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.





Travel Karma

30 01 2010

Dear Travel Karma, Whatever did I do to make you angry? I was on such a good run for a while there, with amazing trips to Portland and New Hope and more, but my last three trips have proved rather taxing. Aruba went smoothly as far as flights go, but the actual trip was spent being stressed and lost and telling myself at least it was warm. Then there was my holiday trip home to California, when I managed to bypass the blizzard and get out of New York but weather in San Francisco (yes, California) stranded me in the Las Vegas airport for a day.

Now here I am on my much anticipated trip to Nashville, but I haven’t made it very far. Last night I sat strapped in and hanging in a puddle jumper plane to Philadelphia (while two like teenage girls like prattled behind me about how, like, they were going to party over the weekend and about, like, the airports in the south – a.k.a. Wisconsin, no joke – having, like, barbecue joints in them), only to discover that a snow storm in Nashville had me grounded for the night.

A lesser traveler might have cut her losses then and there and hightailed it back to New York where we aren’t (ahem, most people aren’t) afraid of a little snow, but not me. In true “mishaps are adventures style I accepted a 6:45 flight connecting in Charlotte and booked the “distressed” rate at a nearby hotel. If only that hotel had been in Philly and not Springfield, where the best attraction seemed to be the Target down the road (to which, incidentally, I never made it – too cold). I ate pretzels for dinner, but was warm inside and hopeful that my luck would turn.

This morning I awoke at 4:30, played some some music while getting ready, and remained hopeful while the man from Kentucky on the airport shuttle waxed on about how we were likely to get stuck in Charlotte since the storm had moved there.

It didn’t look much better at the gate, where a a passing pilot gave me a grim look and a warning while I was assessing my chance with the attendant at the gate. The concensus seemed to be that Charlotte was no good today, and yet no one would tell me not to go. Finally the kindly attendant suggested a direct flight to Nashville at noon, a flight that yesterday had been oversold. But my miracle worker got me on it, and I a dose of friendly folks.

And so here I am, at 7 am in the Philadelphia airport, with five more hours to go. Libby is already in Nashville and leaves very early tomorrow, so by the time I arrive later this afternoon we will have a total of six or so hours to explore music city together.

But, Travel Karma, lest my complaints about my last two trips have dealt me this latest mishap, please do not misconstrue this account as whining. Rather, I find it hilarious now, and hey, there are bright spots:

– I will, eventually, make it to Nashville.
– I am penning this diatribe, currently, from my iPhone – the wonders of technology (and kudos to my adept thumbs).
– I’m sitting in a rocking chair – at the airport.





More With the Shoes

12 03 2008

Not long ago, when I announced the change in title that my blog underwent (psst…speaking of changes, check out my newly updated About page. It now goes with the shoe theme too!), I mentioned that I had more shoe posts in the works. And then I never wrote them. I’m trying to spread out the shoe love, but I think it’s time for another.

To recap: when we last left off with the saga of Suzanne’s shoes, she had sent home a pair of unruly strappy sandals that refused to let her salsa dance, and then quarreled with a pair of brand new hiking boots that broke three days into wearing them (the mud is another story, but that she was actually proud of).

Ok, strange third person voiceover finished. So after the hiking boots fiasco I decided that the only shoes a traveling girl can depend on are her flip flops.

I arrived in San Salvador de Jujuy on a Thursday afternoon, excited to explore Argentina’s northwest and more excited to experience their Carnaval. I was informed that I would be hard-pressed to find a bed in any of the Carnaval towns I wanted to visit. On a last minute whim, the girl I was traveling with at the time, Da, and I packed small backpacks with a few days worth of clothes, left our big packs at the hostel in San Salvador and headed up to Uquia, with the brilliant idea of sleeping near Humahuaca, going to Carnaval the next day, and staying up with the festival all night before catching a morning bus back to San Salvador. The short of a much longer story (that I will one day figure out how to tell in a short blog post) is that we finally made it to Humahuaca on Friday night.

In Humahuaca, it was cold (this is where I bought the famous llama sweater, which despite my offers no one seems to want), and I had only my flip flops. There were sneakers in my pack, but that was back in San Salvador, so it seemed I was destined to have cold feet in Humahuaca. But, true California girl that I am, I was still devoted to my beloved flip flops, which had yet to fail me…

Until, that is, while strolling the fair on the edge of town, I walked right into a giant metal post that was sticking up from the ground. Plowed into is more like it. My toe, not protected by shoe was massively hurt for the space of about 10 seconds, but then pain gave over to the blissful re-realization that I was still at Carnaval, and I continued walking. A few moments later, however, my foot felt a little wet and sticky and to my horror I looked down to discover that my no longer hurting toe was gushing blood. I had busted the skin on the end of it.

Da and I raced through the fair asking where there was a pharmacy, but given that it was now late and festival time I decided it wouldn’t be open and settled for dousing my toe in hand sanitizer, wrapping it in toilet paper, and buying a pair of socks (oh the things you’re willing to do when you travel). Then we went to enjoy some Carnaval grub. But when my toe started throbbing halfway through dinner I decided perhaps a pharmacy wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. To my relief, they were still open (probably for idiots just like me who only bring flip flops to a crowded festival on dirt roads) and I purchased some sort of ointment that I hoped was anti-bacterial.

I spent the next two nights wearing socks with my flip flops and limping slightly, but ultimately I didn’t wind up losing my toe, so all was good. My relationship with my flip flops, however, has not been the same since. I blame myself really.

