Reading The Great Gatsby in West Hollywood

18 02 2010

I admit that I’m something of a California snob. I love the state, but there are parts of it I don’t love so much. The stretch between San Diego and Santa Barbara (namely, the LA area), in my opinion, leaves much to be desired. This partly stems from a running joke with Southern California college friends, and is partly a very realistic distaste for the crowded, smoggy, suburban sprawl that is much of Los Angeles.

I’m definitely more a San Francisco hippy than a valley girl. That said, I have some fabulous friends who live in (and actually love) LA, and their presence there had me making the occasional visits, though these days my New York residence means that trips to California are generally limited to the northern part, where the majority of family/friends reside (insert part legitimate/part sarcastic aw shucks here).

All this aside, I just discovered a very good reason to visit one of my least favorite parts of LA: in the congested, celebrity (and tourist) infested “village” of West Hollywood F. Scott Fitzgerald’s glitzy jazz age is returning in all its frenetic glory, at least for a few days. During the month of March, National Endowment for the Arts presents The Big Read: The Great Gatsby, complete with discussion groups, a walking tour of Fitzgerald’s LA, and much more.

Words I rarely utter: how I wish I could visit West Hollywood next month.

Treehouse Hotels (Yes, Really)

15 02 2010

I’m beginning to plan a trip to Costa Rica, and during a perfunctory initial search for country highlights, I discovered this interesting article from the Anchorage Daily News, of all places, about actual resorts in treehouses. It plays, I suppose, to the current travel climate: travelers looking for luxury without settling for canned resorts and chain hotels. Plus the whole eco-tourism thing, of course, though this is slightly oxymoronic, perhaps, given that actual trees must be used to create these “sustainable” treehouses. At any rate, I supposed it’s still preservation, and it’s an interesting idea—I mean, I’d have no problem staying here.

I thoroughly enjoy these unique accommodation experiences. Having stayed in a bell tower in Austria and a castle in Germany, I previously thought that such stays were limited to the youth hostel set, but it seems that folks with more grown-up tastes can have similar experiences, sans dorm rooms and down the hall bathrooms. If you’re one of those grown -ups (I’m not sure I am yet, though I’ve definitely graduated to the private room if youth hostels are in my future), check out this cool new book, Bed in a Tree, a survey of 27 unique beds in, well, trees, as well as other crazy spots—think igloos and gypsy wagons, and trains (oh my).

Honky Tonkin’ in Nashville

4 02 2010

For the past week I’ve had the same song stuck in my head, and, though I once really liked it, I’m about done with it by now. It’s a goody by GarthThe American Honky Tonk Bar Association—I thought it was made up, “honky tonk,” and then I started planning a trip to Nashville, and I heard it everywhere. That’s really what they call their bars along Broadway. And every time I say the words (or even think them), the song returns. This was not so fun when I was stranded in Philadelphia, nor is it so fun now that I’m back in New York.

But somehow, while in Nashville, that I should have this country anthem floating about my brain seemed fitting, and the phrase “honky tonk” worked for these cool little bars, lined up one after the other, each wallpapered with yellowing photos and album covers featuring some of our country’s greatest musicians. Somehow it just, made sense.

Given my mishaps on Friday and then Saturday, honky tonkin’ was about all I had time for during my 14 hour tour of Nashville, so it’s a good thing I made it count. I touched down around 2:30 Saturday afternoon and hightailed it to the hotel, where Libby and I cranked some music to set the mood (Dixie Chicks, of course) and readied ourselves for what promised to be the long night ahead. Then we trudged through the snow (no, I don’t exaggerate—the good people of Nashville evidently don’t deem it necessary to shovel their sidewalks) down Broadway and wandered into a honky tonk.

The bar was large, rendering it mostly empty save for a lone musician on stage, a few folks listening up front and some locals lining the bar. We found ourselves a table somewhere in between, ordered a few beers, and observed, but not for long. Next thing we knew we were in the midst of a “crew” growing around some dudes from Atlanta who occupied the table in the center of the room. Our little makeshift troop grew to about 12 and we decided to continue the chaos down Broadway, visiting each honky tonk in turn.

Of course with each honkey tonk the music improved, and the moods were sillier, and, well, there was lots of dancing. There was even a little Watermelon Crawling (or something like that). The only unfortunate part of the evening was the poor decision to part from our new friends in order to keep our dinner reservation at an upscale, eco-spot that was a little too upscale for its own good, and far too much for our mood. But we made up for it by returning to Broadway and capping the night off with some dueling pianos at the Big Bang Bar.

The next day, I discovered, with some disappointment (countered by not a little relief, at least on the part of my very tired head) that the Nash Trash tour I’d been looking forward to, led by the (in)famous Jugg Sisters in their big pink bus, had been canceled because the area where they parked their bus had been locked up due to that crazy snow. Instead, we decided to indulge in some yummy southern style food, and treated ourselves to a slew of sides—including some mind-blowing tater tots (yes, tater tots)—at a humble, cozy, down home spot called South Street before heading back to the hotel an hour early because, it seemed, in the overall weekend confusion I was not accounting for my watch being on New York time.

There are no photos to record the chaos (on account of both my camera and phone batteries dying) but there ere indeed misadventures, laughter, and general gaiety. In short, travel bloopers aside, it was a successful weekend. All 24 hours of it.

More Salinger, Please

3 02 2010

My sanity seems to have been a sufficient sacrifice to appease the travel deities, for trying as the trip there was the weekend (all 13 hours of it) turned out to be pretty outstanding. But more on that later. For now, some more words (mostly not my own) on that very wordy, very revered writer who passed away last week. Yes, I am still in mourning. No, I have not been dawning all back (save for an unfortunate packing error that led to such a get-up on Saturday night). Beyond that, however, I am more than ever hopeful that the coveted rights that the recluse so closely guarded may be released and crazy fans like myself will get more of what we crave.

There is a letter, written by Salinger in 1957, suggesting that it’s likely the rights to Catcher in the Rye will be sold, but frankly I agree with the man when he says in that same letter that the novel is a “novelistic novel,” with scenes that might make great movie shots, but an overall dependency on Holden’s voice, a problem I can’t believe could be resolved by narration throughout. Would I see the movie if it were to come out? Of course, just as i am anxious to the Howl, but the reader in me is more anxious to see the writing that comes out of hiding now that the master is no longer protecting them. Sure you can dig through the archives of The New Yorker for old stories, but that’s not quite the same as holding a book of the (or better yet, of never published works) in your hands to read over and over. I keep my fingers crossed.

Until then, a roundup of some of the cool stories I’ve come across since last week. I’d like to underline my love of Esquire—I know it’s a men’s magazine, but I find it so smart and entertaining (generally smarter and more entertaining than most women’s magazines I know), and I also appreciate that it was one of the first magazines that showcased the work of Mr. Salinger, along with a series of other phenomenal writers. Check out this great Salinger bio, an early Holden story and a very cool early letter from Salinger to the magazine. New York Magazine also published an interesting piece on him and because there are too many to choose from, a list of the Salinger tributes on the magazine that pretty much made the man, The New Yorker. I will, no doubt, be one of the nerds who goes out and purchases this week’s issue. And then, I promise, I’ll stop the Salinger talk. For now…