Jesse Gall

Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

This Just In: Teenagers No Longer Worst Drivers

In Humor on July 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I’ve discovered there are only a few things you can do to entertain yourself on a four hour sojourn across the Tennessee landscape. You can watch as the billboards start to change from “GUNS” to “Luxury Condo’s from 120,000!” You can ruminate the rolling hills, green with élan vital. You can listen to your ipod on shuffle and amaze yourself at the strange eclectic nature of your musical library (Toni Braxton, James Taylor, Mariah Carey, Girl Talk, Steve Miller Band, CCR, Jason Mraz, Mars Volta, Eminem. Confused yet?).

I did all of these things. But nothing captured my attention more than the horrific driving that has become so typical of Tennessee. Maybe it’s not just in Tennessee. Maybe everyone drives like a Tourettes sufferer on the back end of a three day sleepless binge, but it seems that the poor drivers of the country have gathered, settling in Tennessee.

I careened out of danger and weaved through recklessness. I dodged texters and GPS fiddlers. I did it all. But I noticed something interesting as I navigated my way through the traffic minefield that can be I-40: the worst drivers I encountered were in their 40s or 50s. This doesn’t make any sense! People are supposed to drive slower as they get older. I should be passing these people, not running for my life.

Don’t call me Nostradamus, but I offer you a prediction. In the next twenty years, the roads will be littered with seriously aging Baby Boomers driving too fast for their declining vision. No longer will the elderly drive at a glacial pace. This generation is the first generation to live entirely in a world of instant communication, where speed is synonymous with living. They’ve never been adult in a world that success wasn’t equated with a flurry of activity and busied antics. These people have things to do and it’s always been way. They have Tom Toms and Starbucks and Blackberries and bluberries and Sirius and DVDs in their dashboard.

They might have a whole lot. But nothing is more terrifying than the realization that this generation is also the first set of drivers with an entire fleet of tank-cars at their finger tips. Hummers, Explorers, 4Runners, Xterra, and Denalis roam the streets, bossy like schoolyard fat kids. They drive SUVs and they don’t see the twenty five year old in his little red Lancer. Oh but, they’re sure that I’ll move out of the way. Ugh.

Drivers prepare! Watch your mirrors and use your blinkers, these things can only help your chance of avoiding the most likely wreck you will ever have. Remember the defensive driving school you went to as a teenager when you received your first speeding ticket. Do well to prepare because the Boom in Baby Boomers might soon be associated with the sound of crunching metal. But hey, if you’re an Insurance Agent, you should do just fine. What recession?

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

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I Checked Again, I’m Definitely Still In The South

In Humor, The South, Uncategorized on June 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Due to popular demand and a never ending supply of material, I have decided to continue the “Definitely In The South” series on an irregular yet consistent basis, diligently cataloguing the southern lifestyle in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville . Basically, I’m gunna write ya’ll when I find some thingie er place that makes me hoot and holler like I just sat my behind down on a pile of those firey ants, tell you what. Bless your heart if you can’t read that.

So here are some more southern quirks that make this place what it is.

The Phrase “Bless Your Heart” Now as any good southerner knows, this phrase gets used as much as butter in these parts. At its best, it can make you feel like you’ve bested some moiling and herculean task: “Oh look at that, he’s carrying all those groceries for his momma, bless his heart.” Strangely though, if attached to the end of an insult and complimented with a big smile-and-nod, the blow of the insult is significantly softened. “You are so ugly, bless your heart!” What? Southerners are just nicer!

Life Stories There is no filter of waspish proportions in this part of the country. No, no. The best filter you’ll find between the brain and mouth of most people from East Tennessee is single ply toilet paper. You might get a coffee filter if it’s really early in the morning, but that’s just because the hangover hasn’t been shaken off yet. I sat down at Olive Garden last night and met four people while eating dinner! Now, when I say “met” I don’t mean that I remember their names, I mean that I remember their children’s names, from their first marriage (which lasted 22 years) with Harold, the balding emotional idiot/insurance agent who never properly communicated his feelings.

Southerns have a long tradition of talking your ear off, which I think might be the direct result of one factor: Porches. It goes like this: God, Family, Dog, Porch Time. Look at the facts, the weather here is nicer for longer, southerners actually own land they can look out over, and this is a group of people that historically loves nothing more than being outside.  So, since only a few people put TVs on their porches, southerners just get a lot of practice talking. It makes sense in a cultural evolutionary kind of way. The nice backhand side to this characteristic? They have just as much practice listening.

Well that’s it for now. But never fear, there might be more material here than calories in Dollywood’s cinnamon bread. You haven’t had any?! Oh, bless your heart.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Exit Waiting and The Escape Code

In Humor, thoughts on June 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

There is one thing you can count on when you come to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge: you will wait in lines. Like sheep being herded off a mountain, people spend a majority of their time here just waiting. We wait with excitement for a roller coaster. We wait with wonder before the circus. We wait with frustration for the person in front of us at the buffet to step away from the macaroni and cheese we’ve been thinking about for four days. We wait and we accept that we wait. It is a part of life.

The tourism and attractions in Gatlinburg provide a main stage for the dance of waiting, putting it on display like a show. It’s unavoidable, seeing just how much we wait when you live in a town with filled with queue rails, riddled with traffic. But Jesse, what’s the big deal with lines? And haven’t we all read this column before? In about five hundred other places? What’s that you’re beating, Jesse? Is that a dead horse?

It might be, if I hadn’t gotten stuck in line for an hour and a half trying to get a trolley home from seeing the Elkmont fireflies. Fireflies are great and all, but, seriously, tectonic plates have moved faster than that line. Irritated at the Never Ending Line Of Glacial Speeds, I let my mind wander a little bit. Why was I so mad at this line? I just spent seven hours waiting in line to see the fireflies, and now I feel like I’d rather mulch in the rain than wait another hour. The logic didn’t make sense.

Could it be that the only thing we pursue with more vigilance than our own amusement, is a quick way to leave that amusement. Fans leave football games early to beat the traffic, despite waiting in line outside in the parking lot for hours. Throngs of people all pour out of venues, pushing each other rudely, all the time getting grumpier and grumpier, in the hopes to leave before everyone else. Valet was practically invented to fulfill this need.

Am I missing something? Does the person who leaves the earliest get a trophy or something? I don’t think so, otherwise I’d have at least two for the times I tried to go see Paul Haggis movies. Blech. But why, then, do we leave so rapidly and get so frazzled when we are forced into Exit Waiting.

Perhaps it’s in our human nature, to escape. Perhaps there is a code nestled in our cranial folds that forces us to flee as soon as we have satiated whatever particular thirst was tickling us in that moment. The Escape Code. We run from stadiums or blinking fireflies, and we do so with such vigor that any impetus results in flares of frustrations and rage. Unfortunately, the catch 22 is that the entertainment that draws that largest crowds also draws the largest exits.

There is only one way to avoid the horror of Exit Waiting. Be that guy who is always last to leave. People will think you’re annoying as gnats, but at least you’ll be happier.

Until the end, the Mended Blend

It’s Been A Month, I’m Definitely In The South

In Humor, The South on June 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm

So I’ve been here for about a month now and as is customary with all milestones, I’ve begun to look back at my time here. Before moving, my thoughts were centered around the differences that would exist between my current cities Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg and my old cities Bowling Green and Nashville. Do I even need a joke here?

I would say the regions are apples and oranges but that doesn’t really reflect the spirit of the South. So, I’ll say that the regions are like okra and pickles! They’re completely different things, with different colors, tastes, smells, and appearances, but when you get down to it they’re both green veggies that taste delicious when fried.

Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg are among the most southern places I have ever encountered. It might be the fact that the tourist industry advertises “The South!”so all of the other industry here plays into that role too, but it’s hilarious all the same. How is this place more southern than Bowling Green and Nashville? Here’s a quick list.

Nascar Has A Theme Park – Yup, it’s got about ten different tracks with varying karts and cars. If you’re not shocked by that then be shocked by the fact that I’m  secretly dying to go.

Moonshine – Gatlinburg officially made itself the most country city in Tennessee when it allowed the first legal moonshine distillery to be built and opened in 2010. They claim to want change the stereotype surrounding moonshine, that it’s made in the hills by rednecks. Ironically, I got my first taste of moonshine from a redneck who made it in the hills.

“Hello!” – It’s a phrase that some parts of the country have completely forgotten, but you it’s nigh impossible to walk by someone on a path without getting a smile and a greeting. Strangers here feel like friends in New York.

