Kentucky Mount Rushmore

What Made Kentucky Famous.
What Made Kentucky Famous.

Usually, I try to do a minibio of someone interesting on Tuesday afternoons, but you know what? I’m just going to make an incomplete list of several Kentuckians who are or were awesome and conclude said list with a brief statement, inspired by yet another Will Russell brainchild. Please watch this brief video before continuing.

So, the good folks who wanted to make this a reality (now on hold) asked people to pick their favorite Kentuckians to be memorialized in stone, like the other, less fun Mount Rushmore. With respect to the ones chosen (Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, Colonel Sanders, and Secretariat), here’s an alternate list that is probably equally deserving.

1. Loretta Lynn. I am going to do a little feature on Miss Lady later this week, but a word on the woman: she’s had dozens of amazing records, was a live-out-loud feminist, and somehow still manages to maintain this wonderful place, where a lady (me) may get as many biscuits with gravy as her heart desires.

2. Duncan Hines. Duncan Hines was kind of the original (and not terrible) Guy Fieri. He wrote these little guide books that had out-of-the-way places to get tasty food. One of the places he put on the map was Sanders’ Court and Cafe– the original KFC in Corbin, Kentucky. This was all before he founded the company that brought us funfetti.

3. Robert Penn Warren. RPW was only person to win a Pulitzer for poetry and fiction, but you don’t care about that. Okay, his racial politics were not really to any modern person’s liking, but his work with the Agrarians? Fascinating. All the Kings Men? A feat of intellect and one of the top ten best novels I’ve ever read. His Understanding Poetry textbook? Probably the best poetry text I have read. This guy was a giant of American letters.

4. Hunter S. Thompson. What can I even say? He is from Louisville and attended my rival high school. He was wild. He did drugs I cannot pronounce and he did them with great regularity. He was played by yet another excellent Kentuckian in his own bizarre biopic. I have a series of portraits of him framed in my living room. My roller derby name is Huntress Thompson. Read this. Watch this. Be convinced of his inimitable, unspeakable genius.

Runners Up: Edgar Cayce (Kentuckian Most Committed to Being a True Freak),  George Clooney (Kentuckian Most Pleased About Being Himself), Daniel Boone (Kentuckian with A Great Hat), Ephraim McDowell (Kentuckian Least Concerned About Anesthesia), Thomas Merton (Most Saintly Kentuckian), Bobbie Ann Mason (Kentuckian I Want to Hang With), Diane Sawyer (Kentuckian Most Maligned by Bill O’Reilly, Who Is A Gigantic Ass), Wendell Berry (Kentucky Author Who Most Liked the Pie I Once Served Him), John Scopes (Kentuckian Most Dedicated to Teaching Evolution), Mary Todd Lincoln (runner up, Kentuckian Most Committed to Being a True Freak category), Louis Brandeis (Most Handsome Jewish Kentuckian Supreme Court Judge), Billy Ray Cyrus (Best Kentucky Mullet), Jennifer Lawrence (Kentuckian I See Most Often at Zanzabar), D.W. Griffith (Kentuckian Most Influential in Modern Cinema), Henry Clay (Kentuckian for Whom The Most Things Are Named)

Okay! Who did I miss?

Tea Party Tuesday: Delta Mint Sweet Tea

Confession: I’m not nuts about sweet tea. This sounds obvious, but it’s just so sweet. I can manage about two or three glasses of it per annum- any more and I feel like I’m just inviting Type II diabetes into my life.

With that caveat now given (and the weekly tea party announcement that I’m not a doctor), I love love love this tea recipe and this usually makes up about 80% of the sweet tea I consume. I adapted this recipe very liberally from Southern Sideboards, the excellent and tragically out-of-print Junior League of Jackson cookbook.

Sometimes, more is more.


