Get to Know a State: Tennessee

Stephen Colbert might let viewers “Get to Know a District,” but I’m doing you one better, getting you up close and personal with an entire state, the one known as Tennessee I was in Knoxville for all of 24 hours, and that now makes me an expert. Here are nine first impressions.

1) Upon entering the Mexican restaurant where a group of us reserved the private room, I saw a woman sitting down with a McDonald’s Happy Meal beside her. The food was pretty good, thus violating my 4285th rule of dining: never eat at any restaurant where diners are bringing in fast food.

2) Helping the dinner: a sangria-margarita swirl. Great concept, though it really just tasted like a flavored frozen margarita. For a better effect, maybe they can also swirl in some Dos Equis and top it with a splash of mescal.

3) The chocolate chip cookies at the Hilton Garden Inn are delicious. My compliments to the chef.

4) Al Gore is from Tennessee, except no one from Eastern Tennessee will ever admit it. The cab driver referred to the Gores as a different kind of people, the kind who earn their money by politicking, not by real labor.

5) Payton Manning has a road on the University of Tennessee campus named after him. Al Gore does not.

6) Fun things to do in Tennessee include fishing, darts, and trying to steal the Peyton Manning street sign, which had to be hoisted up 15 feet to keep it more secure.

7) Despite what I might have expected, the movie “Borat” should do pretty well there.

8) The Knoxville airport greets drivers pulling up with the day’s color-coded threat level courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security. Today’s color is orange, which explained why every person who didn’t look like Peyton Manning was being flagged at security. If terrorists consider Knoxville (population: 175,000; airport gates: 6) one of the best US targets, then we might win this so-called war on terror after all.

9) Lining the bottom of bins for personal effects at the airport security checkpoints are ads. I can’t remember who the advertiser was. I’d have taken a picture, but I actually wanted to make it on to my plane. Whichever marketer it was, it’s probably best I can’t remember. If there’s any experience I’d want to associate my brand with, it’s being delayed for my flight while I’m taking my shoes off, being x-rayed, showing screeners my travel size toiletries in a specified quart-size bag, and, if I’m lucky, getting patted down by a government worker wearing rubber gloves. Come to think of it, maybe they should advertise on the gloves too.

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