Jesse Gall

Posts Tagged ‘Stories’

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.


Alec Baldwin Flashback: The Edge

In Reviews on June 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I find it a personal victory that I can now connect Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, that guy from Lost, and a man-eating Kodiak bear. It’s great trivia. The movie might have been a waste of time, but the trivia was worth it at least. 1997’s The Edge is one of the most triumphant creature flops you will ever see, but strangely it’s almost fun to watch it fail so miserably.

The staggeringly unoriginal plot goes a little like this. Billionaire (Hopkins) has young wife who cuckholds him with young photographer (Baldwin). The two crash in the Alaskan wilderness and must survive. Giant bear arrives. Hunts. Kills erroneous third character (dude from Lost). Baldwin cries. Hopkins stares off into the distance. Looks crazy. Bear comes back. Hopkins somehow bests a 2 ton bear because he reads a lot.

I’m not joking about any of that. Watching Alec Baldwin play adventure-man in the wilderness is like watching a 16 year-old overweight pug run up a hill. It wheezes and sputters, throwing so much effort into something it is clearly not meant to do. You want to pick it up and carry it up the hill, which is exactly what the other actors do in the film. Even Anthony Hopkins couldn’t save this ridiculous foray, spending the majority of his screen time muttering unintelligibly. His billionaire character is written to be brilliant but reclusive, his nose buried in books constantly absorbing completely arbitrary facts. Not a bad character on paper, but Hopkins goes for “mysterious” by donning a monotone voice and a lifeless face. The only thing mysterious here is how the famed actor could’ve made such a horribly boring choice.

My favorite character? The bear. I mean look at that thing! It’s like all the great directors say, show your monster looking like someone just stole his favorite toy and everyone will love it! Kudos to director Lee Tamahori for having the cajones to attempt a terrifying frown. Not everyday.

Until the end, the Mended Blend

“I Don’t Think I’ll Ever Leave”

In thoughts on June 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Photo Cred: Me!

The people who live in the mountain, one of whom (remaining anonymous) spoke to me recently, are unlike any other group of people in the world. They don’t just live on the land, they are a part of it, seeing the terrain as an invaluable member of their family, constantly overlooking its dwellers.

I spoke to a young man a few nights ago about the place in which he lived. Bearded and short, he puffed on a Black and Mild, his forehead wrinkled and weathered from thirty some odd years of a mountain life. He lifted his head, gazing at the stars like they were beautiful women. Perhaps to him they were.

“I’ve lived here for a long time. Long time. I don’t think I’ll ever leave. The mountains though, they’re like protection. Nothing gets through those mountains.”

He may have been speaking about the increasingly hateful weather that has blessed this planet of late, but something about the fear and reminiscent uncertainty in his eyes told me otherwise. The people are held close by the cliffs and valleys, hugged tightly. Separated by the geographical hand they have been dealt, these people are protected from some of the true terrors of the world. Yes gas prices may escalate and wars may wage, but those mountains remain staunch and consistent, a veritable wall of immortal incorruptibility.

It is easy to judge these people and call them sheltered and laugh, but what does that say about the culture we live in?  There is an unspoken acceptance for the judgment and alienation of rural cultures, which I find a little backwards: that an almost imperialistic prejudice should be thrown on a group of people who value living with little and appreciating the land they live in, while those of us who destroy and consume the most are lauded as the world’s elite. I’m not growing dreds or changing to a vegan diet, but as someone who tries to understand the perspective of people vastly different from myself, I can’t help but confront the values that dictate the society in which we live.

Less humorous today, but most times a thought is just as valuable as a laugh.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

The Longest Day Of Summer

In Holidays on June 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Thousands Celebrate The Summer Solstice

If today seemed like it would never end, like the sun was beating down on you in a particularly horrific fashion; if the toils of the day extended in front of you like a growing desert and the hours stretched and stretched, never fear! You don’t have heat stroke, the day was actually longer than normal. At 1:16 ET in the afternoon, the surface of the earth was titled 23.4 degrees toward the sun, the North pole facing the sun more today than any other day of the year.  Uh. Yeah. So the sun was out a lot today.

Some interesting facts about the summer solstice.

