Torn in Queenstown

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(Posted from New Zealand)

Queenstown is like dozens of other youth-tourist-oriented towns sprinkled around the world; Magnets for young travelers looking for adventure and stories to tell. Cutesy pedestrian walkways, 2nd-story pubs full of young guys from all over the world looking for quick hook-ups: Young women letting themselves be objects and pretending they’re in control.

It reminds me of Torremolinos in Spain, Arlie Beach in Australia, the backpacker part of Cuzco in Peru, or Aspen in Colorado (never been there but I saw it in “Dumb & Dumber”). Also like Pucón in Chile, except not many internationals go there.

Queenstown markets itself as, “The Adventure Capital of the World.” Pretty heady stuff for a small alpine city of 18,000 on the South Island of New Zealand. I grew up in a small town in Michigan. I suppose it could have been marketed as “The Capital of Little Towns Near Where I-94 Intersects US 127.” That would have brought in those sophisticated Chicago tourists!

But we didn’t have any slogan. Or tourists. Or stories to tell.

Yvonne and I stick out here like chaperons at a 7th-grade dance. We take the walk around the peninsula while the youth take the jet boat to Shotover River, and bungee jump off bridges, and hang-glide and para-glide, and take the helicopter over the Remarkables (the nearby mountains.) And they mountain bike, and rock climb, and drink all night, and Yvonne and I take another walk and hold hands. And they go white-water-rafting, and river-boarding, and on the gravity sling, and take the gondolas up the mountains, and Yvonne and I sit on our balcony and make another pot of tea.

I wish I could put up a sign, “Want to Talk?” with a couple of chairs on the sidewalk. And Yvonne and I could speak of the Ancient of Days for a few minutes with these sophisticated 7th-graders who are suckers for a slogan and hungry for intimacy but being torn to pieces in their frenzied search. Torn to pieces.

David Roller

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