Thomas Jefferson has stayed in place at Colonial Williamsburg through the years, but the three girls surrounding him sure have not. Yet another reminder of how time flies past, at a speed we’re not always comfortable with.
Thomas Jefferson has stayed in place at Colonial Williamsburg through the years, but the three girls surrounding him sure have not. Yet another reminder of how time flies past, at a speed we’re not always comfortable with.
As what may be my family’s last spring break rolls on, here’s my favorite image from the first one, back in 2005. My older daughter–who just turned 18 a few days ago–was in kindergarten at the time, and we spent a week in Arizona.
Near the end of the week, we went to a chuck wagon supper at a place I’ve since forgotten about. One of the attractions ions we could do was pose for an old time where photo in period dress. My kindergartener saw the blue dress and decided she had to wear it. So we all got dressed up, and the photographer captured a literal snapshot in time for us.
To remember that moment, and marvel at how quickly time passes, that snapshot is presented here. Many thanks to my two girls– who will always be “little” in my mind, no matter how old they get– for allowing me to take them to places I otherwise would not have gone. Thanks also to my wife, who picked out a number of interesting places to go over the years.
Yesterday we were at the Japanese garden in Portland, Oregon when a family with three cute little girls caught my attention. I understood, in a way that I couldn’t have back in Arizona, that we are lucky to be where we are at any given moment, and that having children is like a concert or a play that’s over before you want it to be. All we can do is enjoy it while it unfolds, as much as we possibly can. And in the end, we’ll wish we had done more. But the memories of what we did do will just have to be enough.
The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area of the Great Smoky Mountains–and the word “Great” does apply to this region–is a beautiful place. I’ve been there on a few occasions, beginning when I was ten years old, and I’ve written about it here before. So the news that there are 14 fires burning there right now is very saddening.
Fires are natural, and the region has no doubt burned before. But this is awful news, and rebuilding won’t be an easy process. Some will certainly lose all they have. My heart goes out to them, absolutely.
The beauty of the mountains won’t look like this again for quite some time. I’m glad I have memories of how it once looked.
May those who suffer losses one day feel whole again. And may we wake up to the reality of what we’re doing to our planet.
My wife and younger daughter are on Cape Cod this week, and it’s been quiet around the house in their absence. But I wanted to share some old pictures before they left, because time moves so fast, and one day’s little kids become another day’s adolescents/teenagers. Enjoying this process–as I’ve always tried to do–is the best we can hope for.
My parents had a light blue Volkswagen Beetle like the one pictured above when I was a kid, and I called it a “Vopiad” because I couldn’t say “Volkswagen.” It’s a happy memory for me.
But those warm fuzzys have been abolished forever by the way Volkswagen has behaved since 2009. They installed software that was specifically designed to beat emissions testing into many of their models, but which then shut off when the car was not being tested. Their cars thus spit many times the allowable limits of pollutants into the air, which I and everyone else on the planet had to breathe.
Volkswagen is paying for their deception, as they should. But the settlement funding seems to be directed to the people who bought these cars in the first place. Those of us who breathed in foul air over these past few years apparently won’t see a dime in damages.
I frankly don’t want any money from Volkswagen, but I do want them to pay. And the only fitting penalty I can imagine is to have them shut down for good, permanently unable to soil our environment with their products ever again.
This won’t happen, of course, but it should. There’s nothing Volkswagen can do, and no check they could ever write, that will undo the environmental damage they’ve caused through their subterfuge. May the people who dreamed this scheme up–and who knew and did nothing about it through the years–be criminally punished for what they have done. And may the name “Volkswagen” forever be synonymous with irreversible environmental damage. They’ve certainly earned it.
The news that Muhammad Ali is on life support today is incredibly sad. His Parkinson’s disease has kept him out of the public eye for so long, but I always took comfort from knowing that the man who deserves to be called “The Greatest” was breathing, somewhere on this planet.
Seeing a larger than life Leroi Neiman painting of Ali at his center in Louisville, Kentucky a few years ago gave me chills. Learning his life story was an inspiration to me, too. And watching his fights against Joe Frazier inspired a piece I use as a writing sample, when the situation presents itself.
