Travel Blog: Pop Culture Travel

Mapped: Bob Dylan’s Entire Repertoire

To celebrate Bob Dylan’s 72nd birthday, Slate has mapped every place the man ever mentioned in his music. Why, you ask?

Once the amateur Dylanologist tries to think of some, they flood the brain. “I’ll look for you in old Honolulu/ San Francisco, Ashtabula.” “Born in Red Hook, Brooklyn/ In the year of who knows when.” “Oxford town, Oxford town/ Everybody’s got their head bowed down.” From the personal—“that little Minnesota town”—to the political—“Ever since the British burned the White House down/ There’s a bleeding wound in the heart of town”—Dylan uses place-names to maintain rhythm or rhyme, to reference other works of art, or to evoke certain thoughts and emotions. (We never do learn what it’s like “to be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again,” though we feel like we do.) It’s only natural, after all, that a man who left tiny Hibbing, Minn. for New York City at age 19, quickly became world-famous, and has spent the last 25 years on a “never-ending” worldwide tour, might have a curious perspective on the concept of place.


In Defense of Rachael Ray. Again.

Last time, she faced charges of excessive perkiness. This time, she’s been ridiculously accused of being a terrorist sympathizer for wearing a scarf that some bloggers thought looked like a keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headdress worn by, among others, the late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. She wore it in an ad for Dunkin’ Donuts (pictured). The company initially “pooh-poohed the complaints,” according to the Boston Globe, but eventually took down the ad “because the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee,” reports the New York Times.

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Lou Reed’s ‘Berlin’: Do His Songs Still Resonate in the City That Inspired Them?

In 1973 Lou Reed recorded Berlin, an album inspired by the German city that Rolling Stone called “one of the gloomiest records ever made—slow, druggy and heavily orchestrated.” At the time, the Wall cut through Berlin and the city struggled with a heroin epidemic among teens. “In other words, it was not a happy place, although it was certainly an interesting one—Berlin, in that era, had become a mecca for some of the most creative heads in rock music,” Time’s Stephanie Kirchner writes in an intriguing “Postcard from Berlin” on the magazine’s Web site.

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The Critics: ‘Chasing the Rising Sun’

The Los Angeles Times has a review of Chasing the Rising Sun, writer Ted Anthony’s account of his quest to find the origins of the classic folk song, “House of the Rising Sun.” It’s a quest, in part, to learn where and what The House in question was: Brothel? Gambling house? Prison? In addition to being a book about music and history, it’s also about travel.

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Bookstore Tourism’s Portzline Jams With the Rock Bottom Remainders

We learned a lot about Bookstore Tourism founder Larry Portzline in our Q&A. We didn’t learn, though, that he rocks. At BookExpo in New York last week, Portzline jammed with Dave Barry, Frank McCourt, Amy Tan and the many other literary all-stars in the band the Rock Bottom Remainders. “It was truly bizarre and amazing,” he wrote me in an e-mail. “Plus it was surprising to hear how well these guys play. In strictly bar-band terms, they’re actually good!”

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Rolling Stone Picks Best 25 Road Trip Songs Ever

“Route 66” didn’t crack the list, so feel free to not take it seriously. Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” topped the 25 picks, with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” rounding out the top three.

Paleo: 365 Days on the Road, 365 Songs

David Andrew Strackany, aka Paleo, has spent the last year traveling around the U.S. and writing songs—one every day since April 16, 2006. Pop Candy’s Whitney Matheson says “the tunes are actually good,” and she interviewed him in her latest podcast. After almost a year on the road, Paleo tells her, he still finds traveling exhilarating. To listen for yourself how the road has treated Paleo and inspired his songs, visit his website. Every song he wrote during the course of the project is online.

Global Good Times: ‘The Rough Guide to the World’s Best Festivals’

With the right trip-planning (and hangover antidote), a good festival can be the highlight of a journey. So Rough Guide’s book, World Party: The Rough Guide to the World’s Best Festivals, should make a fine addition to any traveler’s reference library. Hundreds of events around the world are featured, from Rio’s Carnival to Buñol, Spain’s annual tomato-throwing bash. Jerry V. Haines notes the book in this Sunday’s Washington Post, writing: “Clever icons identify the attractions and perils of the 200-plus events: fancy costumes, parades, drugs, nudity. And party-till-you-puke alcohol consumption.”

