Category Archives: USA

Little Rock Rockin’

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I didn’t know much about Arkansas. I pictured it as pretty country. That much seems true. I had a friend who lived there for a while, so I know there’s some semblance of a Mennonite community somewhere in the state. Shortly before entering the state I was informed by my sister that it is the birthplace of Wal-Mart. Apparently there’s one located off almost every interstate exit. We didn’t test this theory.

We stopped for dinner in Little Rock. It being the capital city and whatnot. And we sat down in a cute little restaurant/bar in their Downtown/River Walk District. From what I’m told, there’s little else to the city. But isn’t that how a lot of people see towns? If anyone were to come to my our new town, they might think the same. But, alas, we have found so many other places to explore and haven’t even properly ventured through the Downtown area as of yet.

At any rate, that area is awesome! (We’re back in Little Rock now.) Even if it is the only cool thing in the whole town, I wish we would have had more than two hours to spend exploring. It would take at least a whole day. There were tunnels and caves and “rock walls” to climb. There were tons of tributes to Native Americans since the Trail of Tears traveled through that area. (Which is nice since, you know, we took their land and killed their people.) There was a pretty sweet amphitheater where I wager there would be some pretty nice events. A great trail along the river, some beautiful trees and bridges (I love bridges), oh and a river, of course.

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As the story goes, according to the signs we read, the River Walk area was commissioned by President Clinton. Arkansas, as I learned in my journeying there and thanks to my husband who collects news like I collect books, is the homeland of Mr. Clinton. Which explains the lilt even after all those years living like a Yankee.

So while it’s not my next dream destination. And while I’m not eager to relocate. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the city was a greater adventure than I originally anticipated. We even saw the “little rock” of its namesake.

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You disappoint, Houston

I have never had any burning desire to visit the state of Texas, honestly. It’s nothing personal, I’ve just never been overly fond of “The South” anyway and Texas is kind of the pinnacle of the South. And I’m sure there are some very cool places in Texas. In fact, I just read an article on how artsy and cool Austin has become. Good for Austin! But not for Houston.

Houston is big. It’s the fourth largest city in the entire United States and it is, by far, the largest city in “The South”. So, shouldn’t that make it kind of interesting. I mean, the cities that beat it are New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Interesting cities. Things worth seeing and doing. Granted, it’s a hot place312871 to be in early August, but there just isn’t much outdoors that we discovered.

If you are from Houston and love it, or you’re some type of Houston enthusiast, then please comment and tell anyone planning to travel to Texas all the wonderful reasons to visit this city. It should be noted that we didn’t go to Houston to see the city. We went for a conference, so we were a bit distracted.

We were also operating on a shoe string budget. I’m sure this greatly impacted the things to see. In fact, I’m positive that it did. But I’ve traveled in cities on multiple continents and all over this country. There are always interesting things to get into on a budget. Especially in big cities! If there are those things in Houston, I implore you – stop hiding them! Let the world know they’re out there to 312869find.

We made it to The Galleria which is the seventh largest hotel in the country. It houses two hotels, a financial center, an ice skating rink, a health club, two office space towers and and endless number of retail establishments ranging from Aeropostale to Saks Fifth Avenue. I discovered after the fact that it’s also considered the most visited attraction in Greater Houston. So, at least we saw the attraction on the top of Houston’s must-see list, right? The pictures are of a fountain in the middle of said mall. The top picture is the ceiling where the water falls to the fountain basin on the floor below (second picture).

On some lighter notes, there are some good places to eat. And speed limits are really high on the interstate. But don’t drive North East out of Houston – you’ll have to get all the way to Arkansas to find any of those aforementioned interstates. Oh, Texas, we’ll have another go of you another day, eh?

Daring to be Different in a Country of Conformists

New Orleans is Cartagena, Colombia on US soil. At least that’s how it felt. The colors, the narrow streets, the architecture, the street performers and artists. I fear I will receive scorn from both parties for these statements, but the two are very similar. It stands to reason, of course, they are both coastal Caribbean cities with a fusion of cultural influences.

It might be a misrepresentation of Cartagena, however. As Cartagena is a much more beautiful city than NOLA. But NOLA has the music! We sat for an hour at Café Du Monde enjoying our beignets and listening to a bang-a-rang saxophonist. We strolled along the Mississippi River and watched the old-time river boats come in and out of port. The sheer size of the Mississippi is magnanimous. I know there are wider rivers, but it’s the largest I’ve ever laid eyes on in person and it is a sight to behold.

