Mormons, Beer, Sundance and Snow

Many know Utah only as the mountainous area you cross to get to California. Others know it merely as “that place with all the Mormons.” In the days after my Utah trip a half-dozen otherwise sophisticated friends asked me if “the Mormons” (gasp!) had managed to convert me. Their eyebrows crawled heaven-ward when I said the subject never even came up. So prevalent are the misconceptions of this place that when I mentioned I was attending the Sundance Film Festival, few could believe it was actually held in Utah, convinced that the world’s top indie film showcase must surely be held someplace more hip, like Colorado or New Mexico, right? ... [Read More]

Chicago Wins

Sarah Bernhardt referred to Chicago as the “pulse of America.” Frank Lloyd Wright mused that “eventually Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.” And Dan Quayle once called Chicago one of America’s “greatest states” (really). Whatever your take, it’s clear the metropolis anointed “the most livable big city in the US” may also be the most likeable. Unless, of course, you’re a Braves fan. Go Cubs Go, the official “Cubs Victory Song” written by Chicago folk legend Steve Goodman, includes the lines “They got the power, they got the speed, to be the best in the National League!” Well, not so much. But they ... [Read More]

Cowboy Boots and Fat Guy Heaven

Texas State Capital building in Austin

Texas began life three centuries ago as a French colony. That’s right, French. Had things gone a bit differently the Texas Governor would be named Remy Perry, dining on snails would be preferred to steak, and Corpus Christi beaches would be crowded with a bunch of hairy, topless women. France already had Louisiana, though, so didn’t put up much of a fuss when Spain began actively colonizing the area. When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 Texas became part of Mexico. That was a brief union. That United States was, at the time, in a bit of an expansionist mood itself. America looked south, licked its chops, ... [Read More]

Disneyfication

  March means a lot to sports fans in America. For many it’s the madness of the NCAA tournament as their favorite college basketball teams battle for glory. For others it’s the beginning of the NFL free agent signing period. To those of us devoted to America’s pastime, it means baseball is back. Our long winter of discontent is finally over! In the timeless classic Field of Dreams (at least classic to those of us who understand that “can of corn” really is a sports term, “chin music” is not a calming lullaby and a steal shouldn’t always warrant an arrest), James Earl Jones’ character said America has ... [Read More]

Mormons on Broadway

I'm annoyed with Mormons. Not just because the church claims to issue followers magic underpants that protect them from knives and gunshots. And not just because they keep baptizing dead people into the faith who didn't want to be Mormons while alive. (The Church of Latter Day Saints has posthumously baptized Anne Frank, who seemed quite pleased to be Jewish while living, Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan and Mitt Romney's dad, to name a few.) No, my annoyance with the Mormons stems from the splendid musical about their religion currently playing on Broadway to rave reviews and sold out crowds. After seeing it my sides hurt so much ... [Read More]

New Orleans. Where Every Day is Fat Tuesday

  Days are measured in New Orleans by the number of hours it takes your stomach to digest enough to allow you to go to the next meal. At lunch you discuss, over burps, where you’ll go for dinner. At dinner, as you loosen the top button on your jeans, you ponder how much you’ll be able to shovel in your face at breakfast. And all the while you promise yourself, and anyone in earshot, that you’ll work it off just as soon as you arrive home. Of course you will. This is the unfortunate side effect of being in one of the world’s best cities for food. On ... [Read More]

Niagara Falls — coming soon to a town near you?

    Why is water beautiful? That human beings find water almost hypnotically alluring is something we all just seem to accept without question. People across the globe, from disparate countries, religions and ethnic groups, all find the substance covering 70% of our planet's surface irresistible. We want to live near it, vacation in it and will travel great distances just to admire it. Being no different than the rest of humanity, Soo and I happily traveled a great distance to admire the 5.7 million liters of water cascading every second over the limestone cliffs at Niagara Falls. We set off from Toronto for the two-hour train ride to Niagara, ... [Read More]

Walking New York

It’s easy to tell the tourists in NY. We’re the ones walking around, neck craned so we’re staring straight up, gawking at the sea of iconic skyscrapers and neon lights. It’s easy to tell the New Yorkers, too. They’re the ones walking, usually about Mach 3, grumpily brushing past the gawkers. I’d always assumed this was because they were rude and in a rush to see which steroid-infused free-agent ballplayer the Yankees had newly signed. But after spending two absolutely frigid days in this magnificent city I noticed that anytime I was forced outside my pace quickened considerably, so desperate was I to reach someplace less suitable ... [Read More]

Only in Orlando

Along the 115 mile drive from my family’s farm in Micanopy to Orlando, Florida there are, I believe, approximately 4,172 billboards, hawking discounted Disney tickets, timeshares and apparently awesome retirement homes (these invariably featured a giddy elderly person playing golf or baseball while promising everything you could ever want out of life. Ok, I get that ads are occasionally exaggerated, but baseball? The last time my Grandmother picked up a baseball bat it was to whack my Grandfather. I just don’t see her merrily rounding the bases.) One of the retirement billboards shares space with an ad promising “We Bare All.” Soo assured me they were two separate ... [Read More]

People watchin and t-shirt shoppin

New Orleans is known for offering a smorgasbord of entertainment options, from Harrah’s Casino, to the multitudes of bars on Bourbon Street, to the array of adult-themed clubs and retail outlets. People-watching, however, surely ranks amongst my favorite of New Orleans activities. There’s never a shortage of drunk party-goers who’ve consumed a few too many Hurricanes and are eager to make fools of themselves; there’s a seemingly endless parade of women who outgrew their clothes several sizes ago, but still squeeze themselves into them for a prance down Bourbon street; there are middle-aged men with their over-sized t-shirts tucked into their under-pants, wearing black socks and ... [Read More]