Refuge and Reassurance

When the world goes off the rails like it did this week in Las Vegas, the very human reaction is fight or flight. Fight as in help to those who were impacted.  Flight as in shelter; consolation from an incomprehensible tragedy. My own flight, in extreme instances like this one, sometimes takes the form of fond memories of a journey my wife and I made five years ago, to a remote village on the west coast of Ireland called Clifden.

For those who travel to Ireland, Clifden is rarely on the itinerary.  It’s a four-hour cross-country drive from Dublin, and the final ninety minutes meander along a two-lane road through the forested expanse of Connemara National Park.  Clifden has a modest history for all of its two hundred years on the map.  The town evolved from farmers and fishermen who lived in the region, its commerce bolstered by the heir of a nearby castle.  Like most towns in Ireland, Clifden suffered the blight of the potato famine and the onslaughts of rebels from the north.  Its only claim to fame is the location of Marconi’s first wireless telegraphy station to the near south, broadcasting messages across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia in 1905.  Today Clifden has 2,000 inhabitants, still looking the part of “two churches, two hotels, three schools, and 23 pubs” it boasted in the early 1800’s.

As my wife and I discovered, Clifden is the very definition of “off the beaten path”.  We stumbled upon its welcoming neighborhood very much by chance.  Our intended stop was Galway that day, but once in the city-center (and having survived a five-lane roundabout), we yearned for something smaller and less urban.  Heading north along the coast and with dusk turning to dark, we experienced the thrill of the uncertainty of locating our as-yet-unknown destination.

After a middle-of-the-road stop for a funeral procession (popular guy, judging from the dozens of people descending upon the nearby church), and then passing by the dignified Kylemore Abbey, little Clifden emerged from the coastal fog.  We stopped into the first bed-and-breakfast we could find, but there were no rooms at such a late hour.  Instead, we were directed to the larger/older Foyle’s Hotel a couple of streets away.  What a blessing in disguise.  Foyle’s was the perfect introduction to the charms of Clifden.  A turn-of-the-century grand dame with wide hallways, creaking stairs, and no elevator, we felt like we’d stepped back in time a century or more.  Dinner was served in an elegant main-level salon just off the reception area, soft music playing in the background.  Our spacious room looked down on the center of town from one of the second-floor windows you see here.

The next morning, we took to Clifden on foot, wandering its quaint, narrow, up-and-down streets.  We stopped in at Walsh’s Bakery for breakfast, walking away with a few of the more tempting choices from the case. We then stopped in at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, one of the two spires accenting Clifden’s modest skyline. We climbed to the higher part of town for a look down to the lazy harbor activity along the quay.  More than any sight or sound, we simply embraced Clifden for what it was; a quiet seaside village; is inhabitants contentedly going about their business.  In contrast to bright and busy Dublin, Clifden summoned a much-needed deep breath and a moment of halcyon reflection.

Perhaps our travels will bring us back to Clifden someday.  But the more I consider the idea the less inclined I am to make it happen.  Our idyllic experience was predicated on the chance decisions making our visit happen in the first place, the wandering road leading us to its cobblestone streets, and the saving grace of vacancy at the Foyle’s Hotel.

In Gaelic, Clifden means “stepping stones”.  That’s a nice coincidence, since my fond memories seem to guide me back to a more content frame of mind.  I keep the following illustration in my home office.  With just a glance I can find reassuring refuge once again.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Game Over

Tag the Dallas Cowboys with “politically correct” for their actions Monday night. The National Football League staged fifteen games last weekend – and thirty protests – but it wasn’t until the final contest Monday night where we saw something bordering on considerate. With the Cowboys, we witnessed unified “free speech” and regard for the American flag; neither action compromising the intent of the other.

If you missed Monday night’s game you would’ve been misled by Tuesday’s headlines, including, “Jerry Jones Leads Cowboys in Taking a Knee…”.  Jones – the Cowboys’ owner, president, and general manager – did take a knee, but he did so alongside his players and coaches; a unified show of disagreement with President Trump’s comments.  More importantly, Dallas knelt prior to the national anthem, so as not to confuse protest with allegiance to country.  During the anthem, the team stood with arms locked together and helmets removed.  I’m okay with that approach.  Even President Trump is okay with that approach.

