It’s weird coming back to the late-imperial dystopia of America, especially if you’ve been overseas for as long as Thomas Fuller has:
AFTER more than 27 years abroad, mostly as a foreign correspondent in Asia covering civil unrest and poverty, I wander the streets of this city, my new home, like an enchanted tourist.
The people who share sidewalks with me must wonder why I sometimes laugh out loud. The advertisements for sustainably grown marijuana on the sides of San Francisco buses. (“That’s cannabis, the California way.”) The comfort dogs on public transport and the woman who brought her dog to the Easter Sunday service. Blindingly white teeth. The burrito that was so huge it felt as if it would break my wrist. Police officers covered in tattoos.
I spend hours in supermarket aisles. Organic ice cream sandwiches! Vegan shoes! A “Bluetooth compatible” electric toothbrush!
The America of 2016 is so much more specialized than the one I left in 1988. It almost seems that we have created needs so that we can cater to them.
I stop and stare at the giant trucks in San Francisco designed for the specific purpose of shredding and hauling documents. What a luxury as a society to produce tons of confidential documents and then deploy specialized trucks to destroy them. I knew yoga was big in California and ditto for cannabis. But it was still a surprise to discover “ganja yoga.”
Greater Bangkok, a sprawling metropolis with more than 10 million people, has 1,300 homeless people, a survey this year found.
San Francisco has less than one-tenth Bangkok’s population but six times as many homeless people.
The special loopiness of San Francisco, I would imagine, only heightened the contrast with Asia. The author seems to have taken it well — bemusement is a powerful mindset.