Friday, July 28, 2006


The belated Bottom One: Life in Jethro and Ellie Mae's terrarium

It's been a long week for Our Man in LA out in Music City, USA, and there hasn't exactly been a dearth of things that could qualify as a Wednesday Bottom One. Mostly, the life of a semi-corporate drone doesn't fit right for Our Man in LA. I'm tired, my feet hurt, and I just plain old don't like the matching golf shirts that my coworkers and I are forced to wear. They're just ugly.

So look, I know that I've taken some heat for my occasional disrespect for Middle America. I don't mean to start up any kind of firestorm. But there just can't be any question.

And I know it's probably not the smartest thing that I've ever done to bitch about work and work stuff in the blog. People have lost their gigs for lesser offenses.

But I have to be real.

The Wednesday, er, Friday Bottom One title belongs to . . .

Opryland. Sorry, I meant the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

Before I go into the litany of reasons why it's the bottom one, let me re-affirm that I don't hate Middle America and small town values or red states. And if you think I do, sorry. And if your ancestors hail from Opryland, and you think I'm sort of anti-Opry guy, well, sorry again.

Clearly, the problem's with me. But consider for a second:

1) First of all, Opryland is like Jethro and Ellie Mae's terrarium. If you haven't been here, picture this. You know how Disneyland and Disneyworld have those little "neighborhoods" - like Frontierland and Old Town New Orleans? Well, imagine two of those little hoods - any two will do. Now you've got the size of Opryland.

Now, put it under a glass bubble. That's right, a glass bubble. Remember the Bottle City of Kandor from the Superman comics? Well, this is the bottle city of the old Confederacy.

Inside the bubble, you have constant AC blowing over the otherwise imitation natural environment. A shallow, completely man-made river runs through the "town." A rickety old trawler lies in its middle, half sunk. Which would be fine, except it never floated. It was made to look like a half-sunk trawler.

In the morning, you go out on your balcony in the hotel and look down at the town of Opryland, with its historic . . . tacky, overpriced souvenir stores and chain restaurants . . . and then you realize, you're not outside. You're under the glass. Like part of someone's ant collection.

At night, you walk back from dinner and you stare up at the stars. Until you realize that they're not the stars. They're artificial lights webbed into the surface of the terrarium, so that when you look up, you think there are stars there.


I could go on and on. I could describe any number of a thousand interactions with the Opryland staff. I won't. Well, OK, I'll do this one.

I get lost in the maze of the "Delta" section of Opryland. I ask a souvenir store clerk where the Bayou C Conference Room is. What follows are her directions:

Girl: Take a left and then go till you hit the Opryland Store, then go down the stairs, then a right, then up the escalator, then across the Magnolia lobby, then follow the signs to the Convention Center, but take a left. You'll see the signs for the Jackson Room, the Lincoln Room, the Bayou Room, and all the other presidents' rooms."

In responding, I only got this far, "You know, Bayou wasn't one of the . . ."

Then I realized. What's the point? Long live President Bayou.

By the way, the store sold Moon Pies as souvenirs. Which brings us to . . .

2) The food. I know that I've been living in California too long. But honestly, when you're in a place that the "healthy" veggie sandwich comes with a half pound of shredded American cheese AND lettuce, tomato, onion, and thousand island dressing, we have a failure to communicate.

Last night, I ordered room service. It was late. I ordered a "Black and Blue Salad," which the room service menu claimed to be a garden salad with pieces of beef tenderloin mixed in. I figured it'd be perfect. Ordered that and a Sam Adams.

"Just one?" the room service guy said.

"Yeah," I said.

"How do you drink just one?"

"Uh, it's late, and I want to go to bed, and . . ."

"I could never do that. You sure you don't want two?"

I consider telling him that I have a limit on the number of $6 bottled beers I want to drink in my entire life, but instead I say, "I think I'll just have one."

"Don't know how you do it, man."

"Willpower, I guess."

"Y'all want some Jack Daniels Chocolate Pie with that?"

When I visited some friends in Chicago a couple of months back, I got sassed by them for only eating twigs and wheatgrass now that I live in California. And while it's not that extreme, I was still kind of surprised when my one (yes, one) beer and salad showed up.

Because remember those pieces of beef tenderloin in the salad? Yeah. Well, it was basically a 12 oz steak cut into five pieces on top of the salad. I like steak, but dude. One of the pieces was the size of the palm of my hand. And it came with a basket with four huge pieces of bread.

Thank God I didn't get that pie. Buh. And I work for an organization trying to end childhood obesity.

3) I could go on. There's just so much more. The cab driver reading the LEFT BEHIND series. Here's a snippet from that conversation:

Cab Driver: I'm reading that Left Behind book. You know, it's about that End of Days.

Wieland: Uh-huh. How are those Tennesssee Titans gonna be this year?

Cab Driver: Miserable. It's like they ain't even got a plan . . . should have gotten Jay Cutler . . . fans won't take it . . . tell you another thing . . . if I ever get a DUI, I want a lawyer from Vanderbilt.

By the way, if you're wondering how we got from the Titans to the DUI/lawyer from Vanderbilt thing, well, I don't know, either.

Or I could take aim at my travels out here. Nobody seems to know why the Southwest Terminal at LAX seems humid on the inside. Or why there's a bird flying around Gates 9 through 13. That's right, a literal bird. It never ventures past the Starbucks, but there's nothing like having a sparrow divebombing Group C of your flight to Nashville.

Or I could point my sights at the matching golf shirts. Thursday was red with a patterned collar. Today was black. Tomorrow is a different red with a solid collar. When you see people wearing them, you sort of feel like you work at Best Buy. On the other hand, we probably have better benefits.

Or I could just point you to another thing I witnessed while here in the Music City. It's a new recording artist named Cowboy Troy. He considers himself a rap/country crossover artist, or to quote him, "a hick hop artist." I can't go into the story of why I've heard of him. It's too painful. But I can send you to his website.

It's got sample tracks and everything. My God. Including from his hit single, "I Played Chicken with a Train."

Good night, everybody. Nothing tops that.

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