As for the other twenty-nine teams, it was myriad versions of disunity and disrespect before kickoffs.  (NPR’s website lists them all here).  Random players knelt during the anthem while other stood – a visibly mixed message.  Owners and coaches stayed away for the most part, suggesting the same divisiveness alluded to by the President.  The Pittsburgh “Kneelers”, Seattle Seahawks, and Tennessee Titans – in total contempt of country – stayed off the field entirely during the national anthem.

Athletes exercising their right to free speech in sports venues is a distraction and nothing more, at least to the average fan.  The football field is simply not an effective platform for politics.  I, along with millions of others, tune in to watch the game, so anything outside the action itself (i.e. commercials) is irritating.  It’s the same reason I no longer watch awards shows; I don’t want the inevitable helping of political commentary along with the acceptance speeches.  The day the same thing happens in movie theaters is the day I buy my last ticket.  Sports and other entertainment venues should be escapes from the endless newsreel of the real world.

With the NFL, I’d argue the protests are not just irritating, but damaging.  Based on the number of emails Sports Illustrated received from disgruntled fans after last weekend, viewership is already taking a significant hit.  The NFL can’t afford to lose viewership.  The league is having enough trouble dealing with losses of sponsorship, and lawsuits tied to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  Forget about viewers; one of these days the NFL might not have players.

Tyler Eifert, a tight end for the Cincinnati Bengals and a graduate of my alma mater Notre Dame, contributed one of the better player perspectives in his essay, “Why I Stand“.  His words could’ve been mine when he said, “I am not questioning anyone’s reasons or rights to protest, but instead the method.  This entire protest about raising awareness for racial inequality has gotten lost in the media and turned into a debate about whether to sit or stand for the national anthem… I stand because I love my country.  I stand because I want to honor the people putting their lives on the line for me on a daily basis…”  Tyler Eifert gets it.  The American flag stands for the freedom allowing him to play football in the first place.

Kneeling in front of the flag (or absence from the field altogether) is trickling into other sports as well.  Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first pro baseball player to join the anthem protests by taking a knee before his team’s game.  The Minnesota Lynx joined arms on the court before the WNBA finals began on Sunday, while the Los Angeles Sparks returned to their locker room during the anthem.  Even high-schoolers are kneeling.  Until we see something more constructive, these actions have little merit.

NFL player protests will cease, especially if franchise owners enforce a league-sanctioned code of conduct they currently choose to ignore.  The country is no less divided because of these demonstrations.  Rockies baseball manager Bud Black says, “…for me to be arrogant enough to say that the other half of the country is wrong or that I’m definitely right, I think (that) is the wrong thing to do. … I’m proud to be an American. And I’m also thankful to have the First Amendment, so I see it both ways. I have my opinions, but that does not mean they are right, so I’ll keep them to myself.”

I wish NFL players would keep their opinions to themselves, at least on game days.  Sports fans are switching off their televisions in record numbers, including me.  I have better things to do with my Sunday afternoons.

Fade to black.

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Education Opulence

At New York City’s exclusive Trinity School on the Upper West Side, kindergartners look forward to a year of “…building self-confidence, independence, and responsibility”, coupled with “forming friendships, dealing with a variety of social situations, and discovering the joy and excitement of learning…” Sounds like a solid choice for early schooling, until you consider the daunting application process and the need for financial aid. Your child’s chances of acceptance are only 1 in 5, and a year of Trinity grade-school will cost you $50,000.

Trinity isn’t in a class(room) of its own with its hefty private-school tuition.  At least forty-five other independents in Manhattan carry a similar price tag, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.  Perhaps Trinity boasts of its 300-year history, evolving from noble roots “providing free education for the poor in the New Colony”.  Certainly, Trinity basks in its high enrollment of graduates into Ivy League-caliber universities.  But history and performance are not prerequisites for the high costs.  The Upper East Side’s Wetherby-Pembridge School opened just two weeks ago with no tangible credentials.  The cost of a year at W-P for a three-year old?  $45,500.

Remarkably, fifty grand in tuition doesn’t even cover the full cost of a year of education.  Many of NYC’s independent schools fund-raise and conduct aggressive capital campaigns.  Without state-of-the-art facilities and salaries befitting doctorate-level educators, private schools risk losing students to the more “affordable” options in town.

