Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Winter Visit to Tennessee

It was a good one, Monday through Friday and we had a few adventures, didn't actually write all that much, watched a lot of DVDs, and mostly just sat, talked, and enjoyed each other's company.

demented_dee and I have been writing together since last April, and we've finished writing most of three novels (one of which has been sold), countless side and fanfics, and just enjoyed each others company. It was the oddest thing to get to Allie's house and suddenly realize that there was utterly nothing to "catch up on" with her, as we'd been on headsets every single day for the weeks leading up to the meeting, so we knew everything there was to know about what was going on in each others lives.

I've never had that happen before. We just stood there and giggled, and then started talking and thinking the way we have been for months. The cool thing was that, on this trip, Allie got to show me all kinds of things she'd told me about, but which I'd never seen.

Golden Grasses
The best and biggest was just Tennessee in winter. The Kentucky bluegrass goes gold and red in the winter, and the largely deciduous trees go to black bones along the ridges and contours of the land. They'd long ago cleared out the farm or pastures they wanted, and left the trees as shelter from the wind or mark the boundaries of where property met. Or just where they were too hard to get completely down.

Much of the country side was these rolling hills of gorgeous grasses with trees fringed with mist and high clouds.

I was so happy that one night it rained and rained and rained, and whenever I woke up it was to the soft patter of water on the window panes, and I'd go back to sleep lulled by the sound. I supposed I miss Seattle far too much. *laughter* But it rained and rained and then turned to driving snow.

I'd never seen winter in the South before, and I'd always fondly imagined that there would be no cold, no bone-chilling snows, and the land would be warm and sunny and golden, but the skies were iron gray, and that one morning, the humidity in the air turned every gust of wind into a knife. It wasn't nearly as cold as it often is in Denver, but the humidity and wind certainly made it feel that way. *laughs*

Especially since we were driving ninety miles to Knoxville, TN to find and visit a Steak and Shake, one of the very few that actually exist in the area. A local chain with good food, and local pride and customs.

I arrived Monday evening, after a full day getting through DIA and Atlanta airports, and Allie and her husband basically fed me dinner and tucked me into bed, as I needed the sleep after getting to watch Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I hadn't been able to catch it when it was out in the theaters and it was very comfortable to just sit with Allie and watch it all the way through.

Enjoyed it a very great deal. Especially the Evil X's not the Evil Ex-Boyfriends... *laughs* I enjoyed the action sequences, the exchanges, the "I lesbians you", and Wallace saying "I'm not trying to make this difficult..." I really, really did like Wallace a great deal. *laughs* It was a really fun romp all around.

Tuesday was just existing, watching lots of Queer as Folk which is a really hot Showtime series based off the British version of a television series following a bunch of gay guys and a couple of lesbians who are committed to each other. I am falling in love with the character, Emmit, utterly. Michael has things to recommend him and Brian as well, but they both have a few hangups I wouldn't want to deal with. Emmit, however, is so comfortable with himself that I'm just kind of in love. *laughs*

I don't watch much TV. *laughs* But it's a wonderful series, and I'm very glad she introduced me to it.

Steak and Shake
So we were ready for an adventure on Wednesday and Allie gave me the perfect goal for our little road trip. It was the Knoxville Steak 'n Shake.

I love local chain burger joints. Like California's In 'n Out, Colorado's Good Times, and Oregon's Burgerville, they all have their own personality, their own take on what makes a great burger, and their own sides that they concentrate on. The Steak 'n Shake really concentrated on the skinny crisp fries, the lovely, thick shakes (which could also be ordered two flavors to the glass, where they put a partition in and fill both sides before pulling it out), and, of course, the burger itself. I had mine with grilled onions and the usual lettuce and tomato.

And the attention paid at these local chains is something completely different from the national conglomerates. So we got perfect burgers at a great price, and a nice little road trip into the bargain. We even found a local brewery and I got John a pint glass as he collects them from all over, the smaller the brewery the better. Allie was nice enough to allow me to drive the hour and a half back and she DJ'ed the whole way back, using the whole of her collection of music on her iPod. That was amazingly good and made the miles just fly.

