Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DA+AH: A Guide to the Savannah Art Scene

Katherine Sandoz, (waterway) palm & creek, 7 1/4” square, water-based media on panel, 2010

Through all my traveling I’ve found that many cities and towns have their own exciting art worlds functioning outside of the mainstream scene in New York City. Not only that but many artists, educators, dealers, and enthusiasts are doing a great deal in their communities to promote the arts.

I want to highlight these great places so that you might consider visiting them in your travels as well. Each post will be an interview with at least one person who is influential and/or passionate about their city’s art scene.

To start, let’s get to know the vibrant art scene in Savannah, Georgia. I had the pleasure of visiting for the New Year’s Eve celebrations back in December/January. And saw some of the great work people are doing down there first hand. I fell in love with one artist’s work and got to know her over the ever so useful internet since then. I’m pleased to introduce you to Katherine Sandoz.

Katherine paints, illustrates and creates in a barn behind her house in Savannah, Georgia where she has lived since 1995.  Her paintings, while typically abstract, honor the color and vibrant nature of the land, traditions and people of the low-country. You can browse and purchase her work here and check out her daily musings on her blog here.

Thank you so much, Katherine!

Jamie Hurst:   Tell me about yourself and your role in the art scene of Savannah.

Katherine Sandoz: Arriving to Savannah in 1995, I’ve received two MFAs from The Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), taught illustration there for 9.5 years, and art directed two independent galleries in the city that featured many of the up-and-coming artists at the time.  Since 2005, I’ve maintained a studio in a barn located behind my house and paint, illustrate and make daily.  My community service is always art-related with an emphasis on education and I consult for and independently curate events throughout the year. I contribute to Salted & Styled, founded by photographer Chia Chong and food producer and stylist Libbie Summers, as well as to Dr. Harrison Key’s blog Big Chief Tablet for The Oxford American. My blog features my work, the work of Savannah artists and designers and, loosely, life in the south.

I am very fortunate to count a number of Savannah’s brightest artists and designers as my closest friends and collaborators.

source:www.ossabawisland.net, Jack Leigh, “Leaning Oak in Fog”, 2002.

JH: Describe the art scene of Savannah. What is the history? The vibe? Is it known for anything like abstract expressionist or performance art movement, etc? Is it underground or mainstream? Large scale or intimate?

KS: Historically, the architecture, squares with their sculptures and monuments, and, of course, the live oaks with their Spanish Moss have been the art of Savannah – that and in the fine living rooms one could share, by invitation, the world-class art that had been collected on the citizens’ great adventures across seas.  In this way, the experience of art in the city was by and large an intimate one. 

In the 1970s, led by Francis Dalton “Skeeter” McNairy, Terry Lowenthal and Ron Strahan, there began a movement that attempted to bring contemporary art to the city and to the forefront of its imagination.  However, regional and Savannah-based art collecting did not take hold until SCAD opened its doors in 1979.  In the last three decades, the community at large has seized the idea and the work that is being produced in the city.  The college not only consistently hosts internationally and locally/regionally acclaimed artists and trades people to the university gallery walls, lecture halls and classrooms, it brings in thousands of students and invests in them and their work.  At the same time, independent curators, pop up galleries and multi-purpose spots have multiplied and flourished.  Today, you can find art and artists everywhere.  Don’t be surprised for a second that the young gentlemen pouring your wine just had his work published on the cover of  New American Paintings or if the cute mommy with the baby carriage in Forsyth didn’t just sign a contract with Chronicle for a new book on art and design. 


Local author and artist Jane Fishman says, “The beauty of Savannah is the size. It’s big enough not to run into the same people all the time, small enough to be able to leave your house 10 minutes before you have to get somewhere, big enough for a variety of groups to dip in and out of, small enough for those particular groups – artists, writers, gay folks, parents, twentysomethings, 60-plusers, neighbors  -- to overlap and not become stratified as in big cities where no one has time to be with anyone other than “their own kind.”

photo source:shopSCAD, instagram, july 2012

photo source:shopSCAD, instagram, July 2012.

