July 4, 2015

"My fellow commenters: I thought the whole point of a vacation was to do the things YOU want to do."

"That's exactly what this author did. And what's in so many comments but: 'You drove too fast.' 'You should have stopped more.' 'You obviously didn't see anything.' 'You're inexperienced at driving? How girly.' 'Your trip was too quick and too short.' "If all you wanted to do was drive 700 miles, you could have done it on a boring route.' Sigh. As it so happens, I too am that rare bird known as an inexperienced adult driver (don't even have my license yet, but hope to soon). If that makes me sound girly, my apologies. I am a feminist, but I failed to learn to drive prior to now for pretty much the same reasons as the author (minus the living-in-NYC-metro-area thing). I can relate so well to this story of someone initially approaching a challenging drive with trepidation, then relaxing and gaining confidence along the way, feeling more empowered and enthusiastic as she went, and her initial anxiety transforming into an eager determination to drive the whole trip herself and feel the pride of accomplishment in doing so...."

Says the top-rated comment at NYT article titled "A Rookie’s Road Trip Through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho/A car-averse traveler finds freedom in the driver’s seat, covering 700 miles and three states over three days."

Another comment: "A lot of people are attacking the author for treating the West as an alien spaceland, but I know how she feels. Growing up in the rural West, I felt like a space alien myself when I visited New York City and Washington DC. I didn't know how to deal with the panhandlers and hucksters, the taxis and subways, or the immense symbols of money and power...."

What part of the United States do you view as an alien spaceland?

62 comments:

JackOfVA said...

20 mile circle centered on Washington DC.

Expat(ish) said...

I thought that was an honest article - and she went there knowing it was weird and wanted to understand it at least a little.

When I was 16 I spent an unsupervised summer week in 1981 in Manhattan wandering from top to bottom and side to side. No money so didn't ride transport - I walked with my camera taking pictures - tres foolish. I thought that was a weird place as I'd never really been outside the rural south.

Then I went to Istanbul on an exchange program and the first week we were there went to a Galatasaray fs. Fenerbahce football game along with 120K of my closest Turkish friends. That's when I knew I was in a strange place.

-XC

Rob said...

Obviously, the alien spaceland is Madison, Wisconsin.

BTW, a friend many years ago was telling his old Jewish grandmother his educational plans. "I'm going to study law," he said, "at the University of Wisconsin." "Medicine," she said. "No, bubba, law!" "I know, in Medicine, Visconsin."

The Drill SGT said...

NYC:

"I say nuke the entire site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCbfMkh940Q

Beldar said...

I'm from Texas, but I've traveled along points between Massachusetts, Florida, Iowa, Alaska, Illinois, California, etc. Although places within each are quite different from one another, the differences are no greater in degree than I can find even within Texas; and none made me feel like I was in an alien spaceland. I've never felt like that even when abroad.

People are more alike than they are different, if'n you squint at them properly.

Dr.D said...

The most alien places in America are college campuses. They are completely divorced from reality, up is down, right is wrong, idiocy is supreme. What could possibly be more alien to a person from the real world of work, play, and normal human relationships?

James Pfefferle said...

Less than 250 miles a day in Montana is very leisurely. She made some great stops along the way, this sounds like an excellent trip.

Why the negative comments?

Anonymous said...

In the course of researching past trips I've noticed that there are a lot of people out there convinced that their own way of traveling is the One True Way. The Lonely Planet forums are particularly bad that way, though you also get a certain amount of it from the likes of Rick Steves.

Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

All of it.

john said...

Downtown San Francisco. Did you know that the eye level of the average driver sitting in a typical mid-size rental car is exactly the same as an exposed penis on an average size adult urinating 18 inches from said average driver's eyes on the Southwest corner of Market and 5th? It's true.

Tank said...

Couple of places come to mind.

Yellowstone National Park, walking through (around) steaming, stinky pools of lava like goop, occasionally gushing into the air.

