Holiday Road

Heading out on the road for a holiday with a few stops along the eastern seaboard, so there won’t be any updates for a couple of weeks. That should save you the exasperation of hitting refresh every five seconds.

I’ll be doing a couple of interviews while on my travels, and hope to have the first of those up later this month. Meantime, I’ll be sporadically updating my Twitter feed, so go follow me on there if you like.

And I’ll still be checking my email, so if you live in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, New York or Miami and want to do dinner with a stranger between now and July 27th, follow this link to book a meal with me.

Behind The Craft

Writer Dave Barry once quipped, “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”

Brendan Kelleher would likely agree. He runs Behind The Craft, a website featuring his visits to craft breweries where he samples the beers and chats with the owners and staff about making their beverages.

Late last month, Brendan and I put Mr. Barry’s statement to the test by getting pizza and beers in Washington, DC. Click here or on the picture above for my interview with Brendan, in which he told me about his previous life as a futures trader in Chicago and his current focus on learning about the art of craft beer.

Gettysburg Rap

If you’re looking for some musical entertainment today, check out ukelele-playing singer-songwriter Louisa Hall’s tremendous “Gettysburg Rap” — a lyrical ode to one of the most important battles of the American Civil War.

Louisa is a funny and charming woman, as I discovered when I interviewed her in Washington, DC, recently. Click here for the interview. And her great sense of humor is present (along with a cameo by her kazoo) in the above video.

She performed the rap as part of the UnreheasedDC series, which has the simple but tremendous goal of filming great bands in unique locations. The location for Louisa’s performance? A shower. Once you’re done with the musical history lesson above, check out some of the other videos on the UnrehearsedDC site — including Louisa’s “Awkward” song.

Chatting With A Cellist

During my visit to New Orleans last month, I had a couple of fun interviews. First up was retired high school teacher and now dedicated zydeco dancer Mary Burns, and I’ve already posted part one and part two of my lunch with her.

The day after my time with Mary, I went to historic French Quarter restaurant Tujague’s — the second oldest restaurant in the Crescent City — for a leisurely lunch interview with professional cellist Daniel Lelchuk.

Originally from the Northeast, Daniel told me how he first learned about the cello, and his progression from practicing the instrument through to his current role as assistant principal cellist for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

Click on this link or the picture above to read about my meal with Daniel.

Aaron’s Trip To Blues Alley

Jazz pianist Aaron L. Myers II, a former Dining With Strangers interviewee, will be performing at Blues Alley in Washington, DC, later this year. Here’s a link to the details for the show, which takes place on September 3 at 8pm.

I didn’t get the chance to hear Aaron tickle the ivories during my dinner with him in the District, but he did sing snippets of a few songs — and if the high quality of his singing is any clue to the quality of his piano-playing, the show will be great. You can also hear samples of Aaron’s music on his website.

Zydeco People

Last Friday I uploaded part one of my interview with Mary Burns, an outgoing and energetic woman who used to be a catholic school teacher in New Orleans. These days she teaches dancing to zydeco music.

She had so many stories to tell that I figured the best option was to break up my interview with her into two parts. The first, which you can read by clicking on this link, focused on her life as a school teacher.

In today’s second part, Mary describes how she first got into zydeco dancing. And she shares other important tales, including her experiences during Hurricane Katrina, and her time as a budding amateur actress.

As an added bonus, today’s article features two videos. One of them shows off Mary’s dancing skills. The other features me trying my first ever raw oyster. Click here, or on the picture above, to find out more.

On The Move

Hey you! Yes, you, the one reading this!

Do you live in New York City? No? How about Atlantic City? Also a negative, eh. Well, what about Philadelphia, Miami or Chicago? If you’re in any of those places and want to do an interview for this site, get in touch!

I just updated my upcoming travel plans page with dates for trips to all of the above-named cities. I’ll be making short stops to each, mostly in July but with the Chicago portion of my journey in early August.

If you’re interested in dining with a stranger (me) and sharing the story of your interesting life/career/whatever, click on this link and fill out a handy form to get the ball rolling on organizing a meal.

The Pink Haired One

Special Agent Galactica will be bringing “her” unique cabaret show to Virginia and New York next month. After seeing the space traveler perform at a small show in Washington, DC, I can recommend going.

I used quote marks to describe her, because in reality Galactica is the alter ego of District resident Jeffrey Johnson. A former theater director, he now spends his spare time donning a bright pink wig and entertaining music lovers with tales of Galactica — an assassin who travels time and space, and performs cabaret in her downtime. I learned all about Galactica during a dinner interview with Jeffrey earlier this year in Washington.

She’ll be performing July 12 at the Duplex Piano Bar & Cabaret Theatre, then again on July 19 at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. Check out the Pink Haired One’s official website for more details.

All About Mary

During my recent trip to New Orleans, I had lunch with Mary Burns. Click on this link or on her picture below to read the first part (details below) of my interview with her.

Born and raised in the Big Easy, she’s a retired Catholic school teacher who now teaches dance class for zydeco music: the springy, energetic sound familiar to anyone who’s ever visited the city’s live music venues.

Mary promised a true “N’awlins” experience, and took me to lunch at Deanie’s Seafood just outside of the city boundary. I expected it was going to be a straightforward meal, but it took all afternoon. Not only did we enjoy a long lunch together but we also went dancing afterward. It was a great experience.

And she’s a wonderful storyteller. Too many stories for one article. So for the first time ever I’m splitting up my interview into two parts. Today’s first part focuses on her life as a school teacher. Next week, I’ll post part two, all about her life as a zydeco dancer. And that one will have embarrassing video of me in it.

The Topcats Tour New Orleans

Back in August 2009 I had an enjoyable lunch interview with Buzzy “Beano” Langford, guitarist with New Orleans-based cover band The Topcats. Over a three-course meal at the excellent Bayona he told me about life in a city famed for its musicians.

Cut to the present day and it seems that Buzzy and the Topcats are still going strong. According to the calendar of upcoming shows on the band’s website, they’ll be playing several gigs in the Big Easy in June and July — including an annual Beatles festival next month that I didn’t even know the city held. Should you find yourself in the Crescent City, you might want to consider catching one of their performances.

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