Keep Marching On

Today’s post was supposed to be about something else. It was supposed to be about Florida and friendship and magic, the power of sunshine and Mickey Mouse ears and how wonderful it is to find a group of people who love you not just enough to not mock your squealing over Cinderella’s castle but to squeal right along with you. It was supposed to be about the squad, the team of four ladies to which Scout and I belong and which we hold so dear. It was supposed to be about long drives down a rainy highway singing along to “Hamilton” and the Spice Girls or crooning Blink-182 with a cockney accent. It was supposed to be about love and sequins and haunted mansions and the feeling of standing in the middle of a fireworks show with some of your favorite people on earth.

Pure magic

A post shared by jharlan12 (@jharlan12) on

But I’ll be honest: I am tired. I’m exhausted and sad and my spirit feels broken. I’ve spent the past 11 days walking around with a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat, each day assaulted by a fresh wave of outrage and despair. I wish those words were hyperbolic. I’ll admit there was a tiny part of me that hoped, in those quiet moments before sleep, “Maybe it won’t be as bad as we think. Maybe there’s a heart under all that Cheeto dust that cares about others. Maybe saner voices will prevail.” Instead each day of the current administration has come with fresh punches to the gut, trampling all over the things that I love about this country and spitting on the values that I believe make America great.

img_9073

I went to the Women’s March in New York, even though I wasn’t supposed to, even though yet another email arrived in my inbox that morning reminding me and my coworkers that the success of our company relies on its employees remaining unbiased. I understand the reasoning behind this prohibition; really, I do. Especially in a time when distrust of the media is so high, it is essential that we not do anything to further damage our perceived credibility. But when the actual morning came, sunny and crisp, I thought about history and I saw all the photos and statuses flooding my screens and I thought, “I will regret it for the rest of my life if, when my kids or grandkids ask what I did when the world spun apart at the seams, all I could say is that I ate scones and looked at art with their Aunt Sadie.

img_9107

In the crowds that thronged the streets of Midtown, trudging forward slowly, so slowly, one step at a time, I found an unexpected peace. There was no impatience or vitriol. Nobody was rude. Nobody shoved. Instead I found myself exchanging smiles and nods with complete strangers — not an everyday occurrence in this city. We chanted about love and community and democracy, about the value of black lives and immigrant lives and trans lives and climate change and a woman’s right to choose. Someone put a boombox in their window and we boogied our way down the block, marchers calling out requests (mostly for Beyoncé) to our benevolent DJ. There were old folks and young folks, parents with kids and gaggles of friends, people of every skin color and hair color and eye color, every race and gender, every stripe and style. Though our feet ached and our hands grew numb from cold, we marched with determination and resilience. As one of my favorite writers, Cheryl Strayed, put it, at the sister march in Washington, “Yesterday was so sad and it’s still going to be sad tomorrow, but right now, here, we are walking together.” A rainbow of signs floated above our heads, each glance catching yet another instance of creativity or wit or poetic eloquence. And for the first time since the election, I felt hope.

img_9104

That hope has, I’ll admit, proven slippery. It is a fragile thing, difficult to keep hold of. But I am doing my best not to let it go. It is essential not to let go of one’s outrage. Normalization is a dangerous, even fatal thing. But it is equally important not to relinquish one’s hope. The march, and all the protests and postcard writing campaigns and phone banks and donations since, remind me that there are more of us. Where the election broke my heart and made me feel like my country had betrayed me, that it was not the land I thought I recognized, the resistance that has exploded in the face of injustice and hate has started to heal those cracks. There is still work to be done. And it will be long and hard and more often than not it will be discouraging. It will feel like the tide is against us, like we are slogging through quicksand doomed never to reach land before we drown. But we must remember in those moments that we are not alone.

img_9105

It doesn’t always have to be a march or a rally or a protest of thousands. Sometimes all it takes is coffee with a friend or a night spent drinking wine and making candles in your living room. But when you happen upon these moments that remind you of what is good in this world, of all the people around you who care, treasure them. Hold them, and yourself, gently. And then take that spark of love and tuck it in your back pocket. We have work to do.

img_9106

P.S. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and looking for guidance on how to balance self-care with rebellion, I found the article “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind: Self-Care Lessons for the Resistanceby Mirah Curzer very helpful. We must take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone or anything else.

Our Favorite Southern Movies

We are deep in the throes of award season, so that’s got us thinking about movies — specifically, our favorite Southern movies. The South is rich with stories and its diverse landscape makes the perfect backdrop for a whole plethora of narratives. Its history is filled with stories both uplifting and disheartening, inspiring and cautionary. Here are a few of Scout’s favorites, Zelda’s favorites, and movies we love watching together. 

1

Scout’s Picks

Coal Miner’s Daughter: This biopic tells the story of country music legend Loretta Lynn (Sissy Spacek), from her roots in small-town Eastern Kentucky to her rise to fame and all the trials and tribulations along the way.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: Based on the book by John Berendt (one of Zelda’s favorites), the narrative circles around the murder of one Billy Hanson (played here by a young Jude Law) in Savannah Georgia. John Cusack stands in for Berendt as the Northern reporter thrust into the seedy, witchy, eccentric and wonderful underbelly of Savannah while the trial takes place.

Crazy in Alabama: This film follows the parallel stories of Lucille Vinson (Melanie Griffith) and her nephew Peejoe Bullis (Lucas Black) in small-town Alabama in 1965. Lucille begins the movie stuck in an abusive marriage, from which she frees herself by killing her husband. While Lucille finds freedom and independence away from Alabama, Peejoe finds himself front and center as the Civil Rights Movement comes to the fore.

Fried Green Tomatoes: Based on the novel by Fannie Flagg, this is a story about two female relationships. The 1980s friendship between Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) and Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) forms as Ninny narrates the story of the Depression-era romance between her sister-in-law Imogen “Idgie” Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker).

2

Zelda’s Picks

Gone with the Wind: The quintessential Southern film. Problematic though certain aspects of it may be (it was released in 1939, to be fair), this sweeping epic of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era South, spun around the fiery romance of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), gets me every time. (Plus, on a personal note, it was one of my Atlanta-raised grandmother’s favorites.)

Driving Miss Daisy: Jessica Tandy plays Daisy Werthan, a wealthy Jewish widow living in 1950s Alabama. Morgan Freeman plays Hoke Colburn, her chauffeur. The story of their eventual friendship, and the rocky road that leads there, is a must-see.

Sweet Home Alabama: Reese Witherspoon returns to her Southern roots to play Melanie Carmichael (slash Smooter, depending on who you ask), an Alabama gal who returns to her hometown after years making a new life in New York City. Includes honky tonks, shotgun weddings, and Confederate battle re-enacters, not to mention the eponymous song.

The Help: Set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, this movie is about the lives of two black maids (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) and the writer (Emma Stone) who helps to tell their story. Much like “Waitress” (see below), pie plays a key role here, but in a very, very different way.

The Notebook: Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it’s ridiculous. But damn if it doesn’t make South Carolina look like the most beautiful and romantic place you’ve ever seen.

3

Zelda & Scout’s Picks

Forrest Gump: This movie is like a box of chocolates. Some parts are sweet, some more bitter, some crunchy and some as whimsical as whipped nougat. It is at once the story of American history and the tale of one lonely Alabama boy (Tom Hanks) who loved a lonely Alabama girl (Robin Wright) and grew up to leave his mark across the decades.

Big Fish: A Southern folk tale of mythical proportions, this Tim Burton take on the Daniel Wallace novel (featured in Required Reading: Volume Three) follows the life of one Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor/Albert Finney) and his many misadventures up and down Alabama and beyond.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Scout devoted an entire post to her love of this Coen Brothers interpretation of “The Odyssey.” From the soundtrack to the swamp moss, it is an ode to southern storytelling and the larger-than-life characters (George Clooney, John Turturro, John Goodman, and more) that lend the region so much of its personality and charm.

Waitress: Although no specific setting is ever given, this tale about Jenna (Keri Russell), a waitress at a pie diner, is clearly a Southern one. It’s sad and it’s sweet and it will hit you right in the heartstrings. Do not watch on an empty stomach. You have been warned. (Bonus: The Broadway musical based on the movie is also wonderful!)