Walking across a dead volcano crater at Volcano National Park.

But the most alien place I've been is Meteora in Greece which feels like you're halfway to heaven.

Will Cate said...

There are several parts of the northeast and midwest that my wife and I have always referred to as "weird old America"... where the roads are narrower and bumpier, the houses are a hundred years old, and you see gas signs that say "Esso" and "Gulf"

Greg Hlatky said...

Downtown anywhere.

jr565 said...

I've never felt like an alien, but I did have expectations as to what to expect. I went to Alabama for my cousins wedding, and I was expecting red neck crackers up and down the state. Instead I got a dose of southern hospitality, and politeness. And saw not a speck of racism. Now, I didn't see blacks and whites living together in kumbaya, but I was expecting whites to be walking by black people and say "Get out of my way, n*gger". Where there was interaction it was simply people standing in line going about their business, no animosity.
ANd it was clean. And green.
Northerners, used to city life should head down there just so your heads will explode. it's not a bad place.
I totally got why Lynrd Skynrd wrote "sweet home Alabama". The skies did seem pretty blue.

Craig Landon said...

Over downtown Hanoi at night, Christmas, 1972. Short visit.

MisterBuddwing said...

My first visit to Los Angeles (in 1985) made me feel like I'd slipped into a parallel universe.

As I drove from LAX to downtown in my rented Pontiac LE5000, I remember spotting a glass building with the name "Herbalife" emblazoned on its face.

I remember at a traffic intersection observing a young woman in a running outfit on the corner, waiting for the light to change. But instead of running in place, she was performing some kind of aerobic dance step.

I'd been told that when pedestrians cross in the middle of the street, cars will stop for them. When it happened to me, I was astonished - a car really did stop for me.

I said "parallel universe." Such quirks aside, it's not like Los Angeles was incomprehensible to me - just a bit different n places. Really different.

Original Mike said...

"In the course of researching past trips I've noticed that there are a lot of people out there convinced that their own way of traveling is the One True Way."

Or their own way of not traveling.

Bobber Fleck said...

The faculty lounge at the UW Madison, decreasing slowly until you reach Cottage Grove.

Michael K said...

New York City. Every time I have been there.

My favorite was as an expert witness in a civil case at the Bronx Supreme Court, the same courthouse as in "Bonfire of the Vanities." The lawyer's office was a block away and had bars over the window air conditioner to keep clients from stealing it. There were no benches in the courthouse. I asked a cop and he told me they would be full of bums sleeping on them if present. I got to wait in the law library. During the case, the jury asked the judge to make one juror take a bath as they could not stand the smell in the jury room.

kcom said...

Delaware. I'm still not convinced it exists.

Paco Wové said...

"I am a feminist, but I failed to learn to drive"

What an odd thing to say.

"I'm a Unitarian, but I eat Corn Flakes."

Huh?

Jim said...

Craig, I was in Hanoi in 2007 with my ex wife (Vietnamese, born near there). As a Army vet who served in Vietnam in 1970, I could have never imagined. Anyway, what amazed me more than anything was how friendly the people were. So many wanted to take pictures of me with their children. And so many spoke English. Maybe I was the alien, it was different than expected, in so many great ways. By the way, Vietnam itself is a beautiful country, when you are not being shot at.

Original Mike said...

"The faculty lounge at the UW Madison, decreasing slowly until you reach Cottage Grove."

In my 30 years on the UW faculty, I never stumbled upon the lounge.

Sam L. said...

Descending into the L.A. basin filled with smog and mountain/hill peaks sticking out of the smog.

Sam L. said...

"Blogger Paco Wové said...

"I am a feminist, but I failed to learn to drive"

What an odd thing to say." What parts of "feminist" are you unfamiliar with? Seems fitting to me.

William said...

