Shine On and On and On and Then You’re Out

There are so many things that Tennessee has going for it. There is Nashville with country songs to make you laugh, cry and drink lots of beer. There is the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, where you can take tours of the most famous of the Tennessee whiskies that is made in a dry county. It’s true. You cannot buy Jack Daniel’s products where they are distilled. Still trying to wrap by brain around that one. We even have Beale Street in Memphis where there is some of the world’s best blues and great booze. But let’s be honest and admit that when you think of alcohol and Tennessee, isn’t the first thing think of moonshine? Me neither because I think of Jack’s Old No. 7 first. But after that, moonshine!

Many people have tried moonshine from the likes of ‘Popcorn’ Sutton and other famous – or notorious – moonshiners. The kind of shine that is out there today is probably nothing like the smooth spirits made by Uncle Jessie that got the Duke boys in trouble on TV in the 70s. Daisy Duke really knew how to wear cutoffs, which has nothing to do with moonshine but everything to do with my reason for watching that show. Now, out here in east Tennessee, there’s a way that you can try out moonshine without having to drive down a dirt road, past where old man Johnson’s barn used to be ‘til it burnt down in ’73, then through the holler and up over the next two rises ‘til you see that spot where the Jenkins boy wrapped his car around the big oak tree. Then you’re about hallway there. As fun as it is to go riding up in the hills past the “Revenuers Will Be Shot – Twice” signs, I find that driving to downtown Gatlinburg is a little easier and a lot safer. FYI, never wear a suit and sunglasses in the backwoods of Tennessee. Just don’t.
Back to Gatlinburg. While I was strolling along the bustling street of Gatlinburg, I happened upon a sign – totally innocently – that proclaimed proudly: “Free Moonshine Tasting”. Since I had never, ever partaken of the illegal and highly tasty brew, I felt it was my duty and obligation as a citizen of Tennessee to check further into this strange sign to ensure that nothing illegal was going on. My two female friends who were with me agreed that we should make sure that it was safe for the tourists. We are very conscientious citizens.
Imagine our surprise to discover a LEGAL moonshine distillery right in the heart of Gatlinburg. We had no idea we would stumble upon such a wondrous place no matter how many billboards were guiding us to this very spot. I cannot say enough nice things about the bib-overall wearing staff at the Ole Smoky Distillery. They were friendly and welcoming and funny and lined up little cups like you get in church. (I am discussing using their grape flavored moonshine instead of Mogen David with my pastor. He is a little resistant, but after a couple mason jars of shine I think he’ll come around.) Those 14 cups that were places in front of us (yes, 14 little cups – I know, I was excited too!) were filled one by one with different flavors of moonshine. I have to say that the shine infused cherries are an excellent way to get your recommend servings of fruit every day. The apple pie shine was appetizing. The lemon drop was delightful. After the blackberry moonshine sample, it became harder and harder to decide how good they were. They all tasted amazing after that.
After trying everything they had to offer, and even trying a few more combo samples (I wish I could tell you what they were but my memory was getting a little fuzzy at that point) I made my purchase and went outside to listen to the amazing bluegrass band playing live outside the door. I was tapping my feet and clapping for a good 20 minutes until I remembered that I don’t even like bluegrass. Moonshine does strange things to you.
That little place in Gatlinburg was truly quite the surprise. I’m glad we did our research and checked to make sure it was a wholesome place for everyone. Granted, it was the third time that month we had checked, but you can never be too careful.

A New Take on Old Proverbs

There’s an old Irish proverb that says, “May ye be an hour in Heaven ‘fore the Devil knows you’re gone.” There’s a new Dougish proverb that says, “May the Beano be an hour in your system ‘fore the chili dog hits your colon.” I think Tonewould like that one. Perhaps we need to look at some of the best old proverbs that need to have a modern spin.

