Water Wonders Everywhere

“Here nature calls from fortunes frown her children of disease . And bids them throw their crutches down andgo where’er they please”( John C. Hale, bathhouse owner, 1847)

Moving into week two of our road trip , Ruth and I crossed over the spring flood swollen waters overflowing the banks of the Mississippi River into Central Arkansas for a two day visit to the historic town of Hot Springs. Known as the “Valley of the Vapors”, Hot Springs has long been a popular tourist haven known for its therapeutic spring waters, celebrity sightings, and illicit “underworld” presence. Armed with such knowledge, our leisurely walking tour downtown and short drive to nearby historic landmarks would reveal convincing evidence of Hot Springs’ illustrious past. My favorite photographs of our visit are thus presented below.

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OZARK REGION ACCOMMODATIONS

Booking our first Air B&B apartment of this road trip along a steeply wooded ridge would provide a well deserved respite from our long driving days on the road. A short drive away, we discovered the inconspicuous presence of ex. President Bill Clinton’s boyhood home.

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BATHHOUSE ROW – OUCH! THAT’S HOT

Walking along the “Grand Promenade”, traversing old downtown from above, we observed a series of ornately built, thermal bathhouses built in the early twentieth century Taking a closer along the grounds of several of these now defunct facilities, boiling hot springs still spewed forth to tantalize our curious mind.

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HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK

The restored Fordyce Bathhouse has been restored by the National Service to its original condition. On our tour of the 23 rooms in this complexly designed facility, we gained a realistic picture of traditional hot water treatments for obtaining physical/emotional cures in the past. Interestingly, recent scientific studies now question the medicinal qualities of hot springs water treatments as ultimately effective. Interestingly we later read that movie celebrities, sports heroes, and organized crime bosses had been frequent recipients of such spa treatments there in the past.

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OLD ARLINGTON HOTEL

Alongside Bathhouse Row, this famous tourist accommodation stands as out prominently as an authentic time testament to the “heydays” of Hot Springs’ gloried past. Upon entering, its luxurious lobby, an authentic anniversary exhibit of this hotel from 1925- 2000 captivated our attention. Witness also that Al Capone and his “mob” entourage were frequent room occupants here.

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GANGSTER MUSEUM OF AMERICA

In a town filled with past gambling, bootlegging, prostitution, and other illicit activities, a visit to this museum sounded tempting. Unfortunately the $14.00 entry fee, “tacky” tourist trap” look, and lack of nearby parking dissuaded us from visiting on this particular visit.

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Side Note:

We will be driving close by the flood swollen regions of Nebraska next. We hope to safely lend a helping hand as a volunteer there. Stay tuned for this theme in my next blog. Namaste

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Pure College Town Appeal

“Oxford is not just a town with a great college like Ole Miss, it is a city that Ole Miss alumni thrive in.” (Jamie Bodiford)

Amidst the red clay hills of Northern Mississippi lies Oxford, Mississippi, a quintessential college town experience. At “Ole Miss”, as the university there is commonly called, we would thus find good reason to make a two day stopover on day 6-7 of our road trip. Picture a tranquil setting of traditional academic pursuit on a historically antebellum campus in Oxford, surrounded by “grand” edifices along a spaciously centralized green, – “The Grove.” Or imagine sauntering along a quaint downtown square close by campus to sample independent book stores, quirky cafes, and “offbeat”souvenir shops reminiscent of a mid-19th century setting. You might even step into the world here of a legendary Oxford figure who once enjoyed the stimulating intellectual ambience here as we did on this visit. Please notice then my depiction of such thoughts in my photos below.

“ Spring Break” on campus – An eerily quiet walk

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Several landmarks of historic interest caught our attention on our visit.

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Our “Old Town Visit” evoked time-travel images of old southern past

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We shared a light lunch at a local tavern

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We pondered the genius of William Faulkner at  “Rowan Oak” Estate and his conspicuous gravesite nearby.

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Roots Of “The King” Immortal

“More than anything else, I want the folks back at home to think right of me.” (Elvis Presley)

On a previous road trip, Ruth and I  experienced the legendary aura of “The King”, Elvis Presley at Graceland Estate in Memphis Tennessee. At that time, we learned of Elvis’ humble beginnings at his birthplace of nearby Tupelo, Mississippi. Seeking to learn more about the roots of his musical greatness, Ruth and I thus decided to pay a follow-up Elvis visit to Tupelo on the 5th day of our American road trip. During our two hour tour there, we observed a very realistic depiction of his thirteen year childhood life in Tupelo as revealed in the following pictures.

