In 1967, Rosenblum (Coups and Earthquakes, 1979; Mission to Civilize, 1986, etc.) left America to report on a war in the Congo. Twenty years and 145 countries later, he returned to explore the homeland he'd left behind; here is his acerbic, anecdotal report. ""Finally, I could report on my country as if it were Burundi""; and the America that Rosenblum--former editor of the International Herald Tribune and now an A.P. correspondent--reveals here through very wide eyes is indeed as exotic as that far-off land. Rosenblum picks N.Y.C. as his port of entry--and what a port: ""Absorbing Manhattan is like sticking a fork into a light socket."" But the energy Rosenblum finds there--among the proud homeless in the East Village, the millionaire traders on Wall St., cops in a resurging South Bronx--is to him a saving grace: ""this was the gut energy of America, and there was no power to match it."" That energy crackles everywhere as Rosenblum crisscrosses the country, alighting as fancy dictates in myriad tourist meccas, backwaters, and oddball sites, among them: Atlantic City, which reeks ""of outdated french fries""; a nudist colony in Massachusetts; marijuana farms in California; a Navajo reservation; an all-black theater in Detroit, where he watches Colors; the Soldier of Fortune offices in Boulder; lunch with Stanley Donen in Hollywood; Graceland. But for all its incredible pop and diversity, this isn't the dreamland of his memory, as he discovers with sadness in hometown Tucson--which he finds a breeding ground of incompetent teachers and gung-ho police--and later in America's ""Heartland,"" in Kansas City, where ""for all the surface good cheer. . .there was widespread, deeply rooted fear and loathing."" A crazy quilt of vivid dispatches that, threaded by Rosenblum's ironic sensibility, covers the vast span and spirit of the country. Both entertaining and informative, a perceptive tour by a seasoned pro.