This is not America

As the late great David Bowie once said, aided and abetted by Pat Metheny… This is not America. After all, a pub is surely a British confection…

Millers Pub sign

… a place where people come to experience those strangest of contradictions, private conviviality in a public space, a pretence of lucidity born through imbibing intoxicating liquids, where you may elevate yourself to bar room philosopher status while talking bollocks…

Millers Pub [2]

But This is not America, it is a Greek Salad after all. The freshest, juiciest, most tasty of Greek Salads, topped with succulent mouth-watering chicken, with that give-away sign that just maybe this is America… size! At this point I had been eating my way around a continent for 9 days, failing to completely finish a single meal. Constantly being portion-challenged. Surely I was not going to be beaten by a salad?!

Millers Pub Famous Greek Chicken Salad

Staggering into the daylight, a brisk walk was needed to help digest a meal successfully devoured. Then it dawned on me, an El Train was a clear Chicago give-away… This is America.

Millers Pub [1]

Until we speak again, just remember, if you haven’t voted a grotesquely unqualified egotistical megalomaniac into the most powerful job on the planet, you can safely look around and say… This is not America.

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Aqua Tower

As my loyal follower will be aware, there are some truly beautiful skyscrapers in Chicago. But, my favourite has to be the Aqua Tower, glimpsed here through the modernist Pritzker Pavilion structure in Millennium Park.

Millenium Park Pritzker Pavilion [4]

In our latest phase of righteous indignation at the inequality experienced by women in a so-called man’s world, it is refreshing to hear that this building is the tallest to-date to be designed by a female-led architecture firm, that of Jeanne Gang based in Chicago. It is credited with contours, vertical landscapes and undulating pools, projecting a striking outward appearance…

Aqua Tower [2]

The Aqua Tower is designed with green elements incorporated, such as roof gardens, and balcony patterns and glass tints to maximise solar shading and exposure.

Aqua Tower [3]

 

Within its finer details, the balconies are projections of the tower’s floors, as a means of creating outdoor terraces as communal spaces for residents.

 

Aqua Tower [1]

So, until we speak again, Juno and Bella would both have agreed… that if you want a thing of environmental beauty instead of a macho willy-waving pissing up the wall competition, the go-to person is quite probably a woman!

 

Breakfast in America

What goes on in America stays in America… eh? It seems not. A couple of weeks touring the diners of Chicago and New Orleans will certainly give any returning traveller a few extra pounds they didn’t originally take with them; and I’m not talking sterling currency here.

Breakfast in America is not just an album by the old UK rock band Supertramp. It’s an institution not to be taken lightly (as if ‘lightly’ could ever apply to food in the US); it demands time and effort… and an expectation that you might be beaten by the challenge on more than one occasion.

Yolk is a great starting point on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. An unpresupposing exterior camouflages gastronomic morning mayhem. That’s why people are often queueing to get a table; but quintessential US counter culture (of the eating at the counter variety, not the return to flower power variety) gets me in immediately. The more than pleasant greeting of a young woman in a tee-shirt claiming to be ‘Handling your huevos since 2006’ provides a warm inner feeling long before the order arrives. It also leaves me lamenting… “who is going to handle my huevos when Duck One achieves his infantile wall building wish?” The ‘Works Omlet’ with a side of joyous noise eases me nicely into the lazy challenges of the day ahead. Marvellous!

Eggsperience, off the Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile, keeps the theme of the hen going strong. Omelet or pancakes is the first decision of the day. Oh for such difficult decisions every day! A fleeting thought about a healthy orange juice and blueberry start to the day quickly succumbs to the need for sides of a pancake stack and bacon…

Eggsperience blueberry pancakes

But, a gaze over a shoulder also suggests another visit could be needed for that omelet option! Perhaps a vegetarian compromise could be made. Though perhaps all good vegetarians should be introduced to the necessity of a side of bacon!

Eggsperience vegetarian omlet

The famous Lou Mitchell’s, west of South Loop is an institution that should not be missed on any visit to Chicago. tired of blueberries? Why not add bananas to your pancake stack to bring some variety to the practice of indulgence? I think a side of raisin toast is also called for…

And, before leaving Chicago, get messy with a late morning Cubana sandwich at Xoco, a mere waddle from the aforementioned Eggsperience. A cucumber and lime drink might help balance the spicy fried pork and avocados wrap.

Not to be usurped in the breakfast challenge, New Orleans has its own crowds gathering to sample the delights of Ruby Slipper on Magazine Street. Again, the solo traveller gets to jump the queue with a stool at the counter. Time to try out the Louisianan Omlet of shrimp and grits, with a side of sourdough toast. A foundation fit to build any day upon.

