Tag Archives: NASCAR

The Tennessee Bucket List

29 Mar

We spent Saturday afternoon roaming around Nashville. We ate lunch on the patio at Burger Republic and played around at Centennial Park. In between, we browsed through some shops. It was while browsing that I found a book called The Tennessee Bucket List: 100 Ways to Have a Real Tennessee Experience. Actually, it only lists 99 ways because the last one is something that a writer would put in there when he could not think of anything else to add.

Anyway, I bought the book because I wanted to know how many of these I had done. Heck, I have lived in Tennessee my entire life. I must have done most of them. Also, buying the book meant I could write a blog post.

Here goes the list of my real Tennessee experience.

See a Show at the Grand Ole Opry – I have seen the Opry at the Opry House and at the Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to a former student my wife and I were lucky enough to see the Opry backstage at the Ryman. She got her picture with Riders in the Sky.

Behold the Beauty of a Tennessee Walker – We have had box seats at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration since I was a kid. Most people go to Shelbyville for the horses. I go for the donuts.

Watch a NASCAR Race – Actually, I have been to a NASCAR race in Alabama. I will be at the Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in the Fall, and that will be for a football game.

Sip Moonshine – Everyone has done this, right?

Wander the District – You cannot have the full Nashville experience without going to this part of town.

Explore a King’s Mansion – The TV Room is my favorite part of Graceland. The Outlaw Josey Wales is playing all of the time.

There are three tv's. I left out the one showing the trivia answer.

Be a Part of an Archaeological Dig – I am not sure how much digging is done in Tennessee, but there was once a dig on my family’s farm.

See a Civl War Reenactment – The dad of one of my friends took me to a reenactment of the Battle of Stones River. It was surreal to see people pretend that they were living in the past.

Enjoy a Goo Goo Cluster – You have not had candy until you have had a Goo Goo.

See Seven States at the Same Time – Rock City is an old-time roadside attraction that has survived into the 21st Century. If you are near Chattanooga, then you have to, as the barn roofs say, See Rock City.

Take a Walk Down Music Row – You may not see a famous person, but you will pass buildings where awesome music has been created.

Walk the Field at Shiloh – Almost 110,000 Americans fought on this land. There were more casualties in this battle than in all of America’s previous wars combined. It is a haunting place.

Explore Cades Cove – When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed, land was taken from people who had lived in the mountains for years. This community has been preserved in its rustic state.

Stroll Down Beale Street – The Blues was not born in Memphis, but this is where the great Bluesmen gained fame.

See the Sunsphere – In 1982, the World’s Fair was held in Knoxville. It is the last World’s Fair to make a profit, but the Sunsphere is all that is left.

Buy a Pair of Boots – I admit that I have done it.

Stand in the Footsteps of History – Everyone should visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. A few years ago, I took my family.

Explore the Titanic – Yep, the Titanic is in Tennessee. Specifically, it is in Pigeon Forge. It sounds strange, but it is an awesome museum.

See a Shark – Yep, sharks are in Tennessee. Specifically, they are at an aquarium in Gatlinburg, which is down the road from Pigeon Forge.

Hear Al Green Preach – I am cheating on this one. I have never heard Al Green preach, but I have heard him sing.

Visit Franklin on Foot – Downtown Franklin is a great place to visit. The city has found the right combination of preservation and enterprise.

Behold the Statue of Athena – Actually, we saw this on the same day I bought the book. Nashville has the Parthenon because it used to be known as the Athens of the South. Inside the Parthenon stands Athena.image-10

Strum a Guitar – Everyone has done this, right?

See a College Football Game – I have seen games at Neyland Stadium, Dudley Field, Nissan Stadium, the Liberty Bowl and Cumberland University’s Nokes-Lasater Field. However, the coolest one was Chamberlain Field in Chattanooga, which opened in 1908. When it closed, it was the second oldest college football stadium in the country.

Play Miniature Golf – It is one of my favorite things to do. The best place to do it? Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg.

