Shine On You Crazy Dollyverse

Yeah, last week’s title was way better, but that’s what happens when you ask a friend for words of inspiration to write your weekly blog and she actually gives you three words from Apples to Apples cards. In the case of last week, the words were “Chickens”, “Helen Keller”, and “Cuddliness”. Naturally the link between them was Tyrannosaurus rex. Yeah, not much happened in my life that week. But such was not the case this past week. Last week saw me embarking on an epic road trip with three of my friends, the reason for which was to attend the wedding of one of that bunch. Along the way we laughed, cried, blasphemed, and improvised comedic routines all while riffing on the places and people around us. You know, guy stuff. We didn’t experience anything reminiscent of The Hangover fortunately, yet there was plenty that we saw and heard that we could have never anticipated we would encounter, including a server questioning familial relations for his own comfort, an unscary haunted house that was terrifying in an atypical way, and a local getting cozy in our cabin unbeknownst to us. But there can be no denying that the true show-stealer of the entire excursion was not one particular crazy experience, but one particular crazy place – a place where “tourist trap” can be used as a description of not just every individual building but the town itself. However, King of Generalization that I am, I cannot merely call it such, for this place is more than dinner theaters and bright, brilliant flashing lights on even the drugstores; it is an incredible menagerie of capitalism at work, travelers’ desires coming to neon light, and food, food, food! and it’s all ruled over by Dolly Parton’s enormous boobs. I speak of the one and only Pigeon Forge.

I was originally planning on unoriginally romanticizing the American road trip, but how could I not talk about such a place when such a place exists!? Imagine a piece of Las Vegas’ damaged liver being transplanted in eastern Tennessee and you’ve got an idea of what it’s like to drive through Pigeon Forge. It’s a good thing it took all day driving to get down to our eventual destination and that we were driving along PF’s strip after 11pm because the overexposure of bright colors on signs and buildings blaring at us out of the darkness of the valley had me distractedly covering all three lanes of the thankfully empty road. We later realized that since Pigeon Forge caters exclusively to inhaling money from family activities it doesn’t really stay open too late past sundown. So once the last showing of Dixie Stampede ends it’s time for bed! I’ll explain just what that is, but first let me slap some more paint on the already dripping picture of excess that is Pigeon Forge. When you drive into the town heading toward Gatlinburg you pass by multiple knife and gun stores, two As Seen on TV Stores, two $9.98 or Less Stores, hundreds of pancake cabins (not pancake houses, cabins), and other restaurants, dinner theaters, and themed attractions. As my friends pointed out, it looks like an eternal county fair, a carnival that came to town and never left, or a beachside tourist shanty town dropped into the mountains.

Our ride down to Gatlinburg – our actual destination and a place also worth observing – was spent in construction zone after construction zone while listening to comedy podcasts (highly recommend Superego) and an iPhone’s shuffle function fall in love with Kanye West (we had to verify that “Shuffle” was actually turned on and that there was more than just Kanye on the playlist). So imagine how overwhelmed we were at the sight of this after a day on the road. Did you like the black bears over the sign that reads “Jesus Saves”? I sure did. It was the centerpiece of a dinner theater adorned with gold so that you might think it is the premiere place on the strip, but it sure isn’t. That honor belongs to Dolly’s Dixie Stampede, a deep-fried dining experience that features horse riding stunts, singing, horrendous family-appropriate humor, and oh yeah, and it’s all set up as a competition between North and South. Yep, when you buy your ticket you are asked which side you want to sit on. The place you’ll be eating in is a horseshoe arena with stadium seating that looks down into a long sand floor where horses, buffalo, chickens, pigs, and comedians less funny than I trample along to entertain the masses that have the cooked remains of almost all of those animals set before them in a king-sized feast that you are more than encouraged to eat with your hands as there is no silverware given to you at any point. The soup bowl even has a handle on it so you can drink it more easily. When you stop yourself from thinking things like, “I don’t think they realize that’s racist” and “God I hope those animals have ample room  to live in and are treated well here”, it’s actually quite fun. But don’t get too attached to the idea that the competition the performers play out is actually one, especially if you’re on the North side. I mean, the place is called Dixie Stampede, so you can kind of already guess how the whole North vs. South thing is going to play out, but in case you’re not sure, you will be when the ringleader/emcee/head cowboy guy addresses the crowd. It goes a little something like this:

Head Cowboy: “Alright everyone! Let’s hear you cheer on your teams! First, let me hear everyone on the North side.”

North Side: “Rah.”

South Side: “Boo!”

Crickets: “Chirp.”

Head Cowboy: “Okay, now let’s find out if the South will RIIIIIIIIISE AGAIN!”

South Side: “YEEEEAAAAAHHHH!”

Majority of North Side: “WOOOHOOO SOUTH!”

Actual Northerners on North Side: “What? You’re on the North Side? There hasn’t ever been any War of Northern Aggression; it was called the American Civil War and the North won it… a long goddamn time ago. We’re all part of the same country and have been sinc-”

Crickets: “Shut up Yankees! Woo go South!”

After the events are over and your dinner sits before you half uneaten because it’s just so much food (unless you’re an insatiably voracious food vacuum like me), the South is declared the winner and the place erupts in joyful applause from all but us stubborn, God-doubting, suburb-dwelling Northerners. But then the landscape curtains are drawn back and Dolly Parton comes out on a giant TV screen to thank us for coming and remind us that there is no North or South anymore, but one great America the Beautiful that we are all a part of. Words for all of us to live by. Unless you’re visiting from some other country, I suppose. In which case, China 1 next door to Dixie Stampede has a good buffet and a hell of a look itself.

Dolly Parton is greatly associated with the area because she first came to light in it and when she was old and rich enough to afford more than her own plastic surgeries she breathed new life into it with Dollywood, Dixie Stampede, and billboards the size of her breasts proudly showing her smiling face. For Sevier County, Tennessee, Dolly Parton is Jesus or maybe even God, and why not? She did shape the land there and even had the first cloned mammal from an adult cell, Dolly the Sheep, named after her. Sir Ian Wilmut, the lead scientist of the cloning team named the sheep Dolly because “Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn’t think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton’s.” I couldn’t think of a better topic to write about than Dolly’s queendom. In a way, life was created by Dolly Parton. Dolly giveth, and your money she taketh away.

This past week I was introduced to a magical mountainous land where Dolly is divine and Corvette convoys roam the highways. Gun and golf equipment are not only sold in the same store but are the featured items of them, and strange as it was, I feel like I might someday have a desire to return to it. Not so much for pleasure or to partake in the many more activities I haven’t yet partook in, but more in a way like to battle the brother of the antagonist I vanquished on my first trip or to have another taste of something familiar because I’m bored more than hungry. Whatever draws me back to the realms of Pigeon Forge, it will certainly be an interesting trip that will be worth writing about.

Thanks for reading everybody! Feel free to contact me for anonymous sex future blog topics at monotrememadness@gmail.com or by leaving a comment. Zipadeedoodah your way back again next week for the continuation and conclusion of my song of the south and the full explanation of the stories I left open in the introduction. Rest assured I will tell those and more stories of interest pertaining to the Gatlinburg portion of my Tennessee tour – Believe it or Not!

Fuck Jan,

Alex

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