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Elvis was born in this two room shack as an only child of Vernon and Gladys Presley on the outskirts of Tupelo during the impoverished times of the “Great Depression. This shack was lit only by a single lightbulb in each room. Notice the family portrait, which exists as one of the few surviving relics of the family together at that time.

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Elvis attended church services regularly in the “Assembly Of God” facility below. His musical roots began here as he learned to enjoy the uplifting spirit of gospel music during lively sermons while Reverend Frank Smith taught Elvis to play the guitar here as well.

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As Elvis grew up in Tupelo, a family radio and 78 rpm record player provided additional music enjoyment. Undoubtedly, emerging country, blues, and big band artists that Elvis listened to then broadened his musical outlook during this time.

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Although Elvis moved on to Memphis and the world stage to solidify his musical fame, he never forgot his time in Mississippi. Accordingly, he continued to perform in Tupelo and other nearby towns, thereby expressing gratitude to his adoring fans.

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This godlike statue at the rear of the birthplace site attests to Elvis’ immortal status as a musical legend in the eyes of the Tupelo community.

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Gimme Jimmy Again

“I want the people to understand my character, my weaknesses, the kind of person I am.” (Jimmy Carter Presidential Campaign Remark)

We headed north through Central Georgia on the 4th day of our road trip. As a history buff, I looked forward to blogging about the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center/Library in Atlanta, Georgia. During Carter’s Presidency, I vividly recall admiring Jimmy’s calm and studious manner of dealing with the “Iranian Hostage and Energy Crises then under political pressure. More recently, I followed with great interest his humanitarian efforts with “Habitat For Humanity” to build affordable housing for needy families in the United States and around the world. I thus composed a brief poem below hoping to (1) recharge my fond memories of his Presidency as depicted at the Carter Center and (2) better cope with today’s ugly political times.

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Gimme Jimmy Again

Gimme A Chief Who Radiates A Warm Smile
Not A Villain Who Spews His Venomous Vile
Gimme A Master Who Works Humbly For All
Not A Blowhard Who Serves Self Egoist Call

Gimme A Wizard Who Believes In Truthful Acts
Not A Humbug Who Plays Loose With Firm Facts
Gimme A Scholar Who Aspires To Mindfully Learn
Not A Fool Whose Brain Rots In Tweetful Spurn

Stand Tall My Sweet Sage For In You I Envision
A Leader Who Acts With Sound Heart And Mind Mission

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“EPCOT” Energy Endures

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” (Audrey Hepburn)

For over 35 years, Ruth and I have embraced EPCOT as our favorite Disney Park. Strolling freely through its imaginatively themed pavilions of “Future World”, we’ve often found creative ideas to use as classroom teachers. In addition, by circling the diverse parade of nations at World Showcase, new places to explore in travel have vividly piqued our interest. This year, the “International Flower and Garden Festival” inspired an early March visit to EPCOT on day three of our U.S. road trip. I thus present below my favorite photographic images from this most recent tour.

As we entered EPCOT a springtime explosion of floral blooms and smells greeted each new visitor.

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A colorful patchwork of flowers lined the circular lake to capture Monet-like impressions along the surrounding waters.

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Topiary gardens throughout the park revealed detailed images of popular Disney character.

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At the canopied Butterfly House, these beautifully winged insects blended in nicely with the surrounding foliage.

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To conclude our visit, leader singer, Jon Anderson of “Yes” performed a free concert of greatest hits from this famed English band at the Concert Pavilion.

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“Old Florida” Finest

“Sometimes I think I’ve figured out some order in the universe, but then I find myself in Florida, swamped by incongruity and paradox, and I have to start all over again.” ( Susan Orlean)

After resolving a brief medical scare in the family, we fortunately left on time on March 9 for our 5th American road trip. Crossing Alligator Alley at a relatively safe 75 mph, the majority of cars/ SUVs whizzed past us at dangerously high speeds. Amidst this quiet refuge of natural beauty in the Florida Everglades, such a human car chase spectacle seemed badly out of place. I could only imagine then the presence of aquatic birds hovering contentedly in the surrounding bush as a not so subtle hint to humans that slowing down your life would be a most attractive option.

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Arriving on the west coast south of Bradenton in late morning, I spotted the conspicuous stadium lights of LECOM Park, longtime Spring Training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. A closer look would soon reveal a beautifully renovated stadium encircled by “rundown” blight in the surrounding neighborhood. On this hot and “sticky” day, we now loaded up on sun tan lotion and headed for the bleachers to watch today’s game. As the game progressed in slow baseball fashion, several thoughts crossed my mind.

