Yoknapatawpha Crossing

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Before there were interstates, Kingston Pike was not a heavily trafficked road. Nonetheless, it is a well-known fact that the pike was a favorite choice of bootleggers running moonshine through Tennessee, so clearly, the road has always gone from here to there, even though the route, once upon a time, wasn’t anywhere in particular. Nowadays, Kingston Pike is one of the major roads through Knoxville, TN, because once interstates were invented, Knoxville was made a crossroads: history imploded, traffic exploded, and stores chased cars.

When I was growing up, there was frequently a need for driving through Knoxville on Kingston Pike, because all the stores were in Knoxville. Driving through the outskirts of west Knoxville would invariably prompt my dad to tell us about how he could remember, a passing twenty years ago, how everything we were looking at had been undeveloped farmland, and how unbelievable all this new development was. It was like a mantra, and eventually we all learned to grin good-naturedly. We know, Dad. Things change.

I was home for Christmas, and one night (not Christmas Eve) I was driving over to Knoxville (because in addition to the stores, it also has all the bars). Generally, my approach was to get off Pellissippi Parkway at Hardin Valley, which is the super-secret back way into west Knoxville, not so much as a shortcut, but as an excuse to get off the well-travelled roads and drive through some undeveloped farmland.

Since time immemorial, there had been a lonely gas station at the Hardin Valley exit, but as I exited that evening I saw something that (now, in retrospect, after being foreshadowed) shouldn’t have been surprising at all. A grid work of pressed steel was rising from the hillside, a metallic outline, waiting to be hung with drop-tile, insulation, wires, glass, and concrete. It was nearly finished then, and even at a Tennessean construction pace it’s probably almost finished now.

When I was in middle school, I had a crush on a girl. Of course she was beautiful, but she was also spunky, and now, now myopically molding my middle-school morals, I can easily claim that it was the spunk, not the beauty, that I wanted. Last year at a party I saw her, face covered in a plastic mask of rouge and eyeliner, wearing a blouse with a slash from neck to navel, an almost-skirt, and a Solo cup of Natty Light. Later in the night she was vomiting spunk in the bathroom with the door open.

Several years ago, I read a set of fantastic novels. They were imaginative, entertaining, epic, and perfectly constructed. In the author’s later work I found much to enjoy, but nothing to compare to his first effort. I’ve been afraid to read them again, fearful that I would find fault. Instead, they live on in my memory, immutable, the best scenes echoing, sparking endlessly between my synapses, colors and words perfectly reconstructing in loops.

All my life, creepingly, ducking my consciousness, things have been changing, and like someone living in a strobe-lit world light occasionally impinges upon my eyes. I see, and am surprised.

What I want, the way the world should absolutely work, is for everything to be the way I remember it, and eventually young people will laugh at me good-naturedly for feeling this way, while my memory grows more perfect and brilliant.


Written by Daniel Grady

February 14, 2008 at 23:39

Posted in Rants, True Stories

This Is Chicago

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The big news in my life is that I just moved to Chicago. This is how I knew I was there:

The Man on the El

I was riding home on the el with my friends, when a man tapped me on the shoulder, and this is what he said:

“Hey, man, wassure shirt say? I would… kill everyone in this… room… for a drop… of sweat beer… Hom… Homer… J… Simpson… Yeah, man, thaz what I’m talkin bout. Thazza fine shirt. You okay.”

Our new friend sat down right next to us. He wore a small goatee, a beat up sweater, and bloodshot eyes. As it turned out, he had a lot of things to say, and he said them many times. What follows is a selection of the parts that I feel are most relevant, and that I could also understand:

Race Relations

“White power, baby. Fuck those niggas, what the hell, what the hell they doing. I’m not wanting to offend anybody, you know, but for real, white power. High five, man.”

The man was black himself, and we were glad that the other people on the train were all wearing headphones.

Like the mantra of a devoted swami, he chanted along to the station announcements at every stop.

“This is Clark. Diversy is next. Doors open an the right at Diversy.”

“Standin passengers, please don lean gainst the doors.”

Except he usually missed that one.


“Y’all know George W. Bush? I luuuv him. I’m not tryin t’ offend y’all or anythin, but if I was a woman, I would have his babies. George W. Bush, Bush Sr, Dick Cheney, all them, I want to get down and dirty with em. If I was a woman I would fuck George W. Bush all night long, know what I’m sayin? I’m not tryin ta offend, that’s just the way I feel. They could do me in the ass, man. Course I’m jus sayin all this, I’ma married man.”

“Doors open on the left at Division.”


He noticed that a couple of people in the group were girls.

