Stephen Fry in America

The second of my holiday reads was Stephen Fry in America.  Why is it we so often take books about other places to read when we are on holiday?!  The blurb on the back of the book gives Stephen’s reason for travelling across all 50 states.

I could have been American; after all I was nearly born there. So I wanted to find out what is it that makes the United States of America so unique, so diverse, so very American..

This book accompanies the BBC TV series which I had previously seem of the same name (Available on DVD here)

Unsurprisingly each chapter of the book is a state, the opening page for each state gives it’s key facts – eg Capital, Tree, Bird, Famous residents and natives.  So as much as a good read I was also learning a lot.  I enjoyed this book more than the TV Series as Stephen Fry sets out in the book to explain his thoughts of each place he visited, and the things he couldn’t bring himself to say (often corrections of English Grammar)

However like the TV show I found the book rather rushed, In some states Stephen Fry only manages to visit one place.  All in all though a great read!

Some of the things Stephen Fry does in America are…

  • Lobster fishing in Maine.
  • Electioneering with Mitt Romney for the New Hampshire primaries.
  • Went to a real witch’s ball at Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween.
  • Sailed an Admiral Cup winning yacht in Rhode Island.
  • Went down into a nuclear submarine in Connecticut.
  • Mixed my own Ben and Jerry’s flavour in Vermont.
  • Went deer hunting in upstate New York.
  • Hung out with ancient toothless wise guys from the old days in the borough of Queen’s, New York; drove Sting down Broadway.
  • Learned to deal Blackjack in the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City New Jersey
  • Zoomed round Washington DC in a Segway.
  • Went to the Veteran’s Day ceremony in Arlington, Virginia with VP Dick Cheney.
  • Went down a coal mine in West Virginia.
  • Sold a thoroughbred yearling and got insanely ratted in a bourbon distillery in Kentucky.
  • Picked with Bluegrass hillbillies and found myself in a garden full of dead bodies in Tennessee. Was appointed an official duckmaster in Memphis, an honour I share with Kevin Bacon and Oprah Winfrey.
  • Went ballooning over the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.
  • Enjoyed Thanksgiving in a grand plantation house in Georgia.
  • Went to a gay bar in Georgia and watched a drag act … “Honey, there’s more of us than you’d believe.”
  • Watched a college football game in Alabama that was bigger than the FA Cup final. 100,000 in the stadium, two hundred thousand crowded outside it.
  • Sat in court in Montgomery as families pleaded for their children’s parole.
  • Swam with dolphins and danced with snowbirds in Florida.
  • Marched with the Zulus on Mardi Gras in New Orleans, was blessed at a voodoo ceremony (or possibly cursed). Witnessed the horrors of Hurricane Katrina in the Lower Ninth Ward.
  • Went oystering down in the gulf of Mexico and farmed with murderers and lifers at the Angola state penitentiary in the rest of Louisiana.
  • Canoed along the Mississippi in Arkansas.
  • Sat and talked about the blues with Morgan Freeman in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
  • Watched the girls of Clarksdale High lose a basketball match.
  • Hung out in the ice and snow amongst the homeless in St Louis, Missouri.
  • Had my brain examined by a Maharishi psychologist at the Maharishi University in Iowa. Went nuts trying to find alcohol in Vedic City, Iowa, a city founded by followers of the Maharishi.
  • Rode with the fire brigade in Elkhart, Indiana. Looked a dick in the uniform. Breathing apparatus got stuck on me.
  • Rode a Model T-Ford around Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, Michigan.
  • Discovered the South Side of Chicago with blues legend Buddy Guy.
  • Cast and buffed and dipped and polished a genuine Oscar at the factory where they are made in Chicago.
  • Improved with the Second City revue.
  • Milked sheep in Wisconsin and was pulled in an Amish sled.
  • Went ice-fishing in Minnesota and caught a fish.
  • Strode around with Ted Turner on his Montana ranch and inspected his herd of buffalo.
  • Helicoptered over the Canadian border with the National Border Patrol.
  • Poured water over Idaho to demonstrate the nature of the continental divide.
  • Was pulled by huskies in Wyoming.
  • Ate German food at a diner in Bismarck, North Dakota.
  • Stayed on the Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota and drummed with the young braves.
  • Went trucking in Nebraska.
  • Went down a missile bunker in Kansas.
  • To a rodeo in Oklahoma.
  • Attended an Indian Pow Pow in Denver and caused an explosion on the slopes at Aspen, Colorado.
  • Drove along the Rio Grande with Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas and watched Mexicans trying to smuggle themselves over the border.
  • In New Mexico went to Los Alamos where the first Atom bomb was made; ballooned along a canyon and went inside an earth ship.
  • Barbecued with the Navajo deep inside Monument Valley and had a Navajo weaving lesson.
  • In Nevada played a spy game in Las Vegas and found myself in a legal brothel outside Reno talking to well breasted women.
  • Flew in a WW2 B17 bomber from Phoenix to Tucson, Arizona and played a scene in a western in the old Tucson studios. Got shot. Death scene lasted 12 minutes, nearly a Tucson record. Beaten by Deforest Kelley, later Dr McCoy, in a B western.
  • Drank wine in California’s Napa Valley, chewed the fat with Jony Ive, designer of the iMac, iPod and iPhone. Shot a .44 magnum in Ukiah, California, guest of the sheriff.
  • Raided a marijuana farm in Mendocino County.
  • Camped out in a place known to be frequented by Big Foot, the Sasquatch in Grant’s Pass, Oregon.
  • Swam with sea otters and seals in Seattle, Washington. Said goodbye to the taxi.
  • Went fishing in and looking for bears in Kodiak, Alaska. Went north to the arctic circle and skidooed with some Eskimos.
  • Went to an observatory in the tallest mountain in the world in Hawaii. Canoed like in the title sequence of Hawaii 5 O. Flew over lava field and watched new bits of America, five acres a week, being made as the molten lava hit the sea. Swam with sharks, flew a microlite around the islands.

My next read: – Vince Flynn, Extreme Measures

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