Friday, June 28, 2013

Two Kings and a Sexy Sofa

Thought for the day:  You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.  [Hank Williams]

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!  [John Muir]
If being a hillbilly means living someplace as breathtakingly beautiful as the Great Smoky Mountains, I'd say it's a darned good thing to be.

Wait until you get a load of this. A song many of us sang as kids was flat-out wrong; Davy Crockett wasn't born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, after all. The King of the Wild Frontier did draw his first breath in Tennessee, but it didn't happen on a mountaintop, doggone it. I'll tell ya what, if he didn't grin him a bar when he was only three, I don't want to hear about it. I mean, come on. He was my hero. Next you'll be telling me Cisco and Poncho weren't really amigos. Sheesh.

How's about a couple quick tidbits? Did you ever wonder why Tennessee is called the Volunteer State? It earned that nickname during the War of 1812, because of Tennessee's soldiers who fought so valiantly... and voluntarily... at the Battle of New Orleans. Fast forward to the Civil War: Greeneville, Tennessee, has the only Civil War monument in the country that honors both Union and Confederate soldiers. Here's one of my favorite bits of sports trivia: Cumberland University, in Lebanon,  lost a football game to GA Tech on October 7, 1916, by an incredible score of 222 to nothing. Tech's coach at the time was George Heisman, for whom the Heisman Trophy is named. (Think anybody stayed in the bleachers to watch the entire massacre?)

                                                Ready to take a look around now?

Lots of people associate Tennessee with the Grand Ol' Opry, which boasts the longest continuously running live radio program in the nation. (Every Friday and Saturday night since 1925.) This picture shows its current home, and when it moved here from its old location at Ryman Auditorium in 1974,  a six-foot circle of oak flooring from the old stage was inlaid into the new one. Kinda neat, huh? I looked through a bunch of videos of  Grand Ol' Opry performances, and saw a lot that were to be expected: Charlie Daniels, Willie Nelson, Minnie Pearl, Hank Williams, etc... but I also found one that caught me by surprise. I didn't even know actor Kevin Costner was a musician. Did you?

It should come as no surprise that the Country Music Hall of Fame is located in Tennessee. Like the Grand Ol' Opry, it's in Nashville, although Bristol, Tennessee is actually considered country music's birthplace. Victor Recording Studios in Bristol held its first country music recording session in 1927: Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter family were featured on that first record.

The distinctive architecture of the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is a real eye-catcher when ya drive by. It's the largest facility of its kind to focus on freshwater habitats.

As I said, Davy Crockett wasn't born on a mountaintop, but he WAS born on the banks of Limestone Creek near Greenville, where a replica of his family's log cabin stands today as part of the 105-acre Birthplace State Park.

Pictured here are a couple of workers pushing uranium slugs into the concrete loading face of a graphite reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, circa 1943. As you may know, Oak Ridge was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb. Because of the energy research still conducted at the laboratory, Oak Ridge is known as the Energy Capital of the World.

When Elvis (the pelvis) first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, some sticks-in-the-mud treated him as though he were the product of a nuclear reactor. His unique style and velvety voice shot him to the tops of the charts, and he sang his way into the hearts of many all over the world.

During his prolific career, the King of Rock 'n' Roll won three Grammy awards. All three were for his Gospel singing. And he has been inducted into the Rock & Roll, Gospel, and Country Halls of Fame.

Even all these years after his death, his home at Graceland is still a red hot tourist attraction. Wanta take a peek?

Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith, is the only known man in history who single-handedly developed an alphabet. The syllabus he created in 1821 for the Cherokee Nation led to the first written language for a Native American people. The Sequoyah Birthplace in Vonore tells his amazing story, and is dedicated to the history and culture of Native Americans.

As in most mountainous areas, Tennessee is a popular destination for skiers. Even if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate. With five acres of artificial skiing surface, Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort permits skiing in any kind of weather.

If you get tired of the sights and activities in picturesque Gatlinburg, take a trip over to nearby Pigeon Forge to visit Dollywood. A super amusement park with a little bit of something for everyone.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can visit Craighead Cavern in Sweetwater, where you'll find the Lost Sea, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest underground lake in the country. And the second largest in the world. (The largest is in Nairobi.) A tour of the cave includes a ride around the lake in a glass-bottomed boat. Don't think about how deep the lake is...

Not a fan of caves and underground waters? How about some above-ground rafting on the Ocoee River? It's one of the top white water recreational rivers in the country, and was the site for white water canoe and kayak competitions in the 1996 Olympics.

Not a fan of white water either? Picky, picky, picky.

