"It's so.. American."
It's a useless, trite response, but my drinking buddies understand. The country that exports most of the western world's media, exports an exhaustive definition of that word at the same time. You've been here, even if you haven't.
And, because it's been in so many movies, it feels exactly like one. Everything is larger-than-life, almost too real. Everyone around me is playing a bit part, one stereotype or another. Soon enough, I'm doing the same.
It's also trite to refer to anywhere as a 'land of contrasts'. But I can't reconcile fundamentalist billboards, no-deposit finance and talk-back radio with a country that can produce the Space Shuttle.
And this extends to the people in a way that I haven't noticed, or perhaps haven't been sensitive to, when traveling elsewhere. The New Yorker on the front of the airboat speaks softly as he negotiates a discount for his young family, only removing his yarmulke when the wind threatens to tear it away. The good 'ole boy on the back has a beard that follows his jawline and fears nowt but lightning, out there on the swamp. The round-faced Texan at the conference wonders how I'd ever get separated from mah vehicle, and wants to know where the strip bars are.
My new friends have flown in from all around the country, and as they tell me their stories I realise I haven't been to America. I've been to a small part of Florida. And now I've got a lot more places to see.