Banquet, Marsha, and Memphis

Saturday was a very busy day, for some people. For us it was one of another, lazy late exit from our respective beds, a late breakfast (or early lunch) then some sitting around doing a lot of nothing. We had to rest up for the banquet which was to start at 6:00 in the evening. Prior to that the crew members in attendance had a business meeting for the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. Our treasurer, Rick, gave a comprehensive accounting of our financial situation and made it clear how much it costs to keep our organization functioning. After that we went through the agenda, ultimately agreeing on where we go next year. Lots of options were suggested, and promoted, but we finally agreed on Savannah, Georgia. Another new city for us to discover.

At 5 pm we started getting ready for the big event of the reunion by finding the clothes we brought for the occasion and laying them out hoping some of the wrinkles would disappear. That really wasn’t an issue for me because once I put them on they just disappeared thanks to all the food I’ve been eating. Yessir I just filled up all the vacant space and stretched those wrinkles away. It wasn’t pretty, but I wasn’t wrinkled. It worked so well that Diane asked me to put her clothing on for a little bit and kinda iron them out, too. Doing that stirred up some latent emotions from my youth when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a boy or girl. Right then the bra started to chafe reminding me that I’d made the correct choice all those years ago. Diane agreed and thanked me for pressing her clothes. Actually, her’s got stretched a little further than mine and, consequently, looked much better after i removed them. This entire exercise in removing wrinkles showed us that we no longer needed to ensure that rooms we get while traveling have irons in the room. Now I just need to ensure I don’t start losing weight thereby losing this new-found skill I’ve acquired. If necessary, I can hire out my body to fellow travelers so they, too, can avoid the need for an iron. Just have to find out what to charge, or if to charge. I might like doing it just for fun.

The banquet went well and we wound up with 46 ex-Cleveland crew members in attendance, in addition to significant others who attended. It was a packed room. The food was good and the raffle & auction items were plentiful. I have no idea how much money was spent in total, but one of our old Chiefs spent over $1000 on things his wife wanted. I believe that was a new record for one bidder. It went a long way toward ensuring the organization wouldn’t be having any financial woes in the near future. Rick reported that we were, once again, solvent.

After the banquet was done everyone went to the atrium and pool area which is surrounded by rooms for photos. We were making a lot of noise after the suggested quiet hour, but none of the other guests complained. So, we just continued to make lots of noise which made it very difficult for organizers to organize groups for photos, especially the guys. 

Finally, there was a lull in the noise and we got the guys to kind of line up for the photo.
And here are the ladies …

The festivities were finally terminated about 10:30 pm much to the glee no doubt of everyone who had an interior room, and we all headed for our respective rooms. I think.

The five Radiomen in attendance: Spence, Curt, Dan, Gene, and Me

During our good nights and farewells I volunteered Diane to deliverer our friend Marsha to the airport at 0530 the next morning. Diane wasn’t happy, initially, but I won her over. Then she expanded the day by declaring that “since we’re getting up so early, we may as well go to Memphis and visit Graceland.” I couldn’t really object because, first, she is the only declared driver of our rental and, second, well, because she wanted to go to Memphis. Even though it was pouring rain … 

Nashville to Graceland isn’t a trip around the corner. It’s about 220 miles and a 3 hr drive according to my map. In reality, it’s 220, yes, but 4.5 hours. The extended time is because there was a portion of the freeway closed but there were no detour signs pointing to an alternate route. The local folks knew about them but neither I nor our GPS were aware of how to proceed. So, I studied the map as we went and found a way around it. The long way around it, but we eventually made it. We stopped at a Waffle House about halfway to get breakfast and our first coffee of the day. Here’s proof …

Somewhere along the line we stopped at a rest area. They have names just like other states …

The first thing everyone who enters Graceland is exposed to is the gift shop. That’s where you can buy sunglasses for any occasion, just like Elvis wore …

I won’t bore you with the interior of Graceland because you’ve probably seen it before. I will say, however, that both Diane and I were pleasantly surprised to discover how un-pretentious the home was. It was very nice and we enjoyed it. It gave us a different look at how to view Elvis. He seemed to be a very nice guy who died far too young.

There was a picture in one of the out buildings that totally caught me by surprise and may also cause a second look by my brothers … 

The left photo in the middle looks disturbingly like my first grade picture. The means (to me) that at one point in time I looked like Elvis. We just didn’t turn out the same in the same, did we?

