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Thank you, Parnassus!

There's nothing more fun than spending some time in a good bookstore, and this week I had a great reason for stopping by the always-interesting Parnassus Books in Nashville. Parnassus has been kind enough to carry my previous book, and this week they honored me by giving Memaw's Maxims a try.

Parnassus is in Green Hills, and I highly encourage you to go in and shop, especially with Christmas coming up. It's one of those great stores where you can talk with staff and ask for recommendations, or you can just wander the aisles and enjoy a comfortable chair while you relax. And, if you're lucky, you can pet a shop dog. 

Parnassus is rapidly becoming a Nashville institution, and it really filled a void that happened when Davis-Kidd left the market. If you've never been, then you'll find it on Hillsboro Road in the same shopping center as Levy's and Donut Den, which are two other Nashville traditions that you should visit sometime.

I want to give a big thank-you to Parnassus Books for giving me a chance, and I hope that you'll linger a bit longer at the "Local Authors" sections (there are two of them), where you can pick up a copy of Memaw's Maxims and lots of other great books.


A couple days ago I visited a Czech museum exhibit that was a bit surrealistic and a bit existential. The exhibit included several dark and dreary paintings, two sound "events" and an even darker cartoon narrated by the artist.

The cartoon narration was moody and depressing and bizarre, and I felt that the artist was trying too hard to be "edgy," for lack of a better word. Honestly, it felt forced, and I think the guy was just a little too pretentious. But his narration has continued to run through my head, much like the lines from a Monty Python film.

Cue the Burcak. In the Czech Republic there is a special type of Moravian young, fermented wine called Burcak, and it's available only for about three or four months a year. It's in season now, and because it's fermented it can't be safely bottled. It's very low in alcohol, and tastes a lot like a cider. Today I found a small wine shop carrying Burcak, and I enjoyed a glass and cheese as local neighbors stopped by to have their liter bottles filled.

The lady at the wine shop insisted that I carry home a liter, and tonight I have been sipping on that. And it has led me to create a counter to the existentialist crap that passed as art in Prague. My turn.  JKT

I walked up to the man and asked where I was but he would not speak to me for there was a tear in his eye but not a face and the tear fell into the water and it was me and I was the river that could drown myself, but not you. For what are you except a dream that carries forward the lies that you have taught yourself. I would speak to you but my voice has been taken by the cloudless winds that affirm the nature of the futility and you say to me where but I answer why and you pretend to know the answer, but it lies undiscovered. The world shouts and I whisper but unrecognized we leap and fly to places in our minds, unknown. The face looks at me with no eyes to see what I have told it, which is nothing. 


I got bored and walked out on that cartoon narration, and I would hope that you would do the same, even with Burcak. At least I'm going to include some random, pretty pictures. All my best. JKT

A Little Trick

One of the greatest tricks in military history was not a maneuver, but a calculated attempt to fool a superior enemy.

The Thirty Years War was waged from 1618 to 1648, and was predominantly about religion (Catholic and Protestant) but was also a chance to renew old battles and settle old scores. It was a world war that in the end brought eight million casualties (including famine and disease) and reset the power structure in Europe.

One of the best stories, if good stories can come from war, is the one involving the Swedish siege of the Moravian town of Brno. After over three months of attempting to take Brno, the commander of the Swedish army let it be known that if he had not taken the town by a certain date in December of 1645, that he would march his troops out of town.

The leader of the defending army in Brno discovered the pledge, and came up with a plan. On the day that the Swedish army had pledged to leave by noon, at 11:00 AM the Moravians rang the church bells 12 times, as if it were noon. The invaders heard the bells ring a dozen times, and even though it was still an hour until noon, they marched out of town.

Brno celebrated their success, and they still celebrate their victory by trickery. Even today, at 11:00 A.M. in Brno, the church bells ring 12 times. 

Take a break

Two weeks ago I took the kids to Knoxville to watch our Vols destroy BYU, and to send their boys back to Utah with a lesson learned.