How about this?  Reelfoot Lake was formed by the largest earthquake in America's history, the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811. This lake, located in the northwestern part of the state, is a nature-lover's paradise. This reputed "turtle capital of the world" contains swamps, bayou-like ditches, bald cyprus trees, and many nesting pairs of bald eagles.

I'll bet you never expected to see a building like this in Tennessee. I sure didn't. This full-sized replica of the Parthenon, built for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Expo, can be found in Nashville's Central Park.

Would you believe this modest looking motel is the home of the National Civil Rights museum? The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, is the infamous site of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.

In 1916, Mary was billed by the Sparks World Famous Shows circus as the largest living land animal on earth. Before the circus left Erwin, Tennessee, she was the deadest. She killed her trainer during a live performance, and was hung by the neck from a derrick railroad car the next day.

I'll bet she didn't even get a trial.

But Tennessee is renown for another trial. At right is the Rhea county courthouse, site of the famous Scopes trial, AKA the Scopes Monkey Trial, held in July of 1925. Teacher John Scopes faced charges for including Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution in his teachings. At the time, Tennessee had a law against teaching evolution in any state-funded schools. Initially, Scopes was fined one hundred dollars, and later, the ruling was overthrown on a technicality. The play and movie Inherit the Wind are based on this trial.

Okay before I get too carried away here, let's move on and check out some of the cockamamie laws still residing on the books in the fine state of Tennessee, shall we?

  • Students may not hold hands while at school. (Man, Smarticus and I would've been in biiiiig trouble!)
  • It's illegal to post images online that cause emotional stress without legitimate purpose. (Suppose the legitimate purpose is to cause emotional stress?)
  • No Christian parents may require their children to pick up trash from the highway on Easter day. (But any other day of the year, feel free to dump them with the chain gang road crew.)
  • Good news! It IS legal to gather and consume roadkill! (Yeeeee-HA!)
  • You can't do much legal hunting from a moving automobile in Tennessee. The only game you can shoot this way is... whales. (Better haul a trailer with you, especially if your car has bucket seats.)
  • It's illegal for a minister to hold a seat in either house of the legislature. (We don't need no ethics in politics, dagnab it!)
  • It's against the law to dare a child to buy a beer. (Stick with Jack Daniels.)
  • It's illegal to fish off another person's hook, so you'd better bring extra tackle. It's taboo to catch a fish with a lasso, too. (How about dynamite? Is it okay to use that?)
  • Grab the No-Doze, 'cause there will be no nodding off behind the wheel. In Tennessee, it's against the law to drive a car while sleeping. (You think that was a big problem?)
  • In Tennessee, the age of consent is sixteen... or twelve, if the girl is a virgin. (???)
  • It's illegal to place tacks on a highway. (Drop Post-It notes.)
  • Oops, sorry, but you may not carry a skunk into the state. (That really stinks, huh?)
  • The legal definition of dumb animal includes every living thing.
  • In Bell Buckle, it's against the law to throw bottles at a tree. (Even if the tree's been acting like an ash?)
  • I don't reckon they can hold any Sadie Hawkins dances here... in Dyersburg, it's illegal for a woman to call a man for a date. (Or she could send him an email?)
  • In Kimbell, bar owners may not let their customers make loud unusual noises. (But they are dumb animals...)
  • When you pull up to a stop sign in Lenior City, you must fire a gun out the window to warn horse carriages that you're coming.
  • In Lexington, anyone who has been drinking is sober by law until he or she cannot hold onto the ground. (By that definition, I don't know anyone who's ever been inebriated...)
  • Women drivers don't get much respect in Memphis. It's only legal for women to get behind the wheel of a car if a man is running or walking in front of it, waving a red flag.
  • Frogs don't get much respect there, either. It's illegal for them to croak after 11 PM.
  • Also in Memphis, panhandlers must purchase a ten-dollar permit before they're allowed to beg. (But officer, if I could afford a ten-dollar permit, I wouldn't have to beg.)
  • In Nashville, it's illegal to keep a cheetah as a pet... or for a man to be sexually aroused in public.
  • And finally, in Oneida, there's an ordinance forbidding anyone from singing the song It Ain't Gonna Rain No More.
Okay, it's that time again. Time for (ta-DA!)

The Weirdest News Stories of the Week

*** British scientists reported this week that plants have to be math whizzes to survive. According to them, leaves measure starch reserves during the night, discern how many hours until dawn, and then based on their internal calculations, adjust their rate of starch consumption so they don't starve while bereft of the sun's energy. Pretty amazing, huh? So just think. If your plants aren't thriving, it doesn't necessarily mean you don't have a green thumb. You may not be messing up with the amount of fertilizer and water you give them, either. Nope. Your plants may simply need a math tutor.