The Food – You get a lot and it’s freaking delicious. Dinner shows offer entire chickens, you can fry anything, and the popcorn/candy stores have about 150 different types of popcorn. Have you ever tried Dr. Pepper popcorn? What about the 20 -spiced Slap Yo Momma popcorn? I bet you haven’t. Do you like cane sugar Coca-Cola? I did.

Paper Fires – I don’t know if this is a mountain thing, a southern thing, or a southern mountain thing, but people love to burn their paper waste in a fire pit while sitting in a lawn chair in their back yard. And here I thought paper fires were strictly a homeless thing. Yeesh.

I have a feeling this might be an ongoing series. More southern specific columns to come.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

It’s A Sign! Or Is It A Suggestion?

In Humor on June 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm

I never knew that walking my dog could be a challenge of intellect until I took him for a walk down by Little Pigeon River. The Little Pigeon runs straight from the mountains, through Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Dollywood (literally), and right up next to my apartment in Sevierville. There is a particularly awesome path running parallel the river and I can get to it from my back yard and judging by the thoughtless and widened grin plastered on my dog’s face, he liked the path too.

When I arrived at the park, where the path begins, I noticed a sign I had never noticed before, saying “Do Not Fish or Swim, as Little Pigeon contains a fair amount of waste.” Dear lord. I was shocked at the blatant accusation of the sign. How it just said the river was dirty, like it was a known fact. I’ve always known people to claim any body of water to be at least “not as dirty as” some other place. No, this sign left no room for interpretation.”This river is filthy. Keep out. For real.”

But then I looked to my left when a flash of a bathing suit caught my eyes. No, it couldn’t be. Not in the properly labeled sewage river! To my horror, three children played in the river next to five or six adults who were fishing. And the only thing I could think was, did they not read the sign? I mean, it’s right there, in the front. Large red thing with a big exclamation mark? No? You didn’t see it?

Impossible, they must have seen it. So why risk their health by fishing for the toxic dumpsites that are the fish of the Little Pigeon. I might be a little hyperbolic right now, but I’m no more dramatic than that sign was so you’ll grant me that. So why then, would these people blatantly ignore the advice so obviously portrayed to them?

Could it be bad advice? That might be true, if the research didn’t show that a sewage dam broke in Gatlinburg a few months ago, killing two people and dumping thousands of gallons of waste into the river. So, advice good. The river is just as chemically as claimed.

Then it came to me. Signs are never anything but mere suggestion in this world. No matter how absolute their terms, no matter how strong their wording, signs are only there to gently remind. This is such an accepted truth, such an ingrained belief, that it goes completely unnoticed. Think of speed limits. Listen to that phrasing and think about the definition of the word “limit.” Then think about how cops only ticket for ten over.

Perhaps it is just in everyone’s nature to live outside the rules, or perhaps were wired to think of only our indestructibility, our thoughtless bravery. We live outside of the signs in a world of individual action, where we decide how fast we go or what river we will fish in. And for that courage I commend the people in the filthy Little Pigeon. I commend their ability to boldly declare their life their own, and proudly swim among the muck and filth of the Gatlinburg sewage system.

It sounds less commendable when I say it like that doesn’t it? Hmm.

Until the end, the Mended Blend

How To Treat The Out Of Doors – A Satirical Rant

In Humor on June 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm

A frightening mentality scourges the cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg, threatening to destroy the very values that define our American way: environmentalism. Beware! The mountains are littered with people who – hold on to something – care about the world they live in.

I don’t know what to do or where to turn. Everywhere I look, I see people recycling. Recycling! Can you believe it? I mean, right in front of me, just recycling like it’s no big deal. Like it’s the easiest thing in the world. How dare they! I mean you have a right to do whatever you want to do with your trash, but for goodness sakes just do it in private. I shouldn’t have to see that. What happened to the mindless waste and rampant consumption that defined the american life? What has this world come to?

The other day, I was tubing down the river and people were putting their cigarettes out in a plastic bag! A PLASTIC BAG! When there is a perfectly good river right there?! Unbelievable. That bag couldn’t have been used to freeze a whole dinner or carry an assortment of crafting items, but no, these environmentalist hooligans put their trash in it! How disrespectful.

I miss landfills and mining holes bored into mountains, when people didn’t think about pesky things like declining global resources or the stability of our entire ecosystem. It was almost as if there wasn’t a problem at all. I like those days! I miss those days! Bring back a time where our oceans weren’t depleting in front of our eyes and conservation only applied to making your liquor cabinet last an extra few days.