“Man, women are the best, y’all know what I’m sayin? You gonna take me there, girl? Take me there!” snap snap

His fingers were more than a bit crusty, but for all that he could snap them very loudly, and he did, many times. The sound was made louder by his fingers’ proximity to our faces.

“Take me there, girl! You gonna take me there?” snap snap

The girl he was talking to: “I don’t know where we’re going!”

“You don need to know; you jus gotta get there.” snap snap

He was going somewhere. None of us knew where, and we didn’t stay to find out.

My train has just begun a five-year layover, and I for one can’t believe it spent so long tooling around the south. Chicago is the best place ever.

“Standin passenger, please don lean gainst the doors.”

Special Thoughtful Note

That all really happened. I didn’t have to make up any of it. I’m sorry if it offended you. I thought it was hilarious.

Written by Daniel Grady

September 12, 2006 at 19:04

Posted in True Stories

Globetrotter Grady in Berlin

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Despite the fact that pretty much no one else in the group was all that impressed by Berlin, I had a great time there and thought it was an amazing city. We only got to spend about four days there, and what little time we had was sometimes spent on pointless activities, but after all was said and done we got to do some pretty neat things.

We arrived at our hotel Thursday evening, and quickly discovered that it had communal showers in the grand European tradition. Sorry though I am to admit it, I am still a bit of a prude when it comes to such things, and spent an interesting and uncomfortable four days showering with large, talkative European men.

Thursday evening about five of us went to see a variety show at the Winter Garten on Potsdamer Strasse, which is this beautiful theater in the classic vaudeville style. Brass handrails, the flashing lights outlining the stage, employees in evening dress- the place had everything. The show was equally excellent, with a variety of gymnasts and so forth, and one really outstanding old school entertainer. That guy was pretty amazing. Let me tell you about him.

He comes out on the stage and starts chatting with us, dropping little jokes here and there that were really pretty clever- quite a few of them were plays on words that you wouldn’t get unless you knew a little German and English, and he’s dropping in references to American radio shows from the ’30s. And while he’s got his patter running, he’s doing little tricks for us- a bit of juggling, a bit of balancing a top hat on his nose. Except he’s not perfect; every once in a while he wouldn’t quite catch the hat he was trying to flip from his foot to his head, or he’d miss a ball juggling, or something. But he was great fun to listen to, and everyone in the audience was like, “What a charming old man, I certainly don’t expect him to pull off every trick flawlessly.” So as he continues with his act, he pulls out a teacup and saucer. He balances the saucer on his foot, and flips it up and catches it on his head, and we’re all like, “Yay! Good job!” Then he puts the teacup on his foot and flips it up, catching it on top of the saucer. So now we’re all like, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” Then he takes out another teacup and saucer (all while keeping up the banter) and does the same thing. And we’re suitably impressed, but we’re getting worried, because he keeps wandering around the stage with these teacups balanced on his head, and he’s good, but he’s not perfect, and they’re rattling around a lot, and we don’t want him to embarass himself by having them fall. So next he breaks out another teacup and saucer. Has a little trouble balancing them on his foot without letting the other fall off his head, but manages it. Flips the saucer up, and catches it. Flips the teacup up, it almost misses, the whole stack is wobbling, it almost falls, we gasp, but he manages to catch it. So now he has a stack of three teacups and three saucers balanced on his head, and we’re impressed. Next he takes out a tea kettle.

Teacups rattling, he leans down and balances the tea kettle on his foot. We’re all thinking, “Oh, come on man, you can do it. You’re so old and funny, don’t screw up now.” He flicks his foot. The kettle flips up through the air and lands squarely on top of the stack, which doesn’t even quiver.

The man was stringing us along the entire time. He knew exactly what he was doing, and had perfected the technique of making deliberate failures look like mistakes. The whole act, he was building a skeptical audience up to the point where they were completely empathizing with the performer. I have never seen anyone work the audience as well as he did.

On Friday, we had some tasty, tasty Brötchen for breakfast, and then piled on the bus for a “Grand Tour through the City.” It was conducted by some random friend of Professor Klabes’, and wasn’t the greatest. Bus tours to begin with leave quite a bit to be desired, and the high point of this one was the moment when the guide said, “Oh, and by the way, that was the Brandenburger Tör we just passed, turn around quick and you might get a picture.” Ah well. Friday afternoon we visited the Checkpoint Charlie museum, which is small and badly designed but very interesting. After that, I strongarmed a couple of people into visiting the Judisches Museum, which is an architectural marvel, and also a damn good museum, following which we wandered around the streets of Berlin and grabbed some dinner before taking the S-Bahn back to the hotel.