*** Nope, I'm not the fashion police. Most days, my idea of trendy fashion is a clean tee shirt. But man, is there no end to what women will wear to attract attention these days? Used to be, showing a little bit of cleavage, a lot of leg, and a nice little wiggle was all it took, but not any more. Montreal designer Ying Gao's new dresses, dubbed (No)where and (Now) where, use an eye-tracking system that detects when someone is looking. Then the dresses do a razzle dazzle light show! Jeez. I dunno why a woman needs her clothes to carry on like that to let her know somebody's looking. Cat calls and whistles have always provided a reliable indication up 'til now. These look-at-me dresses will go on display at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art in November, and at the Textile Museum in Canada next year. In case you can't wait, you can get a sneak peak right here 

No, I don't know why this stupid picture is sideways.

***  A Wisconsin man pleaded guilty this week to a charge of public lewdness for... having sex with a couch at the side of the road. Yep. You read that right. A couch. It was an open-and-shut, in-and-out case of new-fangled furniture fornication. I guess he couldn't resist its sexy slipcover and curves, huh? Or maybe it was the soft padding that temped him, or the foxy way it was sitting there. Whatever.  Forty-seven-year-old Gerald Streator will be spending the next five months in jail. Doing hard time, I guess, because presumably, there won't be a love seat in his cell. Talk about a stiff sentence.

Oh, in case any of you are curious as to how my debut novel Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade is doing... not too bad. Don't tell him, but I think I've earned enough money to treat Smarticus to a nice dinner this weekend. Online sales has kinda slowed down, but if a couple more books sell today, I might even let him get fries with his burger...  Happy weekend, y'all! I'd like to leave you with a sweet romantic song...

                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

WHAT Did That Sign Say?

Thought for the day:  We all carry our own baggage through life, but our trip is much more meaningful if we're following an accurate road map.  [anonymous]

Sharing a picture of one of those funny dribbleglass billboards on last Friday's post reminded me that it's been much too long since we took a road trip together. Forget the road map, and forget the baggage; we're just gonna gawk at some silly roadside advertisements. Not REAL ones, mind you. These sprung from the fertile imaginations of those fine folks at dribbleglass who graciously granted me permission to share them with you.

Ready? Okay, climb into the bus, and let's see what we can find.

There. Find anything to make ya smile? If so, my job here is done. If not, guess I'll have to try harder next time.

                                    Until then, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cheers, Y'All!

Thought for the day:  Whiskey is, by far, the most popular of all remedies that won't cure a cold. [Jerry Vale]

In 1952, Armon M. Sweat, Jr., a member of the Texas House of Representatives, was asked for his opinion of whiskey. Being the true politician that he was, this was his response, as recorded in the Political Archives of Texas:

"If you mean whiskey, the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples Christian men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fiber of my being.

"However, if by whiskey you mean the lubricant of conversation, the philosophic juice, the elixir of life, the liquid that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life's great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into Texas treasuries untold millions of dollars each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation, then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favor of it.

"This is my position, and as always, I refuse to compromise on matters of principle."

You've gotta love a politician who can speak so articulately out of both sides of his mouth, but he's right, ya know. The abuse of alcohol can lead to all kinds of horrors, but as a social lubricant, it can also be quite... delightful.

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. [Ben Franklin]

Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep;
Whoever sleeps long, does not sin;
Whoever does not sin, enters Heaven!
Thus, let us drink beer!   [Martin Luther]

While Smarticus and I were in Dahlonega, we went to a wine tasting... in broad daylight even. How decadent! I must admit, I'm a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, so those little bitty glasses of delight put a giddy little giddy-up in my step and made the world look even rosier.

Here's to alcohol, the rose-colored glasses of life. [F.Scott Fitzgerald]

While in that wine-tasting shop, I took pictures of some stuff that tickled my funny bone. So this post is gonna take a look at the funny side of drinking. Yeah, like the good politician Sweat from Texas, I know alcohol has a nasty underbelly, but who wants to write... or read... about a nasty underbelly? Far better to share a smile or two.

A cute bar towel, huh? Not that it's at all applicable to any women I know.

I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.  [W.C. Fields]

I should've bought some of these napkins, darn it.

I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three, I'm under the table,
After four, I'm under the host.
[Dorothy Parker]

Another bar towel.

I knew I was drunk. I felt sophisticated and couldn't pronounce it. [anonymous]

Yet another towel.

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.  [Ben Franklin]

My personal favorite. This sign was next to the cash register.

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. [Ernest Hemingway]

This sign was at an antique shop we visited after the wine tasting. It cracked me up. Of course, after three teensy weensy glasses of wine, everything cracked me up.

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.  [Dave Barry]

Here's one of those fun make-believe billboards from the fine folks at dribbleglass (Which reminds me, we're overdue for one of those road trip posts, aren't we?)

