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April 2018

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Johnny Cash has been one of my favorite musicians since my freshman year of college, when I first caught bits of the film Walk the Line and waded deeper into not only Cash’s music, but his life. I’d spend free time watching performances of his online and, through my own purchases and presents, stocked my bookshelf with biographical, autobiographical, encyclopedic, and poetic collections that encompass a lot of who he was. While perusing the clothing racks in Kohl’s one day, I found a dark gray short-sleeved shirt that read, in glimmering letters, “Johnny Cash, the man in black.” Naturally, I dropped a silly amount of money on it. And after buying a ukelele, my parents gifted me with a book of Johnny Cash sheet music. They’re the only songs I know how to play.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing I added to my list of needs on a family trip to Nashville was to visit the Johnny Cash Museum.

The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, is similar to my own stockpile, except way, way better. I’ve got the information in my pocket, but they’ve got the real deal artifacts. It’s an anthology of Cash, his work, his family, and his passions. Easily the best part is how intimately the museum has been designed. Johnny Cash hand wrote a number of the placards on display, and the sum of his life feels remembered and palpable between letters, instruments, performance wear, and a look at the influence he sparked.

Where a lot of Johnny Cash’s allure comes from is the badass persona he presented onstage paired with his quiet nature, the compassion that poured out of his veins, and an overall gentleness that played a large part of his character. His life was difficult, to say the least. The child of poor, religious parents, Cash also lost his older brother when Cash was ten, and lived with the guilt imposed on him by his abusive father. Music was a saving grace for the family, speeding the days up as they tended to their cotton farm, and his work as a musician took hold while in the Air Force.

He was incredibly intelligent, moving up the ranks until eventually he became a crack Morse Code operator. There, he was the first American to hear of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s death (I know, isn’t that wild?!). And it was here that he penned his famous tune “Folsom Prison Blues.” Cash went on, of course, to become one of the greatest artists of all time. He was a singer, as well as an eloquent writer and poet.

I could go on writing pages about him, but I’ll leave it here (for now).

We began at the beginning, pausing over everyday items from him childhood, his first professional guitar, and letters written to siblings and his second wife, June Carter Cash.

How many people have the opportunity to write their own placards? The one below reads, “My first ‘professional’ guitar. 1955-1956. On loan from Marshall Grant, (then and now).”

A row of standing tablets and their accompanying headphones gives guests the option to listen to covers of Johnny Cash’s songs done by recent artists. Not to mention, getting to see costumes worn by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line was WONDERFUL.

This has become one of my favorite photos: the Million Dollar Quartet. From their spontaneous converging at Sun Studios, a raw album was conceived after Sun owner Sam Phillips thought to turn the recorders on.

Some memorabilia from fan clubs and concerts fans out in a room playing a loop of some of Cash’s performances.

On one wall hangs all of his album covers, and on a couple of others, all of his records. He’s sold more than 90 million records globally—about the number of cake slices I hope to consume in my lifetime.

One of the best parts of the museum, to me, was the number of candid photo collages from album photo shoots and recording sessions. I loved watching the string of actions and emotions that tumbled into one another between Johnny and whoever he was with and the photographer. It felt fresh, innocent, like we were seeing him through his own lens.

Robert Hillburn authored a biography called “Johnny Cash: The Life,” and in it he recounted a regret that Cash brought with him to the end of his life: the wish that he’d focused more seriously on his work. That he’d spent less time involved in alcohol and drugs and “foolishness” and worked harder. This has always stuck with me, primarily because he was so talented and it is so evident in all that he did produce. He wrote pretty much every one of his own songs, published novels, toured widely and frequently, and was at the forefront of the rockabilly, contemporary country, rock, and folk genres.

Beyond that, he was an advocate for prison reformation, civil rights, and human rights, all of which he included in his music. He raised five children and married the love of his life. Still, he was haunted by his demons; and the successes of his life, to him, didn’t measure up to the darkness that presided over.

The victory and the tragedy, rolled together and compiled into the intricacies that remains the Man in Black. Here, you see it all.

His last music video, “Hurt,” emanates those ideas, and a few items from that performance are on display. The mantle from his home in Hendersonville, destroyed by a fire in 2007, survived and stands here.

