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Fourteen Days

I just noticed that the Booklist reviewer misspelled Dancy's surname as Flammarian.

As of tonight, it's been two weeks since we arrived in Rhode Island. I came here to find the story that would become Joey LaFaye. I came here for a change of scenery, to be some place less familiar, less stressful, some place where I could begin to shake off the exhaustion and monotony and prepare myself to begin another novel. And tonight, two weeks in, almost two thirds of the way into the trip, I have to say that I'm very close to admitting defeat.

I'm sure, in part, that this is simply a case of getting off on the wrong foot. We arrived on July 26th, and on July 27th I got the news of the the mess that Penguin has made of things. That morning, the morning of Thursday, July 27th, I'd made the first page of notes for Joey LaFaye. Since then, I've made no notes for the novel at all. I've hardly even been able to think about it, for worrying about this thing or that thing or the other. I think the only genuine breakthrough was in figuring out that the Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill was abandoned there by the Barker in the 1880s, and that Joey Lafaye is short for Joey Lafayette. I've considered Mystic, Stonington, and Watch Hill as the setting for the novel, but have done precious little in the way of getting to know those places as well as I need to get to know them.

Of course, in that regard, the tourists have also been an unspeakable and severe hindrance. They are everywhere, all the goddamn time. I can hardly see anything for them. Everywhere I turn, they are a sunburned, oily, yelping, all-consuming blot upon the landscape. They are a peculiar sort of necessary plague to these towns. I suppose that it's a kind of symbiosis, wherein the parasitic species (tourists) manage to convince the host species (small seaside towns) that their only hope for prosperity and survival is to become entirely subservient and dependent upon the nourishment brought by the gluttonous, consuming activities of the parasite. Today, we were in Mystic, and I would have given almost anything to have been able to see the town before it became only a Disneyesque self-parody. Whatever was there before — say seventy or eighty years ago, when Mystic was an actual seaport, not a theme-park seaport — it has almost been scrubbed away to make room for the needs of the tourists. Scrubbed away or sealed under glass. I'm reminded of Mommie Fortuna, who had to bewitch a real unicorn so that the people who came to her carnival (tourists) could see it as anything but an ordinary white mare. In Mystic, everywhere you turn, there are fake horns for the tourists to see, and the real unicorns have long since forgotten themselves.

I had vague plans of seeing the Mystic aquarium today, as long as I was there. But it was awash in hundreds and hundreds of people, all packed in there together, and admission was $19 per adult head, and I said screw it. We'd also thought about the seaport museum, but the crowds there were even worse, hundreds and hundreds of cars, and admission was $17 per person, and, after all, I'd have only been playing the role of parasite myself. It wasn't as bad as the mess down at Misquamicut. But, even so, I know this was merely the family-oriented/infotainment side of the same vile coin, and, finally, we fled back to Westerly and spent a little time in the library (which was closed when last we were there). But the tourists and the heat had sapped all my strength, and I couldn't think, much less read. I fell asleep on the way back to the cottage in Green Hill. It was the best sleep I've had in three days.

I've almost decided to cut my losses and head back to Atlanta early. The tourists, Penguin, the heat — all of it working together — it seems extremely unlikely anything good will come of this.

We shall see. There's a full moon tonight, and Spooky and I ought to be somewhere by the water, somewhere the sea is crashing against the rocks, watching the moonrise. But I do not have the energy, and I do not have the motivation. I am beginning to believe that the toursits may be exuding some heretofore unknown form of radiation, which slowly robs everything around them of anything like actual drive or enthusiasm. Not unlike Lovecraft's colour out of space. I can too easily imagine another forty or fifty years from now, and all that will remain of this place will be a brittle grey corpse, strewn with abandoned Starbuck's and Dunkin' Donuts and Johnny Rockets hamburger stands. Breathe and it will all collapse in a heap of dust.

Travel is never easy on me. The constant reader may recall my comments to that effect near the end of my last trip to Rhode Island, back in July '04. But this trip's like chewing glass and thumbtacks, and there's nothing but vinegar to wash it all down.

Oh, a few days ago, maybe late last week, we saw a bumpersticker in Wakefield, which read, "They call it tourist season, so why can't we shoot them?" I don't even live here, and those are my sentiments exactly.