Actually, it only takes one drink to get me loaded. Trouble is, I can't remember if it's the thirteenth or fourteenth.  [George Burns]

One must always respect one's beverage.

When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.  [Henny Youngman]

I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample, it had an olive in it.  [Rodney Dangerfield]

Don't try to join the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. It turns out they're apparently against all three.  [Wiley Post]

Wine is sunlight, held together by water. [Galileo]

The mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer. [Ancient Egyptian proverb, circa 2200 B.C.!!!]

The following video is just over nine minutes long, which may be longer than you want to hang around. No problem. But if you have time, I think you'll get a kick out of Bill Cosby's 30+ year-old take on drinking...

And one final clip. A short one, which I could hardly believe I found. This is one of the folk songs my cousin Phyllis and I used to sing when we were teenagers. Anybody else ever hear of it before?

Okay, that's it for now. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Follow Your Internal Compass

Thought for the day:  Plagiarism: the unoriginal sin  [Roy Peter Clark]

This picture from seniorarkhas absolutely nothing to do with today's post. I just thought it was funny.

This post has nothing to do with plagiarism, either. I mean, I can't copy from myself, right? Which is to say... today's post is a somewhat edited rerun. Another oldie but goodie you may have missed the first time around, when it ran in September of 2011 as Trust Yourself; You Know the Way.

I hope you enjoy it.


Thought for the day:  Going in the wrong direction beats sitting still on the tarmac.

Did you hear about the student pilot who got hopelessly lost on his first solo flight? When the air traffic controller tried to help him out by asking for his last known position, the poor guy said, "When I was taxiing for take-off, sir."

Ever feel like that? Like you aren't sure where you are, how you got there, where you're supposed to be going, or how you're supposed to get there?

High school and college graduation speeches are always filled with optimism and confidence about conquering the future, aren't they? The world is our oyster. Only problem is, nobody provides us with a darned oyster knife. We each have to figure it out for ourselves.

When we graduate into adulthood, we have to stop taxiing. It becomes time to file our flight plans, and for better or worse, take to the skies. Few of us followed the flight plan we expected for our life, or landed exactly where we expected to be when we proudly walked across the stage to accept our diplomas. That doesn't mean we took the wrong path. Sometimes our internal compasses lead us in a different direction, and what do you know? It turns out to be exactly the one we were meant to take all along.

                                           It's time for a little story.

Douglas Corrigan was one of the airplane mechanics who built Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, and after Lindbergh's successful flight cross the Atlantic in 1927, it became Corrigan's dream to follow suit. Being of Irish descent, he desperately wanted to fly non-stop to Dublin.

So he got his pilot's license and bought Sunshine, a second-hand single-engine 1929 Curtiss Robin, and applied for permission to make the flight.

Wouldn't ya know it? The dastardly FAA denied his flight plan. Said his plane was too old, and unfit. So he worked on his plane some more, and filed another and another and another NY-to-Ireland flight plan. All denied.

But his plane WAS approved for transcontinental flight, so in 1938, Corrigan flew from California to New York. There, he filed a flight plan to return to California.

Because of heavy fog covering New York that fateful day, Corrigan was directed to fly east  . . . just until he rose above the fog . . . and then turn back toward the west.

Only he, um,  never did. He kept going... east. Claimed his compass wasn't working properly, and he didn't even know where he was when he landed . . .  in (ahem) Dublin.

For this, he earned the nickname Wrong Way Corrigan. As it turned out, the FAA had a point about his airplane being a crate. Sunshine developed a gas leak on the California to New York flight, and when he was over the Atlantic, so much gasoline was leaking into the cockpit, Corrigan had to punch a hole in the floor. It took him 28 hours and 13 minutes to complete the flight to Ireland, and by the time he landed, he was a celebrated hero on both sides of the ocean.

Needless to say, the bureaucrats at the FAA were furious, but how could they throw the book at America's hero? Corrigan was slapped with a perfunctory 14-day license suspension, which was already completed by the time he arrived (by ship) back in the U.S.

And know what? New York City gave him a bigger parade than they'd given Lindbergh in 1927.

Until the day he died in 1995, Corrigan maintained that his navigational error was purely unintentional. I'll let you be the judge of that. But in that one flight, he broke the law, charmed the Irish, became an American hero, and earned an unforgettable nickname: Wrong Way Corrigan.

So, what's the moral of the story?

Others may try to dictate your flight plan through life, but you're the one in the pilot's seat. Only you can decide where you're going and how you're gonna get there. Trust your internal compass.

Remember where you came from, and which end goes up, and you'll never get lost.

                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
 [Photos of Corrigan courtesy of National Archives. The duck's adorable dupa is from morguefile]