It’s nice how small it is, a snapshot fitting a chaotic, loving, and humbling life. I felt close to him there; though I obviously never knew him, I glimpsed new sides of him that left me even more in awe of his spirit. It celebrates all of his angles, curated to bring guests deeper inside his complexities. Even without information cards, I could tell how much meaning everything carried. And for a museum to have so much heart, well, that’s a testament to true remembrance.

The Johnny Cash Museum

119 3rd Ave S, Nashville, TN

Tickets can be purchased here.

Even if you don’t know much about or haven’t listened to too many songs by Johnny Cash, I still highly recommend a visit here. You’ll get a heaping taste of who he was, and through him, who Nashville is. It’s a love note to man and city at once, one working off the other, and lending to an even more appreciative stance of the music culture that thrives here.

Reading Recommendations

Cash: The Autobiography by Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hillburn

Forever Words: The Unknown Poems by Johnny Cash (ed. and ill. by Paul Muldoon)

House of Cash: The Legacies of My Father, Johnny Cash by John Carter Cash

Have you checked out the Johnny Cash Museum? What points were most memorable for you?

FriYAY, am I right?! We’ve made it!

For my birthday, I asked my parents for a few things: a new top, a couple of books, and a journal for traveling. I’m excitedly packing one of the journals they got me away for my trip next week. Journaling has always been a haven for me to express my thoughts freely and unconsciously, a private place to look back on conversations, moments, and memories that have been tucked into drawers of my mind that I forgot existed until I read about an encounter and am flooded with overwhelming nostalgia. I kept one religiously while I studied abroad, that I still love to reflect on, and one while I traveled last summer. I try in between big trips to journal, but it doesn’t always pan out. My journals are filled with random thoughts for stories and characters, intermingled with daily life and scribbles of poems and tangles of personal “crises.”

I love travel journaling because it’s a keepsake of every small detail that I forget to consciously remember. One of my goals for myself is to start writing regularly, but until that happens, I’ll be working hard on pages and pages of adventures. (Note to self: FINISH JOURNALING YOUR SUMMER 2017 TRIP. GOSH.) Yes, there’s the obvious day-to-day things you saw, did, and ate, but it can be so much more fun to wriggle out all of the in-betweens.

And every time I pick up the pen and listen to the creak of a new journal opening for the first time, I try to incorporate something into my writings that I didn’t previously.

Like, when I studied abroad, I captured a lot of little moments during my day, like things that made me laugh in class or times I had a nice chat with someone, but I didn’t always write about the weather or where I was at the exact moment I was penning these things down. Everyone will recount travel in the way that matters to them, and that’s what makes it a meaningful project! Here, I’d like to share some suggestions for framing your journaling.

1. Plan to write a little bit every day

It sounds easy, right? Explore by day, review by night. Or, scribble while sat at a cafe and people watching, taking a breath from the whirlwind you may be experiencing. But soon you start forgetting to pack your journal, you’re too tired when you get back to your lodging, or you just don’t feel like doing it, and the days pile up and things start to blend together. Sometimes, it becomes hard to get back into it, or days are written out of order because you just don’t want to forget what’s just happened and will backtrack later, when you have time.

I generally bring my notebook with me everywhere I go, so that if the opportunity arises, I can catch up on the day and stay up to date. It’s also a lot easier to remember what’s happened since the morning, or the last time that I journaled. Telling yourself that at a certain time every day, like sitting down to eat or taking a break, or that when you get back, you will write, even if for five minutes.

2. Start with the logistics

The other day, one of my best friends was showing me her travel journal from 2 years ago and she began her entries for every new city with a breakdown of her expenses, which is something really awesome to consider. She included the conversion rates at the time (which are ever-changing and might bring on a different wave of nostalgia), and her lodging. Now she can look back and see what she did through finances, and it charts the planning of the actual trip. Add packing lists, fight itineraries, or distance covered. I want to try this one out!

3. Jot down conversations or overheard chatter

One of my favorite things to uncover is something I heard someone on the street say, or an exchange that I had with anyone about anything. It’s fun to remember these kinds of conversations with people that made you smile and that you can always carry with you. And it says something about what you were thinking or feeling at the time, making rereads almost a vision that comes to life and returns you to those places.

