Items for sale
Amish community sign near Pontotoc MS, 2018.
As for the Austin part of our trip, we stayed at the Hotel Van Zandt — it’s a Kimpton (Kimpton and InterContinental are IHG, the only two reasons we do IHG spend for points, really) and in general, Kimptons have more personality. The Kimpton Brice in Savannah, for example, is pretty fun.
I also saw that the Van Zandt had received a lot of awards — a few years ago, Conde Nast readers award for #1 in Texas; Robb Report did a feature; some pics made it in at Wallpaper. It’s also right there at Rainey Street, which should probably just become a pedestrian zone at this point: it’s a former neighborhood of little houses that are now repurposed as bar / restaurant / foodtruck lot, repeated over and over. That to say, you could stay at the Van Zandt and do Rainey Street for food and walking around, and you’d be doing fine.
We stayed using points; the check-in was great and our room was nice. The pool was a little small and crowded, but otherwise, the stay was great.
a VZ boot jack, even
and looking down at the pool
Quick mention that supper was at JewBoy Burgers, which was super, super good and the owner was so friendly and great. Told one of my friends about it and he said the owner & place are beloved in Austin. As it is on their website:
A mixture of US/Mexico Border Culture and a traditional Reform Jewish upbringing come together to make burgers, burritos and latkes (among other fried stuff) that honor both cultures.
And yeah, the boys brought home t-shirts.
Always trying to have the philosophy to “do *all* the things” — well, do all the things that don’t hurt ourselves or other people — but I think since we all had so many months to think about the things we couldn’t do anyway, coming out of quarantine means “do ALL the things” times a million.
Spent so much time thinking about this.
Sent texts/emails/calls to friends about “when we can, let’s do THIS” and actually, I just did one of those things.
If you’ve read DFK for a while, you might remember this story; it’s about a very special friendship, why I graduated college a year-and-a-half later than most of my classmates, and why I know Allen Ginsberg poetry so well. We still keep in touch, so one day while reading some issues of Texas Monthly I was behind on, I texted my friend and said, “did you see the Best Honky-Tonks in Texas article? When I come back to Austin, we haaaave to do that.”
Okay, I don’t know what a honky-tonk is before this article, really. I’m not a bar person, I’m not a dance hall person, but I am a person who now especially takes doing ALL the things seriously.
So we went! Ha! And it was terrific!
But the granddaddy of them all is the Broken Spoke, considered by many to be the greatest in Texas…
Inside the Spoke, hardly a thing has changed in 55 years. The speckled ceiling tiles still hang so low that a tall cowboy has to doff his hat. Chicken-fried steak is still served with steaming white gravy. Twirling couples still waltz, shuffle, and polka on the polished-concrete dance floor. And there to greet you on most nights are James and Annetta. But you probably already know all this, because of course you’ve spent an evening there. On the off chance you have yet to make this honky-tonk pilgrimage (and sacred Texan rite of passage), I recommend you tell no one. Just go ahead and book your trip now. You’ll be glad you did.
Found this sign in 2013 in the N Georgia mountains.
We stayed last month at the new Sheraton Flowood The Refuge Hotel (outside Jackson), Mississippi which has a lazy river. It’s not long or particularly interesting, but part of our traveling now involves the kids expecting to be impressed by a hotel’s swim features. Just a pool apparently = y a w n.
We stayed here on points; it was fine. In Jackson, we usually like the Hilton because it’s close to so much we like to do and their breakfast is, compared to the usual Hilton standards, huge. We’ve stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn a couple or so times, too — that’s the Lamar Life Building, where Eudora Welty’s father, Christian, was the general manager and VP, then President. We’ve stayed at plenty of the less interesting Hilton and Marriott brands in Jackson; the Westin is still pretty new, but where I’d like to stay with more character: Fairview Inn and the Old Capitol Inn.
BTW, we stayed two nights on this trip at the Shreveport Holiday Inn on points and…well, ha, yawn. I thought: whatever we’re missing out on by staying at a HI, we’ll make up for in proximity to downtown and maybe we’ll just walk everywhere, but nah. It might be the case that the more interesting hotels in S’port/BC are the casino hotels, especially considering they have a Margaritaville Casino/Hotel (we really do like the M’ville Hotel in Pensacola). I really just wanted to cash in on using our IHG points, so staying there was okay considering it was ‘free’, but I’d definitely choose something else next time.
The architecture in Shreveport — both commercial and residential, though, is incredible. This documentary on the Wiener brothers helps explain:
Oh! And we visited the American Rose Center — nice.
