Greetings, Slayage8 Attendees:
Welcome to the Shoals, and for all of y’all not familiar with Florence, Alabama, and the University of North Alabama, here are a few pointers:
We don’t have a Hellmouth, although thanks to our summer weather it can sometimes feel as if you are walking through the fire (even without breaking into song or dance): arm yourself with sunglasses so you can look cool (or as a crucial reminder to yourself: beer bad), a hat (perhaps a pretty floral bonnet), and lots of (holy) water. A colorful sun parasol to avoid those strong rays (and for strolling planet-side) is also good.
There are no demons here that we know of, but we do have two lions on the UNA campus named Leo III and Una. They are the feline Fanty and Mingo—you decide which is the cuter one, just watch out for Leo when he lets loose.
We might be a two-Starbucks town, but there’s a picturesque downtown area with an old-fashioned ice-cream store called Trowbridge’s, a vintage theatre named the Shoals, and a great wine bar: the Carriage on Court. Downtown is also the home base for the internationally-renowned designer Billy Reid, who creates beautiful clothing and accessories. Drop a little money at these local business and they just might do the dance of capitalist superiority.
Unlike a certain town with a particularly high mortality-rate, things are pretty calm and safe around here, although too much happy fun time with our fried food might transport you to the Florence City Cemetery, which dates from 1818—it’s a short walk from downtown and has over 12,000 monuments and markers.
There’s much ado about music in Florence, as in the rest of the Shoals, with famous music studios such as FAME over in Muscle Shoals, where artists including Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and the Allman Brothers have recorded, and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, home to work by the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elton John, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as the Swampers). Live music venues in Florence include Flo Bama on Court Street, 116 E. Mobile (that’s also the address), and Singin’ River Brewery on East College Street. The Blues was also born in Florence, or at least its father, W.C. Handy was. His childhood home is now a museum.
While Joss Whedon may devise the best imaginary worlds, Florence is the home of the Rosenbaum House, the only building in Alabama designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright; it has been described as the best example of his Usonian house design (and it’s lovely—my mother declared she would move in immediately). If you're looking for architecture on the spookier side, check out UNA's Wesleyan Hall; General Tecumseh Sherman housed his troops there during the Civil War, ghosts have been spotted, and it even has a bit of a bat infestation problem.
Finally, since a certain writer and director noted, “Absolutely eat dessert first. The thing that you want to do the most, do that,” it’s never a bad idea to visit the many fine restaurants on Court Street, including Odette, where great desserts (and cocktails) await.
So welcome to Florence: Enjoy Your Stay!