I know that he’s now 74 and this could be the final count of his career. If that’s the case, I’m glad to say that I remember seeing him fight against Leon Spinks when I was a kid. Not everyone is old enough to say that, either.
It’s been a quiet February on the blog front. The enthusiasm I once had for doing this has ebbed, and I like sleeping at night, too. But I recently had my annual Cubs preview posted on Cardsconclave.com (has it really been five years of doing that? Time flies!) and I had a piece that I reconstructed from a post in this space published on HistoryBuff.com It looks like the kind of website I’ve been wanting for a long time. May other stories make their way onto that site soon.
There’s a few things I want to say about life, and hopefully I’ll have time for it soon enough. But for now I just wanted to plug my writing a little bit, and remind myself that I still enjoy doing it.
I took this picture last year, on a family visit to California. And now, nine months and a few days later, I’m in this cold Northern town that I call home. But at least there’s a place like this somewhere in the world.
I’m not religious, so it’s a bit disingenuous for me to say that I’m praying for Paris tonight, in the wake of the terrorist attacks that have shaken the city of Light. But I want to let the world know that if this city can survive the Nazis, it can survive whatever assholes planned and pulled this one off.
The week I spent in the Marais district back in the late 20th century has remained with me ever since. I hope to go back there again one day before I die, and when I do, I’ll think about tonight. Perhaps I’ll even dust off my old blog and write something about it.
Until I stepped off the boat at Alcatraz last April, I had no idea who Ai Weiwei is. But I’m glad that I found out.
Weiwei is an artist and a political dissident in his Chinese homeland. He created an exhibit that was on display inside Alcatraz, but was not allowed to leave China to see it for himself. He’s not a physical prisoner the way that Nelson Mandela was on Robben Island, but when your freedom of movement is curtailed you are, in fact, a prisoner.
I probably would have enjoyed Alcatraz well enough if the exhibit had not been on display, but its presence made it mean so much more. It opened up new parts of the island that I otherwise would not have seen, and it raised issues about incarceration and why governments engage in it. Sometimes violent crimes are involved, but other times a criminal’s only real crime is opposing the powers that be.
To make this point the likenesses of dozens–176, to be exact–of political prisoners were rendered in pixilated fashion, as shown above. It was possible, for those who wanted to, to learn more about the identities of these prisoners, why they were being held as prisoners of conscience, and to write to the governments and make a plea for their release. I’d be lying if I said I remembered who I wrote a postcard for–it seemed like a compelling enough story, though–but it felt like something concrete that could be done on behalf of personal and intellectual freedom around the world.
The pixilation effect was created by using colored Legos against a white background. I realized from the exhibit that Legos have an artistic function that I had not considered before. And the plastic composition of the blocks gave the art a sturdiness that other mediums could not match.
When Weiwei attempted to place a bulk order for Legos in advance of his upcoming exhibit in Australia, the request was denied by he company who make the blocks. They claimed that their products could not be used for making a political statement, and filling the bulk order would signify their endorsement of Weiwei’s message.
The purpose of a business is to sell their product to whoever wants to have it. And bulk orders are the best thing, because it means more sales. Or at least it does unless the block-sellers are themselves trying to send a political message of not wanting to offend the Chinese government. It’s an act of expediency on their part, perhaps, but it will also bring lots of condemnation, as it should.
Art is vital for furthering the human condition on earth. It calls on people to think, to question, and reevaluate the things they either actively do themselves, or passively allow to be done in their names. I’m certainly willing to say that incarceration is abused in this country, given that more people are behind bars in this country than any other nation on earth (including China, which has several times the population that the U.S. has). If 30 years of the War On Drugs has proven anything, it’s that legalizing and regulating marijuana might have been part of the solution all along.
