Sweet Juniper 2006 North American Tour

Posted by jdg | Thursday, July 13, 2006 |

I've always loved to look at foreign travel guides for the places that I've lived, particularly San Francisco. It's so interesting to see the places that the authors recommend: the sights, the bars, the restaurants. I often wonder what city it is they describe, considering how different the experience they recommend to an average tourist is from my own knowledge of the city. It warms my heart to think of my own naivete in traveling: the difference between the Rome I know and the Rome of someone who lives there. Wood and I once spent a week in her Uncle's empty house in an unremarkable neighborhood of Vienna, and it was so nice to shop at grocery stores where nothing was made convenient for foreigners, to drink liters of Zwickel in a neighborhood Bier Beisl where despite our best efforts to blend in (and speak German) every patron stared in wonder at who we were.

Beyond some shallow yearning for "authenticity" (I don't even know if I believe in authenticity), I do prefer to lurk in such places, primarily because I am cheap and the prices are so much better in untouristed areas. At the suggestion of a SJ reader I am working on a huge post about our favorite things to see and do in San Francisco that aren't in the tourist guides. We figure almost everyone comes here at some point, and so many of you will, and if you think this website is worth reading maybe you'll think some of our favorite things to do are worth doing.

But before it's done, I have a favor to ask of you: I want to do a collaboration with some of you. In late August we are going to pack up our stuff and drive across the country with Juniper. This creates two questions:

1. How do you travel long distances with a kid? Are there any tricks or useful advice you have learned through hard experience that you wouldn't mind sharing with us? [I should add that any great advice we get on this could turn into something very big (it's a secret) but we promise to give you credit]

2. (and this is the big one) Do you live (or have you lived) within an hour of highways 50, 70, or 80, anywhere between Reno and Chicago?

If you can answer "yes" to #2, I want to hear from you via e-mail. Specifically, I want you to tell me about your favorite thing to see or do in your city or town. It doesn't need to be any more detailed than (a) what it is; and (b) why you love it, but please, be as detailed as you can. I may want to follow up and ask you more (or "interview" you about it). See, my inner Charles Kuralt really wants to plan a trip that allows me to get off the highway as much as possible and see things that really mean something to local people. I hate the monotonous conformity of interstate highway culture and would love to experience something that you feel really gives your chosen (or former) home true character and meaning. It could be a simple diner, a nature preserve, a historical landmark or museum, an awesome thrift/antique store, a single piece of architecture, an abandoned factory or a ghost town, a swimming hole, a cool playground, a cemetery, a roadside attraction, a crazy guy who puts all kinds of random stuff in his lawn, a cheap dive bar with unbelievable olive burgers, a department store that's been around for decades, an old insane asylum, a beautiful courthouse: anything that makes you proud of where you live or that you think defines the character of where you live (the more things, the better).

If you no longer live there, please write to me about something that you miss. I am very interested in the way we both love and loathe the places we're from. I find this ambivalence fascinating, and I think too often people talk about why they don't like where they live or where they are from rather what they do like about it. Probably because people just like to complain. If you've been reading this blog you probably know that I don't like chain restaurants or big box stores, primarily because I dislike the way they disrupt the culture of a place. I have a bit of Miniver Cheevy in me and I like to think about the past and history of a place. If you've been reading SJ for awhile and some clue about something any of us would especially like given our apparent tastes, all the better.

Depending on the response, I want to map out a route that allows us to stop and see some of the recommendations, and then I'll write a blog entry about it from the road. If you'd like to meet us and show us around, all the better.

Please e-mail us: sweetjuniper at gmail.com. Give us a reason to get off the goddamn highway.