Blade Runner and Gatlinburg

May 8, 2007

Lord, Lord, you just can’t make this stuff up. On the same day that I learn that the Library of America has issued a volume of four novels by Phillip K. Dick, the Wall Street Journal brings the news that the latest Gatlinburg resort would fit perfectly into Blade Runner.

Seems that a company called Westgate Resorts–anyone remember Westworld?–has come up with the perfect solution for families with little time who want to visit a national park: don’t go to the park at all. Have fun instead in a climate-controlled building. Since March, Westgate has been running Gatlinburg’s Wild Bear Falls, “a giant water-spewing treehouse and a 300-foot tube slide . . . climate-controlled by an air-conditioning unit the size of a semi truck,” according to the Journal.

The building has a retractable roof, the better to “let in more light and fresh air, but still allow the space to be climate-controlled.”

“It feels like you’re outside, but not in the sun,” says Mr. Mark Waltrip, chief operating officer of Westgate.

Indeed.

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Kingsport native goes home again with new book

May 8, 2007

There are, to my knowledge, only two memoirs of growing up in my hometown of Kingsport, and both were written by the same person. Lisa (pronounced “Liza”) Alther published the autobiographical novel Kinflicks in 1999. It made the New York Times’s bestseller list, and was a very funny book.

Now, eight years and four more novels later, she is back with a non-fiction book called Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree – The Search for My Melungeon Ancestors . Melungeons is the name given to a curious group of people in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia who have dark skin and whose origin is unclear. Said to be of Portugese or Turkish descent, they were discriminated against for decades, but of late have come into their own, a sort of down home “say it loud, I’m Melungeon and I’m proud.”

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