Comments

( 23 comments — Have your say! )
ellyssian
Aug. 10th, 2006 02:05 am (UTC)
The vocalist I worked with once upon a time lived in Amesbury, so I spent quite a lot of time in that area: Neburyport, Salisbury, Hampton Beach. You adopt that anti-tourism attitude pretty quickly in those situations.

So what do I do? Live on the edge of the Poconos where Tourism R Us. Oy.

Bah, I was looking to see if I could find a copy of my poem Harbourmaster to post - thought you might like the sentiment. I'll try to hunt it down on paper, post, and link to it tomorrow.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:17 am (UTC)
my poem Harbourmaster to post - thought you might like the sentiment. I'll try to hunt it down on paper, post, and link to it tomorrow.

Thanks. That would be cool.
ellyssian
Aug. 10th, 2006 02:42 pm (UTC)
z0mb1e
Aug. 10th, 2006 02:44 am (UTC)
Two things:
I am delighted that you mentioned The Last Unicorns, as it was one of the first films I watched obsessively. I still own the same copy I had when I was 5.

Secondly, you might want to check out Newburyport and Plum Island in MA. It will be a bit of drive, but I think it is well worth it. My uncle lives there, so I visit often, and it is both beautiful and tourist free. There is a restaurant there called the Plum Island Grill that is always very tasty, and Newburyport's town centre might be a fun place to roam around in for you and Spooky. I hear the Italian place there (the centre) is yummy.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:20 am (UTC)
I am delighted that you mentioned The Last Unicorns, as it was one of the first films I watched obsessively. I still own the same copy I had when I was 5.

I'm very fond of the film, too. Have you read the novel?

Secondly, you might want to check out Newburyport and Plum Island in MA.

I love that area. See my LJ entry's from July '04.
kambriel
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
Would it help if you came up here? We could meet up in Salem, and then plot an escape from tourist central. Perhaps we can still salvage your trip somehow... You can even call Curse "Joey" if it would help ;P
greygirlbeast
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:21 am (UTC)
Would it help if you came up here? We could meet up in Salem, and then plot an escape from tourist central. Perhaps we can still salvage your trip somehow... You can even call Curse "Joey" if it would help ;P

Hmmmm.

Hmmmmmm.

Very kind of you to offer. Let me think on this, and I'll get back to you ASAP.
stardustgirl
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:12 am (UTC)
When you do head back to Atlanta, is it possible for you to stay off the major interstates and travel the old highways that were used back before these giant generic concrete conduits became the norm? I've a gut feeling you may find what you're seeking in unexpected places, and these little-used highways/state roads are a treasure. I've got stacks of notes that were an unexpected bonus from my route 66 trip. There were things that *insisted* I write them down to remember them... they demanded my attention... and I'm not a writer. It's in the lost places where all the good stuff is.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:23 am (UTC)
When you do head back to Atlanta, is it possible for you to stay off the major interstates and travel the old highways that were used back before these giant generic concrete conduits became the norm?

You're right, to a degree. We're taking as many backroads up here as possible. But. I don't think I'd want to do the old highways in places like Virginia and Tennessee. Those places, I just try to get through as quickly as ever I can.
stardustgirl
Aug. 10th, 2006 04:45 am (UTC)
Charles Vess drew me some maps of excruciatingly lovely and lost spots so I could wander them when I went to visit in VA. It was absolutely inspiring, and I am going back - if only because that train demands it. I had a dream of where I was and that train was in it before I ever went there. That sort of thing doesn't freak me out like it used to , but it does get my attention. Something is trying to give me a message, I just need to decipher it.

I need to get back out on the road. I feel the bland, crowded conformity of strip malls and development slowly killing me. They're intrueders that didn't used to be here. There used to be cornfields that had lovely foggy mist hanging over them on humid summer nights... not mercury vapor lights in empty parking lots.
sfmarty
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:20 am (UTC)
I live in San Francisco, the tourist destination of the world.

I sympathize.
sovay
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:46 am (UTC)
and the real unicorns have long since forgotten themselves.

I suspect you're capable of finding them.

