Category Archives: places

Traveler’s Rest

John Overton’s great great grandfather was a member of British Parliament. He did not come from humble beginnings. That being said he was not content to rest on the laurels of others and he spent his life as a mover and shaker in the founding of Nashville, one of the American South’s major cities.IMG_2090

Overton built his two story home in 1799. Well, he didn’t really build it, he had other people build it for him. By people, I mean slaves.

When we arrived at the plantation the woman in the gift shop told us they had an award winning exhibition on the slaves who lived at Traveler’s Rest. We bought our tickets.IMG_2064

The grounds are relatively well tended though not seriously landscaped. There is a white picket fence around the property enclosing in a series of buildings. The main house is a hodge-podge of wings added over time. Behind that are two smaller buildings, a smokehouse and building for spinning. The slavery display was on the second floor of the spinning shed.IMG_2066

The exhibit was mostly the names and approximate ages of the black people who are normally ignored at such places. It was very meaningful in that there has been an effort to get names and relationships recorded and displayed. But reading those names was sort of “meh” and even more it was sort of discouraging. I was reading about the slaves but I wasn’t standing in the buildings in which they lived. Those buildings are gone. The homes of black people are gone, but the smokehouse and spinning shed are still there and I was looking through a window at a giant house that these black people built.IMG_2087

The pamphlet explains that right before the battle of Nashville General Nathan Bedford Forrest slept in this house. The text made note of him as a confederate general, not as the founder of the KKK. But his name was  recorded and that was who he was.

The Overtons hung on to Traveler’s rest, and a surprising amount of their fortune, after the civil war and the location became well known for their stable of Arabian horses. the stables are no longer there. They came down after the family and the horses moved to California. When the location became a historical sight they did not rebuild the stables or the slave quarters. They did however build a large “barn” to host weddings and events.IMG_2089

 

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So Apparently Nashville is a Place

No, I don’t watch the TV show Nashville so forgive me for not knowing things, and shame on you if you think watching that show means you know things, but I was unprepared for Nashville. To say I was unenthused when I boarded the plane is being kind.

And then we landed.

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I expected some good BBQ and a bunch of twangy singers who wear the hats and boots but have never ridden a horse. What I got was a strident city that didn’t seem to be attempting coolness but was rather exerting its own coolness onto the world. Now admittedly Nashville’s brand of coolness was not exactly mine, if it could be argued that I have any at all, but I appreciate what it was doing. I see what ya did there Nashville.IMG_2103

Everywhere in Nashville is a honky tonk, and by honky tonk I mean a venue for aspiring musicians. The lobby of my hotel at 7am, the second floor dining room of a mostly abandoned bar at noon on a Tuesday, and the convention center ballroom on Thursday night, all venues for live music by people I have never heard of that sound better to me than anyone I ignore on American Idol.

I appreciate that.

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Then there was food. Upscale and down. Everywhere.IMG_2098

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I did find it amusing, and eventually sort of unsettling, that while sitting in a sidewalk dining area in the Gulch for three hours on a Saturday afternoon, we counted no less than six separate bridal parties, each group wearing their own matching outfits, be it pastel green t shirts or black and gold tanks. It felt like a sorority event, but it was weddings. It was a thing.

Also, this was a thing:

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And so was this:

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When a College is Historically White, Then Black, Then White Again: Black History Month

The University of South Carolina was founded by a state charter in 1801 and was the 23rd college founded in the United States. It was only for white people. When South Carolina started the Civil War, the students went off to fight for the South and the school closed, then it was occupied by Northern forces. After the war (1865) it was reopened under South Carolina’s reconstruction government.library reading room

They, the reconstructionists, made the school open to Black people. And it wasn’t just the students. One of the new professors they hired after the war ended was Richard Theodore Greener, America’s first Black professor at any state run flagship university (he was also the first Black person to graduate from Harvard). By 1875 ninety percent of the student body were Black.

When reconstruction was abandoned and democrats retook the state government (1876), they quickly closed the school down. Then in 1880 they reopened the school, but only to White people. After the passing of Brown vs. the Board of Education, which outlawed segregation, USC became the nation’s first college to require an entrance exam. That was 1954. The school did not admit any Black students till 1963.museum

Mind you, Professor Greener (who left the school when the democrats closed it down) graduated Harvard back in 1870, almost 100 years earlier.

History is not a straight line ascending up and up eternally. It weaves a drunkards path, back and forth, forward and back. Forward progress is not, and has never been, natural or inevitable.

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Who Left This Guy in Charge?

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Occasionally I am the one who decides some of the things that happen on campus.palmsandarts

And on those occasions… I bring in a food truck.IMG_7623

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In the Studio: Philadelphia

I do not regret living without blizzards, but I do miss sledding down the Rocky Steps.IMG_8225

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The Alley

In recapping where I had gone for the weekend I once told someone “Olvera Street.” Their response was something along the lines of, “That’s for tourists. You need to go to the Alley.” So I did.IMG_0050

We went there not looking for anything in particular and consequentially found everything. We mostly bought nothing and ate something. All of that is what you do at the alley.IMG_0044

This is one of the only places in LA I have been too that really felt like it was in a city. The rest of this town is all parking lots and strip malls that make everywhere seem suburban. Not the alley. It has Rockefeller Center type crowds with Canal Street style merchants.IMG_0053

Plastic shoes, $50 suits, quinceanera dresses for days, and highly questionable electronics were everywhere. I, and I have never presented myself as an expert, have never before, had the urge to discourage the general public from specific sartorial choices, as much as I did in the alley.IMG_0077I also realize I am not a casting director for formulaic B grade movies about the Cartel. I mean, why go to Barcelona when you can WEAR Barcelona right?

But then again, if you like it and want to wear it, I think you should absolutely wear it. Joking aside- I mean that.IMG_0068

I will however, without reservation, make food recommendations. Eat It All!IMG_0067 (2)

Fruits, and otherwise boring vegetables, are given new life when sliced and drowned in chili powder. I don’t suggest eating any of this while wearing white gloves.

I was not wearing white gloves.IMG_0120

Not pictured is a giant pinata shaped like a Petron bottle. I’m told you can also get one made in your own likeness but I’m not sure what one should appropriately put inside either of these party favors if the children are under age. I am admittedly an outsider here but I always thought that pinatas were specifically for, those who are underage.

I have a lot to learn.IMG_0231

I am happy to get my upcoming lessons.IMG_0088

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Langer’s: just order #19

Los Angeles isn’t know for delis,but those in LA know about Langer’s.IMG_0135

As far as decor and location go it is just a regular diner, big menu, self seating. What sets Langer’s apart is thick cut pastrami and good bread. Never forget the bread. Norah Ephron called the #19 the best pastrami in the world.IMG_0121

The place has been around since 1947, been written up by everyone who writes about LA, and been on every food tour television show there is. It’s just Langer’s.IMG_0195

Norm Langer is still there hanging around chatting it up with everyone. It’s his place and he doesn’t mind mixing it up with the Hollywood types and the nobody’s alike. He mixed it up with us, and if you were wondering, we are the Hollywood types.IMG_0132

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