MARDI GRAS - NEW ORLEANS, LOUSIANA

Mardi Gras, that maddest of all mad days when every man may be a king, or, if he prefers, a tramp or a clown or an Indian chief, and dance in the streets. 

New Orleans City Guide (WPA, 1938)

If you didn’t come to party, take your bitch ass home,” shouts the man selling t-shirts on Bourbon Street. He adds, “I have size sexy for the ladies.”

The main street for Carnival Season partying in New Orleans has a distinct aroma—a mix of sweat, crawfish, Daiquiri puke and just-starting-to-rot garbage. All around the senses are assaulted with beads thrown from above, shoes getting stuck to the sticky wash that covers the street, drummers drumming, people shouting and bursts of purple, gold and green. Mardi Gras has been taking place in New Orleans since before 1835. It is a time for the loud, the grotesque, the strange and excess. While this might sound awful, it is intoxicating. The season has lasted all these years because it is what you make it.

Everyone has a different experience because no one is in charge and the celebration spreads throughout the city. If you came to party, you will find one on Bourbon. I saw lots of tits, a couple asses, hundreds of hollow plastic legs dangling around people’s necks filled with red liquor, people tumbling after one too many and too many crazy outfits to count.

The balcony people taunt the crowds below. Some put fancy trinkets on fishing wire to yank the items out of greedy, eager hands. They lay in wait to judge who is deserving of the beads. Sometimes it requires a dance or a flash and sometimes they take pity on a cute nine-year-old who is getting quite an eyeful.

Just one street over, there is the opportunity for family friendly fare. Royal Street, which turns into St. Charles when heading Uptown, is filled with jugglers and street musicians, and is also the main parade route for the bigger parades. Smartly, the first couple rows of people have chairs and right behind, people set up ladders with elaborate boxes for children to sit in for a better view. There is definitely alcohol, but people try to keep it together a little more here.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat are playing at the Spellcaster Lodge with Jello Biafra in attendance and Big Freedia is bouncing at VASO. There are fancy balls with high society that are by invitation only and parades that are solely for the people who know where they start and stop.

It can also be a time for the political. Different Krewes head different parades, all with unique themes for the year. The Krewe d’Etat is known for its biting satire and this year was no different with floats criticizing the sex trade and prison system. The Zulu Parade, that goes through the neighborhood torn apart by the freeway, celebrated the life of Nelson Mandela this year.

For me, Mardi Gras was cruising the city by bicycle and taking in the sites and sounds. The majority of the time it was a delight. Walking and making photographs, I was moved to tears during the Talladega College Marching Band’s version of Get Lucky and was surprised to find how amazing it is to make eye contact with someone on a giant float and catching the beads thrown right at me. And I already miss the smell.

Mark Twain said: “I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans.” 

* * *

Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee. She was named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine.

Follow on Tumblr at tammymercure or on her website, TammyMercure.com. Support her work at TCB Press.

RELIGION - CENTRAL ALABAMA 

Soon after the war, the Negroes, who had been members of white churches, began establishing their own congregations. They had no funds with which to build and found that sites were difficult to obtain. For a time they were forced to meet in any available building…
—Alabama: A Guide to the Deep South (WPA, 1941)

Religion, specifically Christianity, plays a vital role in rural Alabama life. Traditionally, the church served as a central meeting place and social nucleus for country dwellers. Today, a disproportionate number of churches dot the verdant landscapes surrounding small, one-stoplight towns.
In winter the scant foliage reveals even more of these worship centers, which seem to materialize out of the wilderness. You’ll find these squat, whitewashed structures on backwoods roadways, perched atop remote hillsides, and nestled at the end of quiet dirt roads.  
Though many congregations long abandoned their traditional church structures for newer buildings. The old edifices are rarely demolished. Relics of a bygone era, the abandoned buildings slowly fade into the landscape. Ravenous kudzu vines devour their facades.
While there has been a great deal of progress in Alabama as far as race-relations are concerned, most places of worship remain fairly segregated along racial lines. Even in the smallest towns, churches with majority white congregations are situated a short distance from black churches of the same denomination. These divisions are holdovers from slavery and segregation. Most parishioners see their fellow church members as a sort of extended family; historically, this extension rarely crossed racial boundaries.
During segregation, church was one of the few places where black Alabamians felt safe and free to cultivate an identity. For many African-Americans, church served as a community headquarters for mobilizing against Jim Crow laws. Worship services allowed them a brief reprieve from the troubles of the world around them. These sanctuaries were also home to some of the first black schools.
With the music and message alternating between uplifting and woeful, the order of Sunday services haven’t changed much since the 1950s. While today’s services are shorter and, thanks to air conditioning, more comfortable, the devotionals at a number of black churches are still slow, meditative sessions of mournful humming and call-and-response singing. The spirit and tone of many devotional songs were carried over from the fields. While most slaves were punished for talking while they worked, it was common for overseers to allow singing.   
After devotion, the spirit of the service grows more and more uplifting. The choir sings songs of promise. The sermon—which starts with the reading of a few verses— crescendos into a high-energy show of jumping and shouting. Churchgoers stand and match the minister’s enthusiasm. They wave their hands, jump up and down, stomp their feet, shout things like “amen,” “yes,” and “preach!” This type of enthusiastic service still occurs at a number of churches across central Alabama. These services, like the old worship structures speckling the rural landscape, attest to how closely linked the past and the present are in the increasingly complicated palimpsest that is the American South.
Guide Notes: All photos were taken by April Dobbins in Hale County, Alabama.
 * * *
April Dobbins is a Guide to Alabama and the Southeast. Born and raised in Alabama, she is a writer and photographer. Though she has lived just about everywhere, she can’t seem to shake her Southern.  She currently resides in Miami, Florida, and is at work on Alabamaland, a documentary project about African-American farm life in rural Alabama.
Find her on Tumblr at aprilartiste.tumblr.com and on her website at aprildobbins.com.
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RELIGION - CENTRAL ALABAMA 