"Now I knew you for a unicorn when I first saw you, and I know that I am your friend. Yet you take me for a clown, or a clod, or a betrayer, and so must I be if you see me so. The magic on you is only magic and will vanish as soon as you are free, but the enchantment of error that you put on me I must wear forever in your eyes. We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream. Still I have read, or heard it sung, that unicorns when time was young could tell the difference 'twixt the two—the false shining and the true, the lips' laugh and the heart's rue."
greygirlbeast
Aug. 10th, 2006 05:38 am (UTC)
I suspect you're capable of finding them.

Thank you for your confidence and for the quote.
cailleach_beara
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:50 am (UTC)
I echo sfmarty in being 'the tourist destination of the world'

Poor old Sydney has a lot of problems and Australia in general is seeing
a similar annhilation of local culture for a bland tourist veneer of awfulness. And it's happening in Ireland too, Galway is a dreadful mess. It's happening everywhere. Methinks there are simply too many of us accursed humans. :-/
greygirlbeast
Aug. 10th, 2006 05:35 am (UTC)
And it's happening in Ireland too, Galway is a dreadful mess. It's happening everywhere.

I saw it beginning in Dublin, last time I was there, in '96.
mellawyrden
Aug. 10th, 2006 03:54 am (UTC)
No tourists in Binghamton... but not much of anything else, either.
inkscar
Aug. 10th, 2006 04:45 am (UTC)
I live in Saunderstown, directly off Tower Hill Road (RT 1) just before the tower, and as much as I love this state, I simply loathe it between the months of June and September. I'm not sure which is worse, the plague of "sunburned, oily, yelping, all-consuming blot(s) upon the landscape" or having to leave for work an hour early because beach traffic is simply horrendous and the highway is CONSTANTLY under construction.

I hope you enjoy whatever remains of your vacation, and if you have the time, you should definitely check out Ft. Wetherill on Jamestown, it's worth the trip.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 10th, 2006 05:37 am (UTC)
I live in Saunderstown, directly off Tower Hill Road (RT 1) just before the tower, and as much as I love this state, I simply loathe it between the months of June and September. I'm not sure which is worse, the plague of "sunburned, oily, yelping, all-consuming blot(s) upon the landscape" or having to leave for work an hour early because beach traffic is simply horrendous and the highway is CONSTANTLY under construction.

You have my sympathies.


I hope you enjoy whatever remains of your vacation, and if you have the time, you should definitely check out Ft. Wetherill on Jamestown, it's worth the trip.


I may have been there. I'm not sure. I know I went to one fort out on Conanicut Island.
nykolus
Aug. 10th, 2006 01:44 pm (UTC)
In Mystic, everywhere you turn, there are fake horns for the tourists to see, and the real unicorns have long since forgotten themselves.

wow. that was fucking amazing. see, you haven't lost it completely!

short story anybody? anybody?
stsisyphus
Aug. 10th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)
Here here. Sirenia, perhaps? I know it's been hell.

Maybe a vignette that is only as long as whatever fits on a roadside diner's napkin? Poesy-prose.

Whatever.
kiaduran
Aug. 10th, 2006 02:29 pm (UTC)
Of course, in that regard, the tourists have also been an unspeakable and severe hindrance. They are everywhere, all the goddamn time.

Here in the once beautiful, quiet Santa Barbara, we call them tourons - tourist + morons. Seems to suit them.
yvonnenavarro
Aug. 10th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
Exactly the reason I went once, and only once, to Taste of Chicago, although I lived in the City for most of my life until 2002. The one time I went supposedly over a million people attended. As far as I was concerned, that was about 999,900 too many.
mrs_ralph
Aug. 10th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
Just passing through via Docbrite's FL.

Would it be possible for you to check out the local historic society there and perhaps pick up a few publications to help with your work? Almost every town has a little old house somewhere that has a creaky handpainted sign grandiously announcing it as the local historic society and nearly always they have some sort of pamphlet with pictures and maps of 'olde towne'. They are rarely full of the regular tourists though you might bump into a few people researching their local roots. It might at least give you something to work with when you have recovered from the tourist blight. Failing that find an off the beaten track privately owned gas station, they will at least have old, fly speckled post cards and yellowed maps of dubious use for current day navigation. Just make sure that the owner of the place doesn't seem over fond of chainsaws. ;-)
( 23 comments — Have your say! )