September Round Up

Welcome to Hey Folks! Another month has drawn to a close (we know, we don’t know where September went either), so it’s time for us to reflect a little and round up our favorite things from the past 30 days. Thanks to people like you, we’ve had an awesome first full month here at Zelda & Scout. Our lives are crazy and we love it. In September, in addition to blogging up a storm, both Zelda and Scout ventured back home to Louisville, got new(ish) roommates, and rearranged a lot of furniture. Below are some of our favorites from this month, on Zelda & Scout as well as around the internet.

Louisville is real pretty, y'all.

Louisville is real pretty, y’all.

What We’re Doing:
September has been a busy month here at Z&S. We kicked off our G.R.I.T.S. series with the one and only Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, we shared some of our favorite Instagrammers for pics of New York or the South, we both waxed poetic on our experiences moving to New York, and we featured manymany lovely peeps in our Just Folks series. Finally, as the last twinges of summer fade away and fall creeps in, we wrote a letter to the dear departed Nora Ephron about all the ways she ruined our lives, and why we’re eternally grateful.

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What We’re Listening To: Our September playlist was made for your morning commute. Featuring badass ladies and pavement thumping beats, it’s got everything you need to get up, out, and off to conquer the world…or at least the L train. With the likes of Neko, Debbie, Aretha, and Carole on your side, there’s nothing you can’t do. You can check out the playlist on Zelda & Scout, on YouTube, or on Spotify.

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What We’re Watching: We’re a little obsessed with this video series from Brooklyn Derby. Their goal—to live every day like the first Saturday in May—is a noble pursuit, and one which we heartily second. They headed to the home of the fastest two minutes in sports (and the Zelda & Scout homestead) back in March and made three videos in collaboration with 21C Museum Hotel: Louisville From the Horses Mouth, Getting to the Bottom of Bourbon, and Talking Derby

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What We’re Reading: We discovered The Bitter Southerner back in July, when Zelda & Scout was still an iPhone memo pipe dream, and reading their stories every Tuesday is one of the highlights of our week. This post, which came out the Tuesday after we launched, really hit home. In I Miss Kentucky, AlwaysCharlotte Alexander Strode combines words and photos into a poignant and beautiful reflection on Kentucky, and the South in general, as home: “I know that one day, perhaps after leaving, he’ll understand how special it is.” We feel ya, girl.
We also love: This ode to the badass ladies of country music. This reflection on moving home, and home again, from one of our favorite design duos, the Old Try. This photo essay on the lonely corners of the state of Georgia.

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What We’re Drinking: We do a lot of crazy things in Louisville, but this may be one of the crazier ones. On September 21st, Scout was home in Louisville for an event called the Classique Classic: a bracket-style shotgunning competition featuring Stillwater Classique. That’s right: 64 grown-ass people got together to shotgun beers for an afternoon, as well as to eat, drink, and carry on, and it was awesome. Needless to say, we’re fans of Stillwater’s Classique, for shotgunning or just for sitting back and relaxing after work.

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What We’re Eating: During a recent content planning meeting, we discovered Orleans, a little place in Bushwick built out around a food truck and serving classic New Orleans Po’boys. Zelda’s Louisianan friend was skeptical: “Po’boys in New York…isn’t that just a sub, m’dear?” But last time we checked, subs didn’t include fried catfish, shrimp, and pickles. Orleans Po’boys are delish, and sitting at their picnic tables you might even think you were back in the South…if it weren’t for the sound of the M train rumbling overhead.

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What’s On Our Wishlist: So maybe our love of Mason jars betrays the fact that we’re secretly a little hipster (but to be fair, we buy ours for $10 a dozen at Kroger, not for $15 a jar at the local trendy watering hole/repurposed garage/performance art space). That being said, we can’t help but love this Mason jar shaker set from the guys (Josh and Eric and friends) over at Brooklyn-based W&P design. Combing their love of vintage kitchenware and artisan cocktails with their Southern sensibilities, the Mason Shaker is a must-have for any Bushwick flat.
Scout is also obsessed with these sandals from Atlanta-based newcomers Clay and Bros. Recently Kickstarted into existence, this creative community describes themselves: “We are travelers, explorers, fishermen, lovers, fighters, creators, brothers, sisters, and we are excited.” So are we. As are our feet.