Spend the Afternoon Shopping – The book talks about Opry Mills. However, the Mall at Green Hills is the best.

Savor a MoonPie – It is an awesome snack, but it is best paired with a RC Cola.

Visit the Grave of Meriwether Lewis – This is the Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. He met a mysterious end in a tavern along the Natchez Trace.

See a Bear in the Woods – I saw a bear with her cubs at Cades Cove. Luckily, I did not end up like Leo DiCaprio.

Go Line Dancing – Everyone has done this, right?

Spend a Day at Dollywood – I have been to Dollywood after it was called Dollywood. I have also been there when it was called Silver Dollar City. I have also been there when it was called Gold Rush Junction.

Watch the Marching of the Ducks – The Peabody Hotel in Memphis is a nice hotel. It is also the home of some cool ducks.

Go Whitewater Rafting – Everyone has done this, right?

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame – We try to go there each time they open a new exhibit. It is a great museum

Explore Market Square – This is a part of downtown Knoxville with a lot of cool restaurants and shops.

Pig Out of Memphis-Style Barbecue – Nashville people do not like to give Memphis credit for anything. However, they are tops when it comes to barbecue. Go to Rendezvous.

See an Eagle – A few wild ones can be seen around here.

Discover the Mighty Mississippi – At times, I have just sat and watched it flow by.

Ride a Sky Lift – For years, it has been a Gatlinburg landmark. Everyone has to ride it at least once.

Visit the Jack Daniels Distillery – Jack Daniels is produced in Lynchburg, which sits in a dry county. You cannot buy alcohol where the most famous whiskey is made.

Sit in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” Courtroom – One of my greatest moments as an educator was talking about the Scopes Trial in the courtroom. It is worth a visit to Dayton.

Sing “Rocky Top” – I have sung it thousands of times at the top of my lungs. However, I cannot bring myself to sing the “WOO” part.

Tour a Plantation – They are everywhere.

See a Lady Vols Basketball Game – I have seen a bunch of games and seen a bunch of victories. However, it is not the same without Pat Summitt.

Tour the Home of a U.S. President – There are three. I have seen two. Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk.

Ascend the Space Needle – It is a ride high over Gatlinburg.

See a Titans Game – I have done this a bunch. It was fun when they were winning. These days, it is not as much fun.

Cheer on the South (or North) – When I went to the Dixie Stampede, we were late and could only get tickets on the North side. I was told that the North never wins. That night they won.

Take a Riverboat Cruise at Night – Nashville’s General Jackson is a great ride on a Summer night.

Enjoy an Orchestra – We love going to the Nashville Symphony. They are awesome.

Sink Your Teeth into a King Leo Peppermint Stick – I am not crazy about them, but they are a Christmas tradition.

Walk to the Top of Clingman’s Dome – It is Tennessee’s highest point. Just watch out for the fog. They do not call them the Smoky Mountains for nothing.

Listen to a Country Music Concert – Everyone has done this, right?image-11

Visit a Fort – There are forts, but they are not as cool as forts in the American West.

There is my list. I will not write about the things that I have not done. I am sure the author of the book would love for you to buy a copy to see what else is in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the South?

16 Jan

This semester, my colleague is teaching Southern U.S. History, and, on the first day, he asked his students to answer a simple question – what is the South? As it turns out, the question is not as simple as it appears, and the students have been trying to answer it for a couple of days.Question

I have been listening to the discussion as it takes place outside of my office door, and it has brought to mind a blog that I recently read. The person wrote about how they wanted to visit a southern city because they had never been to one. They had been to New Orleans but did not think that counted. The Big Easy was too diverse to be truly southern.

I was taken aback by the blog because New Orleans is one of the most southern of cities. Apparently, the blogger thought that a southern city should be a place where people put on their camouflage caps and rebel flag t-shirts; hop into their pickup trucks; and crank up the country music station.

