Bitter drinks. Better South.

On our fifth wedding anniversary, my husband, Scott, planned a weekend getaway, staying at a historic hotel in Boonville, Missouri called the Hotel Frederick. It was an idyllic weekend. The restored 1905 hotel was like walking onto a quaint movie set. The bar downstairs was filled, the rooms were each unique and it felt like you were staying at your favorite aunt’s house. Quilts and antiques. Heated bathroom floors with heated towel racks. We had a fantastic weekend.

It was there that I realized the great artistry behind a truly memorable hotel experience.

Years later Scott and I had the opportunity to play host at our own Airbnb in downtown Kansas City. I never expected to feel such honor and responsibility to make each guest’s stay as warm and welcoming as possible. It was a tremendous blessing for me to be able to bless them.

I have recently mentioned the Bitter Southerner. The bitter part of their name represents their beginnings: reviewing and writing about the greatest bars and bartenders in the southern United States. Then their work expanded into highlighting the progressive movements happening in the South. I have been devouring their podcast and learning so much about the large swath of the American South that doesn’t still ‘fight for the Confederacy’ but wants to see a more inclusive and redemptive state of southern culture.

Bitter Southerner introduced me to another historic, boutique hotel, the Wylie Hotel. Wylie is set to re-open their newly renovated hotel this year. Wylie Hotel is located in Atlanta, Georgia on Ponce de Leon Avenue in the old fourth ward. Tucked within the 1929 revival hotel is Mrs. P’s Bar & Kitchen, a dignified but approachable dining lounge offering southern eats and inventive drinks. Just like our experience years ago, Wylie strives for a home-like atmosphere in the heart of Atlanta. And just like our Airbnb, Wylie is situated at the intersection of the city market and downtown events.

I cannot wait to visit this Atlanta gem.

A few days ago we loaded up the dog in the car to run a few errands around town. We noticed we’d had a few boxes delivered which I handled with indifference until I saw the box from Bitter Southerner, sent from Wylie Hotel. A new sweatshirt that all y’all need to feel. It’s soooo soft and cozy. A Better South tote bag, one of their books of collected stories and a Bitter Southerner’s corduroy hat with its fantastic logo: ‘For the sake of the story. For the love of the South.’

I will wear them with Southern pride. AND will wear them when the opportunity finally arises to travel again and stop over in Atlanta at the Wylie Hotel. Thank you, thank you for such an exciting box of goods.

Keep them on your radar, readers. Follow them on social media so you’ll be alerted, along with me, when their doors are flung open and we can meet at Mrs. P’s for a good dose of southern cuisine and bitter spirits in the better South.

2021 thoughts…

I have spent the past couple of months ‘getting my mind right’, as many of us do at year’s end. What am I being drawn to? What do I need to gently lay down?

I have been increasingly drawn to my past during this quarantine year. Not necessarily my past, but my roots. Where I come from.

I have been interested in retracing/learning about my southern roots – mine in particular and the South as a whole. I have always had a bittersweet feeling about the South. There is a scar in it’s heritage that seems to go either unnoticed or is gingerly stepped around, generation after generation. I’d like to embrace it under a different light. I love what Bitter Southerner is doing and was glad to have stumbled upon them during my ‘gather all the resources’ preparations for 2021.

Meanwhile, I’m remembering so many wonderful times throughout my childhood, visiting family in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama. They were good people and wonderful influences on my life. I want to tell some of those stories. I want to highlight the progressive movements happening in the South currently. I want to talk about food and great books – fiction and otherwise.

My father was born in Commerce, Oklahoma, the son of a miner and the third of four brothers. Just as he was preparing for college, his father died of lung cancer. I believe this shape-shifted my father’s identity that resulted in me being raised by a well-rounded man who took part in every aspect of raising children and making a house a home. That was a lucky commodity in the 1960’s.

My mother was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, the youngest of five children. She wasn’t the hell-raising, boot-kicking kind of southerner. She wasn’t a couture society girl either. She was proper and ladylike (the words most used at her funeral.) She had her own career as an English teacher and proudly served in that role from college until retirement, save a few years she took off to be with me and my sister. She embraced Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette, Dreyer’s English, and Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in equal measure. I knew how to set a proper table at 5 and was stitching day-of-the-week dish towels by 10. White after Labor Day, not returning an RSVP and first-degree murder were on par with one another in egregious behavior. I balked at her rules as a child but have grown into an appreciation for their deeper intention.

My parents prized humor, common decency, and as educators, lifelong learning and reading were central to our daily lives. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with their stories as well as the South’s larger legacy.

I don’t know where this will lead me, but I’m excited to follow the nudge it has been giving me these past few months. The past and the future, holding hands in the present. How they will intersect is yet to be determined.

To the South – and beyond!