Soon after the war, the Negroes, who had been members of white churches, began establishing their own congregations. They had no funds with which to build and found that sites were difficult to obtain. For a time they were forced to meet in any available building…
—Alabama: A Guide to the Deep South (WPA, 1941)

Religion, specifically Christianity, plays a vital role in rural Alabama life. Traditionally, the church served as a central meeting place and social nucleus for country dwellers. Today, a disproportionate number of churches dot the verdant landscapes surrounding small, one-stoplight towns.
In winter the scant foliage reveals even more of these worship centers, which seem to materialize out of the wilderness. You’ll find these squat, whitewashed structures on backwoods roadways, perched atop remote hillsides, and nestled at the end of quiet dirt roads.  
Though many congregations long abandoned their traditional church structures for newer buildings. The old edifices are rarely demolished. Relics of a bygone era, the abandoned buildings slowly fade into the landscape. Ravenous kudzu vines devour their facades.
While there has been a great deal of progress in Alabama as far as race-relations are concerned, most places of worship remain fairly segregated along racial lines. Even in the smallest towns, churches with majority white congregations are situated a short distance from black churches of the same denomination. These divisions are holdovers from slavery and segregation. Most parishioners see their fellow church members as a sort of extended family; historically, this extension rarely crossed racial boundaries.
During segregation, church was one of the few places where black Alabamians felt safe and free to cultivate an identity. For many African-Americans, church served as a community headquarters for mobilizing against Jim Crow laws. Worship services allowed them a brief reprieve from the troubles of the world around them. These sanctuaries were also home to some of the first black schools.
With the music and message alternating between uplifting and woeful, the order of Sunday services haven’t changed much since the 1950s. While today’s services are shorter and, thanks to air conditioning, more comfortable, the devotionals at a number of black churches are still slow, meditative sessions of mournful humming and call-and-response singing. The spirit and tone of many devotional songs were carried over from the fields. While most slaves were punished for talking while they worked, it was common for overseers to allow singing.   
After devotion, the spirit of the service grows more and more uplifting. The choir sings songs of promise. The sermon—which starts with the reading of a few verses— crescendos into a high-energy show of jumping and shouting. Churchgoers stand and match the minister’s enthusiasm. They wave their hands, jump up and down, stomp their feet, shout things like “amen,” “yes,” and “preach!” This type of enthusiastic service still occurs at a number of churches across central Alabama. These services, like the old worship structures speckling the rural landscape, attest to how closely linked the past and the present are in the increasingly complicated palimpsest that is the American South.
Guide Notes: All photos were taken by April Dobbins in Hale County, Alabama.
 * * *
April Dobbins is a Guide to Alabama and the Southeast. Born and raised in Alabama, she is a writer and photographer. Though she has lived just about everywhere, she can’t seem to shake her Southern.  She currently resides in Miami, Florida, and is at work on Alabamaland, a documentary project about African-American farm life in rural Alabama.
Find her on Tumblr at aprilartiste.tumblr.com and on her website at aprildobbins.com.
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RELIGION - CENTRAL ALABAMA 

Soon after the war, the Negroes, who had been members of white churches, began establishing their own congregations. They had no funds with which to build and found that sites were difficult to obtain. For a time they were forced to meet in any available building…
—Alabama: A Guide to the Deep South (WPA, 1941)

