Sustainable Tourism Summit in Gatlinburg

April 29, 2008

The 2008 Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit is underway in Gatlinburg, a circumstance akin to holding a conference on chastity in Las Vegas, but we’ll not dwell on that. The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Josh Flory covers the conference in today’s paper.

First, this gathering is a great idea, and one long overdue in Tennessee. Sevier County is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the country. The overwhelming majority of visitors arrive in the summertime in some sort of vehicle creating massive traffic jams, untold tons of pollution, and hordes of visitors to the largest chunk of wilderness in the eastern United States. The many coal-fired power plants in Tennessee and other states create smog that often obscures this mountain scenery.

Various Tennessee state departments, among them Tourist Development, Agriculture, and Transportation have sponsored the Summit, and have brought together an impressive list of speakers, as well as the usual list of political suspects.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander

Chief among the latter was Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, of whom Flory writes: “Alexander said that during his Senate career he’s pushed the Environmental Protection Agency and the president to work harder to limit sulfur, nitrogen and mercury emissions, saying that ‘We need cleaner air.” “People don’t come to see the Smoggy Mountains,” he added. “They come to see the Smoky Mountains.'”

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Handling Panhandlers in Memphis

April 25, 2008

Nothing turns off a visitor to a city–in Tennessee or anywhere else–faster than getting verbally abused by a homeless or deranged person. Aggressive panhandling poses a challenge to city governments. People have a right to walk on sidewalks, and being poor is not a crime. Yet tourists and locals have a reasonable expectation of coming downtown and not getting involved in a confrontation.

Memphis panhandler washing the windows of a vehicle

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Mini-menus great for visitors

April 25, 2008

Ever come to a new town and want to find a restaurant? If you go to a hotel, you sometimes get a notebook with menus in “Do not remove from room” notebooks or an unwieldy stack of laminated menus and take-out sheets at the front desk–not much help at all. While spending the weekend in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, TennesseeWife and I ran across a great idea called “Mountain Menus.” We saw them in the Amtrak Station in this display:

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How do you get a job like this?

April 25, 2008

I follow three Tennessee writers regularly for their articles and columns on Tennessee history: Jack Neely of Metro Pulse in Knoxville, George Zepp in the Nashville Tennessean, and Vance Lauderdale in Memphis Magazine.

All three of these guys get paid to write about local history. Jack Neely produces the most substantial work in his weekly “Secret History,” and has published several books consisting of collections of his columns. George Zepp and Vance Lauderdale respond to reader queries about forgotten people, places, and lore.

George plays it straight while Vance creates the persona of a wealthy roué who interrupts his squash lesson and gin & tonic mixing to deliver his answers. Of the three, he is the only one with a blog.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.


Did Elvis visit England?

April 24, 2008

The Associated Press reports that Elvis secretly visited England in 1958.

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And did the King of Rock and Roll,
Make a trip without his pills?

–with profound apologies to William Blake

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.


The end of the line for ‘No Depression’

April 23, 2008

I once pulled out a copy of No Depression on a plane and the person sitting beside me confided that he was dealing with depression, too. If he continued to look over my shoulder, he would have seen that No Depression was one of the best music publications in the country. The final issue of No Depression hit my mailbox yesterday, and now I am depressed.

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Knoxville’s Ida Cox sings the blues

April 17, 2008

Singer Ida Cox wrote the immortal “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues,” but her fans have the blues over the lack of attention she has received over the years. She rose to fame in the late 1920s and sang in the famous From Spirituals to Swing concert in Carnegie Hall in 1939. Unlike many of her contemporaries, such as Bessie Smith or Ma Rainey, Ida wrote many of the songs she sang. She moved to Knoxville in 1949 and mostly sang in churches, although she stepped out of retirement in 1961 to record one last album for John Hammond with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and trumpeter Roy Eldridge. She died in Knoxville in 1967.

Jack Neely of Knoxville’s Metro Pulse has written about her, most recently this week, calling her “the best-known jazz or blues vocalist who ever lived in Knoxville.” Four of her albums are for sale on iTunes, so you can go there and hear this remarkable singer. Here’s some rare footage of her on YouTube.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.