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Excerpts of Tennessee Travel Diary
State 33 - TENNESSEE 18 OCT 99 - 22 OCT 99


Note: MacDonald's has done it again. This time they have their fast-food restaurant designed to look like a radio station, WMAC, complete with a radio tower and everything. I really like that they do this.

It's a living thing

Today at President Jackson's home,The Hermitage, we learn of Andrew Jackson's deep devotion for his wife, Rachel. After touring the house, grounds, garden and tombs, on a hot, sunny day, Ken and I tire out and sit for a moment on a park bench. I rest my head on his shoulder and can hear his heartbeat. Suddenly I'm struck by the thought that this is a living human being beside me. This magnificently designed, self-propelled, self-sustaining life is entrusted to me, and I to him. It's a weird thing, and perhaps seeing the tombs of the late President and his wife, make the impact more pronounced, but I get an overwhelming feeling of responsibility for this being, this human life.The emotion sweeps over me as though a magic wand wafts across my body. I'm swept up in this powerful feeling of unity with Ken. They say when two people marry, they become one life, one entity. Today I solemnly feel that interdependence, and all the responsibility that goes with it.

"This ain't no dress rehearsal"

Another Farmer's Market, another jar of honey. I just *had* to buy it because the farmer, who looks like Pinocchio's father (can't remember his name, starts with a "G"), told me it's made from the Tulip Poplar, the State Tree. Well, when will I ever be in Tennessee again? So I must buy some State Tree honey. It's wonderful, too. Glad I bought it. Whenever we shop on this trip, I always think of Jack, the American we met when we were touring China a few years back, who said, "If you're thinking of buying something here, buy it, now. This ain't no dress rehearsal, Ladies." In a shop, a museum, farmer's market -- whatever -- if Ken or I hesitate about buying a state souvenir, we always say, "This ain't no dress rehearsal."

Perfect Day

Today is the most perfect day. I want to press it, preserve it, like pressing a flower between the pages of the Bible to keep its memory and its scent forever sacred. It's an absolute treasure. The day began rather unceremoniously. A cloudy, cold, grey morning, with rain threatening on the horizon. Perfect weather for a bacon-and-egg breakfast while blueberry muffins bake in the oven and fill the trailer with a medley of pleasant aromas. A steaming pot of tea by the dining room window is sipped quietly, soothingly, as Ken and I silently reflect on the day ahead. What shall we do with this dark day? After tea, we don our caps and jackets and take off to take on Nashville. First stop: the original Grand Ole Opry . . .

Oh! How can I begin to describe this place? I'm not a country/western fan, never was, probably never will be. But this place gives me goosebumps. The building's history is remarkable. It originated as a Tabernacle so the seating is church pew style. High above are arched, colored windows, not stained glass, but colored glass. It's an elegant, graceful, peaceful place as the weak sun of a cloudy day streams in and casts a muted rainbow of colors on the caramel colored pews. Upstairs, old-time radios play performances from the early days of the Grand Ole Opry. I'm reminded of stories mum used to tell me of the old "Radio Days." (Oh, how I miss mum.) After this tour, we head down Broadway to the famous Ernest Tubbs Music Store where I purchase a Patsy Cline CD. I'm humming her song "Crazy" right now. "C-R-A-Z-Y, for tryin', C-R-A-Z-Y for cryin', C-R-A-Z-Y for lovvvvvin' you."

From there we we walk a few blocks and visit the eccentric Fox Trot Carousel on the Riverfront. It's a Carousel, where instead of wooden horses, there are famous Tennesseans, like Andrew Jackson, Chet Atkins, and Davy Crockett. (Good idea. Bad art.) For some reason the artist chose to characterize the heroes with horribly distorted, ugly faces.

Back on Broadway again just as the late afternoon sun chases the clouds away, casting a bronze glow across all the old brick buildings on this famous street. We head to the historic "Tootsie's Orchid Lounge"where legend has it that Grand Ole Opry stars like Hank Williams slipped down the Opry's back stairs for a few drinks between sets. A country/western band is playing. The place is kickin.' And Ken and I get the best seat in the house: a great big booth tucked in a bow window that overlooks the street activity outside, while inside, the table sits on a high platform overlooking the entertainment and the crowd below. The music is nice, but the "real" entertainment is the crowd. For example, directly in front of us, perched tremulously on a backless barstool is a grey-haired old lady in a bright red and white flowered dress with puffy sleeves. Her two front teeth are missing, but her eyes are sparkling with joy as she watches the band, shoulders wiggling, head bobbing, and all the while smiling and nodding to customers as they walk in. We've got strong, strapping cowboys at the bar, too, with black cowboy hats and white cigarettes. Old men with silver mustaches, tidy vests, and baggy pants tilt back their heads and let a shot of whiskey glide down their wrinkled throats, while pretty young ladies with too much make-up, tight jeans and platform heels, watch and giggle. And serving all these people is one spunky waitress with black jeans, black blouse, black hair and black eyes. Too much fun. And, of course the music makes it all that much more entertaining. I defy anyone to sit morosely in a place like this. It's impossible. Feet start tapping first. Then the head starts to bob. Before you know it you're practically dancing in your seat. Country/Western gets in your blood, baby. We leave Tootsie's happy and contented customers. Nashville, you're the greatest! At home, we sip afternoon tea and eat blueberry muffins as we watch the sun set and listen once again to Patsy Cline. "I give to you, and you give to me, true love. True Love. And on and on it will always be, love forever . . . .

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