Delta Mint Sweet Tea

7 tea bags (the cheap stuff is just fine)

Rind of 3 lemons

20 springs of mint

8 cups boiling water

Juice of 8 lemons

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

8 cups cold water


Put the tea bags, lemon rinds, and mint in a vessel that will hold at least a gallon of stuff. Pour the hot water on top and let steep for 10-15 minutes.  Use your time wisely and juice the lemons now.

I made a bad mistake and put this in a half-gallon vessel. Don't be like me.
I made a bad mistake and put this in a half-gallon vessel. Don’t be like me.

If you’re concerned about wasting the rinds of those extra 5 lemons, just save the peel and make candied lemon peels with them.

Pick out all those things and dump in the sugar and lemon juice in. Stir until the sugar dissolves totally, then add the cold water. This makes about a gallon.

Okay, unlike most weeks, this is not the part where I tell you what a good thing you’re doing for your body, drinking this tea. Consider this dessert, and believe me when I tell you I cut a huge amount of sugar out of the original recipe. That said, you’re going to drink the whole gallon yourself, so good it is, that it’s safest just to double this recipe from the outset.

Serve over ice, garnish with a lemon wedge and a mint sprig.
Serve over ice, garnish with a lemon wedge and a mint sprig.

This is a great, festive non-alcoholic addition to your Derby party, but it’s also excellent if you Irish it up with a little bit of bourbon.

Made by Kentucky Hands


A Kentuckian made this. I live in a county named for his ancestors, and that, my friends, is a fact. Also, he apparently used to date a dark haired woman with my same last name, so when people ask me if he dated my sister I don’t say no.

Yes, I’m going to do this until the Derby.  I’m not sorry.

Staying In: Louisville, Kentucky

I usually do my travel guide on Mondays, but I’m about to move from Louisville, and I’m getting in my “last ______s” right now. People ask me about what to do in the city all the time, so maybe I’ll just make a list for you right now. It’s timely, right? You’re coming for the Derby, I hope.

Horses may be our civic religion, but there's so much more than that here.
Horses may be our civic religion, but there’s so much more than that here.

After the jump, there’s all I know of the place, condensed into a long-but-Reader’s-Digest-length list. Continue reading “Staying In: Louisville, Kentucky”

Book Club: Townie

So, once upon a time, I lived in Mississippi, and the thing is, living in a town with 8,000 souls makes you trusting. I was walking up to the square for the weekly taping of the Mississippi Public Broadcasting arts variety show, Thacker Mountain Radio and a man about my mom’s age pulled up next to me in a sedan with out-of-state plates. “Excuse me,” he said. “Could you tell me how to get to The Lyric? I’m supposed to be reading tonight on the radio, but I’m really lost.” Ordinarily, I do not get near idling cars with strange men from far away contained within, but he seemed nice (read: I’m a sucker AND I’m an idiot). Anyway, long story short, he realizes I’m freaked out, produces his driver’s license, and I end up driving him to the theatre just in the nick of time.

That man was Andre Dubus, III. He gave me a copy of his book, and we kept in touch. Don’t worry, Mom. That was the first and last time I’ve ever done that.

I included a little bit of the note he wrote in the book, but not much because that's probably only of interest to me.
I included a little bit of the note he wrote in the book, but not much because that’s probably only of interest to me.

Townie, which he read from that night, is a memoir of his childhood and young adult years, growing up poor, tough, and without much of a dad in post-industrial Massachusetts. The book is about a lot of things, but more than anything, it’s a long meditation on violence and how that shaped his life. It was strange to square that with the gentle, professional man I met in Oxford that cloudy afternoon. I knew from our chat that he was married and had a couple kids, that they lived in Newbury, and that he was a professor at UMass-Lowell. I had heard that his dad was a famous novelist, too. He was driving a nice rental car and had on a dress shirt. If I had known what I know now of his young adulthood, I wonder if I would have gotten into the car. Continue reading “Book Club: Townie”

The 139th Run for the Roses

Heaven is the Jockey Club.
Heaven is the Jockey Club.

