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ELDER MUSIC: Pop Music Through the Years – Part 1

Guest Blogger mythster (Ned Smith): Wandering

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is mythster also known as Ned Smith. He was born in Chicago while Adolf Hitler was becoming Fuhrer. Grew up in and around New York during the Depression, Pearl Harbor and VJ Day. USMC 1951- 1957. Ad Man on Mad. Ave, Milan and London 1960-1979. Restaurant Chef-Proprietor !980-1989. Software Marketing & Electronic Publishing until retirement in 2000. He blogs at Rotten Apples.

I began wandering as soon as I could walk (maybe before). Before I was six, I would wake up early on weekend mornings before anyone else in the house that we shared with my mother’s two sisters and their families. I’d jump out of bed and dress, tiptoeing down the stairs and out of the house. We were living in Rockaway Park, New York. The year was 1939. Jamaica Bay was about 100 yards right of our front door and the beach, on the left side, about 300 yards.v

One of my mother’s older sisters, my Aunt Peggy, lived in a big house on the Bay about a mile from ours. I’d often end up there after checking out the crabs in the Bay and the sailors on the boardwalk. Aunt Peggy would feed me waffles and then she’d drive me home.

It was an integral part of my “gyroscopic” childhood. The base of my top, i.e. my family, was constantly on the move and I made my own little “sorties” from the base. In the first ten years of my life, we moved house eleven times. Sometimes just to a nearby town or village, but occasionally fairly long distances like Chicago to New York City or Valley Stream, Long Island to Birmingham, Michigan and back.

I’ve been wandering ever since. Through the streets of New York from the Hudson River on the West Side to the East River and Welfare Island (now known as Roosevelt Island) on the East Side and from Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village to Central Park. I wandered through London for several years and Paris as well. I discovered places in Milan that my Milanese friends had never seen.

Most of the time I wander alone. With others, it’s usually a hike or a trek. My youngest daughter has occasionally accompanied me, but I think she wasn’t completely comfortable on our travel to “nowhere” without a plan or objective.

Soon after moving to London from New York, I would go to Victoria Station and take the first train that was scheduled to depart and ride to the end of the line and start wandering from there. One trip took me to Canterbury Cathedral by way of Dover. I took the train from London to Dover and walked the famous White Cliffs to Folkstone where I spent the night. The next day I walked to Canterbury Cathedral and spent a wonderful hour or two in around that magnificent structure. Finally as it started to get dark and I boarded the train for London and home.

Once or twice I went to Heathrow airport and boarded the first plane I could get. One took me to Belgium where I had a mystical walking tour around Bruges in the winter. I can still remember the magic reflection of the sixteenth century houses in the canals at dusk.

There was never any specific direction to my wandering, the word “aimless” or “random” might describe my jaunts. It’s always been about exploration. Like Sir Edmond Hillary, I wander the streets of cities because they’re there. By not looking for anything particular, I often discover wonderful things and people. Sometimes I’ll accidentally make eye contact with a stranger and occasionally we’ll exchange a few words about the weather, the neighborhood or some object of historic or architectural importance that I’ve come across in my wandering.

As T.S. Elliot wrote in his poem, Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of al our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Sometimes I wander on a bicycle, but I don’t think cars are suited to wandering. Too often, you’ve passed what you want to see before you find a place to stop.

The best spot/city for wandering would definitely be Paris and the worst, L.A. This summer I’ll be wandering around Pondicherry and southern India and later in a canoe in the French Dordogne. No telling what I’ll find but then I won’t really expect to find anything in particular unless, of course, something turns up.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.


And how does one "afford" to do this?

Great story! And I would love to read about your canoe trip in France and other past wanderings.
I love to amble and have ambled around New England, Eastern Canada, Dublin, Ireland, Sweden and small towns in Provence. Look forward to more.

I envy you your wanderings and like notdotdot, I wonder how one affords such things. I like to wander, too, but am limited as to where I can afford to go.

Guts, sheer guts you have to wander for hours, days, and longer — just stepping out, from your doorstep to trains and even across national boundaries. Your comfort zone appears to be wherever you are, and so your wandering ways inspire me to go farther, stay longer on my jaunts. You write: "By not looking for anything particular, I often discover wonderful things and people." My sense is that you discover anything at all because you pay attention and are present. Fully.

You are an adventurer - my kind of guy.

When I was on a tour the lunch break found me wandering the streets instead of eating. I couldn't be bothered to waste time waiting for food when there was so much to see.

I was a wandering child too--but I'm female, and there are rules about that. I've been a solo traveler, and often wished that (like the male travelers I knew) I could offer my labor to some farm or household, sleep on a cot in the barn, and earn a little money, or at least a few meals. But solo females can't do that. If you're not assumed to be trading with your body, the other females in the household will not tolerate your presence. I know--I tried.

Freedom is automatically granted to men that is not equally given to women. Solo travel for women is often a matter of not getting assaulted or arrested for solicitation.

I look forward to the time when my age will remove me from prey status, when I will not be male or female but just . . . invisible.

I love to bicycle and I love to bus. I'm thinking I'll follow your lead from Victoria Station and trains, and just head off on Seattle bus routes to who-knows-where. It's cheap too.

I have plenty of female friends who have traveled boldly. And they have not been rich. I envy them.

Exactly so. I went to New York University in 1966 and spent the week before classes wandering around The Village and where buses might take me. I hate the idea of a planned vacation, and I find plenty to explore on walks wherever I live. I miss my dogs, because every walk is precisely as exciting as the very first walk for them, even if we've been down that block a thousand times. Great column. Thank you.

My husband and I practice a similar habit, only my confines are much smaller - just the little state of Texas. *smile*

The deliciousness of a mini adventure is priceless, I'll heartily agree.

Ol' Doc Seuss knew about this wanderlust secret, too:

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

Just to clarify: most of the travelling I did in the first 50 years of my life was paid for by the U.S. gov't or other employers. Now that I'm retired, I have travel privileges (read major discount) on an international airline.
I'm not rich but I have been very lucky all my life.
(I sleep with my fingers crossed)
Thanks for all your kind remarks. I'm off to India next week where I plan to do the first part of a video documentary on "21st Century Elders Around the World"
Eventually I'll post some of it on You Tube.

Oh my gosh, this is so wonderful. I love this mode, this wandering. The beauty of it is that you don't have to go very far at all, just be where you are and pay attention.

I had some near misadventures as a solo female traveler - the rape frustrated by sea-sickness in the florida keys comes to mind, which is actually a funny story. And while driving is very different, it has possibilities - I've been exploring towns 10 miles east of my usual routes, and am moved all over again by the beauty of western New York State.

Mythster, are you blogging somewhere? Or writing about this? I'd like to follow.

Your travels are fascinating. My husband and I took off in our car every opportunity we had. We liked exploring the Southwest U.S. once we moved West.

If I was ten years younger I'd be tempted to cross the pond and go to lots of other countries, too. I have an unfulfilled travel lust.
Should have taken off on my own in the '50's as I was tempted to do.

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