Day 243 – Last Commandment for Seniors (#12)


You sill haven’t learned to act your age – and hope you never will!

Hear-Hear! I never ever ever wanted to act my age. I never acted my age all my life, and now is most certainly not the time to rethink that strategy.

When I was in my early teens – and by this I’m referring to that torture chamber we call High School – I was way to studious and concerned with math and science in particular to take notice of the things ‘girls my age’ considered important – like clothes and boys. To be very honest – I’m still not overly concerned about clothes – See Commandment #2 for Senior – “In Style” are the clothes that still fit.

I did go thru a ‘boys are amazing’ period – but for my time – it was very late, and ended rather abruptly with me marrying my still to this day husband – Victor! I arrived at University as a ‘Southern Belle’ – complete with breathy accent – and was immediately considered a very desirable date. This was beyond amazing to me – no boy had ever considered me interesting outside of class before – and I would have 4 dates a weekend. One on Friday night, One on Saturday afternoon, One on Saturday night, and one on Sunday afternoon. With 4 different boys. And for the record – no kissing until the third date!

Sunday night thru Friday afternoon – I was the model student – taking high level math and science classes, and for the first time discovering that there was history after the end of the civil war (for the record – that ended in 1865). I was raised in Atlanta Georgia – and that’s when our history classes deemed that history stopped. Surprise Surprise – it didn’t stop!

So between fending off boys (I took to hiding in libraries to be sure to get my studing done) and then going to parties all weekend – I was very busy.

I suppose this period is the closest I came to acting my age.

After I met Victor – things got really interesting in the ‘boy’ department. Victor was in the habit of waiting until the last minute before making a date – and I would be ‘taken’ long before. After several ‘I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you, I’m busy” conversations, he learned to book me ahead – and eventually we agreed to go steady. I think the crisis was ‘Homecoming Weekend 1967’ when I was the Princess from one fraternity – not Victor’s – and thus too busy to be with him. I think he asked me to go steady so that he could stop having to ask me out so far in advance.

But I still had to keep up my studies – but now I had to hide out in new places – and just from one boy! Fortunately, Victor pretty much hated libraries – and there were lots of smaller ones on campus that I don’t think he ever found. I was able to keep up my work weeks, play weekends lifestyle.

Then I spent my Junior Year Abroad. I choose to go to London to study Drama – which for a Math/Physics Major was a bit of a stretch. But the folks in the Drama department were ok with it, and while the Math Department got their knickers in a knot (I had to drop my double major), the Physics Department agreed to it. So – London, without my boyfriend, for a full year abroad.

This was, I admit, one of my favourite years (Fall of 68 to the Fall of 69)… and again – I wasn’t acting my age. I was interested in studying, getting good grades, visiting Museums and Art Galleries – and my Drama Department co-students thought me dull, boring, and not really a decent drama student. Push came to shove when I won a lottery to go behind the scenes at the Royal Vic and meet Sir Lawrence Olivier – then starring in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”. Despite pressure to give up that opportunity to a ‘real’ drama student – I persisted in taking advantage of that win, a meeting I remember to this day.

My year aboard ended the way a year aboard for a square peg in a round hole must always end. I drove with my friends to Istanbul – then waved goodbye as they crossed into Asia on their way to India. I traveled alone by train and hitchhiking (ok – I was 20 – it seemed acceptable) back into ‘Europe’ and met up with a friend who I didn’t really know – but who wanted to do a bicycle trip thru the German speaking section of Romania. We met up in her university town – took our bicycles by train into Romania and spent 2 weeks or so biking from village to village. In those days (Summer 1969) the way you showed off your wealth was by the height of the manure pile in front of your house. I grew to love Lard Sandwiches – and we feasted off the garden crops of peas and green beans. One of the villagers bought my bra for her daughter for the equivalent of a weeks living money – and in a Youth Hostel in Czechoslovakia we swapped a $1 American bill for a day’s worth of food and lodging. Interesting times to visit behind the Iron Curtain.

I eventually made my way back to Paris, met up with my sister who flew in from the US, and we continued to wander thru France and eventually to England. We flew home from London – and while she returned back home to Atlanta and University – I went back to Tufts for my final year. Victor had meanwhile changed schools and was now at Cornell. Our plan was to see if we were still ‘an item’, and if so – I’d graduate and continue my schooling at Cornell – provided I could get accepted of course.