Some advice for New Orleans if you should ever take a trip there. Find a reputable Cajun restaurant for the best taste of the city. We did not. And, sadly, we were disappointed by our creole catfish and po’boy. The coffee and pastries mostly made up for it. Don’t try to drive there. If you are driving, find a hotel with parking (it will be worth any additional cost). If you’re flying, then don’t waste your money renting a car. Get a cab to the hotel and be done with it. And don’t ever think you’ve seen it all. The city is so much larger than it first appears. The streets are narrow and seemingly unending.

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We spent our one and only night in the city at Hotel Royal and it was worth the slightly higher price than we’d typically like to pay for a hotel. The room was lovely with a fireplace and the bathtub had jets. Need I say more? We wandered along Bourbon Street both during the day and in the evening. It was like exploring two entirely different streets. In the evening it was swarming with pedestrians, most with drinks in their hands including “Big Ass Beers” which seemed like a trademark of the street.

The shops were filled with skeletons. Skeletons playing the piano, dressed up in costumes, even some walking the streets. I mentioned smells too, right? Well, suffice it to say that your nose will be assaulted with the scents. Some savory and some less so. All just a mélange of the city that has shaped a culture entirely its own. In this country that prides itself on being a melting pot, this city stands alone as a proud beacon of culture and creativity.

Southern Style Road Trip

I have been living in Greensboro for about six weeks now. I am still unemployed and Lanre just began classes yesterday, so we’ve had a lot of time on our hands. I’d like to tell you that we have explored every single nook and cranny of this city that we are inexhaustibly loving, but that would be a lie. Well, not the loving part, we are that, but we’ve barely meandered meaningfully through the downtown section and only just explored a few of the many parks. Instead, we’ve been traveling.

We spent some time in the great state of South Carolina where I met the newest love of my life – Emmett Robert – who may love his Auntie Rachel to pieces and be the smiliest freakin’ baby on the East Coast. Then our taste for adventure took us south… the deep, dirty  American South. To which Lanre diplomatically responded, “It’s really not fair to judge the south as dirty. It’s just so hot and dry here, how could they get the dust to settle?”

We headed out of North Carolina into South Carolina (where they have the cheapest gas), across the corner of Georgia, driving through Atlanta. Atlanta is a mecca of sorts for Nigerian immigrants and it’s a city Lanre has been hearing about his entire life. So, we may or may not have yelled like maniacs when we drove through it. Then we headed across the great state of Alabama and into the home state of my father, Mississippi where we stopped to rendez-vous with some fantastic family in Jackson.

I have been traveling to Mississippi since I was born. My parents would load all of the children – which in my lifetime ranged anywhere from three to six at any given time – in a full size van and drive straight through from Maryland to Mississippi in one shot. Stopping only for gas and snacks. I remember my Mom packing sandwiches and we would occasionally stop at those Rest Areas on the side of the road to eat. And more than once we pulled off on the side of the road for someone to pee.

After becoming an adult, I stopped visiting Mississippi. I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been there since I graduated from high school. It’s not the most wonderful of states in our great nation. Statistically it is the poorest state in the entire country and it has the highest poverty rate. The issue of racial segregation is still rampant in many parts of the state, including its capital city of Jackson which should, by all rights, be the most progressive city in the state. It’s also hot and muggy and bugs abound!

It’s not all bad though. It still has a thriving music scene focusing primarily on blues and bluegrass and jazz. It has produced some of the greatest musicians in the history of the United States including B.B. King, Jimmy Buffet & Jerry Lee Lewis. Even Oprah Winfrey hails from Mississippi. And my childhood memories from there are happy. We built forts all over the forest behind my grandmother’s house and went fishing on the pond. It was this tiny rural town and my grandparents knew everyone in it. We were related to nearly everyone in it.

One day my brother and cousins and I were walking home from the corner store where we went to get candy. There were no sidewalks, so we were walking on the grass next to the road – which was by no means busy. Suddenly a garbage truck pulls up next to us and asks, “You kids a Dillon?” We were, understandably, a little baffled. “Yes sir, we’re Dillon kids.” He named our fathers and we nodded. He said,
“Well, I just knew you was Dillons! I’m your cousin! Well, your Daddy’s cousin! They at your grandma’s house?!” So he drove the garbage truck to Grandma’s and stayed for dinner.

Stepping back in to Mississippi smelled exactly the same. It smelled like the woods around Grandma’s house. And the heat felt just as oppressive as I remembered. And the love and warmth of family, felt just as strong as I remembered. It was a short visit, but a memorable one.