Where To Next? by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
Perhaps you have seen the commercials or print ads for a popular travel planning site that features a garden gnome. Yes, a garden gnome! If you have done any travel planning online, then they may have popped up on your computer too. The internet is smarter than we are and knows when to send us a picture of a garden gnome. For years I thought the ad campaign was silly. I could not imagine why a lifeless gnome was speaking to us from various locales from around the world.
Then a friend recommended the beloved 2001 French film Amelie to me (aka Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) . Actually, he checked it out of the library, gave it to me and told me to watch it. Amelie was busy in her life solving the problems of others while neglecting her own. As the film progresses, one of the people Amelie turns her attention to is her father, a widower who rarely seems to make it past the garden and his beloved gnome. I will not explain the importance of the wooden figurine, but needless to say, Amelie has launched a great plan that includes the gnome. If you do not know French, watch it with subtitles. It is worth it.
Some years after discovering why the gnome is travelling the world, I had a conversation with musician Tom Joseph Law regarding his t-shirts and where they had been seen online. Perhaps it was just a casual conversation about the posting of a friend, I honestly don’t recall, but I do remember that I had a picture of myself at a local event in 2015 where I was wearing the shirt. So I posted it to Facebook.
In the picture, a stick figure Tom is falling off his surfboard while a large fish seems ready to greet him. It is based on a rather horrible surfing accident which Tom relayed to me one day in quite a bit of detail. Some of it is a bit amusing now that time has passed, but it was not pleasant. It affected Tom’s voice for a long time to follow. This is not good for a singer-songwriter.
The first time I went to Colombia, I took the shirt along and got several pictures throughout Medellin. I am not sure which one I posted at the time, so here is one with my friend and tour guide for the visit. Not only did John take a few pictures with my camera, but we also bothered his friends to get some pictures of us. It was the first time John and I met in person, after a year or more of conversation.
On the next trip to Colombia I may have forgotten this particular shirt, but I had another Tom Law shirt with me. It is the drawing that also appears on the cover of an album (EP, actually). I may have violated the true spirit of the gnome, but nothing says Colombia more than an American wearing the British guy’s t-shirt in front of the British store in a mall in Medellin. So here it is anyway.
When I finally got to travel to England and visit the area where Tom is from, he had already left the country. I am pretty sure that had nothing to do with our arrival. So we found our own travel guide and went on to Bath while Tom was hiding in an eastern European country. I guess it was his own personal Brexit. Anyway, I got my travel companion to take pictures of my gnome t-shirt with my phone. If you wish to see pictures of our tour of Salisbury, Stonehenge and a Roman Bath, you can find them here.
Last month I visited my closest friend in France. This brought the opportunity to get another picture of the traveling t-shirt with the gnome falling off the surfboard. On a sunny day in a week that was filled with clouds, we made it to Strasbourg where I coaxed the French guy into taking pictures of yours truly in the British t-shirt. Since the guy in the foreground is not much to look at, it is fortunate we were on the street that leads up to the magnificent cathedral in Strasbourg.
This historic building was started over a thousand years ago. It is awesome in its intricate details and is always a site to behold. At one time, it was the tallest structure in Europe. Now the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg should be on the tour of anyone passing through the Alsace region, whether you are carrying a garden gnome or not.
When considering all of the countries where this shirt has been, whether there was a postcard home from the gnome or not, Tom thinks it may have made it to more countries than he has. That’s not too bad, actually.