We did, I was – and we got married Sept 11, 1970. It’s 50 years and counting today…

Enough of this – bottom line – I’ve always persisted in being a tad different. I had my kids a bit later than other folks, I got married a lot earlier (I was 21 – Victor was 20), I was studious to the point of embarrassment to most of my peers, and when I got close to retirement – my friend ‘The Intrepid Traveler’ and I started our yearly trips to far off places. Not to be left out Victor and I did a fair amount of traveling too!

I’ve been to China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Japan, South Korea, Bali, France, Fez, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta, Liechtenstein, Vatican City, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, Amsterdam, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia, Greenland, Northern Quebec, Most of the US, Eastern and Western Canada, Venezuela, US Virgin Islands, Mexico, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, Belize, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I realize of course that traveling now is not the same – but I was young, I was keen – and I was willing to travel cheap. Mostly – I was lucky to have a friend willing to travel with me! And grateful to have a husband who also found travel interesting.

There are so many places that I loved at the time I was there that I couldn’t imagine going back to – my ‘roughing it’ ability is seriously suffering from concerns about where there’s going to be a clean toilet – but I would recommend doing it NOW – don’t wait till you are your age to travel. It’s never too late – and it’s always rewarding – Masks on for safety of course.

Enough of this trip down memory lane. It’s getting embarrassing. Bottom line – I’m not planning on acting my age any time soon… Get over it.

Signing off to think of something else crazy to do… Mask on of course – The Soup Lady

Gatlinburg – Honky Tonk Heaven


My travels find me in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to play bridge The largest regional bridge tournament in the US – 4100 tables, 16,400 bridge obsessed folks show up to play bridge for a week here every April – and I, my partner Judy, Fern – my friend from the bridge cruise – and her partner Judy (yes – two Judy’s) are 4 of the lucky travellers.

I must say that it sounded like a great idea to go to Gatlinburg until I discovered that there is no airport in Gatlinburg! None – nada – it’s walk, bike or rent a car to get from point A to point B in this part of the US. There is no airport. The nearest airport is in Knoxville – so my Brigde partner (Judy) and I have taken separate flights to end up in Knoxville. Our original plan had us heading out to Gatlinburg right after my flight arrived. Ah the best laid plans … and all that.

Weather was not my friend on Sunday – and my flight from Montreal was delayed just a bit. The major problem happened in Philly. Bad weather (hey folks – it’s just RAIN) delayed or canceled flights all over the Eastern Coast of the US, and my flight from Philly to Knoxville was definitely impacted.

Much phone calling and texting later – we agreed that I’d spend that night in her hotel room in Knoxville (cancel one night in Gatlinburg – and we’d head out the next morning. And this plan worked perfectly. The Historic Gatlinburg Inn, our choosen spot for bedding down, was very gracious. They agreed to cancel the one extra night without penalty (nice folks, eh?). So Sunday night found me knocking on the door of a perfect stranger and asking to sleep with her!

Fortunately, we’d swapped pictures, and Judy is not a serial rapist. We managed to meet, pick beds, and get to sleep. Tomorrow will be aa big, big day!

We get up, enjoy a rather blah breakfast (the hotel breakfast food can definitely not be called fine dining), and head out. Using Google maps, we original choose the shorter, more scenic route, but a bit of miss direction, and we’re driving mostly on highway until close to the turn off to Pigeon Forge.

Does that sound familiar? It should – it’s the home of Dolly Parton and DollyWood. We’re quickly skip past this bit of Americana and are on the main drag of Gatlinburg.

Honky Tonk doesn’t even begin to describe this place. I never even heard of Shoot’m up 7D – but here it is. And it features a horse singing country songs and ‘riding’ an old miner. Seriously – what’s with that. Opposite this ‘attraction’ is a festival of Ripley Entertainments that demonstrates exactly how far out of the loop we in Canada have become. There’s a Ripley’s Haunted Adventure – which sports multiple signs warning those faint of heart or with ‘medicinal issues’ to enter with caution. There’s also a Ripley’s Hollywood Stars – that apparently is all about cars and the Advengers. There are bits and pieces of cars (all labeled ‘do not touch’) adorning the towering edifice. I’m not sure of the point really – but I think I recognize ‘The New Advengers’, although maybe not. There’s also an ‘activity’ center that features a mirror maze, and as it’s ‘marketing tool’, has a guy swinging on a trapeze high above the main floor of the building. These are only 5D – the 7D activity seems to be only the shooting gallery.

