Sunday, 31 January 2010

Saturday 30th January 2010 - Eating Out

          I cruise up and down the main drag looking for a breakfast place.  I spot a huge sign outside a restaurant saying "Brunch".  So in I go.  "Oh, we don't do Brunch anymore".  "But it says it in large letters across the front".  "Oh", (goes away)  "OK, you can have brunch".  As I wait, two men sneak hurriedly out of the kitchen and pull the sign down.  So I guess they don't do brunch anymore.
          The freeze is going to be bad again tonight, so I arrange to meet my Scottish Society friends early in town.  I am determined to walk.  It's about a mile and a half.  It's a kind of bravado.  If the power lines come down, I can make it to town on my own.  Of course, there is no sidewalk, and the parking lots are, by now, treacherous.
          Although I make good progress, I only get halfway before my friends appear beside me.  Apparently the planned rendezvous is closed to let the staff get home safely.  So we have to find somewhere else.  I have a problem getting into their car, because the back door is frozen shut.
         The big chain restaurants are still open, and doing good business.  The waitress, who obviously works for Social Services, decides us "oldies" ought to pay the bill of the young family at the next table, as well as our own.  We are mean, and, after some discussion, decline.
         But it's home early, before the roads turn into an ice-rink.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Friday 29th January 2010 - A Mexican Standoff

          I get out of Nashville with the weather closing in fast.  I'm heading for Tullahoma, on the Tennessee border, where I have a date.  It clears a bit, but by Tullahoma it's snowing heavily again.  There is no problem driving.  It's down I-24 to Manchester (Manchester?  How did Manchester get into it?  Actually, I don't know why I'm saying that, the Glasgow I'm headed for seems to be a suburb of Birmingham), then Highway 55 to Tullahoma. 
          The motel is happy to accept me early.  It's snowing heavily, but they have a bar and restaurant on the premises.  Drawback is: it's a MEXICAN restaurant.  I'm pretty tense.  The young staff seem to be touching things all the time.  In the case of the young men, mostly themselves.  I suppose it's a latin thing (although I do have to say I never saw my latin master doing it).
           The staff keep rushing up, asking me if I'm ready to eat.  Little do they know!  But when I'm ready for another drink, nobody notices.
           In the end, I can't bring myself to eat.  It will clearly be some time before the trauma of my last Mexican meal passes into history.
           Later that night, in heavy rain, I meet up with some friends from the Glasgow, KY hogmanay party.  The reason I'm stopping here is to read my favourite Burn's poem at their Scottish Society Burn's Birthday Celebration. 
          Unfortunately, the weather has won this round as well.  I had fans flying in by the thousand, but the airport is closed, and the roads are not offering any guarantee against being snowed-in; the event is being postponed.
          We have a quiet dinner in town, in a restaurant where they keep fairly good beer, and very good Scotch.  The rain is making driving fairly safe, but if it stops and the ground freezes, it will be really treacherous.  So it's home fairly early.

Thursday 28th January 2010 - My Annual Retail Therapy Session

          The buying of the hat must have tripped some primitive, Scottish 'it's January clothes are cheap' switch.  For quite some time, I've been living in jeans.  This prevents me standing out.  Everybody in America wears jeans all the time.  I wouldn't be surprised to discover they all wear denim pyjamas.  Anyway, between jeans and tuxedo, I've got nothing to wear.  In addition, at least one of my shirts is only fit for meeting people I'm never going to see again.
          I ask Google to find me the nearest Macy's.  That's kind-of code for a shopping mall.  In fact, when I get there, it seems just to be Macy's.  They've actually got valet (Americans use the French pronunciation) parking.  Whatever gave them the idea I was going to spend that much?
          Everything is, indeed, in a sale, some things nearly half-price.  It doesn't take much to satisfy my mild retail lusts, so the event is soon over. 
          The gentleman's gentleman who has decided to help me through the event claims some Scottish ancestry.  I don't point out to him that nearly everyone in America does: the Scots who came here originally must really have put it about quite a bit.
          The afternoon is spent obsessively watching the Weather Channel.  I'm moving on tomorrow, and what they call a 'winter storm' is approaching.  American Weather is very predictable.  They can see the extent of the storm, which is presently closing down bits of Texas and most of Oklahoma, and the direction it is travelling in.  It's not so much a forecast as a description of the inevitable: only the timing is slightly open to question. 
          Apparently, these Winter Storms lay down a mass of snow in the middle, with heavy ice and rain on the periphery.  Almost all American power transmission is overhead, so the weight of ice brings down lots of lines, and even poles.  It must seem very malign to Americans: it not only freezes you, it cuts off your power as well.
          Later that night, it's a fancy mid-town bar, with lots of dead furry and feathered things stuck to the walls.  The service isn't very good, but the company is, which is what matters in a bar.  Anyway, I'm from the UK, I have very low standards when it comes to service.
          The place is showing its class by having golf on the TV.  It is replays of some T. Woods matches.  For months now, whenever I've seen any golf on TV it's usually been TW.  I think the media and fans are going through some grieving process and have got to the denial stage.
          One of the matches is from La Jolla, in California.  There is a Californian present: "La Hoya" actually.  No wonder the Spanish lost their empire, if they can't even spell.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Wednesday 27th January 2010 - An Unexpected Discovery

          The day starts bright and sunny.  This is not a good thing in Nashville, since eyes and brain have to be brought up to speed slowly.  As I adjust, I can see this is just the morning for a stroll along the Broadway to see the sights.  I walk along to the Cumberland River, which is big and fast flowing, and I guess, must be the subect of "Roll on, Muddy River" (or what ever its actual title is).
          I was diverted on the way back into a discount shop, and bought myself a winter hat.  The current trend among country singers and their roadies and bouncers and the like is to wear massive black hats, so naturally I bought myself a small white one.  I'm a dedicated anti-follower of fashion.
           The Nashville and Davidson County Library now has its great bronze doors flung wide open.  Although very grand and Victorian-looking, it appears to be almost new.  It is very well-appointed, except for, inexplicably, an almost total absence of grown-up ladies.  So, of course, I can't find anything, and nobody knows anything.
          But I bump into one of my unexpected and unlikely facts.  As I'm perusing the biography section, under "G", I find one for Ellen Glasgow, the writer.  She is from the family after which Glasgow VA is named.  As I thumb through it idly, I bump into a description of the ancestors who came to Virginia, and the surprising claim that they weren't called Glasgow originally, but Cameron.  There being another family in the vicinity (Ulster, I think) called Cameron, they got to be the "Glasgow Camerons" because they came from Glasgow, and eventually accepted the obvious shortening.  It cites references in the Ellen Glasgow papers for this.  If it's true, then, indirectly, Glasgow VA was named for Glasgow Scotland.
          Later that night, I decide on a turn around the more touristy bars on the Broadway.  Kris Kristofferson is appearing at the Ryman, so the town is quite busy.  I have now discovered that the system here is that the band play for tips, passing the hat round, so to speak, although it's usually a jar.  Apparently this is a long tradition on the Broadway.
          One of the bars is where the young people go to be seen.  It has by far the loudest band, fully amplified, with an even louder off-beat drummer.  I don't know how they get to be seen, since they're packed in like sardines.
          I allow the young people to see me for as long as possible, until my ears start to make it clear that if I don't leave soon, they're going to leave without me.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Tuesday 26th January 2010 - A Bit of Peace and Quiet

