I have always thought that living in America was a weird experience. Becoming a citizen hasn’t changed things. This is a land of contrasts. On one hand we can be the warmest most generous people on the planet and on the other, we can behave like arrogant schmucks. The US is the home of some of the greatest minds, the most creative artists, and yet we can elect some of the dumbest politicians this side of Pluto. Then we can turn around and elect one of the smartest.

We say we are working for peace and yet we invade other countries. We say we are for democracy and freedom but it is always threatened at home by people who say they are for democracy and freedom. We are supposedly the home of religious freedom and the separation of church and state but somehow God manages to creep in to every politicians agenda. We are the richest nation on earth and yet we are the home of some of the poorest people in a developed nation. We have the best health care available but only to those who can afford it. We have a culture that everyone sees as crass, low rent, trashy and vulgar, yet everyone tries to imitate us. We are the most loved and admired nation and also the most despised. Go figure.

A few weeks ago we were in Sicily. It was a wonderful place with warm friendly people, great food, good wine and a history which begins at the dawn of civilization. In Siracusa, Sharon had booked us into a hotel, far from the tourists, which catered to a local cliental. The girl at the desk asked us if we wanted to book a table the next evening for their weekly music and dinner soirée. They were featuring champagne, wine, italian meatballs, and a “stride” band.

“Why not.” As my friend Brian once said, sitting in Sam’s kitchen so many years ago, “whenever you are in a new town, why not check out the music scene.” I always listen to my friends, especially when they know something I don’t.

The following night we all sat down in the lounge and drank champagne, wine and ate fantastic meatballs. It was a young local crowd, in their thirties who were well-dressed well-behaved, and very friendly. We were the oldest people in the group-by far but nobody really seemed to care.

The band came out and this singer with an exquisite voice started belting out Blues, Country, and old songs from the forties. Valeriano, and Jole were young, very talented, and soulful. It occurred to me that with all of our international problems and lack of respect around the world these days, the only thing people never knocked in America was our music. It is our best ambassador.

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