Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Family Vacation

Last week the family and I packed up and spent a week on Galveston with my father. We rented a nice house on the beach and just basically vegged. Alas, it was only a week, so now it's back on my head.

There was no 'net access at the house, which (surprisingly) I was pretty much okay with. I think my kids were about to go crazy, though. Perhaps I'm spoiled by living in Austin, but Galveston as a whole is not very "wired": my father and I visited a coffeehouse and asked about wifi access, and the barista looked puzzled and responded "What's 'wifi'?" That's a true story.

While I didn't have any deep psychological issues with the lack of internet, we all missed its presence. There is, I think, a profound difference between pathologically checking one's email every 5 minutes (mea culpa), and googling to find a decent restaurant. Especially in a place like Galveston, where we found decent restaurants to be in short supply.

Just an odd curiousity: I noticed that vacation expenditures on Galveston Island seemed to come in $50 quanta -- lunch tended to be $50, a tank of gas was $50, groceries were $50, dinner was $100, Roberta took the kids to Moody Gardens and it was $150, etc.

When we weren't doing typical vacation things like swimming or crabbing or spending money, we watched a lot of television (the house had a minimal satellite connection). Specifically, since my father is kind've a news-junkie, we watched a lot of CNN. It's odd how, not even a week later, I feel like I'm writing about ancient history, but last week was the week when Andrew Weiner was 'in the news' -- the press couldn't shut up about the guy. They kept on and on about how Weiner was "under intense political pressure to resign", but from where I was sitting it looked a lot more like "intense media pressure". It was like they were all deeply offended that he had the nerve to lie to Wolf Blitzer about his private affairs.

I guess I'm weird, but whenever I see the press humiliating a public figure about some sexual malfeasance, deep down inside I tend to be rooting for the guy who's catching the heat. And I'm sad when they (almost always) give in to the pressure and resign and apologize. I would have loved to see Weiner hold a press conference and (literally) show the press his middle finger and tell them "screw you all, you scurvy hypocrites, I'm not leaving office until they drag me out!" Which is maybe why Bill Clinton is one of my favorite Presidents.

The hypocrisy of the press never ceases to amaze me. Have these people never heard of "hubris"? Like, am I supposed to believe that none of these media talking heads has ever engaged in sex-chat on the 'net? "Karma's a bitch", so the saying goes -- I would not want to be standing anywhere near a member of the press when Karma comes a'calling.

But ... this is supposed to be a post about vacation. One of the things we tend to do as a family is listen to audio books when driving long distances. This has occasionally proved to be embarrassing -- ref the time Roberta opted for Nyla Goldberg's Bee Season, which contains some surprisingly explicit sexual content that required the use of my highly developed Dad Driving Reflexes to deftly jab at the "off" button while exclaiming "hey, is that a deer?!", all before the reader could get to the 'n' in 'penis'.

But we're older and wiser now. For this trip, we opted for Clive Cussler's White Death, in which the suave, well-muscled NUMA agent Kurt Austin goes up against an evil eskimo mad scientist who plans to unleash giant ill-tempered mutant salmon into the world's oceans and thus gain a world-wide monopoly on the seafood industry. There's also some stuff with a nazi zeppelin and ancient Basque relics. No, seriously, that's really what's in the book. I'm noticing that White Death was published in 2003, while Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was released in 1997. It's a little hard to imagine that Cussler wasn't "influenced" by another evil scientist's desire for "sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads".

Also -- while I do not know this for certain, White Death makes me wonder if Cussler actually vacationed in the Faroe Islands and elsewhere and then penned the book so he could write the travel off as "research". I can imagine him being audited: "so, you're claiming these airline tickets, hotel, and meal bills as 'research'?" and the author whips out the book and says "read pages 110 through 124!" While I've never read a confession of such, I'm convinced that writers do this. It's difficult to read Gregory McDonald's Carioca Fletch (for example) without wondering if McDonald co-wrote it with his tax attorney after a Brazilian Carnivale blow-out.

Oh, one last comment re audio books: I'm far from his biggest fan, but Orson Scott Card's unabridged Ender's Game is a very good, family-friendly book for a long journey.

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