Lesson learned: Think before you pack. Period.





Llama Sweater

26 02 2008

Anyone want this sweater?
Complete with nieve in the hair: A regular Snow White.

Oh the llama sweater, a staple in the tourist arsenal. In Peru they are sold everywhere and everyone seems to have one. Made (ostensibly) of llama wool, they are soft and oh-so-warm and tourists love to buy them.

On our second day in Cusco I myself almost did just that. It wasn’t the manly type with pictures of llamas on it, but a fitted cream number with a simple geometric design around the collar. It had fringe on the bottom, however, and toggles on the hood. I was in one of those tourism frenzies, where, overcome buy the excitement of all things new, the tourist buys or seriously considers buying things she would never even pick up otherwise. Luckily, some new friends who joined at the market played the “will you really wear it?” card and I was spared an unneeded sweater.

Then came Northwest Argentina, where llama sweaters again abounded. And, in a moment of need rather than want, I had to buy one. I had left my belongings in a hostel in San Salvador de Jujuy, had traveled to Humahuaca for Carnaval with nothing but two changes of clothes (both dresses), some pajamas, and my fleece. Too bad I hadn’t done my research and realized that Humahuaca is cold in the evenings, even in summer. Very cold.

So there I was in my thin pants and not quite warm enough fleece, with flip flops on my feet. The wind was picking up and it was promising to be a long night. What was a girl to do except to splurge on a $10 llama sweater, an oh-so-attractive thick and too big sweater, complete with llamas prancing across my chest. Wasn’t I the fairest of them all? But I was warm.

So now I’m back in New York with my llama sweater, which, in the land of Fifth Ave. and Soho boutiques might just be cause for beheading if I were to wear it outside (or at least cause for pointing and staring). So, if anyone out there would like a llama sweater, women’s medium, I have one here and it’s up for grabs.

Lesson learned: Check the weather ahead of time. And pack accordingly.





Adios Zapatos part 2

30 01 2008

For a girl who loves her shoes, I haven’t had much luck with them on this trip (See Adios Zapatos Part 1).

While at home in California for Christmas, I went to several stores with my brother Scott on the quest for the perfect pair of hiking boots for my trek in the Andes. At the first store, we told the salesman that it would be cold because of how high I’d be, and he tried to sell me a shoe that would be good in negative 30 degree weather (that’s Faranheit folks). Perhaps he misheard South America and thought I was going to the South Pole?

At the second store we fared little better. The girl said she knew nothing of Machu Picchu but she did know a little about hiking. When we explained that this would be a little more intense than hiking, that I would be trekking in the Andes, we could see the wheels in her brain moving. In the end she couldn’t make it past the after-dinner mint. Finally, however, I went home with a pair of shoes.

After two days of wearing them around the house per Scott’s orders, I decided they were uncomfortable and we were back at the store, this time with a girl who knew her stuff and who sold me the other shoe I had been looking at the first time.

I took them back to New York and wore them to run my errands (yes, I did in fact go out in public in Manhattan in my hiking boots), and by the time I got to Cusco they were comfortable and fantastic.

All through days one and two Hans and Frans (as I christened them because they did in fact “pump me up”) held strong. They kept my feet dry and happy no matter how much it rained of home much mud I stepped in. But come day three, I accidentally plunged my whole foot in the river while trying to cross: waterproof does not work if the whole shoe is sumberged.

Nontheless Frans served me well, and Hans was great too despite a little water. By the end of the day, however, my feet were less than happy, and when I finally sat to take off the boots, I found that my brand new shoe (Hans) was starting to fall apart. The leather on one side was coming away from the gortex, which doesn’t quite help with the whole water thing. I tried to patch it in the morning, but the thing about sticky-backed gortex is that it only sticks to dry things, which Hans was not.

So now Hans and Frans are sad, broken, and muddy, but still hanging out in my backpack, unlike the heels that were worn once and sent back to New York with the girls.

Lesson learned: My flip flops haven’t failed me yet.





Olfactory Overload

29 01 2008

Some things that smell worse than the lady on the plane from Buenos Aires to Lima…

1) Me, on days 2-5 (ok, day 1 too) of the Salkantay trek. There is just something about mud and sweat (and possibly horse excrement) caked on your body that smells just lovely. Did I mention there were no showers?

2) The “ladies” on the plane from Cusco back to Lima. Yes, we did spend day 5 (after showers at the hostel, please be impressed) hiking at Machu Picchu, and arrived back in Cusco at 10 p.m. to throw on clean clothes and hasty makeup jobs (no showers here folks) and meet the rest of the backpacking gang for a night on the town. And yes, the next morning saw us rolling out of bed after two hours of sleep to make our way to the airport. Please don’t ask if I was able to locate my toothbrush before the cab picked us up.

3) The lady on the plane from Lima back to Buenos Aires. This time, not me. The woman next to me looked like she might be addicted to any number of drugs, had the nervous habit of picking at her very dirty nails, and radiated an un-defineable stench that seemed to be a mixture of dirtiness and gasoline. (Payback?)

4) My fleece, which I had to put on this morning for the bus ride to my hostel. Somehow the mud/sweat mixture, combined with having been thrust in a bag with the cigarette-smoke-ridden jeans from the night out in Cusco meant I felt a little ill on the bus.

Laundry time?