24 January 2009

Nashville's architectural penis makes me want whiskey

This post comes to you in two parts, both of them elaborating on our time in Tennessee, birthplace of lots of people, including Steve.


Nashville is a silly place. It claims a cultural heritage as the South and the West* and the downtown bar district is covered in bluegrass and Elvis souvenirs. Nevertheless, we found a dyke bar** (empty) called the Wild Beaver and a really, really nice queer bookshop called Out Loud with an attached coffeeshop called Revive. They had loads of queer movies I haven't seen, and I've devoured all of Netflix's GLBT section. And great sales. And cool people; both of the guys on duty were former Pittsburghers, which was cool. The barista said two days was about as much as you could spend in Nashville, and he'd been there 20 years. Ouch.

But all of that is outclassed by the Parthenon. You may think we have a teleporter in the back of Steve's Civic and we clearly took an afternoon side trip to Greece, but such is not the case. Nashville has its own Parthenon, built out of cheap yellow pebbly stone I recall from the construction of part of my high school. It's columns are constructed out of three pieces, too, instead of the requisite six.

It was also closed. Who closes the Parthenon? What about all the worshippers of Athena in this town who need to pray for deliverance from Elvis-based tourist shops?

Nevertheless, the Parthenon led us to The Coolest Guy in Nashville. This man was just hanging out among the columns, enjoying the view and his magnificent suit. That enormous beaver-tail hair of his took 15 years to grow. Steve and I stand in awe of this man and someday hope to be half as cool as him.

And then we left Nashville, which leads us to...


Despite our current desire to stay in New Orleans for awhile, this endeavor has been primarily a road trip. And what's a road trip without stops at absurd roadside tourist traps? So obviously, when we passed a sign directing us off I-65 to the Jack Daniel's Whiskey Distillery, we had to go. Neither of us is all that wedded to Jack, but we'd passed the Maker's Mark distillery too late in the night to get a tour and we didn't realize that the Jack Daniel's distillery was 40 miles off the highway. Steve's a whiskey snob, and he's been training me in the ways of such things. (I am more of a stout lover, myself.) We have plans to start properly training up our whiskey palates once we have a nice cushion of income. I can promise you we're not alcoholics because we're too damn poor to afford the stuff we'd like to pass across our taste buds.

Nevertheless, we stopped to see the home of the corporate tool of the whiskey world. It's located in a dry county; Jack's successor spent Prohibition drafting local laws allowing whiskey to be made there, and for the employees' wages to come as part cash and part whiskey. (True fact: To this day, Jack Daniel's employees receive a bottle of Jack on the first Friday of every month with their paychecks.) Therefore, we weren't allowed any samples; they could only sell us "commemorative" bottles of regular Jack.

One of the highlights of the tour was the statue of Jack Daniel himself outside the spring whose naturally purified water is why he settled the distillery there. The statue is called "Jack on the Rocks," but we saw something else. Jack's got a little Captain in him, too.

Look again at that photo. Jack's statue may seem a little small, but it's actually 5 inches taller than life size. Jack Daniel stood 5'2" and weighed in at 120 pounds soaking wet. And he was killed by a safe! He couldn't get it open one morning, kicked it, broke his toe, got embarrassed, told no one until the gangrene set in, and died of infection. Seriously.

What's even more impressive is that you can buy an entire barrel of Jack for approximately a year's income on the poverty line. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of, hopefully, a whole lot of friends to help take care of the burden of this much fine drink.

And that's the Jack Daniel's distillery and the absurd Nashville architecture.

*It is my personal belief that you can't call yourself "West" when you're due south of Ohio and Illinois. When Chicago starts peddling cowboy hats for $5, then you can start doing it too.

**It's okay, guys. I'm bisexual, I'm allowed to say these things.

From Nashville to Nawlins

It's a long way from Pittsburgh, where our journey started, to New Orleans, where we are now. Here's how we got here:

Night 1 was spent in a lovely Temple Guest Room at the hospitable Palace of Gold, a Hindu temple in Wheeling, WV. Gods bless the Hindus for allowing random strangers to crash in their places of worship, snag a guest key, sleep their fill, and leave totally on the honor system; we got there late and didn't see another human being till we were leaving the next morning.

