Look, I’m as Appalachian as the next guy.  Sure, I don’t have an Oxycontin habit and I’m not into government entitlements, but on the whole I’m South Appalachia through and through.  West Virginia is my birthplace and will always, on some level, be home to me.  Oh, and I know every verse to ‘Country Roads.’

As evidence of my ‘Appalachianism,’  I submit that I love going to Myrtle Beach; in fact, I just returned from a family trip near there.  We played miniature golf in a vaguely creepy fake mountain/lagoon place that was to all appearances part of the Bates Hotel franchise.  We played on the beach, we watched a movie at the I-Max, and ate ourselves silly with 23 family members in one house.

Furthermore, as a child, one of my tee-total favorite places in the whole world was Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  (https://www.gatlinburg.com/default.asp/ https://www.pigeonforgechamber.com/)

If you haven’t been there, think ‘Myrtle Beach without the ocean .’  As a kid, it was a place of wonderful fake Indian artifacts and toy muskets, most probably manufactured patriotically by patriotic Chinese communists.

I could have cared less.  There were bears in the woods, getting heart disease from discarded barbecue.  There was Ripley’s Believe it or Not, where water magically ran uphill, floors seemed too slanted to walk on them, and money mysteriously disappeared from my parents’ pocketbooks!  Wow!

I’ve been there since then with my own children.  Now the area features Dollywood  and its associated Splash Mountain Water Park (which are both remarkably nice and clean, so hat’s off Dolly).  In the general area are such wonderful attractions as rickety helicopter rides, trail-riding, various craft shops, forges, outlet malls and the biggest knife store (Smokey Mountain Knife Works https://www.smkw.com/webapp/eCommerce/main_front.jsp) I’ve ever been privileged to enter.  My kids and I consider it a kind of holy place.

Dolly Parton on Dollywood

Dolly Parton on Dollywood

So, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are cool places, and appeal to my deeply Appalachian nature and genetics.  But I saw person in the emergency department recently who had on a t-shirt that said:

‘What happens in Gatlinburg, stays in fabulous Gatlinburg!’

The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip

It got me thinking.  I mean, frankly it’s a great slogan for Las Vegas.  I don’t agree with the implied morality or lack thereof, but the marketing folks earned their money with that one.  Las Vegas is ‘sin city,’ and the images it calls up are of gambling and sexy bodies, elegant hotel rooms and hot-tubs, show-girls, all-night parties and, unfortunately, anonymous liasons.

Of course, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there.  Sometimes it comes back home with weary travelers, in the form of sexually transmitted diseases, lost income, distrust, broken marriages and assorted other unpleasant side-effects.

But what happens in Gatlinburg stays in Gatlinburg?  I’m not getting it.  What happens in Gatlinburg, for your standard-issue Southerner like myself, is that we eat, we slide on water-slides, we watch craft exhibits and musicals, we eat some more, we drive go-carts, we ride amusement-park rides, we collapse, we eat some more, we spend all of our money and we go home.

Granted, the money stays in Gatlinburg.  The memories and laughter with the family come home, and that’s what we want those things to do!  Sadly, the calories we enjoyed come home as well.

So,  I can update the t-shirt and make it more realistic.

‘What happens in Gatlinburg doesn’t need to stay in Gatlinburg!’

Now that’s a t-shirt I could wear!


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