Our elected leaders are doing such a lousy job of enhancing the US's image abroad, it's up to private citizens to act as Uncle Sam's personal publicists.
With that in mind, I invited a friend of mine, a journalist from Eastern Europe, for a visit, intent on showing him our best sights and sharing the greatest of our holidays, Thanksgiving. Eager to put the best foot forward, we began the goodwill excursion in Hawaii. "This is so lovely a place I cannot believe," he marveled. "And I do not even have to leave the pool to get a most delicious beverage."
One nasty sunburn, three days, and a staggering bar tab later, Egan was not so impressed. "Ten dollars a drink? This total is more than my rent!"
To avoid an international incident, I picked up the bill and we hightailed it to LA. "Ah, the famed Hollywood sign," he excitedly proclaimed, viewing it from my rooftop on an unusually clear day. "Many times I have seen it on TV. It is the best sign in the world." Hollywood itself failed to captivate. "Keep the sign, change the city," he advised. The heavy traffic and vast distances were also a drag, so off we went to the Grand Canyon. Egan practically wept. "It is very, very, very grand."
Next stop: the heartland. Determined to show him how "real" America spent Thanksgiving, we headed to a true-blue small town in the Midwest, where the flag flies almost as high as cheerleaders' skirts. Friendly smiles and open spaces irresistibly charmed him in ways that Hawaii's sun and LA's glamour couldn't possibly match. And I don't believe he had ever seen as much food as my sister piled on the table. "Surely there is not so much food in the en-tire world," he nervously joked. "Wait 'till you see dessert," I bragged.
Had I sent him home then, stuffed and satisfied, he would be, at this very moment, preaching the virtues of America all across Romania. Alas, I pushed it too far, exposing him to Black Friday shopping, at 5 am. "For the full-on experience," I encouraged him. We were jostled, poked, prodded, and pushed around by a legion of hardcore shoppers totally void of the holiday spirit. When a shouting match broke out between two women - in their 50s - over an iPod, we fled, but not before Egan bought a nice baseball cap. "Best things about America," he says, "are baseball caps and your so very Grand Canyon." As a publicist, I'll take it.
- Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer