Taste of Tennessee

I don’t normally tout existing products, or ideas, you already know if you’ve read more than a word here. The other month I praised a new Campbell’s soup product: here’s another exception, or two:

Yesterday I had leftovers: but what leftovers: Jack Daniels braised beef with Jack Daniels glaze! reheated with mashed potatoes. Some things taste good for a minute: then cloy, or the edge is blunted: that Jack Daniels sauce never stopped hitting.
I’d had high hopes for it because a week or two before I tried the Jack Daniels pulled pork: ditto! [note]

And now I’m remembering my wonderful impressions of Tennessee: late 1974, just passing through, a Friday and a Saturday in Novemeber.
My current glorious memory of Tennessee involves anther pitch actually. I stopped to eat at an International House of Pancakes: and I’ve never seen such a bevy of cute, friendly, hospitable girls for waitresses: fresh, smiling, serviceable … Back in New York the following February I started to tell John Szoke, fellow art dealer. I mentioned IHOP: John interrupted to exclaim that he knew an IHOP mine couldn’t be better than.

“Knoxville Tennessee,” I re-interrupted.
“Yes!” said Szoke. And pounded the table.

John liked pretty girls too.

And they were such WASPS! You’d think that there had never been a Cherokee girl, or a black girl there, let alone a Jew.
(Szoke by the way was Hungarian, Olympic medal in fencing. Little guy, but strong, crushed my fingers in a shake.)

That night I had another indelible Tennessee experience: and the next day: a string of them.

I was driving from New York to LA hoping to introduce my artist, Gail Bruce, to the west coast by Christmas: all my artists. I had no capital, other than the art work which a dozen or two artists had consigned to me. I had to sell in order to go. If I didn’t sell in Philadelphia I couldn’t get to Baltimore, if I didn’t sell in Baltimore, I couldn’t get to DC: etc. stringing across the country. If I didn’t sell in Dallas, how would I get to Houston?
I had to sell going west, then sell more going back east: or how would I ever get home? (I never did really recover from that trip: which was an attempt at recovery from having invented my thesis, then offering the 1970 public an internet to defend them against state-regulated information. I never learn, do I?

I arrived in Knoxville on a Friday, late afternoon. I didn’t find a customer, I was starving. I ate in the IHOP. Someone told me to try some gallery in Oak Ridge. I phoned ahead, they’d wait for me. By the time I got a check there, it was late, and again I was starving. I stopped at a Kentucky Fried: one guy running the whole place. Male, middle aged, but like the IHOP girls shinning, bristling with eager service. Then I remembered: I’d crossed just a fragment of Tennessee once before: my mother and I had stopped in a Howard Johnson’s in Chattanooga: and received the most amazing service from a black bell hop. Something about Tennessee, at least in its major cities: whites and blacks, understand the concept of service. I eat my fried chicken as I drive west, toward Nashville, hope to find a receptive gallery open on Saturday: and on to Memphis. But I’ve got to sleep. I’m driving the PK Fine Arts, Ltd.-mobile, a VW bus rigged to hold graphics, drawers full, and portfolios. There’s a shelf in the back where I have a sleeping bag and a bottle of water, that’s my motel. All I need is a place to pull over where I can sneak a piss in the dark, a closed supermarket with its parking lot, just a closed gas station. Driving west in Tennessee I’m finding nothing. Finally I come to an exit: there will have to be a gas station, with a parking place. There isn’t.

tennessee mountain roads
woods to the pavement
thanx thefuntimes

No place to turn around to get back on the east west highway either. But then finally there’s a tiny convenience store on the curve: three parking spaces, one behind the store, two in front. Otherwise, solid trees, right up to the pavement. I pull in the parking space behind, tap my kidney, water my dog, pull the curtains and prepare for bed.
I’m naked in the bad, there’s a knock on my front passenger door! Um, gulp, “Yes? Just a minute.” And I try to scramble into some jeans.

I peek though the curtain. There’s a Tennessee mountain man, straight out of central casting.
And Angus, my German shepherd, curled up right in that seat, hasn’t breathed a peep. He knows who owns what ground, this had to be the owner.

mountain man
thanx idahobba

“You’re not thinking of sleeping here, are you?”
“Um, yes, I was. But I can move on if it’s a problem.”
“Well, I wish you would stay.” This is my store here and at night kids vandalize the place. I’d appreciate a car just parked here.”
“Sure, Buddy.”