1) Why did so many parents torture their little children by dragging them to this game when they had little capacity to sit and focus?

(2) Removing one’s hat for the National Anthem was obligatory for baseball fans and players but why not for surrounding camera men?

(3) If they are trying to speed up the game by instituting timers between pitches and innings then why were these new rules not enforced today?

(4) Baseball fans love to see the star heroes of the game. Why then did neither club today seem to care in their lineup selections to field their marquee players of popular interest?

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Heading to the Orlando vicinity now with GPS guidance, we would take our time In late afternoon to avoid tourist driven Interstate 4 to capture a more authentic look at small town living in Central Florida. The next morning, a leisurely walk through Mount Dora would provide a relaxing view of a town that takes historic preservation values quite seriously. Making time for a picnic lunch at nearby Lake Dora, I resolved to resist judging that my glitzy material indulgence in South Florida was any better than the timeless simplicity of uncrowded streets, quaint shops, and friendly conversation that I observed in this picturesque “ Old Florida” town.

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Retro Road Trip Revelry

“Driving around, living the dream. I’m cruising the town, digging the scene. I’m not gonna stress, not gonna worry. Doing my best, no need to hurry. (Beach Boys Lyric)

I usually get antsy in the days preceding our springtime road trips. Anticipating once again the excitement of extended freedom from our accustomed routine, an emotional flashback to times of youthful optimism provided a useful theme to satisfy such restlessness last week. What could make a more fun combination than nostalgically indulging in Beach Boys music, spring training baseball or “hot rod cruising” to re-experience the vanishing bohemian spirit of the late 1960s?

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So many pop music idols in my adolescent past have faded away into non-existence yet The Beach Boys remain immensely popular in today’s times. While I remember their surf culture vibe in my era once rivaling “Beatlemania” in popularity, regrettably only two original members ( Mike Love and Bruce Johnston), still perform live with this iconic band in today’s times. Fortunately, my wife and I continue to relish The Beach Boys sound as tunes like “California Girls”, “Help Me Rhonda”, and “Little Deuce Coupe”…. once provided a fun escape outlet for idealized youth like us growing up in a turbulent era of extreme political unrest in America. It follows that we would accordingly “loosen up” to dance and singalong to “hit after hit” in the Beach Boys live performance at Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida last Thursday.

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Classic American cars of the 1960s-70s additionally evoke “deja vu” visions for many men of the “baby boom” generation.For owning a fast car then often meant challenging drag races after school accompanied by bragging escapades about one’s engine horsepower capacity. Thus I made up for lost time it seemed by cruising with my lawyer friend in his vintage Corvette last week. Regrettably, the high speed performance of this vehicle could only briefly be displayed as we cautiously zig-zagged through the tourist clogged, I-95 corridor on Saturday afternoon.

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Spring Training baseball for me has never really been about winning but rather a place of silly refuge from the more serious pursuit of growing up. Who cares then that I would be witnessing the Miami Marlins, arguably the worst team in Major League baseball on this sunny Saturday afternoon in Jupiter, Florida. An outfielder dropped an easy pop fly, a mustard package splattered on my lap, and an umpire made a bad call. It seemed “all good” in this insignificant ballgame of relaxing retreat.

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As my wife and I begin our marathon road trip on March 9, we seek new opportunities to sustain such youthful exuberance. I hope you will similarly enjoy this nostalgic ride through my upcoming blogs. Basking in this fun spirit of travel, I leave you to ponder ways to find your own “Good Vibrations ” in the following Beach Boys video.

“Talking Geese” Madness

“Geese are friends to no one, they bad mouth everybody and everything. But they are companionable once you get used to their ingratitude and false accusations”
( E.B.White )

In springtime, an impressive number of avian/reptilian species migrate to our neighborhood pond in winter- warmed Fort Lauderdale. Notably, in pre-dawn hours, a pair of Egyptian geese” waddle” regularly toward our 2nd floor, condo bedroom window to noisily squawk in tandem, seemingly oblivious to our restful splendor. The more I study the dominant nature of their very vocal behavior, in relation to other birds living here, they seem strangely human. In the following poem, I thus imagine what habitual honking means to our not so “loving”, yet highly intelligent couple as they aggressively scavenge for scarce food in their surrounding habitat.

