“You can keep sleeping,” she said, even as the alarm was going off. 9 am. Time to start the day. Though, my days normally start around a special time of day called elevenish (or Pug-30, on the days that Grendel chooses me to take him out for his morning constitution).
“Nah,” I said, in courageous defiance of my own nature. “I’ll get up.”
We went out onto the balcony of our hotel, overlooking the Little Pigeon River, as well as much of the town of Gatlinburg. I smoked a cigarette while she took pictures of me for her own amusement and for my instagram. In the first picture she took, it looked like I was picking my nose, even though I was merely scratching it. So in the second picture, I made sure to pick it intentionally and unambiguously.
She went in for a shower and told me not to smoke another cigarette. So, of course, I smoked another cigarette. I didn’t even enjoy it. I haven’t enjoyed any of the cigarettes I’ve smoked here, but I’m not allowed to smoke them at home, so they have that forbidden fruit appeal–even if the fruit in this instance tastes like satan’s armpit.
The plan today was: let’s go hiking. There was a paved mountain trail to Laurel Falls that called our names. “Teeeeee-jaaaaaay. Hoooolllll-eeeeeeee. Come to the falls. Watch as water succumbs to gravity.”
But before the hiking, we had to get ready. Somehow, that process took several eternities, yet I couldn’t tell you why. It just seemed like no matter what we did to prepare for the day, there was just one more thing left to so. After several one more things, it was after 10am.
We arrived at the trailhead 20 minutes later, only to discover that the entire population of the earth was also hiking on that particular trail today. The parking lot was full and overflowing onto the streets. We had to park about a half mile away from the trailhead. We had to hike to our hike.
I knew I was in trouble when, halfway to the trailhead I started panting like a dog locked in a minivan on a hot day in July. “Great, I thought. I’m supposed to go on an uphill hike? I’m winded walking from my car to the trail.”
Early on in the hike I realized that nearly everyone we passed wanted to say hi, hello or howdy to us. Human friendliness bothers me on a profound emotional level. Take your “hello” and send it to the starving kids in Africa. Maybe they can eat it. I know I can’t choke it down.
For Holly’s sake, I fell into the habit of saying “Howdy” to those who said hi to me. After a while, I started thinking of the people who didn’t say hi as jerks. It’s amazing how quickly I can turn on what I once was.
We reached the end of the trail and saw the falls. Holly invited me to come to the top of the falls and look down. Slippery rocks overlooking a probably fatal drop? No thanks. I stood 5 feet from the edge and glanced over. There were some sort of monks or something near the bottom, setting up hammocks and playing in the river. Oh how I irrationally despised them for existing. “Uh huh,” I said, unimpressed with the tourist and fucking monk-congested falls. “So, you wanna walk back down?”
I know this isn’t exactly the kind of observation they give out pulitzers for, but walking down a mountain trail is way easier than walking up a mountain trail. I feel–and this is now a deeply held personal conviction–that all nature trails should be downhill. When will the world get on board with my visionary ideas? I’m not holding my breath.
On our way back, I decided to go the opposite direction from the way we came. Holly asked me why I was doing this. I sagaciously answered that, “All these roads around here loop around.” I based this observation on absolutely no evidence or experience. It was just a gut feeling I had. To escape a chinese finger trap, you don’t pull away from it, you push further into it–therefore to drive back to your hotel, you don’t drive back the way you came, you drive further away. The theory was bullet proof.
“Why don’t you turn around?” asked Holly.
“I’ve gone too far,” I said.
We drove for 25 minutes on a long, meandering Mountain road. We almost died at least 80 times. Why wasn’t my brilliant strategy of driving in the wrong direction working? Must have been Holly’s fault.
Finally, I turned around. I drove 25 minutes back to the trail, then another 20 back to our hotel. For those who lack my stunning Arithmetic skills, I wasted approximately 25 billion years of our time on that long and winding road to nowhere. If you think my math is off, you’ve obviously never experienced driving on a mountain road with curves every few feet.
Sometimes there were minicurves in the curves. Sometimes there were microcurves in the minicurves in the curves. Holly kept insisting that, due to the curvy nature of the road, we drive the speed limit. Little did she know, the laws of man don’t apply to me. Nor do the laws of physics. So we almost went screeching off the road into oblivion a few times. So we almost crashed head-on into a cop car. So we almost hit a lawn mower. So what, Holly? Are you going to make a federal case out of every little time I endanger your life with my reckless and unnecessary behavior?
“Why didn’t you tell me not to drive out this way, Holly?” I shouted, placing the blame squarely where it belonged.
“I fucking did!” she protested.
“You should have been more adamant!” I argued, with infinitely sound logic. She was silent for a very long time after that, no doubt reflecting on how wrong she was.
