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Roadside explores the back road and Main Streets of America. Our recipe for an American renaissance: Eat in diners, ride trains, shop on Main Street, put a porch on your house, live in a walkable community.

Teri Dunn Chace

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Single Female Seeks...Good Used Car

Posted by on in Ramblings

womancarThe car of a girlfriend of mine recently died, or rather, as is so often the case, it required yet another costly repair that ultimately is not worth it. Time to go car-shopping. Due to her limited budget, and hoving to the Car Talk guys’ sage advice, she wants to get a used car, in decent condition, with not too many miles on it. We were talking about this because I have bought several used cars over the years. So I said to her: good luck, honey!

Car-shopping is a challenge, to be sure. It is a big purchase for most everybody, undertaken with some trepidation, some concern about not getting a lemon or buying somebody else’s money pit, some anxiety about getting into debt (many of us cannot buy a car with cash, outright), and maybe a dash of excitement or anticipation (gawd, how nice it will be to get behind the wheel, turn a key, and have the dang thing reliably start up!).

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They Do It Differently in Quebec

Posted by on in Eat
teri-depanneur
Yet one more thing different about our neighbors to the north: The Quebecois version of the convenience store.

Writing advice from writers you admire is always worth considering, especially if you are aspiring. One of my heroes, Annie Dillard, once remarked that it is good to write about winter in summer and summer in winter—clarifies the mind.

So here I am, snowed in in my little New England town, in January, thinking of summer!

This past summer I had a real treat, an opportunity to visit the province of Quebec. Not just right over the border, as I had a few times before (it was great sport in college to nip over to buy a case of Brador beer). Our destination was deep into the territory, past ever-enchanting Quebec City, and east along the impressive St. Lawrence River to Parc Saguenay. In any event, I had best add that it is not so easy for anyone to “nip” across the border these days. Bring your passport and your patience if you do this, and do not confess to carrying produce or contraband.

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"She takes care of me."

Posted by on in Ramblings

counter_coverMany long years ago, Roadside Magazine ran an a photo essay cleverly entitled “Boy Meets Grill,” celebrating the guy at our local diner or coffee shop who flips pancakes, turns out meltingly crisp home fries, and knows how to do when it comes to eggs “sunny side up” and “over easy.” But what about the ladies who make our visits so comforting and memorable? A marvelous book has just been published, Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress, by Candacy Taylor. It is marvelous because it is a book of integrity and insight. You should buy it immediately (order it through your local bookshop—the publisher is Cornell University Press—or grab it via amazon.com), definitely for holiday gifts, and/or alert Santa.

A quick thumb-through reveals a bounty of terrific photographs, portraits of the waitresses at work, at a counter or beside a booth, with favorite customers; enticing shots of pie being served and coffee being poured, etc. There is something candid and compassionate, but not patronizing, about these images—Taylor has a knack for respectfully capturing the real. Those of us who try to take good photos in such places would do well to study her success here.

However, though handsomely produced, this is not a coffee-table book, not really. Read it! A former waitress herself, Taylor undertook this project to interview and understand the older American waitress after a long night: “On that Friday night I thought to myself, if we are this tired, how do waitresses twice our age (I was in my early 30s at the time) do this, and how do they feel about their jobs? Do they have dreams they have never realized? Are they worn out from the physical and mental demands of the job?...The questions kept coming.” With camera, tape recorder, laptop, and an open mind (there are so many clichés!), Taylor set out to learn about career waitresses, or “lifers,” as they sometimes wryly, or proudly, call themselves.

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"She takes care of me."

Posted by on in Armchair Roadtrips

counter_coverMany long years ago, Roadside Magazine ran an a photo essay cleverly entitled “Boy Meets Grill,” celebrating the guy at our local diner or coffee shop who flips pancakes, turns out meltingly crisp home fries, and knows how to do when it comes to eggs “sunny side up” and “over easy.” But what about the ladies who make our visits so comforting and memorable? A marvelous book has just been published, Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress, by Candacy Taylor. It is marvelous because it is a book of integrity and insight. You should buy it immediately (order it through your local bookshop—the publisher is Cornell University Press—or grab it via amazon.com), definitely for holiday gifts, and/or alert Santa.

A quick thumb-through reveals a bounty of terrific photographs, portraits of the waitresses at work, at a counter or beside a booth, with favorite customers; enticing shots of pie being served and coffee being poured, etc. There is something candid and compassionate, but not patronizing, about these images—Taylor has a knack for respectfully capturing the real. Those of us who try to take good photos in such places would do well to study her success here.

However, though handsomely produced, this is not a coffee-table book, not really. Read it! A former waitress herself, Taylor undertook this project to interview and understand the older American waitress after a long night: “On that Friday night I thought to myself, if we are this tired, how do waitresses twice our age (I was in my early 30s at the time) do this, and how do they feel about their jobs? Do they have dreams they have never realized? Are they worn out from the physical and mental demands of the job?...The questions kept coming.” With camera, tape recorder, laptop, and an open mind (there are so many clichés!), Taylor set out to learn about career waitresses, or “lifers,” as they sometimes wryly, or proudly, call themselves.

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The Travelingest Day

Posted by on in Ramblings

CouplePlaneEvery year, the TV, radio, newspapers, and internet news services tell us that more Americans travel on (and around) Thanksgiving than any other time. More than Christmas, more than Memorial Day weekend. It is supposed to be a joyous time of gathering around a feast table with loved ones.

Of course, it isn’t for everyone, or not every year. Fares are jacked up and if you waited too long to get a ticket, schedules are tricky and you realize with a sigh that you are going to have to make a heroic effort. Flights, buses and trains are full, and there are epic traffic jams. Your destination is a table laden with predictable food and conversation with people whom, to put it kindly, often drive you crazy. En route, you listen to somebody on NPR or read a magazine article that decries the falseness of the holiday, reminding us what imperialist jerks the Pilgrims really were. If you are the host or hostess, you get to wedge into a packed grocery store, where the only turkeys left are too big or too little. When you start to prepare the meal, you realize you bought cilantro when you meant to get parsley, and you wonder how you are going to get every side dish to come out at approximately the same moment—unless and until you lighten up.

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