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I hope everyone is doing well. After all, you probably are. I never heard from any of you when I was living on off-brand canned pasta, following by several months of extreme dieting, caused in no small part from my all-carbohydrate lifestyle. Bessie Smith was right; nobody knows you when you’re down to your last can of spaghetti hoops.
There are standards to uphold. Unlike those over-sharing media whores on reality television, the true lady knows to always hold back, to plant false information, and to remain calm. Screaming, jumping up and down, and losing bladder control are never attractive in the grand scheme of things. Even the most sophisticated and/or jaded femme fatale has a weak spot, an Achilles heel that reveals the inner geek. Some fond of hyperbole conclude everyone has a rich gooey center, and not in the cadaver on the table way. (Whenever someone says everyone likes something, there is a knee jerk response of “not me.” Truly, there is nothing universal about enjoying a picnic, but those armed with baskets adamantly affirm there is fun to be had while eating without back support under the blazing hot sun, risking botulism, rashes, and getting conked in the head by an errant Frisbee.) It’s best never to let anyone know your secrets, your dreams, where you hide the embarrassing CDs. If you travels take you somewhere a bit too revealing, don’t say a word.
The phone rings. The bouncy over-caffeinated voice on the other end doesn’t accept that five in the morning is too early for greetings. There is important news to share, the kind that can’t wait for dawn to crack or the sleeping pill to leave the system. So you have the Judy Garland “where’s my morning wake me up?” moment, growl a bit, and ask what was so important that the curvature of the earth should not be respected.
The bubbly voice on the phone says, “I’m getting married! It’s going to be next January in Boston!”
The only acceptable response is, “That’s great. I’ll be staying in Phoenix.”
Once upon a time, no one in any service capacity in Barcelona spoke English. Then the 1992 Olympics were held there and suddenly the city was transformed into an international playground. It didn’t matter if your only Spanish word was “no.” They found translators and gladly accepted your money. The last time this delicate flower was in town, without saying a word, the maitre-d pulled out an English menu, assuming that I could only order by color: “Green, por favor.” This was somewhat disappointing as I’d been practicing my favorite phrase for days: “Me gusta espinaca.” (It’s only a helpful phrase if you actually like spinach.) FULL STORY >>
Nothing ramps up the enjoyment of a vacation so much as the knowledge that you’re not wanted. This can be achieved two ways. First, you can purposely abuse the hospitality of a near stranger. Eventually, you will be kicked out, but it’s fun while it lasts. The second way is to invade the space of a few recently departed souls. Some call this haunting; I call it a failure of the imagination. Without concrete knowledge of other worlds, I’m fairly certain that the Long Beach Holiday Inn is not a place I’d bother setting up permanent after-life residence. It doesn’t matter if the spirit stays or goes, but if there is a ghost, there does need to be some proof beyond the cold shiver/goose bumps/odd feeling that is so popular in the spirit hunting world. Something has to go bump in the night. The ghostly encounter eventually becomes a battle of the wills, and the one with the living body usually wins.FULL STORY >>
It isn’t often that theatregoers, that dwindling minority in the world of electronic entertainment, are allowed to wallow in sentimentality about the glory days. It’s actually impossible because the most ardent fans are either dead or weren’t born when things were really kicking. Even the dead would have a hard time thinking of nice things to say about what I call Fire, Famine and Pestilence, the show that makes the kindest, sweetest, ticket holder consider hostile acts with a potato masher. (Okay, it’s Little House, but Whoa Nellie would have been much funnier.)