Over the next couple of days, I plan to go through my house and see what we have in the way of Legos. My 12 and 16 year-olds aren’t going to play with them any more, and sending what I can find to Ai Weiwei for his purposes will be a tangible effort to aid the cause of artistic expression, and prevent the type of corporate grandstanding that the Lego people are engaging in. And it may also save me the trouble of donating them to a thrift shop someday. It seems like a winning proposition, all the way around.
UPDATE: Lego has admitted the decision not to sell their product was a “mistake” in this instance. I wasn’t able to find any Legos to donate, as I had indicated in my post, but many others did, and I was glad to write whatever I did about Lego’s actions. Chalk one up for freedom of expression.
The first time I ever left the boundaries of the United States was for my honeymoon in August of 1992. My new wife and I took a Caribbean cruise, leaving from San Juan and going through the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, St. Maarten, Barbados, Dominica, and Martinique. The sunshine and natural beauty of the Caribbean overwhelmed me, and so too did the crushing poverty that I saw. It was my first encounter with the meaning of the term “third world.”
Tourist dollars like ours seemed to be what kept these places afloat, if floating can accurately describe what was going on. The cruise ships bring the tourists, and the locals do what they can to separate the tourists from their money. Giving tours is a big moneymaker, for sure, and they may be the thing that I remember most about these islands. Our tour of Dominica may have been the one I remember the most.
The infrastructure, such as it was, of the islands seemed to decline as the cruise progressed. From Charlotte Amalie and the duty-free shopping it offered on St. Thomas, and the FU money of those who could afford to live or vacation on St. John, there was a precipitous decline when we got to Barbados, and even more so when we arrived in Dominica. But it was also the most pristine of the islands we had seen, and the explanation of how a rainforest worked was facinating, at least to me.
By the time we arrived at a waterfall on Dominica, and bought a piece of fruit from a local vendor, I had decided that the beauty and the poverty of Dominica were both beyond what I was ready for. I was grateful to have a cruise ship waiting for me, to take me onto the next island and, ultimately, away from the Caribbean altogether. But the tour guides and the fruit vendors weren’t so lucky. They had to stay on Dominica and wait for the next cruise ship to arrive, to repeat the same process all over again.
The devastation of Tropical Storm Erika on Dominica makes me sad today. The cruise ships that take their patrons to the shores of Dominca could surprise me and come up with some money or supplies to help the people of the island in their moment of need, but it would be far easier to look for other places to dock their boats, or simply bypass the island altogether. Who wants to see destruction and human misery on their vacation?
Places like Florida, which is next in the path of this storm, will also feel an impact, possibly even a strong one, but in the end they will rebuild. Insurance money and other resources will flow to Florida in a way that they never will to Dominica and the rest of the Caribbean. The people on that island–and the Caribbean as a whole–are truly on their own. I wish them the best.
Nothing says “summer” to me musically like Van Halen’s 5150 album. I turned 18 in the summer of 1986, and was determined to enjoy one last summer before going away to college. I bagged groceries by day, drank whatever I could get my hands on by night, and listened to the fusion of Sammy Hagar and Van Halen whenever I could. Life was as good as I had ever known it to be.
Many years have gone by since then, but hearing the songs on that album–my copy at the time was a tape I had recorded from the radio station that played it all the way through on air–takes me back to that time in my life. So when I received an iTunes gift card for my birthday this summer, I first used it to address a hole in my digital music collection by downloading a copy of 5150.
The technology that now allows for cars and phones to sync with each other is far beyond what was available back in 1986. So I discovered, while driving a rental car around on Cape Cod this summer, that I could put on “Summer Nights” or “Good Enough” or any other track from the album on whenever I wanted to. Driving around the Cape is fun enough to begin with, but also being able to time warp back to the summer when life was stretching out before me was an added treat.
On June 26–the day the Supreme Court ruled that everyone had a right to get married to the person they love, regardless of their gender–I was working on a laptop computer in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. I received a text indicating that my family had made their way to a beach in nearby Truro, and inviting me to come and join them. It was nearing lunchtime, so I hopped in the car, headed toward Route 6, and turned on my music of choice. The first song to come on was “Dreams,” which happens to be my favorite song on the album.