I do get rather worried about all this conservation and environmental go-green-hooplah, but then I realize that a majority of the world is on my side, gobbling up resources at a pace so rapid only blind denial could fuel it. I rest easy then, knowing that the environmentalists seem to stay in the mountains. Whenever I get anxious or shocked, I just remember that somewhere, at all times, something is being burned, chopped, poached, or extracted in the name of waste and then I sleep easy, remembering the American way.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Fireflies Like Flashbulbs Part One

In Humor, Local, The Mountains, Uncategorized on June 13, 2011 at 11:24 pm

I did it. I finally did it. Nature opened her doors to me and through the lens of the synchronous firefly Photinus carolinus she showed me a light show reminiscent the night scenes in James Cameron’s Avatar. Three days of failed efforts have paid off, as every piece finally fell into perfectly in place. Not to say it didn’t take some effort and take some time.

Arriving around four o’clock, we camped out and played cards, chasing shade for four hours in the parking lot of the Sugarlands Visitor Center before the trolleys finally started to roll in around 6:45. Hundreds of people began to fall into line as the six brown and red trolleys puttered in to take us away to the Elkmont area inside the Smoky Mountains National Park.

Packed like a New York subway car, the trolley snaked through the mountains for ten minutes before arriving at 555 Middle Of Nowhere Drive. You’ll know you’re there when a park ranger sitting at a folding table hands you a piece of red cellophane to tape over your flashlight. Why red cellophane you ask? The fireflies prefer mood lighting for their mating dance? No. Apparently, fireflies hate white light and  I can’t blame them because, quite frankly, I did too. It kills visibility and completely impairs anyone’s ability to see these finicky flies of fire! I, like a smart person, chose to forget my flashlight in the car. Others could learn from me. More on the evil flashlight-holders later.

Our fancy cooler rolling behind us like a piece of airport luggage, the four of us moved on down what I would call a slightly paved path. What I mean by “slightly paved” is that I’m very sure this particular path was paved at least once. Probably around the same time pavement was invented. Needless to say, our fancy cooler had become difficult to roll.

I digress. So I throw the obnoxiously bulky cooler over my shoulder and the four of us continued on, pushing forth into the forrest just as the sun began to give it’s first appearances at setting. It had started to fade, the light. But the electricity still roared. On the left, giant trees and a rushing river, quick with punchy little rapids and huge rocks undressed by a shallow tide. The water had fallen miles and miles away on a mountain somewhere, probably yesterday.

On the right of the path, the forrest extended into a green darkness as far as the eye could see. A horizon made completely of vegetation, a wall of ferns and weeds and flowers and trees formed with force, a forrest so complete it only broke to reveal the few  rundown tucked away private residences that rest here. They were dirty and haunched places, no regard for cosmetic considerations. I almost judged these dirty houses. I almost judged these people for how they live among the fireflies. What a thought.

TO BE CONTINUED

Until the end, the Mended Blend

Sevierville and the 18th Century: Not Always So Different

In Humor, Local, The South on June 11, 2011 at 11:03 am

There are moments in this strange little city in which I am reminded of a different time. A better time. A time with carriages and oxen and open markets. A time that looked a lot like the game Oregon Trail. Only with less dysentery. The rolling hills dusted with evergreen colors seem wild and untouched, something that could also be said about the people here. Seviervillians are trusting and kind, willing to help at a moment’s notice. What’s wrong with them!?

Everyone is too nice! Too nice I say! I need sirens and hatred, but all I see are smiles and unlocked doors. Canadians keep their doors unlocked! Am I in 18th century Canada?!?! (I imagine 18th century Canada would have been a lot like 18th century America…only less war.)

Where is the anger and the yelling? Where is the disrespect so commonly associated with the American people? Don’t these Seviervillians know anything? I mean, I actually saw an owner to a grocery store barter with a customer for Dollywood tickets. 60 bucks of groceries for three Dollywood tickets. BARTER! What century am I in over here?!

First, I thought only students bartered. Generally, students are the poorest people with the largest amount of random useless stuff. They do a lot of trading. But I have never actually seen someone barter while inside the store that usually only sells for dinero, with customers waiting in line and watching, during business hours! Second, do I really live in a place where Dollywood tickets have a better exchange rate than the actual dollar? I suppose I do. Wow, times is hard people. Times is hard.

