Confessions of a Closet Cruise Director
There’s this thing that happens when people visit my family in McMinnville. The second I learn someone I know is coming to town it is as if invisible hands have tied a short navy scarf around my neck and I morph into this person: chipper, scheming, managerial, someone with very good posture, all smiles, pointer finger ready to direct.
When it comes to trying to have the best experience humanly experiencable, I live to tell people what to do.
It’s an outgrowth of my job as a travel writer to seek out experiences worthy of a postcard, and when I go places, it is always with this extra filter created by this question driving me: Why should anyone take the time to do this?
But over the five years I’ve lived in McMinnville, capital of Oregon’s wine country, I’ve grown somewhat tired of the top ten lists, the must-see’s, the kind of travel writing you could do from a behind a desk without actually going anywhere. That kind of writing has value, yes. But when it comes to my own town, I’d like to take my inner cruise director and make her something more fitting of this place, more like a benevolent strolling partner with a lot of insider info.
The nuance of nice
This town I live in, it can seem at first glance like Pleasantville because it’s Nice with a capital ‘N.’ But nice has nuance. Nice people come to McMinnville, and the niceness has everything to do with wanting to do great big things in the world while also living small day-to-day. Nice means no nonsense, thank you very much, because there is work to do and wine to drink.
McMinnville – it’s a place where you might meet the guy who started one of the world’s most active online communities (Metafilter), and he’s sitting next to another guy who designs shoes for Adam Levine.
It’s a town where everyone stops traffic. No, really. Linger for even a second on a corner of Third Street and cars stop for you. I just can’t get over that.
It’s got a main street (3rd) where you are just as likely to meet someone taking their goat for a walk, where the farmer who sells you your veggies brings his own milk to Community Plate for a third-wave single origin latte, foam drawn in the shape of a swan.
It’s marked by a veneer of localism and small-town boosterism worthy of the freshly watered potted baskets that line 3rd street while also holding the country’s most legitimate scholarly conference on UFO sightings.
I crave these stories-behind-the-stories.
I live to tell people that they must go to Bistro Maison because the owner used to manage the Tavern on the Green in New York City and will provide you with the most exceptional hospitality in the valley.
I want to point out my friend Carmen’s Italian specialty shop Peirano & Daughters – and daughters! – and tell them what it’s like to watch friends aim high and win James Beard Awards.
As you can see, I am already telling you what to do.
Introducing Tiny Travels
So I’ve got this new column for Visit McMinnville and I’m calling it Tiny Travels because that what travel actually is for most of us – collected moments we squeeze in between everything left to be done. Tiny doesn’t mean fast, after all. It means choosing setting deliberately and enjoying what goes on there more.
This is not a hard job. Oregon wine country is a place that rewards those who linger. It favors the compulsive picnicker, the bucket list wine lover, the spontaneous day-tripper, the flaneur, the connoisseur, the sensual sweet spot-seeker.
I hope that Tiny Travels will help you go deeper, that it will feel more like collected scenes captured from the very clever wallpaper than listening to Julie from the Love Boat direct the show.
I invite you to follow me on these tiny travels. Do let me know if I’m micro-managing you.