As I drove along the highway on that beautiful summer’s day, I thought of all the dreams that had been granted on that day. For far too long, people had been wrongly denied the right to enter into a legal and (if you want) religious agreement with the person they love the most. Is it any of our business what gender that person happens to be? I don’t think so, and neither did a majority of the Supreme Court.
Growing up in the 80s as I did, many of my associations with the songs of that era are from the videos that were made for MTV. The “Dreams” video I linked to above makes it all but impossible for me to hear the song and not think of the Blue Angels. But on a sunny Friday afternoon, driving down the highway from Wellfleet to Truro with this song on the car radio and a new and improved America on the horizon, I think I may have found a competing image for this song.
That’s what love is made of……
NOTE: This is the second in my series of attempts to clear out my WordPress Drafts folder. I started this post in late June of 2015, and am completing it on August 16, roughly seven weeks later. I still have a backlog of fifty or so unfinished thoughts in the Drafts folder, and will bring as many of them as I can to fruition in the days and weeks ahead.
The blog that I’ve been keeping for some time now has traveled the world a lot better than I ever will. The World Wide Web is very well-named, as it turn out.
One of the things that WordPress does for people like me is that it tracks visitors to my website. It quantifies them by number of page views and number of visitors to the site, but those numbers don’t mean anything to me. If 5 people view the site, or 500 people view the site, I really don’t care. As long as someone does, that’s enough for me.
But what I really like is that it can tell where the visitors are from, and it highlights the countries on a world map. I love the idea that someone from a place I have never heard of of, and will likely never visit, has found their way onto this site. I can’t go to them physically, but an idea from inside my brain can. That’s pretty cool.
And in all the years this site has been on the web, Cuba remains as one of the few nations on earth where no one has viewed this blog. It’s the only nation in the Western Hemisphere in that category, and I’d very like to see it lit up someday soon.
In the Summer of 2001–the first year I wrote in this space–I visited a Cuban restaurant with my family and longed for the day when relations with Cuba weren’t so strange. And now, in the twilight of Obama’s presidency, it’s finally coming to pass. John Kerry visited Cuba this week, and the Cuban flag has been raised in Washington for the first time in my lifetime. Cuban access to the Internet remains limited, but I’m confident that will all get sorted out soon.
It’s a new day for the U.S. and Cuba, and hopefully the visitors to my blog will soon reflect that.
My little one was in a hurry to get back to the ranger station and get a plastic junior ranger badge. It wasn’t anything more meaningful than that.
Even so, it felt like a metaphor of some kind. Like her youth is getting further and further away. And when that happens –as I know it must–it makes me very sad.
I first came to the Smoky Mountains when I was about her age. And I hope she comes back someday, with her own kids. But for now, I’ll just enjoy my time with her as much as I can. That’s all there is to do.
UPDATE: This was first written in the fall of 2014, and not recovered again in my Drafts folder until the summer of 2015. I lost the image I wanted to use for this when I switched cellphones in late 2014. The picture above is from an April, 2015 trip to California (Monterey, if anyone really wants to know). But perhaps not surprisingly, the feelings that inspired this draft ten months ago in the Smoky Mountains are still just as strong today, and perhaps even a bit stronger than before. I suppose that feeling isn’t going to go away.
I don’t like rainy days, and I don’t think anybody does. I’m sure that some people prefer the rain, but like most people I’d rather have some sunshine, instead.
I was recently in California with my family on vacation. It’s a land of unspeakable beauty, and I envy the people who are lucky enough to live there. But they’re also in the midst of a drought that is threatening to change many things. Water is a precious resource, and if the rains aren’t falling, that’s not good.
There’s a saying in Hawaii that I added as the title for this post. It means that if you want good and beautiful things, you need to put up with the unpleasant things first. If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. Something like that.
There was a tiny little bit of rain that fell when we were in Monterey, in the middle part of our trip. California needs more rain than what fell that day, but the end result was a tiny little sliver of a rainbow that emerged as my daughter was doing gymnastic flips on the beach near Cannery Row. And the wisdom of the Hawaiians hit me all over again. The rainbow was an added bonus that made an Incredibly lovely place even more so.