JH: Are there regularly scheduled art shows like biennials, open air fairs, or First Fridays (something a visitor especially should not miss)?

KS: Gallery Hop:  first Fridays of the month, check hipcalendar.com
Savannah Music Festival:  Spring in Savannah, ear and eye candy
SCAD Film Fest:  all the stars, starlets, major producers and directors descend on the city.  Not to be missed:  the master workshops, the people watching, the student entries.  Oh, and the movies!
SCAD Style:  industry bigwigs talk about how it’s done in a four-day lecture and exhibition series
Telfair Art Fair:  a weekend of local and regional fine art, artisan and craftworks.  the home town booths always shine!  Outdoors.  Not to miss:  the children’s workshops and exhibit in the square.

JH: What are the must-see museums, galleries, and hot-spots?

KS: Atwell’s Art & Frame:  frameshop exhibiting emerging and best loved Savannah artists
The Butcher:  fresh meat!
Gallery Espresso:  coffee, tea, snacks and art in the heart of downtown
Kim Iocovozzi Fine Art: specializing 20th century American works and often a contemporary emerging local artist
Jepson Center/Telfair Museums:  in addition to local, regional and international artist exhibitions, the complex hosts one of the larger collections of Kahlil Gibran works.
Kobo Gallery:  hosts many of Savannah’s emerging artists and artisans
Local 11 Ten:  local food and local art
Meadow Lark Studio:  off the beaten path, but worth the trip!
No. Four Eleven:  lifestyle, art, furniture, tabletop
The Paris Market:  local art, finely curated lifestyle goodies, gorgeous staff, art and furniture, excellent coffee bar
SCAD Museum of Art:  world-class architecture, interactive spaces, galleries and classrooms with blue-chip exhibitions curated by the college and industry royalty
SCAD exhibitions (see calendar)
shopSCAD,   featuring works by SCAD students, faculty, staff and alumni – all disciplines! AH-mazing and has a brand-new look as of July 2012!
Whitney Gallery:  in the “design district

photo source:s hopSCAD, instagram, July 2012. Works by Suzanne Rader

Who are the locally celebrated artists, past and present?  

KS: At one point, Savannah had erected more public sculpture and monuments than Washington DC.  You can see in every square examples of that long preserved and honored tradition.  Be sure to step inside the churches, cemeteries and museums!  Look on the porches of the downtown homes; many hang paintings and 3D works.
Past:  Larry Connatser, Myrtle Jones. David Delong, William Posey Silva, Hattie Saussey, Lila Cabaniss, Paul Stone, Emma C. Wilkins, Augusta Oelschig, Johnny Mercer, Jack Leigh, Charles A.D. Murphy, Ben C. Morris

Present:  There are far too many celebrated working artists to list individually, and the spectrum of styles and presentation is far-reaching, but if you visit the locations given asterisks above you will surely see a great deal of the established and rising talent.  Long time resident and graphic artist, Peter E. Roberts notes, “The art produced in Savannah is a true mosaic of genres which offers endless possibilities for experiencing, interpreting, and collecting.”  To be sure, whether fashion works, jewelry, leather goods, animation, styling, illustration, painting, writing, music, assemblage, sculpture, fibers or photography, and everything in between, the city is rich in history, tradition and example.  Ever the “hostess city”, Savannah always invites the artists to the party whether to design, decorate, consult, exhibit, act as personalities or any and all of the above.  You have only to lean over to the next table and someone will tell you all about it and then introduce you to someone else who will most likely invite you to their living room to view, critique, and appreciate their collection!

SeeSAW mural at 34th & Habersham, photo:Josh Branstetter
JH: Is there anyone doing work in the local community that should be highlighted? For example, is anyone touching the community through art education or is a curator or gallery owner creating innovative or notable shows?

KS: SeeSAW:  founded by Savannah artists Matt Hebermehl and James “Dr. Z” Zdaniewski, the organization coordinates with the city and Savannah artists to plan and execute public works throughout the city and its many neighborhoods, most recently Candy Chang’s internationally acclaimed and exhibited “Before I Die” wall in two Savannah locations.
SCAD:  check their site prior to your trip; their partnership with the city, its businesses and its artists ensures something community oriented, collaborative and open to the public occurs almost every day.

