Monday, January 28, 2008

Satisfying the Comp

One of the things lingering on my to-do list is a 400 word story about a posh coastal resort in Mexcio. I was invited there last September on assignment for another story, and because I stayed there for free, I now need to write an additional little travel piece on this place. Editors call it "satisfying the comp," but I believe street hustlers refer to it as "doing the date." It involves lots of sexy praise, some panting and moaning over the marble bathrooms and a big fake O at the end.  It's not difficult to praise a wonderful resort. The trouble is that these resorts tend to be wonderful in all the same ways. The exact same ways. The same walk-in closets, the same plunge pools, the same outdoor showers, the same thread count on the sheets. The same glitzy glass bubble between the beautiful vacationers and the impoverished locals.

 While doing this date, I am reminded of why I don't like to go on press trips. Imagine a sort of magical mystery tour in which the unwashed journalist gets elevated out of her cubicle, or in my case her run-down cottage in suburbia, and into the ethers of the super rich, where she will be falsely flattered and pampered and shuttled about as though she belonged. Unlike those English novels (such as Pamela), in which the good-hearted lady's maid is lured into a promised union with her lord, a story in which the young woman guards her virtue, behaves impeccably, and carries the day, a story in which she challenges and thereby enhances society's Great Chain of Being, our travel writer can be counted on to surrender her virtue before the foil has cracked on the first magnum of champagne at the welcome reception. She can be counted on to rip off those naughty journalistic instincts before the butler has given her the full tour of the presidential suite. Truth be told, any semblance of objectivity sails away at the moment any trip is proposed.  As soon as the PR person on the phone says, "Of course, my client will be delighted to pay for your air fare as well. Which dates and flight times would you prefer?" is when our heroine clutches the phone to whisper, "Take me now, hard and fast. I'll write anything you want," while fantasizing about a business class upgrade. 

And then we hate ourselves in the morning. Nobody likes to be a slut in exchange for a suitcase full of itty bitty shampoos.

THE EXERCISE: It might be fun to describe a non travel destination, your own house, a local pool hall, or your worst-ever travel accommodations in the same breathy fake-O style of most travel writing. 

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