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Archive for January, 2009

My copy of Main Street is thoroughly dog eared from reading and rereading.

My copy of Main Street is thoroughly dog eared from reading and rereading.

Among my introductions to the flyover states was Sinclair Lewis’ 1920 novel Main Street, which is my all-time favorite book. I reread it at least every other year.

The story of urbane Carol Kennicott’s grudging adjustment to Gopher Prairie, Minnesota after she marries the town’s doctor (and the town’s grudging adjustment to her) is pitch-perfect social satire, both cruel and kind. The side-by-side descriptions of Carol’s assessment of her new home and that of her soon-to-be maid, farm girl Bea Sorenson, is a delicious lesson in perspective.

Main Street was my textbook and cautionary tale when I moved from New York City to Dallas, Texas. Of course, Dallas is no Gopher Prairie, but it’s all a matter of perspective.

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No, you didn’t imagine that loud (and long-lasting) yay coming from Nashville on Jan. 22. It was the sound of the city’s English-only? seriously? contingent celebrating after the ridiculous measure was defeated in a (costly) special election.

While nothing could come between me and my Nashville (cause it’s a pretty damned fantastic city), it did get me wondering how much local politics play a role in other people’s travel choices. Have you ever put the kibosh on a trip because you didn’t like the politics of the place?

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Nobody loves Kansas the way my friend Jodi Rosenberg loves Kansas. At least, nobody I know. She grew up there. She moved away for some years. She moved back. And she’s been talking Kansas up to me from the moment we met at college, 20 years ago. (And, yes, Jodi—I’ll be there soon. I promise.) So, to celebrate Kansas Day and the state’s 148th birthday today, I give you Jodi and her recommendations for the ultimate Kansas experience:

OK, let’s see. I think the best way to do this is, if I were planning a driving trip through the state, starting after you fly into Kansas City (Missouri), what three things should people see or do? I don’t know if I can limit it to three things, but I will try (I might cheat).

1) Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue, Kansas City, Kansas. I think it is the best barbecue in the state. Plus it sits in a gas station.

2) Driving west, you’ll come to Lawrence. The downtown is historic for being burned down by Quantrill’s raiders from Missouri during the Civil War. Stop at the campus of the University of Kansas to visit famous Allen Fieldhouse, home of the National Champion Kansas Jayhawks and the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, celebrating famous Kansas athletes.

2a) If you’re not a sports fan, bypass Lawrence and head to Topeka. The Kansas History Museum has a lovely exhibit on the development of our state from prehistoric times through today.

3) Continue west to Hutchinson. It’s a nice central Kansas town. (On the way, you should stop to stretch your legs at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.) In Hutch, visit the Kansas Cosmosphere, which really is almost as cool as the National Air & Space museum in D.C. Stay at the Hedricks Exotic Animal Farm and B & B, just outside of town—I have never seen anything like it anywhere else in the wide world, and the owners are super nice.

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crater indexMeteor Crater in Arizona seemed a very long way off the highway. By the time my husband and I reached it and paid our $15 each admission, we could only agree with the little boy who, standing crater-side with us, turned to his mother and said accusingly, “It’s just a big hole.” Truly, it looked cooler when we saw it from an airplane.

But the New York Times has exposed us us as philistines in this story about the crater’s wonders. Guess we’d better return with the proper attitude.

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Tourism and other forms of revenue are dropping off in Nevada and so the state’s brothels are offering to help out by paying their fair share of taxes, the New York Times reports. The state is not jumping to accept. Over at “The New Republic,” Michelle Cottle read the story and was intrigued to note that while prostitution is legal in some Nevada counties, “no county allows brothels to have men who sell sexual services.” She calls this discrimination and a lost business opportunity.

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Tourism and other forms of revenue are dropping off in Nevada and so the state’s brothels are offering to help out by paying their fair share of taxes, the New York Times reports. The state is not jumping to accept. Over at “The New Republic,” Michelle Cottle read the story and was intrigued to note that while prostitution is legal in some Nevada counties, “no county allows brothels to have men who sell sexual services.” She calls this discrimination and a lost business opportunity.

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scavengers_guide_cover_240I’m a cliché. I admit it. No matter how many other America-related books I read, Travels with Charley in Search of America remains my favorite. But, this week, a young upstart gave Mr. Steinbeck a little butt pat, a little hey I’m here on my yeah, I like this one list.

Now, The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine is not new new new. I know that. Please don’t yap at me about how I’m acting like I’ve made some major discovery on my own. I admit to being unfashionably late on this one. But, as much as the magazine world I work in demands it, I’ve never been a big believer in it’s got to be new to be good (or to be written about) so, expect to see some aging titles get the spotlight here.

All too simply, “Scavenger” is the story of the author’s year-long quest to go around the U.S. hunting and gathering the ingredients necessary for a 45-course meal prepared from an old French cookbook. When I plucked “Scavenger” off my bookshelf, I knew enough about it to believe that I was in for a, most likely, good to really good foodie-ish read and that I’d learn plenty about hunting. I hadn’t really thought about the travel side of it, the place side of it. It was a forest/trees thing. Yet, place is exactly what author Steven Rinella serves up best (along with a you-are-there description of frog-gigging and plenty of humor to offset, well, the frog-gigging). In the book, he often talks about “glassing” the land to look for animals. That’s what I felt like I was doing as I read—I was taking a good close scan of a huge swath of land and figuring out where I wanted to go and what I needed to do next.

First up on my dream to-do list from the book: Meet the Eel Man.

So, did you read it? What did you think?

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