I wish many more rainbows for California in the days and months ahead. They will beautify the state, of course, but they desperately need what causes them, too.
I wanted to put some thoughts about Earth Day yesterday, but time got away from me and I got some sleep for a change. Maybe there’s Earth Week to give people like me a bit of a break on that score.
I love this planet. It’s filled with so many great and wonderful things that everyone can enjoy. But I hate what’s been done to it, past and present. Like Jim Morrison once said, What have they done to the earth, our fair sister?
We need to do better. All of us, myself included, do things that aren’t in the Earth’s best interest. Using less plastic would be a good start, as I learned recently on a trip to the aquarium in Monterey Bay. Using less means that less of it will end up out in the ecosystem, to poison birds and fish who aren’t doing anything worse than looking for something to eat.
So less plastics, it is. I’ll report on my progress here, from time to time. And the differences might be small, but I can do it and so I will. Our home is worthy of the effort.
A few days before my family and I left for a vacation in California, my little one told me that she had been reading my blog, and it made her sad. It’s certainly not something that I wanted to hear, so I decided to ask her why.
“You tell stories about the run and jump and other things we don’t do anymore, and I miss them” she told me.
I told her that I wrote stories here so that she and I could have a record of them, and if we outgrew them one day–and we’re bound to do with most things–we can look back at them fondly. And if some stranger we’ve never met before wants to read the stories, that’s OK too. Better to have the stories than to rely on our memories, which are wonderful things but are not always as reliable as they could be.
My reply seemed to satisfy her, and I was reminded of our conversation a few days later, when we were on a beach near Pacific Grove, California. We were on the 17 Mile Drive, which I had never heard of before and now I’ll hardly ever forget it. But there’s a story to tell that I hope she finds some day.
The waves came crashing in, as they always have done before, and the two of us decided to turn this experience into a race. We would walk out toward the water as the wave was coming in, and after it crashed and the water came ashore, we’d begin to backpedal, all the while saying “back…back…back” as if this would keep the water away from us.
A successful round was going all the way back before the water reached your toes or–in my case–your shoes. It was fun because even if you misjudged the wave’s size or speed, the worst that would happen is some surprisingly cold water would touch your feet. With all of the hardships in the world, a few moments of trying to outrun an ocean wave felt like a rare treat.
We called our game “Back…Back…Back” and I’d be surprised if we ever had an occasion to play the game again. But it marked our time on the beach that day, and proved to me that while some games might be outgrown or cast aside, our love and our ingenuity never will.
The cable cars in San Francisco are a singular experience in a singular city. I loved the days that I spent here, and I’m sad to be leaving now for the flat city that I call home.
I’m a Chicago guy, but the experiences I’ve had here will stay with me forever. I understand the old Tony Bennett song more than I ever did, and I haven’t even left the airport yet. I can only hope that it won’t take me forty-some years to get back here again.
There once was a time when Jack Daniel’s was my faithful traveling partner. At the end of a day of meetings, when going home to my family wasn’t an option, I went back to a hotel room and a bottle of Jack, instead.
But everything changes in life, and over the past decade I’ve given up both television and alcohol. My business traveling has dwindled as well, and I’m glad to say that Jack won’t be traveling with me ever again.
The bottle shown here has maybe two shots left in it, and they’ve been fermenting in place for several years now. Part of me wants to pour it down the drain, to remove any temptation to renew old acquaintances. Another part of me–the part that’s winning so far–sees it as a victory of sorts.
So long as the last of the Jack Daniel’s remains exactly where it is, I’ve won out over the biggest foe of my lifetime. His name is not Jack Daniel’s, but the one that I write at the bottom of every check I ever fill out. And while Jack has remained who he always was, his old traveling buddy came around–I hope–before it was too late.
It embarrasses me to admit this, but the first time I ever flew in an airplane happened when I was 21 years old. I was a senior in college, and my girlfriend wanted me to come visit her in New Mexico over the holidays.
