Joseph Nichols, a fine travel journalist, returned from Greece recently, and issued a travel report that included this sentence: “Along the way, I found myself distracted and sidetracked by the expansive beauty of the countryside and the boundlessly engaging culture.”This differs only slightly from the sentence in my recent story about a trip through the exotic land of Anoka, Minnesota: “Along the way, I found myself distracted and sidetracked by the way the car’s transmission repeatedly burst into flames.”
Among journalists, full-time travel writers are the most hated. No one is sure why, but some scientists believe a violence gene in the human body is triggered by hearing a colleague say, “Sorry, can’t make it to bowling Friday night. The jerks are making me go to Tahiti.”
So, if I seem a bit agitated when reviewing this travel story, you’ll understand why: Nichols got to stroll the Greek Isles, while I was sitting in my bowling alley “office” with a pair of red and white rental shoes on my feet.
In his story, Nichols traced the history of Greece and the Olympics, and wrote such things as, “When I watch the Greco-Roman wrestling at this year’s Olympics in China, my mind’s eye will see the columns of the wrestling school at Olympia, where the young athletes trained.”
I actually watched the Olympics in Atlanta on television, and one afternoon, I did see this very sport. My written account of that event, which I have tried unsuccessfully to sell to major magazines such as Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and See Betty Quilt, is eerily similar: “When I watched the Greco-Roman wrestling, my mind’s eye saw a 290-pound guy named Brenko get lifted clear off his feet by his shorts. His eyes got huge.”
The story about Greece was very informative, though. In a section called “Getting Around,” the author offered this actual observation: “Driving in Greece, especially in Athens, is not for the faint of heart and weak of brake. Athens’s traffic is congested and chaotic; street signs are in Greek.”
On that last note, I would only say that isn’t it just like those high-and-mighty, our-olives-don’t-stink Greeks to put their signs in Greek!
“In the mountains, I turned off a paved road, intrigued by a rusty metal sign that reads ‘Monastery,’” the travel writer later tells us.
By way of comparison, my Anoka story—which has attracted some interest from the publication Vast Empty Expanses Monthly—contained an almost identical line: “Along Elk River,” I wrote, “I turned off a paved road, intrigued by a rusty metal sign that reads ‘Paved Road Ends.’”
The big-shot travel writer goes on to say, “Near a 13th-Century church overlooking the valley, Athalasia Papadopoulon rents rooms in her home for $15 a night.”
Personally, I would have livened this part up a bit by adding, “And the room is free if, after three days, you can correctly pronounce her name without blowing a mouthful of feta cheese across the room.”
But, hey, what do I know?
The author later visits the route of the ancient marathon messenger in whose honor the long race was added to the previous Olympics: “When he reached Athens,” we are told, “he proclaimed, ‘Rejoice! We Conquer!’ Then, he dropped dead.”
I hate to harp on this, but my Anoka report contains a hauntingly similar account of a meeting with a guy in the Cowboy Bar in the outskirts of the county: “When he reached the jar of pickled eggs, he proclaimed, ‘Hey, Joyce! Canna’ open thishhh? Then, he fell backward off the bar stool.”
In all honesty, however, the story from Greece did contain a lot more historical information than mine. For example, we’re told, “The original Olympics, begun almost 2,800 years ago, consisted of just a handful of events—for men only, who competed in the nude.”
Clearly, there’s nothing like that in Anoka.
At least not during the day—near the main roads.
Maybe the riverbanks?
Well, hey, consider the source.
Bye for now.