Remember the Titans: There are few things as Southern as football (see Scout’s “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Watch These (Movies)”). Normally we consider Virginia’s Southerness on the iffy side, but this tale of a town torn apart by race but brought together by the love of a team definitely puts it on the Dixie side of the Mason-Dixon line.

Steel Magnolias: A Southern woman is a fearsome thing, beautiful and powerful and brave. A band of six Louisiana ladies who navigate joy, fear, grief, pain, and whole lot of big hair, all with wry humor and immense love? Now that is a force to be reckoned with.

Home Away From Home: Hinterlands

Both Zelda and I have come to the point in our New York lives where we consider Brooklyn home. This isn’t just a temporary sojourn anymore; we live here. And while I know Kentucky will always be home-home, there’s definitely been a shift in how we think about things. This Home Away from Home series is more about places in the city that are there for me, that are a meeting place for the family of friends that I’ve managed to acquire here…basically just a series of my favorite bars. These are the bars that have become a safe haven and a warm welcome in the cold winter. And why shouldn’t my not-home homes be bars? There’s something really great about being a regular at a bar and how a particular barstool or table can become just as comfortable as your sofa at home.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-12-01-26-pm

I’m no stranger to being a regular, but I’ve left my once-a-week sojourns to The Sampler and The Way Station behind this past year. There are a lot of reasons; money is one of them, but time is the main reason. Having a full-time job, despite the extra income, has actually decreased my happy hour attendance. My work commute no longer takes me past my regular bar, and that in itself is a reason for my decreased attendance. And having to be at work on Mondays has severely decreased the regularity of karaoke for my whole group of friends. I’ll always love those places, though, and they’ll always be a second home, whether I’m there once a week or once a quarter.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t find new places, new corners to take me in as I establish my home here in Brooklyn. To tell the tale of how the south Brooklyn bar Hinterlands became one of my homes away from home, I have to go back to last summer.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-12-03-14-pm

Last June, friends-of-the-blog Sarah and Jason encouraged me to listen to the My Brother, My Brother and Me podcast. In listening to all 300+ episodes, I found a deep love for the McElroy family and their comedic stylings; so, like the obsessive consumer I am, I branched out into other podcasts on their network, Maximum Fun. There’s a lot there, and my then-new job gave me a lot of time sit and stare at computers while people made jokes in my headphones.

These podcasts led me to a fan group on Facebook: all people who shared my sense of humor and values and were geographically located in my area! How convenient. As we’ve lamented, it’s hard making friends as an adult. I never thought meet-up groups would be a thing for me, but here we are. We karaoke once a month, we do bar crawls, we host board game nights, and we do it all at Hinterlands.

15800062_10208314038714208_8190099200928755481_o

Last Summer, The Flop House podcast co-host, Stuart Wellington, and his wife Sharlene opened Hinterlands. His podcast being on the MaxFun network, it sort of became a haven for a lot of us — myself, Sarah, and Jason in particular since it’s so close to their apartment, which means I have an automatic place to crash. But the thing that makes it a home-away-from-home is that it’s a place that I feel safe being me. I’ve had more open and honest conversations sitting in that bar than anywhere else in the past year. In a corner, I’ve conversed about politics and social issues in the south. At those barstools, I watched the Pokémon Go craze begin. On the back patio, I’ve cried about the election results. I’ve celebrated marriages and jobs and birthdays. I’ve sat in the back room with twenty other people and yelled about Nick’s terrible decisions on the most recent iteration of The Bachelor.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-12-01-05-pm

The older I get, the more I realize I don’t have to be a certain way or do certain things to impress people or to fit in. I’ve tried to stop worrying what others think so much (tried being key — I’m an INFP, so I can’t give it up totally). Doing that successfully has a lot to do with the environment. At Hinterlands, I don’t have to impress anyone. Fitting in is showing up and being willing to appreciate the snozzberries taste like snozzberries wallpaper and the subtle role-playing game-themed decor. That’s all it takes. And you’re home.

