I think not.
Dear Magazine Editors:
Please do not let this become a trend of any lasting duration:
“From the main tower you spot La Virgen de Quito, a winged Madonna standing watch from a distant hilltop, and you can’t help thinking that a cable stretched between here and there would make for the mother of all ziplines.”
Is that so?
“You order chef Rafael Perez’s pork confit taquitos, followed by a mammoth seafood plate featuring grilled grouper. You may have skipped the beef dish, but there is something unmistakably condor-like in how you go about attacking the seafood.”
I’ve run into several of these second-person command narratives and I can’t say I care for them. Granted some of the recommended stops are worthy, memorable even. But to have the travel writer impose some artificial emotional demand on your journey is maddening: “Next you gleefully sip a Barolo whilst savoring a scrumptious antipasto of sardines and chives.” Well, what if the service sucks that day whilst I’m at your charming little cantina? What if they’re out of sardines, or the artichoke hearts were sour? What if some noxious tour group from the hinterlands has ordered all the sardines because one got wind of your little travel recommendation? What of my visit in that case? What if it’s dumping rain outside and my rental car has just been stolen? What’s next? Have me gaily strolling down a side street in some dreary, “aspirational” neighborhood in Lisbon, praying for my life to not get mistaken for a hash dealer or a prostitute?
Now, that’s travel writing!
If you’re going to attempt to shove your imperatives down my throat (“And then you, and then you, and then you…”), I would prefer to read something in a more fantastical, truly aspirational vein.
After your lone siesta in a breezy inn overlooking the Chianti hills, a stunning, dark-haired Ligurian man, hung like a Lippazon stallion and ripped as a Navy SEAL, slinks into your bedroom before sunset and disrobes as he slides into bed beside you.
You fuck for hours and then order room service, only to find out that the kitchen closed eons ago, somewhere around the time of your second multiple. Because the inn has no television, you ring the bellhop and call him to your room. As you drink a half bottle of Claret from the mini bar, you watch from your charming little terrace as your Italian stallion deflours the slender bellboy for amusement.
In the morning, your neck stiff from performing so much profoundly riveting oral sex, you order a gin and tonic for breakfast and go at it again full-steam with the Ligurian before heading out for a day of shopping.
Something like that.
btw – this one is ok…
Acacia Estates, 9:45am
The sun has begun to bake the day. Already the heat waves from the un-airconned rooms of Alice’s house trail our footsteps as we gather our bags. Outside, we greet a middle aged man standing by a modest 4-door sedan. Our car and driver have arrived to take us to Arvin’s family home in Bulacan province, about an hour and a half north of Manila.
After hurried hugs goodbye to Alice, we slip into the cool interior of the car accompanied by anticipation and its half-sibling, anxiety, and wave goodbye to Alice’s parents, who are standing on the 2nd floor balcony.
The trip begins with a twisting exodus from Alice’s house in Taguig, located in central-south Manila. A mix of multi-laned, highway-like roads cuts through municipalities that wrap around the perimeter of central Manila City: Pasig. Mandaluyong. San Juan. Quezon…
The city stretches seemingly endlessly in every direction, its sprawling expansion inhibited on one side by Manila bay. In California we know traffic and we know urban congestion. Manila is a different sort altogether. Whereas the relentless roadway chaos of our arrival night was magnified by darkness and disorientation, daylight doesn’t simplify things much. It lays everything bare. As a result, the urge to take a picture of absolutely every vehicle, overpass, billboard, building and high-speed roadside vignette is overwhelming.
The only antidote is to sit back and try to absorb it all. But we’re nothing without our visual cues, so as soon as the camera is turned off and set on the seat between us, it’s back in hand and grabbing another blurry image, desperately seeking to find a balance between witness, comprehension and remembrance.
The Road to Bulacan
The main road to Bulacan is an expressway that stretches from Caloocan City in nearly a straight line toward Guiguinto and beyond, interrupted only by an occasional, monolithic tollbooth.
Next stop: Malolos City.