I wish I could communicate to my 16-year-old daughter that I have not always been the King of All Dorks, that there was a time when I traveled differently, a time when I would have never been seen ambling splay-footed down some tourist boulevard in T shirt and ballcap, craning my neck like Gomer Pyle on his first trip to Beverly Hills.
What I mean to say to her that in your twenties, you tend to travel incognito. Before when I traveled to Seattle, for example, I was young enough to cultivate a particular look that meant I could conceivably be taken for a local. If I were wearing a T shirt, for instance, it would be one from a local club — in the case of Seattle, the now defunct punk/grunge dive The Vogue would work nicely.
In your forties, however, the calculus changes. All that posing is just too much work. I’m not from Seattle; I know it only as a visitor. So why pretend? And, is the Pike Place Market such a bad place after all? And the view from the Space Needle is pretty darn awesome. Now I’m more concerned about my insoles than my T shirt.
But Violet never knew me as a 24-year-old wannabe hipster, only as a beleaguered middle-aged nebbish who talks too loud in public and laughs at his own jokes. So, when I take her to Seattle, it’s a source of embarrassment on her part. And because I’m her hopelessly pathetic parent, every suggestion I make is poison. There is no doubt she is enchanted with Seattle (who wouldn’t be, really?), but she’s not going to be charmed by any Seattle that I might be associated with.
That’s how it is, sweetheart. One day, you wake up and you suddenly don’t mind being viewed as a tourist. Not that I will ever have a taste for sleepwalking through the half-dozen must-dos on the tourist brochures. Not that I don’t still cringe just a bit at having to pose for photos at well-worn sightseeing points. But you can really enjoy yourself when you’re not obsessing how other tourists look at you.