It was four-thirty in the morning and I was running for my life. My vision was blurred and all I could see was a shadowy figure gaining. My shirt was shredded, my jeans torn, matted and sticky with blood. My vision was blurred by alcohol. My skin shimmered with glitter in the pale lighting. I took the right turn down the wrong road and found myself being followed. I was in a mysterious passageway that stretched for miles and millennia. The question in my mind was not who or why I was being chased but how. I had to chase the white rabbit. And once I did, I found myself tumbling down, down, down the rabbit’s hole to nothingness and beyond now with that burning question. How did I get here?
Opinion may vary to what would constitute a quintessential perfect, dreamy vacation. While any argument about touristic intention may be relevant, anyone could agree that tourism at its core provides to the consumer something they may not have access or be able to observe otherwise. In this paper, I will attempt to illustrate and examine an unparalleled adventure to California from Denver and back and the events that unraveled. In order to analyze the story, I will utilize the writings of John Urry’s “The Tourist Gaze,” Jack Selzer’s “Rhetorical Analysis: Understanding Texts Persuade Readers,” and Jerome Bruner’s “The Autobiographical Process.”
In Urry’s piece “The Tourist Gaze,” he writes about the observable behaviors of those who travel. People tend to fall into patterns for the sake of comfort, familiarity, etc. and they view the world through rose-tinted lenses while they travel. With considerable explanation, Selzer dives into the depths of rhetoric. Though several fields of rhetoric are cogitated and discussed, the analysis for this paper will be rhetorically contextual as defined by Selzer. This is an autobiographical account of a travel experience to California and loosely structured to suit Bruner’s autobiographical guidelines. Travelling is not about the destination. It’s not why you leave while you’re alive but how you live once you’ve left. With Urry’s potion and Selzer’s cake, we shall tumble down the rabbit hole and through the doors together.
I awoke on a couch early one morning. A lumpy couch, a globe and the television playing softly in the background were but the few possessions left to me by my ex. She had taken everything else including the ice trays out of the freezer and my heart; a visceral act that which she removed my heart, placed in a jar and arranged it atop her mantelpiece as a conversational focal point. Bruner would argue that “the “rightness” of any autobiographical version is relative to the intentions and conventions that govern its construction or its interpretation” (40). Surely she didn’t actually remove my heart; I would dead, you may be thinking. But yet here I am, free of heart and writing this. I was trapped in a tail-spin. Partying with no regard and there was no end in sight. I had spent my entire adult life with her and without her, I had no idea who I was.
It happened one night. I put in Total Recall and dozed off. A story about a man who pays for an exciting memory only to realize the memory was his reality. I awoke on that couch sometime later. It was during the scene where the salesman was delivering his pitch to Quaid. “What is the same thing about every vacation you’ve ever taken?” he asks. “You. You’re the same. No matter where you go there you are. Let me suggest that you take a vacation from yourself” (Verhoeven Total Recall). The salesman goes on to talk about implanting memories about travelling to Mars. I could neither afford memory implantation nor a Martian excursion but the movie did give me an idea. I needed a vacation. More than a vacation, I needed to escape. I had money from my tax return. Spring break was coming up. In my mind I constructed the dream. I took the globe and spun it.
I love the ocean but hate the beach. I love islands but hate travelling on a boat. I love clam chowder and fine chocolate. What city could accommodate all those things but San Francisco? I could disappear for a week and be thousands of miles away from her. I had the money to do whatever I wanted? I wasn’t about to live like a king for a day but for an entire week. I could reinvent myself. No one knew who I was. In the ‘divorce’ she got all our friends too. I knew that I played into a tourist trope identified by Gottlieb and written by Urry stating that “[what is] sought for in a vacation/holiday is inversion of the everyday. The middle-class tourist will seek to be a ‘peasant for a day’ while the lower middle-class tourist will see to be ‘king/queen for a day’” (Urry, 11).
But unlike the everyday tourist described by Urry, I wanted to avoid the quintessential tourist destinations within S.F. I did not want to put on horse-blinders and mill around Ghirardelli Square, Alcatraz or Golden Gate Park. I had my own agenda and to widen my gaze. Though I would do many things, none stand out more than my last night in S.F. “Rhetorical analysis [or rhetorical criticism] can be understood as an effort to understand how people within specific social situations attempt to influence others through language” (Selzer 281). I strolled the pier, gorged on chowder and chocolate and rode the cable cars. But I fell into the same habits as home. I drank at the hotel bar. I fell into the cliché of the man drunkenly spilling his guts to a stranger. The common message in S.F. is love and cohabitation, a message I would hear from a drag queen named Thor(a).
Thor was the Norse god bartender. He insisted that I come out with him and some friends. I accepted. I went upstairs to change. Thor invited me out. Thora picked me up, with two of her fabulous friends. The god I met was now wearing a wig and sequined black dress. Her other friends were similarly dressed. They caught me completely by surprise. I thought I was going out with a bunch of guys. I fumbled my words and apologized for giving Thor(a) the wrong impression, that I wasn’t interested in men. The three ladies rolled their eyes as if choreographed. Steph(en) responded with, “We know. You’ve got a broken heart honey and we’re here to piece it back together.” That is, if I had my heart. One beer couldn’t hurt. So I got in the car.
They didn’t serve beer at the first bar. Luminescent martinis with tropical fruit sprouting from within the rim? Check. Loud music? Check. Inability to hear? Check. I wanted to leave. Not because of the music, the drinks or the company. I wanted to go home and scrap the rest of my trip. The third passenger Regina, with her fluffy white dress and rabbit ears to match, noticed my sadness. She assembled the Avengers and away to the second bar we went. And the third. The fourth we found beer. Country, dance on the bar, ‘knock ‘em back’ type of dive. It was by the third I started having a good time. By the fourth, I was jubilant. Cohabitation is a language we all spoke. The ladies did not love me nor I them. They saw someone in need and assisted.
Steph convinced me to hop on the bar and hop I did only to tumble over the other side. A bottle of grenadine shattered under my weight. The bartender helped me up only to accidentally tear my shirt. I excused myself. I passed through the crowd out the exit. I had walked through a tunnel the day before. There was a tunnel nearby and I was sure it was the same. It was not. There’s a difference between the Stockton Tunnel and the Broadway Tunnel. I took the right turn down the wrong way down Broadway. I heard someone behind me. Saw shadows and started running. Thora was spry running in those pumps. She saw me leave and followed. She called my name then called for a cab. We exchanged our goodbyes and the dream collapsed.
And then I woke up on a couch, to a television playing softly in the background.