You Are a Tourist

Posted on September 14, 2011 by


by Kyla Marshell

You are a tourist. This I know. It’s summer in the city, the best time of year, and so you and your little Midwestern family have come to the Greatest City on Earth to take off-key pictures of buildings whose names and functions you do not know.

You are so easy to pick out, Mama Tourist, Papa Tourist, Little Bo and Billy and Jolene Tourists. How could I not know? Look at your shoes. They are hideous. Absolutely hideous. I’ve never owned shoes like that. I don’t even know where to buy them. They are meant only for walking, which is how you get around this city. You walk, and you daringly take the subways. You get into my subway car, all five of you, making it just before the doors close. And when the train starts to move, you all stutter, then laugh heartily—you almost fell. That’s sweet.

You also wear jeans that are not-skinny. Flared leg jeans. I remember those. It was the ’90s. I was 12.

Sometimes, Mama Tourist has a haircut reminiscent of one of the Judd Sisters, and I mean before flat irons. Yes, sometimes Mama’s hair looks like the blooming onion appetizer you can get at your local Ruby Tuesday’s or Friday’s or wherever people in other parts of the country eat, or where the people who come here and are too afraid to try non-chain restaurants eat.

But even if your hair is not hideous, Tourist Family, I know. You’ve got your backpack on the front of you, rather than the back, as the name of the item would imply it should be worn. You are a modern-day kangaroo, carrying not kids, but a Nikon which you probably can’t operate, pepper spray, overpriced bottled water, and a travel book that lists all the best museums, Broadway shows, and pizza spots. You hear Ray’s is a winner. That’s cute.

And you are chubby. New Yorkers are not chubby.

You are middle-America hard-working folks seeking a thrill for the weekend, craning your necks to see the tippy-top of some building filled with life forms far different from yours, with lives bumping along at the speed of light, with people often too busy to fall in love, eat sitting down, breathe. You smile at me across the subway car and know that I am one of those people. I don’t know what most buildings looks like, above the twentieth floor. I’ve never looked.

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