Travel Writing Is Weird

Travel Writing Is Weird

Freddy Krueger tried to high-five me.  For real.  

{Remember him from Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street -- the movie that in 1984 had us afraid to sleep lest we meet Freddy in our dreams?}

I was walking along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles when the grip of my five-year-old’s hand grew tighter, and her little face suddenly burrowed deeply into my side.  Looking up, I saw the razored hand of Freddy Krueger flip forth as he said, expectantly, “High five, Mom!”

Uh, no.  No, Freddy Krueger, I will NOT high-five you!

{Because really, how DOES one high-five a guy who has five knives strapped to his high-fiving hand??}

Shortly thereafter, we stepped in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater where I pressed my palms into the cemented imprint of my namesake, Rhonda Fleming’s, hands.  

Grauman's Chinese Theater where fans catch glimpses of celebrities walking the red carpet as they arrive for movie premieres.

Grauman's Chinese Theater where fans catch glimpses of celebrities walking the red carpet as they arrive for movie premieres.

Then, after dodging a person dressed as Spiderman and another costumed as Superman, Eden traipsed alongside a splash-pad-like fountain chasing bubbles before we climbed steps to a wide-angled view of the Hollywood sign upon the hillside in the distance.

We stumbled, then, across the Niebolt House Hollywood — this dilapidated haunted-looking house/life-sized set piece on the corner of Hollywood & Vine — where several Stephen King fans lined up for “The IT Experience.” A quick two blocks further, and Mitchell stood with reverence in front of the iconic Capitol Records, record label of his favorites: The Beatles and (most importantly) Paul McCartney.

These snippets and more added up to a full day of seeing somewhere new-to-us, but as I sit down to write about them, I’m struck by the disconnectedness of it all, and it’s leaving me with the unsophisticated conclusion that, well, travel writing is weird.  

Niebolt House Hollywood surprised us on the most popular corner at Hollywood & Vine.  (Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers.)

Niebolt House Hollywood surprised us on the most popular corner at Hollywood & Vine.  (Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers.)

I mean I’ve got Freddy and a couple of guys masquerading as superheroes on the sidewalk, the Chinese Theater with Rhonda Fleming’s concrete handprints, the embodiment of a horror writer’s imagination on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, a behemoth sign set in the hills of Hollywood, a recording studio designed to resemble a stack of records — and all of this set alongside a footpath fraught with star after star after star of famous names of now and yesteryear.

Add in our Lyft driver from Arkansas newly moved to Los Angeles who tells us of his time as a Marine in Bahrain, who recalls his many excursions in New Zealand and laments the divorce from his Kiwi wife.  Oh, and there were those two guys in line to tour the Stephen King house, twenty-somethings who recalled reading the horror stories when they were in elementary school.  (Horror stories!!  In elementary school!!)

See what I mean? Weird, right?

Do I share how refreshing it is to be on the move in a strange and unfamiliar environment that requires us to have our heads up and out of our phones, in and involved in the present? Do I mention how exhilaration and trepidation co-exist when launching ourselves into uncharted territory (or at least territory previously uncharted by us)? Do I write about the sheer excitement of meeting new people from walks of life different than ours?  Do I record how learning their stories lends clarity to my own?  Do I contemplate how travel makes me to understand all at once how the world is exponentially much larger than I can fathom but also much smaller than I ever knew?

What’s clear is this: as we begin this big trip, I’m wondering: how do I weave these bits and parts, pieces and fragments of travel experience into the telling of our current narrative?  

Autumn made me a Harry Potter fan this year, so we had to pay tribute to Daniel Radcliffe's star.

Autumn made me a Harry Potter fan this year, so we had to pay tribute to Daniel Radcliffe's star.

The task makes me appreciate writers like Bill Bryson and Tsh Oxenrider — essayists who present glimpses and glances of their travel experiences, but who also possess the magical ability to tie neatly together their seemingly random escapades into a fluid storyline fraught with not only personal discovery but also with revelation that is relatable to their readers.

Perhaps if I develop their mad skills, travel writing will lose some of the weird?  Until then, however — with apologies to friends and family who read our ramblings —  I guess it’s cheers to the strange!

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