Then there is the splendour of the Palace Cafe on Canal Street. A fine location to keep exploring the unique pleasures of a southern breakfast. This time the shrimp and grits are accompanied by a creole muniere ( don’t ask me, I’m just here to eat the stuff) for added spice to kickstart yet another day of challenging levels of relaxation!

Palace Cafe Canal Street [1]

Palace Cafe shrimp grits and creole muniere

Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square is a place to trade the creole for a touch of the cajun in your culinary morning. A cajun omelet with side of cajun potatoes could just about provide sufficient ballast for a steamboat trip along the Mississippi…

Talking of Jackson Square; for those of us with an interest in cathedral architecture and the Louisiana State Museum, a corned beef hash at Stanley’s comes highly recommended while you gaze at the architectural heritage from the comfort of your diner counter stool.  If you like your eggs ‘sunny side’ let the yolks drain into the corned beef. Just don’t shout out ‘Stella’ in a Marlon Brando impersonation, lest you startle the staff and clientele alike.

Alas, it’s getting near the time to head for the airport. The hotel provides a last port of call, and quite possibly the last eggs I will want to see for, well at least a few days!

Hotel St Marie 2 eggs breakfast

Until we speak again, it is time to return to a good old UK diet. Next time you’re in America check out the title of an old Supertramp album for guidance, but drop any notion of three square meals a day being a good idea (unless square is the shape you are aspiring to achieve).

Zak Show dot Com

 

Nelson was a cool cat

For all he did for black cats everywhere I am truly saddened to hear the news of the passing of Nelson Mandela. Though amongst the millions of sincere outpourings of grief and reminiscence, it does leave me coughing up fur balls to witness some of the politicians clambering onto the number one bandwagon of the moment. The great man himself said in the Pretoria courthouse in 1962 “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who calls himself a man.” Fortunately for South Africa and the world he had another 51 years left, and fulfilled a considerable promise.

As I contemplate lunch…    … and lie back to    listen to the ongoing tributes, I am sure that the Gorgeous Georges’ of the US & UK (Dubya and Osbourne) would act on Mandiba’s advice, in not hesitating to do the same again. Though for them it would more likely be a case of screwing over the many for the benefit of their already rich mates. David Cameron spoke of ‘ his heart going out to [his] family and the people of South Africa’… I say prep Operating Theatre 1 for surgery quickly.

Desmond Tutu, the patron saint of the drawn match (2-2, come on, keep up!), said of Mandela “He was renowned the world over as the undisputed icon of forgiveness and reconciliation.” I am sure I can adopt that lead, when my ‘appointed servant’ gets their act together and provide me with more of that roast turkey from Cardiff Market. Bill Clinton said “Nelson Mandela taught us so much about so many things…” Personally, I do hope that Mandela was not a cigar smoker, as even Bill must have had some original thoughts of his own.

Perhaps I need to cast our memories back a few decades (or ‘dickheads’ as Nelson pronounced it) to find the true essence of the person. Some old dame or another became famous for repeatedly referring to Mandela as a terrorist… well the first thought that comes to my mind is that it takes one to know one, particularly if you build a career on terrorising the weak and the poor of your own country in order to break the spirit of the hard working people in the industrial communities. The following image sums up contrasting leadership styles: a warm smiling generous spirit who can stand upright and proudly face all people, and a hunched evil purveyor of misery always looking over their shoulder (make your own choice as to which is which)…

Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela

The only real tribute this cat can pay to the passing of an icon is to try and follow the lead he embodied through his life. With this in mind, I am stoically trying to shoulder the pressures and burdens of my imprisonment in my own personal Robben Island:

Sunshine at 14 2           Plotting an escape

And I can only sit and wile away the time as I contemplate my own personal long walk to freedom. When I am finally released I promise to treat all cats equally… the strange albino types, ginger toms, even those fluffy persian types (who I am sure have nothing to do with any accusations of terrorism based solely on their middle-eastern sounding origins). Until we speak again I have been Juno, and I can only sign off today with an R.I.P. Johannesburg Cool Cat.

Tales from Dumbfuckistan [2]

       It really makes my day when the self-proclaimed centre of the universe applies my rules to the way it operates. Take that Obama guy, he seems like a really cool cat, but he is learning that the job is a bit like trying to herd us cats.

            

Why, just the other day, when I was talking to my in-house staff, it was difficult getting them to understand that decisions are really important, they are what keep the order in our little world, they prevent the chaos from taking over. What we decide together is just fine… that is, until I decide I want to do something else. Take for example the food thing… we can all agree that eating healthily at reasonable intervals is a good thing, and even Adolf the Vet was recently making some speech about it while prizing open my mouth and muttering something about plaque build-up. I fully support the idea, and I see where everyone is coming from… but right now I demand my rights under whatever amendment to the constitution states that my bowl is to be refilled even if there is another couple of hours until so-called ‘reasonable time’!