After all that she took me to her gym as well, and got me in for free, and we sweated like crazy and I felt a lot better getting my heart rate up. And after a shower and lovely dinner, Allie and Ben showed me around World of Warcraft!

Yes, I could be completely addicted if I started that game. *laughs* I'd love it, too, and all the stats, little quests, and things that I had to do with lots of other people to get anywhere. Relationship and clear-cut goals, and lots of means by which to get better at it Every Single Day. I am afraid of it, I am. I know that if I went into it I'd just dive in and never been seen again.

After a lovely session with one of Allie's Death Knights, I got a very good taste of the game, and we stopped in order to settle on the couch again and watch more QaF. It was a peaceful way to spend the rest of the evening.

One interesting thing was that even by Tuesday, my eyes had cleared up, so there's definitely something about Denver's atmosphere or environment that really makes my eyes angry.

Storyteller's Center
The next day was a jaunt to and through historic Jonesborough.

A long time ago, when the first colonies became states, and there were several candidates lined up to be the next state after the first thirteen. One of them was the State of Franklin and Jonesborough was the capitol of that area and attempt. It failed, but the historic markers still exist and sit right in front of the City Hall. *laughs* It was lovely to see.

There's also the International Center for Storytellers in the town, with a huge facility and a nice little gift shop and warm restrooms. *laughs* It was frigid out, but when the sun came out everything was just a little nicer. There were lots of little shops up and down Main Street and Allie took me to some really nice ones with lots of cool things. One included lovely little books by Story People, and I had to buy the one where "I was really trying to tell the truth, but sometimes it's hard. So I just say the first thing that comes into my head, instead." The 'stories' are intriguing and the art is lovely and surreal. *laughs*

They also had lots of lovely handmade unique things as well, and I was very happy to find them. We wandered shops, and at the end of the street was an artisan chocolate store that was brand new, so I had to go in and buy a box and share them with Allie and my boys at home. They were very nice.

On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store for various things and I was able to get Jet some chocolate mint Moon Pies and other ingredients. We also went by Pratt's, which had supplied the BBQ on Tuesday night, and I took a look at their hams. I'd been kind of hungry for country ham, the long salt-cured, dried and smoked hams, but they had the spiral sliced ones, which looked amazing, too, but were quite different.

There was also The Purple Cow, a little shake shack that John had found on the Internet when looking in that area for interesting places for me to eat. The local scuttlebutt, however, indicated that the food wasn't nearly as good as the shakes. So we got shakes and they were quite good, made with real ice cream and with a slew of flavors.

Once back home, we made stuffed shells together with Allie's recipe and with hot Texas Toast and salad we had a very good meal, and then I got to see the newest Alice in Wonderland. It was so beautiful! Very much not a kid-movie, but lovely nonetheless. I really enjoyed it, especially knowing all the works it was pulling from. The whole of the poem of The Jabberwocky made me very happy. *laughs* I love that it had nothing to do with Disney's first Alice in Wonderland, instead taking it in an entirely different and wonderful direction, making it, once again, very British and very, very Tim Burton.

I've always loved the surreal beauty of all of Burton's works, and this appealed to that side of me, very, very much.

A Hill of Gold
Friday we just got up, talked, did a little computer stuff, I packed, and then Allie took me to the airport. It was really cool to only be about ten minutes away from a tiny airport, as everything was so fast and easy to do compared to getting into and out of DIA and their enormous security setup. The layover in Atlanta was less than an hour, so I grabbed four Krystal burgers and was very happily reminded of my White Castle memories as a child, and took them onto the plane with me.

All in all it was a wonderful trip. John and Jet met me at the airport and took me to the car and got me home. I wish I could have stayed longer at Allie's, but it was nice to get back home, and read to Jet as I do half the nights a week. While it was wonderful to be home again, my eyes did get worse again within a day or two.

One of the wonderful things, though, was being able to just close my eyes and remember the gold hills of Tennessee in Winter.

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  • Bao-zi My Way

    We've been doing a lot of experimental cooking during the pandemic, much as everyone else has been. Some notable highlights have been the TikTok…

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    It's funny how something as simple as a toothbrush working again as it should could be a sign of hope. Small things working as they ought to. The…

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