After touring the mansion we exited the venue, which is far bigger than just the mansion, and headed home. We had a 3-4 hour trip ahead of us and we were tired already. Diane drove both directions and amazed me at how much stamina she had. I had a horrible time staying awake to make sure she stayed awake. Could be we died somewhere along I-40 and I’m writing this to you from an alternate universe in the Matrix. Seems real, though.

We made it home in time to get to bed about 8:15 pm after eating a less than stellar hamburger from the Opry Backstage Grill here in the hotel. We didn’t wake up for 12 hours and didn’t get out of bed until 10-11. We’re not as tired as we were when we went to bed but it took a long time to get some energy back. Plus, it just felt good to lay around doing nothing.

Finally, the need for food took precedent over the need for rest so we left in search of something to eat. In the car I searched on line for a decent place to go and we wound up at a really nice place just up the street. The Santa Fe Steakhouse where the food is excellent.

When we walked into the place an were being led to our booth, about 25 people sitting at tables in the middle of the room got up and left. Diane said she noticed that the crew was composed of sheriffs and firefighters. When the waitress showed up I asked if they needed to go out and get another steer before they could feed anyone else. She said no so I ordered steak fajitas. Diane ordered their beef enchiladas. Both of us were overjoyed with our choices. Not only was the food excellent, the wait staff was more than wonderful. 

Now I must end this and prepare for our last night here in Nashville. Tomorrow we fly home from rainy Tennessee to bright and sunny Oregon.

A really Big House and The Grand Old Opry

Today started nicely (we got up late) and continued that way until we tried our luck at Cracker Barrel one more time. It was a mistake. The parking lot was packed and the place was jumping but we were still escorted to a table fairly quickly. Thinking the day was going to get better and better Diane pulled out her chair and sat right down in a large puddle of syrup. She jumped back up, which frightened me because she doesn’t normally move that quickly. Noticing my consternation she turned to show me the large wet spot on the back of her jeans. We tried to get a waitress with a rag to clean the mess up but that didn’t solve the problem with her jeans so we decided to leave so she could change her pants. I got up, brushed the bacon I sat on to the floor, and we left.

To say Diane was a bit cranky is an understatement. Once she got rid of the sticky jeans and underwear, replacing them with nice clean ones, she was better, but we weren’t going back to Cracker Barrel. Ever. Instead we decided to drop in at an alternate dining facility in the area. Of the many available, we chose the nearby McDonald’s. We haven’t been to a McDonald’s in a long time and a breakfast sandwich sounded good.

When we walked into the facility we heard music and singing going on that seemed to be a little out of place. We’ve never been in a McDonald’s where music was playing, but here we were. Looking around I spied a small stage with a microphone behind which sat Ron Crites, of all people, picking and singing like a pro. Turns out, he really is. An old one, but a pro nonetheless. It was quite a treat to sit there, eating my SausageCheeseEggBiscuit and Hashbrown, listening to him serenading everyone with some really incredible music. The man is talented. Something like this could only happen in Nashville. There’s talent around every corner, it seems.

After that marvelous brunch we drove to Cheekwood Estate & Gardens to see another very large house. To get there we had to pass through the quaint village of Belle Meade which, we learned, is on the high end of places to live in the Nashville area. The homes lining the road are enormous, with acres of lawns surrounding them and they are all precisely mowed making the drive appear to be a trip through an extremely well tended park. It is very nice.

We left Cheekwood just in time to join the daily rush on the various freeways in the area and had a serious concern about returning to the hotel in time to catch our bus to The Grand Old Opry. Turns out that today was the 93rd anniversary of the Opry’s origin. Our host for the night was Pam Tillis who was joined by Charlie Pride, Lee Greenwood, Vince Gill, and a host of other folks who made the experience unique and unforgettable. Actually, Lee and Vince weren’t there but it was still an unforgettable experience due in part to the fact that the entire 2-hour show was a live radio broadcast complete with commercials. Those just added to the evening fun. Charlie was great as were all the other musicians and singers. 

After the Opry we exited the building through different doors than those used to enter so my orientation was totally out of whack. Apparently, so was everyone else. All we had to do was find the bridge we crossed after leaving the bus and we’d. It took a while, with lots of wandering around through throngs of happy people heading for the late show, but we finally made our way to the bus which took us ‘home’. 