Want a monthly dose of Z&S delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter here! And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest to make sure you don’t miss out on a single bit of Southern-fried, Brooklyn-based goodness.

Just Folks: Katie Beth White

Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them.

This week we have Katie, a New York-born, Kentucky-raised queer grrl who’s got a touch of that early adulthood existentialism about her at the moment (we’ve been there: we even started a blog about it). She reminds us that New York is what you make of it (plus tax).

Katie Beth

Name: 

Katie Beth White

Hometown:

Louisville, KY

Age:

22

Current City:

Brooklyn, NY

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a twenty-two year-old queer grrrl, living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I work for a public defense office in Manhattan, which is fucking rad. I pet sit for at least seven different people, which is much less rad. Some weekends, I clean hoarders’ houses for extra cash.

Prison Abolitionist. Bike Rider. Karaoke Enthusiast.

Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?

Fourteen months in New York, four years in Chicago

What brought you to New York?

Although I feel Louisville in my bones, I was not born there. It is decidedly my hometown, not technically. I spent the first five-ish years of my life in New York before my parents traded stale air and concrete for pollen and a backyard. As the story goes, I always wanted to come back when the time was right, meaning after I’d developed thicker skin but still romanticized bright city lights and getting lost. That was always the plan; I’m no flake.

What made the move possible was an internship with a public defense office and the ability to crash on my mother’s best friend’s couch (Thanks, Diane!). Cut to the office hiring me, which is how one summer in the city became two.

What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?

There are two main reactions:

1. Something something why aren’t you barefoot? Something Jennifer Lawrence, something about bourbon, something something have you been to the Derby? Something LOOOOIEEVIIILLEEE.

2. Oh, cool! What was THAT like?

Thanks to OkCupid, I’ve solidified my Louisville elevator pitch, drawing it out if and only if a lady is particularly interested in the “Growing Up Queer in The South” malaise (For the record, coming out stories on a first date aren’t cute. If you give me the whole saga, I can guarantee that my eyes have already rolled so far back into my head that there’s no way I can roll them back for a second date).

That said, life in the South is real cute. Non-Southern-identified people get wide-eyed when I compare walking down the street in New York to walking down a sidewalk in Louisville. I think that’s the biggest difference: the expectation of small kindnesses. Making eye contact with strangers in New York is not in your best interest. You’ll inevitably be asked for directions or a light, to donate to Greenpeace, or to give someone a swipe. In Louisville, you say “Hi! How are you?” to every stranger you pass, because in the South, you have plenty of time.

Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.

Big. Exciting. Expensive.

New York is all of those things, especially expensive — almost not worth it expensive. I’m still trying to figure out why I’m here … and let me tell you, reading “Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York” did not help. New York is merely what you project upon it + tax. It’s magnetizing, and you will spend literal years trying to understand why that is. You come to New York, eyes toward chic transformation. When that doesn’t happen, you wonder what is wrong with you.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to change my perspective and be happy. Instead of surmounting this gigantic barrier between myself and my *~self-actualization~*, I realized that the barrier wasn’t real. Precipice. Perspective. Paradigm shifts. Etc. Fake it ’til you make it, you know? So far, so good! I guess that’s what life in NYC is all about: realizing that everything you thought you came here to do isn’t actually what’s up, but don’t worry, because you’re going to learn about all these other things that will transform you in a completely different way. (Concision is not my forte.)

You have to know your limits here. If you say yes to everyone and everything, you’ll have a plethora of crazy stories, but be broke within three days. One week, I’ll eat nothing but oatmeal and peanut butter, heading to bed each night at 8:30 p.m. sharp; the next, I’ll stay out until 4 or 5 a.m., dancing at underground queer parties, trespassing on rooftops, biking from one Brooklyn neighborhood to the next … and then getting up at 6:30 for work.

For me, life in New York is not sustainable. That’s why everyone is either hella grumpy or off to the Hamptons every other weekend. New York will teach you how to take when all you’ve given is gone.

Where do you consider home? Why?

Louisville is home. It’s where I forged my first friendships, developed some semblance of identity, and spent most of my nights and days fighting with my parents. When someone asks me where I’m from, Louisville comes out of my mouth without a second thought.

Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?

This is legit the most difficult question on here.