Of course, those people exist. However, the South is more than that. It has different geography. It had different foods. People speak with different accents. In short, the South is a diverse region, and New Orleans is a perfect example of that.

However, that does not answer the question that was asked of the students. What is the South? Well, it is a matter of perspective. It depends on area. It depends on race. It depends on the person who is answering the question.

Obviously, people have different opinions about the South. Some think of its faults, and others think of its more positive qualities. I can only think about it from my point of view. When I answer the question, this is what I come up with.

The South is:

drinking sweet tea.

having people from other parts of the country make fun of your accent when their accents are just as strange.

the Blues.

reading Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.

not being able to live without air conditioning.

eating black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Day.

driving on country roads on a Sunday afternoon.

being washed in the blood.

hiking the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains.

eating baloney on crackers with a little hot sauce on top.

growing up as a non-football player in a region that worships football players.

going to college football games and worshipping players on a Saturday afternoon.

listening to the Allman Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band.

feeling shame when watching film of Bull Connor’s forces using fire hoses and dogs on protestors.

saying I want a Coke when ordering a soft drink and knowing that someone who calls it pop is from somewhere else.

attending a NASCAR race and thinking I could do that.

driving the Natchez Trace from Nashville to Natchez.

going to church and having a “dinner on the ground.”

walking in the footsteps of Elvis at Graceland.

drinking Jack Daniels.

eating at a locally owned Meat and Three.

greeting strangers as you walk past them.

knowing that the region has had some serious issues.

being proud of where I live despite knowing about those problems because there are some great things about it, too.

To me, that is the South.

Emersed in the Subculture that is NASCAR

23 Oct

This past weekend, I went to the NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway with my brother, my nephew and some friends. We had a lot of fun hanging out and, in general, acting like a bunch of guys. We traveled on a luxury bus. You know, the kind that famous people rent to take on tour. Our bus had recently been used by John Cena, the WWE star. Considering that the NASCAR fans surrounding us are probably WWE fans, I thought it was a fitting coincidence.John Cena 2

Wait, did I just stereotype NASCAR fans? I didn’t mean to do that. In my mind, NASCAR fans represent a subculture within the larger framework of society. Numerous subcultures exist in our country, and each one of them can be stereotyped by those who do not understand it or do not want to understand it. Heck, we are all part of one. I am a fan of a Southeastern Conference university. That’s a subculture. I am a blogger. That’s a subculture, too. My dad used to be in the cattle business, and I can promise you that cow people are a subculture.

As I said, NASCAR is one of many subcultures, and all subcultures lead themselves to be stereotyped and parodied. I started thinking about this somewhere around the halfway point of the race. The beginning of the race is always cool, and the end is always exciting. However, the middle gets to be somewhat tedious. After all, it is just a bunch of cars going around in a circle.

Anyway, I began to analyze my surroundings and came up with some thoughts.

1. NASCAR fans embrace the stereotypes and parodies. They have to because they cheered for the Wonder Bread car, which was the car driven by Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Surely, they realized that this car represented a movie that made fun of them and their sport.Ricky Bobby

They must also embrace the stereotypes and parodies in what they wear to the race. Surely, someone who wears a white t-shirt with a hole cut in the front so their beer belly can hang out is doing it for laughs. Surely, they realize that this is what non-NASCAR fans assume they wear and, in turn, are making a statement by embracing this unrealistic view.

2. NASCAR has abandoned its fan base, and ticket sales have suffered because of it. At one time, Talladega was packed. Now, a good seat can be bought on the day of the race. I believe it is because NASCAR has become too corporate, and the drivers have become too slick.

Drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison and many more could fit in with the fans. Now, drivers marry supermodels and live in New York City. Fans can’t relate to that. They also can’t relate to the fact that races have been ripped from historic tracks and placed in Chicago, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Wine Country. Wine and moonshine don’t mix.