Religion, specifically Christianity, plays a vital role in rural Alabama life. Traditionally, the church served as a central meeting place and social nucleus for country dwellers. Today, a disproportionate number of churches dot the verdant landscapes surrounding small, one-stoplight towns.
In winter the scant foliage reveals even more of these worship centers, which seem to materialize out of the wilderness. You’ll find these squat, whitewashed structures on backwoods roadways, perched atop remote hillsides, and nestled at the end of quiet dirt roads.  
Though many congregations long abandoned their traditional church structures for newer buildings. The old edifices are rarely demolished. Relics of a bygone era, the abandoned buildings slowly fade into the landscape. Ravenous kudzu vines devour their facades.
While there has been a great deal of progress in Alabama as far as race-relations are concerned, most places of worship remain fairly segregated along racial lines. Even in the smallest towns, churches with majority white congregations are situated a short distance from black churches of the same denomination. These divisions are holdovers from slavery and segregation. Most parishioners see their fellow church members as a sort of extended family; historically, this extension rarely crossed racial boundaries.
During segregation, church was one of the few places where black Alabamians felt safe and free to cultivate an identity. For many African-Americans, church served as a community headquarters for mobilizing against Jim Crow laws. Worship services allowed them a brief reprieve from the troubles of the world around them. These sanctuaries were also home to some of the first black schools.
With the music and message alternating between uplifting and woeful, the order of Sunday services haven’t changed much since the 1950s. While today’s services are shorter and, thanks to air conditioning, more comfortable, the devotionals at a number of black churches are still slow, meditative sessions of mournful humming and call-and-response singing. The spirit and tone of many devotional songs were carried over from the fields. While most slaves were punished for talking while they worked, it was common for overseers to allow singing.   
After devotion, the spirit of the service grows more and more uplifting. The choir sings songs of promise. The sermon—which starts with the reading of a few verses— crescendos into a high-energy show of jumping and shouting. Churchgoers stand and match the minister’s enthusiasm. They wave their hands, jump up and down, stomp their feet, shout things like “amen,” “yes,” and “preach!” This type of enthusiastic service still occurs at a number of churches across central Alabama. These services, like the old worship structures speckling the rural landscape, attest to how closely linked the past and the present are in the increasingly complicated palimpsest that is the American South.
Guide Notes: All photos were taken by April Dobbins in Hale County, Alabama.
 * * *
April Dobbins is a Guide to Alabama and the Southeast. Born and raised in Alabama, she is a writer and photographer. Though she has lived just about everywhere, she can’t seem to shake her Southern.  She currently resides in Miami, Florida, and is at work on Alabamaland, a documentary project about African-American farm life in rural Alabama.
Find her on Tumblr at aprilartiste.tumblr.com and on her website at aprildobbins.com.
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RELIGION - CENTRAL ALABAMA 

Soon after the war, the Negroes, who had been members of white churches, began establishing their own congregations. They had no funds with which to build and found that sites were difficult to obtain. For a time they were forced to meet in any available building…
—Alabama: A Guide to the Deep South (WPA, 1941)

Religion, specifically Christianity, plays a vital role in rural Alabama life. Traditionally, the church served as a central meeting place and social nucleus for country dwellers. Today, a disproportionate number of churches dot the verdant landscapes surrounding small, one-stoplight towns.
In winter the scant foliage reveals even more of these worship centers, which seem to materialize out of the wilderness. You’ll find these squat, whitewashed structures on backwoods roadways, perched atop remote hillsides, and nestled at the end of quiet dirt roads.  
Though many congregations long abandoned their traditional church structures for newer buildings. The old edifices are rarely demolished. Relics of a bygone era, the abandoned buildings slowly fade into the landscape. Ravenous kudzu vines devour their facades.
While there has been a great deal of progress in Alabama as far as race-relations are concerned, most places of worship remain fairly segregated along racial lines. Even in the smallest towns, churches with majority white congregations are situated a short distance from black churches of the same denomination. These divisions are holdovers from slavery and segregation. Most parishioners see their fellow church members as a sort of extended family; historically, this extension rarely crossed racial boundaries.
During segregation, church was one of the few places where black Alabamians felt safe and free to cultivate an identity. For many African-Americans, church served as a community headquarters for mobilizing against Jim Crow laws. Worship services allowed them a brief reprieve from the troubles of the world around them. These sanctuaries were also home to some of the first black schools.
With the music and message alternating between uplifting and woeful, the order of Sunday services haven’t changed much since the 1950s. While today’s services are shorter and, thanks to air conditioning, more comfortable, the devotionals at a number of black churches are still slow, meditative sessions of mournful humming and call-and-response singing. The spirit and tone of many devotional songs were carried over from the fields. While most slaves were punished for talking while they worked, it was common for overseers to allow singing.   
After devotion, the spirit of the service grows more and more uplifting. The choir sings songs of promise. The sermon—which starts with the reading of a few verses— crescendos into a high-energy show of jumping and shouting. Churchgoers stand and match the minister’s enthusiasm. They wave their hands, jump up and down, stomp their feet, shout things like “amen,” “yes,” and “preach!” This type of enthusiastic service still occurs at a number of churches across central Alabama. These services, like the old worship structures speckling the rural landscape, attest to how closely linked the past and the present are in the increasingly complicated palimpsest that is the American South.
Guide Notes: All photos were taken by April Dobbins in Hale County, Alabama.
 * * *
April Dobbins is a Guide to Alabama and the Southeast. Born and raised in Alabama, she is a writer and photographer. Though she has lived just about everywhere, she can’t seem to shake her Southern.  She currently resides in Miami, Florida, and is at work on Alabamaland, a documentary project about African-American farm life in rural Alabama.
Find her on Tumblr at aprilartiste.tumblr.com and on her website at aprildobbins.com.
Zoom Info
RELIGION - CENTRAL ALABAMA 

Soon after the war, the Negroes, who had been members of white churches, began establishing their own congregations. They had no funds with which to build and found that sites were difficult to obtain. For a time they were forced to meet in any available building…
—Alabama: A Guide to the Deep South (WPA, 1941)