Elite K-12 academies also find themselves in a moral dilemma.  While their tuition costs rise faster than the rate of inflation (23% in just the last five years), their enrollment becomes inevitably less reflective of the society around them.  The Bank Street School for Children “views diversity as essential to its academic program”, but struggles to deliver on that value when virtually all its students come from the top 1% of incomes.  Even the rich are forced to compromise to keep up with tuition payments.  Many forego vacations, club memberships, and expensive hobbies for the sake of their child’s top-dollar education.

When our kids were born in the San Francisco Bay Area almost thirty years ago, my wife and I had differing opinions on the best options for K-12 education.  My wife graduated from a private Catholic high school in Chicago, while I graduated from public schools in Los Angeles.  We had good reason to consider either option with our own kids.  Our research included several independent schools, including the prestigious Menlo School in Atherton, and the (Catholic) Woodside Priory School in Portola Valley.  Even then private-school tuition was beyond our reach, not to mention the implied commitments (tithing, volunteering).  We moved to Colorado before we gave Bay Area schools a chance (and our kids graduated from Colorado’s public schools), but it’s safe to say they would’ve gone to public schools no matter where we lived.  Today, Menlo and Priory cost $45,000/year.

With another nod to Manhattan’s Upper East Side, our daughter recently talked us into watching the television series “Gossip Girl”, which ran from 2007-2012 on The CW network.  Gossip Girl explores the lives of New York’s upper-class adolescents, with most of the drama taking place in and around the “Constance Billard School for Girls” and “St. Jude’s School for Boys”.  Gossip Girl’s story lines are hit or miss, but the characters’ appetites for the uber-wealthy lifestyle are on full display.  Stretch limousines, lavish parties, jet-set European vacations, and top-dollar wardrobes would imply $50,000 for a year of K-12 tuition is a drop in the bucket.  Gossip Girl may be a fictional world, but opulent education is real, and a gold ring lying beyond most of our grasps.

Manhattan’s private-school world is a little too ostentatious for my tastes.  I received a perfectly good education in public schools, after all.  Trinity School’s website includes a welcome from the “Head of School” who proudly claims, “students and teachers work together to create a dazzlingly dynamic mosaic of human excellence”.  With that glittering generality, no wonder the five-figure price tag.

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Knight Watchman

This week’s headlines are full of speculation about Apple’s soon-to-debut iPhone X. We’re still a month away from pre-orders, yet iPhone X headlines carry the weight of those for the hurricanes and North Korea.

          Images courtesy of www.apple.com

iPhone X’s new/improved features sound impressive: “”It’s all screen”, facial recognition, surgical-grade stainless-steel, water resistance, wireless charging, superior camera functionality, and an “A11 Bionic” smartphone chip capable of 600 billion operations per second.  Sounds like a noticeable upgrade from the iPhone 7.

Despite this fanfare, my eye is still drawn to the iPhone’s most basic app: those numbers at the top of the “elegantly-rounded screen” silently telling the time-of-day.

I wear a watch.  Always have.  I wake up every morning, get dressed, pocket my wallet, handkerchief, and keys, and “wrist” my watch.  It’s a habit I’ve had since college days.  Granted, my wallet gets slimmer by the year, as the need for cash and physical cards dwindles.  My key chain is no longer a chain; not even a set of keys (rather, a small fob controlling my car without ever leaving my pocket).  Mercifully, my handkerchief hasn’t changed whatsoever (other than the purchase of a new one every couple of months).

My analog watch – though threatened by technology – remains steadfastly on my wrist.  I started wearing watches when I was a kid, and several decades later I still have the first two I ever owned.  My Snoopy watch was the wind-up type, telling time with its hours and minutes “paws”.  My gold (colored) Pulsar was one of the earliest of its brand, and seemed to say, “time to grow up”.

Several years after my Pulsar I purchased (or received) another wristwatch, followed by another and another and another.  At some point in the process my watches became too nice to part with, and “replace” became “collect”.  Today, I choose from half a dozen.

Recently, I gave smartwatches a try.  I figured, why not get my time and all those other time-saving applications on my wrist?  But it just didn’t take.  Like digital-display watches, I missed the elegant mechanics of a real analog watch.  For a short time, I tried wearing an analog on one wrist and a smartwatch on the other.  Also didn’t take (and probably drew a few curious looks in the process).