I live in NYC. After a while, you learn how to negotiate the intersections and the potholes. It's quite a pleasant place to live. People leave you alone.......We're all intruders in the dust. There are certain New England towns that I would have liked to have been part of and where I felt my alienation more acutely than in NY. In a paradoxical way, if you feel alienated in NYC that makes you part of the community.

Fernandinande said...

alien spaceland?

Everywhere east of -104 longitude and California.

Mt.Roberts attorney said...

The most alien place? Any museum of contemporary art of the kind favored by the elites.

Stephen Reynolds said...

I've been everywhere, man.

tim maguire said...

An unfortunate trend in today's internet--we used to be thrilled to see someone trying for the first time something we know and love, we experienced the joy of newness vicariously through them and cheered them on as they explored. Now we're annoyed they didn't try it already.

retail lawyer said...

San Francisco's Russian Hill, on a rooftop, as the Blue Angels flew overhead last October. Every roof had its own party. You could overhear the talk, and smell them even, but there was a chasm between the various parties, so there was no mingling. Everybody was less than 30, dressed like hipsters, half the guys were over buffed with no tans whatsoever, all white, all potential masters of universe, working at Zynga or Twitter or Salesforce.com, changing the world to be more profitable for Facebook. Then the airshow gets finished up with a 747 heading straight for us at rooftop level over the bay. Everybody wondered whether it had been hijacked, until it pulled up at the last minute. When the roar of the jets died down, you could hear chants of "America, Fuck Yeah". They had checked with their "friends" to insure the chants were OK.

Trashhauler said...

My wife and I spent our first night of marriage in the San Fransisco Hyatt Regency, where, next morning, we ordered two carts worth of breakfast and ate on the balcony for hours.

We then spent the next five days driving down Highway One, stopping when anything caught our eye. I think one day we drove less than 40 miles. We once ate a leisurely lunch at some cliff-side restaurant over-looking the Pacific, sipping wine and entertained by eagles flying past. Finally reached San Simeon, taking in the Hearst mansion, giggling like teens on a field trip with no chaperones. Next day, we returned home to Sacramento non-stop.

Magical weather, a complete lack of pressure, simply enjoying each other. Gorgeous scenery. My, that was nice.

furious_a said...

What part of the United States do you view as an alien spaceland?

Faculty lounges.

richard mcenroe said...

Having left both I have come to view both New York and Los Angeles as the ruined aftermath of alien invasions, misinterpret that as you will.

Big Mike said...

furious_a wins the thread!!!

Humperdink said...

Spouse and I took a trip out west 2 years ago. Absolutely the best vacation we have spent together.

One memory of the trip was seeing a sign in Wyoming: Enblem, Population 10. A few hundred yards later, seeing another sign: Emblem Post Office, turn right.

Ten people and they have their own post office.

The Cracker Emcee said...

"There are several parts of the northeast and midwest that my wife and I have always referred to as "weird old America"... where the roads are narrower and bumpier, the houses are a hundred years old, and you see gas signs that say "Esso" and "Gulf""

I love "wierd old America". Place like scenes from lesser known Edward Hopper paintings. The Southwest and the drier parts of the Northwest also seem to have an unexpected abundance of these. It seems like I always come across them just before dusk after a hot day of driving, a cool breeze just coming up and everything very quiet.

Michael K said...

" I have come to view both New York and Los Angeles as the ruined aftermath of alien invasions, misinterpret that as you will."

I agree. I live in Orange County, which seems a world apart from LA. I go to LA a couple of days a week to teach or to work and get out of there as fast as I can.

The sad thing is that I remember it in 1956 when I came to California to go to college. It was smoggy but the place was magical. It's just too bad. I would leave the state but my children and grandchildren are here.

cubanbob said...

What part of the United States do you view as an alien spaceland?"

Not the physical location or space of any one part of the US but rather the mental space where the readers of the NYT opinion page reside along with the progressives.

The Drill SGT said...

Craig Landon said...
Over downtown Hanoi at night, Christmas, 1972. Short visit.


