Southern Fried Chicken, for Real!

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South: tradition reinvented at 2005 11th Street

I finally made it to South, a Sacramento restaurant specializing in southern home cooking. Three of us shared a bucket of chicken, a plate of fried green tomatoes, and biscuits. It was all delicious. Truly, truly delish. We finished the night by sharing a slice of sweet potato pie.

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They have indoor and outdoor seating. First though, you stand in line (and there is always a line, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer) and order/pay. They serve drinks with a full bar menu and have great unsweetened ice tea.

 

 

 

Sacramento Pride Weekend

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I’m on Council for St John’s Lutheran in midtown Sacramento. We have sponsored a booth at Sacramento Pride festival for many years. I helped put the booth together on a windy morning Saturday. We had to work together with the body piercing and square dancing booths on either side to ensure we didn’t all blow away.

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This is what community looks like: everyone helping each other set up.

Sunday’s activities include the parade at 11:00 from Southside Park and Lizzo performs at 4:00 p.m.

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Me, Rebekah, Devon, and Pastor Jon

General one day pass is $10; general weekend pass is $15. Join in the fun and support the LGTBQ community and the Stonewall Anniversary.

Swatch: World Wide Knit in Public Day

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Vicky Content was the first to arrive and got started knitting in public on the bench outside.

I knit in public all the time when I travel and I enjoy the curious comments I get from flight crews, and others. Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA sponsored a 4 hour event to celebrate World Wide Knit in Public Day. They were prepared to provide supplies and instructions for the curious. Those couple of dozen of us who gathered at 10 a.m. were experienced knitters and mostly interested in enjoying the company of other knitters.

Someone started mentioning our favorite instructional videos on YouTube and that led to a lively sharing of all of our favorites–Stitches West, Vogue Knitting, and other resources. Some people drove over from the Bay Area. We shared our projects, whether we’d tried continental knitting, and where we shop in Northern California for yarn.

I had made plans for noon, so I had to leave a little after an hour to cycle home. Next year I’ll plan to stay longer.  I’m a member of Crocker Art Museum but knitters could enter for free to participate. The cafe was open for coffee and tea, lunch and other good things to eat.

There were 440 KIPs (Knitting in Public events) held in 33 countries around the world.  Better Living Through Stitching Together is the motto and all of the events are organized by volunteer knitters.

 

Remembering a Great Travel Writer

Spying on the SouthTony Horwitz was a great travel writer. He was a great writer (full stop). I was two-thirds into Spying on the South when I heard he died on May 27th. I quickly did a search to find out what happened. He wasn’t old enough to die.

I discovered Horwitz’s books through the shelves of travel memoirs in independent bookstores. When I pictured the author I pictured him hitchhiking through Australia like the photo below. I enjoyed all of his books, but my favorite, and his most successful is Confederates in the Attic.

Tony hitchhikingI gave Confederates to lots of people as a gift, as is my habit when I’m enthusiastic about a book. It wasn’t just the humor, the quirky situations he gained access to observe, and the fascinating people he convinced to open up, it was his ability to reveal a Southern culture without mocking or approving.

When I read that he had a new book Spying on the South, I pre-ordered it. Of course he found a quirky angle to revisit the southern United States. Frederick Law Olmstead, the reknowned landscape architect that co-designed New York City’s Central Park, earned his living early in his life by traveling through the South and writing a kind of travelogue and sharing his first-hand accounts of slavery in mid-century 1800s. Horwitz intended to follow in Olmstead’s footsteps and observe the state of things. Horwitz’s timing was lucky in that he was sitting on bar stools talking to Trump voters in 2015 and 2016. He was a first hand witness to the biggest political upset in this century. Confeds

When I read that he may have passed away from a heart attack, I remembered the high fat, high carb diet he suffered while researching his book and wondered if it hastened his death. Or was it the whiskey that helped him bond with his interview subjects? Either way, I feel the loss. I am sad for his wife and sons, his friends, and all of his fans, including me, who lost Tony Horwitz at 60 years old.

