1968 Chevy Nova, yellow, parked in a lot facing water. Night. Sparkling city lights dance on rippling black eddies. In the front seat two lanky boys are bent over a hand-held radio the size of a small boombox.
The whine and screech and static of shortwave. One boy is tuning, searching for a particular channel. A voice rises faint through the static, speaking in accented English. The boy pauses, then smiles triumphally.
"American imperialist running dogs..."
The boys look into each others' startled and delighted eyes. There's a moment of silent astonishment, before they break into howls of derisive laughter.
The crudity of the Stalinist rhetoric triggered embarrassed snickers. Yet the event itself was remarkable. The ability to listen to words transmitted half a planet away brought home the sense that our world is too small to carry on fractured into hundreds of competing and ultimately self-limiting principalities. Your lifelong certainty followed, that uncritical nationalism is an obsolete brake on human potential.