Looking for the tourist. Part 1. Way out.

Контент 18+ (лексика, описание эротических сцен)
Long ago the only thing I knew about tourism was that I didn't  want to be a 'tourist'. I just wanted out of America. It was a kind of yearning. You see, my dad -- who wasn't much of a dad back then -- was nevertheless the only member of my family whose mind went beyond the state of West Virginia. He was an artist and he showed me the museums where Van Gogh, Renoir, and the others were hanging on the walls. I knew right away that I needed to travel to places where at least something of what they evoked still remained. I wanted to wander those boulevards.  I loved the balconies overhanging the narrow streets. The half-turned, suggestive faces that only the painter's oil had preserved.

I felt homesick for the 'absences' in my life -- The windy autumn avenues not walked upon, the starving winter evenings in a Parisian garret composing poetry that would eventually rank with Villon, Baudelaire and Rimbaud (I dreamed); the walks along the Seine with some girl named "Francois', who, though I didn't speak a word of French, would somehow understand me totally. Madly love me and grow old with me among the hills of the cobbled streets where tourists never came.
It was all bullshit, I guess.. .. But the yearning was real. Anyway, that's what it is to be young, right?
Eventually -- 1970 to be precise -- I went to Europe for the first time. I was 21 years old. My body had given itself over to seduction, but a part of my spirit was still virginal. I didn't go to Europe to take photos, and there was no Facebook to f*** everybody's brain with. No, it was a pilgrimage. It was a holy journey to a holy land.
Back then, countries such as Italy and France still had their own currency. There was no EU. No mass immigration, certainly nothing like now. And, for sure, there was no English, Or very little. I certainly couldn't speak French or Italian, but somehow not only did I manage to communicate, it even added to the mystery, and thus was all the more alluring.
When I was in France and Italy, and later, England, I felt as if I were a long, long way from home. Any successes I had with those foreign girls -- and there were a small number of them -- were intensified by the fact that they were so different from anything I had ever known. And in the background of course there was the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Roman Colosseum, the Tower of London. But those monuments to history, while intensely stimulating and thoroughly enjoyed, did not stand out like ultimate justifications for my coming there.
It was the avenues. The River. The tastes and smells. The backstreets, especially the backstreets. The slums even.
Most people in the past who set off to travel were following some variant of this ideal that I have described: they were 'seekers' hankering after something that life in Portsmouth or Dortmund or Joliet, Illinois, didn't provide. Maybe it was religion-inspired, like the Knights of the Crusades spending all they had to go into the "Holy Land" -- ; maybe it was the desire for a new beginning, like those Europeans who first sailed to the "New World", or the later Americans known as 'Sooners' and '49ers' who went looking for land and wealth..
It amounted to following a dream. Well, I didn't want religion. Or did I? When I wandered among the shadows that sprawled beneath those great, towering cathedrals among whose aisles and pews so many sincere people have knelt, what did I want, and what was I looking for? I think I wanted to feel as they felt, to be part of their centuries, love in their gardens, die in their beds. I must have been crazy, but I wanted to follow Mona Lisa home; I wanted to marry the Girl with the Pearl Earring. I wanted to be drunk in the streets of old Amsterdam. Crazy. But I yearned for it, not as fantasy, but rather as a return to old, really-felt and experienced memories. Maybe THAT was the crazy part. I wanted to go home.To a place where I belonged. And I, strangely but in retrospect fairly predictably, imagined the past as a place where I could go and be accepted.
Most likely beheaded !!!
My best memories were early mornings, waking up next to women whose names I would never remember.
Now Tourism is Big Business. It is an industry wherein masses of humanity with sufficient disposable income are manipulated into feeling a sense of obligation to visit would-be exotic places and take a lot of photographs. I mean, hey man, what would Facebook, Instagram, and all the other Social Networks be without scads of photos to disseminate and smiles to pass around like fast-food napkins -- even if in reality these 'virtual' manifestations of joy reflect merely superficial images of a NOT REALLY FOUND adventure. or indeed expose what these, 'spontaneous' flickerings wrought of a camera or smartphone can never supply -- which is Authentic Experience?
Nowadays people do not want to "go there"; rather they want to "have been there". Not even the most trying ordeals with dishonest taxi drivers and dead-vampire, indifferent hotel staff; not even the most uneventful 14-DAYS at the FIVE-STAR LUXURY HOTEL (which could be ANYWHERE -- do you remember what country you are in??), where you see nothing but a beach overcrowded with other tourists, and which for a person with a brain must represent periods of almost penitential boredom - well, who among the pleasure-seekers cannot fail to see that it is mostly all for nothing, nothing more than a False Dentist who wants fill Spiritual Cavities with Cyber fillings?
Most Tourists nowadays do not know what they want. They will say they want Experience.
They want to 'experience' t-h-i-n-g-s. But to the locals, who fleece them (rob them, shortchange them), they stand out like Lepers, even if in Italy they buy Italian T-shirts.
I know, because I did it. At one time, I really wanted to be Italian. I was living in Rome, and I did everything I could do to look and sound Italian. I wore T-shirts that proclaimed "Totti" and "Gli Azzurri". By then I could actually speak the language. I tried to act, walk, and look Italian. In reality, I must have struck them as some strange, American Rambo-mutation or jail-break desperado.. In the piazzas, even the Africans pigeon-holed me immediately. "Heah cum de Ameicano. Sale eem sumpin,"  they sniggered. I was about as Italian as a plastic meatball being flushed down a Manhattan tenement toilet.
And I wanted to be Italian so much. Forget it. I was a mere tourist. A tosser, a proper, foreign, American wanker. I didn't want to be a tourist. But I was a tourist. One of thousands, MILLIONS. The French, the Italians, the British, they were all soooo nice to me, even as secretly they laughed at me. I wasn't special at all.
I wanted to cry, to sob. Then I said, "Hey, guys, f**k off." And I didn't care. Then they started to like me.
This is starting to sound too personal. Most people who travel have no desire at all for the inner experiences I have described. Mostly they are indifferent and, if not shallow, at least not as responsive as I always was. They don't care. They want a ...a....Holiday.
I once asked a woman, the kept wife of some alpha-male businessman, to compare Greece and Turkey (she had visited both on a recent vacation). I was expecting her to talk about the people. Instead, she spent the next half-hour comparing the hotels. THE HOTELS. To her, this was the difference between Greece and Turkey..
But that was her experience. What could I say but "Thank you?"

In the next part I will tell you how Time, Laughter, and Not Giving a F**k turned all this into a positive, ok?
===Eric Richard Leroy===

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