“My Fall Vacation” by ElleZymn

1 11 2003

Well, lassies and laddies, I’m home. Arrived last evening around 9:00 PM, and am in the process of catching up on mail, e-mail, laundry, and other household delights.

The trip was wonderful. Fun, fun, fun with a little more fun thrown in for good measure. I will try to re-cap the highlights for anyone interested. If you are not interested, time to mosey on to someone else’s journal.

We drove straight to Nashville on Saturday the 25th, arriving around dinner time. Went to Belmont campus, where Jesse-son-of-Jill goes to college. He took us to a little taco joint that caters to college students. Basically you build your own taco by circling items on a note pad and handing it to the cashier. An assembly line builds your dinner. Pretty cute concept. We ate outside on a deck surrounded by trees in full autumn glory. Colored lights strung from tree to tree added to the festive atmosphere.

After dinner, we dropped Jesse at his dorm and drove to Grand Ole Opry. If I had to sum up the show in one word it would be “boring.” Most of the people who perform there have been doing so for several decades, which tells you something. Something not very complimentary. They wear outfits along the lines of pastel-colored sequined suits with white cowboy boots, lavender shirts, and bolero ties. However, there was one group–a band from Canada (Emerson Street maybe? I can’t remember the name.) They were young, spunky, and talented. And rocky. They wore jeans. Loose ones. Not wrangler. I’m sorry, but I’m just not a country music girl.

We left before the show ended and went to our hotel. Seven women in a Ford Expedition with a car topper. Every porter’s dream-come-true. Heh. We tip well, though.

Next morning we drove to Franklin, TN, passing through some of the neighborhoods where the rich and famous live. Very interesting. Ate at a little diner frequented by the likes of Vince Gill, et. al. It was called Dotson’s Cafe I think. From there we headed to Gatlinburg, picked up the keys to our “cabin” and proceeded up the mountain.

I’ll spare you many of the more mundane details (though I’m kind of using this entry as a travel diary, too). By late evening we were lounging around the fireplace in our three-story, fully-furnished rental palace, and someone suggested we go around and think of words to describe each person there, beginning with every letter of the alphabet. The only rule was the words had to be complimentary. (This is an important stipulation, as you will soon discover.) I think now would be a good time to introduce Jennifer. Jen is a quintessential blonde. She never understands any jokes, and she never understands why people laugh at her. But she’s not offended when they do. She looks at you with big, blue, trusting eyes. Jen is naive, gullible, and innocent. We all love her. We all love to laugh at her. She’s an integral part of the success of any GFF trip, so we guard her carefully. Jen is famous for TMI. She tells you much more than you ever wanted to know about anything, much of it personal or biological in nature. I told her she should go on a speaking circuit, but she just looked at me blankly and said she really doesn’t have anything interesting to say. Oh man. She has no idea.

So, we’re going around, taking turns, working our way through the alphabet and describing each other. It was really quite edifying. (On my turn, the letter A stood for “awesome.” You can see why this is kinda fun.) Jen, in true-to-form fashion, often commented on the words chosen. At one point, when we were describing one of the ladies, someone used the word “flexible” for the letter F. Jen perked up. With a tone and expression that oozed sincerity, she said “Oh, y’all! That’s a really good word. Flexibility is so important. When it comes to the F-word, we should all be flexible.”

We all fell out. She had no clue why. So, in her sweet-but-confused way, she offered more reasons why flexibility is important, and we kept saying things like, “Yes, Jennifer, you’re right. When it comes to the F-word, we should be flexible.” Then we’d laugh again.

Blank expression. No comprehension. Innocence. (Did you know laughter is a great abs work-out?)

Every day we went into Gatlinburg to go by the Smoky Mountain Candy Kitchen and get caramel apples. Juicy, tart Granny Smith apples coated with melt-in-your-mouth homemade caramel, made fresh daily. A GFF tradition. Thanks to Jennifer, we laughed off the calories.

One day we rented “funbuggies,” which are basically golf-carts on steroids, only not as boxy. Each funbuggy has its own personality. We chose superman and spiderman, and took off through Gatlinburg, honking our horns and waving at everyone. We drove them up into the mountains and let the cold air blow over us as we zipped through the winding scenic roads. On one stretch of road, we stopped at an arts community. Homemade crafts, jewelry, food. We bought lattes at a cute little shop that looked like an old country store but sold great art, homemade pastries, and really good coffee. The owner was a fun lady who dates a pianist currently on tour with Olivia Newton John. She had photographs displayed of her boyfriend with Olivia, Celine Dion, and other singers. We talked to her for a while and liked her a lot, but had to jump back in our funbuggies, because we had rented them for only two hours.

One day was devoted to the Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC. It took about 3 hours to drive there, but it was well worth it! Built by George Vanderbilt in 1895, it’s the largest house in North America. 175,000 square feet of classic beauty. It reminded me of European castles (which was Vanderbilt’s plan, I’m sure). A lover of art, literature, and languages, he bought many of his furnishings, tapestries, and rugs in Europe. I took some artsy black-and-whites and sepia-toned photographs of the exterior. Amazing architecture. Gargoyles. Very cool.

