Thursday, September 1st, 2011
WHAT HAPPENED TO LONG VACATIONS?
Does anyone take serious vacations anymore? In the “good old days,” schools did not start again until the Monday after Labor Day. The last two weeks in August used to be a popular time for families to get away to the beach for a final summer fling. But not anymore. The American family vacation seems to be dying.
In days of old, I always joined in our family excursions at summer’s end. There was no electronic requiem involved. No cell phone rings, no BlackBerry buzzes, and no laptop beeps. It was Lake Michigan in my early years, Lake George, New York in my college days, and from my twenty’s on it was annual summer vacations in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Back in the 60’s and 70s, there was no high rises on the Gulf Coast, no water parks, and a few local seafood restaurants. Just a lot of single story beach houses with long porches facing the Gulf. There was no local phone service back then, and you had to bring your own drinking water. We brought our sheets and towels from home, because the well water was full of iron and made the wash gray and stiff. No TV and no air conditioning.
And you know what? The whole family thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks we stayed. We talked to one another, went crabbing and fishing off the shoreline, read, took afternoon naps, and long evening walks looking for the new shells that washed up on the shore earlier that day. Maybe a trip into Pensacola once or twice for a movie. And when our two weeks was up, no one wanted to go home.
Expedia.com’s annual vacation survey found that only 14% of Americans go away for two weeks or more at one time. And now, schools begin in the middle of August. Middle of August? Why? Aren’t air conditioning bills for schools much higher then? So what happened to the June 1st-August 1st summer schedule? No more school days were added. Kids have to cut summer jobs at resort areas short. Why the change?
Now, if you can get away to the beach for a few days at all, you cram into one of the high rises that line the Gulf Coast beaches for miles at end. Since you stay in an air conditioned condo, your body adapts and it’s too hot to go out to the beach. The kids all head for the mall, or a game room. Dad, and mom if she works, check into the office several times a day, and carry their PEDs and cell phones wherever they go. Electronic devices and games surround the whole family.
No communication tools for me. As I start each trip, I look in the mirror and tell the face there that my name is Jim, and I’m a techno-addict. But on this journey, I’ve committed to unplug and try to be more connected to myself rather than my computer. Just a few good books (fiction, nothing serious, good tune outs), some comfortable hiking boots, a little fresh fruit from highway stands along the way, a few bottles of wine from home, and my 20 year old banjo I swear I’m going to learn to play well some day.
My one major vice during my August get-a-way is to splurge each morning by eating a Krispy Kreme donut. Yes, I’m a health nut, but it’s hard to turn down a hot, fresh made donut. Now I have been a special Krispy Kreme fan for years. Those hot, out of the oven different flavors that almost melt in your mouth. And let me tell you this. I know a lot about Krispy Kremes. Like the fact that an anonymous New Orleans Frenchman sold his secret yeast-raised doughnut recipe to Ishmael Armstrong of Paducah, Kentucky. (Folks in Paducah listen to my weekend radio show on WTHQ-750 AM) The first Krispy Kreme retail store was opened in July of 1937 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
And the choices. There are so many to choose from. Of course original glazed, then chocolate iced, custard filled, raspberry filled, lemon filled, maple glazed, sugar coated, cinnamon bun, cinnamon twist, powdered blueberry, glazed cream filled, strawberry filled, cake, powdered cake, glazed devil’s food, glazed blueberry, glazed sour cream, glazed cruller, chocolate iced cake, and cinnamon apple filled. Have I warn you out? Don’t tell me I don’t know anything about Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Rick Bragg once wrote that trying to explain how good Krispy Kremes are to someone who has never had one is like telling a celibate priest about young love. He sure knew what he was talking about.
Just getting away does not, in itself, guarantee relaxation. It takes several days just to unwind. And isn’t life too short not to appreciate every moment, and have the tune out time with special family and friends? Maybe this longer special time has passed a lot of folks by. But I hope for me and my family, it never does.
“Vacation: When you spend thousands of dollars to see what rain looks like in different parts of the world.”–Robert Orben
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.