The laureate of the common man, Charles Kuralt, spent 37 years at CBS news, most of them "On the Road" capturing slices of Americana and unlocking the beauty of the countryside with its rich heritage and unique characters.
When Kuralt retired from CBS in the early nineties, he did it with the idea that he had one last great trip left in him. He had spent nearly his whole life traveling in the United States, but there was "one last fanciful journey" he had always wanted to take: to revisit all of his favorite American places at just the right time of the year. The result is one of my favorite books, the 1995 exemplar Charles Kuralt's America.
Kuralt starts his trip off with New Orleans in January:
Unless you're broke or sick or blue-nosed, I don't see how you could have anything but a good time in New Orleans. "Unique" is a word that cannot be qualified. It does not mean rare or uncommon; it means alone in the universe. By the standards of grammar and by the grace of God, New Orleans is the unique American place. . . .
"Most of the United States was settled by Anglo-Saxons and Puritan types. The work ethic prevailed, and all the pleasures of life were frowned on. It's real simple: work ethic equals bland food.
"But New Orleans, on the other hand -- oh, man, New Orleans didn't know what the work ethic is, still doesn't! We were settled by Catholics from Spain and France who thought work should never interfere with the enjoyment of life. And that's what makes this place different from the rest of America. People in New Orleans believe in living in the present, and skimming off as much pleasure as they can today and eating as well as they can tonight.
"That goes for everybody. If you go to confession and say to the priest, 'I overrate, Father,' you'll have his interest right away. He'll probably ask you, 'Where did you eat?'"
FYI, Charles Kuralt's perfect year itinerary:
January - New Orleans
February - Key West
March - Charleston, South Carolina
April - A Change of Plans
May - Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina
June - Ketchikan, Alaska
July - Ely, Minnesota
August - Boothbay Harbor, Maine
September - Twin Bridges, Montana
October - Woodstock, Vermont
November - Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico
December - New York City