So it was off to Dallas. We missed the Dallas Museum of Art this time, but had *so* much to do at the hotel for a convention. The kids were thrilled we were staying at the Gaylord Texan again, because it truly is their favorite water park. I don’t even have images of it, because I intentionally keep my phone in the room so I’m not even thinking about taking pics of this or that. The hotel, on the other hand, I like to photograph. The rooms here are nice (always get an atrium room if possible) and this time we were upgraded to a suite:
Most people, rather than walk to it, take their shuttle to the private waterpark. It has a large family lagoon, what’s likely our favorite hotel lazy river, and a pool with waterslides and a portion where you can hang from a bar (a little like a zipline) to jump into the water.
We like just walking around the hotel, too. Some of these are from this, and some are from previous visits:
The view from our balcony this visit:
I really want to get the kids to the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort because although it’s well away from SA and the Riverwalk which we usually do, its water park looks really, really great. We spent some time considering whether we were going to San Antonio on this trip (though everything schedule-wise got messed up last year, we try to do SA every other year) but the JW didn’t have any availability on points, and the per-night rate was well over $1k. That was a nope, because almost as a game, we tried to see how little and how well we could stay several days away on just points.
I told one of my friends that now, the boys expect some kind of volcano coming out of a pool to be impressed. When I was a kid, staying at a Holiday Inn Holidome in the ’80s was the absolute zenith of vacation luxury in my mind.
One more thing: the restaurants at the Gaylord Texan are somewhat limited. There’s the Riverwalk Cantina (pretty good), which you can see from our balcony pic above, a sports bar, the Old Hickory Steak House which we haven’t done here but is really good at the Gaylord in Nashville, and Zeppole Coastal Italian, which we actually ended up having supper at twice. I really didn’t intend this but it was delicious and we didn’t want to leave the hotel with so much going on. Have you ever checked into a gigantic they-don’t-want-you-to-leave convention hotel like this and you see people with big Yetis on their luggage cart? This is why. There was seriously a point I thought we should have tried to have fun with some cold-food camping with deli sandwiches and that kind of thing. There’s just not a world of choice here. But anyway, yes! Zeppole was delightful!
Lobster Macaroni & Cheese:
…and at the end of the meal, the waiter thanked us for being the tier we are with Marriott, and brought a complimentary dessert — little thumbprint cookies, and this creme brulee creation was beyonnnddddd
More water parks and fun hotel swimming in our future this summer. I really want to pack in the fun because we’re all coming out of over a year of going basically nowhere, and the future travel seems somewhat iffy. What’s the fave water-centric hotel for your family?
As always, all images unless otherwise noted copyright Deep Fried Kudzu. Like to use one elsewhere? Kindly contact me here.
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Margaret’s Grocery, as it appeared in 2005
Preserving the hidden folk art spaces tucked away in the rural South in the Clarion-Ledger spends time with Suzy Altmann talking about her mission with saving Margaret’s Grocery around Vicksburg, and another friend, Fred Fussell, on Pasaquan in rural Georgia
Moshe Safdie’s model of Crystal Bridges, from a visit in 2014
At Crystal Bridges, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, My Heart is Dancing into the Universe, is reopening. Members may view it first, July 21-26, and it will be open to the public beginning July 28.
pecan log, May 2021
None of them knew what they were doing, but they figured it out using some old family recipes. Together, they perfected methods for making divinity, pralines, and fudge—those candies came first. And later, Ethel repurposed a family recipe she had for pecan log rolls to include bits of maraschino cherries, and came up with her secret method for getting the nougat to harden just the right amount. What I love is that those bridge ladies continued for years making Stuckey’s candies until my grandfather built a candy plant.
The punkah at Oak Alley, 2005
Ways People Kept Cool Before Air Conditioning at Mental Floss, which includes dogtrots, buttermilk, and punkahs
Taiyaki at Kura in Atlanta, 2021
Dallas Magazine with the 32 Finalists for the Big Tex Choice Awards includes
Crawfish Étouffée Stuff Turkey Leg (did I miss the Turkey Leg Hut pop-up coming to Birmingham?) and The Armadillo, which is a cookie butter ice cream sandwich: made-from-scratch cookie butter semifreddo, drizzled with cookie butter, and sandwiched between two deep fried Armadillo-shaped cookies.
