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Monthly Archives: August 2021

While writing my previous post, I wanted to remember the little café we had stopped at on our first day in upstate New York.

What was the name of that place? Oh, I can find it on google maps. I’m good at maps.

I assumed I would be tracing our route on a map and locating the café that way. But once I got to the Maps page, I remembered Google Timeline. I had used the app before but had forgotten about it.  It was hidden in the drop-down options menu.

There was more than a decade of my travel history displayed on the world map. It showed my travels from 2009 onward. Almost every place I had been was there. All the restaurants, stores, places I’d worked and just driven by! I spent an hour reliving my trips and recalling wonderful places I had forgotten about.

It wasn’t until later that the creepiness started to hit me. Who else was seeing this? Could someone hack into my Google Timeline page and know where I had been, when, and for how long? And, if so, what could they do with that information?

It was at this point that my writer-imagination clicked on.

What could be done with this information? Hmmm…

– A killer could predict my daily route to work and set up an ambush or an ‘accident’.

– Someone could research my travel itinerary and pose as someone I might have met on the trip as a means of getting closer to me.

– A door-to-door salesman could predict when I would be home and available!

– An employer could check to see what I was really doing on the day I called in sick.

– A sexy foreign spy would know what coffee shop I go to alone on Saturdays and make sure to be there sitting next to me. (All foreign lady-spies are sexy by default. Foreignness plus spyiness equals sexy – period.)

I am not one to see hidden conspiracies in every shadow, nor do I have a knee-jerk distrust of new technology or BigTech. So, I actually don’t mind being tracked or filmed or recorded or whatever my Alexa is doing. But then, I am also not involved in any illegal or seditious activities. So track away. I’ve got nothing to hide.

In truth, I have an appreciation for Google Timeline. Rather than just having a file of pictures from my trips that will require me to remember where they were taken and who is in the view, I now have mapped moment-to-moment tracking of the route we took. In addition, my pictures have embedded date and time data that I can then match to the map. So, if I wanted to, I could create a minute-by-minute itinerary of my trip with pictures of that moment. How’s that for a vacation slide show?

 Google maps tracks me every day, and I am very cool with that. I find it both extremely handy and kind of creepy. However, unless I become a target for spies or start thinking about trading in contraband, my life is much too dull for this detailed information to be useful to anyone.  

“How odd… I stopped at the guitar store on the way home. And now look, Marge, here is an ad for a deal on strings at Amazon. How do those online algorithms know so much?!”

Hmmm…

For vacation 2021, we went to New York: four days in the Syracuse/Finger Lakes region and three days in NEW YORK CITY!! I’ve never been to NY other than passing through Kennedy airport, so I was excited for new adventures. I consider NYC to be one of the things every American should do once, like seeing the Grand Canyon. It can put things into perspective for you.

I am very much a Midwestern guy, and the coasts are relatively unexplored by me. Sheri, my lovely wife, and manager has relatives in the Syracuse area and has been to NYC a few times. She was to be my guide.

I’ve seen enough travel television and movies to have a few expectations of New York City. Upstate New York, on the other hand, was a blank. I had no expectations at all. I spent most of my youth in Northern Minnesota, and found the Finger Lakes area to be very similar. It felt rural but with a big city tourist patina that prevented it from being hick.

The one thing about Upstate that I knew about and was very much looking forward to was Poutine! Poutine is a Canadian dish that I have wanted to try for years. I finally got it, and it was AMAZING! A Poutine is usually french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. I had mine as a breakfast on fried potatoes with brisket and fried egg. It was divine. I highly recommend it. The savory gravy brought it all together, and the cheese curds provided an occasional surprise gush of flavor.

We stayed in Brewerton, NY, and stopped at the aptly named Brewer Union Cafe  (https://brewerunioncafe.com) on our first morning. Breakfast is our favorite meal, so we always go big while on vacation. The staff was friendly and attentive and whoever they have mixing it up in back knows what they’re doing.

For vacation 2021, we went to New York: four days in the Syracuse/Finger Lakes region and three days in NEW YORK CITY!! I’ve never been to NY other than passing through Kennedy airport, so I was excited for new adventures. I consider NYC to be one of the things every American should do once, like seeing the Grand Canyon. It can put things into perspective for you.

I am very much a Midwestern guy, and the coasts are relatively unexplored by me. Sheri, my lovely wife, and manager has relatives in the Syracuse area and has been to NYC a few times. She was to be my guide.