He disappears, and I slip back in my bag.
But another knock awakens me in the dawn gray. It’s a woman! A mountain woman, again straight out of central casting. My bladder is killing me, but I try to be gracious.
“Mister says to tell you breakfast is ready.”
I crack the curtain to see her cross the road and climb up the hill to a house.
Pissed and dressed, I follow.
The woman hands me a big mug of coffee as I enter, hears how I want my eggs, and points to Mister, sitting at the table.
Mister is eating his breakfast, drinking his coffee, his mug right by his right hand, and also right by his right hand is a holster, laying on the nice white and blue checked linen table cloth, and in that holster is a big bristling gun. What do I know from guns? a big hand gun, a .38? A .45? I don’t know what those things mean.
He’s got this big gun right by his right hand. I see rifles hung on the walls. I see other hand guns hanging in holsters all over the place.
I don’t see Mrs. carrying one though.

“What kind of gun you carry?” Mister asks me.

I don’t get it. Are these people pretending to be hospitable so they can murder me, strew my remains on the mountainside somewhere, and riffle my van at their leisure? It’s a brand new van. Gatja Rothe has just bought it for me. I haven’t yet made a single payment to her, let alone paid her a single penny for the tens of thousands of dollars worth of art she’s consigned to me: she bought me the car so I could sell her art!
No one knows where I am. My wife may hope I’m right here, about to be preyed upon.
I don’t know. I’m a guy who has long just taken one step at a time, relying on nothing: in God’s hands, a missionary among the cannibals, nothing guaranteed: except that this world is real only in conjunction with other realities which are hidden from us; no facts, just illusions.
How would these mountain people know that I’m carrying $70,000 worth of graphics? How are they going to sell it? I sell it with talent and I can barely fill the tank to get to the next city!
E’en so, I got to the next city only by not paying my rent on Riverside Drive, and by not yet paying the artists whose art I did sell …
(Thus, I sold as I went, a few hundred here and there, but as I went the inventory increased more than decreased. I picked up more new art as I went than I sold. The gallery woman would buy say $200 worth of my art, meaning $400 retail, paying me $200 wholesale, and additionally consign to me $800 worth of her own personal art!)
((She already knew it didn’t sell. I never should have accepted any of that stuff. I never should have accepted half of what I was already carrying.))

Mister was appalled that I had no firearms. Mister was appalled that I was from New York! Mister told me of a gun dealer friend of his, just down the road, made me promise that I’d arm myself that very hour, or he wouldn’t let me leave!

I got to Nashville just in time for the galleries to be closed, at noon. I couldn’t have done any business anyway: traffic was jammed from a Vanderbilt game. So I hung out on the lawn by Nashville’s Parthenon, writing to my darling girl friend.

Nashville's Parthenon
thanx historytrekker

That night I crossed the river in Memphis, pitch dark, I never saw anything but dark in Memphis. So, I experienced one night in Tennessee in 1970 and another in 1974. But I remember Tennessee vividly, and with great fondness.


Reminds me of an accident I had a few months after I’d stopped drinking (for the nth but key time, 1979ish):
I was sautéing a steak, in my wonderful beach house, Long Beach, top (6th) floor over the surf. It had long been my habit to splash my steak with a little red wine, or a drop or two of Drambui, maybe a drop of Grand Marnier, just before turning it, make sure the juices stir as I prepare to serve it. I stopped drinking the sixth martini before preheating the pan, I no longer had one martini, or a scotch, or a sip of wine, nor beer. No booze! But I still wanted the drop of wine, the alcohol cooked off, on my steak, just a drop.

thanx Grand Marnier

So many things are done by habit. You can’t win the tournament if you’re thinking about your swing. You can’t prevail over the enemy if you’re aiming your bullet or your arrow. I can’t think: “one drop, two”; No: just splash, and eat.
Well, two drops of Grand Marnier landed on my steak, and one drop splashed onto the back of my hand. Automatically, without thinking, my hand went to my mouth: and I tasted booze for the first time in weeks, or months.
Well, that could have been the end of me, right there. But no: this wasn’t booze, this was Grand Marnier. Every single distinct weird complex molecule concocted by those genius monks so many centuries ago, woke up my palate and spun my head into ecstasy!
It was perfect! It was ecstasy! And it was enough! just right. Two, three drops would have dulled, made me miss the ferry.
I realized: I hadn’t really tasted how great booze could be since I was a teen, since I had a virgin’s palate, since my taste buds had worked!
And that reminds me of how I had wisely refrained from smoking Thanksgiving mornings as a teen. I didn’t light up till after the feast, that one morning. I wanted to actually taste the food!
It wasn’t until I stopped smoking altogether (1961) — and a year had passed — before I really began tasting again.

