Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

September 2010

My Mother’s Minneapolis

Location: Minneapolis/ St. Paul Mileage: 5,160 Food: Beer at Palmer’s Bar Music: “It’s a Beautiful Day” by White Bird With my last formal interview behind me I drove onward with a new destiny, to drive back across the north to recapture my family’ past.   I started in Minneapolis/ St Paul, a place where my mother had fled her conservative parents to dive into the Mecca of 1970’s hippie counter culture. 

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From a Barrel Racer to a Sculptor

Location: Chicago Mileage: 5,160 Meal: Spicy kielbasa and rice (I made a worthwhile exception to meatless fare) Music: “Sweet Home Chicago” by the Blues Brothers Driving across Ohio and Illinois requires patience.  The incessant roadwork prohibits speeding, multiple tollbooths deplete wallets, and there is wind so fierce it threatens to steer you off the road.  However, if you can get past the distractions, and take the time to look out

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An interview with Singer/Songwriter Clare Burson

No travel details to display; An interview from a concert past, memories of melody in NYC When a friend in New York suggested I go to Joe’s Pub to see his friend perform, I agreed.  Clare Burson was releasing a new CD, titled Silver and Ash, as a tribute to her grandmother’s escape from Holocaust Germany.  Anyone that dedicated an entire album to such a monumental event, needed to be

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Upstate New York: The Four Seasons

Location: Hamburg new York (outside of Buffalo) Mileage: 4,750 Meal: Car snacks of apples and protein bars Music: “November Rain” by Guns N Roses (thank you Al for the reminder) I left Fulton to head west, spending the night in a random roadside hotel near Buffalo, New York.  Many think of Ani DiFranco when they think of Buffalo.  Many do not think of my own musical time spent here; my

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Fulton, New York

Location: Fulton New York Mileage: 4,610 Music: “Forever Young” by Alphaville Meal: Café sandwich and salad I drove out of Manhattan, narrowly missing zigzagging pedestrians and lane un- abiding taxis.  Although I could have stayed longer in the grand city, it was time to hit the road again. My car, now littered with west village leaves and parking tickets, had stayed idle for too long. I headed upstate into the

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Interview with a Mexican-American, Re-Inventing

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 Meal: Rosé Prosecco, courtesy of Carolina Music: “A Kiss to Build a Dream on” by Louis Armstrong Perhaps it was the humidity, or the heat seeping up people’s bodies from the hot sparkly cement, but the hardness of New York City melted away.  People’s eyes softened and their hearts opened.   If you were able to get them to sit still for even a second,

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From a horror flick to a love poem

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 (yes, I am still in Manhattan….) Meal: Vegetable Omelet Music: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles When Melissa first called me telling me that she would love to participate in my project, her voice radiated such a genuine enthusiasm and hospitality that I couldn’t believe that I was still in the overcommitted city of Manhattan. I met Melissa uptown for a healthy

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Interview with a Salsa Dancer

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 Meal: Ultra Vegan Salad Music: “Everybody Salsa” by Chocolate Before I discovered Salsa dancing at age 19, I was convinced I was a dance pariah, born with two left feet and rhythm comparable to an eplileptic attack.  Dances in high school mortified me; my awkward body felt much more comfortable plastered to a wall of a gymnasium than pretending to feel graceful in some

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An Uncaged Bird

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 Music: “Born on a Train” by the Magnetic Fields Meal: Mozzarella salad and prosecco When I met with an agent about my women writing project she told me that although the stories were pleasing vignettes, they were also very separate sketches that stood alone on a wall.  If I wanted to make my project a success I would not only need to tie my

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Life is a Piece of Cake

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 Meal: Yummy Nut Cupcake Music: “Simple Things” by Belle and Sebastian There is no reason to cook in New York City.  In addition to kitchens being the size of a cigarette carton (and often smelling similar), delicious ready made food is abundant. From restaurants to deli’s to street vendors, it is impossible to starve in New York. After a month of eating roadside undistinguishable

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Dating and Renting in NYC: a Tale of Moxy

