Arrowmont gets respite–for now

October 18, 2008

The economic crash of October has saved Arrowmont from being forced to leave Gatlinburg.  Fortunately, the developers with the big plans have bailed, but the die has been cast: The Pi Phi fraternity will sell that property sooner or later.

Arrowmont has seen an outpouring of support from all over, and now, during this respite, is the time to rally those groups and individuals to get the School on a firmer financial footing, assess what it would take to move, or make a good case for staying in Gatlinburg.

The worse thing that Arrowmont could do is go back to business as usual–head in the sand–and then act surprised when Pi Phi finally finds a buyer down the line.  This whole episode should serve as a wake-up call.  It remains to be seen if the School has leadership with savvy to heed it.

Kingsport Press

September 19, 2008

This educational film, which I first saw on Boing Boing, depicts book printing in 1947, and reminded me of the Kingsport Press, where four of my uncles worked. “The Press,” as we called it, printed all manner of books, from novels to Bibles. One of the bigger contracts was for the World Book encyclopedia, a complex printing job with color photos and see-through clear plastic pages depicting the human body.

The Press became infamous for having one of the longer labor strikes in American history. It lasted from March of 1963 until April of 1967. I had uncles in management and in the union, but to their great credit, they never let the dispute break up the family. The Press was aquired by a larger firm and eventually closed.

Rolling on the River

July 3, 2008

Anyone crossing or driving along the Tennessee or the Mississippi Rivers sees barge traffic–long strings of low boats pushed by a multi-story tug. As Americans reel from gasoline that costs more than four dollars per gallon, it’s interesting to look at the impact of the most efficient method of shipping.

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Beale Street Blues–and not the musical kind

June 27, 2008

The July/August issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a sad story about the rise of crime, especially murder, in mid-sized American cities. In the article, Memphis is the poster child for this rise, along with Florence, South Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; and Orlando, Florida, to name a few cities.

The cause of this crime rate appears to be the dispersal of public housing residents into neighborhoods outside of the inner city. While some individuals and families take the opportunity to better themselves, others bring their problems–and trouble-causing family members, boyfriends, etc.–with them. There is a direct correlation between crime and people whose rentals are subsidized by the federal government–“Section 8 rentals.”

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Ever think about moving back to Tennessee?

May 25, 2008

Come on, confess. If you are an expatriate Tennessean–particularly if you are an empty nester baby boomer–every now and then you think about moving back home. You come back to Tennessee, look at the price of a house or a piece of land in the county, and do those could-I-make-the-switch mental calculations in your head. You may have aging parents who need help, and you decide it would be easier for you to go there than to rip them from the place they’ve known all their lives to spend their final years with strangers.

Thomas Wolfe, famous for “You can’t go home again”

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Sounding smart or smarting from the way you sound

May 20, 2008

Here, via BoingBoing, is a fascinating video of a woman named Amy Walker introducing herself using a wide variety of accents. While most come from the British isles, two–found at 1:34 and 2:05, respectively, are American Southern accents.

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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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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.

Surgoinsville cops with a sense of humor

February 25, 2008

I was driving through the tiny town of Surgoinsville last week and noticing the very small building that houses the police department of that hamlet when a poster in the window caught my eye. This photo shows how small the law enforcement headquarters is hereabouts.


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You meet the most interesting people at a funeral

February 19, 2008

I started giving eulogies for my grandparents’ funerals back in the 1980s. I had attended the funeral of an aged great uncle, and the service was led by a minister who clearly didn’t know the deceased. The preacher made a few remarks about Uncle Walt and then segued into a little sermon that would have applied to me, the person sitting beside me, or the next person to walk in the door. It was that vague.

And so, when my grandmother Bradley died, I stepped up to the pulpit and tried to tell the story of her life and what she meant to us. I have since done that for five relatives. Having a non-clergy person conduct a funeral is sort of like the talking dog–it’s not what he says as much that he does it at all. These performances are emotional high wire walking, but when you can pull it off without falling apart the experience is enormously satisfying.


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