Then, we went to bed. It was a long day.

Nashville

Nashville. What is there about Nashville I can share that you haven’t heard before? Probably nothing, unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life.

OK. That was rude. Or was it? There might be something positive about living under a rock for a long time. I can’t think of one right now but something might come to me later.

We got here yesterday (Tuesday). By the time we got to the hotel it was 8-ish local time and well past our normal dinner time of 4-ish. We’re staying at The Inn at Opryland, a Gaylord hotel. That’s what’s on my room key … “The Inn at Opryland, a Gaylord Hotel“. It’s even on their website that way which leads me to believe that someone named Gaylord owns a bunch of property in and around Nashville and wants everyone to know it. That’s an opinion, of course, but that name is attached to a lot of different kinds of businesses in the area. So, I think I’m correct on at least half of my stated opinion.

In case you’re wondering about why Diane and I are in Nashville, I’ll tell you. We’re attending the 2018 gathering of the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. Yes, another reunion of crew members of a ship I served on. A gathering of the survivors. The last one of these we attended, in Bremerton, just a few weeks ago, for DD-808, one of the crew members died at the reunion. Turned out it wasn’t the festive event it was supposed to be. Hopefully, that won’t happen this time.

Our friend, Yolanda, was in the lobby talking with a few who had arrived earlier. Yolanda is the widow of one of our members who passed away a number of years ago but she continues to attend these gatherings. Maybe you’ve seen her as Anne Betancourt. She’s an incredibly nice lady.

Now, where was I? We had just arrived, and we were hungry. And the hotel, Gaylord’s hotel, conveniently has a restaurant on the main floor called the Opryland Backstage. So, we paid it a visit and learned a couple of things. First, the food is really good; Second, they have excellent live entertainment. A fellow who called himself Jeff Dayton picked and sang for the room throughout our meal, playing pretty much any song requested by the crowd in the room. He was pretty awesome. After reading his bio on Wikipedia I understand why.

Our waitress last night was Maria who is from Rochester, Minnesota. She is not tall, blond, and obviously a hard worker. After watching her scurry around for a while I asked her if she was a singer and she said she was and wanted to know how I knew. It was just a guess. I figured an attractive young girl from Minnesota, working as a waitress in Nashville, probably had aspirations of a musical career. She told us she sings in the restaurant once in a while and we let her know we hoped we might have the chance to hear her before we leave. Interesting evening and a great hamburger.

We slept in a little bit today and missed breakfast so mosied across the street to the Cracker Barrel thinking we might encounter some of the crew we came to see. That didn’t happen, but we had a pretty good meal then jumped in the SUV that Diane rented for us, a Nissan Pathfinder, and went looking for Belle Meade Plantation. It was #1 on a list of places to see in Nashville that Diane found someplace.

It wasn’t difficult to find and we both really enjoyed the tour. A young lady named Kellan led a group of us through the mansion and explained the history of the family who lived there and how they started out on the property. It was a lovely story that covered a great deal of ground and I was totally blown away with her presentation. It was just fun listening to her share her incredible wealth of information in such detail. True, she’s no doubt done this dozens of times, but still, she was really interesting.

After touring the mansion we walked around the grounds for a while, got all sweaty from the humidity, and called it a wrap, got in the rental SUV, cranked up the A/C and headed back to the hotel. Of course at this time it was rush hour in Tennessee so it wasn’t a quick trip. We didn’t mind. The scenery is quite nice here when you slow down and look around.

Tomorrow the reunion officially starts and I may have more interesting stuff to share. But, for today, this is it and it’s time for bed.

Buona notte

Gilligan’s 11 !

I’m compelled to report that today, early this morning, Gilligan attained the lofty age of 11. She’s pretty excited about entering the pre-teen world even thought I’ve probably told her she’s already a teenager by my configuring. She’s eleventeen and that counts. Next year she’ll be a tween-teen, then at 13 she’ll once again be a teenager. But, she doesn’t agree. So, she’ll just remain eleven for now.

Here she is as a miniature person on October 6th, 2007 …

Here she was just a few days ago on October 1st, 2018. She’s a little taller, she has teeth, her hair is longer, she’s in the 5th grade, and she grew this awesome horn on her head. Other than those few things, she hasn’t changed much.

We love our Gilligan.