Wanderlust Roulette: The Why of Travel

Anyone facing inescapable tragedy must, in pursuit of functional sanity, gradually come to the conclusion that life is a bit akin to a game of roulette, the bet already made long before your birth in the decisions of your parents, and those around you in childhood, by utterly fallible humans addled by free martinis and unlimited casino buffet hot dogs. Nineteen black. Ninety red. The soft lighting of the demented casino shines upon the plastered faces of your parents as they stumble towards the table, half-drunk and infested with stomach parasites, all too ready to, “Throw it all on black”! And on doth the wheel spin.

Roulette

‘C’mon, baby, no whammies, no whammies, no whammies’. *Dad pukes half-masticated hot dog onto his shoes*

Thus, the choice is made. Do you start life with a sizable bank to begin your own gambling career? Parents that won’t go haywire too soon, family dog, white-picket fence, and the picturesque idealism of the American upper middle class as one of two and a half kids?

Or did you get a bad spin? Alcoholic father and mangled mother, a dog that goes insane six years into its life, slavering with no memory of your affection? Brown-picket fence? Despair embodied, to be sure.

All on black, all on black.

A trapdoor opens ‘neath the table and out you tumble in a hot pink onesie, cute as buttons, a bubbly baby, in the metaphorical gauche casino of life to be greeted with the, suddenly purple-tasting, lights of a phantasmagoria and either fat stacks of cash and a Lamborghini or three cents and the consolation prize, fake cat shit. You look at either set of options as a baby would.

Like you’ve no idea what the fuck is going on.

But that’s what you’ve got to begin with. We don’t choose these things. It’s a casino. Just be glad you got the consolation prize. We may not choose our circumstances, but, luckily, we get to choose what we make of them. That’s the essence of being human. Existence precedes essence, as a thoroughly unattractive Frenchman once said. Existence will occur, has occurred. We have the terrifying, in every sense of the word, freedom of true choice available to us any time, at our fingertips. Have since we tumbled out of the roulette table.

So, with that in mind, the gamble and the cat shit, let’s talk a bit, or, more appropriately, I’ll ‘talk’ at you a bit and you’ll imagine me with a sexy, generically British, accent as you read along, about my compulsion to travel. Wanderlust being the appropriately German phrase to nick in this context meaning a love for travel.

Of course, that appellation may be a tad charitable. I’d not left my home state for anything more than a day until only a few years ago and it is difficult to say you ‘love to travel’ without a single foreign country under your belt. Undoubtedly, that lack of movement early in life shaped my attitude on the subject. My parents, poor as they were, never saw much value in traveling as I grew up so there I sat, bored in the repressed Midwest for my upbringing.

I digress.

Travel. Why? The why is always the linchpin.

Well, history has always been a pet subject of mine, a pet that I keep chained in the closet fed by a steady diet of Stalin-era Soviet propaganda and scones, and cultural appreciation of ways vastly different from my own humble ways goes hand-in-hand with this interest.

Stalin voting

Vote for Comrade Stalin! OR ELSE! 😀

I’d love to see the monuments of states of the past, the tourist traps, the Coliseums and the Machu Picchus and the Great Zimbabwes, and marvel at these edifices constructed to impress upon viewers the glory and power of their respective civilizations. I’d ponder at the feet that trod that very ground, wonder at their lives, their wants, needs, and beliefs all those lifetimes ago, merely a pixel in a cosmological history in which we still play our own part, however miniscule.

Equally important, though, are the more unpleasant aspects of human history. I want to see those places that don’t reflect well upon us as a species. I want to see Paul Blobel’s ‘Thirty-thousand Jews’, as well as Nyarubuye, the hell embodied by the Interahamwe, and the palpable horror of the portraits lining the walls of S-21. These gravesites of the human spirit are the true timeless monuments. Reminders of where we’ve been and how utterly insane and methodically evil human beings can get. Bear witness to the collective guilt of mankind and shed a tear for our soul. The capacity was there for all of us at birth, after that roulette table tumble, a tabula rasa for any system of beliefs.

S 21

Seven survivors.

That is my concept of original sin, the burden of history, the capacity for madness, of a species that has come so far with cars and microwaves and AK-47’s; come so far, but hasn’t. This, also, I’ll bear witness to. I feel compelled to do so.

History can be a sobering thought, and definitely an alluring reason to travel, but it isn’t the only one, or, I’m willing to wager, even a major one with most people. No, I’d wager most people are in the market for escapism.

