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Car Museums, Writing, and beyond: Ten of My Favorite Things

Updated on September 01, 2016
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Although I am far from a decisive individual, I have my favorites. By necessity this list isn’t exhaustive. I could have, for example, chosen to list my ten favorite movies from the 1980s. Or else the ten best novels I’ve read as an adult. The possibilities, while perhaps not technically infinite, are plentiful.

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In college I was first exposed to the bluegrass band Nickel Creek. Although I didn’t start listening to them until a few years later, I was immediately intrigued. Once I’d listened to their entire self-titled debut album, I was hooked. Chris Thile’s expertise playing the mandolin cannot be overstated; he’s joined by Sara Watkins on the fiddle and Sean Watkins on acoustic guitar. Having grown up listening to, among others, The Beatles, Queen, and James Taylor, this band sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard. All of their voices contribute, although perhaps Sara Watkins sings more than both men. I’ve seen them in concert twice, and both times I heard Sara Watkins, who is a petite individual, sing a spirited cover of Randy Newman’s “Short People.” Add in thought-provoking lyrics, an outstanding cover of Bob Dylan’s “House Carpenter,” and a wholesome image, and it’s easy to think the world of this band. In addition, when Sara Watkins released a solo album in 2009, I immediately took a liking to her single “Will We Go.”

I do not recall when I discovered the Henri The Cat videos on YouTube. Perhaps, when push comes to shove—and, my goodness, when doesn’t it?—this detail is inconsequential. What’s important is how hilarious I find every video of this tuxedo cat expressing, in the spoken French words of his owner, despairing sentiments such as, “We cannot escape ourselves” and “My filtered water tastes impure.” I’ve watched these videos repeatedly, and, if I know myself at all, I’ll watch them again. When I’m in search of quick comic relief, they are often the ticket.

Uris Library in Ithaca, New York

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As an unrepentant bibliophile, I have immense affection for libraries. If I’m traveling and have spare time, I’ll often find a library to walk around. During such explorations I’ve found a library with a sign which reads, “Keep Calm and Ask a Librarian.” I’ve also discovered gorgeous libraries inside stately buildings in Vermont. Depending how much traveling awaits me, I can only imagine what additional libraries I’ll set foot in. I cannot imagine, moreover, I’d forgo the chance to walk through a foreign library where none of the books are in English. Presuming I am surrounded by books, it’s nearly impossible to not feel an enlivening sense of possibility—as in, “Just think of how many worlds, fictional or otherwise, I currently have access to.”

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My affinity for diners, especially those location in otherwise unassuming locations, cannot be overstated. I’ve sampled homemade tapioca pudding at a diner in Rhode Island, tried fried okra for the first time at a diner in northwestern Arkansas, and discovered some of the best sweet tea at another diner in Arkansas. With rare exception I’m interested in whatever regional specialties are being sold at these establishments. I’ve had fried green tomatoes in Georgia, knephla soup in North Dakota, and another delicious offering of sweet tea in North Carolina. Even when the food isn’t unique, the people-watching is often excellent. Once, while on a road trip with a close friend, we found a diner in rural Oklahoma. Here the counter was filled with aging cowboys; in addition, the waitress called us “Hon” and acted as if she’d been at this establishment longer than I’d been alive.

The cast of the original Star Trek series

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For well over a decade I’ve been undeniably fond of the original Star Trek television serious. From Mr. Spock saying “Fascinating” and deftly raising his left eyebrow to the seemingly endless supply of women for Captain James Kirk to rescue and/or fall in love with, it’s difficult to go wrong. This show was also remarkably diverse and progressive. If you don’t believe me, consider this: The first biracial kiss ever on television occurred on this show. Finally, I appreciate the moral dilemmas which occur in most episodes. Although the setting is fantastical in certain respects, the battle between good and evil continues without interruption.

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I’ve been writing for almost thirty years. Why I began fiddling with words I do not know; moreover, I cannot say with absolute certainty I’ll be writing until I am no longer “among the living.” Nevertheless, for now it remains one of my foremost passions. The pursuit of greater proficiency in this discipline has shaped my life in uncountable ways; my love of language is one thing I cannot imagine my life without. Comparable to being a woman or being a citizen of the United States, it’s nearly impossible to envision what my life would’ve been like without this preoccupation with language.

In my early twenties I discovered the joys of singing and listening to karaoke. Whether I’m flying solo or with a group of friends, this pastime has repeatedly proven to be worth my while. Karaoke, it should be noted, inspires me to be more spontaneous. This may involve finding someone to dance with, or, when I am allowed, joining someone for their song selection. To say nothing of when, at the last minute, I changed my song selection to Billy Joel’s “The Piano Man” because I thought the crowd would be more receptive. They were; this remains one of my most cherished karaoke-inspired moments.

Volvo Auto Museum near Chicago, Illinois

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Although I am generally woefully ignorant of the particulars—such as engine sizes and whatnot—of cars, I’ve an abiding affection for older vehicles. And, since I’d prefer to see these restored beauties when I’m not driving, this translates into an interest in car museums. Once, while in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, I stopped by their auto museum in order to admire, among others, a 1939 Rolls Royce and 1924 Model T Huckster. I’ve also visited the car museum in Deer Lodge, Montana. I was on a tight schedule, and so I had less time to gaze appreciatively at the perfectly restored automobiles. For the record, I have neither the aptitude nor the finances to purchase and restore a classic car. Consequently, this is yet another reason to have unfiltered appreciation for those who do.

Finally, I treasure road trips with friends. Depending who I’m traveling with, we may play Mad Libs, listen to music, find the zaniest attractions around, or go in search of a beach or state park. Earnest and intense conversation may also be available, and, as someone who likes to dive into the thornier topics, this suits me perfectly. Traveling with friends is also a superb way to establish enduring memories. I’ve taken road trips with friends I’ve since lost touch with, and, although I understand why these friendship have run their course, I’m thankful for the remaining memories.

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Thank you for taking the time to read about a few of my favorite things. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to ponder anew what you are most appreciative of. And, moreover, exposed you to a thing or two or three you may develop a liking for.

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