Religion, specifically Christianity, plays a vital role in rural Alabama life. Traditionally, the church served as a central meeting place and social nucleus for country dwellers. Today, a disproportionate number of churches dot the verdant landscapes surrounding small, one-stoplight towns.
In winter the scant foliage reveals even more of these worship centers, which seem to materialize out of the wilderness. You’ll find these squat, whitewashed structures on backwoods roadways, perched atop remote hillsides, and nestled at the end of quiet dirt roads.  
Though many congregations long abandoned their traditional church structures for newer buildings. The old edifices are rarely demolished. Relics of a bygone era, the abandoned buildings slowly fade into the landscape. Ravenous kudzu vines devour their facades.
While there has been a great deal of progress in Alabama as far as race-relations are concerned, most places of worship remain fairly segregated along racial lines. Even in the smallest towns, churches with majority white congregations are situated a short distance from black churches of the same denomination. These divisions are holdovers from slavery and segregation. Most parishioners see their fellow church members as a sort of extended family; historically, this extension rarely crossed racial boundaries.
During segregation, church was one of the few places where black Alabamians felt safe and free to cultivate an identity. For many African-Americans, church served as a community headquarters for mobilizing against Jim Crow laws. Worship services allowed them a brief reprieve from the troubles of the world around them. These sanctuaries were also home to some of the first black schools.
With the music and message alternating between uplifting and woeful, the order of Sunday services haven’t changed much since the 1950s. While today’s services are shorter and, thanks to air conditioning, more comfortable, the devotionals at a number of black churches are still slow, meditative sessions of mournful humming and call-and-response singing. The spirit and tone of many devotional songs were carried over from the fields. While most slaves were punished for talking while they worked, it was common for overseers to allow singing.   
After devotion, the spirit of the service grows more and more uplifting. The choir sings songs of promise. The sermon—which starts with the reading of a few verses— crescendos into a high-energy show of jumping and shouting. Churchgoers stand and match the minister’s enthusiasm. They wave their hands, jump up and down, stomp their feet, shout things like “amen,” “yes,” and “preach!” This type of enthusiastic service still occurs at a number of churches across central Alabama. These services, like the old worship structures speckling the rural landscape, attest to how closely linked the past and the present are in the increasingly complicated palimpsest that is the American South.
Guide Notes: All photos were taken by April Dobbins in Hale County, Alabama.
 * * *
April Dobbins is a Guide to Alabama and the Southeast. Born and raised in Alabama, she is a writer and photographer. Though she has lived just about everywhere, she can’t seem to shake her Southern.  She currently resides in Miami, Florida, and is at work on Alabamaland, a documentary project about African-American farm life in rural Alabama.
Find her on Tumblr at aprilartiste.tumblr.com and on her website at aprildobbins.com.
Zoom Info

RELIGION - CENTRAL ALABAMA 

Soon after the war, the Negroes, who had been members of white churches, began establishing their own congregations. They had no funds with which to build and found that sites were difficult to obtain. For a time they were forced to meet in any available building…

—Alabama: A Guide to the Deep South (WPA, 1941)

Religion, specifically Christianity, plays a vital role in rural Alabama life. Traditionally, the church served as a central meeting place and social nucleus for country dwellers. Today, a disproportionate number of churches dot the verdant landscapes surrounding small, one-stoplight towns.

In winter the scant foliage reveals even more of these worship centers, which seem to materialize out of the wilderness. You’ll find these squat, whitewashed structures on backwoods roadways, perched atop remote hillsides, and nestled at the end of quiet dirt roads.  

Though many congregations long abandoned their traditional church structures for newer buildings. The old edifices are rarely demolished. Relics of a bygone era, the abandoned buildings slowly fade into the landscape. Ravenous kudzu vines devour their facades.

While there has been a great deal of progress in Alabama as far as race-relations are concerned, most places of worship remain fairly segregated along racial lines. Even in the smallest towns, churches with majority white congregations are situated a short distance from black churches of the same denomination. These divisions are holdovers from slavery and segregation. Most parishioners see their fellow church members as a sort of extended family; historically, this extension rarely crossed racial boundaries.

During segregation, church was one of the few places where black Alabamians felt safe and free to cultivate an identity. For many African-Americans, church served as a community headquarters for mobilizing against Jim Crow laws. Worship services allowed them a brief reprieve from the troubles of the world around them. These sanctuaries were also home to some of the first black schools.

With the music and message alternating between uplifting and woeful, the order of Sunday services haven’t changed much since the 1950s. While today’s services are shorter and, thanks to air conditioning, more comfortable, the devotionals at a number of black churches are still slow, meditative sessions of mournful humming and call-and-response singing. The spirit and tone of many devotional songs were carried over from the fields. While most slaves were punished for talking while they worked, it was common for overseers to allow singing.   

After devotion, the spirit of the service grows more and more uplifting. The choir sings songs of promise. The sermon—which starts with the reading of a few verses— crescendos into a high-energy show of jumping and shouting. Churchgoers stand and match the minister’s enthusiasm. They wave their hands, jump up and down, stomp their feet, shout things like “amen,” “yes,” and “preach!” This type of enthusiastic service still occurs at a number of churches across central Alabama. These services, like the old worship structures speckling the rural landscape, attest to how closely linked the past and the present are in the increasingly complicated palimpsest that is the American South.

Guide Notes: All photos were taken by April Dobbins in Hale County, Alabama.

