Americana | A Continuous Lean.

America’s “Forgotten” Vacation Destinations

Apr 11th, 2014 | Categories: Americana, Jake Gallagher | by Jake Gallagher

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Americans just don’t vacation like they used to. Cross country road trips, picturesque mountain resorts, and far off seaside towns have been replaced by “staycations,” transcontinental cruises, and brief weekend jaunts to the city. The glory days of Griswold-ian journeys, Borscht belt summers, and month long excursions across the midwest are now behind us, and in their wake many of America’s once mighty vacation destinations, such as the five spots below, have begun to fade off into obscurity.





Willy Vlautin Tells It Like It Is.

Mar 20th, 2014 | Categories: Al James, Americana, Books | by Al James

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Has the recent finale of HBO’s True Detective left you jonesing for more pulpy American grit? Do you like your heroes broken-hearted yet courageous, desperate but loyal? Does your hard luck story require just the thinnest beam of light to pierce the looming darkness? Then author Willy Vlautin is your guy.

A Reno, Nevada native, Vlautin moved North to Portland, Oregon in the nineties to paint houses. When he wasn’t up on the ladder he wrote and played in bands. He founded, and still fronts, Richmond Fontaine, one the most-loved rock bands to come out of the Northwest. Starting with The Motel Life in 2007, he has published four novels that fit on the shelf next to Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son and Larry Brown’s Big Bad Love. Immensely talented company, but Vlautin’s work is at home with these greats.

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The Ralph Lauren Olympic Collection | A Conversation with Jeanne Carver

Jan 23rd, 2014 | Categories: A Conversation With, Americana | by Jake Gallagher

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Over the years on ACL, we’ve interviewed designers, shopkeepers, authors, and even a filmmaker, yet we’ve never spoken to anyone quite like Jeanne Carver. Carver is not some fresh-faced designer, nor is she an eccentric New York creative, in fact in our interview she never uttered the word “fashion,” and only mentioned “clothing” twice, under the most practical of terms. This is because Carver’s life exists roughly 2,850 miles removed from the frenzy that is New York City’s fashion industry, on The Imperial Stock Ranch, which has been raising sheep and cattle for over one hundred forty years.

Carver’s story is not a common one, after all, it was centurion ranches such as hers that helped to establish the western frontier back in the late 1800’s. What makes Carver (along with her husband Dan who also runs the ranch) so extraordinary, is that she was given a chance to have her story told. The wool trade is the largely ignored backbone of our entire clothing industry. We often highlight designers, factories, and shops, but these institutions represent the final steps of clothing production. Rarely, does anyone go to the source, and rarely is this source ever even considered.

Which is reason to applaud Ralph Lauren, who after recognizing their error in having past Olympic uniforms produced overseas, decided to take a concerted effort to produce this years U.S. Winter Olympic uniforms entirely in America. In doing so Ralph not only gave a fair amount of work to stateside textile factories and farms, which often go overlooked by large apparel corporations that are more interested in margin, but it also found people like Jeanne, people who embody the spirit of handwork and determination that our nation’s clothing industry was founded upon way back when. Ralph Lauren contacted Jeanne because the wool that she and her husband produce on their Shaniko, Oregon ranch is of an incredibly high quality, and was perfect for Ralph Lauren’s opening ceremony sweater, which is being unveiled today. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to speak with Jeanne to get her story, as well as her perspective on this U.S. made collection, and the state of America’s garment industry today.





The ACL Guide to Thanksgiving Wines.

Nov 27th, 2013 | Categories: Al James, Americana, Wine | by Al James

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Arriving to Thanksgiving dinner with a well-chosen bottle of wine is simply the right thing to do. It’s doesn’t have to be pricey or geeky, just take a little extra time to pick out a bottle that will work well with the food. No matter who’s cooking, the staples that make up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner – turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, etc – all land on the salty end of the flavor spectrum. Even when piled high on a plate, they don’t have the wherewithal to stand up to a big red wine (Cabernet, Merlot, Barolo, Chianti, Shiraz) which all contain significant tannins and high alcohol levels. In this case, bigger is not always better. What the savory flavors need, particularly in the case of turkey, is acidity and crispness to balance out the saltiness and brininess. Luckily there are lots of ways to achieve this balance with both New World and Old World wines that are widely available. I like the way food and wine blogger BrooklynGuy  approaches his wine picks for the holiday, “Keep it refreshing and lively, try to keep the alcohol to a minimum.” His logic being that family gatherings can already be teetering on the edge, no reason to pour gasoline on the fire.

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Norman Rockwell’s Folk Hero of World War Two.

Nov 5th, 2013 | Categories: Americana, Jake Gallagher | by Jake Gallagher

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He’s one of the most recognizable GI’s of all time, and he never even saw active duty. Conceived by Norman Rockwell in 1941, as a recurring character during Rockwell’s turn as cover artist for The Saturday Evening Post, Willie Gillis Jr.’s story spanned eleven covers (with one rejected cover depicting Gillis nearing actual combat) and five years. Gillis was the everyman soldier, a fresh faced boy that gave Americans near and far hope throughout World War II. Rockwell painted Gillis’ tale from enlistment to college, showing both Gillis and his not one, but two girlfriends, as they made their way through the war.





The Great American Pie Eating Contest.

Jul 7th, 2013 | Categories: Americana | by Michael Williams

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The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is the fan favorite, but the great American pie eating contest is the one that resonates most with me. Over the past year or so I’ve seen a few different vintage pie eating contest photos pop up from time to time and it wasn’t until now, with summertime in full swing, did it seem appropriate to highlight this amazing American tradition.

Pie Eating contests are a time-honored tradition and these old photos tell the story perfectly. You can’t help but to notice the white tee shirts, worn in denim, buzz cuts and canvas sneakers. I also can’t help thinking about the poor Ladies Auxiliary and the Benevolent Order of Antelopes in Stand By Me’s barf-o-rama. Good on Joey Chestnut for being a machine, but competitive eating contests are never going to be better than it was in the golden pie eating contest days way back when.

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Summering at RRL.

Jun 29th, 2013 | Categories: Americana | by Michael Williams

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An oldie, but a goodie. Every summer, Ralph Lauren sets up a fully kitted-out tepee on his RRL ranch in Ridgeway, Colorado. It’s not something you see everyday, and I don’t think many folks out west would ever attempt anything like this.

The tepee is done up top to bottom in RL style, complete with leather club chairs, rugs and even an antique chandelier. That Selvedge Yard fella has blogged it way back in 2009 (at the dawn of the internet) and Oprah even paid the tepee a visit when she went interview Ralph at his 17,000 acre RRL ranch, but it’s still worth looking at yet again. Colorado in the summer is a pretty magical place in its own right, but I couldn’t imagine a more interesting place to spend a weekend. Wonder if Ralph is receiving guests? My guess is no…

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