So, this is my favorite two-week period of the year. Better than Christmas, Halloween, and mayyyybe my birthday is the Kentucky Derby Festival, and, of course, the greatest 2 minutes in sports. I’m going to feature different Derby traditions and Louisville lore all week, culminating in the Saturday race. If you were wondering, no, no one in this city is working at all.

Get ready. This is the best ever.

Lazy Sunday: 28 April

Well, friends, I got you these. Enjoy a quiet day.

The Freakin’ Weekend

Shelbyville, Ky. Flea Market, some undefined time in the past.
Shelbyville, Ky. Flea Market, some undefined time in the past.

I’m in this weird and terrible place right now, where I really need to pack and househunt, but I also really, desperately need to go to all the Kentucky Derby Festival events. Let’s be real: I’m going to put all this off for at least another 8 days.  What are you doing this weekend?

You Must Not Let Peter Peter Out

We’re winding down National Poetry Month, yet I still have so many poems I want to share with you. Alas!
Sandra Beasley and I have near-missed each other innumerable times; she left UVA as I came, I left Ole Miss as she arrived, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. I enjoy her work and our mutual friends are convinced we’d get along, but so far, no dice. Anyway, please enjoy this funny and smart poem she composed.

Let Me Count the Waves

by Sandra Beasley

We must not look for poetry in poems.
—Donald Revell

You must not skirt the issue wearing skirts.
You must not duck the bullet using ducks.
You must not face the music with your face.
Headbutting, don’t use your head. Or your butt.
You must not use a house to build a home,
and never look for poetry in poems.
In fact, inject giraffes into your poems.
Let loose the circus monkeys in their skirts.
Explain the nest of wood is not a home
at all, but a blind for shooting wild ducks.
Grab the shotgun by its metrical butt;
aim at your Muse’s quacking, Pringled face.
It’s good we’re talking like this, face to face.
There should be more headbutting over poems.
Citing an 80s brand has its cost but
honors the teenage me, always in skirts,
showing my sister how to Be the Duck
with a potato-chip beak. Take me home,
Mr. Revell. Or make yourself at home
in my postbellum, Reconstruction face—
my gray eyes, my rebel ears, all my ducks
in the row of a defeated mouth. Poems
were once civil. But war has torn my skirts
off at the first ruffle, baring my butt
or as termed in verse, my luminous butt.
Whitman once made a hospital his home.
Emily built a prison of her skirts.
Tigers roamed the sad veldt of Stevens’s face.
That was the old landscape. All the new poems
map the two dimensions of cartoon ducks.
We’re young and green. We’re braces of mallards,
not barrels of fish. Shoot if you must but
Donald, we’re with you. Trying to save poems,
we settle and frame their ramshackle homes.
What is form? Turning art to artifice,
trading pelts for a more durable skirt.
Even urban ducklings deserve a home.
Make way. In the modern: Make way, Buttface.
A poem is coming through, lifting her skirt.

Fantasy Life Update: Moving to Charleston

My front yard, maybe?

Friends, I have a lot of news for you. I’ve accepted a new position as the American South commissioning editor for the History Press, and I’m moving to Charleston, South Carolina in a few weeks to start my new job. I couldn’t be more excited– helping people write books about the South is absolutely my dream. I’ve never lived near the ocean, either, and I’ve always wanted to, so I anticipate a lot of time spent down at Folly Beach, too.

What does this mean for you? Well, I’m still eager to help you with any design work you want done, I’ll be blogging from 600 miles east of where I am currently, and I’ll be actively looking for people who want to write works of non-fiction. In short, it’ll be me with a different driver’s license (I KNOW.). I ask only for your patience in the coming weeks- things might slow down a little bit while I’m moving, but I’ll be back as soon as I can!

Do any of you know anyone in Charleston? Got any great recommendations or good leads? Want to write a book for me? Get at me. I’m excited about this new chapter and I’m grateful for your support.