Tearing & Comparing.
Disgust, repulsion hatred, and—consequently—defense
and rationalization describe background emotions and
feelings of any experience that takes me from my familiar
center and moves me into the boundary land of my own
prejudices and biases, of my own beliefs and convictions.
I’m not a traveler. Or tourist. Comfort comes first.
Whatever is strange and foreign or “new” is unsettling
to me even when I call it novelty. I am as offended by a
wealthy environment as by a strange impoverished one.
A trip to a
stirs the same adjusting mechanism, fitting foreign
into familiar, as a visit to the Owen Mills district of
Swannanoa, with its shanties and shamble and pot-holed
The range of discrepancy, the relativity of having and
not having, the various ways individuals confirm their
necessary illusions of control and responsibility and pass
their time of day: these challenge my own preferences
and accommodations within a range of an hour’s drive
no less or more than the stress generated by 24 hours of
air-travel to another country where, due to no merit of my
own, I am greeted and treated as guest. Toasted and toured
and apparently adored.
There are more offensive ways to travel than as welcome
guest and honored American visitor. Nonetheless, it is a
discombobulation worth vigilance. So easy to take for
granted: hugs, flowers, gifts, ceremony and proclamations,
food and drink, lavish generosity poured on a handful
of common citizens standing in for, or up for, something
bigger than themselves. Representatives. Representing
It is generally my desire and effort to be, or appear to
be, savvy. To take in stride, knowingly, circumstances
at hand. I can’t gawk or exclaim or show discomfort
or surprise without revealing my ignorance. This is true
at work, in the classroom, on a used-car lot, wherever
transaction is considered serious.
It’s not true on tour. Gawking. exclamation. and surprise
are the purpose. As tourist, I go somewhere to see and
be amazed and amused.
To be guest and tourist at the same time: a condition
worth considering and easily ignored in the confusion
of preparation, packing necessities, worrying over
baggage weight, wondering about currency, range of
temperature, and the undisguised innocence of the
“tourist”” is a complication I can consider now,
looking bake retrospectively, academically.
It does little for social conversation to go somewhere
strange and return with no distinctions: no “this’s” as
opposed to “that’s,” no comparison for consideration
and comment. Whether one emphasizes “differences”
or “sames” may be a matter of temperament and up-
bringing. But neither particularities nor generalities
can be entertained without establishing some bases for
distinction, cutting edges that divide and allow a kind
of binocularity, a two-ness offering (possibly) potential
for three dimensional depths and appreciation or, more
simply and more probably, an opposition allowing
argument and judgment and two-dimensional
preferentiality. Distinction. Discrimination.
(Back in the U.S.S.R:
Summer of 90)