Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Gales of November on Rocky Top

The Woodworking in America Conference gave me the opportunity to finally meet several of my email/phone friends and acquaintances face to face. I met Glen Huey who had refused to clear his schedule to meet with me when I visited the offices of Popular Woodworking two months ago. (Glen how dare you do real work when I am boondoggling to Cincinnati to score a free lunch????)

I finally met Dave Jeske from Blue Spruce. I reminded him that I gave him a shout out in the April 2008 Out of the Woodwork article in PopWood (hoping he would say that entitled me to a free set of chisels...NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!).

I met fellow Rose-Hulman alumnus Dave McDonnel, whom I had spoken to and exchanged email with but never met.

Kelly from Chattanooga told me how much he likes the blog and specifically mentioned the heart-wrenching saga of the missing chisel. (I am always shocked to see which blog entries register with different folks).

I met Mike Holden who had previously recognized my tribute to Eddy Merckx in my article on Tillers International in the June 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking.

Still the most interesting connection Gail and I made that weekend was with the town of Richmond, Kentucky. On Saturday night I told Gail I wanted to go out and celebrate a day where I had met my idol, Roy Underhill. So after making some calls, Gail determined that Hooters had Guinness on tap. (I practice beer monogamy. If there isn't Guinness…I stick with iced tea or Diet Coke). Arriving at Hooters we had to park 100 yards away, and as we approached the door we saw we couldn't even get inside. We found out that it was a pay per view Ultimate Fight Night, and it seems the locals are heavily into watching a couple of muscly guys in tight little shorts grab onto each other, roll around in the ring, and pummel each other senseless. We punted and went back to the car.

I began driving around Richmond, Kentucky hoping my highly trained nose would pick up on a hint of the scent of Guinness. Suddenly we saw something thoroughly out of place….an Irish pub in downtown Richmond. We parked and went inside. They first collected $4 from each of us to cover the cost of the band. I was hoping for something like these fellas we had been with at the Boxty House in Dublin….no such luck.

The actual band was far closer to:

As Gail and I sat down at the bar, my Guinness and her Strongbow appeared to be the only Irish/British liquids that had flowed in years. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying a Silver Bullet or something with "Drinkability."

However, thoughts about beverages were forgotten when we caught sight of him…a local man whose fashion sense was extremely special. I am not sure why he needed to wear a camouflage trucker cap along with an (HONEST TO GOD) Realtree Camo Button-Down Oxford Dress Shirt….but all of the stealth factor of that fabric was canceled out by the gleam of his silver belt buckle that appeared to be larger than the smallest three New England States. He should have been wearing a weight lifting belt to support his lower back as he carried that Sterling Behemoth around.

Our admiration of Richmond fashion was interrupted, however, when the non-Irish band broke into playing ROCKY TOP, and everyone in the place (with the exception of Gail and me) went into spasms of hooting and yee haw'ing. My jaw dropped, and I sat on my stool dumbfounded. Gail asked why I was reacting so noticeably. I explained that Rocky Top is the college song of the Tennessee Volunteers and that given our location in Kentucky, I would not have expected a favorable reaction. I told Gail that I would have thought playing Rocky Top in Kentucky would be the equivalent of a band firing up the Ohio Buckeye fight song in the middle of a bar in Michigan. However, in Richmond, Kentucky...folks just completely love Rocky Top.

Don't get me wrong, though. People in Michigan do go crazy for at least one song I know of, but it is pretty rare. The only time one sees a Michigan bar react this positively to a song is when a band strikes the opening chords of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.


JasonB said...

Being a Kentuckian, I can only guess that what you experienced in Richmond has to be due to the fact that it is a college town and Eastern Kentucky University must draw a lot of "foreigners". No self-respecting UK Wildcat Fan would cheer that song. Or maybe they were U of L fans (most of whom will root for anybody playing UK). Please don't judge our state by the bars in a college town. What you saw in Berea is probably a better representation of our commonwealth.

JasonB said...

Almost forgot - Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Jeff Skiver said...


You got it.... This blog post wasn't about me hating on Kentucky.

The truth is that this blog post was a cry for help. I wanted to alert you fine folks of the Commonwealth to the autrocities that we witnessed, so they can be addressed.

In reality my mother spent the first 18 or so years of her life in Pulaski County, and I even lived there for 6 months during Fifth Grade. So I like the state.

With all my cousins living in Kentucky I can tell you that the biggest game of the year for me was always the Indiana/Kentucky basketball game in early December as opposed to any of the Big Ten games.

Therefore having grown up with relatives who would have fought to the death to defend the Wildats... it is still ponderous to consider the Rocky Top celebration we saw in Richmond.

How would Casey Kasem describe it? "Ponderous, man.... &^%&*n Ponderous."

JasonB said...

Now it all makes sense; I often wondered how I could enjoy the writings (ramblings?) of a "Yankee" woodworker (no offense to Norm Abrams, who builds cabinets with "draws" from measured "drawrings"). Your Kentucky heritage explains it.

Heeding your warning, I will alert the UK alumni and hopefully eradicate that virulent song from our bars.

If you are ever near Hardin County, I'll take you to a proper Kentucky bar with Guinness on tap, though I will probably stick with the Smithwicks.

Tom K said...

If it makes you feel any better, I've been to that Hooters in Richmond, KY when I got sent there for work. Somehow, they actually screwed up Guinness...and I didn't think that was possible!

Ethan said...

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to screw up a Guinness. There's the "Frosty Mug" Guinness (what do you call something worse than a pet peeve?), the "Quick Draugh" Guinness (half a jar of head, which is much worse, though a little cleaner, than half a jarhead), and the "Out Of Date" Guinness (skunk), just to name a few...

Jeff Skiver said...

Ya know, boys, I started out responding to this discussion, but have decided to just make it a whole new blog post for today....