Visiting Bob Marley’s Jamaica and ‘the Government Yard in Trench Town’

Trench Town, the tough Kingston neighborhood made famous in Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry, got some love from the New York Times today. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected in the Caribbean during the next two months for the Cricket World Cup, and Marley’s old neighborhood is one place that could see an increase in visitors. “In Trench Town, where street gangs battle over turf and where people live in shacks about the size of the garages at the glorious homes in the hills, expectations for the cricket tournament are high,” the Times reports. “Community leaders will have tour guides at the ready to take visitors around a neighborhood they say has a proud past.”

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Valentine’s Day Comes to Ghana

Why is the holiday taking off in the African nation?  In part, one cultural anthropologist told USA Today, because “radio airplay of love songs by Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Lionel Richie and others is year-round and has fed the idea that Valentine’s Day is for sweethearts.” It’s tangential, but that reminds us of the intriguing Lionel Richie-Libya connection.

From Abbey Road to Arctic Monkeys: Mapping England’s Pop Music Heritage

Judging from this Google image search and this Flickr cluster, not too many music fans visiting England haven’t walked in the footsteps of John, Paul, George and Ringo across Abbey Road. But England, of course, has a rich music heritage beyond the Beatles, and the country’s tourism agency wants to show it off. VisitBritain just released a map—and a sweet Web site—with more than 200 destinations associated with famous musicians. “For decades the done thing has been to bury Britain’s rock heritage rather than praise it,” writes Jeevan Vasagar in the Guardian. “Two of the country’s most famous music venues—the Cavern Club in Liverpool and Manchester’s Hacienda—ended their lives under a wrecking ball. But the era of official neglect is over.”

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Calcata: ‘This May Be the Grooviest Village in Italy’

The fresco of Jimi Hendrix on the wall of an 18th-century building in Calcata helps give it away. Then there are the art galleries, aging hippies and, oh yeah, the Holy Foreskin. David Farley, a World Hum contributor, tells the tale of the one-of-a-kind Italian hill town in Sunday’s New York Times. “You could walk around here in your pajamas holding a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and no one is going to judge you because you(tm)re not tied to the proper Italian way of doing things,• restaurateur Pancho Garrison tells Farley. “That says a lot about the place.” So does Garrison’s restaurant: It serves nouvelle Italian food, writes Farley, and it resides in a mosaic-lined cave.

Compay Segundo House Opens in Havana

Ry Cooder’s 1997 Buena Vista Social Club album, and the Wim Wenders documentary of the same name, not only introduced millions of people to traditional Cuban music but launched thousands of visits to the island nation—and for good reason. The music on the album is at once haunting, playful and soulful. No song embodies this more, I think, than “Chan Chan,” written by Compay Segundo, the legendary Cuban musician featured prominently on the album and in the film. He died in Havana in 2003 at the age of 95, and now, his Havana home is being preserved as a tribute to him. It’s sure to become a pilgrimage site for Cuban music aficionados the world over.

Second Life Welcomes Virtual Tourism

It’s got at least one hotel and a travel guide, so it was only a matter of time before we read a real travel story about virtual travels in Second Life. Matt Gross’s piece in the Escapes section of the New York Times covers a virtual weekend in the virtual space. His thoughts: There’s a lot of dancing and, in some ways, it really is like being on the road. “I’d had brief chats with a dozen Second Life residents—the unreality makes it easy to approach them—but had made no real connection. In a way, it was because I really was a tourist,” Gross writes. “I had nothing invested in this world, while they were building houses and yachts, organizing rock concerts and fashion shows and creating virtual refugee camps to educate people about Darfur.”

Kelefa Sanneh on “The Hold Steady States of America”

We mentioned last month that the title of The Hold Steady’s new album—“Boys and Girls in America”—comes from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The album comes out this week, and today New York Times music writer Kelefa Sanneh profiled the gruff, beery band from a great angle: He looked at the band as travelers and prowlers of America’s “shady neighborhoods.” Online, an interactive map of The Hold Steady’s America features clips from songs about cities across the country, including Chicago, Minneapolis and Ybor City in Tampa, Florida.