A Disingenuous Tourist

At the Sudbahnhoff in Vienna at 4:30 in the morning I was thinking about life. Or was I just confused, and. unable to focus on any logical idea or plan how to spend the next 4 hours, mistook those thoughts for the fog of philosophy? There were people sleeping on the benches, sitting up and lying in awkward positions, or wandering around with no more purpose than I had. In the blue and green light the impression was more like a zombie movie or could be a vampire movie except that I was returning from a trip to Transylvania, which beautiful mountain scene had nothing eerie about it.

Isn’t travel a metaphor of life? Some of the people sleeping on the floor were well dressed, temporarily stranded out of their usual element. Joseph Conrad admonished his readers in Lord Jim “swim in the element that surrounds you.” Did Joseph Conrad swim in this element, the same train station I was in now?

The ticket counter was shuttered where I stood for half an hour in line to buy a ticket to Miercurea Ciuk in Transylvania which turned out to be better known by the Hungarian name and for which there was no train. The ghost of that day was there for me; another traveler would see the ghosts of the second world war or the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or The Sound of Music. or Sigmund Freud.

Does the Austrian government pay people to be bums and stranded businessmen, subsidizing them with clothes or money like they pay people to farm as a way to preserve the national image and cultural heritage? What would Austria be if the Alpine meadows were not populated during the summertime with cows bobbing their heads to the music of bells tinkling?

Ingenious and ingenuous are two quite distinct words though they might have common parents in Latin or Greek. You know what an ingenue is? Think ingenue Not. There is a movie with the title, The Accidental Tourist. I didn’t like the film. The idea of being a tourist of any kind within the common meaning of the word, accidental or deliberate, only reminds me of being a bored tourist or going back to school to be led by authorities and teachers. Except for job interviews, or maybe except for structured formal situations… or maybe can be said this way: when meeting people, observing and studying them it’s better they think you ignorant and unexceptional, the empty boat referred to by the Chinese statesman. As George W. Bush said, “they misunderestimated me.” But in his mouth it came out as bragging.


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