Note further: I now see that Grand Marnier wasn’t created until 1880. Drambui is much older but not by more than a few centuries more: if Wikipedia’s contributors are telling the truth! My point is valid anyway, lots of our great stuff does derive from monks, monasteries: and not just in Scotland, not just in Europe, no just in Christianity. Tibet, Peking, lots of monks left us lots of treasures: many with at least one benign side, never mind how dangerous the rest.

2013 10 05 I spent over $6 for a package of Jack Daniels BBQ chicken wings with absolute confidence that I was getting my money’s worth. But these wings were inferior. The sauce was OK but didn’t thrill me. Very disappointing. But: I’ll say that a couple of days later the left overs had matured. Marvelous, but ony toward the end: and then the sauce, not the chicken. The chicken was overcooked, poor quality. I may just phone the company, maybe I’ll get a freebie.

See also Addiction.

Girl friend note: The girl friend I wrote to by the Parthenon that Saturday in Nashville was Martha.

Martha at her Leroy Neiman show
Martha at her gallery’s Leroy Neiman reception

When I got to LA I stayed with Gail Bruce’s sister, Holly.

Gail Bruce, mid-1970s

When I called Martha from Holly’s before Christmas, she asked, “How would you like to have me for Christmas?”!
You betcha. So Holly and her Hollywood home had another mouth to feed for the holidays.
(Martha’s husband was shacked with his sixteen year old mistress. Idiot: no one was more beautiful than Martha.)
(I still left something out: right by that Tennessee Parthenon was a public tennis court. (Vanderbilt and its stadium was right across the street.) I always carried a tennis racquet in those days. In NY I could always find a hitting partner, just show up at a court. The rest of the country isn’t typically like that, though I did find nice opponents in Forth Worth, in Tucson. But here by the Parthenon, practicing my serve, hitting three balls, picking them up, serving three more back in the other direction, the cutest little girl, maybe ten years old, wanted to fetch my balls for me.
Oh, cheez, I’m about to get lynched for statutory rape! No: the girl’s father came along, and he was as friendly as she was!
What’s with Tennessee? All these decades later I still love that little girl.
(I still love the beauty I met at Houston’s public tennis courts a week or so later! I so wanted to introduce her to the show business people I knew in New York: like Gail’s husband.) (Houston’s public tennis courts made a great camp site: no camping was allowed, but the cops said they’d make an exception for me, watch my back too while I slept.)
PS Just because I carried a racquet, don’t think I could play the game. I’ve had a good forehand and a sometimes great backhand since my days in the army’s Camp Drum, 1963; but I got no serve, no overhead, no volley … And no head for strategy: I hit the ball so you can return it; not so you can’t. Christian tennis, see?

Don’t Know Guns
I did come to own a gun finally: after my landlord’s manager assaulted me: a cheap .38. But the FBI stole it, all rusted to hell, when they arrested me, 2006.

As usual, redrafting smooths some patches while introducing new bumps that hadn’t been there. There are even some errors left in Flaubert. Was ever anyone more careful than he? Who? Milton?

2013 07 08 Speaking of tastes that keep hitting, the other evening Jan took us to Chicanes Restaurant. I ordered the baby back ribs. The waitress brought a loaf of bread and a bowl of flavored butter. I want my meat, my veggies; I don’t want to fill up on cheap starch. But I began nibbling. Jeez! what great bread, what great butter, what great bread and butter. Finally the ribs arrived, delicious, perfect. And the platter was laden with fried onions, fried potatoes, fabulous green beans … and the salad vinaigrette had been gourmet: just the vinegar was exceptional!
Next day I attack the left overs. Even recycled, that bread and butter was as good as I’ve ever tasted. The ribs were still 90% of perfect.

Stories by Age by Theme by Others

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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