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Three score and ten or more

Monday, May 28, 2007

Well, the first few days in the Gatlinburg area have been interesting. As I was tooling up I 40 to Gatlinburg I stopped at a rest stop for the kind of activity that all coot males over 70 have after two or three hours in the car. I was sure I knew how to get into Gatlinburg, I have been here quite a few times, but I overheard a “state employee” giving someone else directions then asked him,”I just turn off on 321 West, right?”

“Oh no,” he said, “That’s the long way. Turn off at the next exit onto the Foothills Parkway, it is much shorter and a better road” Though I seemed to have some negative recollection of the Foothills Parkway, shorter sounded good since it was pouring rain, so off we went. As we drove I remembered what I didn’t like about the Foothills Parkway. It is a twisty, winding, hilly narrow road, and I instantly had to slow to about forty to stay on the road. Wet, slick pavement didn’t help. I made it to the last turn in the road, topped a hill and looked down a steep grade at a “Warning; Dangerous Curve” sign, and tapped my brakes to slow down. At about the fourth tap, the brakes seemed to lock and I started sliding down the hill. This time I hit the brakes and held them down, but it was much the same sensation one has when the foot is on the brake and the pedal goes to the floor. I just went along merrily till I came to the curve. Taking my foot off the brake and accelerating slightly (but futily) I tried to take the curve; Nope, but I did miss the barriers, slid across thirty feet of wet grass and crashed into a small thicket. I tipped up a small thee or four inch tree with the right corner of my bumper till the root was under the car, and stopped. I couldn’t move the car at all.

With the help of a passing stranger, who had a book of phone numbers, I finally got in touch with a Park Ranger (I discovered that I was in the Smoky Mountain National Park.)
He called a tow truck which pulled me back to the pavement. The car is still drivable but that little bitty tree took about a dragon sized bite out of my bumper and the right quarter panel next to the right headlight. I was off to a great start.

Things improved as we got to our time share unit and were swamped in luxury. We had asked for a two bedroom, handicapped equipped unit. (We were hoping one or more of our kids might make the trip when we reserved the space a year ago.) What we got was both parts of what time-shares call a lockout. We have the equivalent of two small one bedroom apartments, each with one king size bed, a make-out couch, its own kitchen, bath and laundry facilities and one of them has a hot-tub on the back porch. Talk about the lap of luxury. There is wi-fi available in the room for seven fifty a day or thirty nine dollars for the week. I have been too cheap to pay the bill and am using the free wi fi in the Resort lounge.

For the first day here we just went around doing touristy things, buying bathing suits since we had left ours home by accident, going in and out of some of the outlet malls and craft shops. (Gatlinburg has more craft shops per square mile than almost anywhere, and between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood) there are six outlet malls.) This evening we went to the first of five Gaither Family Fest concerts.

My first impression arriving at the concert hall was that, on that evening, this place was geezer/coot central. The number of “under forties” would seem to be way less than fifty percent. I have rarely seen more walkers and “scooters” in one place at one time. It is a rare crowd, in which I am attendance, where I feel like one of the young ‘uns. We both (Jan and I) had a sort of negative reaction when we realized that we would be at ground level about a hundred rows back and that the stage was something like a massive boxing ring in the center of the audience, only about three feet above floor level, so that we couldn’t see anything below the waist of the performers on the stage. We were going to be completely dependent on massive projection screens at the four sides of the stage.
(I know that rock fans have been watching concerts that way for a long time, but I resented that situation as part of what was (at our income) a pretty expensive ticket. In a short time, I became accustomed to the situation and ended up enjoying the whole thing a great deal. By the time Eddie Haas and Signature sound came on stage I was thoroughly “in to it”, but when the group (Eddie Haas was the about final first tenor for the Cathedrals quartet) went into the original Cathedral arrangement of He Made a Change it was worth the trip. The young bass, Tim Duncan, seemed to channel the deceased George Younce (one of the greatest bass singers in any musical field except grand opera).
***Reader's should note that I have been attacked in the comment section for referring to ERNIE Haas as Eddie Haas.. I was not intended as a slight, but was one of the many slips in names that occur to folks who are over seventy. As those who follow the Gaithers know, Bill Gaither (who is almost as old as me, but not quite) often has the same kind of slips, but they make wonderful comedy when they occur. I would repeat, that even if I slipped on the name, the performance of Signature sound using the Cathedral arrangement of He Made a Change (with which I sing as it plays on my CD player as I drive in the car pretending to be George Younce,) was alone worth the eight hour drive and the hundred plus dollar ticket. To Ernie I apologize, to Anonymous I say, Get a Life.*****

I won’t spend much more time on the concerts except to say that the music here included most of the styles of American music except Hip Hop and Heavy Metal. The pianist, a blind guy named Gordon Mote is remarkable. He played a solo riff that reminded me of Fats Domino, and was billed as having both perfect pitch and a photographic memory, which I believe. He also sang several numbers (accompanying himself) in a polished baritone voice. The blend all of the musical groups was really fine. There is probably not a quartet style that was missing except beach music. At the end of the first day, I reflected that a great variety of music was represented without a glissando in the bunch. (I truly despise the emphasis on glissando that permeates current pop music – for those who don’t know, glissando is the process of “swooping” up two or more notes on the vowel sounds.) I was feeling good about that till the entrance of a Blue-grass group which used glissando in a typical Blue-grass context. Oh well, thought I, it is Blue grass, to which the short glissando is as typical as singing through the nose. I found that I was going to have to live with the glissando when the baritone of the Gaither Vocal
Band (a great quartet over the years) came on and glissandoed his way through the old children’s hymn Jesus Loves Me This I Know . I guess that I can’t win ‘em all.