3. Most of the crowd cheers for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. because he is a link to the past. He’s not just a link to his dad, the last of the great southern drivers, but also a link to all of the other great southern drivers. Ironically, Dale, Jr. is one of the few drivers who grew up wealthy. He may look and act like the fans, but, in reality, he has less in common with them than the other drivers who came up through the ranks.

4. Barack Obama didn’t get many votes from NASCAR fans. On Saturday night, we went to a karaoke gathering where beer and moonshine were flowing. Songs were sung badly, but something more interesting happened. When people had the microphone, they took the opportunity to bash the president. They told jokes about him. They cussed him. The First Amendment was alive and well.

I don’t like the president, either. I don’t like his politics or his policies. However, I believe that it went deeper than that with the people on stage. They don’t like him because they believe he is a Muslim who was born in another country. Oh yeah, they also don’t like him because he is black.

5. Many fans of University of Alabama football are ridiculous. This guy behind us yelled “Roll Tide” every time the cars went around the track. I looked for a car that was driven by Nick Saban but couldn’t find it. My only conclusion was that he wanted everyone to know that he cheers for a great football team on Saturday. This was on Sunday. I am sure he does it on every other day of the week, as well.

He, and many others, wear the school colors all of the time and brag about national championships that they didn’t actually win. Admittedly, I cheer for a rival school, but I am glad that my greatest accomplishment in life is not watching a group of other people accomplish something. Last time I checked, the guy yelling “Roll Tide” at the NASCAR race did not win a damn thing.

6. We met a guy called Big Little, and he was a top-notch grill man. According to him, women surround him just to get a taste of his Brisket and Boston Butt. I have to admit that it is funny to hear a big guy from Mississippi say Boston Butt. The fact that he was wearing overalls made it even more funny. I know he embraced the NASCAR stereotype.

That’s all I thought about. The rest of the time, I was keeping an eye on Danica Patrick’s car. First, because its color scheme makes it stand out. Second, the other fans were booing her. If the “Roll Tide” guy was against her, then I needed to be for her.

That’s What I Call Eventful

18 Oct

Man, this has been an eventful week. On Sunday, Necole and I woke up in Tucson; made a connection in Denver; and, returned to Nashville. After all of this time, airplane travel still amazes me. I am amazed at how far and fast we can go, and I am amazed that they can get the things off the ground.

On Tuesday, my stepdaughter had her tonsils taken out. Necole and I were both lucky that we were kids during the time that they didn’t do that. My older brother had his removed, but, by the time I came through, doctors were saying that it was not necessary. Apparently, it is back in vogue.

One thing that is necessary is for everyone to get a yearly physical. I got one on Wednesday, and it is not very fun. A physical includes getting poked and prodded in all kinds of uncomfortable ways. It is definitely not the Olivia Newton John type of physical.Physical

On Wednesday night, Necole and I saw The Eagles in concert. We have both seen them before, but this was my favorite one. The main reason was that she was with me. The next reason was that they put on a great show that traced their history. In short, they sounded a little Country-ish before Joe Walsh and a little Rock-ish after Joe Walsh.

The events continue as I go to the NASCAR race at Talladega with my brother and my nephews. I am not a big racing fan, but I will get my redneck on to spend a fun weekend with them.

The Honeymooners – The First Tastes of Sonoma

19 Jul

And on the third day, we left Half Moon Bay. However, we didn’t leave before having lunch at an awesome sandwich shop. All of the ingredients were fresh, and they put a bunch of them on the sandwiches. After lunch, we drove up Highway 1 toward San Francisco. We had no idea what we would see along the way, but we knew it would be different from what we saw going south.

The road had a little more traffic, and the coast had a little more development. Before we knew it, we were on the coastal edge of San Francisco. It was like driving anywhere else, but I noticed something strange. You couldn’t turn left at any intersection. Necole and I had a whole conversation about how you can get anywhere without turning left.

Some of the neighborhoods we went through looked somewhat rundown. But, we also passed a mall with a Nordstrom, which I know is fancy because Necole and I saw Nicole Kidman at the one in Nashville.

