Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 119 - Garlic Fries

On a recent excursion to Dodger Stadium, the Gordon Biersch garlic fries were one of the night's must-have items . . .

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 118 - Gardens

The geranium gardens were all color . . .

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 117 - Flowers

I have no idea what variety of geranium this was, but the color was like nothing I had seen before.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 116 - Star Jasmine

Also known as Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) it made the garden smell wonderful.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 115 - James

James is good at catching lizards, but gophers? Not so much.

Day 114 - Easter

The longer the egg stays in the dye, the brighter the color . . . I could never wait that long as a child.

Day 113 - Valley Center Pano

Spent a little time just north and east of San Diego . . .

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 112 - Farewell to Nashville

Dear Nashville -

Thanks for a great time . . . as a beautiful woman said, "you were everything (we) expected and more." Don't lose that small-town atmosphere, and whatever you do, please don't turn into an over-commercialized, schlocky, crapfest. M'kay?

See you soon . . .

Grand Ole Opry

The last evening in Nashville we made our pilgrimage to the Mecca of country music - the Grand Ole Opry. Located since 1974 at the Opryland Resort about 10 miles northeast of downtown Nashville, the Opry is the premier stage for country artists.

The show is divided into four 30-minute acts, with one to two artists performing one to two songs each within each act. It plays like a like radio show, which is how it began back in 1943, with live commercial spots read for each act's sponsor.

After the show, we took the backstage tour, which goes back into the artists' entrance, the Opry post office (where artists still receive fan mail), the dressing rooms, the green room, and ultimately up on the stage.

The center "spotlight" of wood on the stage is actually from the original Opry stage at the Ryman Auditorium, which was carefully extracted when the Opry moved. When Nashville flooded last year, the Opry wasn't spared, and the most difficult restoration task was that original circle of wood, as it was the oldest component of the entire Opry House.

I'm not a huge fan of country music, but I appreciate it as an art form, and I certainly appreciate its role in American culture, so I'd be lying if I said I didn't get just a little chill standing on that stage.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 111 - Broadway Honky Tonks

Not quite as impressive during the day, but not as crowded or touristy either.

Country Music Hall of Fame & Studio B

Nashville is also home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and contains all kinds of memorabilia and artifacts from artists, venues, and recording studios... this 1962 Pontiac Bonneville owned by Webb Pierce, complete with a silver-plated Colt .45 on the hood, a Winchester repeating rifle on the trunk, and a silver dollar-encrusted saddle in the center console.

The Chet Atkins and Hank Williams guitar displays are fascinating for all fans of music, not just country & western, and are well-designed and well-written.

Inside the main rotunda, where the Hall of Fame plaques are, the radio tower on the roof inverts into the center of the room, and makes for an interesting photo.

A few miles away, on Nashville's Music Row, the Hall of Fame also operates the historic RCA Studio B, where Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, and Elvis Presley, among others, recorded a good many of their hit records. This Steinway piano is what Elvis recorded "Are You Lonesome Tonight" on with the studio completely dark, which the tour guide recreated while playing a recording of the song, creating a very eerie effect.

Day 110 - Downtown Nashville

Old in the foreground, new in the back. Locals nicknamed the AT&T building the "Batman Building."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium was home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 through 1974, but it was originally built in 1891 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by wealthy riverboat captain Thomas Ryman. Upon his death in 1904, it was renamed in his honor.

In addition to country music, the Ryman hosted opera singers, orators, politicians, and television shows, but when the Opry moved to its new home in the Opryland theme park, the building fell into disrepair. It was fully restored in 1994 as a concert venue, and it retains all of its original church-style pew seating, balcony, and stage.

The new entrance holds a statue entitled "Oh, Roy!" of two of the Opry's most famous personalities, Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl. It also houses a number of displays and memorabilia from its Opry days, including a collection from Johnny and June Carter Cash, and one of the intricately embroidered stage costumes of another Opry legend, Porter Wagoner.

In 2001, the Ryman was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and it's easy to imagine it both as a church and a social venue, with hundreds of hand fans swatting the humid air, as Nashville residents listened to a preacher or musicians in the pre-air conditioned days of yore, with the summer afternoon sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows . . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jack Daniel's Distillery

About 90 minutes southeast of Nashville lies Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniel's Distillery, where, with the exception of a few production gaps for state and federal Prohibition and World War II, they've been distilling Tennessee sour mash whiskey since 1875.

There's a large visitor's center, which houses the original statue of Jack Daniel that stood outside the grotto where all of the natural spring water used in the whiskey production comes from; a visit to the grotto comes at about the 1/3 point of the guided tour.

The tour starts at The Rickyard, where slats of sugar maple are carefully burned to create the charcoal that every batch of whiskey is filtered through.

A visit to the spring water grotto is next, where a new statue of Mr. Daniel stands, and is affectionately named, "Jack on the Rocks." Employees have tried to find the source of the spring, tracing it back a mile, but unable to locate where the water comes out of the ground.

The tour then winds its way through the various buildings that house the whiskey processes, and according to the tour guide, alcohol fumes aren't good for electronic equipment, so no photography was allowed? True? Maybe, but I wasn't going to be kicked off a whiskey tour for failing to follow instructions. Oh, and in case you were wondering if we got samples, the answer is no. Lynchburg is in Moore County, one of Tennessee's 29 completely dry counties, so even through whiskey is distilled, bottled, and shipped from Lynchburg, it's not available for individual consumption, except commemorative bottles sold in their gift shop.

The trees outside the distillery buildings are covered in a harmless (I hope) black mold that's a telltale sign of a still and alcohol production, something that was used by law enforcement to locate moonshiners and bootleggers during Prohibition. Ok . . . good to know.

After going through the barrel house (Jack Daniel's makes its own white ash barrels for both charcoal filtering and aging) comes the bottling house where the three types of whiskey are bottled - regular Jack Daniel's, a blend from multiple barrels for a consistent look, smell, and taste; Gentleman Jack's, a smoother whiskey that's charcoal-filtered twice before aging and blending; and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, an aged whiskey that's isn't blended and is bottled straight from one barrel batch.

A lovely bottle of the Single Barrel will make an excellent Father's Day gift, no?