For the art-invested Savannah visitor:
Christine Hall Photography:  book a “last light” session with this Savannah artist and family photographer, 10% discount for HHT readers.
Scribble Arts Studio:  drop the kids at Scribble for some serious art for kids led by Savannah artist Carrie Christian.
Portrait artist Troy Wandzel:  choose between 1 and 4 hour seating in his studio which itself is an art happening!  You will never forget this unique experience and the painting, obviously, is yours forever.  Book ahead:  troywandzel@yahoo.com

Monday, July 30, 2012

Weekend Recap: The Intruder

This is a little snapshot of our apt!

As I walked in the door Wednesday morning after a red-eye flight home from San Francisco, something didn't feel right. Something in the house was off. In the kitchen the towel which usually hangs on the stove was slumped on the floor and some crackers and chocolate looked as if they fell off the shelf but were unopened. I thought it was strange as Gman would never leave things out of order like that. My heart skipped a beat. It couldn't be. There's just no way. I can't deal with this.

Everyone living in New York City gets mice. Its a fact of life. It doesn't matter how much money you have or which floor you live on. It's the experience that brings all New Yorkers together. People have different theories on how to deal with it too.

In case you aren't from NYC here's a quick overview: Most exterminators will survey the space, plug any holes with steel wool, and then set out sticky traps. This is the surest way to contain the problem as no new mice can enter, they cannot chew the steel wool, and any remaining in the space will likely walk across the sticky trap (which is basically a VERY sticky sheet of paper you place on the floor). However,  a lot of people find the sticky traps inhumane (you can hear them crying when they slowly die and try to chew their own legs off), so opt for a rainbow of other devices (some just capture them Cinderella style).

I had mice in NYC. There were three over three and a half years, so pretty good compared to others. It's hard to describe the feeling you get when you feel their presence. I feel it in my spine. I can hear them, rustling plastic, scampering around. Then I see it. Reaching for the garbage or hiding under the table. And terror pumps through my veins.

No mice in Washington D.C. though or other pests for that matter. I lived the good life and after more than a year being mouse-free, my paranoia started to subside.

So on Wednesday, I didn't see anything. I just knew. But I was tired and decided to take a nap on the couch before unpacking, eating, investigating. I woke up with a gasping breath to the sound of pattering feet scrambling across the carpet towards the kitchen. Was that a dream? Is there a mouse in the house? I tried to relax but after a few hours of hearing it walking across the ceiling tiles I was certain. Son-of-a-bitch. Gman was still out of town. Days of cleaning, searching, calling the exterminator, and setting mouse traps go by until Saturday. Saturday, the fateful moment when I came face to face with the terror.

I was again home alone and made the mistake of opening the door to the under the sink area, its new home. It wasn't a mouse. It was a huge street rat staring at me. After a moment of shock I hysterically jumped, screamed, and clapped in an attempt to scare it off. It stared at me and casually crawled back into the wall. Then I basically had a nervous breakdown.

Very kind men assisted me at the hardware store, which always has the best selection of poisons and traps. As I was choosing steel wool to plug the hole, another patron said, "Oh is that for rats? Rats eat steel wool for breakfast." My nerves were shot and I started crying in the store. This kind man took me around the store and advised me how to deal with the rats. By the time I got home, so did Gman. He found me squatting on a stool, drinking bourbon, and still crying - angry that the bastard got the best of me.

We set out almost every trap known to man (not the sticky ones, I just can't get on that train), and some poison too just in case and haven't heard him since. But two days later and the traps are still empty. What happened to him? Did he move out? Eat the poison? Is he waiting patiently for us to keep garbage in the house again? I will not rest until I know for certain the rat is dead and the holes are fixed.

So unfortunately there is no conclusion to this story... yet.

How was your weekend?


Friday, July 27, 2012

Shoe Love: The Look for Less

During my time trolling Pinterest (find me here) I came across these awesome red embossed croc d'orsay flats. I fell in love and then followed the link to the Shopbop sale page where they are offering the shoes for $495. Huge bummer.