The first time I flew was out of the Capital airport in Springfield, Illinois. As the plane took off and climbed into the sky, I was struck by all of the cornfields that ringed the airport. My decision to leave Springfield and begin my life somewhere else–anywhere else, really–had already been made by then, but the cornfield with an airport in the middle of it served to confirm the choice. I doubt that I’ll ever fly into or out of that airport again.
When that plane landed at O’Hare in Chicago, I made my connecting flight and buckled in at my window seat. As the plane took off, I focused my attention on the engine that was attached to the wing. For a split second, I wondered what I would do if the engine somehow fell off of the wing. The plane continued its ascent, as I looked around for an exit that would allow me to break free if I needed to. But the feeling didn’t last more than a few seconds.
My fatalistic streak immediately took over, and reminded my worried inner self that if that happened, there wouldn’t be a thing I could do about it. It would be my time to die–or maybe to live if I got real lucky–but it was out of my hands, entirely. I sat back, ashamed that I had allowed myself to worry about something so outlandish, and enjoyed the rest of the flight. I’ve flown many, many times since then, and never once have I worried about a plane crash.
I say all this because everybody on this earth has an end date, a final act, a last go-round. I have one, you have one, and the next person that you will speak to does, too. We’re all mortal, and the end can come forty years from now, or it can come before the sun rises tomorrow morning. The sudden death of Richard Durrett, a sportswriter in Dallas, makes this point better than I ever could. Durrett’s death yesterday of a brain aneurysm–his cause of death is missing from many of the announcements I’ve read–is shocking because it happened when he was just 38 years old.
A guy in his late 30s expects to live a few more decades, at least. If anything, the dreaded 40 is looming off in the distance, and makes its presence known with a great big thud on the 39th birthday. Nobody looks forward to turning 40 because everyone–on either side of that age–gets to razz you about the fact that you’re getting old.
Jimmy Buffett’s song “A Pirate looks at Forty” is well-named because, even though the number 40 does not appear in the song’s lyrics, it’s a number just big enough to get us thinking about where we’ve been in life, and to wonder about what the future still holds. Richard Durrett was denied even this little bit of introspection, because 40 is not promised to any of us. Many of us live to see it, but that doesn’t mean everyone will.
It seems, from all of the tweets I’ve been reading, that Richard Durrett was a great guy. I’m sure that his passing leaves family, friends, colleagues, and people who never knew of him before wondering what the hell happened. And there really isn’t a good explanation to be offered, other than that life is a fleeting and unknowable gift. We take the good, and we ride out the bad, for as long as we’re able to do so. And then–in a time and place that we never get to know about in advance–it’s all over. Just like that. It’s harsh and terrible, but it’s the one real certainty that life offers.
I think about the Father’s day that just happened over the past weekend. I’m quite certain that Richard Durrett and his family had no expectation that it would be his last one. But that engine can fall off the airplane at any time, and when it does (because there is no if about it) it’s best if we remembered to enjoy as much as we could along the way.
I can’t think of too many more beautiful sights than watching the sunset in Key West. And Mallory Square is the one place where everyone goes to see the show. I first learned this from watching the buddy cop movie Running Scared in the 1980s, and a week ago I finally got to experience it for myself. I hope that everyone reading this will have a chance to do so at some point in their future.
My brother-in-law and I had spent the day walking up and down Duval Street and soaking up the Key West vibe. We smoked cigars (much to our daughters’ chagrin) and marveled at our good fortunes to be in such a beautiful place. As the sun was beginning to set, we made our way to the square for the sunset celebration (and that is exactly what they call it).
A number of buskers and street performers add a carnival-like atmosphere to the celebration. As my brother-in-law and I were looking for a place to watch, we heard an elderly calypso singer asking for volunteers. We decided to answer the call, with the knowledge that he would have rather had two pretty girls volunteer, instead. And there sure are enough of them in Mallory Square, too.
