My American Dream?

33 years ago, September 16th, 1978 I set foot on American soil for the very first time, in the early morning hours, burdened only with one special, made for me shoulder bag packed with two changes of clothes, Miso (Japanese soy paste) chopsticks and a Chinese bound diary with pen and color pencils. 

It was on a quest for self-actualization that had brought me to the United States. I was determined to pursue the creative impulse full time. I hoped to immerse myself and to marinate in those juices. I sought a conducive environment, fertile grounds. I was up for adventure. Nah, I was desperate.  

Desperate to escape what seemed a deadening, stifling working class Swiss upbringing dominated by a post World War II cautious conservative stance to life. Today I would consider myself then a cultural refugee. Like so many of my generation, I had rejected the status quo, the concerns for security through insurance and the hoarding of money and keeping of a steady employ, no matter how deadening to the spirit. Instead I had turned anti-establishment.

Still in 9th grade, I had demonstrated for the rights of Palestinians, the underdogs, and for one exiting evening we protested by forced occupation the planned conversion of an old charming theater  in to a new capitalist shopping center until the police forcefully upheld the rules of the bourgeoisie and made us abandon our sit-in. I still can remember that dark cavernous hall we occupied for a few precious hours, which since turned in to something comparable to a Walmart in the US.

A drop out, I had had the good fortune to meet not one, but several outstanding, creative, artistic mentors, that lit a fire in me, a desire to burn and sparkle with life. With an unwillingness to settle for less, I wanted it all. I was young, dumb and very naive and that is how I had put down my foot on American soil for the first time, 33 years ago.

I did not know much about the United States, did not know what to expect. Big boned, blue eyed, rosy cheeked Peter Smith from Whitewater, Wisconsin had lived with us in Zurich and  had taught us how to bake Tassajara whole wheat bread and how to make granola (I would be the one to supply us with the  needed raw, whole milk, brought home inside a traditional aluminum container.) I probably expected most Americans to be a variation of Peter's wholesome, generous, cheerful spirit.

33 years ago I had no interest in politics. Having had to endure gruesome images of the Vietnam war as regular fare on Swiss TV, I detested and ignored main stream media and culture.  I had not the slightest idea how the political and social climate in the US would change shortly after my arrival, certainly with the surprise election of President Ronald Reagan. 

6 years later, or 27 years ago in mid-September, done with New York, never ever wanting to go back, done with an impossible relationship, almost broke, we had made it in a red Toyota pick up truck in to  The City Different. 2 1/2 years later, married, a legal resident, I owned my first (and only) home. As a first (and only) generation immigrant, I was living The American Dream!

But hey, is this really my dream? Did I find what I came here for? Did I actually actualize myself?
Am I living the American Dream, 
or the American Nightmare?   
To be continued ...

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