 * * *

April Dobbins is a Guide to Alabama and the Southeast. Born and raised in Alabama, she is a writer and photographer. Though she has lived just about everywhere, she can’t seem to shake her Southern.  She currently resides in Miami, Florida, and is at work on Alabamaland, a documentary project about African-American farm life in rural Alabama.

Find her on Tumblr at aprilartiste.tumblr.com and on her website at aprildobbins.com.

ALL THE WAY IN - HILLSDALE, NEW YORK

Nestled between the Berkshire Mountains to the east and the Catskill Mountains to the west, Hillsdale exists in a world of its own. Far away from most things, it is a rural escape for many and home to few. Wikipedia accurately describes the area as “rolling hills, open farmland and wooded tracts,” and that’s exactly what you see when you set out in any direction from the intersection of Routes 22 & 23 in the center of this hamlet.

Or you can stay awhile and discover the real beauty that is off the beaten path on the dirt roads that seem to outnumber the paved streets. They criss-cross the landscape for miles and miles, daring you to press your luck with a guess to turn right or left at the numerous forks in the road, leading you to the next hidden gem that could be an abandoned house or a fallen down barn. You’re purposefully lost and don’t care while the GPS taunts you to continue further in the direction you intended, but the road ahead turns muddy and seems suitable only for farm vehicles. And the odd, handwritten sign tacked to the tree like a warning instructs to “Leave the road open to the back, we are all the way in.” You realize your luck has been pressed sufficiently for today while you head back the way you came and wonder what that life would be like… all the way in.

There are numerous places to pull your car over to take in the view for a few minutes, only to realize five minutes later that not a single other car has come along. So you sit awhile longer and another 10 minutes pass before one does. The next time it happens you sit almost 25 minutes before you see another soul. You could sell this silence. You’re tempted to just sit and try it again in the exact same spot—make a game of it, but there’s so much more to see and little time left to see it.

The sun in the sky is low and blinding most of the day—it has trouble rising over that mountain just like you do, but when it goes it’s gone, and then the night is black when you step outside and ease your car down the mountainside through this year’s first snow to join the locals at the Hillsdale House Inn and Tavern—one of the few common gathering places available. Everyone knows each other and when they don’t there are introductions made. A few sit alone on stools frittering dollars on the lotto, making small talk, but mostly it’s a lively bunch on Thanksgiving Eve and more than one patron confesses that the amount of libation consumed is in direct correlation to the fact that no work is required tomorrow—the rare day off in a town where second homes are common but the locals don’t know much leisure. Some of these folks have been at it awhile, and just like the scenery on the empty roads you are tempted to sit and see how long it can last.

You finish your dinner at the bar and drive again through the ink black, making sure to accumulate enough speed to maintain momentum up the snow-felled mountain. Finally the crunch of snow is under your feet again and that’s when you realize there is a life outside the city, where you can see the stars for the first time since you don’t remember. You step inside to the warmth of the woodstove and hope it’s still burning. You’re all the way in.

* * *

Guide to the Northeast Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his home state of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land.

MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION - THE CAR IN AMERICA 

I counted down the day until I was able to get my driver’s license as
a teenager. A car represented independence and the rest of my life.

My Dad had started a savings account for me when I was born and had
dutifully put in a couple bucks a week every week. We decided a
suitable amount to spend on a first car would be about $500. It
couldn’t just be any car though — this was MY first car. After an epic
back and forth with my parents, who I can now say wisely wanted me to
get a boring dependable car, I was able to get the car of my dreams or
the closest thing that $500 could get me. It was a 1979 Pontiac
special edition “Yellow Bird” Firebird with t-tops.

It was awful. The t-tops leaked in the rain. They were so heavy. I
was pulled over often because it was Iowa and not a lot happened, so
they had time to check in on young girls with crazy cars. Most days I
had to “two foot it” or constantly give the car slight gas so that it
wouldn’t die at intersections. One door had been dented by the farm
boy who sold it to me and it was very much a different shade of yellow
than the rest of the car. But — I adored it. The imperfections made it
mine.

My friend Theresa and I would go over to the East side to cruise the
loop most weekend nights. I could drive myself to school. My friend
Mike and I would jump in without opening the doors like Bo and Luke
Duke and then drive around listening to cassette tapes we bought at
the pawn shop. I loved every minute of it.

The car only lasted about six months total before it stopped running.
My uncle Hulie bought the engine off me for about the price of the car
so I could get my next car. I’ve had many cars, a couple scooters and
one motorcycle since, but I’ll probably never love a car more than
that one.

We experience life in our cars — we eat in them, sleep in them, watch
movies in them, and they become a small expression of us.

Guide Note: Photos from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

* * *

Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee. She was named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine.

Follow on Tumblr at tammymercure or on her website, TammyMercure.com. Support her work at TCB Press. 

