Thanksgiving Reflections – 2017

My, what a crazy year this has been.

Thanksgiving is normally a time for introspection and reflection, for remembering everything that you have in your life, and for spending the day – or at least the afternoon – with friends and family.

I will be spending my Thanksgiving alone.

This is probably for the best.

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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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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.

dandridge-2

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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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Tennessee Main Street Towns

Jonesborough 8

The picture above is of Main Street in Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee. Jonesborough, founded in 1779, during the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, pre-dates Tennessee as a state, and was established as the capital of Washington County, North Carolina.

Tennessee itself finally gained statehood in 1796, with Knoxville, located in the eastern third of the state, serving at the state’s first capital. As Tennessee – and the U.S. – expanded westward, the capital eventually moved to Nashville. But the earliest seeds in what later became known as “The Volunteer State” were sown in and around Knoxville. Nearly all of the state’s pre-Civil War towns still exist. The luckiest thrive as tourism towns for history buffs, day trippers, and antiques collectors. Jonesborough, which I wrote about in more detail last August, is just one of several. Here are four more.

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The Mountain Culture of Tennessee

Museum of Appalachia 9

Tennessee is gorgeous in the fall. The eastern third of the state, which sees the Smoky Mountains rise to heights of almost 7,000 feet, is stunning. The fall colors peaked just last week, and as you remark about the crisp weather and the fallen leaves, don’t be surprised when you discover that fall’s harvest season carries with it a sense of community and, in rural parts of the state, a throw-back to simpler times.

I have spent the last two weekends taking in a sampling of this culture firsthand, albeit in somewhat of a staged environment. Mountain Makins’ is an annual fall festival of music, arts and crafts, and food. The Museum of Appalachia, meanwhile, is an open-air museum of highland culture that ranks as one of the best folk museums in the world.

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Southern Food

maters

These are fried green tomatoes. Intrigued? They are exactly what their name implies, and are a perfectly healthy-yet-not-healthy appetizer. The dip you see in the picture above is a tangy mayonnaise that isn’t spicy persay, but has just that right amount of zip to really make the meal.

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The Oldest Town in Tennessee

Two paragraphs of my last blog entry, A Potpourri of Updates, referenced a recent day trip to Jonesborough, Tennessee. I finished labeling and uploading my photos from the day, and, after viewing them again, thought I’d write a bit more about the day.

My parents and I had heard good things about Jonesborough, and my parents said that the town was featured on a recent episode of the PBS series “Tennessee Crossroads.” We visited Jonesborough on a sunny, moderately-humid Tuesday. I happened to have the day off, and woke up to sunny skies, which simply beckoned.

Jonesborough 21

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A Potpourri of Updates

Mesa Rim Trail 13

It has been almost three weeks since my last blog post. So much has happened that I’ve barely had a chance to come up for air. But for the next 13 days or so, I’ll have a respite from the usual craziness, and even a chance at my first solo vacation since My (Not Quite) Coast-to-Coast Trip Report of 2014.

Meanwhile, I thought you might appreciate a CliffsNotes-style update on my life, and on things that are of interest to me.  I am still alive and well, Loyal Reader. I promise not to be offline for so long before my next post.

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