Friday, June 27, 2008


I go to an American ATM for the first time and all the instructions are in plain English, so helpful and direct for the newbie, no overload of boilerplate politeness, just the familiar minimalism of step A, step B etc.

I put in my card, zip through the procedure and to my strange surprise real, old-fashioned money comes out, that the core of me reflexively realizes it can buy stuff with, the bills looking just the way real money still looks in the central bank of my mind even after all these years, with pictures on it of people I learned about long ago in school-- iconic revolutionaries and generals, presidents and other members of that permanent psychopantheon, with historic buildings on the back, every denomination impractically pale green and uniform in size, the ones and hundreds differentiated only by the zeros and the portraits of George and Ben, each bill mythically charged by particulars deeply interwoven with my own history, unlike multicolored and varisized Japanese money, which, though artier, more practical and (at the moment) economically stronger, is nevertheless not fully accepted by my central bank, where it has no historic heft and does not viscerally impress me; only my intellect knows I can actually buy stuff with those pretty pieces of paper.

Ever surprising, all the insitutional minutiae the traveler never leaves behind...


Winston said...

You could even buy a cherry pie. Or a gallon or two of petrol.

Martin J Frid said...

...remind me, why is there a pyramid with an eye on your dollar bills? And, which god are you to trust? Just curious.

I wish this was the time to go back to local money that actually meant something to the town where I live, instead of state-sponsored pieces of paper covered with symbols of secret societies that I'm not invited to join.