November 28, 2023

How I Spent My Summer Vacation . . . by Gideon Noire


It is entirely possible, given the number of cheesy photographs my publisher, Sir Willy Rudolph, has run of honeymoon couples on the French Riviera, retired postal workers in cheap shirts and pressed Bermuda shorts, and rebel tourists lurking about that crumbling seawall in Havana—all sporting a broad smile and a prominently displayed copy of this esteemed publication—to suspect that as you read this column, that some of you, at least, are on summer vacation.

Am I right? I knew it. I can see your smiles. I can see last month’s issue. Summer vacation is a subject that is near and dear to my heart and one I can dwell on for hours.

But before I bore you with my personal experiences, I’d like to take just a few minutes to expound on the tradition of vacating our worldly responsibilities when the weather turns warm and how it has evolved over the last 200 years—the same period of time in which we, as a species, have evolved from good and decent country peasants, to the techno, metro, smartphone-savvy, sorry excuses for somewhat human beings that we have become today.

I did some research in an effort to discover who was the first person or persons to take a summer vacation and discovered it began as a tradition among wealthy businessmen. It wasn’t, however, the businessmen who went on vacation. Instead they sent their wives and urchins off to the country while they grazed on gin, late night card games and the occasional naive office help.

It doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to realize why this was such a great idea. But like so many other trappings of civilization, it wasn’t long before the fun-time ritual became a mid-summer night’s nightmare. It probably began when one young debutante arrived home from her summer vacation in the Adirondacks, in a family way.

The businessman father, understandably embarrassed, tagged along the next summer, ensuring the same thing did not happen to his next in line. And so it went, summer after summer, until the former playboys of Wall Street, now fathers of their own line of daft-but-delightful ingenues, had forgotten how much fun they could have when they sent the family to the mountains.

And so it was that the summer vacation, the sordid affair we now know, was born…or at least that is what my research shows.
Whatever the case, I do love my summer vacations. For me it’s not about getting away from someone or keeping an eye on another. It’s always been about getting away from as many people as possible and, if I hit the big one, not seeing another person.

It’s all about solitude, which is why I seek out places like Tierra Del Fuego, Pitcairn Island and Koryak Okrug, Siberia (population density 0.1 persons per square mile).

This year was to be no exception. So I booked passage to Chang Tang, Tibet, a windswept plateau on the shoulders of the Himalayas. In researching the last vestiges of remoteness, I came across the account of an early traveler to Chang Tang who claimed he did not see a single soul for 81 days. I took to the skies. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be toting home any t-shirts or knickknacks.

But that was the case. I am here to tell you there are no places left at the edge of the world. In fact I am pretty sure there is no edge. Alas the world is round, just like it looks on TV.

Chang Tang of today is a sea of Chinese tourists, smoking foul French cigarettes, driving erratically and behaving in much the same way American tourists once did, back when we were the chosen ones.

I fear the Chang Tang trip will be my last attempt to get away from it all. For years it was the hippie trekkers who were showing up in the damnedest places. Then it was the Australians and the Germans—both hearty lots but both prone to be the first on their block to go somewhere their neighbors had not yet been. Now it’s the Chinese. When one arrives, another 10,000 are in their luggage.
Once again, life has come full circle. Next year, I will stay home and Esmeralda can take the kids wherever she chooses to go. I will mill about the Pink Nectar until to the wee hours, eat when I am hungry, drink when thirsty and go get my picture taken along with the other 5,000 tourists on the West Fork Trail, smiling and holding a copy of the Sedona Excentric.


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