His colleague and friend Jill Lapore’s obituary in the New Yorker magazine described a gentle, funny person. In Spying he engages the masochistic Buck to guide him on a horse trail through Texas Hill country. If his friendly curiosity is Horwitz’s superpower, Buck the mule man is his kryptonite. He observes about himself, “What stung much more was my failure in a department of which I’d felt I was chair: finding a way to reach and get along with just about anybody, no matter how different our backgrounds or beliefs or temperaments. This was one reason I’d identified with Olmstead. I shared his missionary spirit, believing that there was always room for dialogue, and great value in having it, if only to make it harder for Americans to demonize one another.”

Tony HorwitzThe best way for me to honor him is to read the one book I missed somehow, Midnight Rising. And to do my best to emulate him in staying open and curious to my fellow Americans, and to other humans I meet around the globe. Jill Lapore suggests that he felt a shadow over our democracy as people more than flirted with authoritarian leaders and white supremacy. This is what one might call a natural response, all things considered. I am sorry we’ll all miss his insight as he was just starting his book tour for Spying. Reading the last third of his latest book, with the knowledge that these were in a sense were his last words, made it a little more melancholy, but no less charming and insightful. Treat yourself to a great travel read this summer with any of Horwitz’s books.

 

 

Charming Lakeside Saugatuck, Michigan

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Downtown Saugatuck just before the summer season begins.

Saugatuck reminded me of a New England coastal town. It has plenty of unique shops and kitschy places to find a t-shirt or set of salt & pepper shakers. The town is along the Kalamazoo River and hugs the smaller Kalamazoo Lake and a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan.

We stopped for the bookstores and the children’s park. Ray and V. played while I checked out the Book Nook. I found a couple of books for V–including the new classic Skippyjon Jones and a copy of Less by Andrew Sean Greer for Ray.

IMG_7910I liked the town without the summer crowds.

Dining near Lake Michigan

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Pier Cove, the smallest public beach I’ve ever accessed. Fennville, MI on Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is huge, but if you find yourself on it’s shore in western Michigan, you are in luck. I am sharing two eateries I enjoyed in Saugatuck and Fennville, both less than 30 minutes south of Holland, Michigan.

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The owner greeted us at Pennyroyal Cafe and Provisions in Saugatuck.

My friend Ray, his young daughter and I were hungry for lunch. We stopped at the Pennyroyal Cafe & Provisions (3319 Blue Star Highway) in Saugatuck. They didn’t have a high chair but the bench seating was perfect for a toddler and dad. She was happy moving up down and all around and pausing to eat her blueberry pancakes.

 

 

You can order coffee and pastries as you enter, or pass through to the dining room. It just opened in 2019 and they serve breakfast and lunch.

IMG_7891We ordered blueberry pancakes for V., johnnycakes and ham for me, and whitefish salad for Ray. We shared bites and everything was delish. The service was terrific. Saugatuck is about to be fill to the brim with Chicagoans enjoying their summer vacations and Pennyroyal is ready for them.

IMG_7919Our second stop was for pie. Ray was showing me downtown Fennville and as we drove towards the village I saw the sign for Crane’s pie. I asked Ray if we could stop. My intention was to get a slice of rhubarb pie.

They were having a special event with a guest chef and wine tasting. The sign said closed but they welcomed us just the same. They couldn’t sell a slice of pie, but they had some whole pies for sale: cherry or apple. So we took home a cherry pie (frozen last season when cherries were ripe), and it was yummy. V. loved it too. Ray was on a diet. He urged me to take it home with me but I demurred because I didn’t want TSA to make me throw it out.

IMG_7922Ray is an excellent cook and he grilled steaks, paired with wonderful salads from Farmhouse Deli in Douglas, Michigan.

If you find yourself in western Michigan be assured that you will find good eats.

Flying Stand-by with a Southwest Buddy Pass

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Sacramento Airport, Ralph Goings, Crocker Art Museum collection

My son-in-law works for Southwest Airlines and one of the performance rewards he can earn is a buddy pass. He has given me a buddy pass twice now and I am figuring out how to make flying stand by work for me. The buddy pass is a non-rev (non-revenue) ticket and the lowest priority–after employees, bumped passengers, other airline employees, and employee family members. But it’s FREE!