          Venturing out in Nashville seems, inevitably, to be accompanied by a delicate start the following day.  I don't think I'd like to have to work here.  Except, of course, as a musician.  Maybe that's how they do it: maybe they're all musicians.
          The Nashville Fire Department sent an alarm call for me.  American fire engines, as well as the usual lights and sirens, have a tug-boat horn which can be heard quite a long way away.  They sent their entire fleet to the federal courthouse opposite:
quite a wake-up call.
          I spent most of what was left of the day in the state archives.  Such an oasis of peace is hard to believe in this riotous city.  Perhaps that's why they have to close on Mondays; perhaps all the staff get together downtown and sing and dance and shout at each other for eight hours.  Then they can put up with all this quiet for the rest of the week.
          I was checked in at the door by a grown-up lady from Spain.  From Madrid, she said, although she didn't say it like that, she said it the way Spaniards say it.  I was immediately assigned a researcher who was waiting at the door, a bit like a taxi.  He found the date of Lube Glasgow's death in no time at all,  so I found the appropriate edition of the "Weakley County Press, Martin Mail, and The County Times" in one shot.  And there it was on the front page:
Reading old newspapers is intrinsically fascinating, so I tried to skim through the 1920s to see if any mention of Glasgow the place appeared, but I wasn't lucky.
          Later that night it was back to the Station Inn where, on Tuesdays, they not only have an acoustic jam session, they also have cheap beer.  On the way there, I passed the old Union Station, where I spotted a beer bar called the Flying Saucer.  It serves up eighty-one draft beers.  It also, reluctantly, serves wine and spirits, but there are none on show.  They are having a quiz night, and also selling a cheap beer, the very splendid "Fat Tire" from Colorado.
          When I got to the Station, the jam session was in full swing: not an amplifier or drummer in sight.  But I can now say I have finally come across a very young virtuoso bano player, although, disappointingly, he didn't look the least bit inbred.
(That photo number gave me a start.  I don't know what I'd have done if it had come up 666: left town in a hurry, I suppose.)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Monday 25th January 2010 - This is Also the State Capital

          The hotel provides a splendid breakfast, so I can slob about in my track suit and make as slow a start as I want.  It's practically lunchtime before I'm ready to go out.
          Today, I'm heading off for another set of quiet, book-lined rooms.  I've located the Historical Society, the State Archives, and the City Library.  It's turned very cold again, so I'm well wrapped up.  It being lunchtime, I have to choose my route carefully, so as to avoid waysides by which I might fall.
          But, it turns out, although there is live music all the time,  there are no libraries or archives, or even historical societies on Mondays.  The city Library takes up a whole block, and I work my way all round it, finding only enormous bronze doors firmly closed.  I even wander into the car park, and up to where you park for the library, then down the escalators to an inside door before I see a sign saying closed on Mondays.
          So peace-and-quiet will have to wait till tomorrow.
          Later that night, it's off up the Gultch.  This is a part of downtown being smartened up and made residential.  It contains one of the famous traditional country venues, the Station Inn.  Inside it looks a bit like a church hall (and of a pretty poor church at that).  There is a cover charge here, and the audience is substantially preservation society types (you know, ladies who don't dye their hair, and gentlemen with grey beards and hardly a cowboy hat between them).
          But the music is very traditional ( they do have a drummer, but he only has a side drum). and very enoyable.  And the beer is domestic, and comes by the pitcher.  So, all-in-all, a very traditional evening.  I failed to find out who the band was, but I don't suppose it matters very much.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Sunday 24th January 2010 - A Day of Rest

          After the frantic delights of the previous night, I wake up to find myself more-or-less in one piece.  Although the better beers here are usually just a bit too strong, nonetheless my 'beer only' rule sees me through.  The damage doesn't seem permanent.  Anyway, after last week's seeing-to by the Mexicans, what can the cowboys do (even pro lady shuffleboard players).  A good slow breakfast, an even slower hot bath, and the hair of seventy-two dogs should see me alright.
          Today is the day they play the games which decide which teams go to the superbowl.  So it's down to the no-music bar to watch a bit.  All the screens except one are showing the big game.  The exception is showing soccer, Real Madrid v Malaga.  The soccer provides a bit of interest while the football is stopped, which is nearly all the time.  Malaga advertise a British Bookmaker on their shirts, which seems a bit odd in downtown Nashville.
           I had let it be known that I favoured the Jets and the Vikings this year, so, of course, it was the Colts and Saints who were successful.  It's a good job I don't have any dealings with bookmakers, British or otherwise.
           Later that night, I felt it unwise to upset the delicate balance of recovery.

Saturday 23rd January 2010 - Off to the Grand Ole Opry

          I had contemplated going to Memphis for a visit, but when I have to choose between the blues and country music, country music is going to win every time.  So it's two hours down the road to Nashville.  Anyway, Nashville's pretty-well on my route to Alabama
           It's an uneventful journey.  Tennessee is long and thin, and comes in three bits.  I'm going from West Tennessee to Middle Tennessee.  The truck plates tell me this is a route from almost everywhere to almost everywhere else, inclusing some of the Canadian provinces.
          I've bought a ticket for the Grand Ole Opry tonight.  The Grand Ole Opry, as I'm sure you're aware, is not actually a place, it's a radio program.,  But for most of it's life, it broadcast from the Ryland Auditorium in downtown Nashville.  This is the former Union Gospel Tabernacle, with the horseshoe bench seating which everyone associates with the Grand Ole Opry.  It now broadcasts mainly from a giant resort hotel on the edge of town, but in the winter, it returns to the Ryland.  I can not only discover this from the internet, I can also find a hotel round the corner.
          I check in, and wander out on the Broadway to see what's what.  One section of the Broadway is a row of bars offering free live music, all day.  One bar, instead of offering live music, offers seventy-two draft beers.  The AT&T building in the centre of town looks to me like it something out of a Batman comic
It turns out the natives call it the "Batman Building".
          The Opry is not as traditional as it used to be.  There are drummers and electric guitars everywhere.  But each act got two numbers, and it went on for an hour.  I don't suppose they actually do it live now, so they can trim at the edges, but we got about sixteen acts.  I don't of course, know how famous they are or were, but althouth some looked very venerable, they could still do it.
          There used to be a radio program in Britain which, nonsensically, featured a ventriloquist.  The Grand Ole Opry features some square dancers:
          Later that night, testing out the bars of the Broadway, I fell in with some fully paid-up members of a Grown-up Ladies Shuffleboard Team.  For some of the busier bars, they knew where the back door was.  I found myself a mere plaything, brought along for the purposes of dancing.  Of course, in the end, I wore them out.  I don't remember getting home.

