I love New York! I am always grateful for any opportunity to visit this amazing city.
The purpose of my visit was to hold a private screening at the Paramount Screening room, courtesy of the wonderful David Bruson, and then have a cookbook dinner at Sardi’s.
I first met David in Toronto a few years ago, where we had a very very memorable dinner with Larry Hagman and a band called Ghoul Town during Fan Expo. It seemed hard to imagine we could top that experience, but we might have just done it on Tuesday night.
234 W 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
209 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Lately I feel as though I have been channeling my dad--not in some otherworldly Vincent Price-as-Horror-Sttar way--but the essence of his love of life and the way that manifested into extraordinary encounters. What I am discovering is that, if you open your heart to life, it responds wholeheartedly right back.
We all know this intuitively: How many wonderful chance encounters have we all had while traveling when, freed of our daily cares and habits, we risk a conversation with a total stranger that leads to one of our more memorable experiences?
For me, breaking out of my comfort zone of isolation and workaholism on this trip by saying YES, I have reaped the rewards or new friendships and widening my view of what is possible as we move through the world!
My dad was on the road for most of his adult life. After spending the last 10 days traveling from New Mexico to New Jersey, I have a new appreciation not only for his stamina but also for his seemingly unquenchable desire to do and see as much as he did on top of his very full work schedule. This past weekend, I did my best to emulate his enthusiasm, curiosity, generosity of spirit, omnivorous appetite for life. . .and, of course, his immense capacity for joy.
On what was to be my first day here in the Philadelphia area, I had purchased an advance ticket for the only time available to visit the famous Barnes Foundation at its new location in downtown Philadelphia--at 11:3O, which gave me precisely an hour in the building. I knew it wasn't going to be enough, but in the spirit of "a quick visit is better than never having gone at all", I plunged in and took myself on a whirlwind tour of both the permanent collection and visiting show, the library, the downstairs Native American pottery collection, and the gorgeous modern architecture--complete with a string quartet practicing in the main hall. Here are my quick impressions: Incredible space, amazingly eclectic collection, and one of the most idiosyncratically hung museums I have ever visited--which I loved.
The best part about a road trip is the complete spontaneity for which it allows.
I had given myself two days to drive from Atlanta to Philadelphia. I thought that would mean lots of stops and detours--discovering historic towns, off-the-beaten track eating establishments and antique stores. But what I hadn't considered was how someone who works 18-hour days at home would get all that same work done on the road. And so, large portions of the past three days have been spent catching up on emails, answering design questions, taking care of billing and bookkeeping--and, of course, this new endeavor called social media and blogging. Even though I type and think and eat and move quickly, I still can't quite keep up with everything I have on my plate. It seemed as if I was doomed to spend most of the next two days in hotel rooms and behind the wheel.
Fortunately, road trip spontaneity decided to take a different form--and I ended up having a series of amazing encounters.
Not everyone here in Atlanta is pleased with the weather--which is cold, grey, and windy--not very Hotlanta at all. But after two days in muggy New Orleans, I am finding it rather refreshing. It took me a whole day to drive across Texas, but less than seven hours to traverse Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, into Georgia. I wish I had had more time to stop at some of the places that were beckoning to me--the Tuskegee Airmen Museum in particular--but I had a dinner date with an old friend on Monday night that I wasn't about to miss.
A few hours after I arrived that evening--miraculously avoiding any rush hour traffic--I met Mitchell Anderson at his wonderful Atlanta restaurant, Metrofresh. Mitchell and I have known each other since my freshman year at college--over 33 years. We acted together in many plays and took our fair share of theatre classes together. Mitchell even kept his canoe in the old chicken coop I called my home during my last two years of college--the same canoe that we used for an incredibly misguided production of The Frogs in the Williams swimming pool. Here we both are in a wonderful production of Twelfth Night with costumes inspired by cinematic icons. Mitchell (on the divan) played a Valentino-esque Orsino, and I (on top of the box) played both Feste and Fabian (a puppet that I spoke) as an androgynous Humphrey Bogart.
I have a small oval magnet on the back of my car with a drawing of a large dog catching a ball that reads, "Make time for play." More than one person has commented on what they have taken to be an ironic statement by a workaholic who rarely makes time for fun. But that’s precisely why it’s there—to remind me of the importance of taking time every day to just enjoy, have fun, play! One of my hopes for my road trip has been to do just that. . .and New Orleans at Mardi Gras seemed just the place to give it my best shot.
My second day in New Orleans began with breakfast with the other guests at Marigny Manor, the elegant pre Civil War B&B where we were staying. While I stuck to my daily bright green concoction of sheep yogurt, vegetable powder and chia seeds that prompts so much humor among my friends, the other guests helped themselves to a delicious frittata along with a slice of King Cake—a brightly-colored ring of dough that has been a Mardi Gras tradition for centuries. Although none of us found the baby baked into the cake, which would have determined the next person to throw a Mardi Gras party, we did connect with one another enough to make plans to get together again when I hopefully visit each of their hometowns on my book tour in 2015. Talking about my parents’ cookbook became the impetus for a lovely conversation during which each of the guests shared their own food recommendations and experiences, both in New Orleans as well as in their hometowns of Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
Ask anyone who knows me: I am the LAST person who would visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Well, it just goes to show that anything is possible, if it is done in the right spirit of adventure and with a fearless traveling companion who knew how to negotiate her way around a party city. I've been in NOLA for one day of Mardi Gras so far, and I've enjoyed every minute.
Here are some lifetime firsts from my inaugrual trip to New Orleans (because I definitely will come back): Catching a jello shot one handed (with my left hand no less!) as it was tossed from a balcony--to great applause. (Grabbing a few strands of Mardi Gras beads raining down from above was a piece of cake by comparison.) Eating a piping hot beignet at Cafe du Monde. Being stuck in a human traffic jam with body-painted people in various states of undress on Bourbon Street. I could never do that again and be happy--but am equally happy to have done it once. And tasting Miss Loretta's freshly made sugar-coma-inducing rum pralines--best in New Orleans for 35 years. . . and counting!
I love taking back roads. Whenever I have a choice, I avoid the Interstates and wend my way through small towns, past open fields and two-pump gas stations, everyday yard sales, friends chatting over the hood of a pick up, churches--big, little, and behemoth, one-room cafes, over creeks, rivers, and bayous, mountains, mesas, and windblown plains. It's a visual feast.
Yesterday I spent all day driving through Texas. I've driven quite a few of the Texas backroads, but these were all new to me. Just the town names in Texas are food for thought. Yesterday saw Temple, Bangs, Santa Anna, Vidor, Sweetwater, Winnie, Zephyr, Goldthwaite, Lampasas, Energy, Democrat, and Blanket. But for some reason, the one that tickled me most was East Jim Ned Creek. . .not to be confused with plain old Jim Ned Creek a little farther up the road.
713 Saint Louis St
New Orleans, LA 70130