Michele Bender photo

Michele Mikesic Bender

I look out my window (occasionally my car window) and see the kind of summer I love passing me by. I love heat and humidity. I have always suspected I was a lizard in a previous life.

But I have deep concerns about my health and the health of others, so I’ve been summering in my mind, recalling past vacations and adventures.

My gal-pal Jeri started an “anti-boredom” mini-game, asking how many states of our 50 have we had visited.

She led the pack with 24!

“We always wanted to live in San Francisco, so we did in the ’90s, but hubby’s job called him back to Johnstown,” Jeri says. 

“Many of my 24 states we simply passed through while moving, but we returned to others for vacations. Sometimes I’d tag along on business trips.”

My total is 11, if you count Washington, D.C. The School Safety Patrols took a whirlwind trip to the Capitol when I was in sixth grade. I got a Brownie camera for my May birthday, but lacked skill.

I took a picture of the White House (with more yellow school bus in the frame) and a statue of some guy on a horse, but I missed his head. My Lincoln Memorial photo looks almost professional, but I could only fit the middle of the Washington Monument in, and it was foggy that morning. I think it’s kind of “artsy,” though.

Other folks played the game, too. One guy calculated and said the average for our group was eight states. That’s kind of sad.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time in Jersey because my grands on mom’s side lived in Philly. Mom had friends in Delaware, so we visited there, too.

After graduation, a BFF, Chipper, moved to Cleveland where her older sister lived. I liked Cleveland, and over the years I went there a lot. Between the lake, the Rock and Roll Museum, the library (architectural ecstasy) and colorful nightlife, I enjoyed it.

“Hornerstown” Cathy became “Cincinnati Cathy” in the early ’70s. She’s lived there now for years, and took me to Indiana and Kentucky on day trips.

I love to soak up Virginia Beach sunshine at my cousin’s waterfront home.

My route to New York was confusing. Just outside Pittsburgh, I made a left turn instead of a right. Without that navigation error, I would never have seen West Virginia, but I didn’t realize my mistake until I saw a sign that said “Welcome to Maryland.”

I never did get to New York until much later, when we took my father-in-law to visit family in Buffalo.

I rode along to North Carolina with another friend in the late ’90s, and got a chance to visit “Mayberry.”

“The Snappy Lunch” was closed, but I sat in Floyd’s barber chair.

And that concludes my tour.

Movies made me want to see San Francisco. When I was 13, I saw “The Pleasure of his Company.” Fred Astaire played Debbie Reynolds’ dad, a world traveler who returned for his daughter’s wedding.

In 1968, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” – which was set in San Francisco – won the Academy Award for best picture (back in the days when stuff like that wasn’t crooked and really celebrated talent).

Yes, San Francisco was always on my “dream list.” With “Dirty Harry” there to protect me, what could go wrong?

I’m happy with my 11.

None of us have ever experienced a mercurial, tension-ridden year like this that seems to grow even more unstable.

Memories make a good shelter.

I know I’m apprehensive, sequestered and uncertain about what the future holds.

And lonely. No one ever lies about being lonely.

Come with me. Pack your imagination, and I’ll meet you in San Francisco.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat.​ She can be reached at MsGeezerette@aol.com.

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