But then! Then I ran into Urban Outfitters to grab some film for my instant camera when I stumbled upon these similar ones for $39 (now on sale for $29). They are not exact replicas but the idea is there and I really like my affordable alternatives (that never happens). Man, sometimes it feels like the universe is lookin' out for me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Poetry Tasting: Peach Stop

As I'm cruising around Napa Valley wine tasting today, please enjoy the second installment of our poetry series written by Kate Lindblom! This is a tale of her east coast road trip (where she and our friend Brandy stopped in DC to see me!).

Road Trip 2012: Tampa to Boston.
America's east coast beckons!
But first,
a peach stop.

We've barely stepped over
the threshold
of the first state line
when we take an exit
that promises
Georgia peaches
pecan logs
clean bathrooms.

Next to the feed store,
the goods sit on tables
under a green tent
with local people
manning the peach-colored bottles
of cider
and peach-colored jars
of jam
while a peach-colored kitten scampers away
on our approach.

Open plastic jars labeled “College”
sit here and there
between the Southern offerings,
all with a thin layer of coins
and a crumpled dollar or two
at the bottom.
Ziploc bags filled with water
hang under the eaves of the tent
each with a penny dropped inside
to keep the flies away
and the customers curious.

Business is good.
My friend goes inside the feed store,
which manner dictates
since we parked in front of it,
while I test the heft
of the nearest bottle of cider.

As I pay,
I notice a young raccoon in a cat trap
at the edges of the whole affair.
Another tourist points
to the black-eyed animal
who's surrounded
by scattered peanut shells.
“Oh, it's wild”
is the nearest boy's response
as he smoothes out the bills
in his hand.
I walk to the car,
and look back
at the captive animal
with its blank face
and resting paws
as it lolls in its cage.

My friend gets into the car as I do.
We both try to share our own experience
of the local color in the minute we were apart.

I talk about the raccoon.
She tells of the feed store smell
and a man who greeted her kindly
and asked,
“Where's Booger?”
A voice from the back answered,
“He's right there.”
She looked down to see a gloomy dog,
a boxer,
lying on the floor listless
as if in preparation for the heat.

We drive back onto the highway
and faster we accelerate,
the more satisfied we are
in our Georgia encounter
and with our first peach stop.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Shoe Love: Something New

As you read this I'm off exploring the streets of San Francisco! I bought these kicks to take me on the journey. While I was packing I realized that my wardrobe of black, grey, and tan was asking for a jolt of color just like I needed a jolt of fun! How could you not have fun in these?

I hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Exploring Wine: Blue Crab Blanc

Blue Crab Blanc, white table wine, Virginia, $12.99
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a few glasses.

When I was hosting friends a few weeks ago, we had a very long day of touring the National Archives, lunch of fresh tarts, sandwiches and treats at Paul, then hours of antique shopping in Old Town Alexandria. It was 100 degrees out and at the end of the day we were happy but exhausted. On our way back to the metro this gourmet shop, Butcher's Block, caught our attention. We stepped in to check it out and were delighted with the selection of rare jams, fresh meats, cheese, and more treats. The best part about this place is that you can choose a bottle of wine and they will open it right there so you can enjoy immediately. I felt like it was our own secret little happy hour spot.

This wine we chose was just a simple white table wine from Virginia. It had a soft, fresh, bouquet and tasted like stone fruits-pears, apples, and peaches- and had a slightly spicy finish. It was perfect for such a hot day!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tips to Travel By: Adventures of The Thirsty Cowboy

While I was in Sedona (story coming next week!) I was in a funny mood. I made the mistake of connecting to the outside world during my vacation (damn you iphone!). And then I decided the best way of handling my frustration was to have nachos and beers at 11am. Why not?

