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.

Hummingbirds

LORELAI: What are you people doing?
LADAWN: We’re watching hummingbirds.
WOMAN: They’re still out there if you wanna scooch in.
MAN: They’re the darndest things. Flap their wings a hundred times a second. It’s an engineering marvel.

The hummingbirds the B&Bers are watching are most likely Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochis colubris), the most common hummingbird in the eastern states of the US, and found during the summer months. Other species of hummingbird have only been rarely sighted in Connecticut. Unfortunately for this episode, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are solitary and aggressive towards others of its kind, so there would not be multiple hummingbirds to see all at once.

This species of hummingbird can flap its wings up to eighty times a second – quite close to a hundred times a second.

U2

LORELAI: I have earned the right not to be quizzed about my social life by my sixteen-year-old daughter.
RORY: I thought I was your best friend!
LORELAI: When we’re at a U2 concert, you are my best friend. But right now you are my sixteen-year-old daughter and I am telling you I do not want to have this conversation.

U2 are an Irish rock band, earlier mentioned. It was formed in 1976 and consists of Bono (Paul Hewson), The Edge (David Evans), Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. Their debut album was Boy (1980), and their first #1 album in the UK was War (1983), with singles such as Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Pride (In the Name of Love) establishing their reputation as politically conscious. By the mid-1980s they were globally renowned as a live act, and their 1987 album The Joshua Tree made them international superstars; it remains their greatest commercial and critical success. Their most recent album from Lorelai’s viewpoint is All That You Can’t Leave Behind, released in 2000. One of the world’s best-selling musical acts, U2 have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. They are famous for their campaigns for human rights and social justice.

This establishes Lorelai as a U2 fan. U2 gave a concert in Hartford as part of their Elevation tour on June 3 2001, although in the Gilmore Girls universe it seems to have taken place around mid-May – this was the concert that Tristan offered to take Rory to on a date (with PJ Harvey as the support act). It doesn’t seem plausible that Lorelai and Rory attended the concert, although it is just possible, particularly if they went to the real-life concert rather than the fictional one in the show.

U2’s previous concert in Hartford was as part of their Zoo TV tour, and it took place on March 12 1992 – this is the only other U2 concert that Lorelai could have taken Rory to. Unfortunately, the concert would have been when Rory was eight years old, and later Lorelai says that Rory thought she “discovered” U2 when she was ten; Rory could hardly believe that after attending an elaborately staged concert by the band two years before. It is possible that Lorelai is referring to a purely hypothetical U2 concert.

Lorelai lets Rory know that the idea of them being “best friends” is something of a fiction, being entirely at Lorelai’s convenience. As long as Rory is doing exactly as Lorelai wants, they are best friends; once she deviates from that, they are back to being mother and daughter.

The Cheshire Cat

LADAWN: Welcome to the Cheshire Cat.
LORELAI: … Okay, she’s named the place after an Alice in Wonderland character. This is my worst nightmare.

As Lorelai says, the Cheshire Cat is a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, previously discussed and frequently referenced. The cat likes to engage in amusing philosophical conversations, and is known for its distinctive grin; even when it disappears, as it does a few times, the grin will be the last thing to vanish.

The character is a personification of the English saying, “to grin like a Cheshire cat”, meaning that the person has a very wide smile. The saying dates to the 18th century, but its origins are obscure. Cheshire was known for its dairy industry, with milk and cream making cats happy, so that’s one possible explanation.

Presumably LaDawn chose the name of her B&B after her large cat, Sammy. In real life there are numerous B&Bs in the Portsmouth area to cater to the tourist trade. Scenes at the Cheshire Cat were filmed in the same set used for the Black White Read Bookstore.

Haden’s Nut House

On their trip, Lorelai and Rory stop at a roadside stand called Haden’s Nut House for snacks. Its name is another sign of how “crazy” Lorelai feels right now, while Haden is very close to Christopher’s surname of Hayden.

In real life, roadside nut stands are far less common in New England than they are in California, where the show was written. The filming location for Haden’s Nut House was Griffith Park, Los Angeles.

Lorelai and Rory’s Road Trip

We see Lorelai’s road trip plan in action – she is driving aimlessly around, and neither she nor Rory know where they are. It’s an obvious metaphor for how lost Lorelai feels at the current moment, and how she has no plans on how to navigate her life or move forward from here.

It’s also an opportunity to show Lorelai and Rory’s different outlooks on life, with Rory becoming increasingly alarmed and panicked at their lack of planning and direction. Interestingly, Lorelai makes an offhand remark about driving into the Pacific Ocean of the west coast rather than the Atlantic Ocean of the east coast – have her thoughts naturally wandered to Christopher in California? Or perhaps it’s a sly meta-comment about the road trip obviously being filmed in California rather than New England.

Chuppah

LORELAI: What is that?
LUKE: Oh, it’s a chuppah.
LORELAI: A what?
LUKE: A chuppah. You stand under it, you and Max. It’s for your wedding.

A chuppah is a canopy which a Jewish couple stand under when they are married. It’s usually a cloth or sheet (sometimes a prayer cloth) held up by four wooden poles. In Orthodox Judaism, there is meant to be open sky above the chuppah, just as is planned for Max and Lorelai’s garden wedding. The chuppah represents the home the couple are making together, which will always be open to guests.

Lorelai wonders whether it would be inappropriate for she and Max to have a chuppah, and gains reassurance from Luke on that point. Luke is actually correct: there is nothing specifically Jewish about getting married under a canopy (other religions do it too), and it doesn’t necessarily have to be religious in nature. These days there’s a bit of a trend for non-Jewish canopy weddings, and as long as it isn’t actually called a chuppah it doesn’t usually cause offence.

The chuppah is a gift from Luke to apologise for his behaviour towards Max. He knows he has been bit of a jerk about Lorelai’s wedding, and wants her to know he is still there for her as a friend. At the end of the scene, Luke and Lorelai are shown standing together under the chuppah as a sign that they will be married one day (when it happens in A Year in the Life, it will take place under a “canopy” beneath the sky, but not the chuppah).

It isn’t all that believable that the Luke we have got to know so far would actually make a chuppah for a non-Jewish wedding after getting the idea from a book (how did he know how to pronounce the word from reading it in a book?), and it seems awfully contrived.