All right, I'm taking liberties with Emma Lazarus' poem-and with the truth. There is very little room in the U.S. for creatives whose work is poor and tired, or even slightly slumberous. But for sharp foreigners at the top of their craft, or on their way up, this country still provides one serious brain suck (that's the opposite of brain drain). Now, here's something that intrigues me: How do creatives who were born and raised in Iceland or South Africa plug into America's collective psyche? After all, the world may be getting smaller, but it's not completely Coca-Cola'd and MTV'd over yet. National and cultural borders still stand for different perceptions of what's appropriate and what's over the line; of what's funny and what stinks; of what'll work and what won't stand a snowball's chance in Satan's hot tub.
And there'll always be things that are part of a shared American past to which foreigners aren't privy. I speak from experience, having emigrated from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1991. I knew of Three Mile Island and the Three Stooges, of Levittown and Lollapalooza, of the Watts riots and Washington crossing the Delaware-tens of thousands of American facts, important and trivial, combined in a sprawling crazy quilt. But the quilt, unavoidably, had holes. Here's an example: Unlike I Love Lucy and The Partridge Family, Leave It to Beaver never made it onto Dutch airwaves. So what? So it took me a while to grasp that this hadn't been just a TV show; that the Cleavers had become symbolic of an era in American life, embodying powerful notions of patriarchy, material progress, social safety, and so on.
Six years later, the holes in the quilt are definitely fewer. I no longer suck at Jeopardy. But I still have a ways to go. When I demanded to know what that mystifying reference to a hog's hide was in Creativity's previous issue, associate editor Ivy Kazenoff sweetly explained that her piece was about an ad featuring footballs, and that pigskin is-well, you know. Of course you do. You were born here, after all.
And if you weren't, you're the subject of this month's cover story. Wanna get together for a soccer game? I never figured out what's so great about football anyway.