Back in 1999, when the world and I were very different, I had just returned to England after visiting my younger cousin in San Francisco for the spring.
Being young, naive, and not having seen much of the world, America walked straight out of a movie. From the blue shirted police officers wandering the crowds in the airport, to the hotdog sellers, the impossibly pretty college girls, and the war veterans holding placards in the street. A new world filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells.
I wouldn’t so much say San Francisco made an impression on me, so much as grabbed me by the collar and shook me. Days were spent walking the various parks, eating sourdough bread, and retracing the haunts of Kerouac and Ginsberg.
The America I experienced during the spring of 1999 has stayed with me ever since.
In the months that followed – having read “On the Road” – I started to make plans for a coast-to-coast adventure. Perhaps the following summer. I would fly to New York and travel westwards across the United States – using cars, busses, trains, boats, taxis, bicycles – as many forms of transport as possible. My cousin would meet me for parts of the journey – perhaps to revisit her birthplace in Chicago, or the home of her formative years at Lake Powell.
At the end of the year I began researching the papertrail to make the visit somewhat more permanent – sponsorship, green cards, and emigration forms became the subject of transatlantic phone calls.
And then none of it happened.
I met a girl.
A chance meeting with a girl in Oxford re-wrote my future during the spring of 2000, and the road trip, the emigration, and the arrival of an English web developer in San Francisco during the dot com boom never happened.
I’ve never forgotten the plans though. One day. One day. Quite how the money or time might ever present itself remains something of a mystery given the arrival of houses, daughters, pets, and so on – but the thought remains – one day.