Places on the Map

RORY: Well, I didn’t want to drive around aimlessly again today. [pulls out map]
LORELAI: I got it, I got it. So what’s near?

Concord is a town in Massachusetts, part of the Greater Boston area, with a population of around 17 000. It is important historically as the scene of the first battle in the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. In the 19th century it became a focus for literary life as the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Amos Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau. The Concord grape was developed here, hence Lorelai’s implication that there’s nothing to do there except eat grapes (in fact there are a plethora of interesting activities in Concord, and it’s a popular tourist destination).

Manchester is probably referring to Manchester-by-the-Sea, a small coastal town of around 5000 on Cape Ann in Massachussets. Blessed with scenic beaches, it has been a fashionable summer resort since the 19th century.

Salem is a historic coastal city in Massachusetts with a population of around 40 000. One of the most important seaports in Puritan history, its cultural identity comes from the fact it was the scene of the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692, as featured in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, previously discussed. Witchcraft history and culture is a major tourist drawcard to the city, and Lorelai seems quite interested in visiting it for that reason.

Boston [pictured] is the capital of, and largest city in Massachusetts; with a population of around 685 000, it is the largest city in the whole of New England, and the Greater Boston area contains more than 4.5 million people. It was founded in 1630 on the Shawmut Peninsula by Puritan settlers from England, making it one of the oldest cities in the US. It was the scene of numerous major events during the American Revolutionary War, including the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. Historically a major port and manufacturing hub, it is also a centre of education and culture with numerous colleges and universities, and attracts many tourists. Boston has the first and oldest state school in the US (Boston Latin School, founded 1635), the first and oldest public park (Boston Common, established 1634), and the first and oldest subway system (Tremont Street Subway, built 1897).

Newton is a city in Massachussets, one of the suburban districts of Boston, with a population of around 85 000.

Needham is a town in Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, with a population of around 28 000. The mention of Newton and Needham are clues that Lorelai is looking at the suburbs of Boston.

All these locations are around an hour’s drive from Portsmouth, making them easy day trips.

Cocktails

Emily is already drinking a Manhattan [pictured]; a cocktail made from whiskey, vermouth, and bitters, usually served in a cocktail glasss with a Maraschino cherry. It seems to date from the mid-19th century, and to have originated in bars around the Manhattan area. There are many variations on the drink. Because Emily praises her Manhattan for not being too sweet, it may be a Dry Manhattan made with dry vermouth, or a Perfect Manhattan, made with a mixture of dry and sweet vermouth.

Lorelai orders a Rum and Coke; it is not certain who for, but because she orders it first and without asking, it may be for Sookie. Rum and coke is a mixture of rum and cola with a dash of lime juice served with ice. It originated in Cuba, where it is called a Libre Cuba (“Free Cuba”), and dates to the early 20th century after Cuba won its independence in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Lorelai orders a Margarita without salt, possibly for Miss Patty. A margarita is a mixture of tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice, traditionally served in a special cocktail glass that looks like a champagne glass. Originating in Mexico (its name is Spanish for “Daisy”), it became popular in the 1930s, when Prohibition gave Americans a reason to go over the border into Mexico to get a drink.

Lorelai orders a Martini with an olive, previously discussed. I feel that the martini may be for Michel – as he didn’t tell Lorelai what he wanted, she may have chosen the standard cocktail at the elder Gilmore residence for him.

Lorelai orders a Shirley Temple, previously discussed. This now seems to be Rory’s go-to mocktail, which she drinks with ice. Note that even as a supposed 18 year old, Rory is unable to drink alcohol in a bar, as the drinking age is 21 in the US. As Rory is the only person not drinking, I presume she is the designated driver.

Lorelai orders herself a giant Long Island Iced Tea. This drink is a mixture of vodka, tequila, rum, triple sec, gin, and a splash of cola, which gives it the amber tea-colour it gets its name from, often decorated with a lemon and a straw. It has a very high alcohol content, due to the small amount of mixer in it.

Queen Victoria

MICHEL: This is a drag club.
SOOKIE: It’s called the Queen Victoria. What did you expect, tea and crumpets?

Victoria, born Alexandrina Victoria (1819-1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 until her death. She became a national icon, and is identified with standards of strict morality that we still refer to as “Victorian”. Hr reign of more than 63 years was longer than any other of her predecessors, and is known as the Victorian Era, a period of industrial, scientific and cultural change in the UK, coupled with a great expansion of the British Empire.

Michel seems put out that he has been taken to a drag club, perhaps another signal that he was originally not presented as a gay character. Sookie mentions tea and crumpets as a favourite afternoon snack of the Victorian era (and still popular today).

The Queen Victoria is a fictional drag club. In real life there is a gay bar in Hartford where you can see drag shows, but it is not actually a drag club per se. The sign outside the Queen Victoria identifies it as a “bar and grill” (unless that is the place next door) and in real life, Hartford has a couple of bars and cafes that have regular drag shows.

“Taking back Poland”

[Rory is sleeping. Lorelai walks in and sits on her bed.]
LORELAI: Hey.
RORY: What? What is it?
LORELAI: Oh nothing. Whatcha doing?
RORY: Taking back Poland.
LORELAI: Oh, good luck with that.

Poland was invaded in September 1939 by Germany and the Soviet Union, marking the beginning of World War II. The campaign ended in October 1939, when Germany and the Soviet Union divided the country between them – Germany annexed the west, and the Soviets the east.

Rory’s sleepily sarcastic reply suggests that she may have been studying World War II in History class the previous semester.

