Saturday, June 28, 2008

My family from Italy, or at least a chunk of it, is in New Jersey for the first leg of their Ameri-Canadian vacation. They wanted to go to New York, but my mom and dad — the Nuclears — usurped the planning and micro-managed them into staying at la casa della nonna, an hour out of the city, and tour-guiding them around town. Someone's been taking lessons from Contiki.

Maybe it's because they're European, but the Italian family is such a departure from the Nuclears: they're fun, and fascinated, and it's not like everything they see and do is utterly perfunctory. Us, okay... my fondest memory from our semi-regular trips to Disney World back in my kiddie days: We were on the now-defunct "Journey Into Imagination" ride, a vivid, whimsical trip through some Imagineer's storybook fantasy, set in the Dreamport and guided by the jolly Dreamfinder in his colorful DreamMobile blimp. (There's a theme here...) There's a catchy-ass song and a flying purple dragon guy and animatronic robots and, maybe three-quarters of the way through, a hidden camera takes a pic of you and the friends and family in the OmniMover, who, let me remind you, are on vacation in the Happiest Place on Earth. The photo of my family: we could not have been more disaffected and apathetic if we were at an estate tax planning seminar.

So yes, it's weird, slightly annoying and slightly discomfiting being around folks who aren't thoroughly jaded. And no, enthusiasm isn't infectious.

A lot tourist stuff I just don't get. Waiting in line two hours for their 86-story elevator ride at the Empire State Building — that makes sense. Wanting to see St. Patrick's Cathedral when you're from Europe, where they have bigger, older, real Gothic cathedrals on every other block? Not so much. F.A.O. Schwarz — yes. Fifth Avenue Apple Store — ...maybe. The official NBA store — who shops there? Maybe if you have a favorite team or something, although I don't think the NBA store sells anything you can't also buy at K-Mart for a lot less, but if you're not from America and have no connection to American basketball... don't you have your own cultural detritus to put on your T-shirts and stuff? Stop stealing ours!

It seems like it's working out for them, though, since they seem to have the opposite tourist philosophy that I do. They're sightseers, so as much as my dad tries to push them into experiencing New York (and America) rather than just taking snapshots of it, it looks like they're enjoying their cursory introduction way more than I ever loved the city. I'm a little jealous, actually.