Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vacation, Part 3

So far, all that I've shared about my trip to NYC (aka the first "authentic" vacation I've taken in a very long time) is a Whole Lot of Snow, and one meal in the style of THB. I feel I need to back up and share the history of vacations ala themacinator. (Edited: I initially wrote that I took a vacation 3 years ago. It's true that I went away, and that I left Mac, but I went with my parents to New Orleans, and the trip had a "stated goal" of working with the St Bernard Project to rebuild New Orleans.)

When I was just a wee young thing, I was privileged enough to go on many vacations courtesy of my family and extended family. We went to Hawaii, to Jamaica, we took a summer long trip to Europe, etc. Once my mom and I went to visit our family friends in Japan. We often traveled in a "family friendly" style- staying in condos or house-style places so that we could eat in and spread out, instead of more traditional hotels where we'd have to eat out every meal. My grandparents took the extended family on more exotic and lavish trips to dude ranches and even as far as Israel. When I was older, beginning in my teens, I stopped traveling like this. My first trip was to Costa Rica, where I went on one of those "service learning" trips. Of course, these trips are only really available to relatively wealthy families as participants have to pay to live in impoverished villages and do service projects, but I loved it. It changed the way I traveled. My parents and sister went to Costa Rica at the same time and traveled in a much more "touristy" way- seeing the sites and staying in nice hotels, while I slept in a house with no electricity and ate beans and rice and rice and beans and developed a nasty case of impetigo and came home with sores and open wounds all over my body.

I was no longer able to travel without my conscience getting in the way. I think this actually started in Jamaica, where tourism was so clearly the entire economy, and racial and gender subjugation was so clearly what made tourism possible. (If you haven't read Cynthia Enloe's "Bananas, Beaches and Bases", it's a must read on the subject.) I couldn't bear to travel in my old privileged way. My next two "real" trips were to Mexico (I lived the first 19 years of my life in the Bay Area without ever traveling to Mexico!). The first trip was a semester long study abroad program, which emphasized border issues, both the border with the United States and with Guatemala. Again, I stayed with a low income family, although this time we had electricity. I came home sick again, but decided to go back to Mexico the following summer with another service group, this time to Oaxaca, where it was back to sleeping on the floor (again paying for the privilege). I came back even sicker, this time with salmonella. Although I loved both trips, my traveling days were basically over.

They were over for a few reasons: apparently, my immune system sucks. This was the least of my worries, though hospitalization was not really very fun, nor was being treated repeatedly for "bichos" in Mexico and Guatemala the highlight of my trip. More importantly, traveling was no longer a simple joy that it used to be. Both sides of my family are huge travelers, and my parents are enjoying their retirement by traveling all over the word. You can read about it. The only places that interested me were in the global south, but the only way I wanted to go was not in traditional tourist ways. I didn't want to be part of the exploitation that most travel to the "third world" entails, but I also don't want to take part in making humans animals in a zoo. The last, and most practical reason, is that right before my final trip to Mexico I adopted Mac. Mac doesn't kennel well, I don't do well with leaving Mac, and the few times I've left him, it's been a disaster.

So all of my trips have been local. And I'm not complaining. But when my fellow traveler to New York this week asked me before we went if I had ever been on a "real" vacation, I stumbled. He meant not doing service, staying in a hotel, and as an adult. Out of the 100 mile radius of my home. Yeah, not really. My dad and I went on an awesome road trip a few years ago and saw Dodger Stadium and the new ballpark in San Diego. V and I went on the epic road trip to the Salton Sea, with Mac of course. I've been to LA to visit my grandparents, for a day at a time. But I haven't really GONE anywhere, with the sole purpose of... vacating.

So this birthday I got a Whole Lot of Money. With the express directions to use it for traveling. This was tricky, as I'd have to leave Mac, but fortunately I have the Best Roommate Ever, and Mac has developed a fan club, and a good friend offered to spend the night with him every night. So, off to New York I went. I couldn't just travel without a purpose, that seemed too easy. So I decided to photograph things. And that's why you have those videos. And that's why you're seeing All That Snow. Apparently they're calling this winter in New York "Snowpocalypse." I rather loved it. Snow everywhere- it was beautiful. Almost none of that brown slushy crap you normally see in the city. And I walked everywhere in it. Here's another video of a slightly obscene snowman being constructed by some kinds on a rare snowday. Taken from knee deep in snow- that's dedication.

Unfortunately, I also felt like this part of the time. You must see The King's Speech if you haven't seen it. I don't even like movies so much, but I traveled all the way to New York to see this one (kidding).

I had this giant plan to go to Coney Island and Brighton Beach. I knew Coney Island would be deserted and snowy, but I thought that would be awesome. Not so much. Most of it was closed for construction, and there was almost no one there. I mentioned Snowpocalypse- well, smart people don't go out in Snowpocalypse. Only tourists, and crazy photographers. Then I went to Brighton Beach, which is around the corner. The photo ops were amazing. All these Russians in amazing fur hats with amazing faces. Amazingly hostile faces. Sometimes my old camera (I was carrying my rolleicord that day) entices people to talk, which gets me an "in" to ask them for their picture. In Brighton Beach it just led to lots and lots of glares and scowls. One lady even chased me away from taking pictures of the side of a store. I'm nonconfronational even though it's legal for me to take pictures from the street, and kind of a pushover, so I got the hell out of dodge. But I was sad (and cold and wet). The next day, I lost my light meter again, and was basically guessing about the speeds my shots should be taken at. Combined with the fact that the snow made my focusing screen and the magnifier all wet and foggy, I am pretty sure that none of my shots are remotely technically accurate. This made me grumpy. It made me say "shit shit shit and tits." I had to go and buy higher speed film at Adorama, and the people there were surly and rude. I missed Looking Glass.

Vacation was good. I tried new things: I even ordered room service! I used an iPad provided by the hotel, and disliked it, as I expected. Yes, I'm a Luddite. I flew and survived. I ate a delicious pie, two nights in a row. I had blintzes, and they were fried, and that was amazing. I took five rolls, and if they don't come out, I'll chalk it up to vacation. I got to hang out in snow. I miss winter. I went on vacation, and it was good.


Helen Oster said...

I was extremely concerned to read your comment about your experience at Adorama, and firstly please accept my sincere apologies for the poor customer service experience.

I would very much welcome the opportunity to investigate this incident; if you can email me with the date & approximate time you came into the store - & if possible a description of the person who served you - I can see that appropriate action is taken to help our representative to respond more appropriately in the future.

Thank you

Helen Oster
Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador