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Archive for April, 2010

Take the day off. Drink some moonshine. (Sorry, couldn’t find any made in Kentucky.) Eat cake. Really. Seriously. Its Loretta Lynn’s 76th birthday today and, here at Flyover America, we’re having trouble understanding why April 14 hasn’t been declared a national holiday. Even if you’re one of those I don’t like country music types, I’ll bet you’ve wept a tear or two over one of Ms. Lynn’s songs or, of course, Coal Miner’s Daughter. (Oh, if you are one of those anti-country types AND you think this whole national holiday thing is ridiculous, you a) have no tear ducts or b) I don’t understand you and I think you should just stay at your desk for the rest of the day.)

Now, for those of you who make sense and are currently packing your stuff up to return home, a little something to keep you company as you toss your pencils in your bag and think up an excuse for your boss. It’s a video of Ms. Lynn hanging with Jack White. He just about keeps up with her.

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Cocktail Museum Anyone?

“Don’t look fiercely at people or talk loud and harshly but cultivate a smiling countenance and a quiet but firm tone of speech. — C.F. Lawlor, The Mixicologist, 1895

You needn't drink heavily to love the Museum of the American Cocktail.

Indeed. Words for bartenders to live by. I found them at the super-swell Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.

Getting to the museum is a slog, all the way through the Riverwalk Marketplace (fancy name for a mall), up to the third floor (passing a line of people at a Café Du Mond outpost—is it really the same inside a mall?), past the kiosk where a guy writes your name on a grain of rice, through the food court, to (finally) the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, into which the cocktail museum is tucked. Though the museums are separate nonprofits, $10 gets you into both.

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is still, quite honestly, in the great-potential phase, heavier on ideas and information than on artifacts. Still, give a look, learn about King Cakes and red beans and rice and the banana, America’s most popular fruit. (I particularly liked the package of Jiffy Pop hanging from a nail in the exhibit area about corn.)

I covet the cloth.

I covet.

But the cocktail museum is fully formed, with sleek displays and a brilliant collection tracing the history and artistry of the cocktail.

I’m not much of a drinker—a margarita now and then, a glass of wine or two in the evening. And I’m utterly grossed out by the debauchery of Bourbon Street. But I loved this museum. I loved the historic memorabilia, such as temperance postcards distributed at movie theaters: “I didn’t like the movie _____ because it was TOO WET!” I loved the art deco cocktail services. I loved the vintage drink menus. I loved the Happy Face cocktail shaker. And most of all, I loved a bar cloth depicting a cocktail party, drawn, it seems, by one Angus Smith. (Or was that the company?) If you stumble on this on eBay or something, let me know, would you?

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Whether it’s 5 a.m. or 5 p.m., I know what you’re thinking on this spring day: what kind of trouble can I go get into tonight? Well, maybe not trouble–but a bit of fun, right? I mean, seriously, it’s spring. You know you’re feeling sassy. In honor of getting into trouble, having fun, or just enjoying drinks with friend’s, this week’s Three-fer Friday celebrates good nights we’ve had in…wherever.

Joining us for this homage to debauchery is travel writer Shannon Hurst Lane. She also answers to CajunMama, her name over at  TravelingMamas.com, the blog she created to give travel writing moms a place to share their stories. While Shannon sins all over the world, her home base for bad behavior is Zachary, Louisiana.

***

The next morning, the kind people at the W New Orleans sent this goodie tray Shannon's way to help alleviate her post-sin pain.

I was covering Tales of the Cocktail, one of the Crescent City’s most spirited events. It lasts all week and highlights various libations and their histories, mixologists from all over the world, and of course, tastings.

One such tasting theme was The Seven Deadly Sins, with multiple ballrooms at the W New Orleans being a den of sin in liquid form. Each sin was a station serving three different concoctions and food paired with the particular sin. I experienced gluttony, lust, greed, and so on all in the same night. I was a bad, bad girl but had such a wonderful time experiencing the food, people, and atmosphere of one of my favorite cities in the world.–Shannon

Check out Nashville’s nightclubs. You never know what magnificence you might stumble upon. Photo by ckramer via Flickr (Creative Commons).

My husband and I were in Nashville with friends one weekend. Saturday night, we saw that a bunch of Nashville notables—we recognized several names—was playing together at a downtown bar called the Ace of Clubs (RIP). That sounded promising so we plunked down the cover charge ($10? $15? No more than that) and—oh my. We had stumbled into a show with some of the city’s finest, including singer/songwriters Jim Lauderdale and Kim Richey, singer Mandy Barnett, session sweetheart guitarist Kenny Vaughan, Robert Reynolds and John Barlow Jarvis from The Mavericks (one of my all-time favorite bands) and others. They all had a blast and so did we. It was dazzling. Unforgettable. Perfect. Loooove Nashville. –Sophia

This was shortly after I yelled at the drunk lady. Photo by Jenna Schnuer.

Jersey! Was feeling a drop low about leaving daily life in NYC behind. Called up the tour page of the Felice Brothers, my current favorite band, to see where all they were headed–and my town was on the list. Shocked the hell out of me. I didn’t even know there was a place to see shows in Teaneck. So, a 300-person venue and my favorite band and my closest friend and just two beers (driving now and all) and pow…damned good night. I even told off a nasty drunk chick who kept slamming into everybody with her pathetic dance maneuvers. And you know what? Seeing her slink away–as people around me clapped–was a damned lot of fun.–Jenna

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Chick Trips, USA

Of course Lady Liberty made the cut.

If you were a woman, where would you go? And if you’re already a woman,  I’m asking you, too. Especially.

I’m currently working on a book titled 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go, which will be published by Traveler’s Tales next spring. It’s part of a series that includes 100 Places Every Woman Should Go and 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go.

What is the criterion for a place every woman should go? The bottom line: If I say so. I mean, it’s just a book. Nobody is going to be held to this. You don’t get your membership in Club Estrogen revoked if you don’t visit all these places. And of course, any place a woman should go is also a place a man should go. Or, in some cases, could go. So don’t give me lip. I didn’t invent the series, I’m just adding my two cents. Or, in this case hundred places.

So anyway, all I want of the places I include is to be able make a good argument (at least to myself) that they should be included. I have cities, historic sites (i.e. Women’s Rights National Historic Park), homes of famous women ( Orchard House), shops (Tiffany), outdoors (Grand Canyon), museums (Tenement Museum) and lots more…a hundred places is a lot of places. I’m casting a wide net. And no, I won’t be visiting all these places to write the book. Not possible. I’m doing my reporting through research and interviews, as necessary.

I polled a bunch of friends on the subject and a few places came up again and again—particularly Santa Fe , New Orleans, and Savannah. A few places were mentioned just once but were compelling enough to include. Some I’d never heard of but now that I have, I can’t wait to go.

But I still have room for more suggestions and I’m tossing the question out to you, wonderful readers. What places do you think I should include, and why?

Photo by Video4net via Flicker (Creative Commons).

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Image courtesy of JHill Design.

It’s been a year since we discussed Amy Ruppel’s state bird art series. While I’m still still crazy about those birds*, the series is no longer the only place-based bunch I must must must have. Thanks to some Twitter back and forth with my pal April Paffrath--co-writer of the excellent Wicked Tasty Harvest–I have added another art obsession to my life: Boston-based artist Jennifer Hill’s Places I Have Never Been pieces.

As Flyover America (you know, this here site) is as much about craving new experiences on U.S. highways and byways and eating diner dinners in new-to-you naugahyde booths as it is about celebrating the highways, byways, and diner dinners of days past, Hill’s series hit a real sweet note for me. They’re all (highly researched) dreams of experiences yet to happen. (And, yes, I can even forgive her for mixing in places beyond U.S. borders. I want to go to Vietnam, too.)

They'll look nice on your bookshelf, right? Image courtesy of JHill Design.

Oh, another reason to love the series: Hill blogs about the inspiration for some of the pieces (and other stuff about her work and things she loves). It’s worth stopping in to find out who Leonard Kleinrock is and why his 1s and 0s left their stamp all over the California pattern.

*No, I haven’t bought the Ruppel pieces yet. A change of living situation stripped me of the walls it would take to hang them. But I will own them one day. Oh yes indeed! And, clearly, my next home will need a lot of wall space.

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Reality is overrated, which is why both Jenna and I are avid readers of fiction.  (And yeah, I write fiction, too. I have several novels in a filing cabinet where no one will ever see them. Publishing a novel is high on my bucket list.)

So for this week’s Three-fer, we decided to combine love of fiction with love of travel and, using one of our own travel photos as a prompt, write the opening words of our next unwritten novels. (Maybe. Or maybe they’ll get written.)

We are joined by novelist, freelance writer, and “tequila smoothie enthusiast” Karen Harrington, who has already accomplished the dream. You can read the opening pages of Karen’s compelling set-in-Texas psychological suspense novel, Janeology on her website. I’m also a fan of Karen’s blog, Scobberlotch, where she writes about all sorts of things, most notably about writing.

***

Taken on an Oklahoma back road somewhere between Broken Bow, OK and Texas. For the record, Karen really wishes her hubby had let her go buy turnips.

The view from her car is a sequence of still life images. Flat, sun-soaked land, dotted with hay bales. An ancient tractor parked inside the grey remains of a barn. The solitary horse standing in the pinpoint center of a white-fenced field. Curiosity tugs at her. Who lives out here? What do they do? Sit on porch swings and drink sweet tea, then fall asleep next to their lifelong love? Or is this a myth of country songs?

She pulls her car to a stop. What had she just seen? A sign, leaned against a lamppost, offering turnips for sale. If she didn’t meet the person who sold turnips, she’d wonder about it for the rest of her life.–Karen

(P.S. Thoughts about where this novel might go: It’s either a The Bridges of Madison County love story where the woman finds unexpected love or a Stephen King-like cautionary tale about the risks of following curiosity.)

Come winter, Coney Island's wonder and thrills are more of an internal thing. Photo by Jenna Schnuer.

The Nathan’s hot dog tasted better once summer had shoved off. Summer was an easy excuse to visit Coney Island. To go in February, you had to really love it. You had to be OK with stinging wind off the water and fewer buffers between yourself and some of the dodgy types who hung around year-round. She really loved it—but only mid-winter. There was no forced happy about the boardwalk in winter. The frantic flashing of the lights and neon stopped. Come winter, Coney Island turned into NYC’s best place to be by yourself. It was a Hope Davis indie flick waiting to begin.–Jenna

Every road tells a story, too. Photo by Sophia Dembling.

The dark clouds threatened some sort of hell but were holding back. Sudden shafts of sunlight suggested that the lowering sky was just show and bravado.

Still, it would be nice to know where she was. Her map was of no help, and though she thought she vaguely recognized the intersection, so many years had passed since she left Oklahoma for Los Angeles, she couldn’t be sure if she recognized the actual road or just what it represented.

Her family was long gone, and if childhood friends or classmates still lived in the area, she wouldn’t know what to say to them. But she was here because there was something she still didn’t understand. And she had to know.–Sophia

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