Our last day we drove back to Nashville, arriving in time for lunch at the Opryland Hotel. It’s more like a city than a hotel. The GFF stayed there twice in the past, but not this trip, so we went by to show it to the two members of this year’s group who didn’t go on the previous trips. There’s a beautiful grand piano in the cavernous lobby, so one of my friends asked a person at the desk if I could play it. (I would have been too embarrassed to ask, but not too embarrassed to play.) I love playing the piano. The music just kind of takes over. So I played a lovely little piece and received genuine applause from my friends and the captive audiences behind the registration desk and car rental desk. After I got up, one of the car rental guys came over and played a one-finger version of Yankee Doodle Dandy. His friends all laughed. My friends looked at me and said, “You should go play it now.” I felt a little bad one-upping him, but hey . . . it’s Yankee Doodle. I knew I could play it by ear without difficulty and it would be funny. So I sat down. The guy didn’t know what I was going to play, and he sat beside me to pretend he was playing. I cranked out a classical version of Yankee Doodle while he moved his hands over the keys. It took him a couple of measures before he realized what I was playing.

“Hey!” he said, laughing. “It’s not nice to show me up!”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “My friends told me to. Don’t hate me forever, Okay?”

He grinned. “Okay.”

We left shortly after that, but now I can put, “Played in the lobby of the Opryland Hotel” on my resume.

We went back to Belmont and were told that Jesse’s band would be practicing that night. Yippee! We’d finally get to hear Mike’s Chair. Jesse, who got a label maker as a gift and is into labeling everything, gave us all names. Ishtha, Dishtha, Gishtha, Nishtha, Stishtha, Fishtha, and my name: Tishtha. We went to eat at Demo’s (awesome Italian if you’re ever in Nashville) and then went downtown to the Wildhorse Saloon.

Ladies and gentlemen, let the party begin! If you like line dancing, that is one fun place to go. The GFF was immediately popular, because we know lots of dances, and people come there to learn. The DJ who was supposed to be teaching dances was a disappointment. All he taught was the cotton-eyed joe and another simple little dance. So my sister and I (we’re both choreographers) started doing our own dances, and we soon had a large following.

At one point a drunk middle-aged man sat beside my friend, Mindy, cozied up to her, and asked if she would dance with his friend. We spotted him from the dance-floor and went to her rescue. Soon Mindy was on the floor, surrounded by the GFF, all dancing around her, holding hands. We’re retarded, and we don’t care. Besides, that guy did not request the Pennsylvania Polka, so he should have known what to expect.

We met some new friends that night. One cute girl named Jane kept saying how much she wished she’d gone to college with us. We let her be Mishtha for the evening. We left the Wildhorse around 11:00 PM and went back to catch the end of Mike’s Chair’s rehearsal. They are very good! All the -ishtha’s are going to sign up on their message board and be groupies. I’m planning to be from Russia and use broken English. The name Tishtha requires this.

The next morning we got up, loaded the car topper (I didn’t even tell you about how Kathy tried to drive through a car-wash with the topper on, got wedged, broke the straps, and almost ruined the topper and her car. I also didn’t tell you about playing sardines in the cabin till 2:00 AM. This entry is already too long . . . I just can’t fit it all in), and headed back to Texas.

Another successful GFF adventure comes to a close. If anyone read that whole post, I count you as an honorary member. Now, it’s time for me to return to everyday life. Hopefully the caramel apple withdrawals won’t be too traumatic. And as for the laughter, memories can bring that back any time. Until next year when the GFF rides again.



5 responses

5 11 2003

Only a little time here…just wanted to say that you were missed and I wish that I could take a trip like that.

SOOOOO glad that you had a good time and a safe trip.

will write you as soon as I return to Henderson.

P.S. My best friend lives in Franklin,TN.

5 11 2003

Thank you for missing me. I would have gladly taken you along! I believe with all my heart your presence would adorn any occasion.

Franklin is an adorable town. We loved it.

I look forward to your return. ♥ EZ

11 11 2003

Oh my gosh! I wish I had known you were going to be in Nashville. I go to Belmont! I don’t know if you remember me…I’m Mallory, I was kind of a friend of Luke’s in high school. I wish I would have gotten to see you while you were here, just to say hello to a fellow Marshallite. Oh well… I’m glad you had fun on your little trip!

11 11 2003

Of course I remember you!

We were on campus twice. I’m sorry I didn’t know you were there. I would have enjoyed seeing you! Have you heard the band Mike’s Chair? They’re all Belmont freshmen, and they’re very good. They auditioned and won a spot playing in the Christian band showcase in October. You should check them out. Tell the violin player you know Luke. :o)

11 11 2003

Re: Of course I remember you!

Like I said, I wish I would have stumbled upon your journal sooner so I would have know to be looking for you. Yes I’ve heard of Mike’s Chair and was actually at the Gospel Showcase when they performed. I enjoyed them a lot. They’re great, aren’t they? If I ever see them again, I’ll be sure to talk to the violin player.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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