On yesterday’s commute talk-radio, the discussion was the iPhone X, and the host said, “anyone 40-and-older probably still wears a watch”.  That statement applies to me (both age range and habit).  I simply cannot forego my wristwatch for a smartphone.  No knock to smartphones, mind you.  In fact, with its $1,000 price tag, the radio host asked callers to predict whether the iPhone X would sell.  All ten callers I heard said people would buy, just as they did at the $500 threshold.  To anyone who thinks $1,000 is excessive, consider this: the smartphone has become a cultural necessity; a here-to-stay personal computer appendage (gather dust, ye laptops and desktops).  And $1,000 is a reasonable price for a personal computer these days.

Here’s a more concrete argument for the $1,000 price tag.  Make a list of the iPhone’s basic apps, and consider the cost of say, five years of physical materials to replace those apps.  Note pads, address books, calendars, paper maps, wallets, cameras, telephones, stereos, calculators, newspapers, and postage stamps (a wholly incomplete list).  Watches.  Well, what do you know; you just spent a lot more than $1,000!  Any further arguments?

No arguments from me either: the X will be a good and popular buy.  But you’ll still find a watch on my wrist.

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Carefree Highways

Here’s a connect-the-dots challenge, tapping what’s left of your road-trip driving fever from Labor Day weekend. Pull up Google Maps, pick two towns on opposite edges of the continental United States, and see if you can discover the longest driving trip. The only rules: you must start and end with U.S. cities, and your answer must be the blue line (not the grey line alternatives).

My first guess on Google Maps (above) is effectively the longest drive between the borders of Mexico and Canada.  San Ysidro in California wouldn’t exist if not for the busy border crossing just to the south.  Van Buren in Maine wouldn’t exist if not for a small group of Nova Scotia citizens exiled from Canada in 1785.  As you can see, my southwest to northeast traverse gets me 3,291 miles of driving and takes more than two days (including a wealth of bathroom stops).  In the process, I pass through ten U.S. states and three Canadian provinces.  Label this trip a long-distance segue from “Ole!” to “Eh?”

My second guess chooses a sun-starved soul north of Seattle, seeking some beach time in the Florida Keys (though someone named Irma would object right about now).  Our friend finishes his oyster stew in tiny Blaine, WA; points his car to the southeast, and arrives in Key West, FL two-and-a-half days later, just in time for a twilight margarita with Jimmy Buffett.  His drive also passes through ten states (like my first guess) but lasts 3,559 miles.  If our friend finished in Miami he’d drive the same distance as my first guess, but Highway 1 – further south through the Florida Keys – buys him a 160-mile tiebreaker.

A recent Wall Street Journal article asserts we Americans are endlessly romanced by the allure of the open road (a “four-wheeled traipse” if you will), and the Labor Day holiday conveniently marks the end of the summer travel season.  Thus, you get a lot of drivers on the first weekend in September – 600,000 in Colorado alone, or 11% of the state’s population.  That translates to over 3.5 million road-trippers across the entire United States.  Traffic jam, anyone?

                  

In the prehistoric times of street-corner pay phones and folding road maps (read: 1970’s), the American Automobile Association (AAA) offered a service called “Triptik”.  Go to an AAA office, tell ’em where you want to go, and they’d hand you a step-by-step book of maps “prepared expressly for you”.  My parents gave me a Triptik – and all the station wagon gas I needed – as a high-school graduation present.  My buddy and I created a Western States round-trip starting in Los Angeles, driving as far north as Montana, as far east as South Dakota, and returning through the Southwestern states.  Our aim was to hit as many national parks as possible.  We spent a few nights in motels (on our own dime), but most nights in sleeping bags in the back of the station wagon.  No agenda, no worries – just a couple of teenagers making a ton of memories on the open road.

On the topic of road trips, I owe a nod to America’s beloved “Main Street” – U.S. Route 66.  Though nowhere close to the longest road trip in the U.S., Route 66 is certainly the most renowned.  Built in 1926, the “Mother Road” ran from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles – fully 2,448 miles.  Early 1900’s migration to the Western U.S. owes some of its success to 66, and all those road-trippers “got their kicks” at the hundreds of restaurants and motels born along the highway.  It wasn’t until 1985 – sixty years later – the last remnants of Route 66 were replaced by newer segments of the U.S. Interstate Highway System.

