Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Second in a series…

After a recent rant about our tendency to take a good thing and improve it until it doesn’t work anymore (the toaster, the telephone, micro-wave popcorn, the Mustang II), the Church of the Open Road asked readers to identify items or ideas that function perfectly as they currently exist. Following are some suggestions and some reasoning to support the suggestions:

A BABY’S GIGGLE: Nothing can lift one’s spirits like the sweet giggle of a baby discovering something that is completely mundane to us, but thrilling and endlessly amusing to them. (There’s a big lesson here.)

THE FRENCH HORN: The Horn can evoke joy and pain. It announces kings, serenades dancers and proclaims the hunt. It can be moody and dark and it can sing to the heavens at daybreak. Easily transported under one’s arm, only the most talented of musicians can master this beautiful instrument with its narrow windpipe, its sublime rotary valves and its blossom like bell. The supple caress of the player’s hand in that bell opens or mutes the Horn’s tone: matching mood with message, song with circumstance. Composers merely write music. The Horn breathes life into that music.

DANIEL DAY LEWIS: To which the Church must respond: Ingrid Bergman (in Casablanca.)

“TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME:” No song says carefree summer afternoons better, with hot dogs, sodas, line drives into the gap and close plays at home. Long a staple of the seventh inning stretch, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” has recently been replaced by “God Bless America.” Bad, bad move. “God Bless America” would make a far better anthem for this nation than the one we currently (cannot) sing. A move in this direction would return “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” back to its rightful place on languid summer afternoons. Let’s move on this.

THE SNORKEL: Over three quarters of the earth is covered in water. This simple device allows us access to a magical world – one just beneath the surface – a world that is at once beautiful and complex; violent yet peaceful; colorful but blue; and quiet. The snorkel opens our eyes to a different world and offers us opportunities to reflect on both the known and the mysterious.

THE KITTEN: The kitten is lovely, warm, soft and gentle. Kittens share their gratitude with a soft purr, a raspy little lick and a constant desire to cuddle. Proof of the futility in trying to improve on something already perfect is supported by the reality that the vast majority of kittens grow up to become cats.

THE RUBBER BAND: Endlessly useful, the rubber band is abused to suit our needs, returns to its form when we are finished and is willing to stretch to its very limitations in order to perform its duty. Simple. Inexpensive. Reusable. Biodegradable.

THE HEN’S EGG AND THE BANANA (tie): Design experts have long suggested that the hen’s egg is the prefect design. Its form follows its function. Its shape lends itself (I suppose) to being expelled from the hen in (I suppose) the least painful manner. Its shell protects the precious cargo within, yet is easily enough chipped through when it is time for that cargo to be birthed.

Similarly, the banana has a protective wrapper that is easily shed allowing access to a vitamin rich fruit that can be used on cereals, in milkshakes, in a daiquiri or eaten as is. Leave us not forget the banana peel’s comedic potential particularly when an unsuspecting Curly Joe Howard or Larry Fine might come traipsing down a well-waxed hallway.

THE ELECTRON: This tireless phenomenon holds atoms together, moves through wire to transmit energy, and can be manipulated to transmit ideas and make pictures. It can speed up and slow down and it never dies. It is the building block of life, and technology; and it holds the keys to both our heritage and our future.

AN (A) EARLY MORNING with a (B) CUP OF FRENCH ROAST (another tie): These go hand in hand and function better when they are experienced in concert. Word of caution: you can’t decaffeinate a beautiful morning; so don’t try it with the dark roast.


TRUE LOVE: ‘Nuff said.


Note: There were many excellent suggestions that didn’t fit into the ten-limit we’d set for ourselves – the Buck pocketknife, a good book, a wood fire on a cold night, a Hohner harmonica. All of these things seem simple in their design and in their function. Chances are a follow-up post will be in order. In light of that, the “Church” will continue to accept suggestions from readers.

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