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Blue Yonder

Updated: Jul 26, 2020


The mind is its own place, as Milton noted.


Wix, my website host, has new analytics. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with analytics on my new website — love because, as my business classes taught me, what gets measured gets managed. With my old setup, I would put the pipe on my website, send out the email, and it was a message in a bottle. No idea how many — or few — people saw it. It was a bit Zen; the pipe sells, the pipe does not sell, it is the same thing. Now that I have a bit more skin in the game, it helps to know — is anybody out there?


On the flip side, the numbers are what they are; no longer can I imagine bigger ones.


As I’ve written before, I’m not using the Google analytics that installs cookies. I don’t want to stalk anyone and you probably view the assertion that websites install cookies “to optimize your experience” as cynically as I do. So the site basically just counts. There is one feature of the new analytics, though, that I find engrossing. There is a map of the world that shows me the locations of people — more accurately the locations of the servers of people, or bots or VPNs — who have looked at howellhandmade.com. The blue circles and dots on the map — a bigger circle means more views/viewers — are anonymous, unless our correspondence allows me to make the connection. There is one viewer in Traveler’s Rest, SC, hi, Ron. Hi, Mark in Houston, hi Washington DC. Tuttlingen! There is a big blue circle in Vancouver, BC, that’s my daughter.



Scrolling the map to the east, very interesting. I have been fortunate to travel a bit. My first international tour with the Pittsburgh Symphony was to Japan in 1998. I loved it. That tour inspired me as a craftsman; I could buy a snack in a Japanese supermarket and it would be wrapped with origami-like precision and beauty. I was awed by the attention lavished on a small scale — the artifical food in the window of a restaurant, the arrangement of flowers in a residential doorway, the deftness with which the fishmonger in the fish market fileted eels. I was always finding something exquisite, something lovingly made, some exhibition of deep skill when and where I least expected it. The cluster of blue in Japan is a big compliment.


The blue circle around Tokyo reminds me of Suntory Hall, and my day off visting the Ueno District, heaven for a motorcyclist. I still have my Kushitani GPR armored gloves that I could find nowhere else, And the Yamaha store in the Ginza District; I play Yamaha clarinets now, or would, if, well, you know. Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, I’ve been there, and seeing your little blue dots takes me back.



There aren’t as many dots in Europe, but every dot is evocative. Paris? Love Paris. Bern, Switzerland? Haven’t been to Bern, but if it weren’t for COVID I’d be in Lucerne in a few weeks. Such a beautiful place, beautiful hall on the lake, automatic espresso machine backstage. One of the most evocative blue dots is on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean. No doubt there are troubles there just like everywhere else, but an island in the Mediterranean sounds lovely. Thanks, whoever you are in Petra, for drawing my attention and imagination.


Europe may get extra attention because of the cancelled festivals tour, but I’m also digging Lander and Rock Springs, Wyoming. I used to play in the Cheyenne and Caspar Symphonies and have fished quite a bit around the state, I can smell the sagebrush and feel the bite of the wind. Dunno who you are in Santa Fe, NM, but you’re in a magical spot. If the New Mexico Symphony in Albuquerque hadn’t spat the dummy I’d still be there, it was a great place to live and summers playing in the Santa Fe Opera were heaven. Rosenkavelier. Salome. Rake’s Progress. Great art.


In Internet terms there aren’t that many of you, but this map gives each of you gravity. Littleton, NH, the Glad Town. Sounds great. Atchison, KS, I used to play the Sunflower Festival in Topeka, practically next door.

On one hand. the memories remind me of all the concerts that haven’t happened in the past four months and that don’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. I have a great wife and kids and we’re healthy and safe while many are much less fortunate, but I’d be pretending to be a better person than I am if I didn’t admit that sometimes I wonder if/when we’ll ever get back, and stew about the general state of things.


On the other hand, the brief mental flight I just took to Mallorca reminds me that Milton was right. As was Marcus Aurelius: any distress I feel over my situation is the result of my estimation of it, which I can revoke at any moment. Thanks, everyone, for your blue dots, they’ve given me real pleasure. Antwerp, Belgium; Lisbon, Portugal; Des Moines, Iowa; Yokohama, Japan. You remind me to look outward as well as inward. No use fretting about what I can’t change; there are pipes to make and it’s a big world out there.

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