Other highlights of the trip included visiting the Pergamon Museum, and getting to see the opera Eugene Onegin. Now, Pergamon was a city in ancient Greece that built a huge altar to either Zeus or Athena, and it’s been reconstructed inside this musuem. And when I say ‘huge’ there, I mean, seriously, you walk into the first room of this musuem and are dwarfed by this massive, wide set of steps leading up to the altar. It’s just unbelievable. They also have just a shit-ton of other artifacts from antiquity, from several different areas of the world. The other things that really stick out in my mind are the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way from Babylon. Babylon, folks. Now, keep in mind that these are building-size structures that have been reconstructed inside this musuem, and I didn’t even come close to making it through the entire thing. If you should ever wake up one day and discover you’re in Berlin, this is a good place to spend a week or so. And the crazy thing is that this is just one museum on this island in the middle of Spree River with something like four other world-famous museums on it.

Moving on, the last thing I wanted to mention was Eugene Onegin. The text is a poem written by Pushkin using an unusual rhyme scheme that has since become known as an Onegin stanza. The music was by Tchaikovsky. I won’t pretend to know exactly what was going on, but the music was pretty, the staging was interesting, and after I got back to the states I read a little about the text, and it turns out it’s got a fairly interesting history. Nabokov did a crazy translation of it that a lot of people hate. And interestingly enough, Douglas Hofstadter, the mathematician who wrote Gödel, Escher, Bach has also written a verse translation of Onegin. All this has convinced me to read it. Right after I get through the new Potter…

Charles Johnston’s translation of Eugene Onegin

In conclusion, the most consistently amusing thing about the entire German trip was Herr Klabes. As proof positive, I submit this photo:

Written by Daniel Grady

July 12, 2005 at 01:13

Posted in Travel, True Stories

I’ve been had

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As it turns out, hiding in my room all day didn’t work at all. I never even got around to hiding before I’d been hit, and hit hard. At bloody 7:40 in the morning, someone tries to call me not once, not twice, but three times. The third time I finally rolled out of bed and answered it. As you might expect, I’m not the most coherent person in the world right after I’ve been woken up, so bear that in mind. The conversation went roughly like this:


“Mr. Grady, this is Officer Smith with the police. We were investigating a noise complaint in the attic of your building yesterday, and when we went up there to look around we found some homemade alcohol and what appeared to be a still. Your name came up when we asked around about this, and we need you to come in for questioning.”

Now, I don’t want to admit anything here I might regret later, so let’s just say that this accusation scared the crap out of me.

“I… uh… I have a class at 11….”

“I think this takes precedence over that.”


“Mr. Grady, are you also aware that today is April Fool’s Day?”


Absolutely scared the crap out of me. So while I can neither confirm nor deny the reports of a still being formerly located in the attic, I can happily say that there is not one there currently.

Here’s hoping you had a much quieter awakening.

Written by Daniel Grady

April 1, 2005 at 14:00

Posted in True Stories

The Best Prank Ever

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The 1st of April is always a bad day for me. The problem is that I’m an extremely gullible person, a trait which I prefer to call trusting. But however you name it, the fact remains that, if you think of the most ridiculous, asinine thing that your friends have ever convinced you was true, then I have been tricked into believing something at least twice as ludicrous. I am also a coward, which is why April Fool’s day sees me hiding in my room trying to avoid other people. However, rather than spend all this time unproductively, I figured the least I could do was bring you the story of the best prank that I have ever witnessed with my own two eyes. And the best part of the story of the best prank is that, incredibly, it didn’t happen to me. No, don’t stop reading! It’s still a funny story, I promise…

So when I was in high school, we had an assistant vice principal of discipline, and his name was Mr. Masters. Mr. Masters looked just like Mario. From the Nintendo games. Short, pudgy, moustache, everything except the stylish red cap. Mr. Masters also had no sense of humor about this fact at all; mention Mario around him, even in good fun, and you would be immediately threatened with suspension, or even expulsion. God forbid they force us to not go to school. Anyhow.

Our school was made up of several building, and on what was probably the front of the building that contained the cafeteria, in big letters way up on the side, it said “Oak Ridge High School,” ’cause that was the name of the school. And it had the school logo beside it.

One day, everyone shows up for school. Today, though, instead of saying “Oak Ridge High School,” the side of the cafeteria proudly displays “Mario High School.”

Turns out that a couple of guys had climbed to the top of the building the night before, rappelled down the side, and rearranged the letters (they built their own “M”) to more appropriately represent the management. Within two hours, everyone at school knew who was responsible, including the administration. But they could never prove it, the perpetrators were never actually caught, and their names were immortalized for the rest of the year.

Don’t believe that this actually happened? In your face, sucka:

Written by Daniel Grady

April 1, 2005 at 12:35

Posted in True Stories