Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Independence Weekend

We watched a baseball game in the evening before the 4th of July. The local team won. It was a minor league game but the stadium was filled. After the game, there were fireworks with great patriotic music in the background. During the game, we ate hotdogs and I drank a beer. The ticket to the game cost $ 8 dollars. The game, including the fire works lasted about 3 hours so the cost was about $ 2.60 per hour. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night watching the ballgame under the summer evening. This is the national past time, watching a ball game; there is always a game going on somewhere whether baseball, basketball or football in the national, local, college or high school level. Children are taught at an early age to get ingrained into a competitive though civil sports environment. My wife and kids did not enjoy the baseball game I think preferring basketball and soccer.

On the 4th of July, Sunday, we drove 2 hours to Bluff City, Tennessee. We spent about 4 hours in Worley’s Cave in the afternoon. It was a real or authentic cave experience, going down in pitch darkness with helmets and head lamps led by an experienced guide. It was a physically demanding adventure, going down vertical walls, crawling through limited spaces, climbing up rock faces, walking through underground streams with your shoes all wet in the cold water, getting all dirty with mud as we slid down rocks, all in a 55 degree temperature. It was tiring but I think the kids loved it. We were with a Japanese family who had 4-5 young kids (I lost count) and the kids were all over the place, crawling in the mud, squeezing into crevices while the parents just looked on. I was glad to get out of the cave and we changed clothes due to the dirt and mud. My shoe broke when near the car as the sole of one shoe fell off.

From Bluff city we drove to Knoxville, another 2 hour drive, to catch the evening fireworks. We reached Knoxville at about 8:30 pm, a nice city beside a river, with large, elegant bridges spanning the water and a nice park. We had dinner at Wendy’s and watched the night spectacle that lasted for nearly an hour. I can’t help but think that people here love spectacle, a sort of shock and awe event of entertainment. It’s an impressive feat of planning and organization; perfected in local events and especially in sports events. No wonder the military invasions overseas are planned alike. We got to our motel at about 10:30 pm for a well deserved rest. I wanted to walk around in the World’s Fair Park where a concert was ongoing but every one was tired. Instead, I watched the HBO series ‘True Blood’ while everyone slept.

During the drive, we listened to Donald Trump’s audio book ‘Think like a Champion.’  It’s actually a good book, about the experiences of an incredible business man talking about real estate, reality television and golf courses. Despite the news of his empire being overextended or bankrupt, Trump is am astute business man with many experiences both good and bad plus a Wharton MBA degree. His latest book strikes me as coming from someone who has distilled all his incredible experiences into a Zen like wisdom. I hope the audio book was useful for my family. I try to play this type of educational books during long car trips because it’s the only time I could get my kids away from the Internet. It was like having a captive audience listening to Trump’s wisdom while driving through the Tennessee country side.

The next day we drove to Knoxville again before driving home to see famous city landmarks such as Tennessee Theater in Gay Street, and the waterfront beside the river. The journey home took about 8 hours as we drove through the Great Smokey Mountain Park, Pisgah Park, Cedar Mountain and Table Rock. Along the way, we drove through sections of the Blue Ridge parkway, passed through interesting small towns like Gatlinburg, Waynesville, the Cherokee Indian reservation and Brevard, in often deserted rural roads, twisting and turning through the amazing mountain ranges of the Appalachians. We took turns driving but I think the effort exhausted the kids. We ended the day with a modest Chinese dinner of fried dumplings, bone-less ribs, chicken, shrimp, fried rice and spring rolls. During the Tennessee trip, food was mainly cheeseburgers, fries, soda and an occasional salad.

When we got home, I rushed through the materials I was returning to the library the next day. A DVD movie on ‘Amazing Caves’, John Naisbitt’s ‘Megatrends China’, Robert Kiyosaki’s ‘The Conspiracy of the Rich’ and a pictorial book on Charleston homes. I finished at about 11:30pm. During the weekend, in the long drives through the mountains, I resolved that I would lessen my time reading books and watching movies and spend more time actually working on my project and teaching my kids. I am inspired by Zadie Smith while listening to her audio book ‘Changing My Mind.’ She’s a brilliant writer especially on the writing craft, movies and Barack Obama (it’s the most incisive analysis of the Obama phenomenom, written in just a few paragraphs as part of a larger essay on voices). In fact, Zadie Smith is probably the best living essayists today and her work inspires me to continue.

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