Now then; time to solve the Google Maps challenge (with a twist).  The winner of the point-to-point American road trip is some nearby version of my second guess above: Washington to Florida.  However, for my money I’d much prefer the drive from Oregon to Massachusetts (above).  The twist?  You can do it all on one ridiculously long highway!  U.S. Route 20 – “The Big Daddy” – starts in little Newport, Oregon (pop. 10,000) and ends in Boston (pop. 673,000).  You’ll cover 12 states and 3,154 miles before you hit the checkered flag.  It’ll take you almost two days without stopping, but please stop.  Along the way you’ll find the Idaho Potato Museum, Yellowstone National Park, “Carhenge” (a Stonehenge homage made entirely of autos!), Iowa’s Field of Dreams, Hall of Fame’s for RV’s/motor-homes, rock & roll, and baseball; and most importantly, the Jell-O Gallery Museum, your one-stop-shop + tribute to the jiggly dessert.  C’mon, how you gonna top that road trip (with a dollop of whipped cream?)

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Any Way You Slice It

Labor Day is right around the corner, but I call your attention to a couple of tastier holidays this time of year. Last Thursday was Peach Pie Day and a month henceforth will be Strawberry Cream Pie Day.  October will usher in Pumpkin Pie Day, as well as Boston Cream Pie Day.  In November, we’ll celebrate Bavarian Cream Pie Day.  Next May we’ll celebrate Apple Pie Day (and that one should be designated an American holiday).

These pie-eyed celebration days come and go with little more than crumbs for fanfare, but any attention to pie is a good thing in my book.  Whether sweet or savory, fruit or cream, single or double-crust, bite-size (“cutie pies”?) or multiple-serving-size; you can never have too many fingers in pie.

Pie is literally a part of my DNA.  My grandmother used to make delicious Cornish pasties, those hearty beef stew pocket-pies favored by generations of coal miners, each containing an entire meal within their flaky golden-brown crust.  My mother raised my brothers and I on the fruit pies her own mother taught her to make.  My favorites were cherry, peach, and mince; piping hot and a la mode (or in the case of mince, “a la hard sauce”).  I can still picture my mother adorning her creations with strips of dough – elegant top-crust latticework too pretty to consume.  She made it look easy as pie.

They say the signature of a great pie is its crust – ironic because history says pie crust was never meant to be eaten.  With the advent of flour in ancient Roman times, pie crust served a practical purpose: to contain and preserve the food within, especially for a soldier or sailor or some other kind of several-days traveler.  It wasn’t until bakers turned their attention to the crust when “real pie” was born.  Can you imagine the first time someone tasted a savory buttery crust, melded with hot fruit filling, cooled by the freshness of vanilla ice cream?  The whole is clearly greater than the sum of its parts.

   Royer’s Round Top Cafe, Texas

Any Texans reading this post will likely direct me to the Hill Country in the southeast, to little Marble Falls or tiny Round Top.  Both towns boast of serving “the best pies in the Lone Star State”, be that the Blue Bonnet Cafe in the former or Royer’s Cafe in the latter.  Blue Bonnet has a “Pie Happy Hour” and a regionally-renowned German Chocolate Pie.  (My favorite cake as a pie?  Sounds like a slice of heaven.)  Royer’s has something called a “Texas Trash Pie” (pretzels, graham crackers and coconut) and I can get one with a few clicks of my mouse.  Don’t tempt me.

No nod to pie would be complete without saluting Hostess Fruit Pies and Kellogg’s Pop Tarts – staples of the American childhood.  Hostess enticed you with those colorful wrappers and the promise of “real fruit filling” (though my favorite was actually the chocolate).  No matter the flavor, you consumed a brick’s worth of glazed sugar, chewy crust, and gooey fruit filling.  It’s a wonder we didn’t sink to the bottom of our swimming pools and bathtubs.

    

Kellogg’s Pop Tarts were svelte by comparison; a deck of large playing cards.  My mother favored the non-frosted fruit variety to keep our pantry “healthy”, but she snuck the brown-sugar cinnamon tarts into the basket too.  I ate hundreds of those.  Someone needs to invent a brown-sugar cinnamon pie.

Any Hollywood-types reading this post would remind me the ultimate pie movie is “Waitress” (now a Broadway musical), or “Michael”, where in one glorious scene Andie McDowell surveys a table’s worth of pie and gleefully sings, “Pie, pie, me-oh-my, I love pie!”