Then I was just plain silly walking around all the touristy shops simultaneous making fun of everything they stood for and making purchases. Gman was in need of a souvenir and I found the perfect thing: The Thirsty Cowboy. This holster set was in the 9 years old and younger section of a Western costume store. Wrapped in an orange box with brown faux wood graining and inside, a tiny toy pistol and flask with "Arizona" written on the fancy leather pouch. These goodies were strapped to a belt for your little tyke to use while pretending he was a belligerent drunk with a gun, I mean a cowboy. To top it off, the box doubles as a framed piece of art! Huge bonus! "Two in one box!" Advertised the back of the frame. What is the art you might ask? A stereotypical 3/4 view portrait of an Indian chief which you could hang on the wall. I had to buy it immediately. Present shopping complete!

After that I threw it in my suitcase. I completely forgot about it, even while packing, as it was in the outside pocket of my rolly bag. So you can imagine my surprise when I'm delayed in the airport security line on my way back home. I went through the scanner and seemed to be waiting for an unusual amount of time for my bag to go through the X-ray belt. Then I noticed that other passengers were being redirected to other security lines. What's the deal? They were inspecting my bag on the monitor. I saw supervisors rushing over. About six TSA agents crowded the monitor, pointing, talking, looking concerned. I still had no idea what the hold up was. The supervisor finally comes over to me and says, "M'am, is there any reason you would have a gun in your bag?" What? I racked my brain. Crap. The Thirsty Cowboy! I told him it was a gift for my, uh, nephew and he told me he had to call the police.

What seemed like an eternity (not even 10 minutes), the police came and finally got a look at the problem. They were very respectful of me and my bag (unusual) and I'm pretty sure I saw someone crack a smile when they took the little treasure out of my suitcase. They re-ran it through the X-ray machine and when it was confirmed that it nor I was a threat, they let me go on my way (and even keep it!).

I was surprised that a) the agents were actually doing a good job and b) that the whole situation was handled so discretely and respectfully. As embarrassed as I was that I, such a seasoned traveler, made such a stupid mistake, I'm glad to know that TSA really is useful and some people take their jobs seriously.

So what's the tip? If you travel with toy guns, check your bags.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Discovering Art and Art History: Starting Your Collection

If you ask any millionaire art collector how they started their collection, they will likely tell you a story about how passionate they were about art as a young man or woman and how they started buying whatever they could afford at the time. More often than not they will also say that they started collecting prints, photography, or rare books and manuscripts. Consider these collecting categories your gate-way drugs into the art market. 

So let’s start collecting shall we? Here are my favorite (and very affordable!) prints from a few talented artists on Etsy. (Clockwise from top left.)

Sleepless Nights
Yangyang Pan (Siiso)
10 x 10 inches, 25.4 x 25.4 cm
giclee print

VELOciraptor Dinosaur
Karl Addison (idrawalot)
36cm x 48cm
screen print

Circus in Paris
Sarah Giannobile
10 x 13 inches

Westside Townhouses
Gwen Meyerson
8 x 10 inches
reproduction print

Germany Type Map
Bold & Noble
50 x 70 cm
screen print

A Place Called Home
Kyle Brant (theKBcompany)
9 x 12 inches
woodblock print

Married to the Sea
Clare Elsaesser (Tastes Orangey)
7 x 9 inches, 18 x 23 cm
ink, paper, thread

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekend Recap: The Guest House

Over the last two weeks I have entertained out-of-town guests. First, two of my best friends from college, one had never been to DC, and then my parents and aunt were in town for a week. I now consider myself a professional tour guide although I've also sworn off going to see the Lincoln Memorial for the rest of the summer.

I love hosting friends and family and sharing my world with them. However, I find it very difficult to balance any personal time while visitors are in town. Usually our guests stay with us in our tiny basement apartment, so we are together night and day. Those moments drinking wine on the couch while playing games are always the best but I'm the type that needs some quiet time in order to refresh myself. After the visit, I'm always left drained and my routine out of whack.

So I'd love to know- How do you handle the balance between hosting visitors and downtime? Do you consider their visit your vacation too?  Or is it appropriate to not take the day off work and hand them a map?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Shoe Love: Cowboy Boots

The only shoe love that would be appropriate after a week of talking about the wild west, is my affection for my cowboy boots. I bought these about eight years ago, back in college. I had this childhood memory of cowboy boots. My mom had this creamy colored pair in the back of her closet. I loved to sneak in there as a little girl and try them on. I memorized every detail, like the little metal heart that protected the tip of the toes. Then as I grew up, my feet grew many times her size so I needed a pair of my own. 

