On the Road: Looking at America Through a Layer of Filth, Grime and Bug Guts

Gatlinburg, TN = Branson, MO
Gatlinburg is the Branson, Missouri of a younger generation. Instead of 40's pop music, Gatlinburg blasts the driving sounds of 70's and 80's country music. This town is a growing refuge for entertainers who can't sellout tours anymore, thus making touring not cost effective. So someone came up with a swell idea, "What if we bring the fans to the stars?" This would mean that the star would no longer have to pay for a tour bus or repairs to hotel rooms trashed in drunken fits of rage. Now fans can pay for all of that and the price of the ticket. What a scam! Stars do have it made.

Everyone who isn't someone in country music has a self promoting concert hall in Gatlinburg. BJ Thomas, Louise Mandrel and TG Sheppard all have state of the art country music showcase houses. There are also some bigger names with theaters, like Alabama, Lee Greenwood and Dolly Parton. I have to give some credit to Ms. Parton. Not only did she build herself a stage, she put up a theme park around it. She calls it Dollywood, evidentially a play on words. You see, the south is full of trees called "the dogwood tree".

The Mighty Sunsphere Dolly's no fool and is banking on the popularity of the tree to attract patrons to her park. Personally, I think she could have come up with a better play on words, one with a more widespread appeal. She should have called the place "Dolly's Tinsel Town", going with an obvious reference to Hollywood. But, when I brought this fact up to the theme park manager, he asked "She's made it this far in her career without consulting you, hasn't she?" I replied, "Yeah, but look where it's gotten her. If she'd been listening to me she would be CEO of Microsoft by now." For some reason, which I cannot figure out, I finished delivering that last sentence to a very dirty, very hot piece of Dollywood asphalt.

We made it past Gatlinburg unscathed and booked it on through Knoxville and past the 1984 World's Fair Sunsphere. We pulled into Murfreesboro around 5. My brother Baron and his wife Julie had food cooking for us and soft beds for our heads. Thank God, for family that still likes you.

If you don't know where Murfreesboro is, then get a map and look at the geographic center of the Volunteer State. You see it? No, Tennessee is the long skinny state that looks like a chisel. It kinda looks like a chisel. Can you think of anything it resembles closer? Huh? I didn't think so. Who says it looks like slab of rock? All the states look like the shape of some rock. That's the great things about rocks, you can find one that favors anything. I once found a rock that looked like a bigger rock. Anyway, Tennessee is in between North Carolina and Arkansas, and is the home of my brother Baron.

Author's Note: Baron is the brother, who laid under a Chrysler K Car with a BB gun and played Oswald to my Kennedy and Wendell's Governor Connally. I am told, that Oswald never helped his brothers and sister with the dishes either. Baron is a better brother than a marksman. If he had matched the marksmanship of Ol' Lee Harvey, and had been using something higher caliber than a Daisy BB/pellet gun, and had had the help of the CIA, then my Vice-self would be telling you this story instead of me. Fortunately, I survived to fulfill the obligations of younger brother and son of the Black Family. I only hope I can carry out the remainder of my term. I'm sad to report that my Vice-self was forced to resign some years ago in an antique china gravy boat breaking scandal that rocked our home in the summer of '84. It was decided I was far too important figure of the family to take the blame for the tragedy. Someone else had to be the fall guy, so my Vice-self stepped forward like a good soldier and took the bullet. (Actually, it was more like, I took a step back and it only appeared my second in command had stepped forward, but I digress.)

After dinner and a nights rest we were ready to take off again for the West. Before we set out on our third day of travel, Julie, my sister-in-law, went above and beyond the call of kindness. She fixed us breakfast and gave us some supplies for the road. She bought us a few bottles of water, a couple of sodas, some popcorn, some chips and a couple of apples that would prove to be a minor inconvenience later in the trip. I made a phone call to Luanne to check in and see how things were going with her and our sick cat. The cat had died. Cooper's liver had shut down, which the doctor said was due to his age and he had probably been sick for a while. Nothing better than the news of a dead pet to perk you up for the day.

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