Then we got on the road for real. Day 2 was spent driving, constantly, and all of it Steve, since we put my stick-shift driving lessons on hold till we were out of range of the snow. I'd booked us a room for the night in Nashville, and goddammit we were going to make it.

I love the road. There is nothing finer than rolling out of bed early in the morning, shaking the sleep out of my eyes, and getting out on the road. Breakfast is to be eaten immediately, followed by a snack after dawn (around 8am). Few things in life are so consistently fantastic -- in its literal, "fantasy-like," meaning -- as driving into the dawn. The world is blackness spiked by tail-lights and head-lights, then suddenly you look around and there's definition to the scenery. And then you look around a moment later, and there's further definition. It's like the world itself is waking up around you, getting a grasp on itself, rediscovering what it looks like. I imagine this is what the Dreamtime looked like, if there could be any modern equivalent to watching the Earth being sung into existence. Every moment reinvents the world, draws it out of obscurity, and it doesn't stop at full light; the world just keeps getting brighter all the way until noon. It is a magnificent sight, and one I scarcely ever miss when I have the chance.

So when we got on the road that morning (albeit well after dawn), it was with great anticipation and a sense of coming home. We nearly died at least a dozen times on the tiny, curvy, hilly, icy, snowy, fatal road leading away from the temple. That's certainly one way to start your morning.

By Night 3, we'd reached Nashville. This was the night of the Inauguration, which we didn't watch because we were exhausted. The Music City Hostel was very nice, and we stayed three nights. Went out to B.B. King's Blues Bar, which had great live music and a terrible, sparse crowd of middle-aged white tourists that frustrated the guest singer's attempts to get a groove going.

I should mention that until we got to Nashville, our intended next stop had been Houston. Then we thought to ourselves, "What cities between us and Houston would we like to see before continuing west?" And the single, unswerving answer was:

[Master: I think this is the spot for the hostel pic of the "New Orleans 536 miles" sign.]

Yep, New Orleans. It's Carnival, after all!

So now we're on the Louisiana coast, and tomorrow we'll start looking for ways to stay here a couple of months. We need jobs and housing. Preferably a really nice apartment in an old house with great architecture and a balcony, with a landlord who appreciates young'uns in love out to make their fortune in the wide, beautiful world. And jobs at hostels or little specialty shops or something. It's Carnival; there must be a way!

Batman is the new Black

And so we've arived to what will be, for now, our home.

Carnival started on January 6th (my birthday), so we took that as a sign that we should head down to New Orleans. We're currently staying in a little hostel off Canal street called the  India House Hostel. It's a pretty awesome funky place for freaks and degenerates. As one might expect, we feel quite at home here.

Later tonight Slade will be posting our exploits in Nashville and driving down here (Including a guest appearance by our dear Uncle Jack.)

19 January 2009

Something wicked this way comes...

First, a quote from a book I'm reading:
"In any area of life, you have a natural monopoly of the unique combination of traits that you possess. The only effective way to rule out competition is to find the market that wants your traits above all others. And you'll find it and keep it by having the courage to stand up for what you are."

Next, a brief introduction:
I'm Steve Fisher. At this moment I'm staring at my beautiful girlfriend Slade in a Hare Krishna Temple a few miles south of Wheeling, WV. This temple has cheap guest rooms. And free wireless internet. And great Indian food. I'm 22, a college drop out (for now at least). A few months ago I got sick of waiting till I was done with school to live the life I wanted. So here I am, laying on a single bed with my breaking laptop.

Last, a story I heard a while ago:
Once upon a time in China, A group of Confucians went into the mountains to teach an old Taoist the proper way of living. Once inside his one room hut, the confucians were shocked and revolted to find the Taoist was without shirt or pants on. With instant revulsion they exclaimed, "What are you doing in your hut without pants?!" Not being one to miss a beat, the wiley old Taoist replied, "The world is my hut, this hut is my pants. What are you doing in my pants?"

The confucians left him alone after that.

What possible relevance does this story have to anything? Well, we needed a title for our blog. And "Guns and Bacon" was taken. Slade and I are homeless except for my 1997 Honda Civic which contains all our worldly possessions. So, in a sense, like the Taoist the world is our home. Which makes my car our pants.