One observation from my travels:
Now that I'm old, a different type of creepy stranger hits on me! Whereas I was once pestered only by peers, recently I have had unwanted attention from a larger variety of socio-economic and age groups.
Though it is possible I was just too stupid to notice in youth.
Driving around in rural Texas I was amazed by many things, like abandoned houses, empty storefronts, and desolate car lots - all of which look as though they were thriving until recently. Like, say, weeks ago.
There were the usual number of alarming billboards, though my favourite was the one that proclaimed "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of all who threaten it."
In the portions of the towns still open for business there was a proliferation of stores selling "kolache" - whatever that is. Quick reference to internet sources claim that it is a word to describe a Czechoslovakian delicacy. However! I have traveled extensively in the part of the world that gives us the terms Czech and Slovak, I have friends born and raised in that region, and I have never encountered this pastry.
Or if I have, it wasn't like this: enormous gooey blobs of dough hustled on every single street corner, including numerous drive-through establishments. So you don't even need to leave your vehicle to acquire the fatty abundance.
Another example: why do all "Italian" cafes in the states look exactly like each other, but nothing like anything in Italy?
I should have some patience with the attachment of third and fourth generation Americans to notional immigrant rites and knick-knacks. I grew up with it: I am descended from one of the first families to settle in Poulsbo and have racked up the requisite visits to the Sons of Norway with drunken uncles. I could have been married in the hall, with rosemaling on the walls and a statue of King Olaf presiding. But me, personally? I never liked the hard circular fruitcake the cousins served at weddings; traditional, maybe, tasty, no.
I just cannot fathom nostalgia for baked goods. I certainly don't remember any of my actual immigrant relatives eating the stuff - they were far more excited by flashy new American products.
We'll let the kolache stand as a symbol for the entire trip: basically, I no longer understand my homeland. Did I ever? Probably not. Hence the decision to leave.
James grew up in a similar manner and lived abroad for a long time before moving back, so I asked his advice. He replied America is about ideas. Sensible is another country.