VJ Day, New York, 1945

MAX: Wait a minute. I recognize this.
KIRK: Nice photo, huh?
MAX: This is VJ Day, New York, 1945.
KIRK: Right. I include it as an example of the excellence that I aspire to.

The photo is V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt, showing an American sailor kissing a woman in a white dress on Victory over Japan Day in New York’s Times Square on August 14, 1945. The photo was published in Life magazine, and is very famous.

Quotes for the Wedding Invitations

Rory selects three quotes for Lorelai to choose from, one of which will be printed on the wedding invitations.

The first one is: “What is love? It is the morning and the evening star.” – Sinclair Lewis

This is a quote from Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 novel Elmer Gantry, a scathing satire on fundamentalist religion. The title character is a religious hypocrite and a fraud. Lorelai obviously knows very little about Sinclair Lewis, who she describes as “sappy”. In fact the Nobel Prize Winner was known for his biting wit and critical eye on American culture and materialism. The quote itself is from the title character, who is being entirely insincere. Rory may have read Elmer Gantry partly on Richard’s recommendation – Sinclair Lewis was a favourite author of H.L. Mencken, and he attended Yale, Richard’s own alma mater.

The second one is: And all went merry as a marriage bell. But hush! Hark! A deep sound strikes like a rising knell!” – Lord Byron

This is from Lord Byron’s 1818 long narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Semi-autobiographical, it describes a world-weary young man, looking for distraction by travelling through foreign lands. It made its author immediately famous. This section of the poem is about a grand party in Brussels, which is brought to a disastrous and sinister end by the Battle of Waterloo.

Lorelai’s comment is, “Byron and Lewis, together again”. She may be referring to Matthew Gregory (“M.G.”) Lewis, the author of the 1796 Gothic romance The Monk. He and Lord Byron were friends, and travelled together. Rory may have read Byron’s poem because it is mentioned in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. It seems like Rory to want to follow up on a literary work that is referenced in another.

The last quote is: “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty.” – Benito Mussolini

The whole quote is, “The Truth Apparent, apparent to everyone’s eyes who are not blinded by dogmatism, is that men are perhaps weary of liberty. They have a surfeit of it. Liberty is no longer the virgin, chaste and severe, to be fought for … we have buried the putrid corpse of liberty … the Italian people are a race of sheep.” It comes from Writings and Discourses of Mussolini, a twelve-volume work published between 1934 and 1940.

The choice of Mussolini seems to be a callback to Lorelai calling Headmaster Charleston “Il Duce“, the title of Fascist dictator Mussolini. She said this to Max during an argument they were having about Rory’s education in The Deer Hunters. Amazingly, this is the quote which Lorelai chooses, an apparent acknowledgement that her freedom is now at an end.

As you can see, all the quotes are completely inappropriate for wedding invitations. The first one is an insincere summing-up of love by a hypocrite and fraud, the second one is about a celebration which ends in disaster, and the third one equates marriage with the death of Lorelai’s liberty, said by a fascist dictator, and referencing a fight between Lorelai and Max.

What message is Rory trying to send with her choice of these quotes? They suggest a deep cynicism in her about marriage in general, and Lorelai and Max’s wedding in particular.

Guy Fawke’s Day

FRAN: After all, what’s more important than your wedding day?
LORELAI: Well, it ain’t Guy Fawkes Day.

Guy Fawke’s Day, or Bonfire Night, is an annual commemoration on November 5, observed primarily in Britain. It marks the events of November 5 1605, when Guy Fawkes was arrested guarding explosives beneath the House of Lords that were intended to blow up Parliament.

Beginning as a celebration that the plot to kill King James I had failed, it became an annual event that could at times be violent, and until the mid 19th century had strong anti-Catholic overtones. Today Guy Fawke’s Day is much more fun and peaceful, with public bonfires and fireworks displays. Guy Fawke’s Day was celebrated in colonial America until the American Revolution.

In A Year in the Life, Lorelai and Luke get married on November 5 – Guy Fawke’s Day, as an apparent callback to this scene.

Castro

EMILY: And this is what we need to discuss right now?
LORELAI: These [Emily’s maids] are women from countries that have dictatorships and civil wars and death squads and all of that they survived, but five minutes working for Emily Gilmore, and people are begging for Castro.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016) was a Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who governed Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976, and as President from 1976 to 2008. He was also First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 to 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, industry and business were nationalised, and socialist reforms implemented. Castro was the longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries.

More than a million Cubans left their country to emigrate as political refugees, mostly to the United States, with Florida being the US state with the most Cuban-Americans. Lorelai suggests that at least a couple of Emily’s maids were Cuban-American, and there are more than 10 000 Cuban-Americans in Connecticut, with the highest number in Bridgeport.

Gettysburg Address

LORELAI: You know, the Gettysburg Address was only one page long, and that was about a war.
LUKE: I just call them like I see them.

The Gettysburg Address is a speech given by US President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War in 1863. It was delivered at a dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and is one of the best-known speeches in American history. Famous for its pithiness, in just two minutes Lincoln invoked the founding principles of freedom as set out in the Declaration of Independence, and proclaimed the Civil War to be a struggle for the Union that would bring true equality to all American citizens.

The Ruins of Pompeii

RICHARD: I wanted to walk the ruins of Pompeii.

Pompeii was an ancient Roman town near modern Naples, mostly destroyed and buried under tons of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The ruins of Pompeii have been a tourist destination for over 250 years, and today is one of Italy’s most popular tourist sites.