From the time I was a little kid, I was intrigued with these tokens of my physical world and the endless possibilities for exploration and discovery.
When I was very young, I had a small metal globe with a coin slot in the top. I experienced my first epiphany when my parents explained that it was a model of our world. To me, the world was a very small place then. I had only been downtown, to the park and to relatives houses on the West Side of Cleveland, so I thought that was pretty much it.
I reasoned that a small dent on my globe bank must be that big hole in the sidewalk near my cousins’ house on Guthrie Avenue. Of course, I’m much wiser now and realize that wasn’t the case. Actually, that dent represented the pothole on West 117th Street that snapped a tie rod on my ’64 Chevelle.
At Orchard Elementary School we had the kind of maps that rolled down like window shades. Like our textbooks and everything else, including my kindergarten teacher, they were outdated. U.S.S.R. was still labeled Russia. Which just goes to show you that, if you hold on to anything long enough, it will come back into style.
In looking at the “window shade maps” at Orchard Elementary School, I was obsessed with bodies of water. (Perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come.) As we learned about cities and the existence of different cultures it struck me as unthinkable that people would establish settlements anywhere but right next to a large body of water. It still does.
When I got older I’d pore over road maps the same way the smarter kids in class immersed themselves in books. Maps captured my imagination far more than any book ever could, perhaps because I could write my own plot.
To this day, I can honestly say I’ve read more maps than books.