Thursday, June 23, 2011

When being a tourist sucks

Something that I wrote in Rome. Parts of it might not make much sense... This was at a point when cities were really starting to get to us, so I was feeling a bit negative:

My ears gradually fill with pressure until a minute jaw adjustment, a clenching, releases the buildup in a satisfying pop. Then we are above ground, in the sunlight, surrounded by green. A foreign language spoken into both ears. It is animated, as if spoken by actors in a perpetual play of life. It is the language spoken in the stereotypical Hollywood films. The Mafia, spaghetti, pizza, sometimes poor immigrants, exaggerated hand gestures. Almost none of it is true, although the food is truly delicious.

Where do you sit in a city with no parks? The weather is hot, balmy in the evenings, and your body longs to remain outside as long as possible, to feel free and full of potential. But where do you sit?

How do you live in a city where walking is more hazardous than driving? Burning fossil fuels is perpetuated by a lack of pedestrian infrastructure. Especially in a city so small, what a disgrace. A disgrace to match that of the Catholic Church which presides over the streets.

I leave this place through fields of green. Maybe this is where the real world is. Few people take pictures because "What is there to see?" But what is there to see in an ostentatious display of corruption, wealth, power, murder, and intolerance? What can you see over the sea of crowds that engulf you into its mass of ignorant tourists? Does anybody even know what they are seeing? Can we even learn when a solid block of bodies obstructs the way to the information placard, or worse, pushes us back and back and back until we give up from exhaustion? Does anybody even care to learn?

Traveling has become a play in a foreign language where you have the obstructed view seats. You try to peer around the columns, try to understand something about what unfolds or has unfolded before you, but you are forced, in the end, to sit back while flashes go off around you. Once in a while, you pull out your camera and reach to snap a shot because there must be something interesting out there if everyone else is taking pictures. Right?

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