I do miss Louisville. When I’m feeling sad (or broke), I torture myself by browsing Louisville’s Craigslist apartment listings. I picture fixing up my own shotgun house and inviting friends over for a beer in my garden. Meeting my grandmother for our weekly lunch sounds great, as does watching my father win a peach basket at St. Joe’s picnic. Louisville has changed so much since I left, which makes it difficult to imagine anything other than the very privileged lifestyle that I had growing up.

Louisville is a great place to visit, but not for me any more. I am nothing like the girl who lived there. I don’t want to be her. I respect, but don’t particularly like her. Louisville reminds me of the way I was, and I have zero desire to go back and reclaim that space. I need to let that Katie have that Louisville. I have many more places to be and many more versions of myself to become. I need a city much louder than what Louisville could offer right now. Maybe Louisville will be a stop along the way, but it’s not my resting place. Who really knows? I contain multitudes, right?

[I should interject here to say that I am by no means trying to present a counter-cultural image by seeking out “struggle.” I am aware of my status in this country, of my status in Louisville, and of my status in Bed-Stuy. But to live on my own, as I do now, is fulfilling in a way that I don’t believe I could attain in Louisville. Plus, how could I possibly live without Chinatown or Brooklyn block parties? What could possibly match being drunk in a cab that will probably make you overdraft, heading over the bridge, being awestruck by the Manhattan skyline?]

Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?

No and no. I’m a kid from Louisville currently in New York. I am full of city pride, which may sound cognitively dissonant when I tell you that I couldn’t care less for college basketball (sorry not sorry). I’ve hung my obligatory Louisville flag on my wall and had the inevitable internal “do I want a fleur-de-lis tattoo” debate (no).

I know that the definitions are subjective and/or up to public colloquial. I’m all for (re)claiming identity, but something about calling myself a Southerner or a New Yorker doesn’t sit right. I say “you all,” but my wardrobe is almost entirely black. Which counts more? Maybe I have a problem calling myself a Southerner because my fav is problematic. Ya feel? Read The New Mind of the South by Tracy Thompson, if you don’t know what I mean.

Looks like I have even more questions than answers. Livin’ in that state of twenty-something flux.

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you?

My subjective choices:
Food: Indian delivery food and West Indian buffets
Drink: whichever IPA is on draught
Artists: Primus, Sweet Tits, the B-52s, A Tribe Called Quest

“You see I was in a curious position in New York: it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there.” -Joan Didion

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from?

My subjective choices:
Food: Burger’s chicken sandwich or Lynn’s pancakes (RIP these Louisville staples)
Drink: Ale-8-One
Artists: Paul Thorn, Ben Sollee, The Format, Talking Heads, Josh Ritter

What is the best cure for homesickness?

Text your friends from home. Reminisce. Sit with your homesickness.
Let it remind you of all the good you have and will have.

An Open Letter to the Late Great Nora Ephron

Dear Ms. Ephron,

You should be ashamed of yourself. Taking two impressionable young girls, stuffing their heads with lies and montages and Godfather quotes. You ruined us, spoiled for life, lost with no grip on reality. We’re ready to go to the mattresses!

Actually, let’s back up. This letter comes to you in three parts. Part one: gratitude.

We would be remiss if we didn’t start things off with a big fat thank you. Thank you for hours of entertainment, for tugging at our heartstrings and our tear ducts and for making us laugh until we hurt. Thank you for witty repartee and soundtracks we could groove to for days, for utterly charming romances and Meg Ryan’s bob. Thank you for making daisies our favorite flower and for giving us an appropriate phrase to describe a head cold, for teaching us about interior decorating (wagon wheel tables, no; daisy sheets, yes) and classic cinema (for us, it’s you who made the Empire State Building romantic, but we get the Affair to Remember references, too). And most of all, thank you for making us fall in love with the city we now call home.

You were our first, you see. The first glimpse of skyscrapers peeking through fall foliage, of brownstones and Met galleries, of Washington Square and Riverside Park. You gave us a city bathed in sepia-toned light, full of spacious apartments, charming neurotics, farmers markets and bookstores and spontaneous street fairs high on carnival rides and low on discount t-shirts. And we fell for it all: hook, line, and sinker.

youve-got-mail, kathleen-kelly, meg-ryan

You’ve got all that seating and you’re sitting on the floor? Come on, Kathleen.

