The sweltering summer in this beautiful city surrounded by the ocean and mountains can only mean one thing; tourists. I have criss-crossed North America and, with the occasional "eh" thrown in to bring attention to the fact that I was Canadian when the need arose, I have never been pegged as a tourist.
There was one constant in any city that I visited; you can always spot a tourist. From New York to Joplin, Missouri they all seem to share the same characteristics.
This observation manifested itself last night as I decided to go on a bike cruise near the ocean. There are two clearly marked paths, one for bikes and one for pedestrians. On any given night during the rest of the year, the bike path is usually populated by over-dressed yuppies desperately searching for the most expensive of all the outrageously over priced restaurants down by the water.
They stand in the bike path oblivious to ringing bicycle bells and vocal admonishments. It's not that they are oblivious, it is simply an undiluted disdain for anybody riding a lowly bicycle. A well placed " Move out o' the way, you dirtbag sack o' shit !" is something they don't expect and will usually send them scurrying, only being able to muster a dirty look. "Oh those filthy hooligans on their bicycles."
The hordes of tourists, are an entirely different manner. Spread all across the bike path with their oh so stunned looks, they remind me of a bunch of gophers on the road, to dumb to realize that they are about to be squashed by a semi.
Not wanting to give my hometown a bad reputation, I try not curse at them. Maybe they speak English, maybe they don't, but a bike, a bell, and a greasy cat with an angry expression transcends all language barriers.
That muttering I heard probably meant " Holy crap, Martha, I didn't know there were so many homeless people in Canada."
There are many bike rental shops in the area. It probably makes good business sense, but renting a bike to a tourist is like giving a loaded gun to a monkey. They are a public menace, wobbling and lurching on the bike path, usually right across your direction of travel.
I was under the impression that riding a bike was a simple task acquired during one's childhood. That notion is soon dispelled every time I 'm almost taken out by some goof riding a bike like a spaz. I wonder if they came here to be fucking spazzes or if they are just as inept in their hometown. Thankfully, most tourists don't understand as I mutter "Spaz," while trying to maneuver past them with all my limbs intact.
Now don't even get me started on those idiots that rent roller blades. Even more of a danger than tourists riding bikes, these fools seem to be a few notches dumber. They are usually a gaggle of teenage girls. Arms flailing, legs flying in all directions and almost causing multiple injuries in both cyclists and pedestrians, there incessant giggling at their own antics makes me wish they would right on rolling into the ocean.
Shorts, shorts and more shorts. The louder the better. You can always spot a tourist by the loud shorts that they are fond of sporting. Whether from Stuttgart or St. Louis they have those shorts with the odd colors and the retina searing shirts with the floral patterns. This outfit is usually completed with some sort of ridiculous hat. They can usually be spotted downtown looking up, always looking up.
" Gort in Himmel, Freda, I did not know zat they had such tall buidlings in Kanada." By the way, we don't have igloos in Vancouver. It's 98 freakin' degrees right now.
Loud and louder. You can usually hear a tourist before you spot them. This city has many large parks, mountains and many places where can chill and drink a beer. They come thrashing through the woods, yammering simultaneously and seeming like they have seen a tree for the first time in their lives.
To happen upon a greaser sitting on tree stump drinking a beer must completely throw them off.
Speaking of loud, I wonder why tourists feel it is necessary to read every single fucking sign out loud. They will walk down a street full of stores and read every sign out loud really loudly. " Oh, the Gap", "Ja, das ist der Starbucks", "Regardez, il as un McDonalds ici".
Forgetting for a minute that they probably have the same chain stores in their country of origin, saying it out loud makes it even more retarded.
Does saying it out loud make the Sushi more raw, the Levis more exotic or the Nikes run faster? They are strangely silent when confronted with signs that say, "Ski-Doo Sale, Mukluks 50% off or Liquor Barn". The just don't see the signs that say , "Don't step on the grass, Do not feed the animals, Do not touch."
Slower and slower. Not bad enough that they wander about aimlessly with that deer in headlights look, they can't seem to walk properly. Usually too, slow and never in a straight line. Apparently unaware what a little red hand means, they often have close calls at intersections. We also have those beeping signals for the hearing impaired. A tourist once asked me what the were for and I told him that were for blind people. He was aghast as he asked " You let blind people drive!?"
The key to not being spotted as a tourist, bad taste in clothes notwithstanding, is to observe the speed at which people walk, and follow the cadence accordingly.
For example, people in New York walk a lot faster. You have to get the New York stride. There is a slight lilt in the walk with an occcasional head bob thrown in as if to say, " "eeh whuddyou lookin' at ?"
I mastered this walk when I spent a few months in New York. All greased up, not too much smiling and walking at the proper pace, I would blend right in with the New Yorkers walking at a blistering pace. When waiting at a crosswalk, I would give a little " 'eeh" head bob and scratch my balls for good measure. I had cops askin' me " Howyewduin?" and dazed tourists asking ME for directions.
On a trip to Texas with a truck driving buddy, I learned to master the truck stop swagger. Nothing will turn heads faster at a truck stop than people in bermuda shorts looking around trying to figure out the sign that says "this section for truck drivers only" as if it was written in hieroglyphics.
My buddy and I confidently sauntered to the truck driver counter and sat down. The big burly trucker next to me who was digging in to the largest pile of food I had ever seen on one plate asked me " Where yew boys headed? I answered with a monosyllable,
" That's a good run".
"Yep", I answered.
The conversation ended with nods tacitly implying more "Yeps." The mini van driving bermuda short wearing tourists were still trying to decide what kind of cheese they wanted, as we did the truck stop swagger back to the big rig.
I've walked the walk and talked the talk, and have never been mistaken for a tourist nor had to suffer the look of disdain that often accompanies it. Therein lies the beauty of being rockabilly and traveling. The pomp is like a universal symbol of belonging.
Like other greasy tourits from a round the world, the first thing I do when visiting another city, is try to find some kind of rockabilly hang out or a band.
When you arrive at a show, you will be immediately be recognized as part of the brotherhood. It's like wearing a symbol from a secret society. You will be welcomed with open arms. The love of the music and the lifestyle transcends any cultural or linguistic barriers, and you instantly have a lot of new friends.
I have open invitations and places to crash all over the world, because the best kind of tourist to be is a greasy tourist.
Stay greasy and don't read any signs out loud.