From the monthly archives:

August 2009

An Extraordinary Place

by Alan Rider

In my adult life, I’ve lived in more than a dozen cities and spent time in dozens more.  And I’m here to tell you that, in my experience, there’s no place on this planet that can match New Orleans when it comes to pure, irrepressible joi de vivre.
What I find truly extraordinary, however, is the fact that this laid-back, fun-loving vibe has remained virtually unchanged despite the dramatic damage inflicted when Hurricane Katrina hit the Crescent City four years ago today.  While many New Orleans neighborhoods remain devastated, the laissez le bon temps rouler spirit that earned this town the nickname “The City That Care Forgot” remains remarkably intact.
Though I’m [...]

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Mysterious Attraction

by Alan Rider

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why certain places hold special meaning for us.  Places we think of fondly and long to return to, even if it’s only in our daydreams.

Sometimes our attachment to a place makes complete sense, like the tropical island where we spent our honeymoon or the quaint lakeside cottage we remember from family vacations.  And then there are those places we find ourselves drawn to over and over again in a way that defies rational explanation.
For me, that place is New Orleans.  Granted, the fact that I lived there in the mid-1980s probably figures into my fondness for the Crescent City.  But I’m also convinced [...]

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Spaced Out

by Alan Rider

Next week’s launch of the space shuttle Discovery reminds me of a lesson I learned the hard way earlier this year:  Trying to catch one of NASA’s handful of remaining space shuttle launches isn’t as easy as it sounds.
You see, Murphy’s Law caused last February’s Discovery mission to be postponed again and again, until I had to settle for having lunch with an astronaut and riding the shuttle simulator at the Kennedy Space Center.  Both enjoyable and recommended, but …sigh…not exactly the extraordinary experience I was hoping for.
Of course, there is one sure-fire way to guarantee yourself a front-row seat for a future space shot.  For a cool $170 million, [...]

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Quirky-R-Us

by Alan Rider

I readily admit I get bored easily.  Which is why I’m frequently mystified when I read the results of surveys that rate Americans’ favorite vacation activities.  Honestly, the mere idea of spending the day shopping or lounging by the pool is more than I can take.

Which helps explain why I’m always on the lookout for adventures that are a little more unusual, maybe even downright quirky.  If you can relate, you owe it to yourself to check out Atlas Obscura, a new website that bills itself as a “compendium of the world’s wonders, curiosities, and esoterica.”  There are listings for off-beat attractions on every continent, from Antarctica’s freaky-looking Blood [...]

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Air Amour

by Alan Rider

Here’s one of those stories we couldn’t make up.  It seems that Brisbane, Australia-based Erotic Airways is now offering private charter flights to couples (or threesomes, if you’re so inclined) looking to earn their membership in the legendary “Mile-High Club.”
Rather than trying to squeeze yourself and your partner into the cramped lavatory of a commercial airliner in an attempt to, ahem, fly united, the Erotic Airways folks set you up with a double bed covered in satin sheets in the back of a vintage twin-engine Beech H-18S.  Flights last either 40- or 60-minutes and come complete with mood-enhancers including champagne, chocolates and more.
Once you’ve done the deed and are safely [...]

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Up In Smoke

by Alan Rider

No, I’m not talking about that late-70s cult classic starring Cheech and Chong.  In fact, the upcoming Burning Man festival in northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert makes that once-outrageous comedy look positively quaint by comparison.

The annual spectacle, which runs from August 31st to September 7th this year, takes its name from the 80-foot wooden “man” organizers set ablaze on the festival’s final night.  But while that giant bonfire provides a focal point for this gathering of nearly 50,000 free spirits 100 miles north of Reno, it’s only a small part of the story.
At its core, Burning Man is a week-long experiment in utopian ideals like freedom [...]

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Hot Rods & Cool Concerts

by Alan Rider

If you were going to sit down and make a list of every uniquely American pop culture icon you could think of, hot-rods and rock-n-roll would have to be near the top of that list. Which makes two extraordinary experiences on tap for this coming weekend seem oddly patriotic:
Peace and Music
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, the legendary open-air festival that saw 500,000 people descend on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York for “three days of peace and music.”  If you weren’t there, you can get a feel for the event Rolling Stone magazine called one of the “50 Moments That Changed the History of [...]

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