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Reflections on the 4th Weekend

Posted on 2015.07.06 at 13:11
Current Location: Urbana, IL
I decided not to travel on the 4th of July. It's a crazy traffic day, almost as bad as Thanksgiving weekend. So I spent the holiday, from the evening of the 3rd through about lunchtime on the 5th, at the Indy Hostel in Indianapolis, Indiana. Now, the city is famous for one thing: the famous auto race known as the Indy 500. It takes place in May at the Indianapolis Speedway. I figured that, on the first weekend in July, not much more would be happening in Indianapolis than in any other major U.S. city.

I was wrong.

The Stones were in town. Yes, the Rolling Stones, one of the dominant rock bands of the 1960s (at the time there were many who regarded them as second only to the Beatles) performed at the Speedway that day. I spoke to a young man, my fellow guest at the hostel, who boasted, in essence, that he was about to one-up his dad, a passionate Stones fan since their early days who had never seen them live. He was only one of several guests who were in town for this particular concert. (Most of the rest were foriegners. I couldn't help but wonder what they thought about the idea of Americans celebrating our independence from Britian by going to see a British band, albeit one that slavishly imitated African American R&B.)

I ignored both the concert and the various public festivities. I intended to have a quiet respite from the road and that's what I had. I bought salmon and vegetables and I cooked myself a real dinner.

It was on the 5th, on my way out, that I discovered something truly American: a genuine international food store. I told Google Maps I wanted an Asian grocery store and it directed me to Saraga International Market, a huge place that seemed to be attempting to cater to all the immigrant groups in the city. The aisles were labeled as follows (eccentric spellings included):

Middle Eastern food: olive oil, grape oil, cous cous, foul moudammas, grape leaves
Indian Food: chapati flour, coconut oil, basmati rice, dal
Asian food: Sriracha hot chilli sauce, sweet chilli sauce, longan-lychee, curry paste
Mexican Food: jalapeno pepper, mole-hot sauce, cooking oils, sugar
South Central American Food: cassaba bread, yerba mate
American Food: cereal, sugar, peanut butter
African food: jamaican food, royco-curry, red palm oil, jerk seasoning
European food: ajvar-pate, bosanska kafa, beef goulash

I couldn't help thinking about the kids I saw trailing after their shopping elders, learning that America isn't just the Anglo-German-derived culture depicted as American on TV, the culture of my personal upbringing; it's all the peoples served by this store and more, the cultural wealth of the whole world.

Back in the car, I found an Eighties station that had, possibly in response to the Stones mania, declared a "Born in the USA weekend" in which they played only songs both composed and recorded by Americans. I played it all the way to the Indiana border. It seemed right.

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