  • To err is human, to forgive requires a dog.
  • A Rolling Stone gathers some weed.
  • Never say diet!
  • Nothing is certain but death, taxes and the fact that there will be a slow driver in the fast lane when you’re late for an appointment for a job interview.
  • April showers being flood insurance claims.
  • A fool and his money usually means he inherited it.
  • The bigger they are, the harder it feels when they land on you.
  • The early bird will be singing right outside your window on Saturday morning.
  • There is no fool like an old member of Congress.
  • A barking dog will bite you between barks.
  • Do unto others as you see them doing to the waitress at the Waffle House.
  • Rats stay on the cruise ship while the passengers abandon it.
  • Fight fire with napalm.
  • Finders keepers, losers look futilely in the lost and found.

I hope these new perspectives help you see some of the best proverbs out there in a new light. Sorry it took so long to think of this one, but better late than not thinking of it in the first place… or something like that.

Frozen Body Parts

Sitting in my living room this morning, enjoying a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee, I looked out the window at field beyond my patio to see the winter wonderland that it has become. The snow on the ground and clinging to the trees creates a beauty that mere words cannot express. As I gaze at the tapestry that has appeared yesterday and overnight, I cannot help but be glad I’m not going out in that crap. It looks cold!

People say that it is fun to play in the snow. People are also brain damaged from the frostbite of the brain I have discussed in my blog about Dancing in the Snow. One person even called me a wuss for not wanting to go have a snowball fight. Please! If you’re gonna call me a wuss, I can give you a list of things that I am wussy about, but not snow. There is a difference between being a “wuss” and being “smart enough to stay away from things that will cause you to freeze off important body parts.” Or maybe I’m the only one who really likes his pinky toe and does not want to see it turning blue falling off.

There is even a rumor circulating that there are people who let their noses look like Rudolph leading Santa on a foggy Christmas Eve. If you want to be outside letting your proboscis become a popsicle that is your insane choice. I will be inside, sipping a cup of Irish coffee with whipped cream and a few chocolate sprinkles. Any time you can drink before noon and it is socially acceptable should be done.

There is something else on my body that comes in pair that cannot stand the cold either. Yeah, my ears just can’t handle the freezing temperatures. (What did you think I was writing about? Get your mind out of the gutter.) There is a theory that I just made up about the effects of cold temperatures causing the eardrum to feel like one of Tommy Lee’s drum sets after a Crue concert. It’s not good. When I get stuck outside in the cold for more than the eight seconds required to dash to my car, I find that my hearing suffers as a result. Or that is the excuse I use when friends call me to go sledding.

Don’t you think it is time that we all do the responsible thing by staying inside with the antifreeze of our choice and enjoy the sights and sounds of the winter wonderla… OMG! Did you see the snow bunny that just passed my window? Forget all that! Where’s my snowsuit?

Breaststroke is Fun

Way back in the Stone Age when I was in high school, my sport of choice was swimming. It was a non-contact sport where I didn’t have to worry about someone else swimming into my lane and tackling me. Just for the record, tackling in the water is called drowning. It was great exercise and more fun than any other sport. I was in great shape since I swam several miles a day. The fact that I got to spend every day with fit women in skin-tight lycra swim suits had nothing to do with my decision to join the swim team. It did, however, have something to do with getting me to sign up each year after that and may have had something to do with me begging my parents for prescription goggles. I loved the swim team.

My specialty was distance freestyle. Simply put, I was insane. My job was to swim the longest races in the shortest time possible. A 500-yard race on land is just the length of five football fields. A 500-yard race in the water is roughly the distance from Boston to Chicago. It seemed like it would never end. As soon as I saw that little red sign in the water telling me I was coming up on my last lap, I would kick in the afterburners and do the swimmer equivalent of a sprint to the finish. Then, someone would have reach down into the water with a suction hose and use it to get me out of the water since all that was left was a puddle of skin and bones. The muscles abandon the body about halfway through the sprint.
Other people were almost as insane as I was. I had a couple of friends who specialized in the butterfly stroke. If I could find a way of describing it as beautiful as a butterfly, I would. But, speaking as someone who knows how to swim that stroke, there is nothing beautiful about it. Michael Pfelps makes it look deceivingly easy. It’s not. It requires you to move both of your hands forward while dolphin kicking with you whole body and then pulling with both arms which breaks the laws of physics. Then, there is the minor detail of breathing. It can’t be done. You basically have to throw your body out of the water like a breeching whale, grab a breath in the 1/138 of a second you have, and then go back into the water. I nearly drowned trying to do that but I did manage to get mouth to mouth from the cute girl in the next lane. Now that I think about there is something beautiful about butterfly.
Then there is the breaststroke. I so wanted to be good at this. It looks so smooth and effortless when you see someone breaststroking. In my not so humble opinion, it is one of the most beautiful things in the world. When you see someone who really knows what they are doing with the breaststroke, you have to just sit back in awe at the skill involved. In high school, I had no clue what I was doing when I would try to breaststroke. I just couldn’t seem to get my hands in the right spot to make it work right. Every time I tried it, I looked like I was just struggling to figure out what I was doing. I did master breaststroking later but, for now, let’s just talk about swimming.
Just remember, that swimming is a great source of exercise, cardio fitness and really good excuse to check out the babes underwater.