A remarkable thing about the crowd (in spite of common age and infirmity) was that the crowd was remarkable for its musicality. On occasions when the crowd was invited to sing along (and sometimes alone} I could hear very clear harmony, sometimes in as many as eight parts. (and most of the singing was GOOD.)

One of the key themes of the family fest and all the concerts was caught up in a Bill and Gloria Gaither song that was repeated several times called Give it Away. The idea being that there are givers and takers in the world, and that one way to be truly happy is to be a giver. This was strengthened by the way that the Gaithers gave away five door prizes at every concert. Each door prize was two hundred dollars cash, and the stipulation on the gift was that the recipient must find someone, or some organization that really needed the “seed money” and give the two hundred dollars away. (They were then requested to send a letter to the Gaither homepage and tell about the gift, the results, etc.) I thought that was cool enough that, even though Janet and I did not receive one of the door prizes, as soon as we can get out from under this house purchase, we are going to try to practice this (above and beyond our church tithes and our regular charities.)

That’s all about the music. I would like to reflect a little about Gatlinburg and this part of Tennessee. I really love this place. A few years ago, when we first retired, Gatlinburg was one of the places we considered as a possible permanent residence. The countryside is almost unbelievably beautiful, but it is now so crowded and jammed that I am glad we didn’t do it, but it is still fun. It has a very active theatre life, with theatre of all kinds; massive”floor shows,” dinner theatres dance venues as well as a wonderful craft community that includes craftsmen (and women) in just about any kind of (art and) craft from quilting to sculpture, or building and playing esoteric mountain musical instruments.

Gatlinburg backs up to the Smoky Mountains National Park, and is still occasionally visited by bears from the park. It may be the only crowded noisy city in the country to still have signs posted near many of the in-town resorts advising strangers what to do if one meets a bear on the street. When we first started coming to Gatlinburg (for the fall craftsmen's show) we were riding our then free trolley when we were shocked to see a large sow bear and her cub swimming in the pool of the resort where we were staying. Shortly thereafter a radio message came asking people to stay indoors while the ranger types herded (or bribed) the bear into returning to the National Park.

When we first came here, in an attempt to limit motor traffic the city had a trolley system that was free, and always crowded. They now charge fifty cents, it is no longer free and still largely crowded, but the streets are also jammed with both motor traffic and pedestrians. It seems like wall to wall people from about two in the afternoon to late at night.

It may be a result of the fact that Janet and I have been really struggling to lose weight since we came home from Finland (minus twenty two pounds so far for me) that I have become more aware of the size of people, but the only explanation I can find for the current tourist type occupants of Gatlinburg at this time is that there is a secret communion of the absurdly obese, and they all came to Gatlinburg this year to dress like they were half their size and parade the streets for Memorial Day. If our current lifestyle changes and I return to my old rotund form, I probably will come here and be less aware of the size of others.

I will go up to the main office of the resort and try to send this today (Memorial Day). If I fail I will send it from home Wednesday.


At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

t seems to me that you don't know anything about Family Fest or about Bill & Gloria Gaither and the Homecoming Friends. Let me first correct you that it isn't Eddie Haas but Ernie Haas. That baritone from the Gaither Vocal Band is Marshall Hall.

I am wondering why you would attend a function you obviously know nothing about. You are judgmental and obnoxious in your observation of overweight people and you should be ashamed of yourself.

I could go on to insult you about other things in your observation but I always say don't lower yourself to someone else's level.

May God bless you and may you some day accept His love and salvation in your life.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

I wish you had not been anonymous. I know it is Ernie Haas (at least it was when I chatted with him during intermission), but I am seventy three years old, and names slip by me quickly. As far as being judgemental about overweight people, I have been one for about the last thirty years, and am working hard to try to get thinner (a permanent peripheral neuropathy and a quadrupal bypass gets you thinking). I am sorry you didn't like my observations and even sorrier that you would judge my salvation.

Fortunately, I think my Savior is a more qualified judge. Why did I attend, because I am a fan, I own most of the Gaither videos and tapes (though down deep my real favorite quartet was the Cathedrals), and because it was, as usual, one of the great spiritual events of my life. I was really grateful that the Gaither's thought enough of my reaction to them to link to my blog, even though my commentary is part of my overall commentary on life, and was not written as a critique or revue, but a personal reaction to my personal experience.

At 3:48 AM, Anonymous GospelMusicFan said...

"I was really grateful that the Gaither's thought enough of my reaction to them to link to my blog, even though my commentary is part of my overall commentary on life, and was not written as a critique or revue, but a personal reaction to my personal experience."

My name is GospelMusicFan and I just a paying member of the interactive of wwww.Gaither.com.
There are thousand members like me.
I posted the link to your blog because of a different style of writing from a human interest viewpoint.
The link has no association with the Gaither's organization. Just someone just like you that loves gospel music and Jesus Christ.
Thank you for taking the time to write about GaitherFest and may God Bless in all things.

"Until Then"



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