It was raining by then in Gatlinburg and we were both starving. But since Gatlinburg is a city of walking, we decided to go to the more driving-friendly nearby city of Pigeon Forge (a town famous for it’s counterfeit birds). We drove past a place called the Old Mill Pottery House Cafe and Grille. “Let’s go there,” Holly said.
“Peh,” I scoffed, driving past. I pulled into a parking lot down the road and pulled out my phone. “We will use Urban Spoon,” I declared. “It will tell us the user-ratings of all the restaurants nearby.” And because my life is a shitty sitcom, Old Mill Pottery House and Cafe was far and away the most well-liked restaurant in the area.
Nothing interesting happened in the restaurant. We ate soup and sandwiches and reflected on the nature of reality. Also, I think several people may have died. I wasn’t paying much attention to anything beyond shoveling food into my ample but empty belly.
We drove back to the Hotel where I took a bath to soak my hiking-sore legs. While I was in the tub, Holly saw a majestic rainbow over the mountain tops. I didn’t see it, because life likes to shit directly into my soul.
It was still raining when I got out of the tub, so we listened to music on my laptop. We listened to songs from animated Disney films, then we listened to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. We wondered what the lyrics to his song ‘The Higgs Bosen Blues’ meant. After listening to a rambling interview of Nick’s we discovered that the song was “a series of tableus of spiritual collapse.” Glad that was resolved. I thought it was about butts. I still think it might be.
When the rain finally let up, we ventured into town and checked out some shops. First, we encountered a store that primarily sold novelty socks, run by an oddly mirthless woman who seemed wary of us. You’d think someone running a novelty sock store would be happier, then again maybe she had just realized, “Oh my God. I run a novelty sock store. Novelty sock stores aren’t even a thing. I’m insane.”
Next we went into a hippie store and holy fuck I must be a hippie because I swear I wanted everything in there.
Then we went to a nostalgia store, where I bought two posters for myself (Reefer Madness and A Fistful of Dollars) and an Ursula/Flotsom & Jetsom salt and pepper shaker set. Afterwards, I felt a bit nostalgic–for my money. The clerk there asked me if I was named after captain Kirk from Star Trek. Yes, I thought, when my family took the name kirk hundreds and hundreds of years ago, it was because they were big fucking trekkies. I beamed out of there in a hurry.
Ice cream! Holly and I went to Baskin Robbins. We both got two scoops of ice cream in waffle cones and sat down inside to eat them.
“I feel bad about eating this,” said Holly.
“Feeling bad is for when we get home,” I told her. “For now, just enjoy the vacation. Let go of worries.”
“You know, I think this is the first time I’ve gotten a cone … in years,” she said.
“Blasphemy,” I said.
“I usually get it in a cup. I’m terrible eating these cones.”
Sure enough, toward the end, her cone collapsed in her hands and she was forced to eat the rest quickly. I laughed at her ineptitude.
“Holly,” I said, wise as an owl and sly as a fox, “you have to be careful not to compromise the structural integrity of the cone.” I would have elucidated further, but it was then that my cone slipped from my hand onto her lap, then to the floor. Damn it.
I picked it up off the ground. It was still amazingly in tact. “See, Holly?” I said over her laughter. “It’s still in tact.”
Then, disregarding her protests to the contrary, I ate it. And it was just as good as if it hadn’t been dropped onto the floor of a heavily trafficked store. If any bacteria had hitched a ride in the meantime, I’m sure my digestive system can take care of them. If I start puking in the next few days, it’s probably unrelated.
Eating ice cream put me in the mood for a pizza. Luckily, there was a pizza place just a skip, hop and cumshot away. There, we encountered a girl who not only served us pizza but also informed us of the near godlike brilliance of a local hypnotist/comedian/relationship counselor/motivational speaker/genius whose local hypnotism show is “totally worth it.” “He saved my relationship,” she told us. I wanted to ask if he also walked on water. Then I asked myself, “Am I really jealous that a pizza clerk that I wouldn’t care about unless she was bleeding to death in the street thinks so highly of some random stranger that I’ve never met?” I then answered myself: Uh, yeah, dude. Haven’t you been listening for the last 29 years?
The pizza place was also an arcade open until 12am. It was only 10:22 so I thought Holly and I would stay and play some games. Alas, I had no cash and the ATM machine was kaput. I decided to venture out into the city to find another ATM machine to get some cash to get some tokens to play some games until midnight. But by the time I found one I was 5 minutes walk away and it no longer seemed worth it.
So I came back to the hotel, smoked more cigarettes–which I think taste more like the contents of a vaccuum cleaner than Satan’s armpit, upon deeper reflection. And I wrote this account of my day. The end, I guess.