So if you are NOT under a strict timeline, it is a great way to travel. Did I mention that it is free.

IMG_7925 (1)I had just debriefed with my son-in-law Marcos about his experience traveling as an airline employee to Barcelona. I was reminded of the importance of being patient in the face of delay, and kind to all airline employees. Not only did they not create the situation (fully-booked plane) and they are more likely to do what they can for me if I’m pleasant. Everyone I encountered was a professional and very friendly, but they are not responsible to get me on the flight. I am flying STAND-BY.

My most recent experience taught me some new things about air travel.  Marcos and I looked at the flight options from Sacramento to Grand Rapids a week before my travel date to identify the combinations with the most open seats to give me the best chance to complete all of my travel in one day. Even though I knew it was possible to make one leg but not the next, when I was in Baltimore and the desk agent was saying it was unlikely I’d get on the only flight to Grand Rapids, I was surprised. I quickly scanned my options. I looked up the time to drive to my friend Ray in Fennville from Chicago–but it was a 2.5 hour drive and the flight wouldn’t arrive until late. Fortunately I have a good friend a short train ride from BWI.

I was asked to wait until the plane loaded and then the desk agent would let me know. I dashed to get some lunch and brought it back to the gate. I was about half way through my burger and my name was called–after a half dozen other names. No one else had responded. I dumped the rest of my lunch in the bin and dashed for the gate. I was the very last person on the plane. The flight crew urged me to take the first available middle seat. I thankfully sank into it and texted everyone that I made it!

I usually travel light but this time I trimmed it even further so I had just one carryon with no extra purse or computer bag. My carryon fit under the seat so I didn’t have to worry about overhead bin space. I assumed I’d be in a middle seat so I didn’t bring my knitting (elbows in!)

IMG_7924 (1)On the way home I thought traveling on a Sunday would be easier. I had to rise super early to drive back to Grand Rapids for a 6:30 flight. There were open seats so they gave me my boarding pass in C group. And it all went well. When I arrived in Denver the C terminal was going crazy. It seemed like every gate was boarding. The gate agent said Sundays are always very busy. It was only 8:30 but it was already looking unlikely I’d get home that day. I found myself mentally checking: friend in Denver, yes. If she’s not home I can stay at a hotel and get some sleep!

This particular flight at preboarding had three people in wheelchairs and a couple of unaccompanied minors. There were also lots of families returning from graduations. One Southwest employee had precedence. I chatted with a pilot from United Airlines trying to get home and he also was in front of me on the list. He assured me that he wouldn’t have my seat because he can sit in the jump seat. I laughed and said I am flying stand by, so don’t worry. I really did feel zen about it. Another panicked passenger missed his flight to Southern California and the Sacramento flight was going on to Orange County. Southwest couldn’t guarantee him a spot on to the OC but he’d definitely get there in the evening if he got stuck in Sacramento. There were no more flights from Denver to Orange County. He took it. I felt a little more tenuous and that was okay. I sat and watched people board and found amusement in their choice of traveling attire. I remember when people dressed up to fly. Now many people look like they are going to a sleep over or to the gym. The gate agent called other names, then mine.

Eureka! I got the last seat again! I quickly grabbed my bag and headed down the ramp. The flight crew said, “All the way in the back.” By the time I was two-thirds down the aisle I could see only one seat in the last row. Then I saw the United pilot rise from the last row and move back to the jump seat. Whew! (and thank you!)

10948AC9-10B3-426A-806B-28E54EA88562 (1)I texted my family that I made it! Remarking on my good luck, my son-in-law texted back, “When you get back buy a lotto ticket on the way home. lol” I took his advice but my good fortune didn’t last that long.

I will use his buddy pass again. Not when I am connecting to LAX for an international flight, or when I need to be at someone’s celebration. I will use a buddy pass with more enthusiasm if I can get where I want to go on a direct flight that leaves early in the morning. Traveling is full of uncertainty, and we all get bent out of shape when our plans go awry. Accepting the chance involved puts some of the mystery and adventure back into flying.