So we’re grateful. For the daydreams, for the bonding with friends and mothers and strangers on planes creeping on our laptop screens. We were drawn to the sunny city you spun for us, full of romance and dazzling conversation and late-night musings over mugs of tea curled up in the corner of our spacious Upper West Side apartment. We counted down the days until we, too, would be New Yorkers with all that entailed: a fulfilling job with charmingly quirky co-workers whom we loved like family, afternoons at museums with dryly funny Jewish men, orgasmically good bagels and schmear, and, of course, a passionate, sweet, epic romance with a man who would run through the streets of New York to kiss us on New Year’s Eve.

Then, we arrived. Which brings us to part two: indignation and disappointment.

We have approximately 0.02 seconds until the tourist hordes come rushing back in. Use them wisely.

That is not what your profile said you looked like.

Because the New York we found was not the one you promised us. In this world, uncinematic as it is, we spend approximately 0.001% of our time on the Upper West Side, with its brownstones and tree-lined streets. Our apartments would fit inside Kathleen Kelly’s kitchen. We avoid the Empire State Building, and all similarly mobbed tourist attractions, like the plague. And we have never, not in a million years, seen a butterfly on the subway.

That’s not to say that some things you told us weren’t true. We do love New York in the fall, especially on the rare occasions when we manage to make the 45 minute subway trek to Central Park. The landscape around us is constantly changing, only now it’s the big box bookstores being replaced by something depressing, like a Baby Gap. And Starbucks orders can be used as an accurate barometer of a person’s personality and level of decisiveness.

But as for the rest of it, you ruined us. Fed us lie upon well-intentioned lie about the beauty and romance that awaited us in the city. To put a spin on your own words, when you watch a movie as a child it becomes a part of your identity in a way no other film does. And so we arrived, brimming with hope and unrealistic expectations, and every pee-scented subway car with a screaming lunatic in the corner just drove home the fact that this was not the city we were promised. We have yet to meet our Joe Fox, or our Harry Burns, or our Sam Baldwin. We haven’t even found a Jess or a George. When we watch your movies now, the love is mixed with a tinge of resentment and a healthy dose of cynical perspective. A street fair where they don’t try to sell you anything, other than balloons and goldfish? An independent business with four full-time employees and canvas shopping bags? A cappuccino for $2.95? We’ve wised up to you now, Nora. Go ahead and file these movies under fantasy.

New York in the fall at its most Ephronian (yes, we have decided that is a word now)

New York in the fall at its most Ephronian (yes, we have decided that is a word now)

As we continue to concede the fact that we live in New York City, for better or worse, at least for the moment, we arrive at part three: acceptance. So our apartment will never look like Kathleen’s. So nobody’s running through the streets to sweep us off our feet. So the closest we get to the life we imagined is grocery shopping around Thanksgiving. We guess that’s part of growing up: learning to reconcile adolescent fantasy with the brutal, expensive reality of the everyday.

You ruined us, through and through. But we have to admit, especially as the leaves change color and the air grows crisp and the school supply displays pop up in our Duane Reade, we’re grateful. Because New York in the fall is pretty damn awesome, even if it is outside a movie.

Love,

Zelda and Scout

P.S. In our ever so humble opinion, a karaoke machine is an AWESOME wedding present. Or just general life present. Please put it on our registry. For life. Thanks.

Ten Southern Instagrammers You Should Be Following

southern-instagrammers, southern, instagram, zelda-and-scout

top left: @inkedfingers / top right (clockwise): @mattcrump, @jessicafey, @oliviaraejames, @oxfordexchange / bottom left (clockwise): @chelseaandthecity, @bbyrd, @foxtotally, @misvincent / bottom right: @tifforelie

The South was basically made for Instagram: It’s beautiful, quirky, and colorful, and each city and town is bursting with personality, exuding its own specific sense of place. Here we have ten Instagrammers that capture the beauty and eccentricity of their particular corners of the South, creating a digital rainbow of its nooks and crannies and nuances, all in little square photos.

Tiffany Mitchell (@tifforelie) – Blogger, baker, and artisan soap maker, Mitchell lives in Lexington, Ky., and spends her time taking pictures of cute cafés, tasty food, and pretty clothes. She’s living proof that big city living isn’t a requirement for style and sophistication — I don’t know whether to scour my latest Free People catalog to refresh my wardrobe or head to the nearest Sur La Table to update my cookwares. One half of Offbeat and Inspired, her Instagram is a lovely mix of street style, culinary treats, and vignettes of her Southern city and others.

