The year Jean and I married and I graduated from Murray State University, we moved to an apartment on Poplar Avenue in Memphis near Crump Stadium and fairly close to Humes High School, where I had accepted a faculty position. We were also close to a recently built coral pink facility named St. Jude Children's Hospital, later renamed St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
It's getting to be that time of year again. Late August and early September mean the transition from summer to autumn; kids are getting back to school; summer tourism, and the traffic it brings, are winding down.
I haven't kept up in detail on the situation in Ferguson, Mo. However, just like anyone else in the world who is exposed to print or electronic media, by osmosis alone there is no way I couldn't have picked up facts and fiction regarding the actions and reactions that began Aug. 9. The media reporting has run the gamut from being good and fair to being sorry and biased. The communication, or lack thereof, from some leaders on the community, state and national levels has run a similar gamut.
Summertime in the South unleashes a full-throttle sensory experience. The sounds of crickets and cicadas. The smells of magnolia trees and hundreds (thousands?) of other plants. The green of vegetation at its apex. The taste of blueberry pie. The water of one's own body seeping to the surface of one's skin. This humidity...
How many times have you seen this play out in a movie or on TV: The bad guy goes to fire his weapon, and the hero shoots it out of his or hand. The day is saved, and the villain is wounded but alive to learn a lesson, go to jail or possibly just to plot again.
Will Rogers said, "A person only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people." Since I'm probably not any smarter than most of the people reading this column, I need to make sure I supply my readers with information that in one way or another is either uplifting, insightful to some degree, encouraging, entertaining, helpful in some way or emotionally stirring, bringing either a little lump to your throat or a little laugh or snicker (or at least a smile).
I accompanied wife Jean to a supermarket we frequently visit. While she shopped in the produce and dairy sections I went to get a few things, including my favorite breakfast cereal. I looked for it in its usual place, but it wasn’t there. So, in a style made famous by Dr. Seuss, “Let me say – I searched high, and I searched low, that very day – I searched here, and I searched there – When I was through, I had searched, everywhere.”
First I read in the paper about Kat Kingdom, the cat attraction one can visit to play with cats, in one of the shops at the Covered Bridge development on Glades Road in Gatlinburg. Later I read that Kat Kingdom would have a grand opening featuring cupcakes, cookies and live music. They had me at cupcakes.
I had just spoken at a convention attended by hospitality industry personnel. Following my presentation, a man in his late 30s or early 40s engaged me in a conversation that eventually led to his tattoo story. Prior to obtaining a job with a convention hotel, he had been the manager of a travel center on a heavily traveled interstate. The tattoo on his forearm was easily accepted there – but not in his new job.
Few stories that I’ve written lately have gotten the enthusiastic response that we saw for the announcement of a possible new movie theater at Governor’s Crossing.
The content of this column is part literature lesson, part hippie history lesson, part point-making humor, part communication breakdown examples and part human relations tip.
You may have heard the recording. In a story that recently went viral, a technology journalist named Ryan Block tried to cancel his Internet service with Comcast. A hostile customer service representative tried to dissuade him. Block preserved much of the mortifying conversation.
We recently spent almost six hours at Mills Park in Gatlinburg. Yes, in one day. The kids loved it and wanted to go back the next day. The playground area provides a lot of entertainment and great physical play. They hang from the monkey bars and stretch to get to the next ring. They walk up and down the stairs to use the slide over and over. They jump on the hanging bridge.
I happened to get a quick glimpse of someone on TV the other night and had to ask my wife Jean, “Was that Joan Rivers?” Jean confirmed it was. “Well,” I replied, “I thought so. It sort of looked like her.” I never really cared for Rivers’ brand of humor, but at least I used to be able to recognize her – before all of her plastic surgery. Someone once told her, “You used to look your age. Now you don’t even look your species.” (Could have been comedian Jay Leno for all I know, since I don’t think he cared much for her brand of humor either.)
I’ve been labeled a pack rat because I hang onto items long after I’ve stopped using them regularly. I have an emotional attachment to memories associated with many of these things. But don’t we all have useless items that we keep simply for sentimental value?
Several items triggered this column. First of all, the sermon I heard Sunday was titled “Grace and Truth.” Presented well, it delved into chapter one of John’s Gospel, focusing on John 1:14, “And the Word (Christ) became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of grace and truth.” The primary emphasis, as declared by the sermon title, was “full of grace and truth.”
Recently, we attended Birds of Prey for the second year in a row at the Gatlinburg Library. The one-hour program by the American Eagle Foundation presented seven birds of prey that are taken care of by this nonprofit organization. They don't just have eagles there. They also have owls, vultures and hawks.
Yesterday an associate and I discussed how God seems to send someone to lift you up, provide support, or give you a nudge in the right direction when you really need it. The conversation later helped me recall an article sent to me earlier this year. Written by Darren Reese, sports editor of the Greeneville (Tenn.) Sun, it opens with, “God has a way of putting people into your life right when you need them the most. Little did I know I needed Tyler Summitt.” He goes on to tell how the paper sent him to an awards banquet at which 23-year-old Summitt, recently hired to lead Louisiana Tech women’s basketball program, was the keynote speaker.
Where there is a beach, there are beach bums.
Erma Bombeck said, “You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”
Since I embarked on my homeschooling adventure, I wished for a homeschooling conference that was closer to home. We attended one in Knoxville two years ago. Last year, they did not have one. I don't want to travel to Nashville or Cincinnati, Ohio; or Greeneville, S.C.; or Charlottesville, Va. for a conference if I don't have to.
If I go long enough without picking up my guitar, I start to get the itch. I feel the need to play one of my favorite songs, or just tinker around and play a few riffs aimlessly.
“Face it, if it came in a bottle, everyone would have a good body.” These are Cher’s closing words in her popular Jack LaLanne Health Spa TV commercial of the mid-1980s. During the entire commercial, Cher is working out in LaLanne’s studio, displaying that she obviously follows the advice of exercising properly and choosing foods wisely in order to get the body you want. (If you weren’t around in the mid-1980s or don’t recall the commercial, you can see it on YouTube.)
It might be time to invest in dash cams if you drive around Sevierville very much.
So, in the continuing saga of my 932-mile auto trip from Gatlinburg to Flower Mound, Texas, after I survived the gale-force winds and torrential downpour in West Tennessee between Jackson and Memphis, I made my way into Arkansas, and to my second-day destination in Arkadelphia.