrease, so it’s leveling the playing field. That’s what globalization has been. And we invented it, we invented this kind of thing.
So it’s not really self-service. So there’s good and bad things about it. And I would agree with it too, but I think you came up with different ideas than what I would’ve thought of myself, but yeah.
I think the main thing is communication as a whole worldwide and English is being spread more, so I think of globalization, so…
So we call that porous borders. Cause the borders are more porous, we can get to this with the Internet and exchange a lot of good things, and bad things too.
It’s got bad things too. Is gun control really a problem?
It really is, it’s a national divide. It’s such a problem, it’s passionate debate on both sides. So the second amendment that we had in our constitution, not everything was there. I mean, you have to change it a little bit as we develop.
So the first ten amendments, the second amendment is ‘We have the right to bear arms’, and this was written at a time where Americans will not…. Were very afraid of a standing army, we just fought the American revolution, we just kicked the British soldiers out,
and we did not want soldiers in our business, in our streets. And so we had the right to bear arms to protect ourselves and to protect our community. That’s what that means. So if you have a national rifle association in our … been very powerful lobbies in Washington DC loving to loosen up restrictions on these weapons.
And they’re gonna make money – we gotta be suspicious about this. Can we really have military style assault weapon on our streets?
From people from the UK – we’ve so much more restricted and it seemed amazing and shocking to us to… so, I mean, yeah.
it’s the propaganda on the rights, the rights of conservatives and the leftist liberal, I’m a liberal. The right would say ‘hey everybody, the liberals want to take away your weapons and we’re not taking your weapons, you have your lawful right to have your weapons’.
but we have to use common sense loss – that’s what we say, we have to have a common sense – do we really need to have that thing? Do we really need that?
And will you have background checks when mentally disabled have guns? Yes, they have access to guns. That’s for someone’s making money. Then keep it.
What are your… More on the positive side – what are you most proud of as an American?
Well, I guess I’m so proud that we were the designers of democracy. Certainly, we were definitely influenced by the UK, John Lock was one of our feature persons that we drew from. If you recall John Lock, he was the one to first talk about our natural rights in response to monarchy.
And so our natural rights as he said, was that we have an indoubt by our creator, these natural rights. So that means… What does that mean?
We have the right and then he talks about inalienable rights – that means that no rights can be taken away from you by anyone including the government.
And most importantly this wonderful thing of ‘we, the people, give the government consent, permission, allow them to rule us’, so this is the democratic way and I’m most proud of that. It is an experiment, we call it the American experiment.
It does have flaws – there are a lot of people that don’t have equal rights even though it’s on their books. But there is a place that we compromise, we’re supposed to hash it out and compromise – that’s what I’m most proud of.
No system is perfect, but it’s certainly working.
We have avenue to address our grievances, we are supposed to go to court and say ‘this is the problem’.
Okay, Great. The spirit of America, the greatest symbol of America – what is it?
Yeah, the symbols. We have the flag, we have this wonderful statue of liberty and oftentimes people think that the Statue of Liberty originally was for the welcoming of immigrants.
But actually the artist, the sculptor in France was so taken with into that civil war that he wanted to present us with the Statue of Liberty for the end of slavery.
And if you look at the statue of Liberty, there are broken chains at her feet. So by the time he sculpted it and it was transported over and assembled, the end of the Civil War was already per se, it was like two decades later.
So they decided to say ‘wait, that will be a good sign for immigrants’, so we have this later this ‘give me your tired, your poor, give me your wretched’, immigrants come to our shores.
Right. Wow. It’s a great symbol.
In 4th grade I talked about my patriotism, before it was common to us, school children, to recite that, to memorize that poem, and we actually went to a very famous hotel in San Francisco called ‘The Saint Francis hotel’ and we stood on bleachers and we recited this poem.
Wow. Cool. Okay, that was the craic about America. I think we’ve touched on a lot of stuff. Lots for us to consider and for you to consider, who is listening. Thank you very much. We spoke about what it means to you, your home state.
Some of the different places, different states, the wildest, or most beautiful I guess we could say, impressive. About New York, and California, and Florida, and even a little bit about Las Vegas.
We spoke a little bit about Americanization, gun control and what makes us…. Sorry, what makes you, not me, proud to be an American. So guys, that was the craic about America.