Travel that brings you up close to the news

In September when I was in Los Angeles for an impromptu weekend away, sans family, my friend and I passed Cedars-Sinai Hospital the night we went to the Algonquin West Hollywood Literary Award Soiree. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this made me think of Owen Wilson and his stay there. (Even Justin has his Owen Wilson musings. Although, I have to say, I was perhaps more fond of Darjeeling Ltd. than Justin.)

Now that Britney has had her Cedars-Sinai stay, I have to admit, that, yes, reading about her visit to the hospital gave me a flashback about my LA trip and when I passed by Cedars-Sinai.

This brushing up with news stories happens frequently if you travel. Those who stay home merely get info from a newspaper that ends up in a recycling bin or is off the radar as soon as the channel changes. Yesterday’s news stays yesterday’s news.

Travel makes news stories more vivid somehow, even if the news is months old. Places become not just a name we heard about, but one with which we have a taste of a personal relationship–even if it’s just an asterisk.

For New Year’s Eve we headed to Ottawa, Ohio to spend the night with friends. As I drove through town, I thought about the flood that happened there this past August.

My friend took me on a little tour to show me where the sandbags were and how her brother’s downtown office was spared because its first floor is actually above street level and the sandbags saved it. Not only did the sandbags save it, but her high school-aged son helped put the sandbags there.

I also met friends of theirs who lost totally lost their house and are in the process of having it rebuilt. There hasn’t been a flood like that in Ottawa since 1900 or so. Until the flood this past summer, Ottawa was just a place where our friends had moved.

Then earlier this week, there was Ottawa in the news again. Kenneth Richey, the British citizen who has been whiling away a quarter of his life on Death Row in Ohio for the death of a 2-year-old girl was released yesterday. He was being held in the Portage County jail in Ottawa awaiting his release. When I saw he was in Ottawa, I thought about my recent trip there and the great time I had at our friend’s house– and the flood.

On an international scale, every time I see John McCain on Jon Stewart, or like last night when he gave his acceptance speech when he won the Primary in New Hampshire, I flash to the photo I took of the photo of him at the museum in what is left of the Hoa Loa Prison, once dubbed the Hanoi Hilton. McCain was a prisoner of war there for five years.

(McCain is the guy in the middle)

Most of the prison was torn down to make room for an hotel/shopping complex, but the remaining section is a fascinating, albeit gruesome look at a slice of Vietnamese history. Most of the museum is about the French occupation with just a few rooms about the U.S.

When we drove through Louisville, Kentucky in August, I thought of Kentucky Kingdom and the young girl who had her feet recently severed by the Superman Tower of Power ride. These are not pleasant thoughts. I’d rather think about the Kentucky Derby and sipping Mint Juleps, but I’ve never been to the Kentucky Derby. I did write a post about the accident so it’s in my brain somewhere and comes out at the oddest times.

Every time we go to Cleveland, we pass by the Trooper James R. Gross’s Memorial on the side of I-71 North. My son looks for it on each trip and asks if we’re almost there. Trooper Gross was shot and killed in 1996 during a highway traffic violation stop. This spot will always be in my son’s mind I bet just because we travel to Cleveland. Even today, when I couldn’t remember the name of my officer, I asked my son. He just turned 6 and told me straight away without thinking about it.

It’s not like I’ve gone to these places to be closer to the news. I’m not one of those people who would take the unofficial Anna Nicole Smith tour in the Bahamas to trace her woes. But, there are places one happens upon that gets you thinking of those stories that captured the media’s attention for awhile. Or if some big incident happens at a place where you once were on vacation, there your mind wanders remembering your trip in an unexpected way.

This time though, as you remember, the news story intertwines altering the experience somehow. It’s like being temporarily in a Wes Anderson movie or something. Or, maybe it’s just me.

The Darjeeling Limited: The Closest I’ll Ever Be to Owen Wilson

Today I got the opportunity to see an advanced screening of Wes Anderson’s new film, The Darjeeling Limited, which was filmed in India. Because I’m not very good at movie reviews, yet I feel I should start this post with a short description of the plot, I will steal from Wikipedia:

“The story involves three estranged brothers (played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) who take a train ride through India after the death of their father. The fictional long-distance train ‘Darjeeling Limited’, apparently named after the short narrow-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, provides the backdrop for the brothers trying to grow closer together.”

The movie was so-so at best (I’m an Anderson fan), and I have a good feeling that if I hadn’t been in India six months ago, I wouldn’t have been nearly as captivated by it. Much of the movie takes place on the train (which is much nicer and cleaner than any train I ever took in India), but every once in a while the group of brothers wander into small towns and villages. In one scene, they pull up to an airport, and much to my surprise, it was one that I had spent several hours at while waiting for a flight. No, it wasn’t one of the popular ones in Mumbai or Delhi or Goa (though I spent several hours at each of these too), but a tiny, single-runway shack in Udaipur that we drove 8 hours to get to. I was completely blown away that of all the airports in India (and there’s a lot), Wes Anderson happened to choose the same dinky stretch of tarmac that I had randomly flown out of.

I don’t even remember the name of the place, but Wikipedia tells me it’s Maharana Pratap Airport (IATA: UDR) and it’s actually located 22 kilometers outside of Udaipur. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures when I was there, so proving this story might be tough unless I can find some online. Can anyone help me out here?

Anyway, I was excited. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to Owen Wilson, I’m sure.