I’ve been in Alabama for three weeks now and I’m still walking around wide-eyed and bushy tailed, soaking in all of the South-ness that my big little California heart can handle. I find incredible joy in the simple things: a waitress calling me ‘sugar’, a lingering firefly on the front porch, walking down the street and being greeted with a wave and a smile by every single person I pass. And I am truly grateful for all of the wonderful people that I’ve met, especially my roommates and Airplane Girl & Co. (aka her family), for welcoming me to Huntsville with such open arms.
I have learned to enjoy the slowness of the South and be more open to unplanned weekends and just letting stuff happen. Back in Los Angeles I was always busy, always hustling, my weeks filled up quickly. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong, I look forward to returning to my L.A. life and hitting the ground running. But these days, when I’m not working, I spend my Sundays in coffee shops reading and writing and hours at home or in the park playing music and singing. Joys that I have always loved but never really spent the time to nurture.
Excitement here is relative. I don’t mean to say that life is dull or boring in Huntsville, but rather, I’m re-conditioning myself to enjoy life in a different way. Huntsville is not Los Angeles, and thank goodness, because I get to have an entirely new adventure here! For example, the highlight of this last week was a solo trip to Tangled String Studios in the arts district of Huntsville. I stumbled upon this guitar shop on one of my wanderings and started talking to the owner, Danny, a friendly and fascinating man. He is a retired NASA engineer and used his mechanical engineering knowledge and love for music to open a workshop where he makes guitars by hand. It’s a beautifully eclectic store – whimsical really. With twinkle lights hanging from the ceilings, tools strewn about, mismatched chairs and sofas for guests to sit in, pieces of instruments hanging from the walls, and concert posters galore. You can feel the love that has gone into the curation of this place and he opens it up regularly for intimate evening concerts. After speaking with Danny, I came back later that week to see The Mulligan Brothers, a folksy “Americana” band. I hadn’t heard of them, but they’re local to Alabama and I figured it would be a great introduction to the listening room – that’s what they call the shop/venue. I also learned what a listening room is: essentially a music venue, but very small, intimate, and without any “extra’s” like an attached bar or restaurant, so that the sole purpose of the space is to truly enjoy the musical experience. Guests can bring their own libations, curl up in a cozy armchair and just listen.
While I sat and sipped my beer in a can, listening to the honest lyrics and joyful fiddle playing of The Mulligan Brothers I smiled to myself. I was utterly content (the beer helped). But something about the night just felt so magically Southern. It was an experience unique to my time in Huntsville that sort of captured everything that I’ve come to enjoy about the city – the warm end-of-summer night feeling, the friendly community, the magic of the shop and little gems I keep discovering. The glow of the twinkle lights were like fireflies and the stage made of plank boards almost made it feel like I was sitting in the backyard with friends at some antebellum house watching the local band play on the porch. I’ve never been anywhere like it before.
A sucker for a good tour (and a history lesson) I accompanied Airplane Girl and her parents on a historic breakfast trolley tour of Huntsville. There were blueberry muffins and coffee involved. Yes. So much yes. It’s always fun to be a tourist in your own town, and neither Airplane Girl nor her parents had gone on this particular tour before, so everybody wins! We went through the historic downtown district and saw a lot of really beautiful antebellum homes – owned by such figures as John Hunt, one of the first settlers of Huntsville, and LeRoy Pope, related to the famous poet, Alexander Pope. I learned lots of fun facts like the identity of the elusive Lily Flagg. I live off of Lily Flagg Rd., there are Lily Flagg Apts, Lily Flagg Municipal Pool, a Lily Flagg Furniture store. Who IS this Lily Flagg? She must really be somebody. Well, thanks to my trolley tour, I come to find that Lily Flagg was, in fact, an award-winning dairy COW who broke the world record for butter production. We saw Lily Flagg’s owner’s house (didn’t bother to remember his name), who painted the mansion butter yellow, in honor of the cow, and was the first in the city to install electric lights in his home in preparation for the extravagant party he threw for Lily’s big win. Leave it to the South to introduce electricity to the city because of a COW. So great.
The Twickenham neighborhood in Huntsville is the largest antebellum district in Alabama and is full of beautiful, old homes. I look forward to exploring more of the streets and watching the leaves change as we creep into Fall.
I also visited Harrison Bros. Hardware, a Huntsville establishment over 100 years old. The store, still in operation, uses the original cash register and old hardware is sprinkled throughout the store amongst the newer treasures. It’s a very charming little place to wander around in.
I’m going to New Orleans next weekend with the Atomic Cherry Bombs to perform at the Swing Dance Festival. Look forward to a post about my adventures in my favorite American city!!!
Until next time.