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APPRECIATING AMERICA

Oh well, oh well, I feel so good today,
We just touched ground on an international runway

Jet propelled back home, from overseas to the USA.

Did I miss the skyscrapers, did I miss the long freeway?
From the coast of California to the shores of Delaware Bay
You can bet your life I did, ‘till I got back to the USA.

Looking hard for a drive-in, searchin' for a corner café
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and a juke-box jumpin' with records like in the USA.

Well, I'm so glad I'm livin' in the USA.
Yes. I'm so glad I'm livin' in the USA.
Anything you want, we got right here in the USA.

–Chuck Berry, "Back In The USA," 1962.

Two months traveling around the world through 15 countries.  Back home at last.

The best deal in international travel is a round-the-world ticket with an airline alliance like One World (British Air, American, etc.) or Star Alliance (United, Lufthansa, Singapore, etc.).  If your destination is anywhere near half-way around, then such a ticket is much cheaper than a regular round-trip fare (and you can make up to 15 stops along the way).

But that's about the only thing that's cheap out there.  It's extraordinary how the price of most everything is more expensive throughout the world than here in the US.

A regular steak in a regular Tokyo restaurant is $85, a hamburger $35.  Teen-age Jackson eyeballed a Playboy magazine at the Narita airport and asked how much:  $28.

OK, that's Japan.  But there's no electronic gadget – digital camera, videocam, laptop, et al – in Hong Kong that you can't get cheaper at CompUSA or 47th Street Photo.

We went through over a dozen countries, and hotels in almost all charge $10 or more an hour for an Internet connection.  Motel 6's in the US offer it for free.

Gasoline most anywhere, Europe or Asia, is $5 or more a gallon.  Even a pint of Guinness costs more in a Dublin pub than one at the Irish Times here on Capitol Hill.

Realize that the incomes of folks elsewhere is much less than here.  The average Japanese income is 30K a year – how many $35 hamburgers do you think they can afford?  In lunatic-expensive Hong Kong, the average income is 33K. 

With a small handful of exceptions like Luxembourg, every European country is below Hong Kong's, many way below.

Something to consider next time you hear a neighbor complain about how expensive things are.

Jackson and I had such a wonderfully memorable time everywhere we went, met wonderfully friendly people, and not once encountered any antipathy towards America – not even in Pakistan or France.

Once again, such an experience makes you appreciate just how big the world is, a place of endless wonders.  But most of all, for an American, it makes you appreciate your own country.

We need to take the time to do so.  Far too many people are far too upset over far too many things in America.  Whether they are conservative or liberal or whatever, they are always citing a litany of complaints.

I'm sure there were Greeks who belly-ached during 5th Century Periclean Athens, or Romans who did the same in the Age of Augustus.  And I'm just as sure there were plenty of things to legitimately belly-ache about.

But if those Greeks or Romans didn't periodically stop and deeply appreciate their place in history, their unbelievable luck to be a participant in one of history's great moments, they really speared themselves in the foot.

We live in the greatest, richest, most powerful and influential country history has ever seen.  What impossible historical luck it is that we do.  Take the time to revel in that good fortune.  Take the time to appreciate, to deeply enjoy, being an American.

Summer's just about over – one long weekend and that's it.  What better way to end it than by appreciating America?  Yes, it's good to be back in the USA.