At the time of my purchase many women's boots were colorful, trendy, and some outright obnoxious. But I wanted a pair that I could wear the rest of my life. Brands like Tony Lama are carefully hand-crafted with the finest leather which is an investment, some costing around $400 a pop. After no luck in the women's area, I headed to the men's section and saw this pair of classic congac colored beauties. It was love at first sight and I've been wearing them ever since.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Exploring Wine: Pink Cat Rose

Pink Cat, Rose, 2011, less than $10
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a sip.

I choose this bottle because two of my cat loving friends were coming to town to visit and I thought they would get a kick out of it. This is a not a reasonable way to choose wine. I could not distinguish any flavors besides a flat fruit-punch like taste. Others commented that it "was not special but good." If you want to buy cute graphics of kitty cats and mice, I recommend buying a print instead of drinking this wine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wardrobe: The Cowgirl Staple

From my observations typical Scottsdale fashion is to wear whatever you feel comfortable sweating through as temperatures are steadily in the 90s for several months at a time. Many people choose athletic ensembles of loose yoga pants/shorts, tank tops, and some sort of hiking sandal (this exists). Some ladies try to go fancy with a sundress and I saw a few people try to wear long hair down – this is like wearing a fur coat on your back, by the way, not recommended.

That being said, I also noticed a wide array of cowboy type western wear. I saw a lot of cowboy boots and snappy button-ups with denim skirts and even full length jeans – in temperatures reaching 110 degrees, talk about dedication! So I decided it was time to investigate this cowboy fashion, especially the denim. With Alyse in tow, we set out to discover the fashion world of the Wild West.

Our research lead us to Saba’s Western Store, the preeminent western wear outfitter of Phoenix. We were greeted by JJ Stark and Marsi Beltran at the Shea Blvd location, who agreed to educate us on how a proper cowgirl jean should fit and what the latest trends are. In my mind I was expecting a high-waisted Levis with a huge belt buckle, but this is not what modern day cowgirls find stylish. There are three important aspects to the right pair of jeans: boot-cut, great fit on the ass, and as much bling as possible.

In my normal life I do not like anything that looks like it might have been bedazzled. I have one pair of shoes with glitter on them and often have to remind myself to add jewelry before leaving the house. I wear simple things, usually in black, grey, or tan. So in the fitting room, surrounded by very low-waisted, blingy denim I started thinking this must be a joke. I tried on the first pair, JJ was sure these would be perfect for me. They seemed too long and too shiny. But then I turned around. My ass looked fantastic. I’ve never seen it look that good in jeans before. I kept looking back in the mirror smiling. After trying on at least ten more pairs, I kept coming back to this one, Rock & Roll Cowgirl by Wrangler. It was like trying on multiple wedding dresses when you knew it was the first one all along. The same thing happened for Alyse in a pair of Miss Me. We had no choice but to leave with them, bedazzled ass and all.

Special thanks again to JJ and Marsi for making our shopping trip so fun!

This is how I styled them back in DC...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Destination: Scottsdale, AZ

I didn’t go to Scottsdale, Arizona as a tourist. It wasn’t on my list of fantasy destinations for the year. I didn’t even know I was going until the week before. After receiving a distressed phone call from my very close friends (Evan and Alyse) in need, I agreed to leave the next week and help them move to Scottsdale from New York City.

Usually when a friend needs help moving, they ask you to come over, load a few boxes and an awkward couch into a truck and they give you pizza and beer as a thank you. In my case, I was asked to move a kitty cat cross country then to stick around to help with life adjustment for New Yorkers in the American Southwest. My thank you? An all-expense paid week long vacation. How could I say no?