A RIDICULOUS HISTORY OF THE WHITE STAG SIGN - PORTLAND, OREGON
American Westerner Rick Olson records Field Assignment #3: History and #6: Architecture in his Tumblr field-book for #AmericanGuideWeek. What follows is the story of sign in Portland, Oregon: 

The White Stag sign, as it’s known by locals, has undergone a series of entrepreneurial identities and designs since it was first conceived in September 1940 by Ramsay Signs. Merely an outline of Oregon encasing the text “White Satin Sugar” at first, the sign gained its infamous leaping stag in 1959 when White Stag Sportswear, occupant and owner of the building to which the sign is affixed, took over the advertising rights to it. This also marked the beginning of a holiday tradition in which a neon red bulb glows upon the snout of the stag. After White Stag Sportswear left the building in 1973, the fate of the sign was in question. Who would foot the electricity bill to keep Portland’s most beloved sign lit? The landmark faced threats of being shut down or removed. Eventually the dispute was settled in 1997, with an agreement that the sign would undergo yet another franchise facelift, this time for the gift retailer Made In Oregon. But the Made In Oregon run was short lived, ending in 2006. Ramsay Signs finally grew tired of funding the sign’s utility bill in 2008 and searched for a solution. More controversy came with the proposed advertising of the University of Oregon, whose Portland campus now occupies the building. But facing much heat, the university withdrew. Ramsay made final threats to decommission the sign in 2010, but this time the city and Ramsay came to an agreement, with Ramsay donating the sign and a $2,000 monthly utility payment to the city. For the first time in its 73 years, the White Stag sign no longer peddles any merchandise but simply reads, “Portland Oregon.”

The 1940 WPA guidebook to Oregon suggests that Oregonians have always struggled with agreeing on how to signpost the state and themselves: 

A lively controversy in the selection of a subtitle for the Guide occurred. In a public contest many Oregonians offered titles dripping with ardor. Such phrases as “The Land of Perpetual Spring” and “Land of the Midwinter Rose” were viewed by out-of-state critics with arched eye-brows as either un-factual or over-sentimental. Stolid history lovers suggesting “The Beaver State,” were countered with the quip, “Why not call it the Rodent State so as not to discriminate against our rabbits and prairie dogs?” Others argued that the subtitle should derive from the state stone, which is agate, or the state bird, the meadow-lark, or even the state flower, the Oregon grape, which has an unromantic but highly practical history. Geographically-minded persons, aware that Portland is the farthest west of America’s large cities, advised “Oregon Farthest West.” Another group wanted “Oregon Nearest Japan,” and their argument was political. Finally, an amateur artist drew a dust cover depicting the set- ting sun and proffered “The Sunset State.”
—Oregon: End of the Trail (WPA, 1941)

° ° °
Rick Olson understands there’s more to be garnered from sleeping in an uncomfortable bed for free than a comfortable bed unfree. He’s rarely afforded the opportunity to travel abroad but he geographically prospers in the American west. Northwest forests appease his penchant for the color green and rural highways provide ample bearings for getting lost on his bicycle. He considers Portland, Ore. a second home to his tent, but one day intends to dwell in a windy town that shares only one power line. Find him on Tumblr at makerswild.tumblr.com.
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A RIDICULOUS HISTORY OF THE WHITE STAG SIGN - PORTLAND, OREGON

American Westerner Rick Olson records Field Assignment #3: History and #6: Architecture in his Tumblr field-book for #AmericanGuideWeek. What follows is the story of sign in Portland, Oregon: 

The White Stag sign, as it’s known by locals, has undergone a series of entrepreneurial identities and designs since it was first conceived in September 1940 by Ramsay Signs. Merely an outline of Oregon encasing the text “White Satin Sugar” at first, the sign gained its infamous leaping stag in 1959 when White Stag Sportswear, occupant and owner of the building to which the sign is affixed, took over the advertising rights to it. This also marked the beginning of a holiday tradition in which a neon red bulb glows upon the snout of the stag. 

After White Stag Sportswear left the building in 1973, the fate of the sign was in question. Who would foot the electricity bill to keep Portland’s most beloved sign lit? The landmark faced threats of being shut down or removed. Eventually the dispute was settled in 1997, with an agreement that the sign would undergo yet another franchise facelift, this time for the gift retailer Made In Oregon. But the Made In Oregon run was short lived, ending in 2006. 

Ramsay Signs finally grew tired of funding the sign’s utility bill in 2008 and searched for a solution. More controversy came with the proposed advertising of the University of Oregon, whose Portland campus now occupies the building. But facing much heat, the university withdrew. Ramsay made final threats to decommission the sign in 2010, but this time the city and Ramsay came to an agreement, with Ramsay donating the sign and a $2,000 monthly utility payment to the city. For the first time in its 73 years, the White Stag sign no longer peddles any merchandise but simply reads, “Portland Oregon.”

The 1940 WPA guidebook to Oregon suggests that Oregonians have always struggled with agreeing on how to signpost the state and themselves: 

A lively controversy in the selection of a subtitle for the Guide occurred. In a public contest many Oregonians offered titles dripping with ardor. Such phrases as “The Land of Perpetual Spring” and “Land of the Midwinter Rose” were viewed by out-of-state critics with arched eye-brows as either un-factual or over-sentimental. Stolid history lovers suggesting “The Beaver State,” were countered with the quip, “Why not call it the Rodent State so as not to discriminate against our rabbits and prairie dogs?” Others argued that the subtitle should derive from the state stone, which is agate, or the state bird, the meadow-lark, or even the state flower, the Oregon grape, which has an unromantic but highly practical history. Geographically-minded persons, aware that Portland is the farthest west of America’s large cities, advised “Oregon Farthest West.” Another group wanted “Oregon Nearest Japan,” and their argument was political. Finally, an amateur artist drew a dust cover depicting the set- ting sun and proffered “The Sunset State.”

