Saturday, November 26, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (26nov05)

Bluegrass music legend Bill Monroe usually played what instrument? a) guitar, b) banjo, c) fiddle, d) mandolin.

Weekly History Quiz (26nov05)

Botany Bay near modern-day Sydney, Australia, became a convict colony in what year? a) 1712, b) 1787, c) 1840, d) 1895.

Weekly Amusement (26nov05)

The captain of the school’s intramural track and field team couldn’t decide how to make use of Arnie, the brainy but skinny and clumsy team nerd. One day at practice he took Arnie aside. “I have good news and bad news,” he said.

“Give me the good news,” Arnie prompted.

“The guys all want you to be on our hammer toss unit.”

Arnie beamed. “Terrific! I’ll do my best. Er . . . what’s the bad news?”

“They want you to be the catcher.”

Raking Off Thanksgiving Fat

Leaves have fallen late in the season from our hardwoods here in upstate South Carolina. The problem with that is that we're now into late, blustery November with brisk winds every day. Raking leaves and attempting to pile them in a neat row stack along the street for disposal is a maddening endeavor. "An exercise in futility," I remarked to a couple of neighbors walking by.

But it's good exercise, if futile—especially after a Thanksgiving feast.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gagging in Gatlinburg Traffic

I forgot to warn those of you who may be interested in visiting Gatlinburg and are unfamiliar with its traffic . . . er, flow. . . .

In essence, traffic doesn't flow there. The nearby mountain streams move a lot faster than the traffic in town. Insofar as we've determined, Gatlinburg is in the throes of a perpetual traffic jam. There seems to be no particular "rush hour." After dinner Saturday evening, we were forced to drive in slow, thick traffic for more than a mile in the wrong direction before we found a turn-back point and joined the really thick lanes of cars inching in the direction we needed to go. (We had to do that because it was impossible to make a left turn out of the parking lot.)

One source of Gatlinburg's automotive woes, IMHO, is its abundant pedestrian crossings where people singly or in small groups literally can stop traffic and cross the street whenever they feel like it; they don't have to wait for crossing lights. Result: Pedestrians get around quite well in Gatlinburg; drivers languish. (Gasoline efficiency? Who's worried. . . ?)

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (22nov05)

Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922), noted musicologist and composer, did much to preserve the folk and archaic art music of what country? a) Mexico, b) Spain, c) Venezuela, d) Brazil.

Weekly History Quiz (22nov05)

Where was the Battle of Five Forks fought in April 1865, a week before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox? a) Pennsylvania, b) Georgia, c) Missouri, d) Virginia.

Weekly Amusement (22nov05)

Prof. Stuart: Where were French kings traditionally crowned?

Prof. Swift: On the head.

Gorging in Gatlinburg

Sorry for the interruption in the normal sequence of quiz questions, literary notes, pennyworth gabbing, etc., at this blog. The reason for the hiatus was our long weekend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A friend periodically lets us stay in his mountainside quarters not far from town, and we dearly needed the respite.

The least I can do to make amends is offer a brief report on where we dined, for your possible future reference. For lunch on Saturday we discovered The Pear Tree Café (463 Parkway, Gatlinburg; (865) 430-8082). While my wife was enticed by the catfish sandwich (strange—she almost never wants catfish), I was in meat mode and so chose the hamburger on a Kaiser roll (with cheese). Suffice it to say it was approximately the heftiest burger I’ve ever enjoyed, and one of the tastiest. Sherie polished off her catfishwich; whenever she polishes off any meal, it’s a compliment to the chef.

For dinner that night we went for the blessings of the brook at the Smoky Mountain Trout House (410 Parkway—sort of across the street from The Pear Tree; (865) 436-5416). Its menu lists more than a dozen trout variations. I don’t recollect the exact names of the items we ordered, but both were good.

The Greenbrier Restaurant ( has become our annual must-visit dining venue for its steaks. This trip, I was served probably the finest New York strip I’ve ever eaten; Sherie opted for prime rib (which I would rate in the top five I’ve ever sampled, but not No. 1) (I’ve forgotten now where I found prime rib No. 1; it was awhile ago). Only recently, I learned The Greenbrier has a resident ghost; see my history/mystery blog,

Incidentally, we’re by no means rich. This was a special occasion; we were treating ourselves to what was actually Sherie’s belated birthday weekend getaway. (And the lodging was free. Thank you, Tim!)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (12nov05)

In what country did Morris dancing become a popular folk activity during the 1400s? a) Germany, b) Scotland, c) England, d) Finland.

Weekly History Quiz (12nov05)

“Land o’ Goshen!” was a common exclamation of amazement by old-timers. In what country was the Goshen of the Old Testament? a) Babylonia, b) Assyria, c) Jordan, d) Egypt.

Weekly Amusement (12nov05)

Little Ben, having swallowed a penny, was taken to the hospital emergency room by his parents. “That was a dumb thing to do, wasn’t it?” he admitted as they waited for the doctors to decide on the safest procedure.

“Well, don’t feel so stupid,” consoled his father. “I swallowed a pocket watch when I was about your age.”

“Wow!” marveled the child. “Did it tick while it was inside your stomach?”

“Not for long. I couldn’t figure out how to keep it wound.”

Television Indigeshion

Never again!

A bane of my existence is going out to eat and being confronted by television screens mounted in every corner of the dining room. Although they serve good food, many restaurants haven't seen me darken their doorways for some years, for that reason. Why in the world do the owners think I want to go out to watch TV, when I can do that at home? Do the proprietors figure I just can't pull myself away from the small screen, even for an hour or two?

They're more than wrong; they're losing money. It's gotten to the point where not only the TVs are invasive to diners who simply want to relax; the TV watchers are intruding into other diners' table space. Tonight we went to a Mexican restaurant and I was very pleased, on being seated, to see NO TELEVISION SCREENS within my purview. What I failed to notice as we were being led to our corner table was that they were seating us underneath that room's TV. Throughout dinner, I noticed lots of other diners staring in our direction. Twice, people going to and from the restrooms stopped at our table and peered right above my head. I thought one guy was going to sit down with us. A college football game was being aired, and people were squinting at the rolling score strip at the bottom of the screen.

The food was fine, but I won't be back at that restaurant, either. Enough is enough. If any of you are restaurateurs, be advised that some of your potential paying customers do not, in fact, want football with our food, or rap videos, or endless/mindless news, or anything else the media want to vomit onto our tables. A nice, quiet meal with perhaps a hint of music in the background would be oh, so wonderful. Can you provide that—and only that? Hey, you could save yourself a few bucks on TV units and cable service. . . .

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (3nov05)

What business did Uncle Dave Macon (1870-1952) operate before becoming a professional banjoist and entertainer? a) barn painting, b) traveling shoe sales, c) grist milling, d) mule transportation.

Weekly History Quiz (3nov05)

The Spanish seaport of La Coruña was sacked in 1589 by: a) Sir Francis Drake, b) Sir John Hawkins, c) Capt. James Cook, d) John Paul Jones.

Weekly Amusement (3nov05)

Perry: Why do firemen keep dogs as mascots?

Paul: To lead them straight to the fire hydrants.