We had a great time. We got to spend a couple hours at a fantastic tailgate with my old roommate and his wife and other assorted friends and visitors, then Ella got to see the Tennessee dance team up close, so close that she actually got the jitters. I was able to "high five" with Smokey, which was very cool, or very weird. Probably cool.

Everything was great, until the game started. Check that. Everything was great until the game ended. Then 90,000 of us wearing orange zombie-walked out of Neyland Stadium, with the main topic of discussion being what kind of basketball team we'll have next year.

The next morning we got up early and left Knoxville, going to stop by Granville to check on the folks. As we pulled off the interstate in Baxter, I asked Ella if she wanted to do something different. She said sure, so we went a little farther north and took the time to visit Cummins Falls. Cummins Falls is a relatively new state park, and may be the prettiest place in Jackson County that isn't in Granville.

We decided that it didn't matter whether we were properly dressed, that this was a perfect chance to go swimming, or rock climbing, or snake avoiding, or whatever else the wilderness might throw at us. Cummins Falls is gorgeous, but it is impossible to get to. The trek to the falls includes rappelling yourself down a hillside, then sliding down a fallen poplar until you fall butt-first into smooth, water-worn rocks. They hurt, but you never want to let your kids see that, so when you cry you tell them that you're thinking about a song by Air Supply. That usually does it with my two.

After several hours of hiking up the creek bed, tripping over people who thought it would be good to bring their dogs, complete with ropes tied around their precious little necks, we finally found the actual falls. The kids were disappointed that they had no bathing suits. Not a problem, said their sympathetic dad. Just jump in with your clothes on. Ella and Cal both agreed that that was the correct answer, and for the next 90 minutes they climbed all over the rocks and stood beneath every bit of water that fell over the ledge. They also enjoyed jumping into the pool. They could have killed themselves, but that's the chance you take.

Our trip to Cummins Falls was one of the best days that we've had in a while, and probably because it was completely impromptu. I read this morning that the place has become so popular that they're probably going to start limiting visitors, by issuing just a certain number of permits per day. That's too bad, but I do understand.

I think I want to go back there with the kids, but need to do it soon, because it does take endurance and feats of strength to get down there. The hike back up the hill is even worse, but I can handle that. As Cal says, anytime that he's faced with insurmountable odds, you've just got to believe in yourself.

If you're anywhere near Jackson County, I highly encourage you to make the trip over to Cummins Falls. I exaggerated a little about getting to the falls, maybe even lied, and I bet you can make the journey down, take a swim, and climb back out. Just watch out for the bears.


Yesterday, I visited an exhibit of painting and sculpture by a man who was from an Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. His name was Alberto Giacometti, and his work was fascinating.

That's not to say that I always understood what he had created, and in some instances I wasn't really sure what he was hoping to see within his final work.

In the exhibit there was a small film clip of him at work, and he was saying, in that, that if he worked on a piece for a thousand years, that he might never be satisfied, but that he could say that he was "getting closer." That was interesting.

After that, he said that he could work on a piece and say that it was a success, and that it was a failure...which is to day that success can be measured only by failure.

And I liked that. Yesterday was a great day for me, but one that was exhausting, and as I arrived back at my room I knew that I could not possibly write the blog that I had promised myself, to keep the streak alive. So, now I will finish up in a few days, with an empty day, but that's what worked for me. Success can be measured only by failure, and one day missing of the 30 on a row is just about all right.

The Fall of the Wall

I'm visiting the Czech Republic this week, and one of the things I find most interesting are the special events celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of communism here in 1989, as well as the popular revolts around Europe. Most notable is the destruction of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, with a special remembrance of President Reagan's famous speech to "Tear down that wall."

In Prague there are special photography exhibited scattered around town, in museums and public places. There is a special feel to Saint Wenceslas Square, which was the site of more than one attempt to rid the country of the Russians.  It's truly an amazing story, one in which the people never gave up on their own autonomy. And today we see the results: the Czech Republic and Slovakia, friends and neighbors, but separate countries.

