Tragic material is tough to find
June 4, 2013
In his book, "The Innocents Abroad," author Mark Twain wrote: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
For Park City residents, I propose this addendum to that famous quote: "Travel is also a great reminder of how lucky we are to live here."
May is the time of year that I, like many Parkites, feel as if the mountains are closing in on me. The winter was long and I’m tired. By May, I crave warmth, relaxation and new scenery. So the last couple weeks the honey and I spent traveling. Our itinerary included Croatia (sailing the Dalmatian Coast) and driving to Bosnia to river raft, and concluded with a few days at the beach in Montenegro.
When I shared this plan with my mom, she (having been a connoisseur of BBC News in the mid ’90s) panicked about the Bosnia part, asking, "Didn’t they have a genocide recently?"
I tried to reassure her Bosnia was peaceful now and there hadn’t been a random beheading or nightclub bombing in over a decade. "It’ll be like vacationing in Iraq in 2033, which I’m sure will be a lovely place by then," I unconvincingly reassured her.
On the first leg of our journey, our sailboat consisted of four French couples who spoke limited English, and two other couples fluent in our native tongue. In real life, we’d have had nothing in common with these English-speaking folks (other than English), but when you’re on a sailboat for seven days, fluency in the same language is the ultimate equalizer. (We would have loved to befriend the Frenchies, but the problem was they had a different word for everything.)
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So Silvia and Peter and Tessa and Mike became our shipmates. One night at dinner, after several bottles of wine (don’t judge, we were in Europe), we started talking about harsh adversities we’d overcome. Which seems like an odd topic, given we were on a relaxing vacation in a magical place, but by that time we were too far gone to remember how pants worked, so we went with it.
Silvia was born in Japan, but her family fled to Korea during WWII. But that turned out to be a short-lived solution because then they had to survive the Korean War. She told us how, when her family tried to escape the North, she was captured and separated from them for months. She was just six years old and jailed in North Korea, abused and on a list to be shot. By some miracle, her parents sneaked back over the border, found where she was being held captive and rescued her. In her early twenties she moved to the U.S. and now lives in L.A. with Peter.
Peter grew up in the U.K. and had gloomy stories of his parents tragically dying and leaving him an orphan. He was raised by abusive, alcoholic foster parents and worked to earn a scholarship to study medicine in the U.S.
Tessa and Mike are South African by origin, but left during apartheid. They’re white and were persecuted for sympathizing with blacks and speaking out against their government. They packed up everything they could fit in their car and left the country. Serendipitously, they stopped for dinner and while they were inside the restaurant, their car exploded. Someone had placed a bomb inside it, hoping to kill them.
After sharing these stories, our new friends looked at us expectantly. It was our turn to depress the group. My boyfriend and I looked at each other nervously. We had nothing. We live in Park City. What could we possibly say that would remotely justify our place at this table? "I barely got any powder days this year" wasn’t going to garner much sympathy.
I racked my brain for something fitting and panicked. I had one of those regretful "Wait, did that just come out of my mouth?" moments. Because, after listening to these stories of resilience and survival, I tried to compete with a sponge cake.
When it was my turn to talk, I sadly shook my head and proceeded to tell the group how Hostess had recently gone bankrupt and the snack of my childhood, the thing that I most looked forward to seeing each day in my Punky Brewster lunchbox, the Twinkie, was no longer being produced. And that was the worst thing about my life in Park City.
To make matters worse, not one of them had ever heard of or eaten a Twinkie. I desperately tried to explain what it was, hoping to convince them of this great loss, but I threw in so many unnecessary and preposterous descriptions, it would have given the CEO of Hostess an aneurysm.
I looked at the honey for assistance, but he just stared at me, mouth agape, his face a mixture of horror and bewilderment. Then he kindly scooted my wine glass away from me and whispered that he’d never seen me eat a Twinkie, that Hostess had been purchased and this tragedy would be undone when Twinkies are back on store shelves in July.
Now that I’m home (and sober), I’ve had some time to reflect on these comments. And as horrified as I am for making them, the truth is, life in Park City doesn’t give you a lot a tragic material to work with. We have it pretty damn good here.
Traveling is great. But coming home to Park City is better.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.