The first time I visited my future father-in-law’s study I was struck by two things: the enticing collection of history books that filled the shelves (surprising to me, since he was the Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of South Dakota and long-time theatre professor – not a historian). The second was what appeared to be a yellowed newspaper clipping, professionally framed, and entitled, The New Yorker’s Idea of the United States of America.
The clipping featured the outline of the 48 contiguous states with New York taking up about a third of the east coast. California and “Hollywood” were roughly the same size on the left coast – and a jumbled assortment of amorphous and often misnamed states squeezed into what little space remained.
Among its many other inaccuracies are:
Pennsylvania is identified as a city in the state of Philadelphia.
The Mississippi River is located about 800 miles from the California coastline
New Orleans is in Florida
Texas is part of Baja California
Cleveland is a city on Lake Michigan in the state of Indiana.
Illinois contains cities named: Dubuque, Nebraska, St. Paul & Milwaukee
Pittsburgh is a city in Ohio.
Missouri, Utah and the state of “San Francisco” share borders in the West
You get the idea: New Yorkers, many of whom are convinced they dwell in the center of the universe, have been known to have a somewhat myopic view of the rest of their country. Richard Rodgers, in his ground-breaking Broadway musical “No Strings” (1962) included a song lampooning such ignorance. The entire song pits a protagonist of the rural life (exemplified by the state of Maine) against a city girl who sees no reason to venture beyond her home “East of the Hudson”. To compound the felony, she describes Maine as located “Up North of Central Park”.
I was particularly drawn to this map because it perfectly illustrated my own experiences while living in New York. My freshman roommate (from Long Island) told me years later that she was thoroughly shocked to find out I did not have hayseeds between my teeth!
But before I am accused of picking on New Yorkers, I hasten to add that it works both ways. When I moved to South Dakota after gaining my eastern college education, I was teased for attending an “elite eastern school” (and for wearing mini-skirts, which hadn’t quite made their way that far West yet.)
If you’ve been paying attention you probably see where this is going: prejudice and ignorance – which so often live together – are the inevitable result of staying put. And the antidote is travel.
I admit that both the map and my college years were many years ago. But being in the travel business, I have certainly come to appreciate the salutary effects of travel on a person’s world view, and perspective on life.
We’d love to have you join us on an excursion to new places, where your traveling companions might come from Florida to Oregon and the world beyond. And you’ll have the opportunity to meet people along the way who just might open your eyes to fresh ideas, and ways of doing things that will change your life.
Both the books and the framed map eventually ended up in my own library.