As we went further up the road, Necole was getting more nervous. Once, she had panic attack going over a bridge in Florida, and this road was taking us over the Golden Gate Bridge. She asked if it was a suspension bridge. When I said yes, she began to squirm. As it turns out, Necole did great. She busied herself by taking pictures and felt better when she saw people walking a riding bicycles next to us. Unfortunately, she took those pictures on her iPhone, and I don’t have any to put in this post.

Crossing the bridge took us into a completely different place. We went from city to suburb, and it must have been a heck of a suburb. We passed a Ferrari dealership and a Bentley dealership. We also passed another Nordstrom. Nashville thought it was a big deal to get one, and we saw two on the same road.

We took this route because our next few nights were going to be in Sonoma – Wine Country. Here, we would see fields of grapes and wineries around every bend. We saw those things, but some other stuff surprised. The land without grapes reminded me of Montana. Also, we passed a race track. Somewhere in my mind, I recalled that NASCAR has spent time racing in Sonoma. There’s just something not right about that. The people I see at Talladega don’t seem to be the Wine Country type. In short, NASCAR needs to run where they make whiskey, not wine.

We made it to the city of Sonoma and our hotel, The Lodge at Sonoma. It was not the Ritz, but it was an alright place to stay. The put us in a dinky room, so we had them swap us to a bungalow. This room was better but not great. However, what we found around us was awesome.

After checking in, we went to the Sonoma Plaza. This thing was huge and dwarfed the plaza I have visited many times in Santa Fe. City hall sat in the middle. I thought it was interesting and took a picture of it.Honeymoon 014

I wonder if I am the only person who ever took a picture of city hall. Anyway, we immediately went to a wine tasting. After all, that’s why we drove all the way up there.Honeymoon 015

After some wine, we walked around the plaza, ventured into some art galleries and had dinner at this cool restaurant. Then, it was on to another wine tasting. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of our tasting experiences.

We went back to the hotel and found a spot in a bar/coffee shop/cheese place. I had beer and cheese. Necole had wine and cheese. The beer was good. The wine was good. The cheese was awesome.

Things on the Dresser

13 Mar

I have this weird notion that we can tell a lot about a person by the things they have lying around. That’s the reason I created a post about the things in my office. Well, that’s not the only reason. I was sitting in my office trying to come up with a mind-blowing topic to write about. At a loss, I just went ahead wrote about what I was looking at. It was also a good way to work on my description skills. Maybe I could create a mental picture with my words like most professional writers do. I am not sure if it work, but I am going to try it again.

I have meant to clean the clutter off of my dresser, and, before I do, I feel the need to record what is there.

Category 1 – Illumination

Like a lot of dressers, mine has two lamps sitting on it. You know the kind. They are skinny and have a small shade on top. They don’t put out much light, and the bulbs tend to blow out a different times. Usually, one works when the other one doesn’t.

I also have a couple of small candles. I am not a big candle fan, but they come in handy if I want to create a romantic mood – like when I am watching Cinemax After Dark.

Category 2 – Pictures

Most people would say this, but these are the most important items on the dresser. One is of me and my nephews piled up on a couch. It was made a few years ago when we took a luxury bus to the NASCAR race at Talladega. I’m not a huge racing fan, but I went because of them. It’s one of my favorite pictures.

Another picture was made when my dad was inducted into the Tennessee Softball Hall of Fame. We are standing there with some of his old players and friends. Everyone is laughing, and I know that he was very happy and proud that night.

The third picture was taken many years ago and included most of my extended family. We were on the deck of my grandparent’s lake house. We had one of those timer cameras, and people are kind of looking different directions. Three people in the picture have passed away – my grandfather, my grandmother and my uncle. One of my nephews is cradled in my dad’s arms. The other one wasn’t even born yet.

