36. The Great Wall of China: Without question the best vacation my family ever took, and the single most unique and significant memory that my family shared was our vacation to China in March of 1988. My father had been invited to give a series of jazz workshops at the Conservatory of Beijing.The program was put together through Elizabethtown University where he was in attendance at that time. My mother was very reluctant to go, fearing the long term financial investment would prove difficult. My father and I, however, prevailed and for ten days the three of us toured Beijing, Hong Kong, and many of the sites contained therein. Along the way I had my first escargot, visited the Summer Palace, took a boat ride on the Yangtze River, and perhaps most significantly walked on the Great Wall of China. I will never forget the feeling I had standing on that man-made structure that can be seen from space. I developed an affinity for Chinese culture that has never abated. Years later, my mother repeatedly attempted to blame the China vacation for our financial difficulties, but it was never the case. China was perhaps the best ten days my family ever shared together and I will never blame it for anything or regret that time we shared.
37. 1776: This musical written by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards is perhaps my favorite musical of all time. It has one of the greatest characters I could ever hope to play or admire, John Adams, and a libretto that is so jam packed with worthwhile historical information that as an American I could not but admire and be grateful for its very existence. Whenever I’m feeling down about life I can turn to this musical to see a group of men struggle with issues far more important than those things I struggle with and feel better knowing that they gave lives in service of a better future for the rest of us. William Daniels as Adams in the original is nothing short of brilliant and the rest of the cast are equally first rate as well. For me, musical drama just does not get any better or more significant than this play.
38. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH: Sometimes there are books that just touch us and we’re honestly not sure why. Such is the case with Mrs. Frisby. I’ve never really thought about why I love this book so much, but it is one of the few children’s books that I do actually keep in my rotation of reading and have pulled out on more than one occasion. Whether or not it’s the strength of the rats, the integrity of Nicodemus, their vision of the future, or something intangible I just can’t put my fingers on, I think it’s an amazing and inspiring book and I highly recommend it to people who’ve never read it.
39. Steven Spielberg: Growing up without question he was my dream maker. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many others were my favorite films. Without Spielberg my childhood would’ve been a lot duller, and much less full of dreams beyond the norm. For a while I wanted to be him, but now I’m very happy being myself. But that said I’m so grateful that his work was in my life when childhood should be about idealism, dreams, fantasy, and all that is good about home and family.
40. Swiss Cheese: Its fun, mice make little holes in it, and machine guns put the holes in it as well. It’s tasty, fairly cheap, and abundant. And it doesn’t really bother my stomach since I became lactose intolerant. What an awesome cheese!