Anecdotally, I’ve known plenty of people to take vacations for pleasure based around theme parks or resorts, your Disneyworlds, your Daytona Beaches, your cruise liners. And, while I find these trips to be enticing in their own way, I’m not nearly as interested in the prospect of these visits, particularly not consistently. Every once in awhile, maybe. I realize there’s often a warm and fuzzy family element to these things, so no offence to you if that happens to be your family or these trips are your bag. A trip is who you spend it around.

But, if you, dear reader, may indulge me in a bit of idle philosophizing: we live in a world already steeped in hyperreality, as another unattractive, though not quite as much so, Frenchman once said. Constantly bombarded as we are by the proper ways to act, the proper things to say, and the proper ways to do our drag makeup, in books, TV shows, news, and a muthafuckin’ Pizza Bagels (TM) box, it is difficult to discern what ‘proper’ even means anymore, or, frankly, if the word has any meaning at all.

But that’s a tale for another day. A day that will likely bring me scores of female followers waving their panties in helicoptering brilliance.

Resorts are a further dimension of this hyperreality, a logical extreme, with the alternative being everyday life ie you flipping burgers and pushing carts in between masturbation sessions, commoditized for the purpose of generating money. Not that that’s the most horrible thing these days. Most of the greatest works of art were created in the spirit of getting enough Twinkies to sustain the artist.

But the resort experience isn’t real. What matters is who you spend it with, whether you buy into it. Disneyland will never be the real world. Nor will Cancun or Monte Carlo. They exist upon systems of signs conjured from the air without connection to the world we live in, a world in and of themselves. So, while I’d certainly relish the opportunity to go anywhere at this point in my life as I sit writing and destitute like a true nameless guttersnipe of a blogger, I find these places far less interesting to visit on a consistent basis, and downright bizarre for people that continue to want to do so. It’s an appealing illusion. But just that. And not one that holds my interest for too long. It’s never a replacement for the people you love.

And I’m a sarcastic misanthrope.

disneyland-paris-bons-plans-0240

Have yourselves a magical time. Eh, someday? 🙂

Maybe it’s just me. Hey, I’m sure the food is good.

But even Disneyland wouldn’t survive the extinction of our species. The Chicxulub asteroid that contributed to the downfall of the dinosaurs was a mere six to nine miles in diameter, or, to put it another way, a distance my two-hundred pound ass could run in well under two hours. Gamma ray burst. Yellowstone super-volcano. So many horribly easy ways for our short-sighted species to end. And all of human civilization becomes as Ozymandias.

Maybe, I’d like to see something that would survive such catastrophes. There can be such wondrous natural beauty in the world in the form of mountains, for instance. I’ve never seen mountains in all my life minus a few passing gazes when I was two. Probably. Or I might’ve just thought how hilarious it was that I soiled myself. Ah, those halcyon days.

I’d love to see majestic peaks, to breathe that air, a spot thin on the old oxygen, and think on the inconceivable force generated by plate tectonics to thrust these hills high, high into the air. And the snow. There are few things that I love unconditionally like snow.

The ocean is seventy percent of the world’s surface and the cradle of life, that is, of course, if you believe that evolution brought us from a single-celled Eve. Or maybe a bearded man in the sky did it, and gave us this nice, tiny wading pool that occasionally generates cyclones and massive human devastation, but is otherwise tame enough to be navigable for millions of pounds of freight tonnage. Possible. Less excited on that option.

But, and here’s the clincher, I’ve never seen the ocean. Can you believe that shit, dear reader? When even the generic JPEGs the ocean on an image search are breathtaking? Sad, sad, sad. Feel like it’d be quite the eye-opening experience, one taken for granted by plenty of people and, if I’m being honest, which, it’s a blog so of course I’m being honest when all of twelve people will actually read this far, seeing the ocean is probably my top traveling goal at this point in my life. Often do I wonder how it’d feel, how gross and salty and cold the water would be, with all those quadrillions of pounds of whale splooge floating around in there, this water where life began from a slow amalgamation of amino acids, all those ‘years’ ago.

My parents’ game of roulette came out rather badly, as I’m sure you’ve gathered. I was born, out of a roulette table stork, mind you, with a lot of catching up to do. Perhaps, some of you do too. Kindred spirits, eh? Least we all get some novelty feces. And there’s always something to be done with it. Freedom is pretty terrifying and awesome like that.

I imagine the ocean at sunset, orange and glorious, and I’m seated in the sand, shirtless with a black-stringed necklace and a smirk that’d melt a glacier, a real one, not a sarcastic one. Just pondering…

Absolutely nothing. For once. And, God, it’d be alright.

For those folks that won’t get an opportunity to see such things again.

Pleasant eves to yeh, lasses and laddies. As per the usual, thanks for reading and see you in three for some more talking of the bollocks.

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