26 July, 2012

As American as App' Pah Ah l'Mowed

This post has been in draft for almost a month...but here it is anyway, the old news, because I need to get back into the habit of writing and posting...and because the tossing together of 22 relatives in a sweltering hot old-fashioned resort is great source material.

Every summer my family retreats to the mountains of West Virginia for a week.  We leave behind the miserable masses of Washington, DC tourists and commuters and enter a land where the sun shines, the homey food just keeps a-comin', and the roads have names like "Branch of Kump."  (What exactly is a kump?  I am equal parts curiosity and trepidation.)  We go to our happy place, Capon Springs and Farms.  At Capon ("CAYp'n" or "CayPON") there is no cell-phone reception, and only one room with internet access.  This may be the only place other than an airplane where you can be completely unplugged, guilt-free.

We are always at Capon Springs for the Fourth of July.  I've never experienced "A Capital Fourth," and I'm okay with that.  I love the annual trek up to the top of the golf course (the lone spot in this vale of leisure where one may obtain a cell phone signal) at dusk.  We eat dinner at long wooden tables and then play games while we wait for the sun to slip behind the distant Shenandoah ridges.  A "pre-show" of low-flying sparklers announces that it's almost dark enough for the BIG show to begin.  We spread blankets on the ground as far down the hill as we dare; we have learned after years of Capon fireworks shows that if you lie on your back far enough down the hill, your entire field of vision is monopolized by the falling trails of fire, and you are left laughing with dizzy awe, having lost all sense of space and depth.
I look forward to this chicken all year.

Some of my favorite times at Capon are the family-style meals.  Some of the food is fantastic -- I look forward to the spit-roasted chicken all year long -- and some of it is not.  But it's all offered to you in the same wild and wonderful West-Virginia-ese:

"App'-pah-ah-l'mowed" = Apple pie a la mode
"Chockl' puddin' w'whipp c-ream" = Chocolate pudding with whipped cream
"Keenaloape" = Cantaloupe

Sometimes when I'm attempting to describe Capon to people who've never been, they say, "Ohhh, like the place in 'Dirty Dancing'!!!"  I never know how to respond, because while there are lots of little guest houses nestled among trees and the patrons are mostly soft city-folk, there is most definitely nothing like a Patrick Swayze on the premises.  Capon's still fantastic, but do NOT expect anything like this to happen:

"Welcome to West Virginia."

20 July, 2012

Stamps in My Passport

Photo booth mugshots: A rite of
passage for every traveler!
My aunt Dianne left an indelible mark on my life, the depth of which I'm only understanding with time.  After she died two years ago my family went to sort through the things in her house before it went up for sale.  There was silence as we handled the tangible things she amassed over decades of enjoying travel and art and books and good food...and then laughter as we shared with one another the intangible things we were learning about her in the process.  She was stylish, calm, collected...but then there was that one night that she drank too many G&Ts at a gallery fundraiser and awoke the next morning to discover that she'd successfully bid on a $2,000 art piece!  OOPS...  Beneath that regal exterior was a penchant for adventure.

I kept a number of things of hers that held meaning for me, but one of my favorites is her stack of passports.  Over many years as a buyer for department stores and office administrator for an interior design firm, the lady born & raised in the Midwest covered many miles of this big earth.  She began her career when it was still not entirely common to see a woman moving up in the workplace (cue "Mary Tyler Moore" theme song!); I like to imagine her in those days, globetrotting and holding her own in international boardrooms.  England, France, Italy, China, Japan, and countless other places.  I remember the fire of enthusiasm and memory that would flare up in her eyes when she was asked to name her favorite destination; the answer was Hong Kong.  She was unafraid to be the stranger in a strange land.  I think she discovered strength through experiencing unknown places.  She developed an eye for beauty and a confidence in her own taste.  

There are a lot of ways in which I hope to emulate my remarkable aunt, but one of the chief ones is to follow my travel bug.  She was a relentless cheerleader when I took my first trip abroad five years ago and followed every subsequent trip of mine with the same interest and pride.  As I begin a new phase of life on a teacher's budget, I can't count on accruing quite as many stamps in my passport as she did, but I nonetheless intend to make travel a priority (always asking "What Would Dianne Do?" of course!).  I've decided I'm going to begin putting together my own little series of guides to the places I've already been, and then for other destinations as I gradually continue my travels.  Follow along to collect tips and recommendations AND to learn from my many mistakes as a fledgling globetrotter! ;-)