Over There

There is this phenomenon where we believe or conjure up a place where the grass is greener. That greener, more amenable place is always “over there,” or somewhere other than here.

I don’t know for sure, but I think this behavioral trait may have something to do with the American tradition of vacationing, especially now with the ease of travel, particularly air-based travel. Jet-setting across the globe has become the norm for most Americans, at least those with even a modicum of disposable income.

The “family vacation” was born post-WWII. According to an interesting book written by Susan Sessions Rugh, the period following the war and unexpected economic prosperity unleashed a “pent-up demand” for travel.” The fears of economic privation relative to The Great Depression were forgotten, or at least became less prevalent in the minds of most Americans. That and a system of paved roads got Americans out on the highways and byways of a country full of open spaces.

Now, merely staying within a one day’s drive of your home base is considered a variation on the  “staycation,” and those with the means fly off to exotic locales (often gated vacation communities, where all amenities are provided and you don’t have to “soil” yourself by brushing up against the natives) in order to spend some time somewhere other than here.

Given that we seem to be working longer, and aware of technology’s ever-watchful stare, we potentially are able to work 24/7, and more and more, we seem to be in a constant state of doing and going, or being “on.” Vacations become the only time when we’re allowed to step back from the yawning abyss of constant work and operating more like a machine than the humans that we supposedly are.

Perhaps that’s why when we travel, we find the place where we’re at more amenable than the place we call home. Not being buffeted by deadlines, deliverables, and the dysfunctional workplaces that spawned parodies like Dilbert and other critiques on the American workplace, makes the place where we’re at seem preferable to the place where we have our mail delivered to, and where we spend our most productive hours Monday through Friday (or Saturday and Sunday).

Last weekend, Miss Mary’s work made a longer trip away for her birthday impossible. In fact, we got away a weekend early to celebrate because a work-related furniture installation would have ruined a getaway this weekend. That, and a desire to return to Cape Cod allowed us an extended weekend of bliss and a chance to feel human again. We basked in it for three glorious days.

Now the Cape is not an exotic locale, as vacation spots go, although it is a special vacation spot here in New England. I’m sure we could jump on a plane and fly across time zones to find other beaches that are comparable, and possibly a few that rate higher by whoever ranks these kinds of things. At the same time, we can reach the Outer Cape and it’s wonderful, restorative sands with just a tank of gas and a four-hour drive.

Last Saturday night, we were sitting at the bar at Mahoney’s in Orleans, enjoying each other’s company like we haven’t had time to do much, of late. The place was bustling, with mostly locals, out to eat, which is a common practice all over the great US of A.

Having cocktails and dinner, we made the acquaintance of a gentleman writing at the bar on his laptop. Miss Mary couldn’t help but take an interest in what he was working on and her introduction spawned a nice conversation.

He was a local writer with a national reach and reputation. When he found out we were from Maine, he warmed to us, as he told us that he considers Maine, “God’s country.”

I had to chuckle, not that Maine isn’t wonderful and beautiful as a vacation spot, but I was thinking after two days of sandy beaches and an amazing spot at Fort Hill that we may have found a version of heaven on earth. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

Our new writer friend views Maine as a place to get away to. He lives on the Cape in a beautiful spot. I’m guessing he probably has a nice house and by most measures of success, has achieved a level that many aspire to. As a writer, I consider his success as a freelancer and a political consultant something I continue to work towards and strive for, at least in the context of being a free agent myself.

Back home and back to work in “God’s country,” our return from the Cape was busy, filled with stress, logistical nightmares, and I even realized I’ve been driving around since January with an expired license. Last night, I woke with a start and realized how crazy the next six weeks are going to be for me. Funny that a week ago, everything seemed hunky dory.

Of course, one can always embrace an idea that I recall reading in one of Gene Logsdon’s books. It’s a sentiment that others preach, which is that the grass is not any greener on the other side of the fence, or at the other end of the valley. The same beautiful moon that bathed the early morning in its glow is the same one in Maine, as it was in Cape Cod, or any other vacation spot.

Vacationing, Fort Hill, celebrating Miss Mary's birthday.

Vacationing, Fort Hill, celebrating Miss Mary’s birthday. (Gordon Avery photo)