Fight For Morn Bite – Give Ear To Goose
Honk Honk Honk
Battle Cry Breaks – Dawn Shrilled Blast Of
Honk Honk Honk

Be Watchful Of Mate- She’s Hunger Raged
Honk Honk Honk
So Stronger Together – Let’s Give Them Some
Honk Honk Honk

Move On Ugly Lizard – We’re Fearful Not
Honk Honk Honk
Eat Mouthwatering Morsel -In Swift Swoop Seize
Honk Honk Honk

Poop Bombs Splash Stains – Squished Shoes Stink Up
Honk Honk Honk
Such Sunken Slop Signals – Unsettled Mess
Honk Honk Honk

Hear Me Out Human – Crazed Geese Bargains
Honk Honk Honk
Now Toss Us Some Seeds – Then We’ll Stop Shrieking
Honk Honk Honk

OUR BARGAIN BELOW – PLEASE SIGN x_______________

You’re Surrounded By Visions Of Nightmarish Honkers
So Feed Us Today Before You Go “Bonkers”

Ready-Set-Road Trip

“The freedom of the open road is seductive, serendipitous and absolutely liberating.” (Aaron Lauritsen, 100 Days Drive: The Great North American Road Trip)

Excitement rises again as Ruth and I make plans for our spring 2019 road trip across America from our Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home beginning on March 10. Choosing a more challenging, counterclockwise route, we will meander through cooler mountainous regions of Arkansas, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and California for much of our March/April driving time. On our similarly demanding, easterly return home in May/early June, we traverse the vast distances of Texas, a long, northerly jaunt to the Midwest, and a winding path through the rugged Appalachian Mountain region. With added storage space and impressive safety features in our recently purchased 2018 Honda CRV, however, we feel confident that a relaxing vacation can be consistently attained throughout this three month journey.

For the past two months, we have organized diligently for our latest cross-country adventure. In particular,we 1) screened Air B&B for exclusively “Super Host” room bookings of multiple day stays, (2) downloaded offline map updates for key destinations using travel apps Triposo and Maps.me, 3) refined our collapsible storage bag system into both short/long term need categories to more efficiently access our possessions, 4) envisioned additional cargo storage space using our CRV hatchback feature capacity and 5) reconfirmed planned visits to family/friends to avoid anticipated host emergencies and resultant situational conflict.

For my featured picture preceding this blog, I’ve presented a detailed map overview of our 2019 planned itinerary. As I anticipate composing new blog entries 2-3 times each week. in conjunction with key destinations visited, twenty topic questions of “word worthy” blog interest stand out below.

(1) How has “Epcot” in Orlando changed in the 20 years since my last visit?

(2) What memories can we share in Atlanta, Ga. with former college roommates about the University of South Florida 1970s past?

(3) What new directions in overcoming racism and prejudice today exist at the Birmingham Ala. Civil Rights Institute?

(4) What does it feel like to bathe in a thermal pool in Hot Springs, Ark.?

(5) What soldier survival stories to inspire world peace now exist at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri?

(6) When and where will “Progressive” marches take place in Colorado, California and Washington D.C?

(7) How can we best embrace the “college town” experience in Boise, Idaho, San Luis Obispo, Calif. and Flagstaff, Ariz?

(8) How might our attendance at my cousin’s wedding in Asheville, North Carolina rekindle mutual efforts to “stay in touch” more?

(9) What innovative buildings of interest are being built in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, Nevada?

(10) What new opportunities exist to improve our spiritual enlightenment in Sedona, Arizona?

(11) Will the Cleveland Indians perform well in home games against rival Minnesota Twins during our June stadium visit?

(12) Does Pagosa Springs Colorado offer a viable place for an extended stay?

(13) What volunteer opportunities exist during our ten-day stay in Morro Bay California region?

(14) What natural wonders near Moab, Utah will attract our walking interest?

(15) Has the Pacific Coast Highway in California been opened for the entire north-south distance to vehicular traffic?

(16) To what extent do extreme weather conditions in the Rockies/Appalachians alter our planned dates and destinations of travel?

(17) What town visits will best provide glimpses of authentic “antebellum” traditions along the southerly shores of the Mississippi River?

(18) Does 2020 elections bode well for Democrats or Republicans based on informal conversation with local residents in key states visited?

(19) How can we best manage weight gain issues to counteract our daily sedentary driving?

(20) How can we make best use of public transportation to visit Washington D.C?

Jubilant! Jazzy! Journey!