The Wrong People in the Wrong Car

You would have been amazed at the spectacle. The man was floating down the road in what looked to be a kind of meditative state. I had no idea that anyone as – I would like to say big boned but I’d be lying – overweight as he could manage to focus on levitation and momentum. When I looked a little closer I realized that he wasn’t really floating. He was more of a faker and a fakir. This particular example of American excess was actually riding a scooter. A 350 pound man on a scooter is just as impressive to me as a 350 pound man levitating.

Why is it that cars and people don’t seems to match? I will start with me. You would think someone as cool as me would be driving something amazing like a royal blue Tesla Roadster or a cherry red 1963 Corvette Sting Ray or even a Vette. Now, to be fair, right out of high school I was driving a Vette and I looked as cool as an eighteen-year-old can look in that car. Sadly, it was not a Corvette but a Chevette. Now, I drive a 2002 maroon Malibu. It is a reliable, down to earth, safe car that I can count on to make the babes look at me like the single, stereotypical, divorced, middle aged man that I am. It is so hard beating off the ladies with my cane.
Even worse, (or so I tell myself) are the massive cars that look like aircraft carriers on wheels that are driven by the tiniest, little, blue-haired ladies. When you see one of those boats pulling slooooowly into a parking spot at FoodMart, you know who will be getting out of there. It’s a good thing they have the gray hair because I the other day I almost called the cops because I was certain there was a fourth grader getting out of the Lincoln Intercontinental Mark XXVII Land Beast at Long John Silver’s. I really should have known because it was a school day and senior citizens specials were listed on the sign. In my defense, she was looking through the steering wheel while driving.
Another thing that gets on my nerves is a car I saw parked in a handicapped parking place. It is not that it is parked there illegally. Quite the contrary. It has a handicapped tag and everything to keep it perfectly legal. It is the car that is parked there that bothers me. It is a brand spankin’ new, orange Dodge Charger. Living in Knoxville, TN, you get used to seeing all kinds of orange on all kinds of things due to this little college we have here called the University of Tennessee. The real issue I have is the car and the tag. If you have a hard time walking, can you still control the muscle behind that car? Or should I be hiding behind one of those four foot pillars they have to keep people from driving through the front door at Walmart? And if the tag is for a heart condition… <<shudder>>.
Ok, now that I have gotten that out of my system I can focus on the really important things in life like how to get a Tesla Roadster or a ’68 Mustang or Dodge Viper or any car that disguises my dorkiness.

Sanity is Overrated

The other day I was sitting in my therapist’s office discussing the pros and cons of aardvark juggling and the correlation between the interactions of subatomic particles as they relate to Tom and Jerry when Jerry hit’s Tom in the face with an iron. Oddly, his partners came in and put him in this nice white sport coat with the sleeves that buckle in the back. Why do my therapists always end up like that? Before they took him away to his nice new room with padding on the floors, walls, ceilings and toilet seats, we both agreed that sanity is overrated.

I think we need to consider the benefits of a healthy level of insanity.

  • If you are barking like a Pekinese in heat, people tend to let you have the elevator all to yourself.
  • When you show up to weddings wearing a wetsuit and a bowtie, no one complains due to the fear that you will lick their elbows.
  • Walking in the convenience store backwards with a potbelly pig under one arm and a coconut in your other hand, they aren’t surprised when you buy all their tapioca and motor oil. They are surprised if you don’t.
  • Skipping through a minefield in a pink mini-skirt and a Terminator leather jacket makes the explosions even more entertaining.
  • Insanity can help you be more successful in your chosen field of work if you are an executioner, a turkey stuffer or a member of Congress.
  • You frequently get to hang out with your former therapist as you compare who has the nicer straightjacket.

