As I start to write this, I haven't thought of a good title for this entry.
I have sat around a lot since Thanksgiving through this past Monday and started to wonder about what I am thankful for? I didn't spend it around my family, and even my dad is more about spending time with his fiance's daughter and son in law than being around me. He doesn't realize how it makes me feel like the bastard stepchild, and at times I wonder if he really even cares to realize how it makes me feel. So I didn't do anything on Thursday besides watch Simpsons's 600 episodes, fix crock pot chex mix and eat cheese balls. Yup, sounds like a hell of a good time. BTW that is what my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be too.
I was in my normal "mood" of sorts until Monday evening. I was already pissed off about having to photo middle school basketball as it's more of a chore than high school basketball. The parents are more inclines to yell at the refs because they didn't call a foul when an opposing player breathed near little johnny or susie, and then if little johnny or susie actually commit a foul, that's just the ref being a jerk (or foul mouth version of work). After stopping photoing after the 1st quarter of what ended up to be a near 50 point ass kicking, I was sitting down and looking at social media on my phone. I ran across a post from a recent gruadate that daid he was praying for Ohio and Gatlinburg. I was puzzled, so I looked up Ohio first and saw the Ohio State University shooting, and was feeling bad for those affected. I then had that feeling trumped. I looked at what was going on in Gatlinburg and saw that wildfires were burning out of control. I thought these might get some rental cabins and the like that was similar to an incident a few years ago. However when I got home I called a friend who works with me about seeing about preparations for our coverage for the paper and the website of the local christmas parade. Daniel then told me that "Gatlinburg may not be around tomorrow." I thought he was exaggerating like he does from time to time. However I looked up info, saw photos and video of the fires, the mandatory evacuations of Gatlingburg and parts of Pigeon Forge, and saw that he might end up being completely right. I went to bed and wondered if a place that was a tourist mecca for lots of people, and a place that I have stupidly neglected to visit would be around to be visted in the morning.
I was awoken by a telemarketer call, and loaded up facebook scared to what I would see. I saw Knxoville's WBIR was simulcasting their live coverage on facebook as well as tv. Luckily for me, as my stations are based out of another region, and I couldn't see the tv broadcast. I watched the tv with the same feelings of seeing the live broadcast of September 11, 2001. I learned however that the downtown area of Gatlinburg where all the shops are, and is the place where everyone shops there was almost completly unscathed by the fires. then I saw videos of the horrifying sites that visitors and citizens of the area saw as they were evacuating. Those images and videos are now all over the place. I saw the reports of what was being damaged, and the effors the firefighters had to endure on Tuesday. I saw the death tool stay a zero for longer than I thought it would have, and then it climb to 3 for a bit, and a few hours later to 7. It was there I saw it remain till I had to cover a basketball game that night, and then I saw it at 10 later that night. I saw it just today keep at 13, but I know it will still increase as more and more buildings and building remains are searched. However, if after all the damage we can keep it to under 100 people that is still a major win. If we keep it under 50 then it's a complete miracle of the lord.
You may be asking what caused the fire to get so bad? Well, it would have been a small manageable fire that likely would have affected a few homes and forrest. However the high winds (some gusts were reported to be near 90 mph) caught the embers and scattered them to the wind, and when those embers fell they started to spread the fire like no one could have expected.
This week, I've forced myself to think back to the times I've been to Gatlinburg. I know I've been there mainly driving through as my mom would go up there once in a while when shopping in Pigeon Forge, and I know I was there in the school band as part of the annual christmas parade (which is canceled this year for obvious reasons) from the 7th grade until my senior year in 1995. When we would go there, we be let out around 3 pm, and have around 3 hours to shop, eat, or visit the arcade like a lot of us did. We would then march down River road to our end point (I can't remember where it ended), and then we would head home. After high school I din't go there for a long time until about 5 years ago I was in Pigeon Forge and decided to drive down 411 and through the downtown and take river road back to the spur (part of the 411 parkway that leads from Gatlingburg to Pigeon Forge), and go back home. I hadn't stopped there to shop or anything as it was "too busy": for my taste, and it was already dark. In September of 2012 I had my first date with my ex girlfriend, and we drove to a garage here overlooking the ski lift and sat there and talked for a few hours after we met and ate earlier. That was the last time I was there, and Monday night I was afraid that would be my final memory of that place. I had never rode the ski lift, and I still regret never doing that. However it seems that Gatlinburg's downtown area will be open for business on Wednesday November 7th, and I will be there. I have to walk around and take photos, buy some taffy, and do some shit there that I have neglected to do for nearly 21 years. If that ski lift is open and operational (dont know if the top area is still standing) then you can bet your ass I will ride it.. If I can afford to do so that is. However your damn night I am going to shoot photos and video of that day. I hope to vlog some.. I will be there on Wednesday December 7th, and I will be damn sure to make sure I go there at least once a year and walk about the people and the area again.
If you have a place near you that you haven't visited for a long time that you used to love, visiit it. You never know when it can be destroyed by fire, winds, weather, or even just be sold to another company. You owe it to that place to keep the fun alive.
And I just decided the only thing I can call this journal is simply "Gatlinburg"