“Jazz is something you have to feel, something you have to live”(Ray Brown)

What makes jazz music so appealing to me as a traveler? Having experienced the musical “high” of performing as a jazz trombonist in both a big band and small combo setting in the past, jazz musical language now speaks to me as a prime motivator to explore the world around me. In traditional jazz, I think of the smoothly creative sounds of saxophonist, John Coltrane or the technical proficiency of trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis. In more modern times, guitarist Pat Metheny’s brilliant infusion of jazz with classical, rock, funk, and new age genres or Snarky Puppy’s diverse assemblage of multitalented musicians performing in intimate live settings equally attracts my attention here. 

The jazz medium connection to my travel  interest can be best explained by identifying those  musical elements which make jazz unique. In the two videos below, numerous examples of this “bag of jazz tricks” motivating my “wandering ways” vividly come to mind. Do you recognize them?

IMPROVISATIONAL SPIRIT

In jazz music, the solo performer freely explores his own interpretation of a recurring musical melody or theme within the confines of the musical chords provided. Feeling equally spontaneous on our Europe-based vacations, using a Eurail pass combined with a Paris Metro map in France has provided great flexibility in interpreting where my wife and I go next as the moment strikes us each day. The future focus of arriving at our destination thus feels secondary to the “now” enjoyment of moving from place to place each day.

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EXTENDED NOTE RANGE

A jazz performer occasionally finds a challenging opportunity to test the limits of his ability by playing beyond the normal sound ranges of his/her musical instrument. In travel, my binoculars similarly serve as the primary outlet for extending my range of exploration in inaccessible locations. On the west coast of California, steep cliff overlooks, jagged rock formations, and pounding surf tides along the shoreline frequently prevent us from accessing beaches of interesting natural beauty. Yet a methodical scan of a such a remote beach with my binoculars of a tide pool inflow or hidden cave, have revealed to me a priceless look at a living ecosystem of marine sea life beyond my normal view.
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GHOST CONDUCTOR

In jazz performance, one plays to the hidden beat felt by the music presented. In fact, on many occasions, the band plays on with no conductor on stage. Likewise, there have been times where WiFi, GPS service and map reference are useless along walking trails on our American roadtrip vacations in the remote locations in Nevada, Colorado, and Utah. We are thus in fact lost. In the absence of our directional conductor, then, reliance on our senses to look for obscure trail markings placed by previous trekkers have provided a successfully strategy for finding our way back to safe haven.

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COLLECTIVE WILL

The success of a jazz performance by one musician in a band requires a commitment to hear how others are playing simultaneous to his/her efforts. A drummer, guitar and bass player may play “tight” together” to produce a pulsating harmonic vibe while a refreshing brassy interlude resonates the melody in coordinated tandem. In related fashion, we have wandered the world for a glimpse of such live performance unity of expression as a spectator of football, baseball, and more recently soccer sporting events. On our past London trip, I excitedly witnessed such “call and response” synergy at an English Premier League football match at Emirates Stadium. Notably, joyous Arsenal fans sang traditional hymns loudly throughout the stadium as Arsenal players respectfully nodded to the crowd entering the field. The chants intensified throughout the game as the home team responded by putting on an impressive scoring display to soundly defeat their overmatched opponent.

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SYNCOPATION AND BLUE NOTES

Jazz players typically defy accepted rules of musical composition by reinterpreting traditional rules of rhythm and sound in unpredictable ways. Skipping the assigned beat, lessening or lengthening an audible note or making the sound slightly higher or lower makes jazz sound somewhat odd to the dance-pleasing eye. Yet such creative alterations to predetermined touring routes in travel have often come in handy. In medieval  “old towns” of Lisbon, London, and Venice…, for example, a challenging  walk taken through unmarked, crowded corridors  and narrow cobblestone streets frequently has required an irregular variance in course and direction from our more direct and unimpeded traveling norm.

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GLOBAL OUTLOOK

One of the more enduring qualities of of jazz  relates to its cultural sensitivity to time/place. A nightly show performer might for instance freely incorporate Afro- Caribbean salsa, Mississippi Delta Blues or Asian Zen Mysticism as a plausible way to express his/her unique variation of a jazz tune “standard.”  In essence, then, jazz serves as a “world music”, offering unity of “humankind” throughout the world.  On our recent India tour last spring, we thus sought authentic spiritual settings there that inspired similar vibes of positive optimism.  We thus embraced with our “open” jazz mind, New Delhi street monuments and sculptures, portraying  the spiritual bonds of its many diverse cultures/religions coexisting in this overpopulated and poverty stricken city. 

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Sources:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Syncopation

https://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/jazz1.htm

https://wyntonmarsalis.org/news/entry/music-what-jazz-is-and-isnt

https://www.pure.com/uk/blog/november-2016/the-5-best-jazz-songs-of-all-time