Thursday, July 15, 2010


When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know – downtown

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - no finer place, for sure
Downtown - everything's waiting for you

If you are of a “certain age”, those lyrics will be familiar to you. In fact, I’ll bet you’re humming the tune to yourself right now! I remember, almost like it was yesterday, that this was the first song I ever listened to on my very first transistor radio. I got it for Christmas in 1964, just before I turned 11 years old. Every time I hear Petulah Clark sing “Downtown”, I’m instantly 10 years old again up in my bedroom, with that little “single ear” earphone plugged in. (Remember the days before stereo earphones?)

So what made me think of this song just now? I’m in New York City, and I have just returned from walking through Times Square on my way back from having dinner. It was a sea of humanity…and I can only imagine what it must be like on New Year’s Eve! As I stood “people watching” for awhile, this song popped into my head. At this stage of my life, I would not really want to live downtown, but when I travel, I sure enjoy the opportunities I have to be downtown.

Not all of my business trips are in major cities, but a handful of them are. Each year, I get to be downtown in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Denver. I always select a hotel that allows for a nice brisk walk to the office every morning. I just enjoy being part of the hustle-bustle of the busy city streets, not to mention being able to stop in and get a coffee at any one of a number of Starbucks I typically see on the walk to work.

One thing that I try to do when I’m staying downtown is to get a room that has a view of something that reminds me of what city I’m in. If it’s Chicago, I like to have a view of the lake, or perhaps of the Sears Tower (and yes, I know it has a new name now). When In Philadelphia, it’s nice if I can get a view of City Hall (which is the largest city hall in the nation, by the way). In Denver, of course, I always try to make sure I can see the front range of the Rockies. In San Francisco, it’s not the view so much, but I stay in a hotel that sits on Market St. right where the Powell St. cable car line ends and does its turnaround. I always ask for a room above the cable car, so I can hear the cable car bells ringing throughout the evening.

This week I started out in Boston. I stayed in a hotel in the Copley Square area of the Back Bay that provided a beautiful view up and down the Charles River, and across into Cambridge. Now in New York, I have a perfect view of the ball that falls every year in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It’s not a particularly spectacular view of the city (since I’m only on the 8th floor), but there between a few older buildings and a couple of skyscrapers, is the famous ball with the year 2010 brightly lit underneath it. It would be the perfect place to watch the New Year’s Eve festivities, and when I look out my window, there certainly is no question about what city I’m in.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will visit several other cities on my summer speaking tour for Schwab. I’ll be in Baltimore, where in the past I‘ve had a spectacular view of Camden Yards (the baseball stadium). I will also visit Chicago, Columbus, and Minneapolis. And with five more cities to visit in the first two weeks of August, I’m quite sure I won’t be humming “Downtown” anymore. Instead, I’m sure I’ll be ready to say, “there’s no place like home”

1 comment:

Brian Megilligan said...

Two things:

1) thanks a lot for putting that tune in my head.
2) I think you've been listening to too much Pandora! :)

Happy travels in your country-wide city tour!