Jason Weinberger is the music director/conductor and artistic director of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra (WCFSO) here in Iowa. We’ve worked on a couple of multimedia projects together and when he heard I was going to be shooting a project in Louisville a couple of weeks ago he gave me a short list of restaurants to try and visit. Jason’s a native of Los Angeles and was educated at both Yale and the Peabody Conservatory, on top of having a regular presence in Kentucky as the resident conductor of the Louisville Orchestra—so all that to say that I trust his recommendations.
I wasn’t able to hit all the places on his list, but enough to give me a fine taste of Louisville. Everything from Chicken & Waffles at The Silver Dollar, Oyster Fritters in Champagne Batter at the Blind Pig, sweet plantains at the Havana Rumba, and Scrambled Eggs with Gruyère Cheese at the Blue Dog Bakery & Cafe—all in the same general area of Butchertown/Clifton/Frankfort Ave.
But the most surreal stop was downtown at Proof on Main which is connected to the 21 c Museum Hotel. I didn’t stay, eat or have a drink there, I just wandered around amazed to find something I didn’t expect to see in Kentucky—including their iconic Red Penguins. The Red Penguin sculptures are mascots or ambassadors to the hotel and were created by Italian artist Omar Rond and can be found throughout the boutique hotel.
P.S. Jonah Lehrer points out in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works, when you wander off the farm (metaphorically speaking) you begin to see something as simple as a field of corn differently:
“Instead of standing on a farm, you’re now in a crowded city street dense with taxis and pedestrians. The plant will no longer be a plant; instead, your vast neural network will pump out all sorts of associations. You’ll think about high-fructose corn syrup, obesity, and the Farm Bill; you’ll contemplate ethanol and Iowa caucuses, those corn mazes for kids at state fairs, and the deliciousness of succotash made with bacon and lima beams. the noun is now a web of tangents, a vast loon of connections.
And this is why travel is so helpful: When you escape from the place you spend most of your time, the mind is suddenly made aware of all those errant ideas previously suppressed. You start thinking about obscure possibilities—corn can fuel cars!—that never would have occurred to you if you’d stayed back on the farm.”
I love Lehrer’s book and listened to the book on CD for the second time on this most recent trip and last week purchased the book for a third dose. Tomorrow I’ll actually connect—via Lehrer’s outsider theory—how Diablo Cody could write the Juno script in Minneapolis and walk away with an Oscar. (And touch on why it’s hard to be an insider and still be innovative.)