On our way to Louisiana’s Cajun Country for a wedding this past weekend, my friends and I spent a day in Mississippi doing some of things we do best: Eating and shopping. And stumbling on Wacky Ideas That Might Come In Handy Sometime Because You Never Know. Like these two examples that solve the problem of what do you do with all those 45s/albums/CDs that you will never ever listen to again? At the 101 Cafe in Brookhaven, Mississippi — a funky sandwich spot with a very cool 1960s-hippie vibe — one of the walls was decorated with a huge peace sign made out of old 45s. I love this idea — how great would it be for a rec or media room? And then at Upscale Resale — a fun consignment shop in Jackson, Mississippi — we found this gleaming and holographic mobile made out of CDs. Now, this is true recycling! Check back tomorrow for one more Cajun Week post — I saved the best for last!
As the calendar gets ready to flip over to September, these are exciting days in Alabama. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you — and you know that if you have to ask, you obviously don’t live in Alabama. Because … it’s Football Eve! Finally, after weeks — months? — of anticipation and planning and hard work and sweat and tears, football is here again. Tonight there are a few high school games, with the bulk of the high-school season openers on Friday night. The University of North Alabama, our hometown college that’s always a powerhouse, plays its first game on Saturday, and then next weekend we get down to business as Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and others show us what they’ve got. All across the state, everybody’s busy checking supplies of school T-shirts, pom-poms, shakers, grills, BBQ and coolers. And of course, just because the season’s starting doesn’t mean that practice time is over. There are still hours ahead of drills and run-throughs under the steamy summer sun as frustrated cries of “Left! Left! You’re supposed to turn left there!” and “Didn’t you see Clint there on the 50-yard line? How could you run over him?” ring out across the practice field. But it’s all worth it on Game Day, as the lights pop on and the crowds gather and the fans follow your every move — roaring approval and rising to their feet in wildly enthusiastic applause for a job well done.
Yup — I love marching band season. Why? What did you think I was talking about???
Okay, here’s a travel quiz. Can anybody guess where we are? That’s Younger Daughter, and she and I and my husband were visiting a sacred (to some) site near our home here in northwest Alabama. I don’t have any prizes for the correct answer — you’ll just have the satisfaction of knowing that you know. But that’s all right. I just can’t help believing that you’ll get all shook up one night and any day now you and your little sister will figure it out.
Sorry — couldn’t resist.
Oh my goodness. In my town of Florence, Alabama, the annual W.C. Handy Music Festival is the party of all parties. It’s a full week of music and dancing and getting out and being friendly with folks you may only see during Handy Week. You probably associate Handy with Memphis or St. Louis, but the Father of the Blues was born in Florence in 1873. In 1982 some local folks formed the Music Preservation Society to remember and honor the favorite musical son. The first Handy Festival was a weekend of music featuring Dizzy Gillespie. Now, it’s a week-long celebration of jazz, blues, gospel, country, rock-‘n’-roll and things I don’t even really understand but enjoy anyway. Music is everywhere during Handy Week — or just “Handy,” as the locals say. You can hear performances at restaurants, in parks, in stores, on sidewalks — anywhere a musician can set up. Most of Handy is free, although a few concerts have admission. Handy Week wraps up on a Saturday with a New Orleans-style street strut through downtown. Folks deck out themselves and their parasols — many marching for a cause such as breast cancer awareness — and strut their best stuff. So much fun! The two things I like best about Handy Week are 1) You can park yourself somewhere and sit and enjoy free live music for hours and 2) Everybody — and I mean everybody — gets out and has a good time. Tentative dates for 2010 are July 17-26. Put that on your calendar and check the W.C. Handy Music Festival site, http://www.wchandymusicfestival.org, for info and the TimesDaily site, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090725/VIDEO/907252012# for a video of the strut.
My new favorite CD is “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo” by Steve Martin. Yes — that Steve Martin. We all remember him strumming on the banjo as part of his stand-up comedy act, but turns out he’s a serious and seriously talented banjo composer and player. On the surface, the tracks here — Martin wrote 14 of the 15 — are foot-stompin’ bluegrass at its best. Even our 16-month-old grandson, Capt. Adorable, dances along when the strummin’ and the fiddlin’ start! But “The Crow” is so much more than a banjo homage — it’s a celebration of life and love and friends and family. Martin’s songs tap into such authentic emotion that you’ll wonder how the “wild and crazy guy” from Saturday Night Live could write such a sweet song as “Pretty Flowers” or such a heart-pulling melody as “Words Unspoken.” I’m telling you, you’ve got to buy this CD. And I’m talking the real actual CD here. Oh, sure, you could be all cool and modern and download it for your laptop or MP3 player, but then you’d miss out on the delightful CD book that explains the background for each song and honors Martin’s friends — such as music greats Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs and Vince Gill — who help out on the album. “The Crow” is a must-have winner. Go listen. Now.