Buff? Linebacker II?

Trashhauler said...
We then spent the next five days driving down Highway One...

Next day, we returned home to Sacramento non-stop.


Some of the most beautiful miles in the world. Mather AFB?

lgv said...

I drove from upstate NY to Lubbock, TX for my first ever post college job. Once you pass Abilene it seems like an alien land. When you stop at the lone Dairy Queen in each small town you feel like you are int "The Last Picture Show" only in color. The people did not feel alien. The people made it not feel alien.

Virgil Hilts said...

When I lived in Boston area in mid 80s, I used to run along the Charles late at night. Amidst 4 million people, I would not see a single other person walking or running along the river. That felt pretty alien. I have never wanted to lived anywhere where you would be afraid to go outside late at night.

Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
furious_a said...

Big Mike said...

furious_a wins the thread!!!


Thankyou. Thankyouverymuch.

Actually, if by "uninhabited", the bottom of Death Valley at sunset in winter. Like something out of the 'Martian Chronicles'.

Anonymous said...

In light of furious_a's thread winning comment....


Newsrooms.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

I feel utterly lost in suburbia, and somewhat scared in cities.

That said as one who has worked (for our government) 50-plus miles behind guerrilla line in both Colombia and Peru in the midst of some very nasty little wars.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

furious_a and Ms. Althouse ...

Are there really such things as faculty lounges? Never encountered them during all my years in grad school, but that was in Canada. Faculty club? Yes. But those were classy joints where your advisors would take you for a nice dinner and wide-ranging discussions about your research, or conditions in the lab, or other things "off the record".

Titus said...

Small town rural America with boarded up businesses and no young people...and anywhere south of DC.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Sure sure,

but what about Bobby Altman's "The Player?"

C'mon.

It spawned in many ways the greatest of them all, The Larry Sanders Show.

Heh.

That Tim Robbins.

If he allowed himself to portray not Davie Duke or Timmy McVeigh but instead Glenn Beck, everybody but the anti-Mormons win.

I myself have been anti-Mormon but don't consider myself knowledgable nor wise enough to judge or Judge others that way hence retract any condemnation other than that on behaviors such as any other could commit I have/would/do condemn herewith and henceforth.

BudBrown said...

Orlando.

Popville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Popville said...

Most places within 40 miles of I-95 from Alexandria, VA to New Haven, CT. And the Dallas/Fort Worth area (even though I grew up in NC I still cannot wrap my head around the continued existence of mother-daughter stores).

* typo & no edit, so delete & re-comment *

David said...

The Alien Spaceland is somewhere in my brain. It asserts itself regardless of physical location.

On a terrestrial level, Winnetka.

Original Mike said...

Water parks.

Titus said...

Anywhere that doesn't have a creative economy company.

Also, a place where it is known as a major red district with an overbundance of old fat white people.

tits.

Phil 3:14 said...

Corner of MLK Jr. Ave SE and Malcolm X Ave. SE, Anacostia, DC.

(don't be a hater)

Phil 3:14 said...

50 N Temple, Salt Lake City

Phil 3:14 said...

Jeff Bridges felt like an alien wherever he went

"You're not from around her, are you?"

Trashhauler said...

The Drill Sgt asked, "Mather AFB?"

Other side of town. McClellan AFB. I flew Super Constellations and later Sabreliners from there. Flew three or four other aircraft over the years at other places which were not so nice.

I used to go to Friday night dances at Mather, though, before I met the wife. The girls would flock to the Mather O'Club trying to catch themselves a student navigator. As a young pilot, I enjoyed the target rich environment.

David said...

Titus is boring.

Be said...

North of Lubec, Maine, where along the coast, they have all those radio towers that I'm assuming are relays for submarines. That's a weird sight to see after driving for miles in the middle of nowhere.

In terms of alienation? There's been nowhere in the US or overseas where I've visited that other people have made me feel alienated.