American Tune

I always listen to music walking to and from work.  This evening, as I was listening to my acoustic playlist, it struck me that American Tune by Paul Simon — a beautiful song that is one of my favorites — pretty accurately captures how many people are feeling these days.  I’m not just talking about disappointed Hillary Clinton voters, either.  There seems to be a strong sense of disquiet, an unsettled feeling, mingled with curiosity, trepidation, raw hope, and uncertainty about what might happen next, lurking throughout the general populace.  Some of those feelings stem from the election results and the thought of Donald Trump as President, to be sure, but some of them also seem to flow from concerns about the direction of the country as a whole.  Where is our road leading?

American Tune, which was released in 1973, aptly crystallizes this odd mixture of emotions and sensations.  Simon wrote:

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

Two verses later, the song concludes, in a mixture of pride, doubt, fatigue, and resignation:

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right
It’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

It says something about the universality of music when a song written at the end of the Nixon Administration can so perfectly express how so many Americans are feeling, 45 years later.

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Taking A “Mystery Trip”

The “mystery trip” is reportedly the hot new concept in the travel world.  It works pretty much like it sounds:  the traveler hires a travel agent, who then plans the trip without disclosing anything about it.  The traveler shows up at the airport, or train station, or port on the designated date, is handed an envelope that finally discloses the destination, itinerary, and tickets, and then is off on a voyage into the new and unexpected.

vintage20luggage20-20mylusciouslife-com20-20vintage20suitcase20covered20in20stickers2Apparently the “mystery trip” appeals to two kinds of travelers:  those who hate planning for trips, and those who really, really like to be surprised.  And there are gradations in the degree of mystery you can seek, too.  You can set a price range and then leave the trip totally in the hands of the travel agent, or you can identify a general geographic region and leave the rest of the trip in the hands of the planners.  And some mystery trippers rein in the latitude and longitude of the surprise by themselves focusing on specific regions, like one website that specializes in weekend trips into the unknown for domestic U.S. travelers.  In any case, one “mystery trip” website concludes,  “one thing is for certain: the more that is left unknown, the more rewarding and thrilling your experience will be.”

It’s an intriguing concept, but I’m not so sure about that conclusion, really.  Vacations are precious, and the “mystery trip” concept really requires you to put a lot of trust into that travel agent’s abilities.  If you’ve only got so much vacation time — to say nothing of a finite amount of vacation budgeted dollars — taking a mystery trip could be a big gamble.  I also think I’d need to be in precisely the right mood before I’d try a “mystery trip.”  Normally, I go into vacations with a clear goal in mind, like unwinding with a toes-in-the-sand vacation in a sunny, warm beach location, or an “experience the culture and see the sites” trip to a place I’ve never been to before but always wanted to visit.  Your mystery trip could be interesting, but an adventure in Lapland just might not scratch the right itch if you’re actually yearning to smell that suntan lotion or finally walk through the old sections of Istanbul.

One other thing:  how in the world (pun intended) do you pack if you don’t know whether you’re going to Alaska, Borneo or Timbuktu?