I guess I’ll just have to try to cope with all of this niceness. I guess I will just have to smile a little bit myself and try to resist the urge to feel like a better happier person. I can hope, but I already feel my lips begin to curl into a helpful and welcoming smile. Ugh.

Until the end, The Mended Blend

5 Things They Don’t Tell You Before Tubing In Gatlinburg

In Humor, The Mountains on June 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

1. You will be thirsty. If you are planning on drinking anything on the river, you will be sorely disappointed. Not a Sprite or a spirit will be allowed on the river! In fact, if you think you’ll rent a tube for your cooler of brewskies, tying it next to you like a friend that just keeps giving, then you better be prepared to leave that friend in the trunk while you float alone, parched enough to consider drinking the murky river water countless others have urinated in. Bleech.

Tip: Pack a small bag you can hide in your tube that will hold a couple of bottles of water.

2. Check the rainfall. I’m sure the river would have been even more fun if someone had just checked the rainfall over the last few weeks, perhaps we would have noticed the drought we’d gone through recently. The river was incredibly low and, at times, so slow it appeared we weren’t moving.  Tubing is ideal when the river is a little on the high side, but our hour and a half long route lasted three because of the low levels, so perhaps every low river has a silver bed…or something like that.

3. Leave Your Friends Behind. Well, hardly behind. They’ll stay next you anyway. Rivers tend to float the same way after all. If you are feeling the urge to take some ties and bind your tube to your six tube-mates, resist with all vigor. One tube floats down a river slowly enough, there is no need to add the weight and misdirection of six other flopping humans to the mess. You’ll all end up in the same place and every time the river deepens to slow, everyone will catch up. Stay strapped to only one other tube if you have to. 

4. You’ll get injured. You will slip on a rock, hit your butt on the riverbed, get sunburnt, or get bug bites. Your body will leave worse for wear. Go ahead and pack some Tylenol or something. A day in nature will leave its scratches and nicks.

5. You will get paranoid about being lost. Perhaps it was the lack of signs or the multitude of trees that led so strongly to my fear that we had missed our dropout. We were told by a 17 year old girl – the cashier – to get out by the bridge on the left. Wait, is the bridge on the left or do we get out on the left? This is why grammar is helpful. But if you start to feel like you’ve gone too far, that you’ve slipped past the exit into some tubing version of Deliverance, never fear. Get that  banjo music out of your ears! The river is just longer than everyone thinks.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Behind The Scenes With Dolly Parton: The Teleprompter, The Sequins, The Shoes

In Dolly Stories, Humor on June 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a rehearsal at Dollywood featuring the one and only Ms. Dolly Parton herself. She looked exactly like what I thought she would look like except shorter. She was wearing some black pants and a tight black blouse, both of which had gold sequins sewed up, down, and across them. Her hair had more weight than she did, and her four-inch heels brought her up to about 5’5. The woman is small. I mean, in some ways she’s very large (hehe), but for the most part she’s the tiniest.

I think anyone who meets Dolly would tell you that she’s nothing but lighthearted. She jokes about absolutely everything. Her clothers, her boobs, her shoes, everything. Engaged in small talk, one of the directors of Dollywood Entertainment said something like Well it’s never easy to walk in someone else shoes! So naturally, Dolly lifts her toothpick leg into the air, teetering on her remaining limb, while raising her four inch heel to the face of the director and laughing “Ha! Just try walkin’ a mile in these shoes!”

See, Dolly Parton thinks Dolly Parton is the funniest. I mean, she’s right, so I don’t think it’s snobbish at all. She follows every one of her own jokes with a hearty laugh and a huge smile. She might be the happiest person I’ve ever seen.

Something else to know about Dolly. She doesn’t know the words to any of her songs. And she admits it. While waiting on her teleprompter to be fixed (her teleprompter by the way is a 12-foot movie screen), she walked backstage to talk to some of her chorus singers, specifically the four children who sing in her chorus.

“Well hey there! Do you know your part today? What you’re singing? I bet you do! I don’t know my part and I wrote the damn thing!”

Everyone laughed, Dolly laughed the loudest.

“I mean if I don’t have my teleprompter I’m hopeless. I mean back at the beginning of my career I could remember the songs but as you get older and your mind, you know, and they’re just so many songs! I need my teleprompter.”

She knows who she is and she doesn’t care. I mean why should she? She’s royalty in these parts. She’s given this town an economy and thousands of people jobs. She’s just one of those good people. The type you don’t meet often enough. It was a joy.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.