Chelsea Tubbs (@chelseaandthecity) – Lover of J. Crew, Anthropologie, coffee, and losing yourself in an antique shop, Chelsea’s clearly a Z&S kindred spirit. A stay-at-home mom in Huntsville, Ala., her blog and Instagram were born in 2011 out of a need for a creative outlet, but have since turned her into a budding stylist. Her feed showcases her signature style (and that of her equally stylish daughter), the beautiful city of Huntsville, and watercolor vignettes of her life.

Jessica Fey (@jessicafey) Raised in Alabama, and living in my (and Zelda’s) hometown of Louisville, Ky., Jess is a girl after my own heart: beer and bourbon-drinking, soccer-loving, and endowed with a healthy sense of sarcasm (plus she has excellent taste in friends *ahem* yours truly.) Whether drinking at our neighborhood beer garden or shooting a wedding on a farm out in the countryside, her photos will fill your feed with everyday elegance: artsy selfies, rare bottles of craft beer, portraits of Louisville’s hip and quirky corners, wanderlust filled landscapes, and #yogaeverydamnday.

The Oxford Exchange (@oxfordexchange) – A bookstore/venue/coffee shop/social club in Tampa, Fla, some might say the folks at The Oxford Exchange are over-achievers (we prefer the term “multifaceted purveyors of awesomeness”). Inspired by English shops and clubs, Oxford Exchange aims to be a multi-use community space, and their Instagram showcases the many lives of this bookstore with an identity crisis. With charming shots of books, stunning shop interiors, and tasty treats, this account creates the same sense of place in the digital world that the Exchange does in the physical one.

Matt Crump (@mattcrump) – Enter the candy-colored world of Matt Crump, a self-taught photographer out of Austin, Tex. Many moons ago, Crump snapped a photo of some seagulls perched on a roof and decided to tinker with it using some of his favorite photo-editing apps. The result was his now signature candy-colored palette and minimal composition. His #candyminimal aesthetic has resulted in thousands of followers, a career change, and an Instagram account that is guaranteed to make you smile. Follow @mattcrump for brightly colored expanses of sky, items arranged neatly, and neon flora, fauna, and façades. Follow @candyminimal for Crump’s favorite’s from the hashtag.

Melissa Vincent (@misvincent) – This mom out of Hernando, Miss. (that’s in the northwestern corner, near Memphis) colors her Instagram feed with vibrant, surrealist compositions created solely on her phone. Her violet trees, sunflower-lined railroads, and spiraling cloud tunnels are sure to have you dreaming of being the Alice to this Southern Gothic Wonderland.

Travis George (@foxtotally & @nolaporches) – Father, photographer, podcaster, and New Orleans resident, George gained a following on Instagram for his @nolaporches account, documenting the colorful, quaint, and cozy porches of New Orleans (the account has been inactive for a while, but it’s worth a perusal). His personal account, @foxtotally, boasts beautiful photos of the South, his family, and the flotsam and jetsam of his life, with a crisp minimalist composition that defies the the regimented squares of the Instagram platform. Charming and refreshing.

Olivia Rae James (@oliviaraejames) South Carolina has always been the most quintessentially picturesque of the Southern states in my mind, especially Charleston. Photographer Olivia Rae James has somehow managed to capture the vision in my head and spew that aesthetic of the South forth in Insta-form: Spanish moss-covered trees, beachy sunrises, seafood feasts, and portraits of people in love. All of that plus regular portraits of her adorable dog? Count me in. You should also check out her blog for more in-depth sessions, included this one with The Secret Sisters, featured on our August Playlist!

Carli Kiene (@inkedfingers) – Carli (together with her husband John) has built a huge Instagram following, propelling her Austin, Tex.-based photography/directing business to new heights. Carli says creativity is about love — love of family, love of friends, love of place — and her photos are often paired with vignettes expressing this belief. Once just a girl propelled by boredom to draw on her hands during her after-school job, she has turned her inked fingers into a business, and a beautiful one at that. Follow her for photos of everything from weddings and adorable children to pretty packages tied up with string, extensive travels, yummy treats…and sometimes just the big Texas sky above.