—Oregon: End of the Trail (WPA, 1941)

° ° °

Rick Olson understands there’s more to be garnered from sleeping in an uncomfortable bed for free than a comfortable bed unfree. He’s rarely afforded the opportunity to travel abroad but he geographically prospers in the American west. Northwest forests appease his penchant for the color green and rural highways provide ample bearings for getting lost on his bicycle. He considers Portland, Ore. a second home to his tent, but one day intends to dwell in a windy town that shares only one power line. Find him on Tumblr at makerswild.tumblr.com.

LAND OF OZ - BEACH MOUNTAIN, NORTH CAROLINA

As I step off of Dorothy’s back porch, I see the withered twitching legs of the Wicked Witch of the East under the house. The yellow brick road is before me and brighter and more magical than I ever imagined.

Hidden among the twisty roads of Beech Mountain, NC, the highest town east of the Rocky Mountains, the Land of Oz awaits. The defunct theme park was the passion project of Grover Robbins, the man behind the successful and still operational Tweetsie Railroad. The park was plagued with problems from the onset with Grover’s death shortly before the park opened in 1970. Problems continued throughout the park’s ten year run, including a devastating fire in 1975.

Grover Robbins knew that the L. Frank Baum books and Wizard of Oz film from 1939 would endure. Cynthia Keller, caretaker to the park, sees it every year for the popular Autumn at Oz event (usually the first weekend in October). People of all ages, take the slow drive up the twisty mountain to travel to Oz.

For the two day event, there are hordes of Dorothys with ruby red slippers and prides of cowardly lions enjoying the park. Costumed volunteers line the walk: one of the scarecrows is a master of somersaults and one of the tin men says “oil me” through clenched teeth.

There is an intriguing mix of psychedelic elements (the middle of Dorothy’s house is dark and seen in black light with a projected twister), homemade and Hollywood (they have some props and costumes from the film), as well as melancholy and whimsy.

Parts of the walk are truly terrifying: green faced guards block the entrance to the witch’s lair and those horrible flying monkeys pop out from seemingly nowhere to give chase for a few steps. I don’t know if it is the lack of oxygen or my great affection for these characters (growing up the film was an annual event and I was Dorothy from age 8-10 in a small 4th of July parade in Iowa), but I love this place.

The 2013 Autumn at Oz took place October 5th & 6th. During the rest of the year, Dorothy’s home is rentable as a hotel room. If you ask nicely, Cynthia Keller can usually leave the gate open so you can take a look as long as she knows and you won’t steal the bricks.

* * *

Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee. She was recently named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine.

Follow on Tumblr at tammymercure or on her website,TammyMercure.com. Support her work at TCB Press.

NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info
NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info
NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info
NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info
NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info
NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info
NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info
NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info
NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.
After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.
The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.
Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. “Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.
Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.
Guide Note:
See the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction for yourself in Crownpoint, New Mexico. 
* * *
At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
Zoom Info

NAVAJO RUG AUCTION - TOTAH FESTIVAL - FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO

Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the Southwest. Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.

After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo. The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool—perfect for weaving—that the Spanish had introduced.

The 1800s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the Western frontier. Soon enough, the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.

Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style. ”Two Grey Hills” rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert. These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants. ”Pictorial” rugs portray day-to-day life. Tree of Life” rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings and show birds perched on corn or trees. The most widely known style is “Ganado” rugs with their red backgrounds and terraced diamonds and zigzags.

Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as $25 for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs. Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller to buyers from around the world.

Guide Note:

* * *

At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.

LAKE WARAMAUG - NEW PRESTON, CONNECTICUT

North from New Preston Village on State 45 is Lake Waramaug (L), 0.6 m., one of the most beautiful natural bodies of water in the State. Bordered by many summer residences, hotels of the better type, a private country club, and, agh the head of the lake on the west shore, a State Park of 75 acres offering camping, bathing, fishing, and picnic facilities, this pure lake is a favorite vacation spot for New York and Connecticut people.

Connecticut, A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)

Chief Waramaug summered in this area and used it as his winter hunting grounds. While he supposedly had a 20,000 square foot longhouse, your weekend accommodations are no less noble, and involve refrigeration. Currently an 8-mile drive takes you around the 680-acre lake. While you make that loop you’ll pass through the Connecticut towns of Kent, Washington and Warren. You’ll pass new homes and old, some teardowns and renovations, some 1900 Adirondack classics still relevant, some artistic and beautiful studios built on the grandfathered foundations of old boathouse footprints. Not a longhouse in sight, but you can camp at the state park on the lakeshore.

You can make a day trip, just a half hour off the I-84 east-west corridor northeast of Danbury, to a place that feels a bit like somewhere else—someplace not so close. Or you can celebrate your parents’ 50th Anniversary in style, only do it two plus years later because of hurricanes and the erratic schedules of all involved.

