“It’s hell living in a tourist trap.” So says Rita Epiphyte, a young woman born beneath Pedro’s sombrero at South of the Border in Dillon, South Carolina.
Rita is not alone.
Tourist Attraction Trauma. It’s a little known affliction, but the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors (NATAS) is striving to bring it to the forefront of American consciousness. Unlike tourists who can laugh off and leave behind sombrero towers, jackalopes, and wax statues of the biblical Job, Tourist Attraction Trauma survivors cannot so simply walk away.
Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero: Tales of Trauma and Triumph from the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors is decidedly disinterested in the tourist’s perspective. Too many travel guides have already been written while too few truly personal stories have been shared. As part of its stated mission, NATAS is committed to making those voices and stories known, among them:
- Arabella Cosa, “The Thing Is” (The Thing?, Dragoon, Arizona):
“Once, just once, I would like to keep a friend for more than forty-five minutes. But I live at the home of ‘The THING?’ and people just keep moving on, moving through.”
- Bud Blackenberry, “Under the Sign of Sleepytime” (Celestial Seasonings, Boulder Colorado):
“I have always imagined that when my mother’s water broke, it was not some bland amniotic fluid that went spilling over her kitchen’s tiled floor, but peppermint tea. Gallons and gallons of steaming hot peppermint tea.”
- Vallerie (last name unknown), “The Roswell Diaries” (International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell, New Mexico):
“We’re moving. Again. Mom tells me, ‘It’s for the best,’ but that’s what she said when we ended up in Tacoma a year ago. This time Mom says she wants an alien baby and the only way to get one is if she moves us all to Roswell.”
- Dawn Tempers, “Northern Belle” (Belle Gunness exhibit, LaPorte County Historical Museum, LaPorte, Indiana):
“A sliced finger taught me not to touch the red-tinted axe leaning against the wall. A splinter in my heel reminded me to step around the sharp bone fragments littering the dirt floor. But nothing stopped me from crawling inside the garden cart, and nothing stopped Belle—whose breath smelled like boiled cabbage and tapioca pudding, smelled like the taste of her milk—from draping a worn but warm gunny sack over me in the night.”
- Ezekiel William White, “Taxidermy Tabernacle” (Living Bible Museum, Mansfield, Ohio):
“Taxidermy—squirrel resurrection as I like to call it—is my calling, my gift from God. When I was eight, I became the youngest licensed taxidermist in the state of Ohio, using my God-given gift to populate the greatest Bible stories ever with squirrels. I’ve also stuffed my share of ducks to the glory of God and for the good of the Living Bible Museum, but squirrels, squirrels are my true passion.”
- Ruth Michelle Mitchell, “Raised in a Corn Palace” (The Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota)
“As I pack up my life, I wish I hadn’t lost my wishbone collection. I’ve had my collection since I was just a girl, no older than six, and have added to it every wishbone I’ve ever since had the pleasure to break.”
Perhaps you see yourself, your upbringing, in even the snippets of stories above. Perhaps you too are a victim of Tourist Attraction Trauma. NATAS urges you to consider the following questions, to consider whether you also need help. That is, after all, why NATAS is here.
Tourist Attraction Trauma
Are YOU a victim?
• When you say where you’re from, do people say, “I stopped there once on my way to _____”
• When you talk about your childhood, do people laugh and say, “Stop making such a big deal out of it, it’s only a tourist trap” (or roadside attraction, or museum exhibit, etc.)?
• When you travel, are you careful to avoid stopping at any place that looks “interesting” out of respect for the locals?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be suffering from Tourist Attraction Trauma (TAT). The National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors is here to help.