We arrived at night so my impression of my first time to the desert and a “western” town was suspended until morning. Evan had this favorite breakfast place he wanted to take us to and that would be our first order of business. It was 100 degrees out and only 10:00am. I didn’t know what I was in for. Packing wise, I threw some jorts, swimsuits, and t-shirts in a duffle bag with some sandals and sneakers. I wasn’t sure what would be fashionable and for a change I was too concerned about overheating to care.

The breakfast place was situated in a typical strip shopping center in the Old Town part of Scottsdale. People of various ages and sizes patiently waited for their tables. We sat outside, which wasn’t too bad in the shade. The menu consisted of typical American breakfast foods, sausage and omelets, pancakes, eggs benedict. Nothing seemed spectacularly interesting, until the waitress asked which type of hot sauce we would prefer. My heart leapt in my chest as she spoke. I love hot sauce. This place knew how to serve a meal. She ended up bringing all of them (a caddy of six) so we could sample each. I settled on what I always use on eggs and potatoes, plain-old Tabasco.

After lunch my friends attempted to show me around a bit but at 2pm the heat beat us and we moved on to run errands. Like I said, I didn’t come to Scottsdale as a tourist. I came to help my friends get settled into their new life. It was exciting to be a part of their move. It was more than just cooking, tidying up, helping arrange shelves. I was part of their family for a week and it felt nice to be home with them. We spent a significant amount of time driving around from Home Depot, Trader Joe’s, Target, and other shopping with little Cold Stone ice cream breaks between each stop.

We started the week by creating an itinerary, including a side trip to Sedona (I’ll tell you about that another time). Then layed by the pool for most of the day drinking individually boxed sauvignon blanc from Target.

I did little research on the greater Phoenix area before heading there. I was in Denver, Colorado when I received the call and only had three days at home to repack and get back on the road. While there I learned that nobody goes to Phoenix. Whenever I mentioned any interest in checking out an art museum or shopping or anything, every single person said, “but why?” One friend said, “Why are you in Phoenix in June? Did you lose a bet?” (referring to the heat). I ended up skipping a trip to Phoenix after so much discouragement.

What I discovered about Scottsdale is that it, like many other Phoenix suburbs (Glendale, Chandler), was that it is 90% white, affluent, fashionable, and nostalgic for a Wild West past. There are three groups of people who live in the area: those that are “from here” meaning their great-grandparents settled there, people who recently moved there, perhaps snowbirds or wealthy athletes or people in the medical business, and the Native American tribes. The most well-known being the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Tohono O'odham Nation, and Gila River Indian Community. Although different and not likely to mingle too much, all of the locals had one thing in common: Rawhide.

Rawhide is a regionally famous destination and described as an authentic Wild West experience. It’s not only a hokey little western town themed park. The stories, characters, and some of the people working there are descendants from the Americans who first headed out West back in the 19th century, like the blacksmith Devin Mace, who we had the pleasure of meeting.

Alyse and I stumbled across Rawhide while fine tuning our itinerary. We wanted to have at least one touristy experience while I was in town. A package deal offered horseback riding and a steak dinner. Sold.

When we arrived Rawhide looked more like a ghost town then a bustling tourist trap. We were the only idiots who thought a horseback ride through the desert was a good idea when temperatures were hitting 110 degrees. However, being on the back of a horse made me nostalgic for my childhood when I rode dressage. I was a good rider and suddenly felt like all my life decisions were wrong and I needed a horse again ASAP.

I don't know why dinner is in quotes.

But the trail was strange and quickly snapped me out of it. We started off backtracking through the parking lot, wound around some construction sites to finally arriving out in the open desert. We then weaved in and out of a golf course and resort with a slide in the pool. In the open desert, close to the golf course, we spotted lots of animals I’ve never seen in person before. I got excited everything we saw a jack rabbit, prairie dog, or coyote. Apparently everyone else saw a road runner too. I was bummed I missed it! My western experience would have been complete via Looney Tunes.