There are remnants of Soviet occupation, including plaques and architecture, but what I see most is a people dealing with things such as tipping. Older folks just can't get used to doing it.

I've learned a lot about a history that I only loosely followed as it happened, but it tells me that people will always desire freedom, and that can't really happen under an oppressive government, no matter what those in government think.

Always Learning

I have been struggling with trying to work with the Blogger app, to place a little post complete with pictures. Apparently it doesn't work, so to add pictures to a story you must open Blogger inside a web browser, then manipulate it and hope for the best.

Once that is done, it can be an effort to forward a post to Facebook, but I'm up for the challenge. (The challenge defeated me yesterday, after bouts with wifi and connectivity.)

It is a first-world problem, and I shall march on, wondering whether I'm at all capable of making this happen without the assistance of a kid that us under the age of 16. If you see this, then I have been marginally successful in continuing as I hoped. :-)

The Best Laid Plans

Today I'm taking a flight overseas, one that is now causing me anxiety. The flight from Charlotte to Nashville is delayed, but will be here soon. It will be fun in Philly, fighting the stampede to get off the plane with everyone else who's late. So tonight will be exciting, and I'm not sure whether I'll be spending the night in Philadelphia or somewhere over the Atlantic. Or somewhere else I cannot even imagine at this point.

Adventure is fun.  Uncertainty in travel is always a good story, later, but not as it happens. Fingers crossed and a forced smile...I'm about to board!


I grew up in a small town, a place where there were a lot of secrets, and maybe even more gossip. I know some great stories on some "fine, upstanding" folks, but for the most part have been sworn to secrecy.
What I always enjoy, though, is hearing some of the more lighthearted stories, things that are funny today, but that I'm sure would not have been back in the day. It's even better when they can be repeated.

This past weekend a lady told me a wonderful story about her great aunt climbing out of the window of the Granville Presbyterian church, during a service, to run away and get married. It seems an unlikely story, but I later talked with another family member that said the lady might have done just that.

Something inside me made me stop by the cemetery where I was told she was buried, and as I stood at her grave I realized how little those old tombstones tell us about the person they memorialize. For the rest of my life I'm going to remember that story, and I'm going to do my best to carry forward the stories of my own family. It would be a shame for them to be known only for the cold stone above their graves.


The Old Days

Today reminded me of the good old days. On the spur of the moment my dad, brother, and myself decided to drive back into an old "holler" in Granville. My daughter wasn't interested, but my 12-year-old son said he was absolutely coming along. He had already been given a chance to do a little farm driving earlier this morning, and he wanted to see how the truck would do in some rougher territory.

The place we went to was an old family farm, though it consists of so many hills that it was never much more than hard scrabble up there. When I was a kid we let cattle wander those hills, and did our best to make a little hay on the hillsides. We stored hay in the lone barn and we salted cattle on the old, flat limestone rocks in front of a long-abandoned house.

My best memories of the place, though, were when we had time to just mess around. Daddy would take me and my brother hunting up there, and would walk us back and show us old chimneys and homesteads. Mint grew alongside the spring, planted by those who lived there before our memories. One winter it was so cold that Daddy competed with us, seeing who could run and slide the farthest on a frozen pond. Those were the good old days.

Today we were stopped by a fallen tree, which was not expected, so without a chainsaw we decided to tie to it and pull it out of the road. Which, on the little road we were on, was an adventure. Cal, my son, was out of the truck in a flash and was busy clearing brush and doing everything he could to help. Once the road was open we drove back, until it was smarter to just stop.

Once stopped we all walk down to the old spring (dry because we've not had rain for weeks) where we used to play, and Cal got down in it with my dad. Honestly, my dad should not have climbed down there, but there was no stopping him. So there we were with an 82-year-old explaining to the boy 70 years his junior how the spring worked and how he was going to get back up there with a crawler and clean it out.

On the way out of the "holler" Cal took a picture of the tree that we were able to move, and he never even realized what today was for him. Today was one of his memories, it was one of his good old days.