Little Hamburgers

It’d be a lie to say that I’m a connoisseur of fine foods and dining. My tastes turn more toward items that are unhealthy. Fast food is my bane, and my cholesterol levels and waistline are evidence of that statement. Still, I love that kind of eating. Throughout my life, I’ve given into the temptations of little hamburgers.

Three joints come to mind anytime I discuss my addiction to fast food during the early years—Blue Circle, Jiffy, and Krystal. All three places served those steaming little hamburgers. A squirt of mustard, wad of onions, and dill pickle meshed with the square, thin patty on a bun that was soggy from steam and grease. On trips to downtown, Mother would sometimes take us to the Blue Circle off Gay Street, and there my brothers and I sat and downed a few burgers along with an order of fries. Back then, the gut bombs didn’t stay with us long as Mother marched us from one end of Gay Street to the other and then down to Henley Street and back.

In high school our preference for buying small burgers was the Jiffy. The establishment we frequented was on Western Avenue in West Haven. It sat across the highway from the Cas Walker store. The night would begin with several circuits that began at the Copper Kettle and stretched to the Jiffy. We’d pull in an spend one buck for enough food and drink to keep us going for the rest of the evening. With a bit of luck, we sometimes encountered a carload of girls with whom we could flirt. Of course, none of us was brave enough to do more than just talk. Then we’d be off to complete another lap of nightly cruising.

Small hamburgers were never better than when my brothers and I were in our twenties and thirties. By then, my older brother Dal had moved to Nashville, but when he and his wife Brenda came home for a visit, a run for food was a sure bet. The evenings always started with hours of talk around the kitchen table at Mother’s house. By midnight, the wives had retired, but the three of us were still going strong. We all smoked like chimneys back then, and the kitchen would be so filled with smoke that a haze hung from the ceiling and the smell of stale tobacco covered our bodies.

Eventually, one of us would call “road trip,” and with that we packed ourselves into the car and drove to the Clinton Highway Krystal. Upon our return we emptied the contents of our bags. As many as three dozen hamburgers with orders of French fries were lined up across the table. We dug in and feasted until the “sliders” were gone or we were full. Those little pearls always lay heavy in our stomachs, and before long, all turned in for the night.

I know how unhealthy those little heart attacks in boxes are. My health is more of a concern to me, and I try to be good. Yet, sometimes a hunger from deep down starts, and no matter how strong my willpower might be, I succumb to the call. I know the next day will be filled with regret as my digestive system rebels against the foul food, but in the moment, the thoughts of a good Krystal conquer even the most logical thoughts.

I sinned again last night. Here in Nashville I drove to Krystal and grabbed a few hamburgers. Next, I drove back to the motel room and devoured them. The night was spent in gastric distress, but sometimes the urge is outweighs the punishment.

Nashville, Vanderbilt, and Northerners

Amy's in the last of a three-day seminar here in Nashville. I've entertained myself by driving all over the city and suburbs. As usual, on one jaunt I took the wrong exit and drove through one of the spicier neighborhoods around the downtown area. For the most part, however, I managed to drive through the areas with few problems.

This morning, we checked out of the room, and I needed to find a place to spend the first part of the day. I ferried Amy to the meeting site and then returned to the Vanderbilt campus area. By the way, our motel room overlooked Vanderbilt stadium. I watched for two days as the field crew battled rain to paint lines and numbers on the soaked turf for the ballgame against Mississippi State. Our room would have been the perfect place to watch the game--see every play and avoid the crowds, drunks, public restrooms and outrageous concession prices.

Upon Amy's suggestion, I drove to Noshville for breakfast. Noshville is the best place in town to eat a morning meal. The food is heaped on the plate, and the building itself is a throwback from a time gone by. I ate my egg sandwich and fruit slowly and sipped my coffee as long as possible. I knew the time to leave had come when a line of waiting patrons stared at my sitting in a booth large enough to accommodate a party of four.

I faced a dilemma of where to go next. A couple of blocks down the road, the answer came. I whipped the car into the parking lot of Panera, ordered another cup of coffee and took a table. Panera is one of those places where a person can spend hours without feeling guilty. My first move at the table was to pull out my computer to check email messages.

Here on the fringe of Vanderbilt, hearing northern accents must be normal. Few folks talking in the place had that southern drawl with which I am so comfortable. At the counter two men in their twenties were ordering. One asked for a "soda," and his friend snickered at him. THe first asked if he'd said something humorous, to which the second said, "You asked for a soda!" The first man looked puzzled, and the expert on language in the South corrected him by saying, "I don't ever say soda. It's strange. Instead, I order a 'POP'!"

I don't dislike people from the North. I do object, however, to some attempts by a few to change our culture and our language. Somehow it's not fitting for them to do so. It's the same thing as someone visiting a friend's home and then re-arranging the furniture and restocking the refrigerator with all healthy foods. Lewis Grizzard called these folks Yankees and said he didn't care how folks used to do things up North. Grizzard also told those whom he called Yankees that Delta was ready when they were if they wanted to move back.

In today's world, the blending of North and South is inevitable. Hey, some good things might come from the land above the Mason-Dixon Line. I'd just like for newbies to the warmer climate to take a little time to do assimilate themselves to our way of life before they redecorate it.

