Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Mishmash: Dying U.S. Cities

A few days ago, I received an unsettling email from the nonprofit organization Friends of New Orleans. Apparently, Newsweek had published a list of America's top 10 dying cities in late January, and poor, beleaguered New Orleans was at the top of the list. Being a native of the Big Easy and a part-time resident of the French Quarter, I couldn't help but question the magazine's motive in publishing such a one-dimensional piece. So, although I'm a month behind the times, I felt a strong urge to discuss this misleading article on my American Nomad blog, which I did late last night. After all, though it's true that cities like Grand Rapids, Flint, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and New Orleans have suffered population declines over the past decade, demographic information isn't the only factor that determines a city's worth, especially from a traveler's perspective.

So, what do you think of the list?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Munchies: Mealtime Interview

While this particular post might seem like a stretch for my “Monday Munchies” theme – which usually focuses on yummy, food-related topics – I just couldn't resist a little plug. After all, how often do we bloggers get the chance to speak with our actual voices – and not just through the written word? Well, in celebration of President's Day, I'll be discussing the country's top historical sites and presidential attractions with Michelle Wargo and Mary McBryde on Heartbeat Radio for Women today at noon EST (9 a.m. PST) – just in time for breakfast or lunch, depending on where you are at the moment.

Anyway, while I hope you'll tune in to the live stream, you'll also find president-related posts at two of my other blogs: American Nomad, where I'm exploring five of America's earliest presidential homes, and Come In Character, where authors and characters are discussing the governing bodies in their fictional worlds.

But, whatever you choose to hear or read today, I hope you have a wonderful President's Day!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Hero or Coward?

Today, I posed a “what if...?” question to the authors that frequent Come In Character: What would you do if you spotted someone drowning? Hopefully, characters will offer truthful confessions, but you can't predict anything with this bunch.

Even though the exercise is intended for fictional people and creatures, I couldn't help but wonder what I would do in a similar situation. Would I ignore the victim's frightened cries, jump in after him or her, seek some professional help, or do something else altogether?

Although I'd like to think that I would come to the immediate aid of a drowning victim – whether that means jumping into the water myself or tossing him or her a handy flotation device – the truth is that I'm not sure I'd do much more than holler for a police officer or, at the very least, dial “911” on my ever-available cell phone and pray for cellular service.

So, the question is... what would you do in a similar situation?

(P.S. The picture accompanying this post does not, in fact, depict a drowning victim. It's actually me getting splashed by dolphins in Key Largo, Florida.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Munchies: Valentine's Day

While posting a love-related question on Come In Character and reflecting on the top romantic U.S. cities on my American Nomad blog, I couldn't help but think about the goodies to be had today. Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. After all, what else is there to eat on February 14th?

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite Possessions

Earlier today, several authors stopped by Come In Character to share their characters' most important possessions. The answers ranged from photo albums to weapons to musical instruments – and the discussion made me wonder how I would answer the question, “What is your most important possession, and why?”

To be honest, I'm just not sure. Given that my husband, Dan, and I live in three different places, I'm often forced to consider those items that I can't live without – including obvious items like toiletries, kitty toys, my laptop, and my cell phone, plus precious things like my grandmother's wedding ring, my own treasured baubles, the medicine pouch that I made on a vision quest when I was 13, perhaps even my bunny slippers. So, how can I possibly name just one thing?

After all, despite my wish to be less materialistic, the need to possess is a very human trait. In fact, right or wrong, what we possess partially defines who we are – especially our most beloved possessions. But, of course, that need to possess can become an obsession for some of us. When my grandfather, for instance, passed away last June, he left behind a house nearly filled with possessions – so many records and clothes and coins and knick-knacks and dishes and bicycles and such that it was hard to discern what he'd really treasured in life. Upon seeing what his house had become, I couldn't help but recall Ruth Gordon's advice from Harold and Maude: “Here today. Gone tomorrow. So, don't get attached to things!”

But, nevertheless, it's hard to let go. So, I ask you... what is it that you couldn't live without?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Munchies: Reliving Good Eats

Although being a travel writer has its negative aspects – as I explained in a recent post on my American Nomad blog – I must admit that having the chance to sample various cuisines and other tasty treats isn't one of them. While researching my recently published Moon Florida Keys guidebook, for instance, my husband, Dan, and I devoured everything from mojitos and crab-stuffed artichoke hearts at Key Largo's Coconuts Restaurant and Night Club to tempura lobster tails at Pierre's Restaurant in Islamorada to blue cheese chips (pictured here) at Sparky's Landing in Key Colony Beach to “kinky” key lime pie at Key West's romantic Better Than Sex dessert lounge. The only trouble is that, once the book was published and I began promoting it through blog posts, radio interviews, and the like, I was forced to relive all those wonderful memories – and long for another taste of Florida's culinary delights, especially some classic key lime pie.

Of course, it's at such moments that I realize how lucky I am to be in New Orleans right now – a city whose cuisine is, after all, legendary. So, pass me a plate of raw oysters, please, and I promise to stop wishing for what I don't have. Honest.