After she returned home from work last Friday, my wife informed me that she has accrued quite a bit of vacation time and that we should take a trip somewhere. Bethany suggested several destination possibilities including Italy, the British Isles, Germany, a number of tropical islands, and a few beachside retreats in the U.S. She had a lot of great ideas, yet no matter what she proposed, I shot her down every time.

Travis Naughton

Travis Naughton

I apologized for being so disagreeable. I tried to delicately explain that I didn’t feel like spending yet another week-long vacation staring blankly at the ocean, regardless of the beauty of the location. I’m not a swimmer, therefore a beach vacation gets pretty old after a day or two of watching everyone else enjoying at all that water. I have no desire to tour centuries-old buildings while jockeying for position with thousands of other obnoxious tourists either. I’m uncomfortable being surrounded by the large crowds and the bumper-to-bumper traffic found in the world’s major cities/tourist destinations. Despite my careful reasoning, I’m afraid I ended up sounding either like a spoiled white guy who’s bored with his privileged existence or a contrary old curmudgeon.

The truth of the matter is that I am a simple man, and I derive pleasure from the simple things in life. Case in point: last Saturday, when my friend Mike recruited me to help him haul a golf cart and a refrigerator from Paris, Missouri to his house in Columbia.

Normally, moving a refrigerator would not be classified as a pleasurable experience, but when you add a trip to the small and charming town of Paris to the mix, good times are sure to follow. After picking up another good friend named Todd, we stopped by the old tavern for tenderloin sandwiches bigger than our heads, fried cheese balls, and ice-cold frothy beverages to wash everything down. Mike’s parents met us there, and soon several other locals joined us for conversation and laughs, too. Conversation and laughs are Paris’s biggest industries.

After our bellies were full and the was fridge loaded, we made our way to the Mark Twain County Club just outside of town where the plan was to load Mike’s cart on the trailer and head back to Columbia. Mike’s parents, Roy and Bobbie, followed us over to the course, and it was decided that we might as well play some golf. A sixth person joined our group on the course, a local legend and long-time member of the club named Bob, who upon driving up to us in his cart was asked if he wanted to play. His response, in his typical no-nonsense fashion: “Hell no.”

I’ve had the privilege of playing at the MTCC several times over the years, finishing a complete round only once. Saturday was no exception. We played exactly two holes before deciding that it was much too hot and that we were much too full of fried pork and cheese to continue.

Back in Columbia Mike, his wife Michelle, his brother Roy Lynn, and I went to dinner and a concert. The food at D-Rowe’s was delicious as usual, but the concert was simply sublime. After learning about an invitation-only house concert performed by Missouri band The Bottle Rockets, Mike and Michelle purchased tickets for Roy and I as a way to thank us for helping them with their recent move. The concert was held in the home of a friend named Katie, in her sunroom, and was attended by just forty lucky guests. Our crew sat in the front row, less than five feet from the internationally-acclaimed band. The Bottle Rockets performed an acoustic set, with the song list determined entirely by audience requests. Naturally, they played their hits like “Radar Gun” and “I’ll be Coming Around” but also many other fan favorites such as “Indianapolis”, “Get Down, River”, “Dog”, and many more. It was hands down one of the most enjoyable musical experiences of my life.

After the show, Mike and I sat on his back patio, overlooking a dead-still pond, while listening to the many frogs and crickets who were also basking in the cool, night air. As we recapped the day’s highlights, a shooting star streaked across the dark sky. It was the perfect ending to a nearly perfect day.

My ideal vacation is one filled with simple pleasures like the ones I experienced Saturday. Keep the ocean. Give me a mid-Missouri farm pond. Skip the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Take me to a concert at a friend’s house. Travis the Contrarian is actually pretty easy to please—and a cheap date to boot. Bethany should be glad for that.

And I should just be glad that, after 20 years, my wife is still willing to take vacations with this old curmudgeon.