Friday 22nd January 2010 - The Glasgow Branch

          At breakfast, there is a loud discussion about the status of the Old and New Testaments in the proof of things.  The cook is summoned from the kitchen as final arbiter.  It turns out that he is the pastor of a cowboy church (this is to be taken literally, and has none of the "make it up as you go along" undertones the word "cowboy" might evoke in Britain).  He does rather well, and tries to keep it at the "well it all depends" level without undermining the sweet simplicity of the original premise.
          I've really come to Dresden again to meet a lady who knew Lube Glasgow, but the breakfast floor show has made me late.  So another breakfaster sends me across the square to the barber's shop.  Apparently, in the barber's shop, they know everything and everybody.
          And the barber's shop really is like you imagine such places used to be.  It lacks only a quartet to take it back a century.  (Don't laugh, this is Barber Shop Quartet country.)  There is a wide-ranging discussion on the various Glasgows.  There must have been several different families, all relatively well-known.  But nobody remembers the store, of course, because that goes back more than half-a-century.
           When I was looking through the deed books the other day, I spotted an old map on the wall, and tried to use it to figure out where the land concerned was.  As I started looking at it, my eyes suddenly focused on a river carrying the name "Glasgow Br".  This turned out to be a fair distance from where the store was.  It's a branch of Thompson's Creek, so I guess "Br" means "Branch".
          With a liitle bit of time to spare, I decide to go visit it.
          When I finally locate it, I go calling at the nearest house to see if they know its name.  The inhabitant is a super grown-up widow lady of 85.  She thinks the stream is called Thompson's Creek, but she says her house is where the old Glasgow House used to be.  She has a family album, and in it she has a newspaper cut-out picture of the said old Glasgow Family.  She says to say hello to the lady I'm going to meet later.
          The Glasgow Branch is nothing much to write home about (although here I am doing just that).  It has been raining a lot here recently, and most of the ground is wet underfoot, but the Glasgow Branch is barely running at all.
          When I get back to town, my contact is back from lunch.  She is a niece of Lube (I discover this is a single syllable), and remembers him.  He and her daddy got on well.  She thought Lube got rich lending money with land as collateral.  Which is probably how he ended up president of the bank. 
          She didn't think he had a bad reputation.  I suppose lending money against land in the great depression could be either ruthless land-grabbing or enlightened local lender-of-last-resort trying to help people stay solvent in hard times.  Certainly, he sold the store for much less than he bought it for, and gave the buyer a year to pay, without interest.
          Later that night, it's a quiet farewell.  Everyone wishes me well on the rest of my trip: and not an in-bred banjo player in sight.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Thursday 21st January 2010 - Another Favourite Place

          The phone rang first thing in the morning.  I was in the shower.  How is it people know just how long to let it ring so that when you get to it they've just hung up?  I call back when I'm dressed.  It turns out to be the car rental company.  Apparently Silver's licence is about to expire, and they have to send the new "tags".  They want to know where I am, and can I stay there for seven days?  Well, no, actually.
          When I realise that if I don't do it I'm going to get stopped a lot, I go out of my way to be helpful.  As it happens, I've been promised a bed for the night at the other end of the state on Burns night.  So I get that address, and pass it on.
          Then it's off to Martin, to the University library.  It's a fine library, superbly peaceful, but it has very little of interest to me.
          A Glasgow got divorced in 1881, on grounds of desertion.  There is a court summons for the witnesses.  The sheriff, of course, is supposed to serve summonses, but he simply records, in pencil, on the summons itself, that he has deputised the plaintiff to serve it.
          In 1980, a lady in California applied for membership to a society called the "First Families of Weakley County".  British readers will no doubt instinctively see that as a snobbish thing, but it is a quite literal reference to the original settlers.  She wants to prove she is related to the original Glasgow, and provides a lot of research about the family names, when and where they were born and died, their Revolutionary war regiments, and their land patents.
         Since that was all there was, I settled into working my way throught the microfilmed records of the "Dresden Enterprise" for 1927 (I'm guessing that's a special year in the life of Lube Glasgow).  But I don't find anything relevant.  There is quite a lot about the saga of Charles Lindberg's transatlantic flight, with new items dragging it out week after week.  When I'm doing this, I sometimes thing I could happily spend the rest of my life reading old newspapers.
          Later that night, the bar had one of those fairground games where you control a little crane to try to lift up soft toys and drop them down a chute.  Now I've always thought they were simply a scam, that it was more-or-less impossible to do.  Imagine, then,  my surprise watching a grown-up lady, with, I have to say, a considerable amount of alcohol concealed about her person, relieve said machine of six toys, in short order, as though it was easy.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Wednesday 20th January 2010 - My Day in Court

          I decide I will have breakfast in Dresden, so as to make an early start in the courthouse. 
          I have noticed, from time-to-time, in roadside fields, some very large donkeys.  I come up behind one in a trailer at traffic lights.  It's simply enormous close up, and the penny finally drops: it's a mule.
          The cafe on the courthouse square has pictures of mules on the wall
I ask the waitress.  They show them off at the county show.  These are from "Belgian" horses, you know, like Clydesdales and Shires: that's why they're so big.  There is also a picture of the old courthouse, which burned down in 1948, so there may not be any records left at all.
          In the courthouse, the grown-up ladies of the recorder's department scramble into action, as good as any wartime squadron.  My thesis is that the store that used to exist at the junction was, at one time, owned by one of the Glasgows in the cemetery up the road.  The cemetery records show two graves at Lebanon Church, with names for both.  The names I didn't know were Lube A., 1887-1959, Lula Bowlin 1889-1929, and Etta Moore 1890-[still alive in 1980 - they do that, they put their names and birth year on gravestones; it's either macabre or Scottish): an interesting menage-a-trois to speculate about.
          The Tax Assessor gives me the parcel number of the plot where the store used to be, so it's time to track back through the deed books.  I have the name of the lady who used to own it, so I will get an early check of whether I'm on the right track.
          It is a matter of considerable surprise to me that all the counties in all the states that I've visited all keep their old records the same way (their computerisations are very different).  I am in a room like all the others I've been in, with the same heavy, leather and canvas-bound books 
          It's a slow process, not least because quite a lot of people tried to make a go of the place in the 50s and 60s for short periods.  But, eventually, back in 1918, Lube and Lula Glasgow bought it.  They bought it for $1500, and sold it in 1927 for just over $1000.  Lube must have been gifted with the second sight, for his purchaser sold it only four years later for just $600.  In fact, Lube bought a lot of land in 1917, including some from the Glasgow in the other grave.
          Then, armed with all the names, it's round to my other favourite place, the main library.  I stood the ladies down, but I'm sure they phoned a warning ahead.  The librarian squadron were poised for action.
          Weakley County was formed in 1823, and they produced a 175th anniversary history partly in the form of family biographies submitted by family members.  It has been well-indexed, and is simply full of Glasgows.  It looks like they might all be related to one of the first settlers here.
          But what's exciting is that there is actually a picture of Lube
Already a JP by 1918, in the early 30s he had become the first Executive Director of the Agricultural Stabilisation and Conservation Service (remember, we're in the middle of the Great Depression, The Tennessee Valley Authority has just been created, and we're in Western Tennessee).  By 1936 he's vice-president of one of the local banks, becoming president in 1955.
          You'd think they'd be happy to keep his name.  I wonder why they didn't?
          Later that night, I contemplated having a longer rest.  But I drove up, knowing Silver would keep me moderate.  I had no sooner sat down with my beer (domestic by the bottle) than a man my age (I think) came over and insisted I play pool.  Of course, having told him I was no good at it, I won.  A group of young men came in, looking to play.  One had so much metal in his face, he looked like he might have been a nail-bomb victim.  He was wearing tartan trousers.  He asked about my accent, and said they were from Ireland, but had been here so long they'd lost their accents.  I misunderstood and asked how long that was.  Turned out to be several generations.
          On the way back, a whole herd of deer crossed the highway (this is the middle of town) in front of the van in front of me.  He didn't seem to brake at all.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tuesday 19th January 2010 - First Sightings and Clues