What do Stevie Nicks, Scarlett O’Hara and Della Street have in common? Besides being awesomely fabulous females, of course. Give up? They were my fashion icons when I was growing up — well, Scarlett’s Southern Victorian diva and Della’s sexy smart secretary were, and then Stevie’s flowy boho hippie came along when I was old enough to make my own style mistakes buy my own clothes. Today, I’d like to think I’m sort of a combination of all three, with some Michelle Obama thrown in. (But maybe I’m flattering myself — that’s what I’d like to look like, at least!) I wrote more about how TV, movies and music influence what we wear in my quarterly fashion column for the TimesDaily’s Shoals Woman magazine, in Florence, Alabama, at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090624/SW/906239986/1085. On a day when two fashion inspirations have left us — Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson — I’m thinking about how much influence entertainers have over the way we want to see ourselves. And remembering one gold-star day in college when my wings turned out perfectly — my hair has never looked as good as it did that day more than 30 years ago when Farrah gazed back at me from the tiny dorm-room mirror. Sigh.
This is what my hometown of Manchester, Tennessee, looks like right now with the more than 75,000 people there for Bonnaroo. Actually, Manchester proper is to the upper left of this photo — and that’s close enough, most locals would agree. Dear Husband and I had contemplated going this year, especially since some of our favorites (Bruce Springsteen, The Decemberists) were going to be there, but in order for us 50-somethings to enjoy the experience we would have had to have chosen the ultra-deluxe-VIP options ticket-wise, which pushed the costs up to $$$$. So we chose instead to spend our wedding anniversary weekend in nearby Murfreesboro trying to guess which performers were staying at our hotel. http://www.bonnaroo.com
Stop what you’re doing right now, go make a cup of tea and sit down to read this: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-06-07/how-i-found-my-voice/?cid=bs:archive11
And then go listen to “Anticipation” or “No Secrets” again and be so grateful that Carly Simon found her voice after all.
Guess the city! Here are clues: The radio station WKDF call letters right center, the guitar painted on the side of the brick building on the left and a great view of the waterfront on the Cumberland River. Got it yet? It’s Nashville, Tennessee, shot from the downtown Shelby Street Walking Bridge, one of Nashville’s newest and coolest places to see and be seen. Close to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and restaurants and bars, the bridge shows up in countless country-music videos and is a convenient walkway to the LP Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans NFL team. I was in Tennessee this past weekend with Younger Daughter and my parents, who have season tickets for the Nashville Symphony pops series. They invited YD and I to come along to a Manhattan Transfer concert, which was … uh … well, let’s just say that two-and-a-half hours of doo-wop and jazz hands were plenty, thank you very much, although I could have listened to the symphony play by itself all night. But our pre-concert stroll along the bridge was perfect. If Nashville is on your summer-vacation list, be sure to check it out.
My wonderfully dear husband made a CD love-song mix for my Valentine’s Day present. It was one of his best mixes ever — and he’s known for coming up with some great ones. I posted about it earlier and had several requests for his playlist. So here it is, with a couple notes:
I Want to Hold Your Hand – T.V. Carpio (Across the Universe soundtrack)
Ain’t No Cure for Love – Jennifer Warnes (Famous Blue Raincoat)
I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) – Art Garfunkel (Breakaway)
Let My Love Open the Door – Pete Townsend (Empty Glass)
Message of Love – The Pretenders (The Singles)
This and That – Michael Penn (March)
A Girl Like You – The Smithreens (11)
Gimme Little Sign – Don Dixon w/Marti Jones (E E E)
Real Love – Regina Spektor (Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Darfur Album)
Big Love – Fleetwood Mac (Greatest Hits)
Until the End of the World – U2 (Achtung baby)
Linger – The Cranberries (Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?)*
Love is the Seventh Wave – Sting (The Dream of the Blue Turtles)
My Doorbell – The White Stripes (Get Behind Me Satan)
Genius Of Love – The Tom Tom Club (eponymous album)
She’s Changing Me – Fleetwood Mac (Bob Welch vocal) – Heroes Are Hard to Find
Warm Love – Van Morrison (Best of)
This is Us – Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris (All The Roadrunning)
I’ll Work for Your Love – Bruce Springsteen (Magic)
Mayor of Simpleton – XTC (Oranges & Lemons)
Renaissance Eyes – Don Dixon (Most of the Girls Like to Dance But Only Some of the Boys Do)**
* While I like the sound of this song, the lyrics ultimately may not be the best for a Valentine’s Day mix, depending on the status of your relationship. I had to delete a song to make this fit, and if I had to do it over, I’d probably leave this off and substitute “Where Do You Go to My Lovely,” preferably the version by Peter Sarstedt from the Darjeeling Limited soundtrack.
** Yes, that’s the title of the album. As I understand it, he would start with a painting by a friend as the cover image for his albums (which also included “E E E” and “Romeo at Juiliard”), then write a song inspired by that image for the appropriate album. Fans just call it “Girls LTD.”