A Pansy flasher in Washington DC brought back happy memories of journeys across the pond. Over dinner I led Liam on a jolly romp down memory lane. He kindly indulged my remembrance. I’ve been to the States four times – to New York, Boston, LA and my first visit was to the District of Columbia at the tender age of 20. I had dallied with a travelling Yank who worked for the Federal Government and was attending a conference in London. He invited me to stay so I did. I had tired of my dull, dead end job as chief cashier and pound counter for Habitat in Chelsea and had in mind to do as millions of others had done before me and seek my fortune in the land of opportunity. I saved my pennies, quit my job, booked a one way ticket on Freddy Laker’s Skytrain to New York and off I went. I flew out of the Big Apple and down to DC.
My Yank got a shock when I called. It seemed his invitation hadn’t been entirely genuine but he was good enough to let me stay for a few weeks in return for occasional sexual favours. Springtime in Washington is very agreeable and a riot of cherry blossom. The federal heart of the city is laid out in imperial style and built in monumental neo-classical majesty as befits the capital of the most powerful nation in history. The grand design is best appreciated from the top of the Monument, the world’s tallest true obelisk. Rameses the Great must have turned in his tomb. I did the obligatory tour of the White House and the Capitol and strolled along the Mall popping in and out of the various museums along the way. It struck me how everything was described in the definite article – The White House, The Monument, The Capitol as if no others exist. It’s a sign of a confident young nation with a touch of teenage arrogance.
Gay life in Washington was a world away from recession-ravaged buttoned up Britain with its grubby backstreet gay bars. It’s taken London 30 years to catch up. I loved it and it loved me. I was young and handsome with cheekbones that could slice cheese. My hosts lapped me up and I let them. I wowed the randy scamps in Rascals, a popular watering hole and pick up joint for federal employees near Dupont Circle. They just loved my accent, along with my uncut assets.
Alas, I sensed I was overstaying my welcome and my reluctant landlord feared I would claim squatters rights. My low-key patriotism also annoyed him. He rather expected me to be enamoured with all things American. I really liked what I saw but I had learned patriotism from my soldier father’s knee and have never been able to shake it off. After a few weeks living the American dream I pined for the old country and flew home on BA.
To this day I remain quietly patriotic, though not nationalistic. To be proud of where you are from is fine but to think you’re a cut above is not. This is a message some emigreys hereabouts would do well to hear. I wonder though, if I had settled Stateside, what would have become of me?