Tennessee Hiking

Summer in Tennessee is normally too hot for hiking, but these past few weeks have seen temperatures perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Additionally, rainfall for the year has been well above average, so that means that Tennessee’s lakes are full and its waterfalls are raging.

I have tried to take advantage of every free day to get out and about. Here are a few Tennessee hiking destinations from recent excursions worth mentioning:

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Photo Locale of the Month – June 2017

Nashville has been in the news a lot lately.  The Nashville Predators, an NHL expansion team that debuted in 1998, are fighting for the Stanley Cup. They won their last two games, and the the city’s nightlife-rich streets have been filled with even greater than the usual number of revelers. Additionally, the 2017 Country Music Awards air this Sunday on CBS, and the CMA Awards are the city’s perennial Big Event. If that isn’t enough, it was just last month that Governor Bill Haslam announced, from Nashville, that legislation recently passed naming Tennessee the first state to promise free community college tuition.

Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the south, and last year it surpassed Memphis, three hours to the east, in population. Downtown Nashville, its Cumberland Riverfront in particular, has much to offer.

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2016: A Year to (Not) Remember

It has been four years since I made a year-in-review post such as the one you’ve just started reading. But 2016 has been an interesting year. I was promoted twice, took a few day trips, and bought a car. On the other hand, my mom passed away, as did countless artists and celebrities, all of them before their time. Additionally, my general stress level seemed to increase tenfold. There have been times, during these last two months in particular, when it seemed as if 2016 would never end.

2016 highlights and lowlights

What a year it’s been!

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Exploring Urban Memphis

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I think I speak not just for myself but for many people I know when I say that 2016 has been a tough year. Locally, over 700 structures were recently destroyed in the arson-fueled fires of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. The 14 distinct blazes, which are still less than 20% contained, have taken seven human lives, as well as the lives of countless bears and other animals.

Community response to the Gatlinburg fires has been phenomenal. People have opened up their homes to the displaced, and more canned foods and sundries have been donated to the city than it even has room for! It seems that Thanksgiving, which formally starts the holiday season, has brought out the best in almost everyone.

On a personal note, I left the smoky air of East Tennessee for a few days and visited my sister in Memphis for Thanksgiving. It was good to spend time with her and enjoy a good meal; the last time we were together was for our mother’s memorial service.

My sister had to work the day after Thanksgiving, so I took the opportunity (after sleeping in, of course) to do a bit of self-guided exploration of urban Memphis.

And by “urban Memphis,” I mean “the hood.”   Continue reading “Exploring Urban Memphis”

Onward and Upward: Four Years of Blogging

November has, thus far, been rife with disappointment. On a personal level, I have slowly been making peace with my mother’s passing, less than two months ago, while weathering a relationship break-up that felt like a sucker punch. Regarding the former, it took several weeks to even register the fact that my mom was gone. As for the latter, I’ve been trying to assess what I must have done wrong, but am slowly coming to the conclusion that I will never know for sure. All I can say is that I haven’t been sleeping well.

On the world stage – and for the second occurrence in my lifetime – the better candidate for the United States Presidency won the popular vote but lost the election. And the other day, I logged onto social media to learn that one of my favorite mood poets, Leonard Cohen, had passed away at age 82.

At times like these, I tend towards the melancholy. I spent much of yesterday doing some archiving and came across a few blog posts from 2013. I realized that it was Election Day, 2012, when I moved to Mexico City and established gringopotpourri.com. My blog has changed a lot over the years. For one thing, the writing is better now than it was then. Darker, perhaps, but also better. The regionality of the content has also shifted from being mostly Mexico-focused to being largely Tennessee-focused.

To “celebrate” my blog’s four-year anniversary, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite posts for you, along with comments on how those posts either came to be or how they hold up today. And as always: Thanks for reading!

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The Second-Oldest Town in Tennessee

It was perhaps 16 months ago when I visited, and blogged about, the oldest town in Tennessee. That would be Jonesborough, once part of North Carolina and today just a stone’s throw from the redrawn state line. I remember walking around the antique shop-lined Main Street on a hot, sunny day, walking past centuries-old churches, some of which still feature separate seating for slaves.

The weather was decidedly different – autumnal, cold, and sporadically rainy – when, two weeks ago, I visited Dandridge, the second-oldest town in Tennessee.

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Remembering My Mother

Ann M. Skinner, 70, passed away Monday, September 19, 2016. Ann was born and raised in Chicago, IL, graduating from Maryville Academy and attended the Moser Secretary College. She raised her family in Plainfield, IL where she was very active with her children’s schools and the community. She and her family moved to Memphis in 2004. Ann spent most of her career in the secretarial field, however, the last 15 years she spent as a telephone operator with Target Stores which she retired from in 2011. After retiring she then relocated to Morristown with her husband.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Stanley and Alice Poterala.

Ann leaves her husband of 47 years, Greg Skinner; son, Scott Skinner; daughter, Shari Riley; granddaughter, Taryn Riley; sisters, Barbara Hanas and Jackie Nogle; and extended family members of various cousins, nieces, and nephews.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24 at Mayes Mortuary with the Rev. Gordon Smith officiating.

In lieu of flowers the family asks for memorials to be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 1311 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, NY 10605 or www.LLS.org.

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My mother’s funeral was yesterday. The facts are summarized in the obituary clipping above that featured in Wednesday’s Citizen-Tribune; the paragraphs below are from my eulogy to her:

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Urban Graffiti around the World

I spent part of last Saturday afternoon walking around downtown Nashville.  It was a perfect summer day, with non-threatening clouds and a gentle breeze.  As I headed from Gay Street towards Market Square, one block away, I passed an alley that travels between the two…and did a double take.

Graffiti, alive with color, adorned both sides of this urban alley, and a dozen or so tourists were snapping pictures.  When in Rome, the saying goes…and so I did.

Graffiti Alley Knoxville 1

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City Showdown: Memphis vs. Nashville

Memphis has traditionally held the title of “Tennessee’s Largest City,” ever since westward expansion post-Civil War brought settlers across the Mississippi River.  But that honor changed hands not long ago.  Nashville, the state capital, is now 25,000 people greater than Memphis in population.  In fact, Memphis actually has fewer residents than it did in 2000!

Mud Island 42

What is going on here?  How can a city decline in population?  And which city is the better one, really?  Over the next several paragraphs, I’ll give my $0.02 on which city reigns supreme in categories of location, food, museums, parks and gardens, sports, nightlife, and – most important of all – overall livability.

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A Day Trip to the Biltmore

Biltmore 5

An adventurer at heart, I yearn to explore more of the cities, towns, natural wonders, and points of interest around wherever I happen to be living.  For at least the past 12 months, I have wanted to visit the Biltmore, a sprawling estate just 50 miles over the state line in North Carolina.  With the day off work, the sky nearly free of clouds, and the temperature a perfect 80 degrees, I road tripped last Thursday to the Biltmore and enjoyed a perfect day of fresh air, photography, and walking.

Art collector and horticulturalist George W. Vanderbilt, who inherited several million dollars from his shipping magnate parents, spent much of his fortune in 1895 when he dreamed up plans for the colossal Biltmore House.  Working with architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted, Vanderbilt’s dream became a reality.  The finished product: 250 rooms on 8,000 forested acres – the largest private estate in the U.S.  If you were to picture the Hearst Castle, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.  If you were to picture France’s Chambord Château, you’d be even closer.  Notice the exterior spiral staircase, taken straight out of French château architecture books.

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