It was so humid when I stepped onto the sidewalk it felt like I was treading water. A threat of storms hung in the air, battleship colour clouds steaming slowly across the horizon. Far from here but menacing nonetheless.  An occasional spot of rain found its way on to the floor; a steady hum of a/c units was never far away- contented hives.

Taxis cleared their throats like Uncle Sam on his porch as they lumbered away from the side-walk. An occasional police car whooped its siren to move along a throng of other waiting cars. Porters hovered – there is always someone ready to help you in the US.

I had forgotten what it was like to arrive in an American city in the summer. How every sense is conquered.

Looking up I saw the signs asking us to join American Airlines in supporting the American Cancer Society in its 100th anniversary year. I remembered the interview in the in-flight magazine – between the CEOs of the two organisations.  It had a strong message of hope for cancer patients; particularly the graphic showing the percentage of people surfing cancer compared to 30 years ago. Research was key they said. But at the same time I couldn’t help ruminate how like business major charities and foundations have become in their ‘speak.’

As I sat in the back of the cab, Prince’s 1999 gave way to adverts on the radio. The first called for young male volunteers for a clinical trial being run at the hospital; reimbursement was possible it said. But, in reality, in tone and style it sounded no different to the next which was announcing a bargain sale if sofas. Or the next, advertising places at the local school. The cabbie himself had a small sign on his back seat asking us to support diabetes research? I saw a girl playing in the street and wondered if he had a daughter with diabetes and that’s why he was asking. I should have mentioned it.

Billboards and advertising hoardings buffeted and stretched for mile upon mile like one of their great freight trains. On each Freephone numbers spell out what they will say to you say on the phone. So an injury claims company’s number to call is: 1-800-HURT. I love that.

As the freeway rose on stilts heading into downtown, it curved around the new university hospital complex. ‘Health Sciences Centre’ said the sign on one of the tallest buildings and in letters the size of a small house.

Here’s a country not shy of talking about its science I thought.

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