Road Trippin’


Create Your Own Visited States Map

This interactive map is floating around on the interwebs so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’ve visited way more states than I thought, though a few of these are ones where I didn’t do much beyond stop to pee, have a snack or get gas, as most of my visits were during road trips with Pops and Momcat. We did several drives to New England when I was growing up, as summers in the DC area were humid and uncomfortable. Imagine living in a sweatsock or plastic bag and that’s what mid-Atlantic summers are like, though the beach areas are really nice.

My travels through the southern part of the U.S. were trips down I-95 to see my grandparents in Florida, and all my midwest travels are due to having family in Michigan. In 2008, I went to New Orleans on vacation: I went to Voodoo Experience, a 3-day concert event at City Park, to see a ton of amazing bands & singers, including Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails, R.E.M., Thievery Corporation, Erykah Badu, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, etc.; I wandered around the French Quarter; I had a hurricane at Pat O’Briens; I ate beignets and drank coffee at Café du Monde. Great trip.

There’s a good chunk of the southwest I wouldn’t have seen if it hadn’t been for three cross-country drives from Maryland to California with Pops. The first was in the mid ’80s. Pops signed up with a car delivery service and we drove a two-seater Mercedes out to L.A., cutting through the middle of the U.S. I remember watching the speedometer hit 100 a few times in the desert – Pops had a blast driving that car. In 1991, our second cross-country drive took a southern route, and that’s when I first remember seeing the road sign for Galax, Virginia – the setting for my novel in progress (which is close to complete, whoo hoo!). The third cross-country drive was when I moved to California in early 2000, the station wagon loaded down with my computer and clothes.

I also wouldn’t have gotten to see Idaho and Montana if it hadn’t been for a road trip with Pops. Last summer he did what I call Pops’ Poker Tour, driving his car to California and stopping along the way to play Texas Hold ‘Em at various casinos. He spent a few days in CA with me, then we drove to Montana, stopping in Idaho and visiting Yellowstone along the way. Gorgeous drive.

Just looking at the map and thinking about all the places I’ve been gets me all nostalgic for a good road trip. I highly recommend them, especially if you have kids who are old enough to appreciate them. It’s such a fantastic way to learn about the U.S. and how people live in different parts of the country.

Where would you go on a road trip?

Best Christmas Parody Ever

Well, for those familiar with Baltimore suburbs, anyway.

Years ago, 98Rock in Baltimore created a twisted tune, “Essex Wonderland”, that captures holiday life in the suburb of Essex. When I lived in Maryland and this song would play on the radio I could not stop laughing. It captures the Baltimore (pronounced Ballmer) accent and attitude so perfectly.

For years I’ve wanted to get a copy of this song…and now I have, thanks to the power of the Internet. God bless technology.

Enjoy, hon.

Essex Wonderland

When It’s Time to Demand a Do-Over

Earlier this week I stumbled upon a Washington Post article about Maryland’s constitution being eligible for a voter-requested rewrite.  These paragraphs from the article caught my attention:

Maryland is one of 14 states with a constitutional requirement designed to make voters decide at least once a generation whether to start over. The protection goes back to the Founding Fathers and the thinking that, every now and then in a healthy democracy, the People probably have to shake things up.

The question that Free State voters will face — whether to seat a constitutional convention next year in the State House, where George Washington resigned as commander of the Continental Army — is a direct challenge from the grave of Thomas Jefferson. In an era of much shorter life expectancy, Jefferson pegged the shelf life of a democratic charter at no more than 20 years.

“The earth belongs always to the living generation,” Jefferson wrote to James Madison, pondering the forces behind the French Revolution. “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.”

Can you imagine all the work involved in rewriting the Old Line State‘s constitution? The article discusses the arduous process and says it’s not just about getting Maryland voters to read through an archaic, sometimes confusing, document. It’s also about addressing hot topics such as abortion and the death penalty in a new constitution. I can’t even fathom how long it would take to reach a consensus on how to handle these issues.

The concept of rewriting a fundamental document got me thinking about my own fundamental beliefs. If I were to write down everything I’ve believed in since I was born, how many of those beliefs would still apply to my life? I used to believe some pretty ridiculous things related to socioeconomic class. For example, I determined that dark chocolate was for the upper class, while white chocolate was for poor people. (Milk chocolate was for middle class folk, in case you were wondering.)

Other beliefs have stood up to rigorous personal testing. Even though I’ve tried peas in various dishes and cuisines, I still hate them. In my view, peas are tiny orbs of pure evil. And I have yet to be convinced otherwise.

Over the last ten years I’ve come to adopt beliefs others consider to be controversial or questionable. Having been raised in a religious community, I had a lot of beliefs drilled into me about God, faith and prayer that didn’t always fit with my own personal experience. Once I gave myself permission to investigate those beliefs, I finally found the peace of mind that had eluded me for many years. Finding that peace has lead me to proselytize on many occasions. In some instances, my preaching dissolved relationships or caused hurt feelings. I’m still learning to not make others wrong for not agreeing with my personal belief system.

I do think it’s a good idea, however, to present people with new concepts and challenge them to test their own theories – and we don’t need to wait 19 years to do it. By sharing our truths clearly and succinctly, and allowing others to do the same without fear of judgment, we all get the chance to be heard. We get the opportunity to expand our understanding of the world and how it works. We can check to see if our personal laws have, in fact, expired, and if so, create new ones.

Come November, I’ll be very interested to see if Maryland voters demand a do-over on their constitution. As for more individual, personal do-overs, well, you’ll just have to keep me posted.

What beliefs of yours have expired?

Do those expired beliefs need to be reinforced, retired or replaced?