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By Jim Miller
Upon returning from my travels it was with some amusement that I noted the tag at the end of my “greatest hits” series of columns in June: “We’re re-running some of the best of his columns while Jim takes this ‘vacation’ thing we keep hearing about.” I was amused because I hate “vacations.”
Hate vacations? What am I crazy? No, not crazy just not a fan of the way our consumer culture steals our lives and sells them back to us. As Michael Ventura notes in his seminal essay, “Report from El Dorado”:
Our idea of “a vacation” is an idea only about 100 years old. To “vacation” is to enter an image. Las Vegas is only the most shrill embodiment of this phenomenon … People come here to step into an image, a daydream, a film-like world where “everything” is promised. No matter that the Vegas definition of “everything” is severely limited, what thrills tourists is the sense of being surrounded in “real life” by the same images they see on TV. But the same is true of the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park or Yosemite or Death Valley or virtually any of our “natural” attractions.
Indeed, when we consume packaged experiences, even the most beautiful “natural” phenomenon can be drained of any wonder. When all that was once directly lived moves away into the realm of representation, we struggle to escape from the poverty of our experience. Thus, as the Situationists put it back in the 1960s, tourism is “the chance to go see what has been made banal.”
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The good and the bad of two of San Diego’s most popular family attractions.
By Judi Curry
For the first time in many years, I had the opportunity to baby-sit two of my grandchildren. Actually, these were two of my four great-grandchildren, and, after swimming all day the first day they stayed with me, I realized we would have to do something else or all of us would go nuts in the remaining five days. Thanks to a great friend, I was given complimentary passes for three to Sea World and, in spite of my broken shoulder, decided to drive the short distance instead of taking a bus or taxi. The tickets also included the $15 parking fee.
We parked near the entrance – or what I thought was the entrance – only to find that there was a lot of construction going on and the entrance had been moved about an eighth of a mile from where we parked. (If you have ever had a broken shoulder you know that each step jiggles the two broken bones, and you keep feeling your shoulder to see if the bones are sticking out yet.)
The letter I received told me to pick up my passes at the “Will Call” but….there was no “will call.” I asked the guide where we should go to pick them up and he looked at the huge line where “ordinary” people were picking up their tickets and said “at the end of this line.” I must have looked like I was in pain; a sling on my left arm; a brace on my right arm for my carpal tunnel, and dragging two kids – 6 and 10 – and he took pity on me. He said, “stand right there and I’ll ‘sneak’ you into a fast moving line.” Which he did. Bless him!