Entry 658: The Right to a Boring Vacation

In case you haven’t yet made plans for your summer vacation, the state of New York has a great suggestion for you.

In a new ad campaign, it is inviting visitors to tour all the equal rights attractions the state has to offer. “New York has a proud legacy of promoting equal rights,” said Governor Cuomo in a press release, “and this campaign will raise awareness of our state’s destinations surrounding those historic events.”

You may be wondering what an “equal rights attraction” is, and whether you have to be at least 48″ tall to ride one.

Well the first TV commercial is out, and it gives us an indication of the thrills that await you on your New York Equal Rights vacation. In the spot, we see a mother and her teenaged daughter in a car, the girl looking wistfully out the window as her voice-over talks to Susan B. Anthony about voting. Mom looks lovingly at the girl in the rearview mirror (because teenaged girls always sit in the back seat when traveling with their mothers), never even imagining that her daughter is insanely carrying on an internal monologue with a deceased suffragette.

We then see mother and child in Anthony’s house in Rochester, which I’m assuming is now a museum, because otherwise they’re breaking and entering. Finally, we see the teenager visiting Anthony’s grave and leaning a sign against the headstone that says “Thank You*” while her mother looks on proudly, perhaps trying to remember if their health plan includes psychotherapy.

The point of the commercial, of course, is that New York State is chock full of wonderful equal rights landmarks just like Susan B. Anthony’s house and grave. Literally, just like those. Because most of the attractions seem to be people’s houses and grave sites.

John Brown, Harriet Tubman, William Seward, Gerrit Smith, Alice Austen, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Robert H. Jackson are all waiting to welcome you into their homes to look at their antique furniture and learn, in the case of the Matilda Joslyn Gage House, why there’s a room devoted to The Wizard of OzAnd when you’re done touring all those dead people’s homes, you can visit some of them again in their cemeteries!

(An aside: Alice Austen [not to be confused with Jane Austen or Austin Powers] was, according to the New York tourism guidebook, “one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers.” It doesn’t say what she had to do with equal rights; presumably before she came along, photographers were subject to anti-camera bias crimes.)

“But Governor Cuomo,” you might ask New York’s chief executive, “what if I feel like my family would be disappointed in a vacation highlighted by old houses and dead people? What if my family would sneak away from me and leave me stranded next to Susan B. Anthony’s grave so that I would have to write “Buffalo” on the back of a “Thank You” sign somebody left behind and hitchhike to our next stop, Forest Lawn Cemetery, where Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress, is buried? Are there any other types of equal rights attractions that are more likely to pique my children’s interest? Something interactive, perhaps, like joining an authentic reenactment of a melee with police outside a gay bar, or riding on a real underground railroad?”

Sadly, the answer is no, unless you want to count the New York City subway.  But to help you plan your trip, you can get a free Guide to New York State’s Equal Rights Destinations, which is helpfully divided into four sections: Abolitionists and African-American History; Suffragettes and Women’s Rights; Human Rights (which somehow doesn’t include the subjects of the first two sections); and Exploring New York State, which is where you’ll find the non-rights-related fun stuff that normal people do when they visit.

And when you plan your exciting New York equal rights vacation, don’t forget to include Jamestown, home to the biggest attraction of all, a monument to two people without whose sacrifices we could not enjoy the equal rights we all have today. I speak of course of…

…the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum and National Comedy Center!

Just as Susan B. Anthony stands for equal rights for women and Harriet Tubman for African Americans, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz stand for…


…well, I’ll let the Guide tell you:

“The museum in Lucy’s hometown celebrates her legacy as a television pioneer and the first woman to head a major television production company.”

So, basically, Lucy stands for equal rights for Oprah and Shonda Rhimes. Or something like that. It’s unclear who owes their freedoms to Desi Arnaz. Maybe nightclub singers.

In any case, book your vacation now. Maybe I can even meet you at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historical Site,** which is “just down the road from the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

I guess Eleanor paved the way for the equal rights of first ladies to live separately from their husbands.

See you soon.

*Yes, thank you, Susan B. Anthony! You would be so proud to see how the U.S. election process has evolved, and the wonderful equal rights-oriented leaders it has resulted in!

**Eleanor, it seems, was a big Val Kilmer fan.

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