Six Things About America That I Tend to Covet

It’s been a rough week thus far (yes, all two days of it) and I’m in a covety kind of mood. I can’t help it, honest. Coveting things is one of those survival tactics that kick in when I’m otherwise unsure of what’s going on in the foreseeable future. And I figured I’d share some of the coveting. A tiny big of it, anyway. It will distract me until my jelly is ready to come out of the fridge and do it’s comfort-foody magic.

And so, in approximate order, the six things about America* that I tend to covet:

1) Home-delivered Chinese food that comes in neat folded cardboard boxes.

Oh little paper boxes full of wontons, cashew and noodle, how I dearly covet thee. In the fifteen years I’ve actually been eating Chinese food (I started late in life, after some bad experiences in my childhood) I have always been disappointed by the plastic containers in which Chinese take-away is served.

To say nothing of my disappointment upon discovering so few Chinese restaurants will deliver in my homeland; Pizza, I can order in, and a good Indian curry if I pick the right suburb. Thai food, maybe, should I be very lucky; heck, in recent months I’ve even had the option of home-delivered schnitzel, though the cost of delivery is prohibitive (and unlikely to be taken up on, were it not for the novelty of the experience). Home delivered Chinese food? Never seen it. And even if I had, there would plastic containers and the disappointed wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I have heard, of late, that the folded boxes are on their way out, a conceit retained in movies and TV shows because they’re far more aesthetically pleasing than plastic tubs. If this is true, I shall be a sad panda. Should I ever actually make it over to America to visit the various friends I don’t get to see often enough, you can bet that my default response to the question of “what do you want for dinner” will inevitably be “Chinese” in the hopes of eating from said cartons. And this is in spite of the fact that Chinese food and my digestive tract rarely get along.

2) Constitutionally protected right to free speech.

Because say what you will about the bits of your constitution and its many amendments that seem outright crazy (yes, constitutional right to bear arms folks, I’m looking at you), this one is just plain cool. That you have folks who recognise how awesome it is to have this and fight to keep it from getting stomped into the mud is likewise very cool.

Those of us stuck in Australia don’t actually have this right, though it’s a fact that catches most people by surprise. It would depress me less if we used it to silence the vocal-but-utterly-moronic segments of our populace, but unfortunately we tend to celebrate them and offering them a spot on Dancing with the Stars.

3) Doctor Pepper

They tried to launch it in Australia, they really did, but many of my countrymen just didn’t seem the glory in a fizzy drink that tasted, primarily, like cough syrup. I suspect it’s because they never got around to putting bourbon in it, but that’s just me.

I would also be covetous of the fact that you have Jolt, but there are enough hardcore geeks in Australia to ensure you can usually find it lingering in the back of some non-franchised twenty-four hour convenience store somewhere. Six weeks ago I would have coveted your Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, but it appears there’s now a supplier importing them to my local store, and that fucking rocks.

I don’t, however, covet your tendency to use high-fructose corn syrup in such drinks. That shit is just wrong. And it makes your cola taste funny.

4) Stamps

Not for any aesthetic or monetary value, just for practical reasons. I need to send self-addressed stamped envelopes to America pretty regularly, so coveting stamps is just a business decision and will remain so until the SF magazine industry is run entirely via internet submissions.

This would be higher on the list, but I’m fortunate enough to be well-stocked in American postage for the moment. I’m just, you know, coveting on the principle that I’ll need them eventually.

5) Southern Gothic…

…because kudzu, ghosts, vampires, and melodrama warm my heart. And because Australian Gothic involves too much red dust, dry heat, and empty landscapes to be much fun. And because kudzu is a fun word to say out loud.

6) Population Density

Yes, I know this isn’t universal, but you guys have a lot of people. Even your small cities are big enough to dwarf most of the urban areas in Australia. I’m sure it comes with its own problems, but with population density comes interesting pockets of subculture and more people who are likely to be interested in whatever weird-ass thing you’re interested.

As a guy who tends to like weird-ass things and frequently finds himself with limited options for talking about them locally, population density is one of those traits that looks particularly promising.

*disregarding the various awesome American peeps who’d I’d gladly steal from you, the fact that America tends to be the  biggest market for English language fiction in the world, and the fact that it’s the hub for SF industry. ‘Cause those go without saying.

  9 comments for “Six Things About America That I Tend to Covet

  1. 13/10/2009 at 11:43 AM

    I have to point out that while a few of these items are to be found across the States, the one and only New York City is your best bet for getting all of them in their purest form. Come visit me in New York and I'll give you Chinese food in folded cardboard boxes, more free speech than you know what to do with, and people interested in every weird-ass thing you can imagine! (We even have Southern Goths, though we have to import those, in contrast to our Chinese food, which is indigenous.)

  2. 13/10/2009 at 6:44 PM

    Southern Gothic? You're not watchingTruBlood, are you? Oh god!

  3. 13/10/2009 at 7:42 PM

    @Ben: New York is going to be a while away, I think. I'm at the point where I frown and wonder how many tins of beans I can pack into my suitcase when I head down to worldcon next year 🙂

    @Chris: Nah, my love of Southern Gothic is a little more old-school than that. And primarily rooted in fiction rather than television.

  4. 13/10/2009 at 10:14 PM

    Can't help with all of them (and reserve my opinions on a few 🙂 but the Noodle Place on Felix Street does serve its noodles in those boxes, and I love them for it.

  5. 13/10/2009 at 10:17 PM

    Oh, awesome. Although I suspect it's not quite the same unless they're physically delivering food to your door.

  6. Melinda
    16/10/2009 at 2:21 PM

    If it makes you feel better, here are two things I covet about Australia:

    1. The Sydney Opera House. Being a former musician, this is still a mecca for me. Someday I hope to hear a performance there.

    2. Tripod. Yes, we have Felicia Day who is the Queen of the Geeks right now, and rightfully so, but the first time I heard Tripod, I fell in love with their mix of talent and D&D geekdom.

    I'll try to refrain from telling you how much Dr. Pepper my husband consumes on a daily basis 🙂

  7. 16/10/2009 at 6:43 PM

    Given the choice, I'd be taking Tripod over Felicia Day anyway. I just don't get the World of Warcraft thing 🙂

  8. Formless
    23/11/2009 at 11:42 AM

    Australian Gothic ? Please somebody suggest some Australian Gothic literature for me.

    • 23/11/2009 at 8:33 PM

      Your best starting point is probably James Doig's Australian Gothic anthology which collects a bunch of gothic colonial fiction. A more modern slant would probably be Andrew McGahan's White Earth.

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