4. Note the weather, the time, and your surroundings

Another way to pull yourself back into the moment is to detail what it feels like to be where you are. Noting whether it’s sunny and you can tell you’re getting burned, or it’s cloudy and spattering rain and you’re thinking the skies will soon open up, is as important to your time there as the time of day you’re writing and where you are. Being present in your journal is another dimension of being present in your travels, because you’re honing in on what is making this place, this place, and your place.

5. Write what you’re listening to

A song on your iPod might quickly become attached to the time that you landed in the first country you trekked solo. The rumbling of trucks down a cobblestone street, making deliveries to nearby bakeries, might wake you up in the mornings and become synonymous with the sweet rise of day. A cacophony of languages could lead to unprecedented joy at foreignness and desire to travel wider and further than you ever thought you might. Soak up every last sense and capture it between your pages.

6. Try stream-of-consciousness journaling

This is something I’ve loved to include and regret never doing enough of it. A free write can be messy and hard to decipher sometimes, but eventually your mind feels detached, but its energies are all being pushed into your pen as you scrawl down lines and pages of your raw thoughts. It’s like your brain explodes all over the page, in the most magical way possible, and you’re really doing nothing except relaxing, not thinking, and letting what’s going to come, come.

Try stream-of-conscious writing at the end of a trip, at the end of the day when you’ve written all you can and have nothing, you think, left to say. It’s great to not only write about what’s going on outside, but what’s going on inside you. Traveling challenges and transforms, and you want to try to open yourself up to those things you didn’t realize were happening to you, too. It’s a two-way street that you’ll want to witness.

7. Be creative in the ways that matter to you

Sketch the buildings around you. Write poems. Create sheet music for an orchestral expression of your emotions. However it makes sense for you to document your travels, do that. That is where the heart of your experiences lie, and that’s how they should remind you of what special moments you were able to have.

I hope this helps spark inspiration for your next journaling adventure! Let me know in the comments if you have any tips that you swear by 🙂
Happy April!

Whooooo whee, how are we already three full months into the year? I feel like these days I blink and the work week is… over. And in nine days, my family is traveling to Europe to visit my sister, Kaylee, in Dublin! We’re spending some time in Northern Ireland and Krakow, Poland, and I’m so excited to be reunited with my best friend and to get some much-needed time away.

Today I’m going to celebrate by sharing some of my favorite places to get a bite in Dublin. Now I’m hungry because A. I ate a bowl of cereal at 6:30 this morning and cereal, no matter how much I wish it did, does not tide me over until lunch. :\ and B. Because I’m ready for all of these things in my mouth right now–definitely with at least an hour or so between every meal. From now until we leave, I’ll be prepping my stomach for the copious amounts of fish and sweets I’ll be eating. When it comes to food, Dublin has choices for all taste buds–it’s just a matter of deciding which buds are protesting the loudest. Here are my favorites in the city.

House

27 Leeson Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin

Opt for the enclosed patio, calibrated to create the atmosphere of a polished botanical garden. Nearby St. Stephen’s Green and the Iveagh Gardens, it invokes those natural muses and adds cushiony garden chairs and a sleek bar for the finish. This is a great spot for brunch. My personal favorite is their poached eggs with smashed avocado and chili jam toast. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea as well, so be sure to find time for this quiet enclave.

Burritos N’ Blues

2 Wexford St, Dublin 2

Dublin’s love for the burrito has apparently witnessed a surge in the last few years. Leading the charge is Burritos and Blues, a brightly colored space with generally short lines and fresh ingredients. They offer student deals for a burrito and soda pairing, and a better-than-Chipotle experience. Truly. If you’re a spice fiend, try their Blow Your Head Off or XXX Salsa. I wasn’t brave enough to, but if you’re feeling crazy, do it. Even the mild has some good kick.

 

Mannings Bakery & Cafe

39/40 Thomas St, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8

From between Tescos and Lidls appears Mannings Bakery and Cafe, looking the part of an old fashioned sweets shop and with the treats to boot. Their location on Thomas Street also has a sit-in cafe, meaning you can delight in the marble tabletops, checkerboard tiles, and pink detailing longer. The lunch menu is expansive and their sandwiches wholesome, fresh, and HUGE. I’m a fan of their mediterranean and tuna herb sandwiches.

