July is in full swing here in New York. The sticky heat of the city has set in, and while humidity is the default in the river valley we call home, it’s not quite the same when it’s accompanied by the smell of hot garbage instead of honeysuckle blooms. So we’re longing for a different kind of summer day, below the Mason-Dixon Line and accompanied by the sounds of rain on tin roofs, the gentle hum of rural roadways, and the snapping of green beans on a covered porch. And maybe, if we’re lucky, a thunderstorm will roll on through.
Art: “Rural Highway, Southern Georgia after Rainstorm,” Raymond Smith (1974, gelatin silver print)
Quotation: “A Southern moon is a sodden moon, and sultry. When it swamps the fields and the rustling sandy roads and the sticky honeysuckle hedges in its sweet stagnation, your fight to hold on to reality is like a protestation against a first waft of ether.” — Zelda Fitzgerald
What to say. After the events of this past weekend, we could really use a little pick-me-up, some sunshine in our lives to drive away all the hurt and anger and hate. Love is love is love is love is love, y’all, and so we keep striving, and loving, and working for a brighter tomorrow. These bits of sunshine have made us smile and laugh and sing along and dream a little bigger. We hope they bring some summer into your hearts too.
Video: Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2016 Best Score Tony acceptance sonnet
Quotation: “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
images via: MOMA
The recent Derby hooplah came with a healthy dose of nostalgia, a homesick longing for our old Kentucky home and all the good folks who understand just how big of a deal this little horse race is. But this time of year is also a reminder of how and why we love New York, our adopted home of a few years now. New York is at its best in these warm weather months: the parks open up, the vacationers and Hamptons weekenders clear out, and the whole city seems to spread out at our feet like a balmy playground. Maybe it’s the extended daylight or the nice weather that makes the walk to the subway seem so much shorter, but there just seems to be more time in the summer — time to do all those things we said we would when we moved here, the things that made us fall in love with New York in the first place and that keep us coming back for more.
Song: “Everywhere I Go (Kings & Queens),” New Politics
Video: “My City Style // Spring & Summer 2015,” Ingrid Nilsen
Quotation: “I love New York on summer afternoons when every one’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it–overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
April is upon us, which means our favorite holiday is just around the corner. That’s right, Derby time is upon us! So our inspiration this month comes from our old Kentucky home — where the sun shines bright and the meadow’s in the bloom, and where we always wish we were this time of year. We’re always a bit homesick for our beloved bluegrass country, but the feeling is at its most acute come the first Saturday in May. Derby for us is not just a horse race: It’s a cultural phenomenon, a day when our entire hometown takes the day off and gathers in the sunshine (or torrential downpour, depending on the whims of that year’s weather gods) to drink bourbon and throw dollars down on the galloping ponies. It’s a holiday about home and heritage, innately Southern and so particular to the unique flavors of the Ville. So at this time of year, however far we find ourselves from the Twin Spires, we’ll sing one song for our old Kentucky home, and raise our glasses in a toast: “Next year at Churchill.”
Art: “Kentucky Sunlight (Lincoln’s Birthday),” Spencer Finch (2016)
Poem: “There and Back Again,” n.m.h.
Video: “Stephen Fry in Kentucky” (excerpt from Stephen Fry in America)
Quotation: “How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.” — William Faulkner
March roared in last Tuesday in a whirl of meteorological confusion, giving us sunshine and snow and the drizzle of rain all in the span of one week. The atmosphere can’t seem to settle down, pick a lane (or a season), and this topsy-turvy clime has got us feeling antsy, too. We’re itching to climb in a car, board a train, strap on a backpack, hop on a plane, and see what this world has to offer beyond the limited skyscrapered horizons of the city. There’s a big ole globe out there, full of billions of people with rich stories to tell, and a life spent in one place, even one as teeming as New York, is a small one. Now our ability to actually embark on any grand adventures in the immediate future is limited at the moment, work schedules and limited funds standing cursedly in our way. So if you, like us, find yourself consumed with wanderlust and daydreams, these bits of inspiration are for you. There’s a train somewhere that we’re vicariously riding, through rolling Appalachian hills or wide Western prairies. And our next adventure is just waiting to begin.
Art: “Gare Saint-Lazare,” Claude Monet (1877)
Song: “Blind Man in Amsterdam,” George Ezra
Video: “Older Than Gravity In Bruges: Thoughts from Places,” vlogbrothers
Quotation: “I am not born for one corner; the whole world is my native land.” — Seneca
Happy Tuesday, and a very happy Mardi Gras to you all! Zelda’s Southern heritage comes steeped in Tabasco and chicory coffee, bred in the mud of the bayou, so she is particularly fond of this festive day. For the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, her kitchen table back home is watched over by two straw crawfish, affectionately named Alphonse and Gaston, who hang from the light fixture like Cajun mistletoe. Some years her parents would have parties and the house would echo with saxophone strains from her grandpapa’s old speakers and the eager shouts of witches and mermaids and lions and clowns all jockeying for the most promising slice of King Cake. When the lucky winner bit into his or her slice to find the plastic baby, a coronation would immediately take place, complete with a sparkly crown and many reminders that the winner was now obligated to host next year’s shindig.
Mardi Gras 1993, Chez Zelda
It’s a holiday about food and family and finding joy in everyday moments. Life in the bayou is hard, subject to the whims of nature and circumstance, but Mardi Gras reminds us to let loose every once in a while. So let’s raise a glass to family trees and French Quarter streets. Get yourself a steaming bowl of jambalaya and a melt-in-your-mouth praline, enjoy these thematic bits of inspiration, and laissez les bon temps rouler, y’all.
Art: “Thalassa,” Swoon (New Orleans Museum of Art, 2011)
Book: Zelda’s dad swears by De Bonnes Choses à Manger by Mrs. J. Berwick Duval of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana
Song: We couldn’t pick one song this month, so instead we have a mini playlist filled with jazz, zydeco, and good times!
Video: “Formation,” Beyoncé
“I’m not going to lay down in words the lure of this place. Every great writer in the land, from Faulkner to Twain to Rice to Ford, has tried to do it and fallen short. It is impossible to capture the essence, tolerance, and spirit of south Louisiana in words and to try is to roll down a road of clichés, bouncing over beignets and beads and brass bands and it just is what it is.
It is home.”
— Chris Rose, 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina
images via: SWOON, zelda’s mama
For this month’s inspiration, we’re looking to music. As we search for our voice and attempt to march to the beat of our own drum, these are the songs (and books and videos and etc.) in our ears and in our hearts that help us march unto the breach of a new year with confidence and conviction, with no intention of being anything but our truest selves. We’re going to keep on singing our own song until everyone hears it.
Art: “The Concert,” Marc Chagall (1957)
Video: Aretha Franklin performs “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors
Quotation: “You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are.” — Sierra Boggess