Pre-Vacation Thoughts

I know it has been awhile since I put fingers to keys. I am sorry but sometimes I simply cannot write more than a few paragraphs. It’s hard for me to remember how much I loved writing, especially during my career in journalism. Now that that’s forever over, it’s tough to write when you know only a handful of people will ever read it.

I tried writing for Medium, but I don’t know their editors and I would seriously question their credentials. I know what real editors are – trained in J school, seasoned on the copy desk and on the beat – with years of experience to do a good job. If that makes me a dinosaur, I don’t care. If they’re going to knock down what I write for specious, unknowable reasons, it’s no better than writing for a blog no one reads. They seem to have a star system there and I won’t abide by it.

Another example of my increasing fuddy duddy-ism is an article I read this morning in the NY Times (who did not allow comments on which I find infuriating). The article was on the crass morons who attempt to video classical concerts with their phones. This line especially was infuriating:

“Some observers suggest that the restrictions on audience behavior are snobbish, elitist, or even manifestations of white privilege.”

Well, some observers are wrong. It seems like certain ‘weapon-words’ can now be wielded at any social convention that gets in the way of spoiled brats who insist their lack of manners of common courtesy outweigh an artist’s desire to perform and the audience’s right to enjoy, a performance without being interrupted by these phone-heads.

Yes, I have a smart phone. When attending an event as I did on Broadway a few months ago, the phone is OFF and in my pocket where it remains for the entire performance. What the Hell is so difficult about that?

I’m so done with this ‘woke’ shit. It’s weaponized for the sake of cultural power trips and causing a backlash among the very people who could be persuaded if they weren’t being blindsided with accusations. I’m surprised they didn’t say manners was also an example of ‘toxic masculinity.’

Call me what you will, I don’t care anymore. Is it any wonder I’ve withdrawn from all social organizations and become a semi-hermit? You can’t get embroiled in this ‘holier than thou’ nonsense if you avoid it all together.

***

In the end, none of this will matter in a few years when we’re fighting for our very survival thanks to climate change plus economic and political upheaval. A lot of nonsense will fall by the wayside when a head of lettuce costs $100 and arrives at the grocers once a week.

I also get amazed at people whose reactions to the upcoming upheaval are to find arable (for now) land somewhere, but it and take up farming. As anyone who has ever farmed will tell you, it’s not something you can just learn from reading a ‘dummies guide to farming for societal collapse.’ It is fucking hard work and completely dependent on a climate that is going to turn very inhospitable to American staple crops in a few years. Your crops will also have to be guarded 24-7 for obvious reasons.

But knock yourselves out. Me? I’m buying freeze dried food that lasts 25 years. I don’t expect to last 25 years.

I’m about to embark on what the odds say will be my last grand vacation – a road trip to Key West. I plan on making it a semi-travelogue to chronicle the effects of climate change on the Southern states, as well as the, um, cultural uniqueness of the South.

There will be much to video as the South has now been hit with a flash drought and Florida itself is overrun with giant snakes, iguanas falling from trees and apex predator mosquitos. Key West itself is suffering from the same phenomenon afflicting Miami – sea water is seeping through the limestone the city sits on and coming up through the sewers and drains. The entire area along the Atlantic coast to the Keys is living on borrowed time, hence I have named this the ‘Say Goodbye to Florida Tour.’

It has also caused the usual nostalgia I get when replicating (somewhat) family vacations from the 70s and previous trips to visit a friend living in Florida in the 90s. I expect to find a totally different state now.

The family vacations were on the other side of the state – to what was a sleepy hamlet named Holiday, about 15 miles north of St. Petersburg. It’s now a typical Tampa Bay area suburb. I recently Google street searched where my grandparents (whom we visited in 1971 and ’72) lived and found the once pristine neighborhood is now shabby and run-down.

The vacations were some of the rarer fond memories of my childhood. I used to count down the days until we left and found the idea of exploring unknown lands exciting. In the early 70s, not all of I-75 was complete through Tennessee, so you have to get off the interstate south of Knoxville for a 30-mile trip down US 11. The road would be lined with desperate tourist shops displaying large Confederate flag bath towels and other such things. I say desperate, because these merchants knew once the interstate was finished, so were they.

And we’d carefully make our way through Lenoir City, mindful of the speed traps (or ‘Yankee traps’ as they were known then) as we made our way through scenes which had not changed much since the 50s.

So much about travel, even by car, has changed. My father would have been blown away by GPS maps that talk to you so my mother would not have to fumble with the map and then give it to me since I was a far better navigator than her. TripTiks from AAA helped as they were small and compact, told you a little about the terrain you were covering (“traverses rolling hills and pecan farms. . .”) and also marked where the known Yankee traps were (“WATCH SPEED”).

He would also be amazed that the $150 he took in cash for the entire trip in 1971 would buy him one night in a hotel today. And who needs cash (or traveler’s checks later on) anymore when everyone takes plastic debit and credit cards? Wave the magic phone at a gas pump to pay for gas or at many other places as well. Dad would thought he’d stepped into Buck Rogers territory. But I remember how impossible it was to get a BankAmericard (Visa) or MasterCard (Master Charge) back in the day. Dad had worked for Sears for a decade and couldn’t even get approved for one of their charge cards.

So, you had to carry cash or traveler’s checks.

If you broke down, there was no Onstar or quick cell phone call to AAA or your car makers’ travel program or State Farm’s roadside service or any of that. You waited for a cop or started hiking to the next intersection’s gas station for a tow. It was a harrowing experience and one we don’t even think about any more.

Road side rest areas of the early 70s were absolutely primitive by todays standards. Here and there you still found pit toilets! It was a real hit or miss in many states and finding a clean restroom was something you’d note for the return trip. Rarely were rest area and gas station restrooms up to the standards of your average Pennsylvania or Ohio turnpike rest areas of today.

Travelling the South, you’d look for Stuckey’s. Stuckey’s are still around, sort of, never a stand alone store any more but paired with a fast food/gas station. They were bought and sold over and over a long time ago so those are not the Stuckey’s old people like me would remember. They had a distinctive roof, pristine, air-conditioned interiors, clean restrooms, lots of pop and snacks and their famous pecan rolls. You noted them on the map for sure. There were McDonald’s but a low fewer than today. What was in season were the old-style family restaurants where chicken fried steak and cheeseburgers were always on the menu.

It’s so easy now. Your car’s computer tells you if there’s to be any breakdowns (usually) and Google maps or Siri will tell you where the nearest gas, food or anything you want is. Modern technology has taken a lot of the adventure out of vacation travel, but this is one instance I won’t be counted as a fuddy-duddy. I much rather appreciate the security of the smart phone on trips even though I do miss the mom and pop roadside attractions of yesteryear.

As for the cultural uniqueness of the South, I am putting a few magnetic bumper stickers on my car as magical talisman to make my trip safer. Nowadays, the big worry traveling, especially as a Yankee in the South, is road rage caused by Bubba taking personal offense at the Hillary Clinton 2016 bumper sticker you never quite got around to peeling off. You can see what I did in my latest You Tube video and follow the travelogue on the Facebook site.

So, there you have it – a new column where I will probably lose any readers I may have picked up from the South or offended Millennial liberals of whom this Hubert Humphrey/Scoop Jackson Democrat apparently has little left in common.

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