Tony Horwitz retraces the pre-civil war travels of Frederick Olmsted and draws interesting parallels, commenting on his diverse experiences in the rural south. It is expertly written, but not always a flattering picture, with a heavy dose of racism, misogyny, and violence to really brighten your spirits about American culture, both past and present. But if you really want to hear about a trip to make you depressed about America, forget the rural south, you should have been with me last weekend. I went to an indoor waterpark.
Let me briefly summarize this experience. Waterparks are cacophonous, fetid cesspools of germs and filth, filled with screaming children, drunk adults, and people demanding that you buy something at all times. And I haven't even gotten to the pools yet - I'm just talking about the lobby! The actual pools are much worse.
I have to admit that it was shockingly poor judgment to allow myself to be roped into this trip. My grandkids and some of their friends were going, and my daughter thought it would be good "family time" for all of us to go together. I protested that there was nothing for a mature gentleman such as myself to do (it has been 30 years since I was on a 'ride' of any kind), but she told me about the hot tubs and the "lazy river" that would surely make me feel relaxed and peaceful. In short, I got suckered.
We arrived at 9AM, and I ambled over to the hot tub to take a peek. My first observation was a guy wearing sunglasses (indoors, mind you), holding a nearly empty, mammoth margarita glass with neon letters on it, proclaiming "72 oz. MARG! Biggest in town!" His previously unattended 4-year-old came wandering over, half-crying with snot running down his face. Without putting down his margarita, the man pulled the boy into the hot tub, rubbed off the snot in the pool, then told him to "go find a slide or something." And so ended my interest in the hot tub.
The lazy river was no better. While the water does move slowly, there is nothing peaceful about it. It is basically a game of water-bound musical chairs, where 200 violent hoodlums of all ages compete for 50 floating tubes with no holds barred. I watched a full-grown adult tip a 10-year-old off a tube and run away with it. The "lifeguards" stood there ogling each other in their skimpy suits and making hook-up plans for closing time.
With no watersports practically available to me, I had the options of inhaling chlorine fumes, surveying the variety of tattoos on display, or sampling the plethora of fried foods offered. The menu at this place would have given Michelle Obama a nervous breakdown. The closest thing I saw to a vegetable all weekend was a fried pickle, and after one bite I was offended on behalf of all pickles everywhere. Luckily, I had this book! So I put a layer of plastic bags over the bedspread (I can't prove it, but I guarantee there were bedbugs), and I read about someone on a better trip than mine. Thanks Tony, and God Bless America!