I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong.

What’s Entertaining about Blood and Guts?

Okay, I suppose I’m officially part of the “older generation.” My membership isn’t just because of my age; it has as much to do the fact that I don’t get some of the things that go in this world. For instance, I’m confounded at the need people have for “shock” in their lives.

A new movie is playing in theaters. Its title is “The Final Destination.” Now, from that a person might assume the flick is some “who done it.” Others might think it’s a show about space exploration. However, this movie is about individuals who meet sudden and violent ends to their lives. The ads for it show one woman drowning and another being dragged into what appears to be the machinery of an escalator or some other kind of conveyor. One man is assuring a crowd that things will be all right a couple of seconds before he’s blown to pieces. Still another scene show some kind of pressurized tank zipping at some unsuspecting person who will be mutilated by it in some way.

Folks, I don’t get it. How is this entertainment? It seems not so long ago that an entire population had the wits scared out of them by a little girl who levitated from her bed, spewed green pea soup, and spun her head around. The movie “Jaws” was bad enough to me. Every time that music played, somebody lost a body part.

Young people today laugh at those movies and call them corny. The scare factor isn’t enough for them. They want more blood and guts—in every aspect of their entertainment. The fascination with dismemberment and blood letting is disturbing to an old guy like me. The fact that “The Final Destination” is nothing more than a couple of hours of hideous deaths isn’t enough. The darn thing is shown in 3D. That’s so audiences can “experience” the thrill of being diced and sliced and drowned and blown to smithereens. It’s as absurd an interest as was that for the video clips “Faces of Death.”

The fascination with death and murder are found in video games. I’ve seen some of the ones kids play, and I was appalled to discover so many of them have as their goal the annihilation of an enemy. The cache of weapons includes every horrific one that can be created. Our children spend hours in front of these games and wipe out combatants while their physical health also slips along the treacherous road to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Somewhere along the way we screwed up. We parents made life too comfortable for our kids. Too many of them are “bored” with commonplace things. They continue to look for activities and entertainment that offers more thrills. The fascination with death—and the kind of death that is punctuated by a brutal and bloody end—is a sure sign that we’ve lost at least some fiber of decency. I equate this desire to witness horrible deaths to the love Romans had for fights in the coliseum and the feeding of Christians to the lions.

Sure, I am probably overstating the seriousness of the situation. I’ll gladly back off this stance if someone can offer a valid and logical explanation of why such a movie as “The Final Destination” can even make it to the theaters. If that can’t be given, then this cranky old guy will stand by his disgust for such boorish trash.

Labor Day Means Winding Down

Labor Day—it’s a holiday that all Americans enjoy and one that has a different meaning to people. It began as a result of the Pullman Strike in 1894. A wildcat strike begun by rail workers in response to cuts in wages, the act stopped travel to the west. President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops to stop the strike, an act that led to the deaths of several workers. The holiday was passed in Congress six days after the end of the strike. That in itself is amazing in that today’s Congress never passes anything expeditiously.

For lots of people, Labor Day marks the end of summer. It’s that one last day to ski or swim in sweltering temperatures. Cookouts and picnics and family get–togethers are standard activities on the first Monday of September. From that day on, fall is fast approaching and temperatures decrease and days shorten.

Families look upon Labor Day as the last opportunity to take a trip before school takes center stage in children’s lives. Once upon a time, Labor Day was the official last day of summer break as students and teachers returned to classrooms on the following Tuesday. More recently, schools officials and politicians trying to win favor with constituents have proclaimed the need to start school earlier so that children can learn more. Remember, American children lag behind all other countries on standardized test scores. Earlier school years are meant to insure that or young citizens perform better on such evaluations. Maybe our children could go back to school the Tuesday after Labor Day if in-service days were eliminated. If teachers are honest, most will admit that those staff development days are wastes of time that do harm by breaking the rhythm of learning. They’ll also tell you that such days are more about justifying some downtown official’s job than about helping teachers.

For some of us, Labor Day is taken literally. Some of the toughest projects I’ve ever tackled occurred on that September holiday. Many years ago Amy and I hung wallpaper in our house on Labor Day. We worked from morning until midnight covering the walls with an assortment of patterns and borders. Over the course of the day, we grew tired and, at times, hostile. We finally retired, but it took a few days before sore muscles and raw feelings eased.

The weekend of Labor Day is the beginning of college football. Folks in this area have whipped themselves into a near frenzy with anticipation of U.T.’s new season. Hope springs eternal, and unwavering fans cant’ wait to celebrate a victory over lesser and greater opponents. Before the season is finished, hearts will be broken with losses to despised foes, but the dedicated fans will continue to swelter in the heat and humidity of early September as the Vols begin another campaign in the confines of Neyland Stadium. Some of us are not so eager and don’t function well in a sea of 100,000–plus fans who re clad in orange.

Labor Day is a winding down of an active spring and summer. Before long, the ground will be covered in leaves, and we’ll chase them around yards as winds whip them in all directions. Before we can blink, summer will melt into winter’s cold temperatures and long nights. Our longing will be for those fun-filled, relaxing days of summer. Maybe Labor Day should be a time for mourning the losses of warmer weather and its good life.