0025 Finally a Susquehanna Clip (USA 025—revisit, 01-024)
Harrisburg Travel Blog› entry 25 of 28 › view all entries
Day 015: 2 hours, 2.5 kms
(Day 012: Baltimore,USA, 8 hours, family trip
Day 013: Washington DC, USA, 8 hours, family trip
Day 014: Washington DC, USA 6 hours, post job interview wanderings)
It’s been almost 2 months since that fateful Sunday morning when I grabbed my guitar and headed out the door to wander from town to town strumming my guitar on park benches. That quirky little idea has certainly not died out—but it hasn’t exactly flourished either. After all, up until now, my Minstrel Ventures have only been 1 day or half-day trips to some nearby town, then hurrying back to the safety of my Middle Class American Routine. If this is going to be a true long-term adventure, taking my music all around the world, I’m obviously going to need to take some more risks and sacrifices. Up until now, it’s been little more than just “warm up” adventures.
And today, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. I’m putting my job and my American life on hold for a full 5 weeks, and I’m flying off to a part of the world where I don’t know a soul and I’ve never been to before: Southeast Asia.
This isn’t the first time I’m taken leave from work to go wander around the world—I’ve actually done this several times in the last 4 years. But this is the first time I’m going with a specific mission: To take my Minstrel Lifestyle global, and see if I really can play my music all around the world.
But before I do, I’m going to take a quick look back at the towns I’ve explored so far.
My Adventures so Far
So far, I’ve played music in 24 town, spending 98 hours on the road, divided among 11 days. This means I’ve spent a mere 11.1 % of my waking hours in Adventure Mode—not a very impressive start… but that’s OK. If this is going to be a long term project, there’s plenty of time to build up momentum.
But what about family trips? Should they count? Or what about day that I went back a re-visited a city I’d already explored? After a good bit of debate, I decided to add another 3 days to my collection of adventure days: a family day trip to Baltimore, a family day trip to Washington, and a trip to Washington for a job interview—after which I pulled out my guitar and wandered along the Potomac for a couple of hours. I figured that re-visiting a city with my family is another very special kind of adventure—because I’m sharing that experience with people that I care about. So these “adventures” should be included as part of my journey, even though they don’t involve playing music.
So this brings my total Adventure days so far to 15, with 120 hours spent on the road.
Back to the Present
So, here I am, riding the city bus from my home in Mechanicsburg to Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg, just a few miles away. There I’ll catch the Greyhound to Newark, New Jersey, and from there, on a plane to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and whatever adventure might await me. This is taking it to a whole new level, as up until now I’ve only managed to stay in the game for a maximum 16 hour stretch. Who knows what will happen when I stay locked in Minstrel Mode for weeks on end.
And I’m not going to wait until I get to Malaysia to get started. It turns out that my bus to Newark has not one but two long layovers which means that, believe it or not, I might be able to discover 4 new towns before I even get on the plane!
Harrisburg, my starting point, will be my first town of the day. As I take a quick hike through downtown towards the Susquehanna River, I reminisce on all my experiences in this city:
I remember March of 2002 when I brought my wife to America to start our new life here. We landed at JFK airport in New York City where I had reserved a rental car, only to find out that they had just changed their regulations and no longer accepted debit cards. So I had to tell my wife—who was already a bit jittery after her first airplane ride that we’d be catching a Greyhound bus from downtown New York at 2 o’clock in the morning.
I can only imagine what that first impression of America must have been like for her. We got a shuttle bus to Manhattan and sat with all our earthly belongings in a cramped waiting area full of crazy people muttering to themselves, others shouting at them to shut up, homeless people trying to camp out at the station, cops coming to chase the squatters off, (who would just turn around and come right back as soon as the cops left), and the cleaning people who were more successful at chasing everybody out of the waiting area so they could clean it. I tell you, if you come to America expecting to see The Greatest Country on Earth, the Manhattan bust terminal will come as a rude surprise!
Fortunately my wife was able to see the humour in it all and had to stifle her laughter at all the bizarre things going on around us.
Finally we got on our bus and headed off to Pennsylvania.
In Harrisburg we had a 7 hour layover, and this was a much more pleasant one. We put our suitcases in lockers and headed out to grab some breakfast in Harrisburg’s classy downtown area. Then we braved the chilly weather for a stroll along the Susquehanna River, called one of the most beautiful city river walks in the country. The river looks huge—like one of the great rivers of the world—although it’s too shallow to be navigable. Along the path there’s a little “peace garden” and monuments to the highway construction workers, to the Native Americans who first inhabited these parts and the US armed forces… and a pedestrian bridge to a large island in the middle of the river. On our way back we stopped at the City Market and she was thrilled to find some familiar items there She got a bit scared hearing some African Americans hollering at each other from across the street—I explained that they weren’t not fighting—that’s just the way they talk!
This was the beginning of a great adventure of starting a new life with another person and gradually figuring out together Life in America…
I’ll always look back on that as one of the best phases of my life.
Other visits to Harrisburg
Harrisburg has drawn me back numerous times since then… In February 2004, coming back from India, I found the Susquehanna frozen over... I'd never seen a frozen river before, and was quite awestruck by the sight... After strolling across the pedestrian bridge to an island in the middle of the river, I couldn't resist to urge to go down under the bridge and see if I could pee a hole all the way through the ice!
Now, since moving to this area a back in May I’ve made a couple of trips into Harrisburg by bicycle... to the summer world music festival to listen to Jamaican, salsa, flamenco and folk music... To see the fireworks over the river on the 4th of July... To cruise the "strip" on a Friday evening and see an aging 80s wannabe rock band...
I discovered a couple more of Harrisburg's gems--"Zembo Mosque" an old Masonic temple that really does look like a mosque... The Italian garden... a beautiful garden built around a pool that looks more like something you'd see in France... A Jamaican all you can eat restaurant--excellent chicken and goat meat...
Over the years, some new houses and apartments have started to pop up in the rundown northside of town... And Harrisburg Community College did set up a small campus right in that area--so it does seem that the city is at least trying to fix itself up a bit...
Back to the Present
So here I am, walking those same streets once again, past the towering steeple of the Lutheran church, past a homeless guy’s “campsite” right on the sidewalk, set up with tarps and stashed with supplies… he clearly plans to be here a while.
Then down to the river side where I meet a couple of African American girls who are making a film for a school assignment… a pleasant little encounter. There I take my video clip, sing a couple of short songs then scurry on back to catch my bus.
Not much of a “tour” of Harrisburg, but these are some interesting memories that this visit has brought back.