Brandy Byrd (@bbyrd) – Nashville, Tenn.-based graphic designer, gum chewer, and road-tripper, Byrd loves all things lo-fi, including Instagram’s lo-fi filter, and the Phodeo app, the combination of which gives her feed a sense of unity and narrative. With her dreamy shots, she’s taken her followers from Atlantic City to Alaska, and captured all the hamlets in between.

Just Folks: Candace Bryan

Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them.

This week we have Candace Bryan, a fashion writer and proud cat mom who hails from Memphis, but was born to be a New Yorker.

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Name:

Candace Bryan

Hometown:

Memphis, TN

Age:

24

Current City:

Manhattan

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a freelance fashion writer and proud cat mom. I’ve written for sites ranging from Refinery29 to the New York Observer, and I’m currently the Weekend Editor at Styleite.com. In my free time, I drink old-fashioned’s, run, and make my own clothes!

Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?

2 years (AH!)

What brought you to New York?

I went to college in Annapolis, Md., where I met my boyfriend. After we graduated, we spent three months in Europe and moved straight here. He grew up right outside the city, and I’d always wanted to live here, so it was the obvious choice!

What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?

People are always very surprised (unless I’m tipsy, when my “y’all”s come out). They’re more interested, though, by the fact that I’m from Memphis specifically. Pretty much everyone thinks it’s a cool city.

I always have to explain to my Yankee friends why I have manners — like calling older women “ma’am” and not eating like a slob. Apparently that’s not something they do up here. Also, I have to explain the unique situation of having been a Southern Jew.

Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.

My very Southern relatives think NYC is dangerous. But I’ve never felt any safer than I do in Manhattan, especially on the Upper East Side.

Where do you consider home? Why?

I’m not sure I’ve found home yet. I have no plans to return to the South, but I’m not sure NYC is it either.

Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?

Nope. I’m pretty ambitious, and Memphis simply doesn’t have the kinds of opportunities I want for my career. Obviously, I miss my family and the yard I played in growing up. But Memphis itself has nothing for me.

Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?

My boyfriend used to joke back in college that I was “born to be a New Yorker,” and I’ve screamed at enough taxis at this point to feel like he was right. But I still get snobby about people from North Carolina not being “real Southerners,” and I always try to have big hair. So I’d say I’m both.

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you? (choose as many or as few as you’d like)

Food: Bagels
Drink: Seltzer
Song: “Money” from “Cabaret”
Book: “Franny and Zooey”
Movie: “Elf”
Quotation: “Practically everybody in New York has half a mind to write a book — and does.” – Groucho Marx

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from? (choose as many or as few as you’d like)

Food: BBQ
Drink: Diet Coke
Song: Anything by Al Green
Book: “Huck Finn”
Movie: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

What is the best cure for homesickness?

Listening to Elvis, eating collard greens, and remembering that Memphis doesn’t have public transportation.

On Air Conditioning

In the New York summer heat, everything sweats.

In the New York summer heat, everything sweats.

Brooklyn, July 2013, 3 a.m.: I’m lying on the floor of my bedroom in nothing but my underwear and a sports bra holding a fan aloft over my face in an attempt to find some form of relief from the heat. I’m no stranger to heat: I grew up in heat worse than this, at least if you go by the numbers. The Ohio River Valley was about as hot and sticky as a place could be outside of the Mississippi basin or, you know, a rain forest. The June I spent in Prague as a study abroad student actually had me missing the humidity of Louisville in the summer, that sticky quality that glues your hair to your forehead and has you wading through air thick as molasses. But this New York heat was a whole new animal.

We had just moved to Brooklyn from that fifth floor walk-up in the East Village, and we were entirely happy to not have to climb (and sweat through) what must have been at least four million stairs every day; however, in leaving that tiny apartment we also left the air conditioners we had grown accustomed to (and the electric bill that came with them). In a fit of resolve, and general brokeness, we decided that we could totally get through the summer without air conditioning. We had moved to Brooklyn to save money on rent, and we wouldn’t be giving that money directly back to Con Ed, no thank you, sir. Oh how we came to regret that decision.

