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One urban dweller's aversion to national parks

If it doesn't have a multiplex and espressomaker, I don't want to go there.

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I AM ABOUT to take one very small step for man. And an even smaller step for mankind.

The tank is filled with fuel. The travel gear stowed. All systems are "go" as I head forth to a place that neither I nor anyone who knows me thought I would ever set foot in – a national park. It's a land that existed for me only in legend. A mythical region I believed was filled with very large squirrels and very few jazz clubs.

I am not really familiar with areas of the country that don't contain multiplexes. For instance, I always thought Disney World would make a terrific national park.

But then my adventurous British brother-in-law, the (almost) Lord Nigel, decided to visit the Colonies, and for some inexplicable reason asked to see not a traditional American sight like pastrami on rye but something he referred to as "nature." And so we are about to embark on a journey to the so-called "Grand" Canyon.

Unlike many Americans, I have not spent my vacations tromping through primeval forests or rappelling up, down, or sideways on mountain peaks. I have been more likely to find myself strolling through Bloomingdale's than hiking across fields in bloom. Instead of dining on bologna sandwiches at lakeside picnic tables, I tear through Zagat's as I pass through Topeka, Kansas, in search of a restaurant that serves General Tso's chicken.

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