revisiting the roadsides of Virginia

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After seven years, we returned to the Howard Johnson on Afton Mountain in Virginia, this time after my cousin Jean’s wedding nearby.

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Nature and weather (and fire) are slowly eating away at the place, but I was surprised that it wasn’t so different from back in 2008.

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This Princess Tree had already started growing back in 2008.

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Vesuvius, Virginia.

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Unrelated, this is a former candy store and restaurant near a truck stop off the highway.

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landmark for hungry americans


Vacancies at the Howard Johnson motel on Afton Mountain in Virginia.

Celine & Julie Go Boating . I read a few reviews before catching a screening of this with my coworkers, and critics were saying things like, “there’s film, and there’s Celine & Julie Go Boating.” The film, shot in Paris in 1974, is certainly bizarre. It revolves around a strange romantic-undertones of a relationship between the title characters who go on to connect themselves with a haunted Parisian mansion. Interspersed moments of silliness (matching burglar outfits and rollerskates to “break into” a library) assist in keeping the movie from ascribing to strict singular generic conventions; instead it walks the line of an architectural ghost film (ie: The Shining (1980), The Others (2001), etc), mixed with screwball comedy. But, personally, if I hadn’t heard laughter in the theater, it would have stayed consistently creepy to me. The final shot is brilliant, and worth the three-and-a-half hour wait.

• A few weekends ago, Jenn and I made it over to a new place called Ten Sushi on Seventh Ave in Park Slope during minor flooding. It was an early summer evening, and people were squeeling while running down the sidewalk fully drenched from the unexpected downpour. The storm front had previously been over the midwest, and was pounding Brooklyn enough for a dozen cops to block off a lot of side streets as rivers formed from drainage overflow. The restaurant was excellent (and presently BYOB), with super kind staff.

• Last week I caught the monthly Bluestockings travel talk show here in the Lower. It’s quite good if you haven’t been; they have three guests who present stories and then slides, with a host (Jeff Stark ) who keeps things rolling with questions and comments. This past week the presenters included: an upstate video artist student, Dara Greenwald , who spent a few weeks in Serbia. She wasn’t super interesting but she seemed to understand her project’s limitations. She did bring up the interesting situation of blue collar workers migrating from Serbia to a neighboring country each year to make more money than the local white collar workers, to return briefly during summer months and build large, incredibly vacant mansions in the countryside. I had heard of a similar thing happening within Russia, I believe. Second up was Brooklyn-based painter Chris Kannen , who received a grant to spend three months in Antarctica’s Dry Valley area to photograph the experience (to later turn it into paintings). I found the interior shots of the permanent Antarctic camps the most compelling: sometimes stuck in the 1970s (or older), but certainly possessing a coziness (even when it’s just sterile lab equipment) compared to the negative fifty degree weather outside. Last up was professional storyteller Martin Dockery who told of a few eventful days in West Africa involving fruit-induced sickness and beatboxing. His story was the most polished, from beginning to end, but not that it’s ever a contest. If you can make it over there next month, it’s worth the suggested $5 donation.

• A trip down to North Carolina and Virginia for my grandmother’s funeral. In the end, it became a positive family reunion of the close and distant relatives. In transit, we discovered an abandoned Howard Johnson motel. We stayed in a nice family’s house on my grandmother’s mountain. The family had at least 9 bikes.

• After some scotch at Sara & Nick’s place, we all went down the street to Press 195 , where we met up with Constantine & Erica . Big ups to free sangria pitchers.

• 7A with Erica & Jenn to see Constantine play some “mad blunted jazz” style stuff (ala DJ Cam, etc) over at Nightingale , with a live band. The bartender couldn’t confirm my suspicion it was the jazz bar of the same name in Eyes Wide Shut (1999) . Actually, looking at Wikipedia now, I think Tom Cruise’s friend’s last name is “Nightingale,” and it may not in fact be the name of the jazz bar in the film. Anyway, Constantine had a CDJ and normal turntable hooked up to a Serato mixer and also a drum machine. Apparently the drum machine can even be turned into a theremin , bizarre. He’ll be there every other Wednesday night for a while, so let’s get some people together.

• I know I mentioned it a few weeks ago, but not a day goes by in New York without me hearing people rocking the new Lil’ Wayne album in their cars. Everyone seems so unified with the love for Weezy. Walking down 4th Ave in Brooklyn today, I heard it blasting out of no less than 6 cars.

• Happy birthday wishes to my mother today.

• “Don’t lock your doors, I have these punks on the ropes.” – I Heart Hiroshima