I spent this weekend in East Tennessee at the home of Eric, the Straight White Guy and Mrs. SWG. I met lots of old friends and made some excellent new ones. I also learned lots of neat stuff.
Ken (my friend and bodyguard) and I headed out Thursday in the Big, Fat, Black, Capitalist Car, and we spent a good portion of the ride in some pretty nasty rain. Still, we were doing OK, that is until we found ourselves in a massive rain-soaked traffic jam caused by the zillion or so people who were on their way to the Virginia Tech â€“ Boston College football game.
Damn, those peeps are hardcore. They were all are wearing variations of orange and maroon, and they have â€œGo Hokiesâ€ flags on their cars, which also bear magnetic Virginia Tech logos and turkeys. Hell, they even tend to drive maroon cars! One guy was driving a maroon motor coach that was roughly the size of Finland on which was painted a Virginia Tech football helmet. Like I said, hardcore.
When we finally stopped for the night in Bristol, VA, we ended up watching the Virginia Tech game in the hotel lobby with few â€œTechâ€ fans. Geographically speaking, I should have rooted for Boston, but I felt a strange kinship with the Hokies, having spent so much farookinâ€™ time surrounded by them on the rainy highway. The hardcore Hokie fans sat in the pouring rain, only to watch Boston College take the game in the final two minutes. I actually felt sorry for the very same people I would have consigned to hell just a few hours earlier.
We resumed our ride the next morning in nice weather, and the learning continued:
I learned that Tennessee hosts the self-proclaimed, â€œUltimate Beef Jerky Outlet.â€ The billboard boasts that the Ultimate Beef Jerky Outlet sells over 200 kinds of beef jerky. Two-hundred kinds of beef jerky? Who knew?
I learned that in Tennessee the supermarket named â€œBi-Loâ€ is pronounced â€œBah-Lo.â€ When the young lady at the motel suggested that the â€œBah-Loâ€ would be a good place to buy beer, I said, â€œExcuse me, but was that BALL-o or BAL-o. I didnâ€™t quite catch it.â€
She responded, â€œNo, itâ€™s â€˜Bah-Lo,â€™ B â€“ ah â€“ L â€“ O. BAH –LO.â€
We headed off to the Bah-Lo and loaded up the cart with beer. Thatâ€™s when I learned something else about Tennessee. The very nice lady said, â€œSir, Iâ€™ll have to see some ID.â€
I busted out laughing and said, â€œYou really want to see my ID?” Pointing at my face, I said, “Take a look at this mug.â€
She explained that it is a state law in Tennessee that everyone must show ID to buy beer, so I showed her my New Jersey driverâ€™s license (I donâ€™t think she gets many of those at the Bah-Lo) and told her that being asked for my ID was a genuine treat. Sure enough, my birth date appeared on the receipt.
Not too long after arriving at Ericâ€™s with beer and chocolate vodka in tow, I got to meet Ericâ€™s brother Josh, a nice guy who can shoot some serious pool. Johnny Oh, arrived a bit later hauling a teeny trailer that he would use for his backyard accommodations. When opened, the damned thing it contained a bed, table and chair. Amazing. I had met Johnny Oh twice before, and it was good to see him again.
Denny arrived in his Small, Sleek, Blue, Capitalist car with his guitar and some Shiner Bock. Friday night, he put his guitar to good use while serving as the younger half (by nine farookinâ€™ days) of the Elderly Brothers.
At some point, Tommy (of Big Stupid Tommy) arrived, who is indeed big, but decidedly not stupid. I had met Tommy last year as well, but for all too short a time. This year, he got to hang on Friday and Saturday, which was a good thing. Heâ€™ll be working on a novel. Good on him.
As the gathering mob began to get hungry, Bou (wearing overalls just for me â€“ bless her Celtic heart), Morrigan (Bouâ€™s sister) and Sissy (a former blogger) arrived like the Marine Corps with a shitload of baked pasta, salad and garlic bread, which was attacked by the waiting jackals with gusto. It was most thoughtful and quite excellent.
After having spent way too much time caught in Atlanta traffic, Teresa and the Wiseass Jooette finally arrived in time for some of the excellent pasta. Teresa, as always, comported herself with style, unlike the Wiseass Jooette who, within moments of her arrival had already threatened to kick a few asses blah, blah, blah.
Ericâ€™s friends Gary (a Jersey native!) and his wife, Connie (from Switzerland), showed up and instantly made lots of friends. Real good folks, them.
Also on the case, was Ericâ€™s and Joshâ€™s buddy Charlie, from whom I learned about Tennessee Walking Horses, yet another thing I didnâ€™t know shit from Shinola about.
consumption of adult beverages literary discussions commenced, with the Wiseass Jooette drinking nasty green shit and others learning the wonders of drinking chocolate vodka. The conversations grew louder and crazier by the moment.
Jerry arrived later, and on the following day slipped away just long enough to return dressed in overalls and a â€œTractor Supply Companyâ€ ball cap. He was carrying a bale of hay in one hand and a bale of straw in the other, just so I could finally learn the difference. He also gifted me with a genuine home-grown ear of corn. It was funny as hell, but I did finally learn the hay-straw distinction. There is no substitute for visual aids, particularly for the farm-challenged. I promised that next year I would show up in overalls. I must have been drunk at the time.
On Saturday, Rick and Georgia, two peeps Iâ€™ve known since the 2004 Helen Blogtoberfest, arrived. They (mostly Georgia â€“ Georgia does most of the talking, while Rick just shakes his head and sighs) told us all about driving to places like Belize and Costa Rica. Later, by the camp fire (yes, there was one, and it was great), Georgia treated us to a Girl Scout song or two, although they sounded more like Janis Joplin numbers to me.
Let me get the following out of the way, as I know it will be a matter of some dispute. On Friday evening, after many adult beverages, the Wiseass Jooette managed to beat me in a game of pool, but the only reason she won was that I had a hard time remembering if I was supposed to sink the low balls or the high balls. And, my supposed friend Ken bullshat me about which ones I was supposed to sink, so I went about sinking Ericaâ€™s. The following day, there was a rematch, which she was winning (I was a little ragged around the edges from the night before), but I rallied and was kicking her way-too-close-to-the-ground ass until I managed to scratch out by sinking the eight ball, thereby giving her a poor excuse for a victory. And, thatâ€™s the troot, no matter what type of baloney she will doubtless try to sell.
I also learned a shitload of stuff about cows, the milk kind and the eatinâ€™ kind. Eric also told me all about the armed uprising that took place in Athens, Tennessee after WWII. Iâ€™m all about learning stuff.
Finally, on Saturday it was time to say good night, as Ken and I would have to skip the Sunday breakfast, opting to get an early start on the ride back home.
I hated having to say good bye to these excellent peeps, but the good news is that I know Iâ€™ll get to see them again.
Finally, a special word about my friend Ken, just one of the Excellent Usual Suspects. Between the Helen Blogmeet a couple weeks ago and the gathering at Ericâ€™s place, we logged in about 3,500 miles in the car and had a few mini-adventures and tons of laughs along the way. He is definitely da bomb.