We had lunch at Kura Revolving Sushi Bar in Atlanta this past week, and it was pretty good — one of those sushi bars where it has the conveyor belt and you just grab whatever looks fun. Shugie loves these, including Sushi Train in Nashville. Anyway, our dessert at Kura was a Taiyaki fish-shaped waffle batter cooked and filled with red bean paste and served alongside vanilla ice cream. Anyway HOW CUTE would an armadillo be? Contact my people for licensing fees, etc. 🙂
Michael Richards: Are You Down? through October 10 at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, not to miss are his Tuskegee pieces
The Frosty, Jasper AL, 2021
So much love to the dairy bar. This piece at Bitter Southerner by Rory Doyle is on Chuck’s in Rolling Fork.
The large Falkner family plot (William’s is a short distance away) in Oxford, from a 2012 visit
Faulkner’s Advice to a Young Pilot, from Air & Space Magazine:
My Dear Jim: ….You will be on real aeroplanes soon. You should be all right, a good man. Just remember always that flying is fine, and it gets better but you’ve got to stay alive to enjoy it. You will have two milestones to pass, to pay back to the Govt. the cost of training you. The first one is foolhardiness. A lot of pilots don’t get past that. Uncle Dean didn’t. [Faulkner’s brother Dean died in an airplane crash in 1934.] He managed to blow most of the fabric off his top wing before he found out he had done something you cannot do.
Ulysses Davis’ “Jesus on the Cross” from a visit to the High in 2015
In 1988, Davis received the Georgia Governor’s Award in the Arts. Davis never sold his extraordinary work, so few people outside of Savannah ever got to see any of it. He once said of his sculptures, “These things are very dear to me. They’re a part of me. They’re my treasure. If I sold these, I’d be really poor.”
$34 lobster rolls in Maine this year
‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ at 25: ‘The Most R-Rated G You Will Ever See’ which, pretty much my exact thoughts after seeing that Disney movie
Epicurean Atlanta is opening in September as part of Marriott’s Autograph collection of hotels; as named, it’s obviously a nod to the property’s heavy emphasis on food offerings, including their restaurant, cafe, and kitchen classroom. The hotel will host the new food festival Gather ‘Round, in October.
Fewer than one in a million cicadas have blue eyes. Here’s one.
The Shaker Museum’s collection is viewable online (it’s physically been in storage for years now) and their new building design can be seen here. Would like to visit either/both of the Shaker areas in Kentucky (South Union, Shaker Village) sometime this year
From Pitchfork: “With “To the Sky,” Shaw transforms an 18th-century song from the Sacred Harp hymnal into a jubilant, sweeping piece that exudes wonder. “
Sooo I guess our fam = spelling bee people since Shugie won District and then 2nd place in the county this year, so we’re especially jazzed about this year’s national winner from Louisiana, who also hold Guinness world records for simultaneous basketball dribbling
Robert LeBlanc’s new photography book, ‘Gloryland,’ on a West Virginia church that takes up serpents
Parade Magazine runs a clickbait article about the two best restaurants in each state, and next to Highlands, lists a chain that exists in 19 other states as the other of the pair for Alabama
Ha I just helped install/develop a *tiny* free library (because we’re trying to focus on curating a good mix of things to read rather than pay for a needless plaque, honestly) at a convenience store in my hometown and I’m thrilled because the first books to go home with people were those for children
the signed portrait of the Carters at the Windsor Hotel in Americus GA, 2019
Seriously, no matter one’s politics, so much to love about President Carter and Rosalynn celebrating their 75th anniversary, but a few things that really…:
From the AJC:
“The best thing I ever did was marrying Rosalynn. That’s the pinnacle of my life,” Carter said.
After their four years in the White House, they ignored the trappings of a big city like Atlanta and returned to their hometown, where they settled on a quiet rural life — when they weren’t building houses for Habitat for Humanity, or eradicating diseases around the world or monitoring global elections through the Carter Center.
At the high school, which is now part of the National Park Service, the party was a down-home affair, as guests were served yellow cake with white
frosting, icing (fixed it!) topped with the numeral 75 or flowers, along with tomato and pimento cheese sandwiches.
Who Owns Mike Disfarmer’s Photographs? at the New Yorker
Mattis, an inveterate completist, bought the whole batch on the spot, for a total of about twenty thousand dollars, assuming that they were the only ones he’d ever see. Instead, as he put it, “news ricocheted across greater Cleburne County, Arkansas, that some fruitcake art collector in New York had just paid a fortune for a few pages of family albums.”