          I consumed an entirely liquid breakfast (and that doesn't mean what it might usually mean) just to be on the safe side.  Then Silver whisked me over to the alleged site of this former Glasgow.  The US Geological Survey provided GPS co-ordinates, and Dulcie is prepared to indulge my scientific whims.
          There is a little cluster of houses at what turns out to be the junction of Jewel Store Road and Lebanon Church Road
(Note the little bit of creativity in the signwriter's art)
It is a cluster in the rural American sense: there is quite a lot of space between them.  I drive on a bit to Lebanon Church, and, as I pass it, some instinct has me pull over.  Should I look in the churchyard?  Actually, it seems quite small.  And, as I contemplate it,
leaps to my eye.  There turns out to be another, equally large.
          I track back to the junction, looking out for inbred banjo players:
          At the house right on the junction, an older woman comes out to get in her car.  I engage her in conversation.  No, she's lived here seven years, and never heard of it being called Glasgow.  BUT, she's from Connecticut,  AND SHE WENT TO SCHOOL IN GLASGO CONNECTICUT!  What?  There's no such place.  But (look at the spelling) I'm afraid there is, I've looked it up.
          At the next house along, the lady has lived here for fifty years.  No, that's not the Glasgow place, it's about half a mile away along this road.  But it's not there anymore, it got burned down.  Yes, there used to be a store, right on the junction.  She and her husband used to own and run it.  But it was too much for her, working all day, and having people come in all night: she could never get anything done.  They sold it, and it changed hands a lot till it closed about twenty-five years ago.
          So  it's off down the road to find the old Glasgow place (have the Geological Survey got it wrong again?).  I find the present owner, a gentleman about my age, happily cutting firewood, and playing with his dog.  He is self-sufficient in firewood, having enough acreage for renewal.  He shows me a sassafras tree he has just chopped (the amount of wood he has chopped, he probably doesn't need any heating at all).  Sassafras leaves are the main ingredient of the filé, as in filé gumbo.  And the roots can be boiled to make some kind of tea.  He points to the fields opposite: they're not used, they're in 'soil bank', people buy them and get $50/acre for not using them.  He doesn't think this is right.
          But, yes, this is the old Glasgow place: nothing left of it now (he has a new, prefabricated, house).  There used to be a school room down by the road, Glasgow daughter taught school there.  Only bit left is the shed:
(you can see behind it how much wood he's been chopping)
          Later that night, it's TV and chicken broth by the fireside.  Turner Classic Movies (the channel with no adverts) is showing "Inherit the Wind", the film about the famous "monkey trial" about teaching evolution in schools, with Spencer Tracy and Frederick March.  I had forgotten (or never knew) that it took place here in Tennessee in 1925.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Monday 18th January 2010 - I Ate, I Drank, and I Was Merry

          I find I am not particularly partial to Mexican food.  The only merit I can see for it at the moment is as part of a crash weight-loss program.
          I have always been a fan of Tom Lerher.  One of his songs which I especially like is "Fiesta Time in Guadalahara".  It contains the priceless couplet,
"We ate, we drank, and we were merry,
And we got Typhoid and Dysentery."
          Which accounted for later on Sunday through to a late start on Tuesday.  And my guts on Tuesday morning, although starting to function normally, felt like they'd done three rounds with Muhammed Ali.  I hope to be back to solid food (and beer) by Wednesday.  And, em, how can I put this, there's going to have to be a big tip for the cleaner.

Sunday 17th January 2010 - Why American Beer is the Way It Is.

          I like to start my Sunday mornings with a good breakfast, but downtown Paris is closed (except for the churches, of course), so I end up on the bypass, where there is a nest of fast-food places, having a Macbreakfast.  By the time I'm finished, the rain has stopped and the sun is peeping out: which is cheering, but demonstrates that I didn't know which way is south.
          Then it's back for a hot soak.  I think there is negative pressure in the drain (ie it's pumped), because the plastic cup starts to crumple slightly, breaking the seal.  This means I have to keep the water running a bit, which makes me feel even more decadent.
          While I'm cooling off, I watch the Dallas Cowboys getting a good seeing-to from the Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings quarter-back is, apparently, a hundred and forty years old, born just after the Civil War (often referred to here in the South as the "War Between the States") and looking distinctly like a character from Lord of the Rings.  I don't think the Vikings were on anything, but it sure looked like the Cowboys were.  Perhaps Gandalf put something in their tea.
          Then it's round the corner to the only restaurant in walking distance for the third component of my Sunday morning, what is known in parliamentary circles as a 'good lunch'.  I shall gloss over the food: it may figure in the story a little later.  But the beer turns up garnished with fruit slices.  Now who, except the Belgians, put fruit in their beer?  Here, wait a minute, the Belgians now own the biggest brewer in America.  Are they trying to modify the drinking habits of the American masses?
          I was listening to a programme on Public Radio as I drove here yesterday.  Yesterday (hats off, heads bowed, chaps) was the 90th anniversary of the 18th Amendement to the American Constitution, the one which imposed Prohibition.  Actually, the programme was really a bit of time for a man with an enormous collection of old music on '78s', and he had chosen Prohibition as his theme.  But as well as a lot of historic music about booze and boozing, he made the interesting claim that, because it killed off a great many brewers, Prohibition was the reason American beer is the way it is today.  Prohibition was a wonderful experiment, in the sense that it is a bad example of almost everything, not least that old adage about being careful what you wish for, in case you get it, but I hadn't thought to accuse it of turning beer into nothing more than an alcohol transport system.
          A bit later, a children's birthday party turned up.  There were three adult couples.  One of the games I like to play with groups in public places is (silently) to try to guess who is related to whom.  I concluded that they might all be related to each other.  Well, it is Tennessee, isn't it?

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Saturday 16th January 2010 - Off to Tennessee

          It's a nice early start, and by ten-thirty it's breakfast in Clarksville, Tennessee.  From being quite unseasonably cold, it's now turning unseasonably warm.  It's all the fault of those people with several motor cars.  At least global warming is better when it's warm.
          Then it's across to Western Tennessee on US 79.  My first stop is Paris (they pronounce the last syllable as in "tennis").  This is twenty miles short of my destination, but I suspect, from my internet researches that this is where I'm going to end up.  I have a coke in one of the town centre bars, mainly to use the rest room, and check out the cheapest motel. 
          Then it's off to Dresden, the seat of Weakley county, where Glasgow used to be.  Dresden doesn't seem to run to motels, or very much else.  The site of the "historical" Glasgow is about seven miles north-east of here.  If there are any records, they will be in the courthouse here.
          The next stop is Martin (I can't think where they got a name like that: like the beer, it must be "domestic", rather than "imported').  This is where most of the motels are.  It's a university town, and seems to be much expanded.  It has the feel of a UK 'new town', with wide dual carriageways but no buildings along them.  The motels are out by the campus, and expensive by my standards.
          So it's back to Paris for the night.  The motel is very good for the price.  And it seems to be run by a couple of grown-up ladies, so it's probably very clean as well.
          Later that night, it started to rain very heavily, so Silver had to do the work.  I found a local Mexican restaurant which served a dark Mexican beer in 32 ounce glasses.  I've never seen glasses that size before, but Silver coughs diplomatically when I even think of having a second one.  Thirty-two ounces is two pints here, commonly called a 'quart'.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Friday 15th January 2010 - My Last Day Here

