I’ve got a terrible sense of geography. If I haven’t been to a place—and even this isn’t a sure thing—there’s a good chance I don’t know much about where it is in relation to other places. Two of my interests have given me at least some awareness of places around the globe. Baseball has made me conscious of the spring training locations of major league baseball teams in Florida and Arizona as well as minor league towns. Songs can also give me a sense of place. As with baseball’s spring training outposts, off-the-beaten track locations noted in songs I like sometimes become my primary (or even sole) association with that location.
I had to drive about 70 miles north of my house today for work, to the town pictured above. I don’t think I passed this building, but I couldn’t get a particular song out of my head: Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” about Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, who was imprisoned in what was then called Rahway State Prison. Prior to doing business up there, the ONLY associations I have with Rahway, New Jersey involve that prison, both through the Dylan song and the old TV documentary Scared Straight. I don’t care how much business I will ever do in Rahway the song “Hurricane” will always be the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the town’s name.
Is there a song you associate with a specific town you’ve actually been to above all other associations you might have with that town?