‘Dad, America is so cool’ | VailDaily.com

‘Dad, America is so cool’

Richard CarnesSpecial to the Daily

The words in the headline were said by our 13-year-old Danish guest within 24 hours of being here in the states.In spite of eight-hour jet lag after traveling for an entire day and night, it only took two more trips around the clock for him to conclude that America was the “coolest place on earth.” His family skis in Switzerland each winter and enjoys summer holidays in France, yet he was immediately sucked into America’s beauty, culture and, perhaps, our freedoms.Another arrogant American statement? Nope, just an observation.Look, before any of you green-card holders and extremist liberals begin your tirades by questioning my audacity to actually have pride in my country’s democratic liberties, ask yourself, why are you here?Are you here to take advantage of our freedoms and hopefully further your career while enjoying those same freedoms by condemning those who work to keep them in place? Or is it simply to come to grips with our obvious plans for world domination? Either way, this budding Danish teenager, Jonas, has the beauty of an open mind while lacking the cynicism of a seasoned international traveler.He and his family spent the first week of their month-long visit to America at our house in Happy Valley. We of course took them to all of the typical local tourist attractions (the ones that were open) – Spruce Saddle, Bachelor Gulch, Vail Village, Beaver Creek, the Minturn Market, the Edwards movie theater, certain balconies to watch silly drivers in roundabouts – and invited other friends over so they could have a true feel for our lifestyle. What really swayed him in America’s direction, though, was going with the boys for a Slurpee, and then hanging out down at the park or in one of the shopping areas. This was the real America, at least for a teenager, and then going home to watch movies, play Xbox, shoot hoops. He was even impressed with the number of cigarette smokers he encountered. “Nobody smokes around here,” he said.Then we took him out on the open road to see the real American West, complete with picturesque vistas, purple mountain majesties, and John Wayne riding fast along the foreground of each mental snapshot.Traveling from Colorado to California, Jonas was in awe at the sheer volume of open space. Never in his wildest imagination had he envisioned such a vast landscape of emptiness, constantly asking how there could be so much vacant territory in one country.”Everything is so big!” he exclaimed over and over.From the width of our city streets to the size of the proportions served at the many restaurants we visited along the way, he could barely contain himself. (“That’s why we’re so damn fat!” I shouted). Everywhere he looked he saw things bigger and, in most cases, better than he was used to at home.He also questioned why I waved at so many people while going down the road, whether we were in Colorado or California. I told him it was simple courtesy and acknowledgment, something I had always done since learning how to drive.He was afraid I would get into a fight or in trouble with the police.And speaking of driving, he had never seen so many big cars. SUVs, trucks, 18-wheelers, buses, RVs. They all blew him away. In addition, the homes along Malibu Beach were lined with the newest offerings from Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and the occasional Lamborghini, Bentley and Rolls. All were sparkling clean, and almost all were shiny black.”You find those in just about every regular town from here to the East Coast,” I told him.His dad, Thomas, threw a handful of Malibu beach in my general direction, and then he too went off babbling in amazement at how cheap our gasoline was and “how could the government do so much with taxes being so little?”American reality, what a concept.I am very aware that my own children have been very lucky. All three have traveled to over a dozen countries, with the majority being throughout Europe on numerous occasions. They have seen everything from Scottish castles and Norwegian ski jumps to the towers of Paris and the ruins of Pompeii, always noticing the negatives as well as the positives of each culture, yet never claiming a desire to live there. That can change, of course, through growth and maturity, but they at least have a partial comprehension of how America stands up to the rest of the planet in comparison, and perhaps why so many are so envious.At 13, Jonas would never think or even consider the prospect of living anywhere else besides his wonderful Denmark, but now he too possesses the first-hand knowledge to make his own comparisons.So screw Michael Moore and his kind. I think America is pretty cool too.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at poor@vail.netVail, Colorado

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