This would be true for probably any lake, that when you go there you don’t want anything to take you away. You just want to be on the lake. Or on the porch staring at the lake. Although if an emergency room visit for stitches and a tetanus shot is required because someone manhandled that metal canoe a bit too roughly, then you’ll make that trip, too.

On that last day (not so ironically it is Labor Day), when you see your 12-year-old niece snapping early morning pictures of the lake with her new iPhone, you know you’re not the only one that could chuck it all for a simpler life.

But you leave it all behind for someone else and their security deposit.

* * *

Guide to the Northeast Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his home state of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land.

SUKKAHS - WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN

Head southwest across aptly-named Division Avenue on the Southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and you enter what is, in some respects, another nation. While still technically part of greater Williamsburg—painfully reduced to a land of PBR and fixies in current neighborhood stereotyping—this area is much better known simply as Hasidic Williamsburg. The sub-neighborhood is roughly bounded by Division Ave., Broadway, Heyward St., and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It is home to the largest Hasidic Jewish sect in the world, the Satmars, and almost no one else. Pass through, as I often do by bike, and you will know you are no longer in the Brooklyn of contemporary fame: the hodgepodge of brownstones and brick apartment buildings may look familiar, but the Yiddish-plastered school buses likely do not.

Beyond the language, the side curls, furry hats, and long, black coats worn no matter the season, I find the adaptations the Hasidim enact on the built environment—housing often constructed prior to their settlement in the area following World War II—to be far more curious.

These are most conspicuous during Sukkot, the Jewish holiday which takes its name from the sukkah, a temporary dwelling with a thatched roof that, according to biblical history, is erected in honor of the “booths” that provided shelter for the Israelites following their escape from Egypt. The true origin of the celebration likely stretches farther back than the Exodus: Sukkot incorporates many aspects of an ancient harvest festival. For eight days and seven nights (this year beginning on sundown of Sept. 18th and ending at nightfall on the 25th), those who observe the holiday eat and sometimes sleep in the sukkah, celebrating through song, storytelling, and satiation.

I always know when Sukkot is on the horizon: a backyard I overlook from my fire escape is cleared of overgrowth for its only occupation of the year, and sukkah construction begins—power saws and drills sometimes whirring until 1 AM. A new layer of buildings is added across Hasidic Williamsburg, the density of the city causing plywood structures to spill into the street from the front of synagogues and yeshivas. The main markers of buildings constructed, or adapted, by the Hasidim are also put to their intended use: the large balconies that sprout haphazardly from often-dull facades become platforms for sukkahs. Where these balconies are in short supply, a long skinny hut occupies the iconic Brooklyn stoop.

While the orthodox enclave is firmly embedded in contemporary Brooklyn, a mainstay in its narrative of diversity and idiosyncrasy, it also operates apart and often by its own rules. Some of these structures may not fully comply with New York City building code, but as with many things in the community, the constructions are intended to abide by a higher law. And while a sukkah must abide by precise parameters—it must be a temporary structure, have at least two and a half walls, be big enough to fit a table, and have a roof of organic materials that provides shade but lets you see the stars—this code allows ample space for reinterpretation, producing a diverse array of sukkah styles. Some appear ready-made, others cobbled together from an array of materials, and a few stand out for their relative luxury. Whatever the style, the concentration of this ritualistic intervention in the urban fabric is a welcome site each year, as is the replacement of the noise of construction with the hubbub of ceremony wafting through my window.

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Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.

COUNTY FAIR - TENNESSEE 

The county fair is best experienced at dusk with the smell of deep-fried oreos filling the air. I associate fair season with summer’s end and that last blast of oppressive heat and humidity. As wrathful as summer can be at this time, seeing the ferris wheel glow means that there will be a bit of a breeze when the sun goes down.

People from all walks of life stroll along the Midway. Young couples stray from their large group of high school friends and embrace quietly between the clanging whirring rides. A man with a straight billed cap wants to impress his wife by raising a giant mallet and sending a puck up the High Striker. Children sit at the edge of their seats straining to see the cars in the open-air arena growl and shift into gear and smash all of the other cars in its path until no one can move.

Beside the Midway is the heart of the fair — the friendly competition of neighbors showing off their art, from a smoked ham to a perfectly groomed angora rabbit. My Mom, who grew up in Iowa, has great memories of exhibiting at the fair through 4H. Growing up on a farm with a big family, you are instantly part of a well-oiled machine. Along with childhood mischief, she also had chores and important jobs. As the oldest child, she learned to drive at twelve to help caravan farm equipment from their farm to my Great-Grandpa’s farm. With her 4H cow, she was solely in charge and took great pride in raising and showing it.

I see that same pride today walking around the barns full of animals and crafts. A ten year old boy, usually unable to sit still for a moment, gently applies Purple Oil to his goat’s horns, explaining to me that it makes them shine for judging and I shouldn’t touch them. The fair requires discipline and preparation. He spent months walking the goat on a lead for exercise and sociability, grooming him often, and caring for him daily.

The fair is a magical place where young people can try on their more adult selves and grown-ups can act like children.

Editor’s note:

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Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee. She was recently named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine.

Follow on Tumblr at tammymercure or on her website,TammyMercure.com. Support her work at TCB Press.