Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Travelogue Monologue Suckalogue

The Ambassador and the RV

This story ran in Sunday's Washington Post Travel Section. The German Ambassador in DC and his wife decided to spend their summer vacation in an RV. Wacky hijinks ensue, and the wife writes an article about their experiences. This could have been really fun, great stuff.

However, I found her article annoying, poorly written, and lacking in any sort of emotional resonance. She's been in our country for four years, and has nothing to say about America that hasn't been said a hundred million times already. Guess what? We're all really fat and we like to throw stuff away instead of fixing it.

It's amazing, but in one article she managed to hit every last one of my Top 10 Travelogue Pet Peeves. Some quotes:

1. "But the real America, we felt, was happening somewhere else. Clearly without us."

It always drives me crazy when Washington is described as some sort of alternate universe "fake America." I'm sorry, I left my "real America" Bible, giant belt buckle, and dog named Rusty at home. I’m sorry I can’t provide that authentic American experience for you.

What a twit. It annoys me to no end when people feel like they have to drive all the way out to the middle of nowhere to “really experience” a place.

2. "It's not something I'm particularly keen on experiencing myself." "Nothing is as I had hoped....I keep these thoughts to myself."

Nothing is better for a vacation than sulking! So, why are you exploring the "real America" if you don't want to? She spends the entire article moaning about how she doesn't want to be on this trip. Let me tell you, nothing is more exciting than paragraph after paragraph of sheer whining.

3. "Karl teaches political science at Harvard; Debbie inherited the 250-year-old antiques-filled farmhouse from her parents."...."Peter Schleifenbaum, with whom I played ring-around-the-rosie in a German kindergarten many years ago, is a professor of forestry and rules over 60,000 acres of land, including more than 50 lakes."…“The success of such a trip clearly depends on one essential: to be equipped with a long list of friends.”… “We've rented a house there [Martha’s Vineyard], and at dinner parties we share our vacation stories with British aristocrats, football team owners, Washington power brokers and writers who live on the island year-round. They all stare at us in disbelief.”

We get it. You have really important, glamorous friends. You’re the most popular kids in school. Now stop reading your Christmas card list to me.

4. "Looks like a mix between Lake Starnberg in Bavaria and Lago di Como in Italy," Wolfgang says."… “It's like the Norwegian fiords and England's Cornwall all in one.”

You're well traveled and sophisticated. We get it, already. Talk about the trip you’re actually taking, please.

5. "Milky twilight is settling in."

Eeeeeeesh. Did she get that from Dial-a-Cliche? Let's not even discuss the "alluring blue water" she discovers.

6. "Next to us is a party of 10. Grandpa and Grandma, each weighing more than 250 pounds, enjoy their first cigarettes of the day in camp chairs."

Yes, because Lord knows that Germany has no fat people. Germans never touch anything like sausages, beer or sweets. It bugs me when writers, especially European ones, imply that Americans are the world's only overweight slobs.

7. "At Cornwall, we cross the St. Lawrence River back to the United States. Nobody checks the vehicle to see if we are hiding any terrorists."

Holders of diplomatic passports aren't usually searched, you nitwit. Remember that little thing called ‘diplomatic immunity’? I hate it when someone with special privileges implies that they are just another traveler.

8. "Everything on Route 2 is about cars: car dealers, new cars, used cars, auto body shops, repair places, wrecked cars under sun umbrellas, garages, scrap merchants. It all seems to symbolize a mobile, throwaway society."

Or, you’re in the auto repair section of town.

“Here you start something, give it up and go somewhere else. Buy, sell, tear down the old, build up the new. Are we in Europe too attached to the past?”

Are we in Europe too attached to asking ourselves lame pseudo-philosophical questions? Both of these quotes bother me for the same reason: trying to bodily force symbolism out of the mundane does NOT make you deep.

9. "You did what?" one gentleman bursts out. "All alone, no help, with the baby? Thank God you did not bring the vehicle on the island!"

I absolutely love this. I adore the idea that driving around in an RV, which pensioners do on a routine basis, is some sort of grand adventure. It's not like she was in 'Nam, people. She slept in an RV for a few nights. The horror! The horror!

10. “Let's face it: Between professional socializing, embassy functions and fundraisers, how else could we have ever felt so cut loose, so independent and so mobile -- so American?”

I don’t know…could you maybe try getting out of the RV for once? Or try talking to actual Americans? At no point in the trip does she have a conversation with, or meet any of these “real Americans” she was so damn eager to see at the beginning of the trip. She and her husband just putter around, visiting one upper-crust friend after another. How very enlightening. I truly hate it when a travel writer makes no effort whatsoever to talk to any locals.

I guess what burns me most of all is that this self-serving dreck was on the front page of the Washington Post’s Travel Section, while I still toil away in Blogland. There truly is no justice in this world.


alexander mauss said...


i like your blog, so don't worry about not being on the front page of washington post's travel section...

i guess her article gives some clues about why she is "the ambassador's wife" and not the ambassador himself...

btw, when are you coming to berlin share some of your prejudices?? at least josh made it here on his european trip...

merry x-mas!

Anonymous said...

"But the real America, we felt, was happening somewhere else. Clearly without us.

That's how the RV idea was born. We decided to drive up to Haliburton Forest in Ontario."

That's my favorite part folks. We wanted to discover the "real America," so we went to Canada!

Anonymous said...

I don't think being on the front page of the Post is anything to envy. Whether she knows it or not, Jutta Falke-Ischinger is the joke of the town now. Keep up the good work--I love your blog!

Shannon said...

Thanks for all the comments, guys. I couldn't believe how silly her article was - "I wanted to see the real America, so I sulked and didn't talk to a single soul." She was bound and determined to turn up her nose at us. (Frankly, I experience enough America-bashing by living in Europe, I don't need to see it in my hometown newspaper.)

Mauss, we're thinking of coming to Berlin this summer.

Dip Lomat said...

I have a friend who is a cop in Calif. He said that although you cannot do much to folks with Dip passports, you can certainly ensure their credentials are in order if necessary. In fact, he made a Greek diplomat who was really an A-hole wait while he verified that this person was really a diplomat. The person was delayed and all he had to do was to be polite and he would have been out of there faster than you can say "persona non-grata"

Anonymous said...

i am 14 years old and my mom told me to read the article and then read the blog.. she said it was hilarious. so i did.. well i tried to concentrate on this ambassador's-wife-person's article but it was plain boring.. the parts where she complained and said really stupid stuff trying to sound deep were sort of entertaining.. they showed just how stuck up she is. the best part though was your blog, shannon! you would ACTUALLY deserve to be on the front page of the washington post's anything.. there truly isn't any justice in this world! oh and could someone please tell jutta-something-something to stop trying to be a journlist and stick to attending black tie events.

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