Posts tagged with: Branson

Vacations have to end, work has to restart, what a shame

We spend way too much time working. I came to that conclusion — not for the first time — while I was whittling away the hours last week on vacation. Sure, I was spending that vacation in the tourist hell of Branson, Mo., but still … vacationing in the hearland of country music is still better than sitting in a cubicle at the publishing company at which I work.

So here I am on Monday morning staring at my computer screen and the long, long list of unpleasant tasks scheduled for me this morning. Seems there’s a metting about something later in the day. I have several interviews with people I have little interest in speaking with. Then there are all the boring stories I have to get busy with so I’ll have them done before the month ends.

Yes, it’s pure joy here in workland.

I shouldn’t complain, I know. There are plently of unemployed writers who’d kill for my job, for any job, actually.

Still … I miss waking up and picking up my Branson guidebook. Will we hit the outrageously overpriced Wax Museum today? Will we tackle the hike in the national park? Maybe today’s the day we spend at the amusement park where the admission fee costs the equivalent of a mortgage payment?

(By the way, a note on that wax museum. There’s a Baywatch display. The David Hasselhoff dummy is so tan it looks like someone set it on fire.)

These decisons, though they may seem fairly unpleasant, are 10 times more intriguing than any choice I have before me today: Do I interview the owner of the Minneapolis moving company first or the career counselor who I blew off during my vacation? Choices, choices, choices …


Dismal economic news as we travel across the Midwest

I returned home from my vacation today. I had the pleasure of spending 10 hours in the car with a 2-year-old, driving through the hills of Missouri and back to Chicago.

You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a 2-year-old screech in your ear for most of a day.

We spent our vacation in Branson, Mo. If you don’t know Branson, think of Las Vegas. Only for senior citizens. While Vegas has casinos, Branson’s main drags are choked with country music and comedy shows. The town has Yakov Smirnov. Really. Tony Orlando, too, and one of the guys from Paul Revere & the Raiders.

It’s also a town where everyone has their fingers in your wallet. Case in point: We went to a restaurant that specializes in tosed rolls. This means that every 15 minutes or so, a guy comes out from the kitchen and throws dinner rolls at people. It’s a cute gimmick, and our 10-year-old loved it, though he missed about four rolls that ended up on the floor. (Seems like a terrible waste of food, actually.)

But as soon as our food came out, an employee with a camera hustled over to our table to snap our photo. Yes, this is just what I want hanging in my living room: A picture of me behind a huge plate of fried catfish. Here, I can tell visitors, is the reason why I’m a bit paunchy in my middle age.

Of course, our shutterbug wanted to sell us the photo for $20. I’d only pay that if they snapped a shot right as I was chomping into a big buttered roll. So we passed.

My wallet was still sobbing as we drove across Missouri. The radio reports made it hurt even more, especially a top-notch report from National Public Radio. The show focused on housing foreclosures. Seems it’s not just the greedy or the poor who are losing their homes. Solid, middle-class, bill-paying homeowners are falling victim to foreclosure, too. The reason? They’re either losing their jobs or seeing their take-home income plummet.

The NPR segment highlighted the owner of a small restaurant who’s struggling to make his mortgage payments for the first time in his life because people aren’t eating out as much. He’s taking home about $1,000 a month less in income. That’s had a big impact.

I always tell people that the housing industry isn’t going to truly bounce back until unemployment stops rising. The NPR report offers further proof of this.


Working my way through Branson

I’m no fan of country music. I don’t really like chain restaurants, miniature golf or waterparks, either. Yet here I find myself in Branson, Mo., where you can catch Andy Williams, Tony Orlando (without Dawn, unfortunately) and one of the guys from Paul Revere & the Raiders.

Did I mention that summer in Missouri is like walking through soup?

It’s a family vacation, though, and you really can’t beat it, no matter how cheesy the entertainment. And we’ve met our friends from Dallas, here, too, so it’s doubly fun.

The big problem — besides the heat — is that I have to work throughout my vacation. It’s hard enough to fire up the computer and begin typing away during normal working weeks. But on vacation? That laptop looks like poison ivy. I want to shut it up in my backpack and not give it a glance.

Today’s economy, though, doesn’t allow for that. Maybe two years ago, I’d take a full week off of work. Today, though, with writing assignments harder to come by, I can’t afford to let an entire week go by without any writing. So I’ll dutifully flip open my laptop and get to work.

It’s a drag. But, I admit, it is better than the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum they have here. It seems to be a curse of the Midwest: Every tourist-trap town has a Ripley’s museum.