🍑 In this issue of The Statesider US Travel Newsletter 🍑
US travel in 2021, looking at home with fresh eyes, a basket of Georgia peaches, a cross-country look at a nation under stress, New Orleans prepares for an unusual Mardi Gras, and the unfortunate history of square dancing.
There are moments that shift your understanding of home, revealing new beauty and nuance of the landscape. For Shawna Bethell, that change in perspective came in the Tallgrass of Kansas, amidst “swaying and majestic big bluestem when it reached its zenith of six to eight feet.” 🦬 Read this Statesider Original Story 🦬
Just an Old Sweet Song
Orange is the New Peach: Georgia winters are getting warmer: bad news for peaches, but good for citrus — and the farming communities are changing with the times. James Murdock, Bitter Southerner
Peach is the Old Peach: The Georgia peach may be vanishing, but its mythology is alive and well. William Thomas Okie, The Conversation
Road to Tama-Re: An ex-con, his homegrown religion, and the Georgia town where it all went down. Asher Elbein, Oxford American
Musical Georgia: Marion Brown’s “Afternoon of a Georgia Faun” attempted to capture the sounds of nature from his childhood. A look back at the 50-year-old jazz experiment. Jon Ross, Bitter Southerner
Rain arrives in the afternoon. The storm begins as a sprinkle — slow taps on a woodblock mimic fat, lazy raindrops, a contrast to the pop-up downpours that pass transiently through endless Georgia summers.
Sweet Sapelo: On the Georgia coast, one farmer is keeping the tradition of hand-made cane syrup alive. Kim Severson, New York Times
Stories Across America
Write this Way: Hats off to Frommer’s for pulling together a top destinations list that we actually want to read in the middle of a pandemic. They snagged some of the US’s top writers to talk about destinations that define the United States in their minds. The list is impressive: Jodi Picoult, Fannie Flagg, David Sedaris, Cheryl Strayed, Gloria Steinem, and more. Frommer’s
Rock Bottom: An attack on the US Capitol. An attack on…a manatee? A beautiful rumination on the underwater world of Florida and what it means to sink as low as you can possibly go. Sabrina Imbler, Sierra Magazine
America on the Edge: A 10,000-mile road trip across the US captures a country in the midst of crisis. (Note: Please don’t take 10,000-mile road trips right now.) Stephen Hiltner, New York Times
Outside Art: Travel is down overall, but mural tourism is on the rise, thanks to the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. Rashaad Jorden, Skift
The “Real” Midwest: Who gets to tell the story of the Midwest? Often not Midwesterners. Amanda Page, Lit Hub
Semi Gras: Instead of parades this Mardi Gras, New Orleans is using its unique architecture to its advantage to create socially-distant “floats.” Andrew Nelson, National Geographic
Liquor Clicker: Meet the (self-declared) Ansel Adams of L.A. liquor stores. Matt Oswalt, The Daily Beast
Once There Was a Canyon: Paddling Lake Powell, a lake where a river used to be — and, while the history is regrettable, it’s not all bad. Brendan Leonard, Outside
“I think the problem is, a lot of river people are never going to come here, because that would be admitting that this place has something to offer—including being an example of something we should never do again.”
Do-Si-D’oh: How America’s square dancing tradition grew out of white supremacy, thanks to Henry Ford, who hated jazz (and a long list of other things). Robyn Pennacchia, Quartz
Nuts for Peanuts: A brief history of the American obsession — WHICH IS TOTALLY JUSTIFIED — with peanut butter. Kate Wheeling, Smithsonian
Swampcation: A photo tour of the hardest to reach corners of the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest remaining river swamp in the US. Rory Doyle, Southerly
Secret Jews of El Paso: The hidden history of Judaism in Hispanic border communities. Rabbi Stephen Leon, El Paso Matters
Jewish Appalachia: A new generation of Appalachian Jews are going back to the land. Adam Rosen, 100 Days in Appalachia
Historic Hotels: Why saving the historic hotels of America matters. Jennifer Barger, National Geographic
Follow the Music: The travels of jazz legend Lester Young, and how the road shaped the future of jazz. Brian Major, Scalawag Magazine
Baldwin Blues: James Baldwin’s record collection is now a 478-track Spotify playlist. Jake Rossen, Mental Floss
Sandwiches: 50 things for you to disagree with (and make you hungry). The best sandwich in every state? David Landsel, Food & Wine
What We’re Reading
The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America’s Forgotten Capital of Vice, by David Hill. Author David Hill grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but he takes us back to a very different Hot Springs, which morphed from a spa town into a proto-Vegas center of gambling and sin for the leisure class. Hill tells the tale through a cast of colorful characters, including family members, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting at times that this isn’t a hard-boiled crime novel but a true depiction of a slice of Arkansas that is long gone. Order now and support local independent booksellers.
Is that the scent of hope on the breeze? Fingers crossed, it looks like some sense of normalcy will be returning later this year. In the meantime, stay safe, and keep up the armchair exploration with selections from The Statesider book lists.