So lying on the floor at three in the morning, unable to sleep because of heat and sweat, I began to wonder why it was that this heat was so hard to bear. At first I thought it was due merely to the lack of the aforementioned air conditioning (never underestimate my ability to wax poetic about the beauty of central AC), but I have since reconsidered. See, I’d already spent many a summer without it, some hotter than others. I went to camp for nine years. I spent a summer in a crowded dorm at RISD without AC and with temperatures around the same level as New York. I thought a crowded oil painting studio at 100+ degrees or climbing Masada at midday was the worst heat-related torture I would endure. I was wrong. This heat lacked the punctuation of pleasant summer breezes or the chance of a sudden rainstorm. It was sweaty, sticky, and so unrelenting that it seemed, ironically, to freeze time.

When the going gets hot, the hot get cocktails and hand fans.

In Kentucky, when the going gets hot, the hot get cocktails and hand fans.

In many ways, my first year in New York can be considered a constant battle with the weather, unfolding in a number of Chuck Bartowski-esque episodes (See: Scout Versus the Hurricane), and these three weeks of excruciating heat were my series finale (until the movie: Scout Versus the Westerosian Winter). I was losing this battle, badly, and I was trying to pinpoint exactly what made this heat so hard to take. The reasons, I concluded, are threefold.

  1. The lack of central air in my apartment. There are a lot of things I love about summer in the South — the smell of the air before the skies open up in a summer rainstorm, the sound of a can popping open on a pool deck — but one of my absolute favorite things about summer is the feeling of walking inside from a hot sticky day to the icy blast of central air conditioning (and subsequently walking back out again into the enveloping heat). That feeling is scarce in New York. Even after you climb the stairs to your apartment (glistening with sweat, huffing and puffing) and unlock the door, you still have to cross the hot apartment, turn on the window unit, and wait until it cools you down. Once you’ve gone from human magma to a survivable level of at least semi-cool, you subsequently shut off said air conditioner in an attempt to be able to pay your electric bill for the month. How often have I stared longingly at the window ACs in Bed Bath and Beyond only to tell myself that I can’t afford the monthly bill (nor do I have the space to store it come winter). How come that’s never a scene in the latest twenty-somethings-in-New-York sitcom?
  2. The smell. Is there anything worse than the smell of hot garbage? At home, when it gets hot, it’s sweaty and terrible, but the smells that permeate are often fresh and natural. When it’s upwards of 100 degrees, the smell of sidewalk garbage, subway urine, and that public bathroom in Tompkins Square Park are only amplified. A pleasant summer evening stroll becomes a fight through a war zone, dodging clouds of putrescence and breathing strategically through your mouth like a hyperventilating codfish.
  3. It just doesn’t fit. Even with central air, or just a window air conditioner, to me, heat has a time and a place. For some people, the ideal summer spot might be a Manhattan rooftop bar or a free outdoor movie screening in Central Park. And sure, those things can be lovely, and summery in their way. But for me, the slow wave of summer heat takes me to a time and place that is definitively Southern, sticky as it may be. It feels like home, in an undefinable way, something rooted in my bones. So a sweltering 100+ day on the banks of the Ohio sipping an Against the Grain brew and listening the melodious sounds of Ben Sollee? Yes please: I’ll take that any day. But weaving through sidewalk traffic as three-day-old garbage festers in the July sun, with no cool oasis but a sweltering sauna awaiting me at home? Not so much.

Note: I decided to write this post in late July 2014, thinking that the New York City summer temperatures would catch up and I would thus be doubly inspired. They haven’t yet, and thank god. Though writing this piece was trickier, my life and my laundry have been infinitely easier.

Top 10 New York Instagrammers You Should Be Following

New York is the most photographed city in the world, from its iconic landmarks and sweeping vistas to the nitty gritty minutiae of everyday street scenes. Especially in this smart phone age, it seems everyone — from amateur to professional, individual to institution — is getting in on the shutterbug game, trying to put their unique spin on scenery that has seen a million flashbulbs (or finger taps). In no particular order, these are a few of our favorites: From skyscrapers to street art, these folks are doing it right.

zelda-and-scout, nyc-instagram,

Clockwise from top left: @sylviosandino, @fashiongrandpas, @travelinglens, @metmuseum, @birdsblack, @dave.krugman, @stevesweatpants, @humansofny, @bkstreetart, @cxcart Center: @jmsuarez_

Humans of New York (@humansofny) Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past four years, you’ve probably heard of Humans of New York, aka Brandon Stanton. What started as a pet project for the photographer — what he describes as an attempt to “create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants” — has amassed over seven million followers and spun off from a blog into every conceivable social media platform, as well as a gorgeous photo book (and a second one coming Oct. 7 featuring NY’s littlest humans!). Brandon photographs and interviews humans from every borough and walk of life, piecing together a captivating (and ever expanding) portrait of the 8.3 million people who call this crazy metropolis home.

