Monday, March 24, 2014

Chicago Blues For Travel and Music Fans

I mentioned that I had completed writing my book a couple of months ago and it will soon be published on April 8! Exploring Chicago Blues; Inside The Scene Past And Present, is an accessible guide to Chicago blues history, with suggestions on where to go, who to see and where to eat for an authentic blues experience. I've researched and experienced the varying aspects of Chicago blues culture for several decades, first as part of my heritage and then as a fan and finally as a columnist;I write a monthly blues column called Sweet Home for the Illinois Entertainer. With this book, I take travelers and music fans on a trip to one of my favorite places and cultures.

It guides you inside the local blues clubs, helping readers savor the experience of listening to artists like Peaches Staten, above, belt out soulful blues accompanied by her frottoir, or washboard, inside the friendly walls of Rosa's Blues Lounge. I guide travelers through the best soul food spots to sample another important aspect of blues culture. Pig feet, greens and fried chicken were always essential ingredients at many Mississippi juke joints. The crucial connection of Mississippi, where blues masters developed the genre, to Chicago, where thousands of Magnolia State residents moved during the Great Migration, is the foundation of both my book and Chicago blues style. If you won't be in the Chicago area in the coming months to attend any of my book events, please visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The History Press or Good Reads to order a copy or learn more about Chicago blues. And if you do visit Chicago, please let me know so I can offer you some personalized Chicago blues tips!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Lucian Style Farmers Market

Farmers markets offer Americans an easy way to buy fresh produce, directly from the farmers. But in St. Lucia, this concept gets a Caribbean twist with this farmer floating out to our sailboat with freshly picked tropical fruit.

The sensory delight of his coral-colored canoe, laden with gold and green fruit against the deep sapphire ocean was not lost on me. I just gazed at the spectacle for awhile before I could even focus on what I would taste.

In the end, I passed up juicy starfruit and luscious mango for my all time favorite, jelly coconut.  The farmer whipped out his machete and swiftly opened my coconut, handing it to me before he floated off. I can still taste the lightly sweet coconut water, swirling around the jelly pulp at the bottom. What's your favorite fruit to try when you travel?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Turtles and Tequila

The Pacific coast of Mexico captivates anyone lucky enough to experience it. I traveled the 17 miles of coastline that make up the nine bays of Huatulco and I'm still amazed at the raw beauty. The deep sapphire blue water holds untold treasures, from a coral reef to scores of sea turtles, which I glimpsed up close.

I headed to Santa Cruz harbor and hopped aboard a little boat called Tequila. Sailing to the nine bays was an idyllic journey, with salty breezes and freshly picked  avocados for guacamole in St. Agustin. But the waters were choppy on the way back and after four hours of sailing, a big dose of sea sickness smacked me with a vengeance. My crew was unfazed though, and they quickly took over photographic duties for me.

Sea turtles bobbed all over those choppy waves and I watched from a slightly steady corner as little faces popped up in the water.

We saw whole families swimming by and solo adventurers floating along.

Sea turtles nest along the beaches of Oaxaca around June and bury hundreds of eggs in the sand. They hatch two months later and make their way into the water. I spied several baby turtles that looked like they were just born a few months ago. Unfortunately, I couldn't join them for their leisurely swim, my fortitude had waned in the blistering Mexican sun, even though I was sailing on a boat called Tequila.