May 29, 2008
Its almost vacation time, at least for those of us who are in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, which geographers call down under of course its approaching winter. This is one of the disadvantages of living down under: all the blood is constantly pooling in your head and you cant keep the seasons straight. The advantages include the fact that your entire culture can be summed up by yeast extract, an amusing accent, and pictures of the Sydney Opera House. But I digress. For members of Congress of course vacation time comes around approximately every sixteen hours, which is probably why for the rest of us it comes around approximately every sixteen months. Before the glut of travel shows vacation used to be a fun thing, at least for men. Women, of course, would have to worry about losing ten to fifteen pounds so they could fit into a swimsuit that theyd immediately cover up with a shirt. And because that wasnt enough theyd also put on sunglasses and a big floppy hat, to make sure no one recognized them. For men it was always easier: we just put on whatever made us feel comfortable, which, disturbingly, would always be guaranteed to make everyone else uncomfortable. For some reason a mans weight and the size of what he wears to the beach are inversely proportional. Fortunately those days are over now because even men know that, if they wear a thong, theres going to be some travel show camera crew following them around, and sooner or later their relatives will see them on television with a hack comedian saying, This mans back was the inspiration for shag carpeting. Even for those of us who dress decently the beach has become intimidating. We cant do something simple and enjoyable like build a sand castle because we know somewhere down the beach someones not building a sand castletheyre building an exact replica of Michelangelos David, but wearing board shorts, on a surfboard being attacked by a great white shark and crashing into the Titanic. And even if were not into building sand castles, vacations arent just about taking time to stroll up and down the one street designated as Tourist Lane, buying postcards and t-shirts that say, I Got Lucky In [Insert Name of City/Town/Village/County/Shire/Region/Down Under]! or maybe "Tornado Alley Blows!"
Travel shows have taught us that we have to seek out and embrace the exotic. Well, do we really have to embrace it? Personally I love watching that guy who goes to interesting places, meets friendly people, and dines on gelatinized salamander eyes and deep-fried llama pancreas, and Im all for embracing the exotic, but I dont want it embracing me all the way to the emergency room. I think I may try something daring for my vacation, though, something like roughing it. My plan is to get a cheap hotel room. Between the interesting flora and fauna in the bathroom and the unusual dishes in the hotel restaurantsuch as a green liquid the menu which the natives have charmingly laminated calls broccoliI think a cheap hotel room is about as exotic as it gets.