I’ve seen enough travel television and movies to have a few expectations of New York City. Upstate New York, on the other hand, was a blank. I had no expectations at all. I spent most of my youth in Nothern Minnesota, and found the Finger Lakes area to be very similar. It felt rural but with a big city tourist patina that prevented it from being hick.

The one thing about Upstate that I knew about and was very much looking forward to was Poutine! Poutine is a Canadian dish that I have wanted to try for years. I finally got it, and it was AMAZING! A Poutine is usually french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. I had mine as a breakfast on fried potatoes with brisket and fried egg. It was divine. I highly recommend it. The savory gravy brought it all together, and the cheese curds provided an occasional surprise gush of flavor.

We stayed in Brewerton, NY, and stopped at the aptly named Brewer Union Café  on our first morning. Breakfast is our favorite meal, so we always go big while on vacation. The staff was friendly and attentive and whoever they have mixing it up in back knows what they’re doing.

Poutine Breakfast!!

Spotify is a wonderful thing. I enjoy exploring new music, but the biggest thrill comes when I rediscover music I had forgotten. That is what happen the other day when I ran across  Robbie Dupree’s Steal Away, and I was mentally tossed back to 1980. It was like a gut punch or the first drop at the top of a roller coaster; it took the breath out of me. I was suddenly standing in my grandmother’s darkened pantry, singing silently to myself.

The little space was an escape for me. I was miserable while living in Podunk, Iowa. To cope, I needed to find some form of mental escape, away from the 70’s pro-wrestling and terrible television that my grandparents considered ‘family time.’ I was eleven or twelve, I think, and I clung to my little radio like a life raft. The songs that I remember best were Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb and, of course, YMCA by the Village People. We sang it in Chorus at school, we learned the dance moves and everything.I would stand in the dark and silently mouth the words as a mantra, a spell to take me away for that moment. Outside, the trains rolled past, the vibrations making the floor tremble under me, an additional element of the magical moment.

The Village People's YMCA is preserved for posterity - BBC News

The rediscovery of Steal Away led me to an entire vein of golden oldies that yanked on my heartstrings. Like emotional cheesecake, I couldn’t get enough. I was pulling up memories and feelings that had slipped into the cracks of my mind, seemingly lost forever. But the magic of music brought it all pouring back, and it was a rush.

Music has power. I know that. I feel it every time I go to a rock show and feel the rush of energy from the screaming guitars and thumping drums. But I had forgotten the power of music memory. Songs have a way of wrapping themselves around a moment in time and organically becoming part of that memory. Our brains attach all the tiny sensations we feel, the emotions, the smells, the environment, along with the sights and sounds of that immediate moment in time to create a multi-dimensional ball of synapses that we call memory. Later, when we experience a smell or sound or emotion that relates directly to that memory, it can come rushing back to our consciousness, fully born and alive. That’s magic.

Like most teenagers, my parents and I disagreed about music. We were children of different times. At my house, Saturday night was Game Night. The whole family would sit at the dining room table and play games until after midnight. An Oldies station would be playing on the radio. Back then, the Oldies were the 50’s and 60’s. I grew up listening to Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Chubby Checker, and the Everly Brothers. Little Suzie and At The Hop were still hits in our house. For me, this was ancient music, never something I would listen to by choice. However, it was catchy, and eventually, I learned all the words. But it wasn’t music I could relate to. However, my parents would get excited when a particular song came on and would crank the volume and sing along like it was the greatest thing ever. I didn’t get it.

The Oldies stations now play the ‘80s and ‘90s, with a smattering of the 2000s thrown in. I know the music and enjoy it, but even these songs rarely have much of an effect on me. I’ve heard them all a million times.

My musical memories seem to be more attuned to the late ‘70s and very early ‘80s. Music that rarely gets played on the radio anymore. Those are the songs that evoke the most vivid emotions, such as the darkened pantry or first heartbreak. Even memories of high school aren’t as powerful as those.

I just wonder if this was the feeling that my parents got from certain songs? Were they re-experiencing a moment in their youth similar to my memory? I now feel a new connection with my parents that I never had before: a clarification and understanding. I’ve realized that it’s only with age and a little time in their shoes that you can really understand your parents. I have now stepped into my father’s place, and I’m feeling his feelings. I finally get it!

What’s next on the playlist?

Lady by the Little River Band.

Lady - Little River Band.jpg