The distant planet of Tralfamadore is bright (thanks to the three suns), clean and orderly. The natives (green, look something like toilet plungers) are polite almost to a fault. The few trees are stately and perfectly placed for optimal shade, almost as though they have always been there and always will be. That’s not to say that Tralfamadore is dull. Far from it.
Friday, 4 p.m.
Stretch your legs by strolling along the West Side Canal, the heart of Tralfamadore’s cool scene. Once the home of cheap appliance stores, now Tralfamadorians trek down here in search of edgy artwork and cutting-edge boutiques. The smell of the orange canal water is fragrant and pleasing, although it will make your wife slightly ill. You will snack on a sausage wrap at the little pushcart at the end of the canal, and come back later to pick up that crystal carving of a mouse you saw in the window of that one shop on the three-way corner.
MEAT ON THE STREET
Join the Tralfamadorian hipster set for dinner at Meat Place #12, an old-fashioned bistro located next to a working butcher shop. The restaurant, which opened last fall, will close three weeks after you depart the planet, so you won’t be able to recommend it to your friends when you get back. You will order something that looks like a rib eye and then argue with your wife about whether you tip fifteen percent on other planets.
A PEAR OF JACKS
The hot Tralfamadorian nightclubs attract visitors from all over the stellar quadrant, drawn by the steamy jukeboxes and the trendy beverages. You will decide to skip the clubs and turn in for a good night’s sleep, which will be interrupted by a complicated dream involving a bushel of Asian pears and the Pomeranian your grandmother had when you were little.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Brunch is deeply rooted in local culture, which holds that things happen when they happen. You will find a lovely country-style bistro that serves something that looks very much like coffee but tastes like liquid nutmeg, served in giant-style Tralfamadorian cups (the locals suck up the liquid with their suction cups, but don’t feel like you have to emulate them). You will get eggs with cheese, and your wife will get a fruit plate, but you will end up eating most of hers while she fills up on the free raisin bread.
This is a planet full of many diverse experiences, but unfortunately, one of them is not residential architecture. The fatalistic streak of the Tralfamadorians is most evident in its neighborhoods, with street after street of identical row houses—identical because life is supposedly too short to spend time thinking about what color to paint the house or what to plant in the flowerbeds. This can be very disorienting for casual tourists wandering away from the high street. Make the second right, go down a block, turn left, and you’ll see the hotel.
MADE IN TRALFAMADORE
After a quick dip in the pool, check out some of the local handcrafted jewelry—all the more impressive because Tralfamadorians have only one hand. You will look at the silver chains, tell the proprietor that you’ll be back tomorrow, and she (or he, it’s hard to tell sometimes) will explain that you won’t, but thanks for shopping anyway. You will then buy a triangle-shaped pendant.
TASTE OF THE FAVELAS
Many local restaurants don’t cater specifically to visitors from our solar system, but Tourist Nutrition Center #12 is the happy exception, offering sophisticated and spicy Brazilian-Tralfamadorian fusion cuisine. Your wife will try to order shrimp, or something that at least looks like seafood, and then spend half an hour complaining about her sugarcane kebab and how you should have gone to Aruba instead. You will drink one too many mango caipirinhas and say something uncomplimentary about your mother-in-law.
Montana Wildhack’s Bar and Grill (corner of 135th Street and that big avenue that’s marked with something that looks like the pound-sterling symbol, but backwards) offers darkly-paneled walls, dim lighting, and frosty microbrews that draw the locals out of their row houses. Beware the device that looks like a mechanical bull in the corner, because that’s not what it is. You will get caught by the local constabulary taking a leak out behind the building, and pay a small fine.
Sunday, 11 a.m.
SO IT GOES
Before you leave, be sure to check out the Museum Commemorating The End Of The Universe, complete with a scale model of the Trafalmadorian ship that causes the structure of matter to collapse in on itself, sometime in the far future. Your wife will be impressed by the tiny scale of the dioramas commemorating the life of the test pilot who will one day push the button that ends all existence.
The Interstellar Transdimentional Portal offers service from Hoboken to Tralfamadore for as low as $275 round trip, plus one half-liter of blood. Taxis are plentiful, and mysteriously materialize when you need them.
The Blue Hotel (corner of 139th and the street with the curly ampersand) evokes Victorian elegance in a traditional Tralfamadorian setting. After check-in, your wife will be concerned about the odd stains on the linens and the bars on the windows. You will ask for a refund, and get it, minus a five percent re-booking surcharge.
The Green Hotel, located across the street, welcomes upscale guests and tourists concerned about security. The 45 artist-designed rooms are available for as low as $200 a night. Various Earth-type sundries, like Snickers bars, toothpaste and camera batteries, are available at a small kiosk. You will buy a pack of tax-free Marlboro Lites and forget to declare it at interstellar customs.