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 (plus multiple miles traversing the city on foot, cab, subway, and carriage) Music: Gramercy Tavern special (calamari and carrot salad, trout with fava) Music: “Good Fortune” by PJ Harvey The urban frenzy and harshness of New York is for the thick skinned and steel clad.  Until I arrived here, I had only been met with soft open arms, motivational quotes, and encouragement to keep

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Bright Lights, Big City

Mileage: 4,338 Location: New York City Meal: Matzo and Martinis Music: “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z * names have been changed * I left Maryland to head to New York City and enter the towers of dreams and the melting pot of life.  As I drove into the urban Mecca, I started thinking about the strong women I had met along my journey.  Unlike others who wear their suffering

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Gratitude for Life

Location: Bethesda, Maryland Mileage: 4,010 Meal: Fresh brewed coffee Music: “Float on” by Modest Mouse Solo travelers that keep their masks on and walls up won’t get very far.  Especially if the intent is to have complete strangers open up to you.  In order to succeed on my journey, I had to take a complete layer off of myself, rendering me raw and openly reliant on the outside world for

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An End of Ramadan Feast

Location: Arlington, Virginia, across from DC Mileage: 3,980 Meal: Samosa, kebab, and curried corn Music: “Stand Up for What you Believe in” by the Mumford Sons I had successfully kept any skeletons at bay now for over a week, likely due to the shining light of the religious and good-hearted homes I had been visiting.  Past demons have a way of surfacing when you are alone in the dark, with

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Homemade Dinner for Eight

Location: Fort Mills, South Carolina Mileage: 3,501 Meal: Homemade everything Music: “Carolina on my mind” by James Taylor Knowing I was going to be in the Carolinas, my old business school classmate, Jon, invited me over to dinner with his family in South Carolina. Heading south was a slight detour, but a home-cooked meal and friendly conversation was well worth the distance. I left the gleaming financial buildings of Charlotte

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Interview with a ‘Hippy Chick’ Racecar Driver

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina Mileage: 3,478 Meal: Veggie tapas and cheap whisky Music: “Open Road Song” by Eve6 Charlotte is a beautiful historic city that is the birthplace of two American icons: Billy Graham and NASCAR.  Surrounding the green hills and colonial church steeples is the unmistakable adrenaline exhaust of the racetrack. There are over 79 paved and unpaved tracks in North Carolina, infusing the citizens of Charlotte with non

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(Speak) Easy Opportunities

Location: Atlanta Mileage: 3,156 Meal: Bernheim whisky Music: “Finally Woken” by Jem “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Milton Berle Unlike Joanne’s father mine had taught me all the things a girl needed to know in life, like how to shoot whisky and play poker.  At an early age I learned the art of gambling, and how taking risks and seizing opportunities were fundamental in to maximize our time

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“Hotlanta” Grace

Location: Atlanta, Georgia Mileage: 3,103 Meal: Salad (finally!)….with deep fried Ahi (sigh…still in the south) Music: “Don’t Use my Broken Heart” by Leona Nass Atlanta is described as the ‘melting pot of the south’, a blend of culture and class that no other southern city can rival.  Atlanta is also called ‘Hotlanta’ by the younger crowd.  I was never sure if this was due to the heat from the midtown

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A Chance Encounter in Birmingham

Location: Birmingham, Alabama Mileage: 2,830 Music: “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles Meal: A plate of (scurvy reducing) vegetables—my first since I hit the south. *interview names and minor details changed* I left New Orleans as it was approaching the peak of its flamboyant frenzy.  In Nola Labor Day weekend was also Gay Pride Decadence Weekend. Men had come from all over the US to don rainbow boas, dance

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Interview with a Katrina Disaster Worker

Location: St. Bernard’s Parish, Louisiana Mileage: 2,600 Meal: Muffaletta sandwich Music: “This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case After switching hotels (my other one was surely haunted), I drove out of the crowded French Quarter into an expanse of pastel painted homes, dog barking yards, and neighborhood po-boy sandwich shops.  St Barnard’s parish wasn’t exactly a rich area, most of it just recently rebuilt after the Katrina devastation, but it

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