A week of being unplugged from the incessant noise of the Internet is just what the doctor ordered. I admit, I was more than burned out. I look at dozens and dozens of political news stories every day for the Daily Buzz. There was chicken and low voter turnout and coal ash and primaries and lack of civility and …
The list goes on.
A dear friend allowed me the use of his house on the lake and I jumped at the chance to get away. My first stop, however, was the Women’s Political Empowerment Workshop in Jackson which was really fantastic and I’ll give that experience its own post later. It was invigorating and it’s always a good feeling to receive validation.
And I learned one major thing: I’m not alone.
After the workshop, we headed to Paris Landing where there wasn’t wifi or cell phone service, no noise, no distractions and only family, friends, an overflowing cooler of beer and an amazing view of the lake. Over the days we would head to the local pub where we instantly made new acquaintances and the beer was cold and cheap. The food was good with hand patted burgers and you could get a steak for half of what it costs in Nashville. It was really amazing how there was a level of casual friendliness that welcomed us. Strangers don’t exist to these folks and that is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Only one person in Henry County asked me about Mark Clayton (they know what I do) and said that the biggest problems right now is that getting state news was always a problem there. I’ve written about this before and the conversation was just a reminder that that issue hasn’t changed since I lived in Northwest Tennessee. The two local papers I bought were dangerously thin, filled with high school sports, thank you letters and pictures of county leaders smiling in posed pictures where the cutlines ran together. Good news photos is what I used to call them.
One man wanted to snipe with me a bit about Voter Photo IDs and tried to strawman the conversation about why college IDs shouldn’t be allowed that had to do with some sort of undocumented worker issue. I told him that my bullshitometer is broken and that the argument he was trying to push me toward wasn’t going to work. I told him to educate himself on the issue, show me facts and then I would have the conversation with him, but not before. As I said, I’m a bit tired of arguing about Fox News Talking Points but that’s the news du jour many times in rural areas. As I said before, not everyone gets statewide news up there on certain satellite packages.
In the mornings I would set out on the stone patio where lizards crawled up the columns of the house. I named them all Roger for no reason and when Stephanie called one a garden lizard, I had to admonish her to call him by his Christian name which was Roger. We spoke frequently with a contractor named David, who owns a tree farm in Big Sandy. He is nearly 60, but he competes at least twice a month in triathlons. He told us he just competed in a quadrathon where there was an added leg with canoes. That one was new to me. He told us stories about Ned McWherter, of stage coach roads hidden under asphalt and showed us where the steam boats used to dock.
Military helicopters practiced maneuvers where parachutists jumped into the middle of the lake. The geese were on the move and you could hear them all throughout the week. I asked about rent at local cabins in the off-season with a man who owned the local coffee shop. I realized that if lived there it would be much cheaper than where I’m living now and it would be with a view of the lake and not a box apartment in concrete where I’m living now. I’m still pondering that as I can honestly do The Buzz anywhere.
You see, I feel like the Harry Nilsson song Everybody’s Talkin’ when I’m in Nashville. There are different code words I’ve learned when someone is dismissing what I’m saying. “At the end of the day” or “It is what it is” mean basically that the conversations are winding down and there isn’t going to be a resolution. It lessens my confidence at times. I’ve written and discussed ad nauseam about the need to communicate a message outside the state capital but I realize I have become a broken record on that subject. I have said repeatedly that the only way to have a successful team is to build your bench in the off-season. That building alliances takes time, a little bit of money so you can get to where folks are and a commitment to listen.
I guess I’m just yelling in a tunnel made of jello.
Thus the need to recharge, experience a bit of history in the northwest side of the state and think through some things is what I did. I read the new Stephen King novel and wondered if, such as his main character Jake, I was lost in time. And the main thing that I garnered was that I need to do things differently for myself. That is a subject for another day.