where have all the Jackalopes gone?

I’m jet lagging so what better way to get through this. ChinaWife, ChinaBambina (13 months) and I just returned from a month long trip to the US to introduce ChinaBambina to the US side of her family. I’m white bread no crust dude mainly from California who has lived in Asia pretty much for the past 16 years. We hung out in Boulder, went camping with an extended family of 25 to the Black Hills, zapped to Sacramento to see grandparents, and hung out in San Francisco so as to bear witness for a good friends marriage and drink Anchor Steam in it’s proper environment. It’s been almost 3 years since my last trip to the US, and so for what it’s worth I have some observations.

1.Jackalopes seem to be an endangered species these days. Between Denver and Rapid City, which should be prime Jackalope territory, I had only two confirmed sightings: a real grainy postcard and a cheesy refridgerator door magnet. Believe you me, I’m regretting not having purchased that magnet. As a kid, I say a lot more jackalopes than that. Maybe one has to go to Montana or Idaho to find ‘em…What’s up with this, anyone?

2.You know you’re getting away from large urban areas when you can buy Mellow Yellow. Why is another question but it was somehow comforting to see it on sale.

3.Mount Rushmore was cheesy but worth the visit. They haven’t changed since I was 5 years old. I was slightly disappointed because I thought there was an evening “lightning show” which turned out to be just a “light show.” Crazy Horse’s head is visible but for $18 a car load, we decided to give the rest of the site a miss.

4.Missed Wall Drug and I can tell you that was a big disappointment. It was just too far out of the way. Thanks to all the people who provided Black Hills suggestions. We did however go to Reptile Gardens. Alligator wresting was pretty cool, but the snakes you can keep. Just goes to show, in the Black Hills, you can put a sign and a price on the highway and they will come.

5.The Chinese restaurant we ate at turned out to be exactly what one should expect in Rapid City. At least they had rice. We did go check out the dinosaur park because my mother used to stare out the hospital window at the dang things during her wonderful birth experience with yours truly. Since it was over a 100 degrees, we passed on getting out and instead went to a Dairy Queen. Mudslides were popular in the car, and my daughter and wife shared their first root beer float.

6.B-B-Q over a wood fire in the forest is really awesome.

7.Were treated to a bull fight in the middle of the freaking highway, while a sheriffs deputy and several cows looked on. Also saw bighorn, antelopes, deer in the campsite, buffaloes in the distance and fed some wild burros. Two guys in separate incidents nominated themselves for Darwin awards on the same day and managed to be gored by buffaloes. Can you say “wild animal?”

8.13 month old ChinaBambina’s real name is Jacqueline, and we used to call her Jacque-zilla for her destructive capability. Now, however, after the sojourn to the Black Hills, she is known collectively by her US relatives as Jacque-a-lope. That said, she slept halfway to America and wasn’t too bad for the other half. On the way home, bless her little heart, Jacque-a-lope slept about 10 of the 13 hours and was a perfect angel.

9.Everything in America is so dang big. You know, American size. Those 64 oz drinks, huge portions in average restaurants, breakfast muffins that can feed six, a triple cappuccino. No wonder Americans are so big as well. I mean, I could lose 5# and not notice, but, strawberry shortcake, Americans in general pack a lot of extra padding.

10.Milwaukee’s Best light beer is foul, but not nearly as nasty as Tequiza. American microbrew can be really awesome, but it’s real hit-and-miss. If you don’t know the brands, you can be in for a rude shock for $6.99.

11.It struck me how many churches there are in America. They simply seemed to be everywhere.

12.The further you get into S. Dakota, the more right to life billboards there were. Also more highway signs that had been on the receiving end of a shotgun blast. Didn’t see any Right to Life billboards that had been shot up, though.

13.Why are there so many Outback Steakhouses instead of Cattle Dude or whatever the indigenous steak restaurants are called?

14.What’s up with department stores these days? I mean, no one works there and you have to go hunting for someone to pay money to. It’s like a serve yourself model. Tried to buy a classy wedding gift with cash in Macy’s. Jesus H Christ, that was a mistake. Had to ring up the purchase, took the cash and gave me a debit card, then rang up the tax, ad nauseaum. It took like twenty minutes to pay with greenbacks. WTF?

15.When buying a laptop in a big discount electronic retailer kinda place, Jacque-a-lope was testing out her new found legs and strayed about 50 feet. A really hard looking Chicano (I’m sure that’s no longer a politically correct term-apologies) in his 40’s with a 8 year old boy and some serious jailhouse tats, said in a really loud voice “someone needs to get their baby.” Then waited and made sure the parents (me) got her before continuing with his shopping. I understood he was concerned for my waif, but it freaked me out later when several people explained that little kids get kidnapped. I just assumed that my daughter was safe and I hope people were exaggerating their warnings to me.

It was a great trip. My relatives are awesome. America is a pretty amazing place.