Saturday, June 22, 2013

COUNTDOWN . . . . . PART 6

Haha, Ah, Wee, Umm, and Yum

[Forty-one days to lift off]

While we were in the early stages of planning this adventure, I decided to run a little experiment on Facebook and ask my “friends,” what places they would travel to in the U.S. if time and money were not factors. Although many thought I was looking for recommendations, intentionally, I didn’t ask the question that way.  I know where I want to go.  My main interest was to see what my friends thought of as essential, meaningful places to visit. There are so many of us in this nation and we have such a wide range of values that clash, compete, and complement each other all the time.  We travel for different reasons—for work, for pure entertainment, for cultural development, for children’s education, for children’s entertainment

My aunt, great grandparents, mother, and her brother
two cousins, and my two sisters
I received amazing results to my question.  I tend not to think that I am a boring Facebook buddy, but I never had such a large reaction to any post before this and received over 125 responses.  That’s almost a quarter of the total number my “friends.”  I even began receiving posts from people I didn’t know, but who were friends of friends.  We treasure so many different places.  All of us, or at least I hope all of us, have one or two places that provide a great rush of emotion.  Or there’s one place that we feel our emotional structure lacks and needs.  We have seen pictures or heard from friends about this place and we really really really want to go there.  For me, those places are Maine and—Theo will be happy—Mt. Rushmore.  I am slightly puzzled by these emotions.  What we desire is a feeling that we think a place will produce in us.   I don’t know what I will feel on the Maine Coast or at Mt Rushmore.  I assume these feelings will be very different feelings than what I experience in other places.    Maybe a wise-ass Buddhist monk would just tell me decide how I want to feel in Maine and then feel that way anyway and skip the trip. But, like I said, I am going to take this trip, because I want to . . . and because I can. 

Where do my friends want to go?  Basically the same places I want to go.  I just want to go to them all in one year: But I do notice a kind of schizophrenia, a multiple personality disorder presenting itself in their/our favorite places.  The first divide is between friends who wish to run off to cities and friends who long for the great national parks.  The cities:  Boston, New York, Washington, Miami, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.  The natural sites and National Parks:  Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Arches, Crater Lake, Tetons, Glacier, Yosemite, Sequoia, Red Woods, Mount Rushmore, New England in the fall, and Maine.   Then there are those whose sense of America rests in our history as opposed to those who are looking for some unusual expression of contemporary culture and mores.  The historical: Cowpens, Independence Trail, Hudson River Valley, Gettysburg, Virginia Civil War Battlefields, Oregon Trail, and Cooperstown.  A few of those unique alternatives:  Martha’s Vineyard, Ashville, Key West, Oxford (Mississippi), Alpine and Marfa (Texas), Taos, Madrid and Chaco Canyon (New Mexico), Napa Valley, Carmel, and Big Sur.   And predictably, a group of friends wish to head off to the mountains, while another wish to relax in the sand and surf:  Carbondale, Beaver Creek, Bryce Canyon, Engineer Pass, Estes Park, or Hilton Head, Miami, Port Aransas, Padre Island (Texas), San Diego, and Hermosa Beach.    And, yes, a couple of recommendations came in for Disney Land and Disney World.

After looking at this list of favorite locations in the United States, this expression of the hopes and desires of my “friends,” I came to see another pattern that might outline the emotions that we humans are looking for.  In some ways their desires express categories of the philosophical holy grail:  The definition of “The Good Life.”

1.      Some of us are looking primarily for “haha haha” moments.  We want to be entertained.  So some of us decide to go to a music concerts.  These could be Branson, Missouri, or South by Southwest or Bonnaroo.  Or Disney World or a cruise or water park.  It is all about fun.  Someone entertaining us.

2.      Some of us are searching for the “ah” moments.  Ah moments come in many flavors but primarily they take us to some inward sense of peace, of a feeling of connection with the wisdom of the world.  Maybe it’s a concert of classical music or a museum or great art or a beautiful landscape, a beach at night, the stars in a western sky.  There is a sense of awe here, of something greater than ourselves. 

3.      The “Weeee” moment.  The Weeee moment is built upon some aspect of letting go.  It usually has some physical danger to it.   It could be the rides at Disney Land or snowboarding or running the rapids in the Colorado River.  Closely related to the haha moments, the weee moment, however, is active, not passive, and is not for scaredy cats.

4.      The “umm” moments.  Closely related to ah moment, the umm moment is more about learning something new.  When one walks around Carlsbad Caverns and Mammoth Cave, one might say to oneself "ah, that is beautiful, "or "um, I didn’t know that."  Historical museums provide this emotion.

5.      Finally, there are the yum moments.  Obviously these moments are provided by restaurants, small and large, famous and not, by wineries and breweries and by purveyors of adventures for our taste buds. 

A few friends desire to go to an area we won’t be able to get to, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.   Other than that, because Colleen and I began looking at this adventure as the adventure to end all American adventures, our friends’ recommendations overlap quite well with ours.  I think it also shows how a particular socio-economic demographic experiences America, and the idea of America. My friends are comprised of old high school friends who have done fairly well for themselves, college professors, and then poets and other folks struggling with money and meaning.  And most are older and no longer tow children along. I know very few exceptionally rich people and those people did not reply to my Facebook query.  I noticed the doctors, lawyers, and real estate developers did not post.  What are they going to say?  “We visit our place in Vale” or “We stay at the Marc in San Francisco.”  “The Plaza. Whenever we vacation, we stay at the Plaza.”   I do have a friend who regularly flies to the Bahamas with her third husband, and she posts about these excursions.  I appreciate her honesty and joy, and am happy for her.  Maybe the well-to-do have given up on the states, the hoi polloi, and all those troublesome 47 per centers. 

Soundtrack:  Johnny Cash, "I've Been Everywhere."

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