Friday, June 6, 2008

The 50 States Club

Warren Zevon--"The Hula Hula Boys" (mp3)
Della Humphrey--"Dream Land" (mp3)

The 50 States Club. No, it's not what you think. Not my own version of the "Mile High" club, though I'll soon be up in the stratosphere, too.

On Saturday, I'll be jetting to Hawaii, which will mean that I have visited all 50 states in 51 years. All 50 in 50 years would have been nice, but life doesn't tend to be that symmetrical. It has been a long campaign to get to this place. I tend to cover states in stretches, by car, rather than to visit them individually by plane. Hawaii's a little different.

Without a kind parental offer of an Alaskan cruise in 1988, I'd never have gotten up there. Without an alum's offer to use the family condo in Aspen, Colorado, I wouldn't have Arkansas, Oklahoma, or the panhandle of Texas. Without an NEH grant in 2001, I never would have chalked up North and South Dakotas, Montana, Idaho or Oregon. Minus the harrowing trip with a suicidal friend in 1980, I wouldn't have California. Oh yeah, I would have picked it up because of the NCTE in San Diego circa 1992.

Some people probably think that because I'm a liberal and because I tend to be critical of our government, that I don't love these United States. They would be wrong. When you stand in front of a map of this country and have been to each state, each state becomes a story, in some cases, many stories and mental photographs.

I was born in New York, walked first in New Hampshire, started school in Ohio, grew up in New Jersey, dated first in Pennsylvania, bought Boone's Farm "wine" in West Virginia because the drinking age was lower, hiked the Appalachian Trail in Massachussetts, saw Neil Young in Virginia, felt God's presence at a crater lake in Colorado, gazed at UFO's in California, tried to live off gambling in Nevada, broke down for a week in Nebraska, found love in New Hampshire, saw the Grateful Dead in Wisconsin, married in Kentucky, honeymooned in Michigan, took a job and had children in Tennessee, saw Neil Young in Georgia, heard Kathleen's first words in Arizona, should have died in Arkansas, discovered the city of my dreams in Louisiana, wrote a novel in Florida, touched the Pacific in Oregon, walked across the Mississippi River in Minnesota, watched my mother die in Illinois. And that's only half of the states. Maybe your story crosses this country, too.

I plan to be posting from Waikiki several times next week, but if transmissions are slow because of crystal blue water, Mai Tais, snorkels, shrimp trucks, volcanoes, machete-hacked pineapple, sunsets, hula dancers, or any of that kind of thing, please know that you are in my thoughts.

"The Hula Hula Boys" comes from Warren Zevon's album, The Envoy. "Dream Land" is from the compilation, Studio One Women. Zevon's song and Bob Marley's original version of "Dream Land" are both available from Itunes.

1 comment:

John said...

Get Leyed in HI, Bob and enjoy the dozens of fish you've never experienced before. This blog has become another craigslist for me, Bob and Billy. Enjoying it immensely here in Louisville where I'll be watching a horserace tonight with gazillions of native who really do seem to care about Big Brown despite my own mild indifference. Road Food has guided me to Blue Nile (kick ass Ethiopian), Come Back Inn (local Italian dive with amazing penne with gorgonzola and peas) and tonight a Salvadorian restaurant whose name escapes me with K- my 55 year old gay friend who teaches at a Hollywood public high school (138 students last year in 6 sections) and P- my longtime friend from Nashville whose daughter teaches in HI and who owns a house in the Bahamas. Yesterday I read 275 essays on a poem I'd like to tell you about but which I'm sworn to secrecy on, in the Star Chamber. Total so far: 425. Enjoy life in the real world where a Saturday means no work. Congrats on the 10 comment post! Oh yeah, and SOMEONE post a picture! I hate being the only blogger who's got a photo and when I'm away from you all I start to miss your faces....