This writer is neither kind nor sweet, and felt the only bit of excitement in the show was when an actor pulled out a bullwhip. Oh, yes, thought this theatregoer. Let’s get cracking. Alas, it was a tease. The show was meant to be heartwarming and idyllic, which sucked the fun right out of the enterprise. FULL STORY >>
You know what you heard. Someone offered to take you to Saint Petersburg. An hour later, you receive clarification. They would love to take you to Saint Petersburg. But that's not the same thing as actually offering to take you anywhere, anytime, for any amount of money. In fact, the person is surprised you were so easily confused, and uses this as yet another example of all the times your little heart was filled with false hope. FULL STORY >>
You had grand plans for your summer vacation. You paid for everything in advance, but decided to skip the traveler's insurance. And then someone (and we're not naming names) drops an anvil on her foot. Now going to the remote island without cars is not only impossible, but you're out the deposit. (The cheap inn off the interstate wouldn't have billed you anything, but you can't stay someplace without decent linens, little lighthouse figurines and andirons.) You could stay home and mope, but that's not productive. You could pretend to have gone, photo-shopping your face onto images you downloaded off the Internet, but that's a little bit crazy.
People trying to make the best of a bad situation bandy about the term “staycation.” A better term might be fauxcation. It’s a false term with the unfortunate implication that someone would actually opt to clean out the gutters or flip all the mattresses rather than doing something relaxing, stupid or dangerous.
In the days before cell phones, people actually had to wait in line to use public telephones. You'd need an anti-bacterial towelette to clean the receiver, but they weren't yet marketed to germophobes from foreign lands. Then there was the appearance of courtesy. When visiting another country, it was best not to behave in such a way as to blemish the reputation of an entire nation.
Dear Airlines Customer Service:
It was nice to speak to your many representatives during my recent visit to Austin. From the moment I realized my suitcase didn't make it on the plane, we bonded in so many ways. But the point of this note is not to complain. We both know mistakes were made. I paid you $17.00 to check my bag to Texas; you sent my bag to New York. (If it could make it there, it could make it anywhere.)
Travel for Children
By Pamela Miller
The commercials are incessant, insistent, mesmerizing. Come to a magic land and be enchanted with loveliness, twinkling lights and caramel apples. Everyone is invited, including the dog. Those lucky enough to make the journey will return with stories to share for decades to come. And did we mention it's affordable with just one swipe of a magic piece of plastic. (Go ahead and check your mother's wallet. She has such a piece of plastic. Just don't bend it or run it through the garbage disposal.)
There are two approaches to travel. The preferred method is the all- expenses luxury tour through the lesser known pathways and hidden gems on the planet. The other method is spending two weeks on someone's sofa bed , experiencing life through the jaundiced eyes of one not on vacation. Be they a relative, long lost friend, or someone you met online, you're not expected to enjoy the experience.
You feel renewed and exhilarated. After finally finagling a free trip to Bonaire (thank you credit card points program) via Biloxi and Bennington, you're home. You're pale (thank you sun block #45). You're sharp thanks to a new detox program featuring gooseberries and silica. The air is crisper. The scent of apple blossoms is more pronounced. You're at peace. And nothing is quite so important as spreading the word about your fine exquisite travels.
Whether your travels take you to Motown, London Town or Funky Town, there is one universal in the world of travel: Gift Shop. The same holds with train stations, museums, hospitals and prisons. That doesn't mean that every ceramic pig spray-painted and covered in elbow macaroni and glitter needs to take the journey from the Prisoner Gift Kiosk ("From the Big House to Your House") to your tasteful summer cottage. The availability of gifts has nothing to do with the quality of the gifts.
Business travel is not travel. You're huddled from a car to a conference room to another car. The only sights are the room service menu and the list of pay-per-view options. There is nowhere to walk, nothing to see, and the airport hotel is miles from the bustling downtown or popular vacation destination.
There is a belief in some circles that travel must be uncomfortable, baffling, or intermittently painful with short bursts of relief. Those descriptors better fit a root canal or a children's music recital. There is nothing in the definition of travel that suggests only the worst possible outcome for the trouble of leaving home. One travels to the mailbox. One travels to the drug store. A trip to the mailbox doesn't usually require Dramamine or an after-dinner mint, but it's often helpful to have both on hand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pamela Miller saves the world by day, writes by night, and wishes she could find a hotter place to live than Phoenix. The world is simply too cold.
OTHER HW ARTICLES BY PAMELA MILLER
Copyright © 2008 by Pamela Miller