 

Church

Jervis St, North City, Dublin 1

For an upscale dinner experience, head over to the Church on the north side of the Liffey. Yes, it was once a church! The family-owned restaurant prides itself on a team of exceptional chefs, and for including a bar, cafe, nightclub, and barbecue area. Enjoy the wooden pillars that reach to the sky, arched windows, and the organ-turned-half-ceiling as you wait for your meal. Their chicken ala brassa is a masterpiece. And don’t leave without ordering the Bailey’s cheesecake–it is seriously divine.

Simon’s Place

22 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2

In the Georges Street Arcade “hides” a social canteen that serves up cinnamon buns to rival my trusty Cinnabon. (I’m a girl of simple pleasures.) They’re made fresh daily, along with the slew of sandwiches, soups, and salads offered at Simon’s Place. It’s a very sociable place, one that milling about and eating one (or three) of their cinnamon rolls will stir up conversation and ease and the idea that you could hang out here every day. It could be your place.

O’Neills

2 Suffolk St, Dublin 2

Your more typical Irish pub experience can be found here at O’Neills. Order your food at the counter cafeteria-style, and find a place to park yourself for the night. It fills up quickly, but even sitting in the thick of the bustle doesn’t take away from the lulled atmosphere. I spent some wonderful nights among the darkly wooded walls with friends, listening to music and watching dancers grace the tight space in floor. After a long day (or not!) it’s an excellent wind-down location. The beef and Guinness stew is my favorite, and they make a killer burger.

Bobos Burgers

50-51 Dame St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Do you ever just crave a good burger joint? Enter Bobos Bugers, a gourmet eatery that uses the highest quality ingredients to ensure the highest quality dining experience. Their menu is overwhelming in options, between beef, chicken, lamb, pork, fish, and vegetarian selections, but there’s no wrong way to choose one. My pick is with their bacon cheeseburger, but their sex on the farm burger? Mmmmmmhm. And their cheese fries are eyes-rolled-to-the-back-of-your-head yum.

Queen of Tarts

Cow’s Ln, Dame St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Queen of Tarts in one word (and there are many to choose from!) is whimsical. A counter stacked high with sweets is the first thing you’ll see, and the only thing you’ll need to. You might have to wait for a table, as it’s small, but once you are seated you will feel tucked away into an Alice-esque tea party. They serve breakfast, brunch, and lunch as well. Try their chocolate fudge cake, feeling an occasion of its own, and be sure to go for breakfast, where you should opt for the Queen’s Delight: a scone of your choice (blueberry, blueberry, blueberry!) served with cream and raspberry preserves, orange juice, and tea or coffee.

Milano

38 Dawson St, Dublin 2

I can’t go anywhere without finding a good slice of pizza. Milano, originally opening its doors on Dawson Street, has reached across the country with chain restaurants in Temple Bar as well as in Cork, Limerick and Galway. They offer a range of pizza styles and creations, the classic margherita crisp and perfectly cheesy, and the fiorentina makes my mouth water just reading about its free-range egg cracked on top of mozzarella. 

The Brazen Head

20 Lower Bridge St, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8

Ireland’s oldest pub impresses with a homey vibe and meals to match. Take time to explore each room before settling down–each offers a collection of photos or memorabilia from anywhere. One room displays United States police officer badges! The expansive menu provides Irish classics that you wonder if they can’t possibly be as good anywhere else. Fish and chips, Irish stew, and daily soup fill you up with warmth and cheer, alongside a nice Bulmers. And they host live music every night!

O’Sheas

2a Lower Bridge Street, Dublin 8

I come for the fish and chips and stay for the craic. O’Sheas is a quiet, two-room dining establishment with an enclosed outdoor place to get some air when it crowds up for music sessions. They serve up traditional dishes, like stew, steak, and plenty of seafood, and have trad sessions seven nights a week. Dinner and performance mingle oh so lovely! And the Irish History Hub is located at this pub, meaning you can while away some time digging into your family’s ancestry.

 

Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Dublin?