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.



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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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New Elvis book focuses on cops and the King

May 3, 2007

This week’s Memphis Flyer brings news of a new Elvis book, this one focusing on the King’s love of law enforcement. The groaner of a title is Elvis: In The Beat of the Night. Michael Finger of the Flyer writes: “The entertainer liked to hang out with policemen, collected police badges wherever he traveled, and enjoyed being made an honorary policeman in any city where he performed.”

The book, written by retired Memphis police captain Robert Ferguson, came into being at the urging of Peter Guralnick, who interviewed the Ferguson for the two-volume biography of Elvis and urged him to write a book of his own. The book was self-published and costs $14.95. It can be picked up in Memphis at Davis-Kidd Booksellers and at Borders or ordered directly from the author by calling him at 901-380-8411.


Rattle and Snap rolls out carriage house for guests

May 2, 2007

Rattle and Snap, the most stunning plantation home in Tennessee and one of the finest ones in the entire South, will soon open its carriage house for overnight guests. Built by a member of Tennessee’s Polk family–kinfolks of President James K. Polk–Rattle and Snap was named for a dice game in which the Polk family won the land on which it is built. More details can be found here.

The house was lovingly restored by Amon Carter Evans, who opened it to thousands of visitors per year. When he sold the plantation, however, the regularly scheduled visits came to an end. Rattle and Snap is one of the few plantation homes that still sits amid farmland, so this will be a wonderful place to stay.