— gesine (@gesinebp) July 5, 2021
…and so tickled that one of my friends out of the blue a week or so ago sent me a text with my senior pic that they still have, framed! THAT is a friend. I don’t even have a copy of one of my senior pics. But this to show, 1/ I *knew* big hair wasn’t going to last and 2/ didn’t have the extra money to spend on that amount of Aussie hairspray
In not-really-unrelated news:
Paradise Gardens, from a visit in 2009
The restored steeple on the World’s Folk Art Church at Finster’s Paradise Garden has been reinstalled
Willie concert at The Alabama Theatre, 2012
Wherever I go, I feel your rivers flowing through my heart. And when we’re apart, I miss your wide-open sky. When we’re together, I like to walk in your rain and let your thunder fill my soul. After the rain, I listen to the songs of your mockingbirds…
Architecture Digest mentions the soon-to-open Miss River (“quartzite polished marble bar top, brass detailing on the bar, decorative arched screens, colored stained glass, and textured scalloped wallpaper in soft pink tones”) from Alon Shaya at the (almost open) New Orleans Four Seasons. DuJour also had a piece on what’s new in the city, where they mentioned the Four Seasons, plus Hotel Saint Vincent, The Columns, One11, and The Chloe.
sign at Poche’s in Breaux Bridge, 2012
Fear and Loathing on the Boudin Trail, from Country Roads Magazine:
What came next was an epiphany. Using the trimmings from his juicy, peppery briskets, Gonzalez started making smoked brisket boudin. Next came the beef cheek barbacoa boudin, then pork belly “burntend” boudin. Unsurprisingly, as his boudin menu grew, so did the line outside his door.
— WLBT 3 On Your Side (@WLBT) July 15, 2021
Jackson says hey.
Harrison Brothers, Huntsville, 2006
Wish there were more pics, but Rooted in History: Interpreting Alabama Folk Art Traditions exhibit is going on now through September 7 at Harrison Brothers Hardware (which is worthy of its own special visit) on the square in Huntsville
Shugie blueberry picking last year in Cullman
It’s time to go blueberry picking (we’re going this coming week), and this week’s Tennessee Farm Table has ‘Tennessee Berries, Cobblers, and Memories of Cades Cove‘. I missed it ’til now, but last week, they replayed Fred Sauceman’s very short piece on Chattanooga’s Moon Pie at 24:50 on that episode. One takeaway is that even people who work there say the way to eat one is to warm it up in the microwave first.
the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Austin, 2016
Oxlot 9, from a 2017 visit
Beautiful, delicious Oxlot 9 is leaving the Southern Hotel in Covington. Really want to stay with them sometime; the hotel is just gorgeous. Also, apparently Walker Percy Wednesdays = $5 Old Fashioneds in the bar
The hotel’s Garden House is a reno of the 1937 post office there which includes the Xavier Gonzales “Tung Oil Industry” mural:
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Well, as soon as we get to the courthouse, this young man will be Alabama’s newest boat captain, haha! He passed his test (it’s taken online) then the state issues the license to make it all official. We’re missing big brother, who’s at camp the next three-plus weeks. Our Jackson/Dallas/Austin/Houston/Lafayette/New Orleans trip (+ short jaunt to Atlanta) is done, so we’re trying to relax but we’ve got blueberry picking, time on the lake, and other fun things planned for the next several days. Hope you’re staying busy in the best, most fun ways too. xoxo!
Last month, thanks to being well post-vax, we celebrated with a trip to Montgomery, and that included a visit to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. In particular, I knew that they had acquired an Amy Sherald piece called ‘Handsome’ that I wanted to see:
The museum here is small, but it has some other really great pieces. To see any closer, click and magnify in Flickr:
Edward Hopper’s ‘New York Office’
Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Hills Before Taos’
Abraham Rattner, Composition with Three Figures
Thomas Hart Benton, Ozark Autumn
a William Christenberry model
Thornton Dial, Lost Americans
Frank Fleming, Dogman / Rabbitman Container
Margaret M. Law, Feeding Chickens
Robert Gordy, Night Garden — and appropriately, right next to it:
Roger Brown, Homesick-Proof Space Station
…and I really, really think that some museum here in Alabama should adopt the mission to build and put on an impressive permanent collection of Roger Brown works, particularly since he grew up here. Maybe the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn would be the smart choice — they put on the Creative Cadences: Works by Roger and Greg Brown a couple of years ago. Also, if you ever think what you’re in the mood for is Chicago Imagism + Alabama, I give you this Roger Brown perfection.