          My breakfast diner is on the square, and it's warm enough this morning to take a turn round it without my Walmart puffy jacket.  It's a typical American small town.  Americans are just as new to protecting townscapes are we are, so there are several modern bits.  Almost all the premises are active, so they're doing rather better here than most.
          I'd been invited to come to band practice at the High School, mainly since they weren't performing any concerts while I was in town.  When I went to check in, the Principal was there, wearing her Musselborough tartan kilt.  I had acquired two "Scottie" ball caps up in Montana, so I thought it fitting to present her with one.
          Once the band were warmed up, they were landed with a new, quite difficult piece, I think just to impress me.  Which it did.
          At the end, one of the young ladies came up to me and said she had been to Glasgow, Montana in the summer, when I was there, and had read about me in the (Montana) local paper.  That seemed to me an extraordinary coincidence.
          later that night, the weather having warmed up considerably, everyone was out to wave me goodbye.  I spotted a lady in the bar reading a Kindle (that's Amazon's electronic book).  Since I'm tempted to get one, I thought I would ask for a user review.  She couldn't have praised it more highly.  It's certainly easier than trying to find a bookshop in these small towns (it downloads whole books over the cellphone system).
          She was a New Yorker, down here because this was both cheaper, and rated the best place to live in rural America (in some farmers' magazine in 2007).  But she wasn't adapting too well.  She really expected everyone to shout abuse at her, so she could shout back, for everybody to be touting something.  She seemed a little peeved that I knew more people than she did.
          As the evening wore on, it became clear that she was a classic east-coast liberal.  She probably thought that everyone here had parents who met at a family reunion, and had shot there dinner on the way in.  And, of course, there was no way they were going to trust someone with a yankee accent.  I told her she could explain her accent by saying she had killed her mother with an axe, and spent the last twenty years in a northern prison.  They would probably be marginally more sympathetic.
          I've never been very good at meeting strangers, but , on this trip, I've put myself in a position where it's unavoidable.  I would have thought she had done the same, but she really thought it was their fault she wasn't getting along with them.  I told her she was an incurable New Yorker.  The only thing for it was to go back.  (I also told her that New York was my favourite place in the whole world, which is true, and that cheered her up a bit.)  I wonder if this will ever turn up on her Kindle?

Friday, 15 January 2010

Thursday 14th January 2010 - The Kentucky Dress Act of 2010

          I had to go to the print shop to get some more cards.  As usual, I had left it to the last minute.  This may be the last sizeable town I visit for some time.  The shop says they can do it, and want a ten dollar deposit, cash money of the United States: the first place I've visited here that doesn't take plastic.   I give them a twenty, and they gave me a badly-printed ten in change.  The borders were the most uneven I have ever seen on a currency note.  Remember, this is a print shop.  They wouldn't dare, would they?
          I studiously avoid being the tourist when I can.  I'm here to meet people, and look at and use the ordinary things of life.  But sometimes there are some special things one just has to look at.
          When I was but a callow youth, one of the regular contributers to 'Punch', Alex Atkinson, published his American Road Trip, which he called "Across America on a Rocking Chair".  At the beginning, in the section on New York City, he says something like "Manhattan is connected to the mainland by three bridges, each of which is the biggest in the world".  This turns out to be true: one is the biggest such-and-such truss, and so on.
          A few miles up the road from Glasgow is the Mammoth Cave.  The name refers to the size, not prehistoric creatures.  At nearly four hundred miles (yes, miles) of passageways, it is the biggest cave system in the world.  I thought that was a bit special, so I took the afternoon to go and see it.  And it's seriously impressive.
          In the early evening, my spies had told me the high school band parents were having  meeting, and were going to discuss changing the band uniform.  The Scottie band currently disports itself in full highland regalia.  Apparently, at marching band contests, they get marked down in the 'appearance' section: the judges,it is said, like to see the hips and thighs and knees of the young people as they march (sounds a bit iffy to me).  This is a small town, and many of the band parents were themselves, in their day, band.  Their kilts etc. were what marked them apart.  It is a tradition about which they feel very strongly.
          Now, you can't win contests by spitting at the judges, but is seems a bit sad that they have a set of marking rules which strip schools of their tradition, one of the most effective sources of juvenile discipline.
          I was introduced, and induced to speak.  I told them about the similar tradition in Montana.  Fortunately, nobody asked me my opinion.  Neither side would have been pleased.
          Tartan was invented by Sir Walter Scott for the visit of George the Fourth to Edinburgh twenty-three years after Glasgow Kentucky was founded.  About seventy years after their like had passed the Dress Act to ban the kilt, and cleared the highlands, sending poor Scots off,as it turned out, to get their own back by wresting the American Colonies away from them.  Just as well they didn't ask.
          Later that night, I met another ex-band member.  He was quite dismissive: "It doesn't hide their marching: they can't march.  We wore the kilts, and we won regularly." 
          He also told me that a member of the USA rugby team comes from Glasgow.  Did you know that the USA were the current Olympic rugby champions?

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Wednesday 13th January 2010 - New Library, New Atmosphere

          I'm trying to read up about the American railways, specifically what it must have been like building them around 1900.  The weather has changed and it's now a balmy 46, which is about 7 or 8 in new money.  I decide it's time to renew my acquaintanceship with the lovely new library here, with its lovely new armchairs, and its lovely old librarians.
          I finish perusing the first book, trying to ignore the chanting child charging about.  When I return with the next, there are a group in the armchairs, holding a meeting!  I sit tense for a minute, waiting for my good manners to sink beneath a boiling current of anger, when one of them, the only chap, suddenly says "I'm so sorry, you must want to read, we'll go over there".  I say something British, and that is that
          Of course, the contributions of his companions to their meeting continue to ring round the library.
          Later that night, I discover that the Univerity of Southern California football team are called the Trojans.  It's a bit like University College London decided that their rugby team was hard and modern, so they would call themselves the Durex (or should that be 'durexes")

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Tuesday 12th January 2010 - Hi-Yo, Silver, Away

          The waitress at breakfast brought me the Sunday paper with my picture on the front page.  I got my pen out to autograph it, but, rather disappointingly, she said I could keep it.  They're such fickle things, women, aren't they.  I thanked her as graciously as I could, omitting to mention that I had just been to the Post Office to send several copies off to my National Archive.
          Then it's off to the rental company to sort out my new steed.  Most people who have read Don Quixote, have read the translation which names Sancho's donkey as "Dapple", but that is just a little too English and dated for my taste.  A more literal translation (I'm told) might be "grey".  So I have decided that since I am ranging alone (geddit?) across the US, and this car, which wafted me away from the accident with barely a hesitation, is actually silver, I shall call him that.  Perhaps a posh name like that will get him to stay with me for the rest of the trip.  So it's "Hi-Yo, Silver, away!"  (I always thought it was "Hi-Ho", but that's not what any of the web sites say)
          When I went to Australia, about ten years ago, I noticed that the lady newscasters clearly weren't human.  I suspected aliens were planning an invasion, and were testing out clones to see how easily they could fool us.  American sports programs are testing a much later marque, which can walk about with facility.  They're still using females.  I guess they think that if they can fool us chaps in a sports program, they've passed the hardest test.  They have obviously already infiltrated the fashion and adverting industry, in an attempt to modify our view of what real women look like.  But they're not fooling me.  Look, for instance, at their teeth.  They're clearly false.  Nobody's got teeth as white as that.
          Later that night I meet up with someone who's decided to take my advice and come back from Europe on the QM2.  He says they'll have seven days in Europe beforehand, and he's thinking they could go to Dublin, Poland, the Fiords.  I remind him that modern air travel is hanging around for days in airports, waiting for men with guns to look up your bottom, all the while amusing themselves with their new lady-stripping machines.  Better to concentrate, choose one, hang out.
          So he wants to know which of those I would choose.  After the usual bumbling fumbling, I decide it would have to be Dublin, the superficial, but none-the-less genuine, friendship of celtic stranger management.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Monday 11th January - Winning in the Game of Life