                   As we venture out into the busy city I fully support the need for all these traffic lights. I get that the roads would be in an even bigger state of carnage if there was a highway free-for-all attitude. However, as much as I am one of the first to sign up to that decision, there is the matter of my constitutional right to uphold my personal rainbow ethic, and to

proceed forward on whatever colour I wish…    

I am the first to say that the whole health thing is important for all of us. I don’t know how I would get by if my servant staff were to succumb to ill health… it would probably cause an inconvenience to my usual sleep patterns… I might have to put up with as little as 20 hours a day.

      The National Health Service is a great reassurance to me, and I am of the opinion it should remain free at the point of delivery for all those who can afford to pay for it… upfront… no scrounging.

Then of course there is the democracy thing, where everyone gets to have a vote… the only problem being that sometimes the majority get it wrong. Can Turkeys really be trusted on the vote about christmas dinner? Of course us cats believe in democracy, why else would we throw a big tea party to celebrate the generosity of imposing our minority vote on the masses who are plain too dumb to get it right by themselves?

[All images downloaded from free ‘images of…’ sites on the internet].

I am the leader of the Juno party, and as soon as my subjects understand the principle of what is mine is mine, and what is their’s is mine, the sooner we will re-establish the true order of democracy. These are the fine traditions on which our supremacy is built, and on which we are able to impose the freedom of democracy on all other groups in the animal kingdom… it is our responsibility to keep despotic dawgs on a tight leash, until they learn our way is the only way. I fully intend to share more of my thoughts with you again, as soon as I bring the domestic economy of my deluded house mates crashing down… and let that be a lesson to them.

Tales from Dumbfuckistan

I seem to recall one George W Bush referring to many of the Eurasian countries as ‘the Stans’, which served well to demonstrate his expansive knowledge of world geography. While it came across to me as a simple way of grouping together totally separate countries, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and others, he was clearly overlooking his own backyard… Dumbfuckistan.

I mention this because, being a cat for a stat, I was completely blown away (excuse the advanced pun) by a couple of articles about life in the US recently. The first was all about my cuddly cousins, with an all out assault on our favourite pass-time of baiting and killing other dumb creatures.

    According to academic sources we kill ‘billions’ of other creatures in the US each year. Not to be outdone, we clock up millions each year in the UK apparently, though my resident protector of the environment doesn’t allow me to join in, I just get to exercise vivid imagination, particularly where ‘dwaugs’ are concerned…….                    So, somehow we are the villains of the peace, when all we are trying to do is rid you lot of vermin and bring you warm gifts. At least we are doing our bit to keep researchers in jobs for obscure biology conservation institutes.

       Did I mention ‘a couple’ of articles? Well it was the more recent one by Henry Porter in the Observer newspaper on 22nd September 2013 that had me nearly falling off my cushion… American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene?

    With all the uproar about cats killing other creatures it seems to me that we have nothing to learn from you folk; at least we rarely go around randomly killing each other. These stories from the US about yet another gun massacre is one thing, but when you see all the statistics lined up end-to-end it blows your brains out (sorry!).

Total number of Americans killed in all wars from Lexington 1775 up to Afghanistan today is officially recorded as 1,171,177. Total number of civilians killed by guns (including suicides) from the killing of Edward Kennedy in 1968 to today is 1,384,171. Almost a quarter of a million more in 45 years than in the last 238 years of warfare. And still they demand their rights to an outdated second amendment to keep and bears arms, drawn up in days when the wild west was in vogue and coffee (or is that corrfee?) came in only one option, hot and wet.

         Henry Porter reminds us that since 9/11, when just under 3000 people died in that atrocity, there have been 20 terror-related deaths and 364,000 caused by privately owned firearms. Apparently, if the US witnessed that sort of carnage taking place in another country they would be hurtling down the United Nations by-pass on a mission to restore sanity, introduce democracy, and relieve the locals of their richer natural resources. For a nation notorious for its lack of passports and ambition for travel, perhaps the rest of us cats should be thankful… the less of their culture they export the better! If the obesity doesn’t get you the bullet probably will.

If Syrians had any humanity they would threaten to invade the US; after all, any country where over 32,000 of its own are being killed by its own every year has some serious anger issues, and probably needs some externally sourced mediation!

Then there is the advertising and accessorising of guns for little kids… a truly remarkable statement of a sick culture.

[All cartoons accessed from ‘images of…’ sites on the internet].

The style of entertainment has been slightly different this week, but I am still Juno, mainly because I don’t live in America. For those of you who do… stay indoors, lock all your doors, and listen out for the sound of the safety clip being released.