Back at the ranch… just kidding it was a fake town, remember? We had dinner in the dining hall. Unfortunately I can be pretty cynical about hokey dining situations, which makes them difficult to enjoy. I didn’t appreciate the country singer on stage, the red checkered table clothes, or the “howdy” from our server. I didn’t appreciate the overcooked chicken and hard to cut steaks. I did like the cold draft beer and s’mores for dessert. I also appreciated the hardworking people that put their heart and time into making this place a destination. I got a kick out of the gun slingers, ice cream shops, and toy stores in the little town. I can see it as a place you would want to bring your young children. In fact, I have a faint childhood memory of going to a similar place somewhere.

Do you see the coyote?

It turns out Scottsdale is my kind of city. There are a ton of art galleries, museums, and some of my favorite places to shop like Nordstrom, JCrew, and Anthroplogie. There are a lot of great places to eat, explore, and relax. But what was my favorite part about Scottsdale? Besides acting like I lived there and spending oodles of time with my friends, I had damn good chips, salsa and margaritas at almost every meal.

PS - I found the Scottsdale city website to be very helpful in our activities planning. Check it out here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weekend Recap: The Great Indoors

I did my best to avoid most outdoor activities this weekend. In case you missed it, there has been a record breaking heatwave in DC with temperatures reaching 105 degrees plus humidity. With the exception of a Nats game (I only lasted 7 innings) and a trip to the farmer's market, Gman and I enjoyed the great indoors with our fabulous air conditioning.

I finally dove into some books I purchased last week and made Gman watch his first Wes Anderson film. I'm a huge fan and started Gman with The Darjeeling Limited. I love the story of estranged, grieving brothers on a journey to spiritual enlightenment. Everything goes wrong and their relationships are so deeply dysfunctional but the points are made so subtly, that somehow its all too familiar.

Do you like his movies? Have you seen Moonrise Kingdom yet?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shoe Love: Some Like it Hot

What I love about these canvas, braided, t-strap RocketDog pumps is that they remind me of the good ol' days gone by. I'm sure no one wore shoes just like this in the 1940's or 50's, but it's fun to imagine they might have and that I would have fit right in at one of their parties, dancing the night away.

These are my go-to pumps for this insanely ridiculous heat wave... stay cool my friends!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Art to Inspiration

Healing Yoga by Aarti, Smita Jacob

I'm so excited to participate in my first Art to Inspiration! Started by the lovely Supal of Chevrons and Eclairs, Art to Inspiration is a once a month blog post inspired by a work of art. Supal collects the inspiration and puts them together on her facebook page so we can see everyone's inspiration. I love it! This month's is a photograph, Healing Yoga by Aarti taken by Smita Jacob.

The photograph depicts a woman in the foreground dressed in bright, flowing red and black. She stands in a yoga pose, Warrior I, on an ice skating rink in the middle of winter and either she is in a foreign space or she is foreign to it. Of course, I immediately thought of the foreign experience of travel. There is a moment when our surroundings in a new place are too overwhelming to take in. When suddenly the passing of people walking by is in slow motion and the noise of cars, people, music, and nature are indistinguishable from one another. There comes a time when your travel companions push your limits and you just need a time out. You need to have a quiet moment alone to regain your footing.

But what if you can't get to a place to be alone? What if you are in the middle of a busy street or in a car? It might not be appropriate or possible to bust out your best yoga moves in that moment. But you can close your eyes and take a few deep breathes.

I recently read a story about such an experience. The author is in China and pops into a Starbucks in the late afternoon to grab an espresso. He felt ashamed at first to have something so American, he didn't travel for days to have a Starbucks. But he was having that moment of lonesomeness, fatigue, and breakdown and drank the familiar to regain control and revive his spirits. It was just what he needed to forge ahead and continue to push himself out of his comfort zone.

When I am in a new place, in an attempt to avoid that feeling, I try to do one or two things from my normal routine. For instance, I always have a morning coffee.

When you travel, what do you do to take a timeout?

If you would like to participate in Art to Inspiration, click here to read more and sign up.

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day fellow Americans! I hope you are able to get outdoors and celebrate our nations greatness with some friends and family... and grilled/fried meats and your favorite beers. :) I'll be laid up in a pool side lounge chair for most of the day.

Check back this afternoon for a second post! My first Art to Inspiration.
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