There’s an escape room Adventure, a Sky Lift – fancy name for a chair lift, a towering Sky tower that doesn’t appear to be functional, and a huge – seriously huge – convention center. It’s way way too large for the town, so clearly the idea is have a space to bring in tons of visitors.

There are two – count’m two – Moonshine distilleries, a Paula Deen store, a Starbucks, and here’s a surprise – a Walgreens.

All of these are squished into the spaces between hotels, motels, and other ‘sleeping’ establishments. Most are deliberately designed to be cute – faux log cabins, faux castles, and our lodging – the Historical Gatlinburg Inn.

There are plenty of food options as well – a Bubba Gump Shrimp (can you say – everything fried), several sports bars that serve fried everything as well, BBQ places, Pizza places, and two Sweet Shops where you can buy candy by the very very expensive ounce. I wouldn’t suggest shopping for something practical (like – say – fruit or underwear) but if you need a statue of a bear labeled ‘faith’ – they have you covered.

And that’s just in the 5 minute (max) walk from where we are sleeping to the Convention Center. I’m both amused and stunned. But I should have been warned when our warm welcome is marred by my distraction at the size of our hostess. She is simply the largest person I’ve ever seen. And the maintenance man is equally her size. Clearly weight inflation is real and happening in Gatlinburg.

A little about our lodging. The Historic Gatlinburg Inn is just that – Historic. And in desperate need of a serious renovation. I’m reminded of the ‘before’ section of a reality TV show I used to love – Hotel Impossible. This guy would go in and explain how the owners could inexpensively update their hotel – and then proceed to do it to a single room. The Historic Gatlinburg Inn could really, seriously use help.

The good news here is that the staff is unbelievable nice (if perhaps a tad overweight). They couldn’t have been nicer to us. The breakfast buffet was quite nice – and featured a different type of sausage every morning, as well as unlimited scrambled eggs, 2 waffle machines. There were biscuits, Cereal in those little boxes, wrapped apples (why wrap the apples?), yogurt and coffee. There wasn’t a fridge in our room, but we could put food in a small fridge located behind the bar in the rarely used ‘party room’. And they had a pool. Our room even had a view over the river that runs parallel to the Main Street.

My issues with the Historic Inn were in the decor. I’ve never really appreciate exposed pipes, and the retro-fitted sprinkler system meant that there were pipes everywhere. I know it’s hard to hang ceilings to hide those pipes – but honestly, why hang the pipes a foot or more below the ceiling line? It’s so ugly. But the really depressing thing, aside from the seriously outdated old couches in the room (we had two..) were the bathrooms. I’m not a fan of extra doors in bathrooms – although folks seem to love to wall off the toilet – but I really don’t like horrid tub/showers. They are dangerous to get in and out off, and those cheap plastic sliding doors just say – old and gross to me. Put in a laminate counter and a low sink – you are not going to impress me. Tiny old washed to death white towels complete the picture. This is not a luxury bathroom.

I’m also not fond of odd lighting arrangements. Our room was a huge U shaped thing, with an entrance hall that had a wooden bench (handy) for putting our suitcases, the bathroom in the center of the U, and two double beds on the other side. So the distance from the bed to the toilet was as far as it could be, the lighting was several lamps placed randomly in the room, and two wall/ceiling fixtures. One was a chandelier looking object – placed near the beds, but controlled from a switch near the door on the other side of the U, and the other was a long thin bar that extended over both beds. That rather handily had a switch near the bed to turn it on and off.

The problem = we couldn’t find the switches to turn lights on and off for the first 2 days. It just wasn’t obvious enough.

But I was feeling ok about this until I walked down the stairs instead of taking the elevator (an obvious add on tower probably built when they added the sprinkler system). Old couches could be found all through the hallways – I’m guessing that the owners couldn’t decide if these were to be thrown or kept – so they got put here and there in various hallways. The end effect was a rather unfortunate Bordello look – lacking only the ladies in waiting.

I don’t think I’m coming back to the Historic Gatlinburg Inn the next time I come to this competition.

On the drive back to Knoxville, we opt to take the scenic route through the National Park. It’s a lovely, albeit winding, 2 lane road that fortunately was effectively empty around 2:00 on a Friday afternoon. It criss-crosses the river that runs thru Gatlinburg – and alternated between lovely vistas and narrow passes thru rock walls. Had there been crowds of ‘leaf peepers’ – this road would have been a disaster. But we breezed thru, and arrived in Knoxville in plenty of time to catch my flight home.

Signing off to unwind and eat some fruit…

The Soup Lady