The Anarchic Ramblings of the Modern Travel Writer
It’s 82 degrees and you’re stretched on a hammock between two coconut trees, a rum punch in one hand, a Paul Bowles paperback in the other, the smell of hibiscus in the air; your mission, if you choose to accept, and what’s 750 words anyway, is to write an article on the state of Jamaican soccer–your editor telling you to keep it light, keep it sexy, no politics, more One Love and less Exodus.
After that, you’re off to the Cayman Islands to cover the Cayman Cookout’s Barefoot BBQ. Pistachio-encrusted grouper, red snapper, more rum…and 30 celebrity chefs. Your job: Interview the legendary chef Eric Ripert. Scrap the microphone and tape gear; this is informal, irie, if you will, the question and answer taking place on his 20 – foot yacht, The Cristal Ship .
On the third leg of your two-week journey, you’re stopping in at the Miami Art Basel, hob-knobbing with dealers, curators and artists, writing content on the art market. Your editor leaving you with instructions to draw a parallel between the booming art market and the recession, the have and have not’s; however, you send her a text saying that Dubai princes, Russian oligarchs and old money oil and steel barons will always have coin, recession or no recession, Bush or Obama.
Later, after imbibing in some Cruzan Single Barrel, you add, for good measure, that absurd Fitzgerald quote: “The rich are very different than you and me.” Well, no kidding, Francis, and what’s up with that very anyhow? Didn’t Princeton teach you better than that?
She didn’t text you back.
Time to rest. Relax. No puddle-jumpers or American mini-vans turned into tourist taxis. You’re at home for a week, and the stasis almost kills you. You’re like an animal trapped and pacing a cage; no, it’s more than that . You’re like one of those monkeys at the zoo, so bored that you regurgitate and eat it, day after day. It’s a metaphor you tell your editor. Seriously!
The next job is big. A jackpot spread on the front of the Arts and Leisure section of ______. Literary Hotspots: Then & Now. You’ve got choices, flight options. Your editor wants you in one of the following places:
A. New England
B. The Deep South
E. New York
You hate literary hipsterism. You’re afraid of earthquakes, Gothic fiction gives you the heebie-jeebies, and the thought of going north of the Mason Dixon line in winter is absurd. It’s Florida, by default. Besides, you’ve always wanted to run wild in Key West like it’s the 1970s.
So you chase Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Thomas McGuane through the bars and Bahamian cottages on that tiny island 90 miles north of Cuba. You don’t go sport fishing for marlin. Instead, you go searching for Spanish galleons and shipwrecked treasure with some adventure enthusiasts from Idaho. You get a tattoo, and then another. You spend Wednesdays and Fridays eating $1 oysters at the Half-Shell Bar. You meet Mallory, a girl named after the island’s sunset square, and Caroline–named after the street or the Jimmy Buffett song? She won’t say.
And like many writers before you, you decide to stay… at least for a while.
Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.