Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tourist Destinations and Story Destinations

For considerable times, you've lived in tourist destinations. While living in these tourist destinations, you've gone to yet other tourist destinations, carrying with you among your baggage and sensitivities a deja vu of tourist attractions and tourist behavior.

With one or two notable exceptions, most tourist destinations have going on about them a full spectrum of activity and governance in addition to the activities fine-tuned to captivate, entertain, and feed tourists, in the process inducing them to spend additional funds on tours, memorabilia, and that lovely portmanteau definition, souvenirs.

You've lived a good chunk of your life in the city of your birth, Los Angeles.  Now, a hundred miles north, you live in yet another tourist destination, which is itself a few hundred miles south of one of the great North American tourist destinations, San Francisco.

You also lived in Providence, Rhode Island, a pleasing enough city although one not thought of as much of a tourist destination.  Because of your and your father's interest in baseball, you ventured to a more definitive tourist location, Boston. 

Between all these were ventures to such notable tourist destinations as New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Miami Beach, and perhaps your most favored, not so much because there is much of anything left as because you are better able to experience its history as a series of ghostly adventures.  This is Virginia City, Nevada, where Mark Twain got his start and where, in a much smaller way, you got some traction.

Thinking of tourist destinations brings to your mind a link you'd never before considered, although, now that you do think about it, there are connections between tourist destinations and attempts to make a living in ways related to writing stories, writing about stories, teaching courses about ways in which stories were written, and, of course, in ways with direct relationship to preparing written works for publication.

Readers expect to be entertained, to see buildings or settings where notable events took place, and come away with a sense of having experienced a sense of what it would be like to live in such a place under such circumstances.  

Readers and tourists love scenes of battles, which brings to your mind Bobbie Ann Mason's wonderful short story,"Shiloh," about a relatively young couple--mid thirties--who'd married young and are now experiencing extreme relationship difficulties.  A major scene in the story takes place during a picnic at Shiloh, the scene of a great Civil War battle.

Tourist destinations provide activities such as displays, reenactments of historical events (The gunfight at O.K. Corral, for instance), local cuisine, photo opportunities, local crafts (in fact the raison d'ĂȘtre for such places as Madrid, New Mexico), and a range of dreadful souvenirs that seem fated to final resting places in closets or attics (statuettes of the Eiffel Tower, I Heart NY tee shirts, statuettes of the Statue of Liberty, etc.).

Some story, such as Mason's, are more interested in an investigation of the interior landscape, providing the reader with a sense of having learned something by virtue of having been taken to a deeper, less traveled place within the human psyche.

Some tourist destination types of story are confections, deliberate attempts to play on emotions and outcomes that speak to the causes of the problems in Mason's story, rather than their solution.

Nearly a year ago, thanks to your invitation to be a part of a nearby writer's conference, you had the opportunity to stay at a tourist location, Morro Bay, California, which grabs you immediately because of its seaside locale.  After being there an hour or so, you were filled with the fantasy of wishing to live there, for reasons that had nothing to do with tourist destinations, rather kinds of elegant solitude, spectacular sea views, bright, coastal light, and nearby hills of soft pastel and rich, earth colors.

In more recent months, you've had cause to consider two places in New Mexico, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces, as destinations for far more than tourist attractions.  If New Mexico had a coastal front or even a large, moody lake, you'd be more inclined.  For now, and probably the rest of your time, they are more meaningful to you than tourist destinations, but for all its quirks, California is your destination of the heart.

Dramatic destinations are another matter; they are places where the locals are as bewildered by the human condition as you, manage an occasional, elegant meal, served on thick, substantial platters, with a decent wine or ale, a plate of cheese and fruit with rich coffee and a fresh baguette.

There, the locals are driven, cranky, imaginative, preoccupied but not so much so that they cannot stop to scratch a dog behind the ears and tell a blooming young girl that she is a beauty in the making.

At first, you may have some trouble, focusing on the things the characters say in context with the way they say them or, in general, they behave.  But in the resolution, the closure, things will work out well when you realize you and they speak the same language and understand one another.

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