I hope these have helped you discover that questioning your sanity is not necessary. Embracing your insanity is what you need to be doing each and every day that they let you have pudding with your meds.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Edgar Allan Poe is credited with saying, “Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.” Poe is one of my favorite authors and I think Eddy is on to something here. Wouldn’t it be cool if we didn’t have to sleep? I think of all the things I could do if I didn’t have to waste six to eight hours a night with my mind wandering about exploring dreams. But then again, my dreams are pretty interesting on the rare occasion I remember them. Makes you wonder what the ones I can’t remember are like, doesn’t it?

Let me tell you about this one dream I had not too long ago. It was a day like any other day in my life with the sun rising in the south over a sea of pomegranate Jell-O. The purple otters and the aquamarine aquatic armadillos were playing together in the surf caused by the spinning triple mothball-smelling moons high above. Looking down the lovely lime green and burnt orange beach, I saw my auto insurance agent coming up to me and telling me he was here to give me a rebate check since they were lowering the rates on the Weinermobile I drove. Like that could happen. Sometime dreams are just too farfetched and you wake up in a cold sweat thinking about rebate checks that will never come.
Then there was the dream where I was so embarrassed that I showed up to school fully dressed on naked day. And then I forgot when I got to swim team practice and actually wore my speedo instead of the skinny dipping we were supposed to be doing that day. How they laughed at me in school that day for being over-dressed. Or that may have just been a different kind of dream since I don’t remember any of the guys from high school being in that one.
Then there was the dream that I had insomnia. No matter how hard I tried in my dream I couldn’t get any sleep. Do you have any idea what is it like to be dreaming that you can’t fall asleep? It’s horrible. I’d rather have the dream I was being poked in the stomach by the Dalmatian that was jumping up trying to get me while I floated over its yard. I woke up exhausted from both of those dreams and went back to bed.
Okay. Enough about dreams. Next time we will talk about nightmares and how you too can control the snakes, spiders and hamsters that torture all of us as we slumber.

Hiking on Lost Trails

Americans have an amazing country with bountiful natural resources and beauty that some feel the need to see firsthand. Yes, we leave our comfortable homes with heating and air conditioning to go out and walk on unpaved paths into places that often lead absolutely nowhere which may be full of wild, poisonous animals. Does that sound like fun or what?
Now let’s be fair and look at all the positives hiking offers. It is great exercise. And it gives you the chance to… ummmm… to… pee in the woods and we all enjoy that unless you’re not a guy then I hear it’s nowhere near as much fun. Also, hiking is a great way to… let’s see… I like to hike. At least I think I do. Why do I like it anyway? There must be a reason.
There was a time not too long ago that I went hiking in a place near my home called Ijam’s Nature Center. It has nothing to do with the dog food company. It is named after this family who were hippies about sixty years before hippies even existed. This nature center is in the middle of Knoxville and has hills and trails and hills and a boardwalk over the river and hills. Did I mention the hills? They are big hills. In fact, if you haven’t been hiking in a while and decided to hike on these trails with the hills, there is the slightest chance that you could end up laying on the nice cool ground because you’re dizzy from the spinning of the Earth and the spinning of the solar system and the spinning of the galaxy as it hurtles through space. Either that or I got dehydrated from hiking too far while out of shape and not enough water. I think it was the space dizzy thing.
Then there was the time I decided to go hiking in the Smoky Mountains and I didn’t think about the altitude. You see, I live in the Tennessee Valley and the Smoky Mountains are not in a valley since they are mountains. (Funny how that works out.) Hiking in the Smokies even if you are not climbing to the top of any of the peaks can be dangerous due to the amount of climbing you have to do. That thin air will get you into all kinds of trouble because we all know that climbing up those rises leads to less oxygen and fewer opportunities to breath. It’s either that or the fact that I hadn’t gone hiking since I passed out on that trail at Ijam’s and was still horribly out of shape. I think it was more the oxygen thing.
Thinking back, I can remember a time when I hiked sixteen miles and had to blaze a few of my own trails because the trail I was on got lost and I had to go traipsing through the woods trying to find where it had gotten off to. Some trails just have no concept of direction whereas my sense of direction is uncanny. That lost trail later turned up in downtown Chicago but was mugged by some guy who was looking for loose change. That is impressive since the trail started in Virginia. I ended up in Tampa.

