Oh, New York, you beauty. Sometimes the city is a real kick in the guts, and sometimes it is a gilded wonder full of love, flower crowns, good music, old friends, and truffled egg toasts. Guess which one it is this week?
Just stumbled upon this wonderful never-before-seen video one of my favorite (wanderlust) songs, Joni Mitchell’s “Refuge of the Roads”, directed by Miss Joni herself and interspersed with super 8 home movies and awesome Joni-in-the-80’s fashions. Click that ‘ol link. It won’t let me embed the video for some reason. Do it, if you know what’s good for you. Ok… now that you’re listening: For me this isn’t one of those songs that you put on when you’re actually on the road (unless you’re stopped at a strange new cottage in Berkeley and it’s rainy and there’s coffee and they happen to have Hejira on vinyl), but rather one that you listen to in the darkening twilight once you’ve finally made it home. The exact right space between wishing you were travelling again, bittersweet you’re not, and quiet and triumphant and content that you’re home. And here at home, as it gets dark earlier and a stream of fall storms cross over the mountains, twilight has been getting out of control. These are some Michelangelo clouds (muscular with gods and sun-gold) if I’ve ever seen ’em.
The last time that we were in New Orleans, we split our time between two sets of friends, the fabulous doctors-in-love completing their residencies and living in a gorgeous walk-up in the Garden District, and an amazing boho restauranteur couple who were savvy enough to snag a double shotgun in the Bywater ten years ago. As most hosts would do, they both gave us recommendations of their favorite places, seedy-wonderful dives and juke joints, po’boy shacks and wine bars, fancy oyster houses and music halls. Occasionally, the lists overlapped, and we saw (perhaps in a head-slapping-obvious moment) that whenever both sets of friends, very different and divine in their differences, both recommended the same thing that that thing was undeniably the best. We’ve followed this mandate ever since, and it’s taken us to Luke’s for 50 cent oysters, Robert’s and Jeni’s in Nashville, Cole’s in LA, Edo’s Squid in Richmond, the Tomales Bay Oyster Pound, Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, the farmstand in Bolinas, The Tip Top in Bed Stuy… if two people recommend that you do something in their fair city, go out of your way to do it. Simple, brilliant.
In Nashville the music goes all day. Every morning, the neon starts to buzz and the doors fling open with a gust of that very particular bar-beery-bleachy funk that quickly gives way the smell of cooking breakfast and the sound of a thousand honky tonks tuning up. From 11am, to 2am, music comes from every doorway, a buncha “Friends in Low Places”, a few “Redneck Woman”s, and a whole lotta “Wagon Wheel”s. And while every place has a (pretty incredible) live band, only Robert’s Western World plays the old country music exclusively. Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams… the good old stuff. A recession special gets you a thick-fried baloney sandwich on white bread, a bag of chips, and a beer for $5, the walls are lined with boots, the floor is covered in sawdust, and from morning to midnight it’s absolutely glorious.
Move over plastic pumpkins, decorative gourds, and automated motion sensor witches that say things like “Witch goul are you!?” when you walk by (seen/vaguely startled by this yesterday at Lowe’s while trying to buy rake hands). Those kind of cheap-o made-in-China disposable decorations? Pshaw. This house, a low-slung shotgun in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, has it nailed. So simple, so awesome, I’d keep this crazy driftwood-spanish-moss-raven tableaux up all year. Thanks to Miss McKay for adventures in spanish moss and for the top picture.
Well, hello there. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you, America. A long while since we’ve gotten down and dirty and traveled an expanse other than the I-95 corridor. A while since we’ve flown past cotton fields just starting to brown and jut out their soft fluffy whiteness, through soft old mountains and densely wooded hushed battlefields, across ancient migratory paths and deep silted deltas, sawgrass palmetto swamps with Spanish Moss overhead and small cool rivers gilded in a Miami-pink-and-aqua deco-copper palette sunset with geese reflected in the almost still water, heading to warmth as winter marches ever southward. It’s been too long since we heard your music, your mountain twang, your river strut, your slouching blues, your wealth of sound, as thick as the cicadas still are in October on the dark dirt byways of the Natchez Trace. It’s been a while since I’ve seen your moon from the road, watched it go from a tiny crescent over Appalachia, grand and slow over the big river, and foggy and waxing almost full over the Bywater. And, just as we were gone, now we’re home. The garden needs tending, the leaves are down, wood needs to be stacked, and America, you are here too.
map from here, it’s a very large file size, I’m thinking of maybe having it printed large scale? thoughts tousle at home…