Zelda’s Seven New York Adventures for 2017

‘Tis the season for resolutions, to-do lists and their ilk. This year I’m focusing not on the things I want to minimize or cut from my life, but on the new places and things I want to experience in this, my fourth year calling New York home. This is by no means a complete list — and I welcome thoughts on spots I may have egregiously overlooked! — but a jumping off point. This city has so much to offer, and as long as I find myself here, I want to take advantage of some of the things that make it, as they say, “the greatest city in the world.”

new-museum

New Museum (235 Bowery, newmuseum.org): Admittedly I may be cheating here, giving myself an easy first check since I’m planning on going here this week. But even so, this is a New York museum I have not yet visited. And their “Pixel Forest” exhibit, a survey of the work of Swiss multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist, has been blowing up my feeds for months. It’s high time I experienced it for myself.

breuer

Met Breuer (945 Madison Ave, metmuseum.org/visit/met-breuer): I’ve been intending to go to this museum, an annex of the Metropolitan Museum fo art housed in the building formerly known as the Whitney Museum, since it opened last month. I even attempted to go once, but traffic and time were not on my side, and all subsequent efforts have failed to get past the “Oh yeah, I should check that out” stage. 2017 is the year I actually make it happen, hopefully before their Kerry James Marshall retrospective closes.

tenement

Tenement Museum (103 Orchard St, tenement.org): Scout has written on this blog  about her love for this museum, which taps deep into our cores and reaches the little historical fiction nerds of our hearts. Their tours put you in the shoes of some of New York’s bygone residents, walking you — literally and metaphorically — through the lives they lived and the spaces they called home.

coney

Coney Island (Brooklyn, coneyisland.com): Last year, the Rockaways were among my favorite New  York discoveries. This year, I want to make the trek down to their livelier counterpart. True, all the schmaltz of the boardwalk may be a bit overpriced and cliche. But I’ve always been the type to embrace the bells and whistles, lean into the corny, get lost in the twinkling lights of the Ferris wheel. And until I’ve eaten a hot dog from Nathan’s, I don’t think I get to call myself a true Brooklynite.

cloisters

The Cloisters (93 Margaret Corbin Drive, metmuseum.org/visit/met-cloisters): Apparently this is the year I finally visit all of the Met’s outposts. This has been on my to-do list for a while, a combination museum-garden that blends the Medieval with the modern. The four-acres of Fort Tryon Park surrounding the Cloisters are a huge part of the attraction, so this will be an all-day activity for a sunnier season.

trinity

Trinity Church (770 Riverside Drive, trinitywallstreet.org): Acknowledging our efforts not to turn this site into a full-fledged Hamilton fan blog, I do have to slip this one onto my list. Trinity Church is famous for many reasons, but the one that has me intrigued is its cemetery, eternal resting place of founding father Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza, and his sister-in-law Angelica. I finally made it to the room where it happens this past November. I feel it is only right to pay homage to the real folks who inspired all the musical, meme-able genius that has followed.

mets

Mets game (Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Ave, newyork.mets.mlb.com): I do not harbor the antipathy towards America’s greatest pastime that Scout does. As the daughter of a rabid Red Sox fan, I was raised to love the beautiful game, especially when Boston is at the plate. But I do agree with her that baseball is a sport best enjoyed live, with all the peanuts and cracker jacks that entails. New York is home to a great baseball team, and a team that shall not be named, and I’d be more than happy to root-root-root for them…just as long as they aren’t playing the Red Sox.

images via: the new york pass, getaway mavens, fodor’s travel, spoiled nyc, vault travel, untapped cities, eater new york

Winter 2017: Make a Brand New Start of It

A new year has dawned and, for maybe the first time, we both returned from our beloved Bluegrass State after a holiday break with that cozy, fuzzy feeling of going back home. Somehow, without either of us realizing it, this madhouse of a city wormed its way into our Southern hearts. And while our roots will always be in Louisville, and we won’t be calling ourselves New Yorkers any time soon, we do both feel that we have claimed this here city — or at least certain corners of it — as ours.

So we’re starting off this year with songs that highlight our adopted home. New York has provided endless inspiration for artists, writers, and directors alike. But musicians especially continue to pay tribute to New York: From Old Blue Eyes to The Black Keys, people love to sing about this city.

Our criteria were simple: Each track on this playlist had to contain New York or one of its boroughs in the title. Put on a pot of tea, bite into your bagel and schmear, and relax to the rumble of the subway and the whoop of passing sirens. And as always, you can listen here, on Spotify, or on YouTube.

indian-summer