It has been a strange fact of life at Pigeon Forge that hardly anyone has been talking about the election. It is as if people have hidden themselves away in this fantasy land purposefully to hide away from what is going on. I chatted to Kristy about it last night and she said that the staff had noticed the same. By being here on 8th November the guests will not be voting: had they voted early? Where they so disenfranchised with the situation that they were not voting at all? Nobody knows.
As I wake and check the early news bulletins I discover that Donald Trump has somehow managed to pull off an astounding victory. I cannot imagine that the hotel will be so quiet now.
This blog is not a political forum, but the news leaves me feeling numb. There is a feeling in England (rightly or wrongly) that a Trump presidency will be a dangerous one for the world, and I don’t think anyone quite believed it would really happen. Of course, we have been through this ourselves once this year already with the Brexit vote.
Social media is already in meltdown, as it was in Britain back in June, and some of the vitriol is frightening to read. The media is so polarised, that it is almost impossible to find any balanced reporting on the issues that will arise. From the tearful anchors on CNN to the crowing staff at Fox it is difficult to understand quite what is going on. Oh, for the BBC.
So, how will the folk at Pigeon Forge be reacting? Hardly at all, is the answer. The breakfast room (now without my stage in it) is its usual bright, bustling self. As I sit with my fruit I can hear occasional words floating above the general conversational fog: ‘Trump’, ‘Clinton’, ‘Obama’, ‘Governor’, ‘Senate’ etc, but the room doesn’t feel particularly energised one way or the other.
The day goes on, and to be honest I am in a bit of daze throughout it all. Everything seems rather unreal. I do two loads of washing, and chat to people in the corridors. The display promoting my shows has been taken away, leaving the TV that had been showing an interview I recorded here a few years ago completely dark and blank.
Definitely time to move on!
I get my cases packed up by 11 and say good bye to Dwight and the staff at the front desk, before setting my SatNav for Nashville and starting out on the three-hour journey.
The road west takes me through the most beautiful wooded hills, with occasional magnificent vistas opening up which take the breath away. There road is lined with advertising for guns and knives, this being hunting country. To an English mind it is so strange to see weapons freely advertised – it is one aspect of American life that I have never managed to embrace.
I turn onto the I-40 and there is one of the SatNav moments where the voice says: ‘Take the turning on the right in 165 miles.’ Cruise control on. Look out for deer!
I am very confused by my arrival time, as according to the screen I have 165 miles left, but it tells me I will be there in 45 minutes…either I am driving faster than I realised, or something is amiss with the clocks in the GPS unit, until I remember that the time zone changes in the middle of Tennessee and I am driving from Eastern Standard Time to Central and so will lose yet another hour.
I am still feeling very flat and tired, which is partly due to the fact that I have no shows today so the body naturally relaxes. I pass a large sign for the US Department of Energy and think it would be rather nice to stop and buy some.
As I drive past the city of Crossville I see a large tourist sign for the Sergeant Alvin C York State Park and, as is my want on long car journeys, I would like to know more about him:
Sergeant York was one of the most decorated US soldiers in the First World War. In 1918 at Meuse, near Verdun in France, York was involved in a daring attack on a German machine gun post. 35 guns were taken, 28 German soldiers killed and 132 captured. This action was part of the larger offensive to breach the Hindenburg line and helped to hasten Germany’s surrender.
On 8 October 1918 York was awarded the Medal of Honour. His left lapel would be further weighted down by the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion d’honneur, the Croix de Guerre, the War Merit Cross and the Order of Prince Danilo I.
York was a Tennessee man, having been born in Pall Mall and dying in Nashville: an amazing story and one which resonates even more with me following our family visit to the Somme in September.
The miles continue to roll by unto finally I turn off the Interstate and arrive at the Holiday Inn Express located on the very edge of Nashville airport, which will make things easier for me on Friday morning when I have an early flight to California.
For now, however, I have nothing to do. I am in Nashville for a performance tomorrow night in the grounds of President Andrew Jackson’s house, The Hermitage, but tonight I am on my own.
It feels later than it is, thanks to the time change, and it is too early for dinner, so I try to catch a short nap. I am successful and wake at around 7pm. After a quick shower and a quick bit of research I head off to a nearby Longhorn Steakhouse.
As I drive there is huge red neon sign declaring: CONGRATULATIONS PRESIDENT ELECT TRUMP, and then BOND TOGETHER USA. This is going to be the biggest issue in the short term – repairing the divide that has been created throughout the campaign. Already there are news stories of anti-Trump protest marches in cities all over the country.
But my spirits are raised somewhat by my SatNav as she intones: ‘Turn left into Kermit Drive’. I will always be cheered up by The Muppets!
The Ribeye in Longhorn is hardly subtly served, but is tender and delicious and I devour every morsel.
It has been a strange day – a momentous one in many senses, although it hasn’t necessarily felt that way. Tomorrow things should return to some sense of normality, as I will be doing what I do: performing.
It is a strange world, indeed, when acting seems more normal than reality.