Jesse Gall

Posts Tagged ‘Moving’

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.

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 Three

In The Mountains on June 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Where were we? Right, Gatlinburg. Sugarlands. Trolleys. Elkmont. Crossed a river. First firefly sighting.

I jumped back across the river, ecstatic to see the light show that had eluded me for so many days. I may have been too excited because on one of my more daring feats of river navigation, I slipped and fell into the river, butt first in between a few rocks. My foot slammed into a rock when I slipped, an excruciating pain throbbing from my big toe. I tried to shake it off because, well, I was sitting down in freezing mountain river water getting wetter and wetter every second. I stumbled not so gracefully back to the other side of the river, missing my sandals by a good twenty feet. Limping barefoot through the forrest, hoping none of these little green plants just happen to be poison ivy, I thought about how stupid the phrase “Walk it off!” was when it applied to foot injuries and then I made my way back to my shoes and then back to my camp.

It was about that time that I realized my shoe was very wet, specifically underneath my searing toe injuring.  You may have thought I was being dramatic about the toe. Nope. I looked down to see my big toe nail cracked in half, right down the middle making two cabinet doors out of my toe, blood spilling out onto my shoe and the path. I was leaving a small bloody trail. It was at this moment that I imagined a large bear twenty miles away, deciding he could use a snack after getting a whiff of that human that just slowed himself down. But Jesse, bears don’t just attack people! Um, have you seen The Edge??? If you haven’t, you should. Alec Balwin. Anthony Hopkins. A guy from Lost. Man-eating Kodiak bear. Brilliance.

Anyway, one of my friends saved the day with some BandAids and a pack of ice, so all was well as I finally sat down in my chair to see the show. It was about 9:00 in the middle of June and it was starting to look like Christmas. Five lights blink six times, all at the same time, floating just above the river, dancing will-o-the-wisps. Looking across the path I see four or five more of the flies, bobbing through the vegetation, blinking a dim blue light so faint it might not even be there. Like a wish forgotten.

It was then that the flashlights came back in the form of five ten year-olds, lying on their backs staring into the trees, lights pointed up like spotlights. I now have an undying hatred for flashlights that may never subside. You see, their pesky gazing flashlights kept falling, beams of red light assaulting my vision every ten seconds. I’m lucky I don’t hate ten year-olds now.

One of the girls in my group decided to be my hero and play light police, as she strolled over and politely asked them to turn their lights off or stop shining them in our faces. They actually stopped too. Who knew the best way to get a ten year-old to do something was to ask nicely?

When their lights finally clicked off, the fireflies were full swing. With this particular breed, the females sit on the ground, watching the sky for the best and brightest, quite literally. See, the males fly around above, flashing like an organic telegraphing system, blinking quickly six times in a row before disappearing into darkness for eight seconds. That’s what makes these fireflies so synchronized. The males all blink their six blinks at once, and then for a short time, the forest is empty in darkness. Not a light or a flash.

Then, like firing neurons, the forest is ablaze with sparkles and stars. Like looking into space, at lights so wondrous you ask yourself if they are even really there. The flies bounce like celestial yo-yos, kissing the world, gushing their pheromones into the damp and electric air, each fly competing for a nod from the female audience under the canopy. A morse code of awe, thousands of fireflies linger and gesture lambently.

Then, like it was never even there, it stops. Eight seconds of anticipation fill the space and you can almost forget there is a forest at all. You can sit there and stare into the darkness with such a rich and bridled expectation that you lose sight of the environment entirely. All there is, all there can be, is waiting. Waiting for the flashbulbs because for one second, when the first light flickers, signaling all the others to commence their illustrious illumination, it is possible to forget everything but those lights. Like cameras in an arena, they explode all at once and they are all that is. There is no worry, no concern, no anxiety, just unadulterated organic beauty at its best and most unleashed. Unfettered and free, this phenomenon is beyond any individual, forcing out any ego, driving out any semblance of self, making room for a honest out-of-body humbling.

It is among the coolest things I have ever done and I will never forget it.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

A Tiny Taste…

In The Mountains on June 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I’m working away on the final part to the three-part firefly series, but while I am I thought I might throw you guys a bone and show you a picture of the kind of things that I saw.

I didn’t take this picture, as I don’t have thousands of dollars of camera equipment that allow me to take pictures in almost complete darkness. But if anyone would like to send me a tripod and a camera that can take ten minute exposures, I’m happy to accept donations. Anyway, I didn’t take this picture. But it’s a good one.

You’re welcome.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Fireflies Like Flashbulbs Part Two

In The Mountains, The South on June 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm

When last we left our four explorers, we were desperately searching for a good viewing spot. Rushing river on our  left and an intimidating forrest on our right, we plowed forward for what seemed like forever. It may have only been a few minutes of walking but as we all know I’m carrying heavy things. Distance is relative to the amount of stuff your totting. Duh.

Having been on the 6th trolley, five groups of viewers had arrived before us which left the best spots about a quarter a mile down the path, a fact I would later be thrilled about. Eventually, we found a clearing on the left, out of view of the path but overlooking the river. A perfect place for the blanket, chairs, and my exhausted legs. Never let it be said that fireflies don’t make you work for it.

