When I came to America, Dallas was everything. The Scottish television population in the seventies and eighties adored the show, and I was in love with Lucy Ewing, JR’s niece. I had watched every episode. My plan was to move to Texas, find Southfork, and marry Lucy. If she asked about my business, I’d say oil, North Sea oil, Scotland’s inky patch of the bottomless pit. But the plane landed in Houston, where grimy oil film sat on the tips of suburban lawns and roofs. Houston was a dump back then. Maybe it still is, who’d go there?
Quickly, I discovered Lucy was an illusion. And she lived in Hollywood, not Dallas. She would not be entertaining me in a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader’s uniform. Lucy Ewing was my symbol of freedom, her big bouncy personality was the seal. And I was locked out.
Other symbols of American freedom, I was aware of. Mount Rushmore, the triumph of the green lawn in the desert, the all-you-can-eat salad bar at Sizzler. No country could match that! One day Americans would have golf courses on the moon, and Bob Hope would tee off first. So what if he was dead, he’s back America! Freedom meant never closing the door on possibility.
My enduring favorite symbol of freedom, outside of Lucy Ewing’s copious bubbly, comes from bartenders. The free pour of liquor in bars is laissez faire at its most pure. In Scotland, when I grew up, alcohol was dispensed through an optic, a government regulated device that measured a tiny amount of alcohol into a glass at exorbitant prices. This alcoholic Stalinism resembled laying bricks on a bad investment. Drinkers had nothing to lose but their wallets. By contrast, American bartenders lift the elbow longer, depending on the tip of the previous round. This is the free market at its best, this is freedom.
So this fourth of July, eat a firework and have a shot and celebrate the free pour. It makes America great!