Tea Time

It only seems fair to give the other hot morning drink a chance since I snubbed tea in favor of talking about coffee beans that are pooped out by mongooses a couple days ago. In an effort to keep the Earl of Grey from coming across the pond and beating me with tea leaves (I have tried it and it is not as much fun as it sounds) let’s look at all the fun things you can do with tea.
You can drink it hot or cold. You can… ummmm… well… hmmmm. This could be a short blog. I have no clue if tea serves any other purpose. Okay. Let’s see what Google says. Really? Wow! You are not going to believe this! Did you know you can use dry, used green tea leaves to clean musty carpets? I didn’t know that but I should have. There is one spot on my living room carpet that is a musty-free zone where I spilled a cup of green tea six months ago that I am just now getting around to cleaning up. Being an unknowing visionary is fun!
Tea can also be used to polish furniture. That is odd because I spilled my cup of English Breakfast Tea on the couch the other day and it doesn’t look shinier. Hold on. Let me reread that article. My mistake. It was for wooden furniture. There must be wood under the upholstery that is really looking good.
There is also a theory that tea leaves can de-stink kitty litter. I’m not sure how I feel about that. If it can delouse feline feces what is it doing to my digestive system when I drink the stuff? Although, that may explain why my English friend Beth acts like she is so good her poop doesn’t stink. Kind of makes you wonder. I wonder if it will work on my feet, too. Looking down the list… Yep! There it is.
There are also claims that tea can reduce the risk of heart attacks, kidney stones, Parkinson’s disease and ovarian cancer. Additionally, it can cure the common cold, tenderize meat, fertilize roses, deworm your dog, teach your parrot the Gettysburg Address, get your kids 34s on their ACTs, and do you taxes for you. Okay, I may have made up a few of those. Everyone knows it doesn’t tenderize meat. Looking… oh wait. Yes it does.

Dancing in the Snow

I looked outside and saw some pretty white flakes coming down out of the sky. A friend of mine suggested I try dancing in that snow. There are two problems with that. It’s not the dancing part. I took dance lessons to learn how to waltz, tango, foxtrot, rumba, cha-cha, and swing dance. Now I can honestly say I have tried all those dances and know ways to look somewhat graceful while stepping on my partner’s feet.

The problems with that suggestion are the friend and the snow. My so-called friend knows how I feel about snow. Snow is an excellent thing for anyone else. Snow and I have a hate/hate relationship. I hate that I hate it. So many of my friend tell me stories about making snowmen and snow angels and snow forts and snowball fights. All I think when I hear that is: “Why would anyone get cold and wet when they can stay inside where it’s warm and have a dry martini?”
But just for the sake of outside the box thinking, let’s suppose someone would want to dance in the snow. Now for me it would require a frontal lobotomy, electric shock therapy and a bottle of spiced rum for that to sound good. But there are people who say that dancing in the snow can be a romantic and passionate experience. True, but so can playing in the surf in Maui and you don’t have to worry about freezing any important appendages. (I was thinking about noses so get your mind out of the gutter.)
After careful consideration and detailed debate of my friend’s advice I have come to a conclusion. Living in upstate New York has caused him to suffer what we in Tennessee call blizzard brain. That is where you have been stuck in the cold and snow so long that your brain has developed a rare form of frostbite that is not visible to the naked eye but is demonstrated by making wild suggestions such as dancing in snow which everyone knows is only done by crazy people in movies. I’m pretty sure they use fake snow in those movies anyway. There is another possibility that seems to have equal validity as we consider why someone would make such an insane suggestion: my friend is evil. That could be it. He is suffering and wants me to suffer as well.
There is no way I’m going to do something as crazy as dancing in the snow. Excuse me while I go play on the swings in the sleet.