After relaxing for a short minute, staring off into the reeds and rushing waters of the landscape, I decided to investigate the river a bit more. Leaving my shoes on the bank, I lowered my feet into the river and grabbed ahold of a protruding rock, crouching a bit comically like a frog. Slinking forward on all fours, never lifting more than one limb at a time, I crossed the currents and rapids, seeking the shallowest parts to hop through. After a Spiderman-like voyage, I found myself looking back across the river I just crossed, letting my thoughts wander in meditation.

Let me just say, that if you haven’t crossed a river recently, you should. There is something indescribable, a oneness that connects deeply and dances like a child with your spirit. There is so much force in the world, so much natural power, it becomes almost impossible to maintain any sense of ego. Yes, I crossed the river. But I did so with an understanding that in some way or another, the river let me cross. An undeniable amount of uncontrollable variables led to safe passage across that river. I began to see that truth in every journey and slowly felt an admission of smallness ripple through my mind.

The sun was beginning to set, red-wrapped flashlights clicked on, and as I looked across the river, through the gentle mist back to my resting shoes, I saw the faint flicker of the night’s first firefly.

To Be Continued

Until the end, the Mended Blend

The Signs of Sevierville

In Humor, The South on June 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I felt like I was getting a sign when I moved here. A ridiculously dumb sign with either a complete logical hole or one purposeful misspelling. Now, as a writer and literature snob, misspellings irritate me on a daily basis. So you would think the only thing worse than a misspelled word would be a writer doing it on purpose. But no. For some reason I find it hilarious. I never said I made sense.

The first sign that caught my attention had to be the Fireworks signs. If you’re not aware, fireworks are legal to buy in these parts of the country. So naturally, it is the nature of any clever enterprising Tennessean to build two story warehouses in which the little sparklies and blasties can be sold. I’ve never seen so much glitter on the side of a building. But what really fried my pickles was a sign that read:


I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the term “live” as it is used in the entertainment world, but generally it is used to categorize a type of production with no editing, no recording, no nothing. Think American Idol. It’s all happening right as you watch it. Live action. Live fireworks. Live. Not recorded, editing, remastered, and digitally written onto a disc sold for $19.99 in your warehouse fireworks superstore. Nope…definitely not.

Similar hilarious signs include single pieces of wood that have been painted white, hung from a crane by the interstate, and emblazoned with a single all-caps word: “GUNS.” Mmmm.

My favorite sign, however, glows only a few blocks away from my home, next to the descriptively named restaurant “Buffet City” (I still don’t know what they serve). There sits a local laundromat with an unassuming name. At first, there is little humor to be found in the simple yellow letters that spell out “The Wash House” above the store. But walk a little closer and you might just glimpse the smallest of “r”s falling in between the “a” and the “s” on the word “wash”…as if the “r” was tardy the day all of letters were supposed to be hung. I’ve never seen a letter look late and rushed…but it does. Trust me.

I don’t know what’s funnier. The fact that someone actually named a store “The Warsh House” or that someone actually thought of the idea. I’ve come up with a scenario I think could explain all of this. The owner must be a staunch man of principle, torn between his need to adhere to his own family-bred southern dialect and his knowledge that a laundromat pridefully declared “THE WARSH HOUSE!” would attract the wrong client base or no client base at all. Ultimately, he decided on the sneaky lower-case “r,” which he knew would make his momma giggle all the while keeping gawkers from mocking his business plan. It’s a good compromise when you think about it.

Kudos hypothetical store owner. Kudos.

Until the end, The Mended Blend.

And so it Blog-ins…

In Humor, The South on June 6, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Hello. My name is Jesse Gall and I am a Tennessean. There I said it. I’ve been a Tennessean for almost my whole life and I hear that with the right treatment, taking it one day at a time, a healthy acceptance might just be possible. I thought I had escaped, doing my college in Austin and my grad school in Bowling Green, but just a few weeks ago my partner, myself, and an obnoxiously large 26 foot U-Haul drove back over those state lines and parked at a little apartment in Sevierville, TN. Good ole 865.

I thought I’d seen it all, living near Nashville for most of my life. I really thought I had. I think I realized I was wrong when we drove by an upside down building with bank-columns (you know the ones) and a not-quite-lifesize replica of the Titanic. Both of which are considered museums by the way. A museum of the Titanic in a landlocked state you ask? That’s the wonderful thing about Tennessee, our greatness doesn’t stop when confronted by things like tact or logic. Nope. We just say, “Well hell, lots of people liked that movie. Betcha lots of people’d come to a quarter-sized replica of the thing, right?”

And that’s how Tennesseans discover niche markets.

I think living here will be interesting to say the least. The Smoky Mountains and the outlying culture offer a unique slice of untouched America. People are nicer, no one has lost a job due to thriving tourism, and locals get discounts everywhere you go. What more could a Tennessean ask for?

I’m going to spend the next year living here. And you will spend that time reading about the prides and ruts, the food and the trucknuts, the mountain’s blue smoke and this place’s untouched hope. Everyday, in at least one way, you’ll hear it all, each pitfall, right until the end on this, The Mended Blend.