They’re play­ing my song

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION TRAVEL - GRAHAM ERBACHER Su­san Kuro­sawa is on as­sign­ment.

Close your eyes and sum­mon up a song that trans­ports you to a magic des­ti­na­tion. Good, now you’ve got your ear­worm (what a cu­ri­ous word) for the week­end.

Read­ing all the con­tri­bu­tions for the Fol­low the Reader col­umn be­low (as I do), I know I’m not the only one for whom a piece of mu­sic (or another favourite, fan­tas­tic cui­sine) can trig­ger a travel reverie. Hear Gersh­win’s Rhapsody in Blue, think Man­hat­tan, but that’s Woody Allen’s ear-worm.

I have a few. One is Si­mon and Gar­funkel’s Amer­ica — about a lonely cou­ple on a long-dis­tance Grey­hound bus trip — from their Book­ends al­bum of 1968. A few years af­ter that, a friend and I, on our first overseas jour­ney, flew to San Francisco armed with three-month Grey­hound USA bus passes and our fa­thers’ old air-force great­coats to ward off the win­ter. We were so ter­ri­bly young. At a time be­fore ev­ery­one was but a text away, I marvel at our par­ents putting faith in us for the ad­ven­ture. It was mis­placed, of course, but that’s another story.

On a clock­wise cir­cuit, the Amer­ica I found was one I fell in­stantly in love with — the spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes, the towns and ex­hil­a­rat­ing cities, and the friendly and en­thu­si­as­tic peo­ple. In Gersh­win’s words, if “there’s a boat dat’s leavin’ soon for New York”, save me a berth.

But the trip also opened my eyes to the harsh di­vide be­tween the haves and have-nots. Bus sta­tions were rarely in the Nob Hill part of town. I had no con­cep­tion of peo­ple, large num­bers of them, sleep­ing in card­board boxes on the side­walks and beg­ging on the streets. And I had not en­coun­tered so many peo­ple drift­ing, in search of some part of the dream they knew not what; not rooted any­where by re­la­tion­ships, fam­ily or work. Of course, Aus­tralia was quick to catch up.

Si­mon and Gar­funkel cap­ture the mo­ment: “Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleep­ing/And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why/Count­ing the cars on the New Jer­sey Turn­pike/They’ve all come to look for Amer­ica.”

Ste­vie Won­der’s You Are the Sun­shine of My Life is another of my tick­ets to ride. It takes me to the mighty Em­pire Theatre on Le­ices­ter Square in Lon­don, the old MGM show­case. I am dressed in an usher’s uni­form, which could dou­ble as a lion tamer’s, and I have a sig­nif­i­cant crowd to set­tle into num­bered seats be­fore an in­stru­men­tal ver­sion of Ste­vie’s song ends (it’s the last on a 20minute mu­sic loop be­tween movie ses­sions) and the lights fade. Af­ter that the torch has to be whipped out and dis­putes sorted be­tween late­com­ers and seat-hop­pers. In all my jobs in the decades since I look back on my ush­er­ing (and lion-wran­gling) abil­i­ties with strange sat­is­fac­tion and, in­deed, get a sim­i­lar plea­sure from many of life’s straight­for­ward tasks — send me your wash­ing-up and laun­dry, but no iron­ing, thanks. So now you know what songs are buzzing around my brain. Back to your own.

I am dressed in an usher’s uni­form, which could dou­ble as a lion tamer’s

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