           I'm dragged out of the shower by an early phone call.  The caller is clearly a grown-up lady, fevered by yesterday's headlines.  She wants to show me her cairn: well, her husband's cairn, actually.  I told her I didn't get into that sort of thing, but she was fairly insistent.  Then she refused to get out of bed, so, somewhat non-plussed, I went on my own.  Dulcie refused point-blank to help:  what the grown-up lady cryptically referred to as  "The Captain's Lane", Dulcie tartly recognised as "Old Davidson's Spur".
           It turned out to be quite a splendid cairn, nicely engraved, commemorating another Scottish menage-a-trois a quarter of a century ago.
           The trip also enabled me to see the 'welcome' sign on the other side of town, showing a nice marriage of piper and flag:
          On the way back, I managed to visit the pharmacy, to get something for a bit of recent stiffness I've been suffering.  The checkout girl took the trouble to circle something on the receipt, which told me I had won one ticket in the game of life.  I told her I already had one, and didn't expect to get another, not even with what they call here a "Cadillac" health insurance scheme.  She professed not to understand: "whatever", she said.    There's no cure for being young, is there?  No, actually, come to think of it, there is.
[ps  I could have made life easier for myself, and probably you, if, instead of photographing the paper yesterday, I had just pointed into cyberspace, thus: .  Now you can all print it out and gaze shyly at it in secret moments!]

Monday, 11 January 2010

Sunday 10th January 2010 - Another Fifteen Minutes

          My spies call me early to tell me I'm in the local paper.  On the way to breakfast, I stop off at the drug store to buy a copy, and, not only am I in the weekend edition (this Glasgow runs to a daily paper), I'm on the front page, in colour.  I eat breakfast behind dark glasses, so as not to excite the local ladies too much.
          I escape unrecognised, and head back to indulge my favourite Sunday morning activity, which is soaking in a hot bath.  I used to read several sections of the Sunday Times like this, ruining the paper in the process.  Now I read some chapters of my current book.  The motel doesn't run to a bath plug, but this is no problem for a resourceful traveller like me, and a yougurt carton full of pebbles serves just as well.  As usual, I have to have a cooling shower and lie down for a while afterwards.  It's one of the things I do to make myself feel well-off.
          The bank tells me its now 20 degrees Farenheit, which is nice for a brisk walk, if I wrap up well and don't go too far.  The snow is gradually disappearing.  I expect it will start to thaw in a few days, and then we'll have black ice problems at night.  I'm going to stay here for anther week till things get closer to normal.
          Later that night, I'm chatting to someone who has clearly been there a while.  The barrmaid shows her special constable's badge, and sends him on his way.  I ask her if she's her brother's keeper and she looks at me intently, a bit surprised at the question, and says "yes, of course I am".
          The TV is showing a basketball game.  One of the teams is called the Blazers.  In Britain, that's a rather rude name for the people people in the sport who don't play.  During the frequent breaks in sporting events, the TV advertises gentlemen's products, like beer and viagra.  Tonight there is an advert for cialis, which, it seems, is a bit like viagra, except it prides itself in being soft. I wouldn't have thought the marketing people would have wanted to raise (if you'll pardon the expression) that notion in the minds of the target audience.  Anyway, I suddenly notice, in the small print (adverts for pharmaceuticals in America seem to consist almost exclusively of small print, including all the ways it might kill you) that this cialis goes under the pharmaceutical name of tadalafil.  I wonder how many of you know that the little musical riff that Windows commonly uses to announce events is called, in the files, "Tada".  It's kind-of appropriate, don't you think?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Saturday 9th January 2010 - A Whole Lot of Bull

          Having written the car out of the story last night, I have to write it straight back in again.  A nice brisk walk in the morning snow, and it turns out I can remember where I left it.  It didn't seem to mind having been left in the middle of an empty parking lot all night.
          I have been told it is normal to tip about 20% here.  The staff in most of these establishments will be on minimum wage, counting the tips.  I move the decimal point, double it, an go to the nearest round number.  Sometimes I don't, but it really has to have been a bad experience.
          So I was a little surprised when the waitress at breakfast came rushing over to thank me effusively for my tip the previous day.  She had gone off-duty between serving me and me paying.  I generally pay by credit card, just for the record-keeping it does.  The boss had kept the tip for her.  She was a grown-up lady, so I asked her if it was not normal to do that.  She gave me some frank opinions of my fellow-customers.  Apparently some are just mean, and some are, well, less than mean.
          I got some shopping in today.  Went back to where I'd had the bump, which I thought was jolly brave of me.  I could still see bits of Rozzie lying about the road.
          Then I came back and settled into a bit of writing.  It took quite a long time, with a whole wasted story that ran out of steam.  But I eventually got something that might count as a first draft of what I'm after, so I was quite pleased.
          Later that night, I went out for my evening stroll.  When I went out early morning to get the car, the big sign outside the bank had said 16 degrees.  When I went shopping at lunchtime, it said 18.  And now it was saying 20.  So hopefully the worst is over.
          The bar was quite busy.  I got into a conversation with the local Repo man.  He's the man who recovers cars and things when the payments are not being made.  There was also a tobacco buyer, here to buy some special kind of dark tobacco.  There was a Virginian who waxed quite eloquent about the pink tobacco flower, which, rather surprisingly, I'd seen in Missouri in the summer.
          But there was one really fascinating job.  It came out as quite a chat-up line: "What do you do?" asked the barmaid.  "I sell semen", he said; a real show-stopper.  The barmaid, who is a nice (ish) young lady, was nearly lost for words.  "What, you're a donor?"  Someone tried to help her out: "sounds like a lot of bull to me" they said.  The barmaid then wanted to know if the bull enjoyed donating, but she was howled down: a bit too close to home, that one.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Friday 8th January 2010 - We're in the Money

