By: Chris Warren.
Thinking about a place that holds positive and happy thoughts is great for mental health. It might be a childhood home, a favorite vacation locale, or even an old chair in your own living room. Like the idyllic Beatles song Penny Lane, just thinking about being in that special place makes one feel better.
Penny Lane is a real street in Liverpool, England and the inspiration for the eponymous song. Paul McCartney wrote Penny Lane based on his direct experiences as a young man living in the area. The barbershop and the roundabout were real, too.
Although Penny Lane does have several deliberate sexual references, that’s not the main point of the song. It is what it sounds like: A pleasant suburban scene as interpreted by someone who has a personal attachment to the neighborhood.
Everyone should have a Penny Lane because everyone needs a mental escape. For me, there is more than one Penny Lane. When I was a young kid, we went on family vacations to Hayward, Wisconsin. It was a small rented cottage on Lac Courte Oreilles, a name which was “Americanified” to Lake Couderay. We floated around on inner tubes and had a great time sailboating and water skiing. One year the there was a lumberjack competition in town and my parents look us to see it. As an eight year old boy, I thought the spectacle of big dudes with axes and chainsaws was pretty badass cool. To this day, I smile and feel happy when I think about those trips. The Hayward, Wisconsin of my childhood is a Penny Lane.
I am a hopeless motorcycle freak. One of my favorite rides is through rural Illinois or Wisconsin, and I sometimes drift into Iowa or Minnesota. From where I live I can reach any of these places within a few hours and I never have a specific plan because when you’re on a motorcycle, Penny Lane does not have to be a specific destination.
Flying past the groves of trees and farms and small towns, feeling and seeing and smelling the world around me is a mood booster that cannot be replicated by any other form of transportation. It’s a connection with nature and a way of participating in, not just observing, God’s creation and the bounty of a great nation. I’ve never once come back pissed off from a bike trip, even after being soaked in the rain for a hundred miles. There is an old motorcyclist’s saying: “I’d rather spend Sunday on my motorcycle thinking about God, than sitting in church wishing I was on my motorcycle.” Wherever I am on my motorcycle, that’s Penny Lane.
I work as a communications electronics technician, a job that keeps me on my feet all day tending to a building full of transmission equipment. Most days are good, a few are bad, all are mentally and physically demanding. I arrive home tired and my cat runs to greet me at the door. After getting out of my grubby work clothes, I prepare my evening tea and plop on the couch to work on my blog or catch up on the day’s news. At that moment I feel like I live on Penny Lane because all the day’s hard work and headaches are behind me and I can just let it all go.
I was lucky enough to see Paul McCartney perform live at Wrigley Field in Chicago about five years ago. The night was warm, the crowd was happy & alive, and I was there with my best and closest friend. Everything came together for an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience. I go back to that evening over and over in my head when my psyche needs a pleasant walk down Penny Lane.
Penny Lane, the song, means more than just the confines of a specific street in Liverpool, England. It’s a state of mind, a vibe, a feeling. It’s a place where your mind can go to take a little time off, even if just for a few moments. Penny Lane is a childhood vacation spot, the seat of a motorcycle, my own house after a long day’s work, a Paul McCartney concert…it’s in my ears and in my eyes when I need it most.