Category 3 – Art

That is a term that I use loosely because one was created by yours truly. I had a girlfriend that liked to go to one of those ceramic places where you can drink and paint. This is a two-sided thing with a green, black and blue sun on one side. The other side has an orange moon with red stars. Apparently, I was going through my color experimentation stage.

The other is a piece of pottery I bought in New Mexico. An old Indian woman claimed to make it, but I think some old Chinese woman actually did. It is a cattle skull with cool designs painted on it.

Category 4 – Cards

These are not Hallmark cards. No, these are truly close to my heart. A blackjack strategy card; 3 MGM Players Club cards; a Resorts Casino card; a Hollywood Casino card; a Harrah’s Casino card; and a deck of playing cards with the theme, “Hooker’s Live Bait – There’s Something Fishy Going On Around Here”.

Before you start thinking that I am a total gambling addict, I also have an Elvis Membership card to get discounts at Graceland. Oh, there is also a business card from the men’s shoe department at Nordstrom’s. I would say that I don’t shop there much, but there is a stack of receipts under all of the gambling cards.

Category 5 – Notes

Before I get to the clutter (you thought the other stuff was clutter?), I was surprised to find a couple of notes during the examination. One was written by an ex-girlfriend (not the one who liked to paint) as a thank you note for taking her on a trip.

The other came from my therapist with the instructions that I tape it to the mirror and recite it every morning. It reads, “Stand in your own space and know you are there.” I’m going to tape it up right now.

Ok, I’m back

Category 6 – Other Crap on My Dresser

There is a small stone club with a clip sticking out of it. I think it is to hold letters, but I have a devious mind with it comes to the use of clips. Maybe I can put the therapy note in there.

It sits on top of a flat piece of quartz, or something that looks like that.

I also have an unused Fossil wallet that was once a Christmas gift. I have gotten two other wallets since then.

There is a pair of black running shorts. Obviously, I meant to run. All kinds of people run around here, but I can never figure out what they are running from.

Two pairs of glasses, one sun and one regular, sit in front of their cases.

Oh, there are also three watches. One is broken. Another is a sample that my watch salesman friend had in his truck. The other one is a Rolex that my parents presented to me when I got a Masters. It’s pretty, expensive and pretty expensive, but it doesn’t keep good time.

Somewhere on there is a small remote that operates my iPod when it is hooked into the speakers and some buttons piled on top of it.

I collect pins, so there is one from the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. For someone who isn’t a big race fan, I just mentioned it twice in this post. I can feel my neck turning red.

There are some scissors and a jar filled with coins.

Next to those is a ticket to see Footloose. I never saw the first one and didn’t want to see this one, but my girlfriend wanted to take her daughter. It wasn’t all that bad, and I got to look at Julianne Hough. Yowser!

However, the prize of this category is my stuffed Jackalope. What? You don’t know what a Jackalope is? Well, it is a rabbit with antlers, and they are all over New Mexico. Google it and see what you come up with.

Category 7 – Coin Dish

Last category, I promise. My coin dish contains everything but coins. Actually, there are a couple of Kennedy Half Dollars. I got them at a casino.

Other than that, there is a souvenir golf ball from The Masters. It’s the only sporting event that remains on my “wish to go” list.

There is also a chess piece that was supposed to be a therapy reminder device and a blue rock with “courage” printed on it.

There are ear plugs and a couple of guitar pics that I picked up at a Metallica concert. Those and the plugs seem to go together.

I also have a Godiva Chocolate card and a gold chain from the glory days of the 1980s.

Oh, there is also the Brothel Inspector badge that some students bought for me in Madrid, New Mexico.

However, there are four items that are very special. Two belonged to my grandfather – his pocket knife and a University of Tennessee tie pin.

The other two are championship rings. In 2010, my university won the baseball national championship, and I got a ring for serving as Faculty Athletic Representative. The second ring represents the ten state championships that my dad’s softball teams won over the years. That’s why he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

And that, as they say, is that. Can you tell anything about me from the items gathered on my dresser? Or, did you make it this far?