          My North American Agents have forwarded Rocinante's papers, so I can arrange to take possession of his inheritance.  This requires a trip to Bowling Green, where the nearest office of the insurance company is.  It is also the nearest point where one can buy beer to go, so I will have to make an integrated trip.
          The parkway and interstate are, of course, well-salted, but the big trucks are going as fast as the are allowed, and I am mindful of those conditional signs on the bridges.  In these conditions, I slow down for trucks to get well away.  Because it is so cold, and the snow is so dry, they are actually quite a stirring sight, sweeping a bow-wave of snow along the verges, with occasional large chunks flying off the top and smashing onto the road.
          The insurance office has the requisite number of grown-up ladies (that's one!) to sort everything out smoothly, explaining cheerfully, that, since I'm giving them power-of-attorney, it doesn't matter if I don't sign anything else.  She wants me to sign the POA with my full middle name, and I discover, to my surprise, that that's actually quite difficult to do.  I make a bit of a hash of it, but it won't matter.
          In no time at all, I have trousered the blood-money, and am off.  I'm really very grateful to the insurance company: they couldn't have been more helpful and considerate.  And, as it turns out, generous.  As Dulcie directs me to the booze store, I find myself musing on the venial thought that I really ought to have organised this accident in the last week of my trip.  This is really ever so much easier than trying to sell a used vehicle in a limited timescale.
          As I'm filling the trunk with beer, I catch a glimpse of the black plastic sacks of things recovered from Rozzie, and feel a pang of guilt.
         Although I was brought up in Glasgow, I was actually born in Somerset, and lived there, in the American usage, momentarily.  On the way back to Glasgow, I see a surprising road sign:
         When I get back to Glasgow, I visit the nearest branch of my eastern bank, which is almost across the road from the motel.  When I get the transaction records, it turns out the street is called Wall Street, and this is the "Wall Street Office" I've been dealing with.
         Since it's Friday, and I've been depositing large sums of money on Wall Street, I decide I should join the 'happy hour', and avoid being out late in the cold.  This plan, unfortunately, to use the Scots, gangs somewhat agley later that night.
         I find myself sitting next to a young man from, variously, New York and Florida.  We naturally talk about the weather, but, as usual, my accent brings up the subect of ancestry, with which most Americans are obsessed.  He is telling me of his Scots-Irish ancestry, when he suddenly says his grandfather was born in a little border village in Fermanagh called Beleek.  Now, one of my grandfathers was born in Beleek.  What are the chances of that?
         Then a novice grown-up lady dragged us all off to a mexican bar, and the evening degenerated into a haze of highly-coloured furniture and big jugs of beer.  My car, wisely but unexpectedly, vanished from the story, and I got dropped off at the motel.  So I'm in for some exercise tomorrow morning.  Now, one of the features of Sancho Panza's donkey is that is vanishes unexpectedly from the story, and reappears, sometimes just as unexpectedly.  I must get that name: it might fit this new car.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Thursday 7th January 2010 - Songs and Spies and Underdogs

          I struggled out for breakfast.  My Grown-up Lady spy had told me the county weekly paper had a big spread on me, so I stopped off where I was told to buy it.  Newspapers are awful: it wasn't quite right in places, but I could see how it was partly my fault for kind-of 'mumbling'.  I can see why the Tony Blairs of this world have to do what they do: I can see why corporate bodies have to hire people to keep them "on-message".  But it was mostly OK.
          While I was reading this, at breakfast, "on the square" (there's a lot of "on the square" in Glasgow KY, I suspect a heavy masonic presence), I heard a country song called "Small Town USA".  It approximates, a little, to my experiences over the last few months.  It's not the best song I've ever heard, but, judge for yourself:
          I went round to the Grown-up Lady spy for a quick de-briefing, and almost got snowed-in.  The state and the county have a little money for salting the roads during these rare events, but the city has none: venture off the highway and you're on your own:
I managed to slither away with all our virtue more-or-less intact.
          Of course, Later that night, I was ensconced in my room with only a television and the internet for company.  It's the big football event of the college season.  It's called the "BCS" (Bowl College Series").  But it doesn't seem to involve any 'series': the media tick boxes, and some computer decides which two teams get to the final.  I'm not a betting man, but I bet you couldn't find a single bar in all the world ( that's "world" as in "world series") where they would say this was the best way of doing it.
          But it was quite entertaining.  I always find myself supporting the underdog.  Since I don't understand American football too well, the night produced several underdogs.  First, Alabama ("the Crimson Tide") went behind to Texas. Then Texas went seriously behind to the Crimson Tide.  Then Texas nearly caught up. Then, right at the end, Alabama ran away with it.  At least they had the good sense to play it in Pasadena, California, which may be the only part of the sub-continent which is not freezing.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Wednesday 6th January 2010 - Is Farenheit Colder than Centigrade?

Glasgow Kentucky is at the same latitude as the Algarve coast.  Does that not give a man a bit of entitlement?  I know it's very cold in Britain just now.  The news stations here are providing us with some solace by showing how cold it is in Britain.  But that's about a tenth of the globe further north.  I thought it would be at least comfortable this far south. 
          And it's going to go on for some time.
They still use Farenheit here to tell you the temperature.  The scientific web sites say, rather smugly, "the United States, and a few other places, like Belize".  It does seem to be a more natural way of describing it, since it rarely involves negative numbers.  I have been whiling away the hours finding out why it is such a curious scale.
          Farenheit (it wasn't named after him, like "Celsius", he designed it) based it on three references: zero was the freezing point of brine (well, kind-of brine); 32 was the freezing point of water; and 96 was blood temperature.  The choice of 32 and 64 ( that's 96-32) was to make it easy to draw the scale - you just keep dividing it in two.  Then some bright spark thought it would be a good idea if the boiling point of water was 180 degrees away from the freezing point.  This made it 212, but had the effect of making blood temperature 98.6.
          [this is the blogging equivalent of the potter's wheel from old BBC TV 'Interludes'.  If nothing is happening, I'll just have to provide some erudite interlude.]
And, of course, later that night it was even colder, and I huddled even closer to the television.  I dug out a picture of me in Glasgow California last July, and felt a bit warmer.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Tuesday 5th January 2010 - An Economic Chill

          It remains unusually cold.  Apparently this is a 10-year record.  So it's skipping out for breakfast and back again for reading and TV.
          It's even cold in Florida.  They're very worried about the fruit.  If it drops below something like 25 degrees (that's old money) for more than 4 hours, they're done for.  The world will have no orange juice for a year, and Florida will become even more dependant on tourists.
          So they spray water on the trees.  The water freezes and keeps them warm.  That's what the man said.
          Later that night, I'm reduced to moderate drinking by the temperature.  The big signs outside the banks say it's 18 degrees.  That's about minus six or seven in new money.  Of course, there are few as hardy (I'm sure that's not the word you would use) as me so the place is empty, and the girls are complaining about how little money they're making.  I check-up, on the internet, when I get back, on Kentucky minimum wage laws.  Recalling what was being said, it is quite clear the management assume a certain average of tips, and top that up to the minimum wage level.  If the tips don't come in, they're supposed to pay the minimum, but it sounded like complaining only gets you looking for another job.  On top of which, if there are few customers, they just shut, and send the staff home, so when they come to work, especially in this weather, they have no idea how much money they're going to make.
          Now I'm not one of these people who think the owners should take all the risk, but it as well to remember that when they were campaigning for the sale of alcohol in restaurants two years ago, the argument was that it would create more jobs.  But are they jobs worth creating?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Monday 4th January 2010 - Meeting the Mayor