Thanks to a new local restaurant, I don’t have to travel to Texas to find amazing pie.  3.14 Sweet & Savory Pi Bar is as inclusive as it sounds.  Choose from a dozen or more “Pot Pi’s” for your entree (my favorite is the Irish-stew-inspired “Guinness Sakes”); then sprint to dessert by choosing from over twenty temptations (hello “Blueberry Fields Forever” Pi).

For the record, cake gets its share of celebrations as well.  Last Wednesday was “Sponge Cake Day” and November 26th is “National Cake Day”.  For me, those days will come and go like any other.  Those who celebrate cake should eat some humble pie and admit which dessert deserves the higher praise.  But hey, no time to debate; a chicken pot pie is in the oven and calling my name.

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American Tune-Up

Each of the fifty United States is represented by more than just a flag. America’s state symbols include animals, birds, trees, flowers, and songs. As a kid growing up in California I memorized these items, and years later I’ve still got them.  The “Golden State” has the Grizzly Bear, the Valley Quail, the Redwood, the Poppy, and “I Love You, California”.  Imagine my interest then, when Brooklyn Magazine took an updated stab at the state songs, publishing “The Musical Map of the United States”.

Image courtesy of Brooklyn Magazine, October 2016

Brooklyn Mag’s map is more than meets the eye (see here).  It’s not a collection of easy ditties you and I might come up with: Beach Boys for CA, John Denver for CO, Frank Sinatra for NY.  Instead, it’s a broad spectrum of lesser-known tunes, attached to the states by writers who chose them.  Read their stories and listen to their song choices.  It’s like 50+ blogs in one, plus a playlist if you want to shift the whole shebang to your smartphone.

Here’s a sampling of the Map’s creativity.  The writers chose Kenny Knight’s “America” for Colorado, a “dusty, country rock gem” with lyrics befitting its patriotic title (even if the song itself twangs along modestly).  For California, the writers needed two songs – Joni Mitchell’s “California”, and Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode”.  The former artist is Canadian; the latter raised in the gangland streets of Compton near Los Angeles.  You’ll find Mitchell’s folk music as appropriate as Dre’s rap for such a diverse state.

As I studied the Map, I realized each of us possesses our own musical geography, accumulating map dots as we move through life.  My own map began on the 8-track player of my father’s Cadillac in the 1960’s, crooning along with Perry Como as he claimed, “the bluest skies you’ve ever seen (are) in Seattle”.  By the 1970’s, I’d moved on to a hard-earned collection of 45-rpm records (“singles”), focusing on Top 40 bubble-gum one-hit wonders like Paper Lace’s “The Night Chicago Died” and Terry Jack’s “Seasons in the Sun”.  Also in the 70’s – courtesy of my brother’s extensive LP collection (and a stereo capable of a sonic boom) – I mapped to all kinds of rock, including Emerson Lake, & Palmer, The Eagles, Elton John, and Linda Ronstadt.

By the 1980’s, I’d graduated to cassette tapes and the easy-listening music of John Denver, Olivia Newton-John, and Barry Manilow (to which some would say, two steps forward three steps back).  Later in the ’80’s, I embraced compact discs with a budding affection for country music (Alabama), continuing to this day (Thomas Rhett).

Throw in a handful of downloads from my kids (Katy Perry, Meghan Trainor), sprinkle the whole mess with classical symphonies and concertos – a carryover from childhood piano lessons – and you have my musical map.  I’ll bet yours is wildly different.

Even the world of sports has a musical map, as Steve Rushin wrote in an excellent piece in this week’s Sports Illustrated (“Cheer and Trebling”).  You can’t hear the whistling of “Sweet Georgia Brown” without thinking Harlem Globetrotters, just as you can’t make it through baseball’s seventh inning without singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.  You won’t leave Yankee Stadium without Sinatra’s “New York, New York”, just as you won’t hear John Williams’ spectacular “Fanfare” without thinking Olympic Games.  Moments of silence at sporting events are literally reserved for the dearly departed.  Otherwise it’s all marching bands, pipe organs, and loudspeaker instrumentals.

My now-home state Colorado has a set of symbols like California.  The “Centennial State” has the Bighorn Sheep, the Lark Bunting, the Blue Spruce, the Columbine, and John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”.  But the song could just as easily be Katharine Lee Bates’ “America the Beautiful”, inspired by the Rocky Mountain peak I can see as I type.  The song could also be Kenny Knight’s “America”.

You listen.  You choose.  There are no right or wrong answers here.  Remember, even Google Maps gives you several options as you navigate your way.

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