“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
— Marcel Proust
Folks, before I begin my usual rant, can I just say that I love Columbus Day?
That might be a strange sentiment coming from a son of Ireland, but it's true. And when I say I love this holiday I'm not blowing smoke filled with snarky sarcasm — I have a true patriotic passion for having this long weekend. Patriotic in the sense that only in the grand ole U.S. of A. would we have a holiday named for a man who never actually set foot on our beloved soil.
In a nutshell, we're proud of a guy who had only one job to do yet, failed in such a fabulous way as to become a legend in misadventure. First off, let's knock a few urban myths overboard. No, Christopher Columbus wasn't setting out to prove the world was round; everyone was already on the same page with the whole global market idea before he ever wore pleated pantaloons. He wasn't the first first to discover the “new world” either. Perhaps he might have been the first Italian to spend some time on the beaches of the Bahamas but there was already an established society running the tiki bar centuries before Christopher ordered a round. And lastly, he wasn't as great a navigator as history might have you believe.
Fun fact: did you know his third ship, the Santa Maria, got wrecked during the historic first voyage? I say "third" because like you, I was taught his ships were named in order of The Nina, The Pinta and well, you know how the phrase ends. And the crash wasn't even during a viscous storm but happened during the day along the coast of Hispaniola. All kidding aside can someone please tell me how do you accidentally hit an island? Were they playing the world's most uneven game of chicken and expecting Barbados to swerve at the last moment?
And I'm not sure of his mental health, either, because the more I read the more I feel that Chris might have been a few waves short of a shipwreck, because he actually thought he had reached the Orient even though the people around him looked more like Jennifer Lopez than Jackie Chan. I can almost imagine the confusion that the Central Americas had when Columbus, thinking he was in Asia, kept asking for “chop sticks.”
I'll bet there were many a long stare coming from his hosts as they tried to figure out why Christopher needed an axe to eat dinner with. And yet, as history has played out, the first European to reach North America was probably Leif Erikson which, now that I'm thinking about it would kind of be fitting. I mean, celebrating Leif Day in autumn just makes sense. But either way, having a three-day weekend is welcome no matter what who discovers it first.