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It practically gallops!

Shoe Business

 The bride and groom stood back-to-back on the dance floor. Two of the bridesmaids asked questions such as, “Who will wear the pants in your family?” The newlyweds answered the question by holding up either their own shoe or their spouse’s shoe.

At the wedding ceremony, guests received programs with the order of Mass, names of the wedding party, etc. The last item said, “If you are on Instagram, use the hashtag #kwardpartyof 2.”

  My favorite part of wedding receptions is the cake. There was a banner on the cake table that said, ” Let Them Eat Cake.” I photographed the half that appeared to say “meatcake” and posted it to Instagram.

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Hall Effect

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Two of the five inductees into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame visited WNOX on Thursday, bringing the total number of honorees present to three. I interviewed Vince Vawter and David Lauver for the East Tennessee Report. I couldn’t interview myself but David did turn the tables to ask me a question during the show.

The Hall of Fame luncheon is a fundraiser for Friends of Literacy. Executive Director Melissa Nance joined us for the interview. She spoke about the organization’s mission to help under-educated or illiterate adults.

The 2104 East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame inductees are:

You can listen to the fifteen minute interview here:

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Seal of Approval

Former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill has received over fifty-two decorations for his distinguished service, including two Silver Stars for extraordinary gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. O’Neill will be the keynote speaker at the Blount Chamber’s Best of Blount Awards on November 6.

O’Neill was the team that rescued fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell in Afghanistan. That mission was made into a movie called Lone Survivor, which O’Neill praised as an accurate portrayal of Navy SEALS. O’Neill was also on the team that rescued Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. That mission was made into a movie called Captain Phillips. When I asked O’Neill what he thought of Zero Dark Thirty, he refrained from commenting.

The Blount Chamber arranged for me to interview O’Neill and Rob Clapper of Your Grateful Nation, an organization that helps Special Operations officers make the transition from the military to the corporate world. I enjoyed the conversation very much. You can listen to the fifteen-minute interview here:

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Patel the Truth

The October program in the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s Moxley Carmichael Masterworks series features music that is very appropriate for the Halloween season. Guest conductor Sameer Patel pointed out that fact during his comments between Night on Bald Mountain and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Both thrilling pieces were featured in the film Fantasia.

Maestro Patel urged the audience to take time during intermission to read the program notes for Symphonie Fantastique, which was still to come. Composer Hector Berlioz had a bizarre life that included plans to murder a fiancee who jilted him. The symphony’s five movements portray an artist’s obsession with a woman and his descent into madness. In the fourth movement, the artist poisons himself with opium and dreams that he has murdered the object of his desire and is executed for his crime. Patel and the orchestra received a well-deserved standing ovation on Thursday night.

After the concert, my wife and I happened to see an acquaintance who works for the Symphony. She offered to introduce us to Maestro Patel, who was having a “meet & greet” with some of the evening’s sponsors. He said we could call him Sameer.

We complimented Sameer’s interpretation of the music, which led to an interesting discussion about the creative arts versus the re-creative arts. Sameer said that a conductor is like a film director. Their job is to recreate what someone else has written. He encouraged me to read the “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, upon which Dukas based the symphony. The fourteen-stanza poem is almost like a script for the Mickey Mouse segment of Fantasia.

I asked Sameer how a conductor gets a musician in his orchestra to do something differently. Sameer said that the six basic commands of conducting are louder, softer, faster, slower, shorter, and longer. However, he said that the Knoxville musicians were receptive to more detailed instructions. He explained how he wanted to tell a story with the music, even wanting a snippet of a waltz to sound more French and less Viennese in the second movement of Symphonie Fantastique.

Sameer related a story about a time that Leonard Bernstein played Symphonie Fantastique in a Young People’s Concert. The great conductor and composer used the opportunity to warn his audience about the dangers of drug abuse. Bernstein said, “You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral.”

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Glimmer Swimmer

Walmart store in Bristol, Virginia, has something I haven’t seen in years. They have live tropical fish in tanks that were similar to the displays at the variety stores I remember from childhood. My parents would shop at stores like Woolworth, Kresge, and Caldor. As I recall, those stores had several types of small animals for sale in their pet departments.

One of the tanks at Walmart had GloFish®. I had not previously seen fish that color, nor had I seen fish with a registered trademark. Their shape reminded me of some tropical fish my family had. It’s possible that the GloFish® I saw were related to Zebrafish.

Before we left Walmart, my wife and I saw some signs of autumn. We remarked to each other that McIntosh are the most attractive apples as well as being the best-tasting.

A co-worker of mine recently shared some Brach’s caramel macchiato candy corn with me. I looked to see if there was any of it at Walmart so I could let my wife try some. Not only did I find it, I also found pumpkin spice, caramel, and s’mores candy corn. It was impossible to choose, so we bought one bag of each flavor.

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Worth a Fig

The very first thing I did upon returning from a weekend trip was check on my fig tree. I was examining it while my wife was still parking the car in the garage.

On Friday, I was worried that my single fig would ripen while I was out of town and that a bird or other creature would eat it. I wrapped the branch with cheesecloth and hoped for the best.

The weather was bad while I was gone. Fortunately the rain seemed to help the tree. I didn’t see any signs of wind damage. The cheesecloth was still in place when I returned.

I was elated to see that my fig was a rich brown color. It had started to droop from its own weight, which meant the time was right for picking.

I resisted the urge to pop the whole fig in my mouth. Instead, I took small bites to make the experience last longer. The inside of the fig was a beautiful red color which illustrates that figs are actually inverted flowers. In botanical terms, the fruits of the fig plant are the seeds, which are a type of drupes. I had never heard of drupes before today.

There is still one small green fig on my tree. I don’t know if it will ripen or disappear like several of the others. I’ll keep an eye on it and I may wrap it in cheesecloth if it starts to get bigger. There’s not much time left before the tree will drop its leaves.

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Babuji Barbeque

The website for a barbeque contest in Maryland promised “live bands, a beer garden, vendors, a kids’ area, food, and lots and lots of BBQ.” Judging was scheduled for noon with winners to be announced at 3:00 p.m.

My family and I arrived at 1:30 p.m. and found no bands, no beer garden, no vendors, no kids’ area, no food and certainly no barbeque. We spoke to some of the competitors who had turned in their entries at noon and were now extinguishing their fires and packing away their things while they waited for the awards. They knew nothing about the missing events.

At that point, we were all hungry for barbeque. I used the Urbanspoon app to search for a restaurant. There was a famous chain nearby but when I scrolled down a little more, I spotted a small joint called Big Daddy’s Smokehouse. We hopped in the car and headed straight there.

The restaurant is unusual. It is connected to the Indian Market & U-Haul dealer next door. The kitchen and smoker are at the back of the Indian Market. To get to the restroom, I had to walk through the market, past the Bollywood DVDs and Indian spices. One of the refrigerated cases contain meat labeled “baby goat leg.”

The restaurant food was good. We ordered a half-slab of ribs and on the recommendation of the clerk, also ordered “hawg wings,” which are pork shanks. Our third entree was pulled chicken in mustard sauce. For side items, we had BBQ chicken salad, “zesty coleslaw,” potato salad and Texas beans. The clerk brought us a sample of Big Daddy’s special sauce. She said it takes nine hours to cook. I really liked the sauce, which had little chunks of citrus rind for added flavor.

I was happy that my family’s natural reaction was to try the unusual place rather than the safe bet of the national chain restaurant. The experience was definitely more memorable.

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