Dave Krugman (@dave.krugman) Dave is part of a rapidly growing wave of Insta-famous photographers who are translating their social media expertise into real world communities, physical exhibitions, and working relationships with some of the City’s most storied institutions. As one of the foremost figures in this movement, Dave has worked with everyone from the Met to the New York Public Library, and was recently profiled in the New York Times. When he isn’t revolutionizing cultural marketing, he can be found sipping craft beer in Bushwick, sometimes with the likes of Zelda and Scout (true story).

Christian Xavier (@cxcart) Born and raised in France, Christian is unabashed in his love for what he dubs “the greatest city on Earth.” Along with Dave, he was one of the earliest members of the NY Instagram community and says the medium has made him “more confidant as an artist.” With beautiful shots of cityscapes and the people that fill them, Christian’s photos tell the story of his deep, abiding love affair with the Big Apple.

Metropolitan Museum of Art (@metmuseum) When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Nothing could be cooler, I thought, than to roam the Met after hours like Claudia and Jamie, stealing pennies from the fountain and sleeping in a centuries-old canopy bed. Now that I’m ever so slightly more grown up, I still find an empty museum pretty damn cool. The Met has done a spectacular job of adapting their marketing strategies for the digital landscape, with fascinating #emptymet shots of the abandoned museum, plus cheeky #tbt’s and behind the scenes shots, showcasing the collection and events that have made them an Institution with a capital I.

Brooklyn Street Art (@bkstreetart) Jaime Rojo combs the streets of Brooklyn for art, tracking the creative spirit and imagination that run wild along the brick walls and concrete pavement of the borough. From soccer players to giraffes to abstract dreamscapes, this account will inspire you to look up and notice the art all around you.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds (@birdsblack) One of the most delicious things to ever come out of Brooklyn, Four & Twenty Blackbirds is the product of fellow NY-expats Emily and Melissa Elsen. The South Dakota sisters have been cooking up good ole-fashioned treats, just the way their Grandma Liz made ‘em, since 2010. Warning: this Instagram may, nope, will definitely make you hungry, and most likely depressed about the non-artisan contents of your pantry.

Jonathan Suarez (@jmsuarez_) Beautifully lit and impeccably composed, Jonathan’s photographs take professional know-how and translate it into the scrollable realm. Expect beautiful cityscapes that will turn even the cloudiest of days into a joyful celebration of the metropolis. Jonathan also excels at nightscapes, each image humming with the life of a city that never sleeps.

Vivienne Gucwa (@travelinglens) While some people use captions for #hashtags or shout-outs to their homies, Vivienne uses them to tell a story. Her poetic musings, combined with her glowing photographs, create a multi-dimensional ode to New York, one which can soon be purchased in book form at a store near you. “After the sun sets for the evening, the city is a symphony of lights reaching their crescendo at the same time as the night pulls itself over the rooftops and skyscrapers below. And if you squint just a little, all of the lights twinkle like fireflies in an urban forest.”

Sylvio Sandino (@sylviosandino) Another photographer/poet of the Insta-realm, Sylvio turns each pic into a vignette, ascribing narratives and philosophical resonance to each pixelated square. The images may be small, their subjects mere strangers passing on the street, but each one shows a lover, a thinker, an interconnected strand of the human web. And Sylvio gives voice to them all. #thesearenotshortstories.

Steven John Irby (@stevesweatpants) Sometimes captions can be poetic. Sometimes they can make us pause, strike a chord in our souls and cause us to reflect on the very nature of human existence. And sometimes, they’re just damn funny. Cootie shots, meatball sauce, and Hulk Hogan’s du rag game are the proposed subjects of Steve’s lovely photographs. Also, he likes sweatpants.

Bonus: Fashion Grandpas (@fashiongrandpas) Grandpas in suits. Grandpas with canes. Grandpas in knee socks, on bikes or lolling about on chaises lounges. It’s the daily dose of dapper octogenarians you didn’t know you were missing. Follow immediately. Your day will be brightened, we swear.