          The car is covered in snow.  But it's so cold and dry, the windshield wipers just brush it off.  The weather forecasts suggest this cold is going to be with us for some time.  I wander round the car before I get in, wondering idly what the name of Sancho Panza's donkey was.
          Today I am going to see the mayor, and present him with the Glasgow Scotland pennant and letter from the Lord Provost.  This is the last Glasgow where I will get to do this.  It is also by far the biggest, with a population of about 15,000.
          But first, I have to stop off at the county clerk's office.  It was her staff who found the original 1799 court order book for me.  We take a few photos.
          Then it's off to City Hall, for a presentation to the mayor.  In fact, the mayor, in turn, presents me with the key of the city:
          After this, the mayor takes me to see the Plaza Theatre, which has been lovingly restored to its 1930s form.  It was a cinema back then, now it's live theatre, but, of course, thirties cinemas often had live acts as well.  We are only about 75 miles from Nashville, so the names of the stars who have appeared here is quite startling.  They've had Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry; Flatt & Scruggs and the Carter Family; Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton
          The director tells me the architectural style is 'atmospheric'.  It has a curved blue ceiling, with stars in it, and they have managed to restore the projectors which cause "clouds" to drift across it.
It is, unfortunately, dark at the moment, so I can't see it in performance.  As you can see, it is a big theatre, with over a thousand seats.
          It brings back memories of the Fort Peck Summer Theatre, in Montana, and the Sawdust Theatre in Oregon.
          Later that night, there is much ribald talk about the "patting-down" of certain airline passengers (this is the phrase favoured by the media).  The general feeling is that it is more "patting-up" than "patting-down' which is needed, if you follow my drift.  I guess in the right circumstances, you could get chaps volunteering for that.  In fact, in the right circumstances, you could catch the bombers because thay would be the only ones trying to avoid it.
         Do you think there is a secret department of government dedicated to getting explosives past expert patters?  It's got to be wigs next, hasn't it?

Monday, 4 January 2010

Sunday 3rd January 2010 - Getting to the Bottom of Things

          Today is laundry day in my well-organised wardrobe cycle.  If I do it properly, I can breakfast in my slob tracksuit and carry on to the laundromat, so that I get back with everything clean (except the slob suit, of course, which is how it gets its name). 
          It's still freezing cold, so the rest of the day is devoted to quiet reading, and a bit of TV.  I can't even clock off early for a while, because of the anti-catholic policies of this town.  If a man can't have a few beers after sunday morning laundry, I don't know what the world is coming to.
          When I do eventually venture out, later that night, it's in several layers of my clean clothes.  A brisk walk is called for, to blow away the cobwebs of the day.  There's about 20 degrees of frost, and it seems the natives are just a bit shocked.
          The barmaid wants to know if I'm going to eat.  I tell her that American food is just too fattening.  "don't I know it", she says.  She turns round and slaps her bottom: "Where do you think I got this butt from?" she says.  The bar goes a bit quiet.  There is a certain longing on the faces of most of the patrons.  "No, no", I said, "I think god gave you that."  Everyone laughed: I think they may have been thinking the same thing.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Saturday 2nd January 2010 - Too Much TV

          I took a bit to tidy away all the bits and pieces that I'd picked up from Rozzie.  This I can do with the TV on in the background.  It stops me concentrating too hard on things that don't matter, and keeps the pottering rate nice and steady. 
           American TV can be about 30-50% adverts, so if you're working at something, it's quite hard to follow the programs, but really easy to follow the adverts.  Mazda has decided, quite malevolently, to run a series of adverts showing shots of Rozzie lookalikes from all sorts of sexy angles.  I have written them  a stern letter demanding that they respect my period of mourning.  They're just being selfish, doing it for money.  They could show a bit of consideration.
          The TV has also introduced me to the startling notion of the 'urine' sale.  This popped up several times when my back was turned, so I couldn't quite focus on the full horror of it.  Could the local Howard Hugheses be clearing out their bedroom closets?  Could the highway patrol be disposing of old samples?  Is it an annual thing that doctors do?  Are you supposed to buy your own back?  Is it a special southe'n delicacy?  Eventually I managed to catch it in full.  It turned out to be a problem of local accents and ageing ears.  They were announcing 'year end' sales.  That's not nearly as interesting.  I sometimes wonder if my ears play these tricks on me deliberately, just for the fun of it.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Friday 1st January 2010 - A New Year

         The year starts with a beautiful sunny but cold morning.  Because of the party, it doesn't, at least for me, start too early.  But, in a fancy hotel like this, I can get a good breakfast quite late.  And I hardly have to go out-of-doors at all to get to it.
          Some of the other guests from the party last night are also there, and we have a fairly lively meal.  It turns out I promise to read my favourite Burns poem for them at their Burns night. That means I'll be somewhere in Southern Tennessee on the 30th January.  That fits in fairly well with my plans, so I must have been more lucid than I thought last night.
          The Kingdome of Raknar have a memorial cairn at the grounds of the Highland Games
They like to meet there at noon and remember old friends.
          Then we are back to one of the cabins for a traditional New Year's Day.  This involves a lunch of corn bread, black-eyed beans, and collard greens.  Of course, they have masses of other things, but that seemed to be the traditional bit.
          Then we settle down to watching college football.  This is the day all the final 'bowl' competitions are supposed to be played.  There are several of these now, so that accounts for the rest of the day.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Thursday 31st December 2009 - A Blue Moon in Kentucky

          The insurance company phoned to say that Rozzie was terminal, and they were going to have to put him down.  I was gob-smacked.  It had seemed such a minor bang.  Anyway, they were adamant, and quite generous on the settlement and rental car time, so I had to accept it.
          I went down to the wrecker's yard to clear out the stuff left behind.  I rather felt like I was preparing him for his funeral, removing all the jewels and tackle.  I got everything packed up reasonably neatly, and then said goodbye.  Actually, I had to go back and, rather goulishly, switch him back on and read the mileage.
          I was really quite touched.  We'd done 14500 miles together in the last seven-and-a-half months.  we'd had quite a number of revealing conversations.  I knew pretty-well all his idiosyncracies, and he was suitably discrete about mine.
          I felt the need to stop off for a wake and a bit of company.  The bar was selling cheap beer, but I was driving, so I couldn't take very much advantage.
          Two young divorcees started to hit on me, one about 40, the other much younger.  I, eh, quickly figured out what their game was, if you follow my drift.  I know I'm the most wonderful person in the world, but you can't fool me, I know I'm the only person in the world who thinks that.
          But it was entertaining, and just what was needed at a wake.  If only they'd said "dearie" a bit, and mentioned the Insurance money, it would have been perfect.
          Now it was off to the Hogmanay party, down at the Barren Lake State Park, where the Glasgow Highland Games take place.  Actually, "lake" is a bit of a misnomer at the moment, since the Corps (of Engineers) have reduced it back to normal river size.  Apparently, I was told later, they do that to a lot of the dammed recreational lakes to manage the mosquitoes better.  But there was a very large acreage of mud on view.
         The resort lodge is out in Barren County, which is dry.  I had been warned,  and had my own supply, but dinner was accompanied with a choice of iced tea, water, or a number of other foul-sounding concoctions.
          But the company was good.  They call themselves the "Kingdome of Raknar", and see themselves as a group of Norsemen raiding the Scottish Games that take place all over the South-Eastern states.  As the evening wore on, they asked me to give them a talk on my trip.  I managed to stick to the short version, so they seemed to enjoy it.  As a result, the 'King' decided to knight me.  In the absence of a sword, he had to use the skien dhu from one of the kiltie's stockings.  I had to kneel down, which was tougher than I expected.  So I am now Sir Von (which means "hope") of the Kingdom of Raknar.  It's nice to have a knighthood, it should keep my ears warm in bed.
          Seven times in every nineteen years, there is a year with thirteen full moons.  The extra one, from some old english word meaning "betrayer", is called "blue".  Apparently, in modern usage, in the calendar month with two, the second one gets the 'blue' designation.  The second full moon of December was tonight, and, before midnight, we saw it straying out from the clouds.  So not only did I see the blue moon, it was a blue moon of Kentucky.