To his credit, the singer indicated that he’d work with any volunteers he could get, and two small children–one boy of about five, and one girl of about seven–also volunteered, along with one other middle-aged guy who might have been their father. He positioned his background singers around a microphone, and told us we would be singing along to “Day O,” which was made famous by Harry Belafonte. We sang the “daylight come and me wan’ go home” line, and so far as I know we did a good job. There was no shortage of people photographing and videotaping the performance, and being a part of it pushed the experience to a whole new level.
When it was finished, we thanked the singer and moved on to watch the sun finally go down. Our family was elsewhere and didn’t get to see our performance, but that’s all right. The carnival goes on with different players every night, and no two sunsets can ever be the same. So long as people appreciate nature’s beauty, and want to experience it in the company of others, there will be songs to sing in Mallory Square.
Flying back home from a week in the Florida Keys was not something that I wanted to do, but the bills that will come in the mail someday must be paid. And while my two children could spend all their days on Duval Street, their teachers here in Chicago might eventually hold it against them.
On the first flight of the day, from Miami to Nashville, I had the pleasure of sitting next to an elegant lady from Trinidad. She was meeting up with a family member in the airport in Nashville, for a drive back to Alabama. I found her Caribbean accent to be fascinating, as well as her stories of traveling throughout the region with her recently-deceased husband.
I learned that she had been married for more than fifty years, and I complimented her on such a long partnership with another person. I’ve been married a little bit more than 20 years myself, and I realize that I’m far head of most marriages, statistically. But meeting someone who had fifty-plus years–and took that “until death” part to its intended conclusion–was very humbling for me.
I told my new traveling friend that I had first heard of Trinidad when one of the Miss Universe winners came from there many years ago. She informed me that there have been others from her native land that have also done well in this competition, and I understood that this speaks very well of the nation and its people.
We talked of the recent spate of bad news for travelers on the Malaysian plane, and the South Korean ferry, and even the unexpected deaths of climbers on Mount Everest. We discussed how traveling is usually very safe, but there will always be risks involved with traveling from one place to another. It may not have been an uplifting topic to discuss at 30,000 feet, but still I enjoyed our conversation a great deal.
Near the end of our flight, I pointed out that I had heard of Trinidad–without Tobago–in a Jimmy Buffett song called “Son of a Son of a Sailor.” I had listened to heavy doses of his music as I was in the Florida Keys, between the Margaritaville channel on the rental car’s satellite radio and the CDs that I had brought along on the trip. The Florida keys were clearly an inspiration to him through the years, and his music had formed a perfect backdrop for my trip. I reminded myself that I was actually speaking with a lady who hailed from Trinidad, and it seemed like a perfect way to end my trip.
The lady who hailed from Trinidad–and I already regret not learning her name, even though I would not use it here if I knew it–informed me that her island was not, as Jimmy Buffett had claimed in his song, the “island of the spices.” She told me that Grenada, a neighboring island, is actually known at the Spice island. I chuckled at the creative license that had been taken with the song, and knew right away it was too good of a story to keep inside of my head forever. I write a blog, after all, in the hope that my stories and thoughts can manifest themselves in a format that will survive longer than I do.
We said our goodbyes as the plane landed, and the lady who hailed from Trinidad told me that I should come and see her country one day. She said I would love it there, for all of its beauty and warmth and history. And I’m sure that I would, too. I wished her the best in her travels throughout my home country, and I hope that she experiences nothing but good things during her time here.
NOTE: If I’m going to mention creative license here, I had better be prepared to acknowledge taking some myself. The picture above was not taken in Trinidad (as I’ve never been there), nor does it depict any place in the Caribbean. I took it on the island of Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico, which is more than 1,500 miles from Trinidad. But if Jimmy Buffett can take some creative license, I suppose that I can, too. And it’s a pretty picture, so why not?
I spent a lot of money on my trip to the Florida Keys. Parking was possibly the least of my expenses, but in some ways it was the biggest bargain of all.
My advice to anyone who reads this is go to Key West, and pay what you have to in order to park your car. The memories that you gain when the car is parked will be more than worth it.
Yesterday I took a tour of Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West, and today I’m heading back home to resume my life in Chicago. The Florida keys are awesome, and the sooner I come back here, the better.