Jesse Gall

Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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.


A Trip, A Break, A Narrative To Come

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 11:18 am

In the next few days, you might notice a marked decline in content for The Mended Blend. Never fear, we’re not breaking up. I’m just moving on to bigger and different cities: Brentwood, Franklin, and Nashville! I’m going out for a few days and when I come back, I hope you’re primed and prepped for a sprawling narrative of cultural differences.

I’m sure I will have a lot to say when I come back to you, my faithful readers, considering that I have a four hour drive to allow my brainstorming neurons to fire.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Local Attraction: Cirque Du Chine

In Local, Reviews on June 25, 2011 at 11:05 am

The circus is a place of intrigue, bewitching us as children with death defying feats of acrobatic mastery or reminding us as adults that awe can still be found. Last night, after months anticipation, I finally got to go see Pigeon Forge’s Cirque Du Chine chinese circus, and let me just say that I loved every minute of it. If you’re in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge or Sevierville for any reason, you should go. Kitschy  and corny at times, yet thrilling and unbelievable at others, Cirque Du Chine will take you around the emotional block.

The theater is magnificent, a monstrous stage dominating  the center of the building. Thirty some six-foot chinese lanterns pepper the ceiling and glow with a incandescent red that softens the intimidating expanse of the place. The theater can sit thousands of people, but there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

After finding our seats in the third row, I sat down giddy like a child, my leg suddenly developing Restless Leg Syndrome as I waited for the show to begin. The lights dropped and after a short message from the master of ceremonies, the show began. Coordinated dancers, jugglers, acrobatics, human statues, heart stopping balancing acts and more. There was just so much to watch and enjoy. The show is lengthy, but not too lengthy, providing just enough amazement.

Unfortunately, Cirque Du Chine isn’t perfect. I am of the old theater tradition that staunchly hates seeing anything, hearing anything, or being distracted in anyway by the goings on in the backstage, and in this regard, Cirque Du Chine could stand to improve. On more than one occasion, I could look across the stage and see the next four people about to enter. I could see lights, I could see spinning plates, I could see motorcycles. It’s amateur theater. It ruins the illusion, and considering how important “the illusion” is the the circus, I would suggest that Cirque Du Chine pull its backstage black curtains a little tighter. Also, the magician wasn’t so spectacular. It wasn’t his fault, it was just that I was sitting to the side, which made his sleight of hand a little more obvious.

But, the show was fantastic when I wasn’t distracted. I was particularly impressed with the loose wire walker (think tightrope walker, but with more slack), who walked around and swung about with ease, demonstrating amazing strength and balance. Also, the motorcyclists (I won’t spoil it) and anything that involved a chair were just breathtaking.

Overall, I would say you should take your family if you get the chance. It’s fun and everybody should go to the circus once in a while. I was laughing for no reason and grinning for two hours; I felt like a child. And sometimes, we adults – who like to strut around so entitled and so grown up – could use a nice childlike experience. Good for the spirit.

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.

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 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 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.