Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Consider the Tourist

Oh David Foster Wallace, how little we knew thee.

On paying tribute to this amazing writer I indulged in a 10-page essay he wrote for Gourmet back in 2004 titled "Consider the Lobster," about visiting the Maine Lobster Festival. It's worth a read if only because it distills his style down to a manageable magazine-article size, complete with copious footnotes and wry sense of humor.

I found this little gem in footnote #6 and thought it really relevant to our life here in Miami, being somewhat of a tourist town, my own personal adventuresome travel and the conflicting thoughts that being an American tourist always conjures. He writes:
As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it’s only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let’s-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way. My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way—hostile to my fantasy of being a real individual, of living somehow outside and above it all. (Coming up is the part that my companions find especially unhappy and repellent, a sure way to spoil the fun of vacation travel:) To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all noneconomic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Wow thats an interesting foot note :) I never viewed tourism in that kind of light. By the way im from Mia. Anyways good post none the less. On a side note i found a cool website that i think you might like, its called