1. Because it’s summer solstice here, it’s winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Wow. Logic does tend to be the most accurate predictor of weather these days.

2. The moon during the summer solstice is called a “Honey Moon,” referring to the fermented honey mead that was traditionally served during weddings that were celebrated on the summer solstice. A Honey Moon? To celebrate a wedding? Wait, I don’t get it.

3. Pagans used to hold bonfires to celebrate the summer solstice, couples jumping through the fire together. They believed that the height of their jump through the flames would be directly related to the height of their crops for that year. You know that makes sense. I have always heard that the world’s first basketball players were Pagan corn farmers.

Whether you are Pagan or not, the power of the sun is undeniable. It’s absence and presence plays a notable role in our emotional processes and it brings an energy that is unparalleled and unsurpassed. Beating with life and warmth, the sun is the heart of organic life and everything we know. Take stock in the holiday if you want, call it nonsense and see if I care. But if nothing else, take this opportunity to be thankful. Thank your creator, thank nature, thank whatever you believe in. Just be thankful and blessed. The sun is shining.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

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.

Father’s Day and Air Hockey

In Holidays on June 19, 2011 at 11:13 am

Last night, to celebrate a friend’s birthday, the cast of Dreamland Drive-In got together and celebrated at a cabin overlooking all of Pigeon Forge. Who knew the lights coming off of upside down buildings and fake castles would look so pretty? The cabin had two decks, the lower one had a hammock and the higher one had a Jacuzzi. Nice life.

Even better, inside the upstairs there was a foosball table, a pool table, and an air hockey table. So naturally, I took it upon myself to start a small air hockey tournament. A four person round robin if you will, each player clanging the neon green puck like it were a pesky rodent needing to be squashed. Perhaps a mole.

At that point, I thought of my father in two ways. First, the mole. My dad has one in his back yard and could be, at this very moment, reenacting a small piece of Bill Murray’s Caddy Shack, running around with pitchforks and low-level explosives (just kidding about the explosives, not the pitchfork though). That’s the thing about my dad, he turns silly the most annoying of situations, immediately transforming what could be in incredibly large pain in the neck into at least a good story to tell. For as long a I can remember he’s told me stories I love. He’d make them up when I was a kid or he’d embellish true stories (only a little!) when I was older to make things even funnier. If you like the stories I have to tell, you’ll have to thank my dad for that. He taught me practically everything I know.

Second, when the final clash of air hockey was occurring right in front of me, I took it upon myself to narrate the action with as thick a British accent I could muster, like tennis commentary or My Fair Lady. “Kevin with the serve, gently plinking the Nickelodeon green puck back and forth, waiting for a moment of onslaught. His eyes are focused and he hits the puck! Ricochet left. Return ricochet! Close call ricochet! SO MANY RICOCHETS! AND HE SCOREEEEEESSSSS!!!!”

In that moment, I felt like my dad. The only way I could have been more like my father was if I walked around the room celebrating with an arm tuba. This isn’t the first time this has happened though, sounding like my father not British commentary. It’s happened a few times over the last couple of weeks. I make a joke or use a voice and hear Mr. Gall. Whoa.

But you know what, most people follow a statement like that, “I sound like my father!”, with a “blech” or a “yuck,” some look on their face like they smelled something awful. Not me. I say “whoa.” Super cliche I know, but I am proud to be even an iota like my father. He’s one of the smartest men I’ve ever met and he knows how to do everything. Take you to Austin Powers movies as a kid and quote them for the next fifteen years? He can do it. Take your son to Magic Mountain for his birthday and still get on the Superman ride like seven times? He can do it. Change your oil? He can do it. Design and construct a one-0f-a-kind high tech home theater? He can do it. Trade stocks from his computer and actually make money in a declining market? He can do it. Raise two kids who love, respect, and look up to him? He most certainly can do it.

You will have to understand if this blog post didn’t seem too centric on universal topics, arm tuba jokes flying over your heads and all. But today wasn’t really about the reader. Today is about one reader in particular. So Happy Father’s Day Mr. Gall!

Here’s to seeing you in something everyday. I love you Dad.

Also, Dad, we need to play air hockey soon. There would be so much British.

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.