Accent on Living
I AM not fully abreast of the ture of sociology, but I wonder whether enough of it deals with the summer vacation. Has any savant published “An Inquiry into Certain Aspects of the Labor Day Weekend"? What about “The Incidence of Traumatic Hibernation among Previous Lessees of Waterfront Cottages”? Has anyone reported on “Regionalism as a Factor in Protein Deficiencies of American Plan Menus”? Are such studies well in hand and soon to appear on convention programs? Being, as it is, the family’s great annual chance for relaxation, why must the vacation engender such wild and conflicting tensions, such rivalries?
A durable feud could follow when the tourist returns from Majorca and tries to come it over his neighbor, a summer resident of East Quisquid, Maine. One traveler of my acquaintance suffered for years, after getting home from Mexico, by insisting on pronouncing it — in all references, and he talked about little else — as Me-he-co. It was something that his non-Me-he-can friends simply could not tolerate.
Some of the fiercest rivalries among holiday makers are found in the cult of the primitive, which comes to full flower on the islands of Penobscot Bay. Here gather all sorts of well placed, prosperous city-dwellers who have tied their luxurious homes, all electric kitchens, and elegant wardrobes for summer quarters that would raise the eyebrows of the occupants of a Navajo hogan.
“Unspoiled” is the word most preferred by the ultra-primitive group to describe the rigors of their summer environment. No telephones, no telegrams. No plumbing, no electricity. A beach? Bah! All very well, no doubt, for the sort of people who like to loll on beaches, but hardly an attractive idea for the Little Chokecherry crowd. Anything south of Port land is pure Coney Island in t heir book; water too warm, roads too good, and so on. No one on Little Chokccherry would dream of wearing a pair of dungarees that had not genuinely needed every one of its patches, and the year-round lobstermen of the island are forever embarrassed bv the flagrant shabbiness of the summer visitors, especially at square dances and other get-togethers.
I must confess that I found Little Chokccherry altogether enchanting. I gave it up, eventually, because the pollen count is much lower in Nova Scotia, but on all other scores the islanders’ belief in the superiority of their conditions seems to me fully warranted. Even so, I refuse to be patronized by a Little Chokccherry man on my Nova Scotia vacations (which are, incidentally, less expensive than staying home) and I have worked out a rejoinder that stands up comfortably against any slurs. “Yes, Nova Scotia is quite unspoiled,” I remark, “the way Maine used to be thirty or forty years ago.”
If the vacation code is severe in places like Little Chokccherry, even harsher disciplines are accepted by those who elect the call-of-the-open road kind of holiday. This amounts, roughly, to a three-week transcontinental dash in the family car, taking full advantage of the fact that this country is richly supplied with distances, some of them very long. For the easterner, it’s a swing through Arizona, California, and the Northwest, knocking off Hollywood, Chinatown, and the national parks on route. For the West Coast traveler it means everything north of the Virginia Capes, including Lexington and Concord, Williamsburg, the Gaspc Peninsula, the Old Man of the Mountain, Chinatown, Radio City, and home via quaint old New Orleans.
The main objective on trips like these is to get back alive. As vacations go, they are not especially expensive, simply because people laying down 600 miles a day have no time to stop and buy things or to eat anything but hot dogs on the way. (The world awaits the next great hot dog entrepreneur, who will find a means of feeding the traveling public from a hot dog stand capable in overdrive of 75 m.p.h. and without making the public come to a dead stop — ever.)
At long intervals — twice a week, say—such vacationers will put in at a terribly famous ealing place like the famous High Tariff Inn or the famous Long Tarry Lodge or the famous Klutz’s; but this counts as sightseeing and not eating, and as a matter of fact one has always an hour or two for seeing the sights in these places while waiting for a table. There really isn’t much else to do.
Trying to make up time lost at such meals, according to the National Safety Council, is second only to brake-fade as a cause of highway accidents, for the transcontinental schedule must be maintained with all the precision of a military operation. ‘There is no use whatever in driving 2300 miles to watch Spouting Rock spout only to get there at low water; MIKI the incoming tide is almost as leisurely as the service, at certain times of the day, at the High Tariff Inn. Similarly, nothing is gained by a sliding stop at the Hall of Burgesses when its custodians have just locked up and gone off to the movies.
The transcontinental vacation must be documented by photographs at all points, and it exerts a profound effect on the wintertime use of viewers and projection apparatus. The argument st ill rages as to which is harder on the guest after dinner: (a) to take part in looking through a viewer and passing it tin around the circle of company, with affirmative comment on each round; or (b) sitting in a darkened room and watching the vacation record unfold — usually out of sequence and quite often upside down—on a small screen, while t lie projector becomes increasingly hot and gives off the smell of scorching paint, and the host can’t quite remember whether the slide depicts San Francisco or Duluth.
Considerations such as these make it easy for a growing faction of the public to remain happily at home. We can recognize this group at a glance by the elear-eved, resil’d look that can result only from sleeping in good beds and from nourishing meals and the conviviality of days spent in a well-administered office. Harlequin sunglasses trimmed with sea shells have already appeared in t he carefree noon-hour crowds along Fifth Avenue, and a rustic model in birch bark is said to be in the offing. The first full Bikini outfit is yet to lie seen there, but it’s bound to come. The men will continue, one supposes, to wear tops, at least for the rest of this season.