by Seth Rogovoy
You hear it all the time from natives, expats, experts, know-it-alls, and blowhards: that such-and-such a city that you’re thinking of visiting isn’t what it used to be. It’s a mere shell of its former self. While it was once the coolest, hippest place to visit, where everything was a bargain and life was still authentic and you could sit at a café all day nursing your espresso and no one would bother you and you could blend in easily with the locals, now it has become overrun by tourists. It’s been ruined by the commercialism and gentrification that follows in their wake. There’s no more there there. It’s over. It’s so yesterday, so last year. Don’t go there.
Now, one can choose to ignore these remarks and chalk them up to snobbery and go to Lisbon or Barcelona or Berlin anyway – where you’ll probably find out that pretty much everything they’ve said about the place is true. Or, one can heed these warnings and try to find the next big thing before it happens – an effort that by its very definition is destined to fail, because if you find the place, that means it’s no longer undiscovered, that it has now been found and therefore it’s over as of that very moment. Nice try; you blew it.
No place is what it used to be. I don’t mean that in some kind of broad, grand philosophical or quantum sense. I’m not talking Einstein here. I mean it as it is usually meant, and it’s true. The Village is no longer the Village – West or East. Brooklyn is no longer Brooklyn. New York City is no longer New York City. Rome has declined and fallen; Berlin has been become a movie set; Barcelona is way too crowded. Prague was never really Prague in the first place, and Paris today bears no resemblance at all to anyone’s idea of Paris.
So you know what I say? I say fine. Good. I don’t particularly want to go anywhere anyway. I don’t even like to travel in the first place. Don’t get me started on why, because I don’t have time to delineate all the reasons, but let me just mention a few: airplanes, airports, security lines, lost luggage, pickpockets, and that most odious of travel afflictions: other tourists. No matter how hard you try, no matter how far off the beaten path you wander, you just can’t escape them. Just the sight of one grown man – and there is always one of him — in short pants, a fanny pack, and an “I’m With Stupid” T-shirt standing in the plaza of a major European capital or on line at a hot springs in a jungle is enough to ruin my entire vacation and make me wish I’d never left home.
So I’m done. I’m finished. If I want to see a place, I’ll watch a documentary or look at Instagram or Google it or read about it – preferably in a history book, since today the place is nothing like it was yesterday, when it was still good, before it turned into Brooklyn and then not-like-Brooklyn, just like Brooklyn itself (parts of which, however, are still like the old Brooklyn, but nowhere you’d want to visit, because that was the whole point of Brooklyn in the first place – it was a nice place to live, but you wouldn’t want to visit there.)
No, I’m happy where I am, in my little perch alongside the Hudson River, a place that was once touted as the new Brooklyn; that has ceded that title to other cooler, hipper upstate towns; that now is just like any other place, still attractive to visitors and always will be, but for me, the place I call both home and my home away from home.
Seth Rogovoy lives in Hudson, N.Y.