Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fibromyalgia Gets Its Own 'Twibbon'

Twitter is so hot right now! It's an instant social network where you can get and receive information on virtually ANY subject that comes to mind. I have been seriously 'twittering' for only a month or so. I have already met several people who are either involved in an interest of mine or stricken with the disease that has made my life such a pain, literally, fibromyalgia.

Today I found out that fibromyalgia has its own 'Twibbon' -- a ribbon, or other related icon, that can be added to or placed over your Twitter avatar.

Below is the link for the Fibromyalgia Twibbon ~ a purple ribbon with 'Fibromygia' on it. Please let me know if you find other twibbons or anything like this related to fibromyalgia. Anything that we can do to keep fibromygia in the forefront of people's minds and in the news can only help to gain awareness of this devastating illness.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Opryland Memories Spring Forth

Below is something I wrote today after seeing a picture and mention of Opryland USA, in another blog. The comments there caused me to defend Opryland as not only a COUNTRY MUSIC mecca, but a unique celebration of ALL types of music.

Opryland USA is gone now...torn down more than a decade ago and replaced with Opry Mills Mall. The Grand Ole Opry House along with the Opryland Hotel complex are still there, of course.

Even today, as I drive across the massive mall parking lot I recognize landmarks. Natural landmarks in the form of trees, wooded areas, the river, or the dike (you'll read about the dike below) that once were a part of Opryland USA. For those of us who played and worked at Opryland, these landmarks spring open a map in our memory. Look through our eyes and catch a glimpse of the place we came to love and ghosts of summers past.


Good old OpryHOLE! (Inside joke.) Opryland was built right beside the Cumberland River on what turned out to be a slight depression in the land. As I recollect, it existed for several years with no problem...until 1975. During the Spring of '75 it rained and rained and rained. Opryland, set to open in the next few weeks, had stocked all the gift shops...the game walls graced with tons of stuffed animals, and most rides were in final inspection. As the rain continued, the Cumberland River started to rise. It rose over its banks and spilled into the Park, filling it up! There are pictures showing how the water rose so high that the only indication of a shop was the sign hanging from the roof, the water just 6 inches or so below them. EVERYTHING was ruined.

The water was eventually pumped out, the stores repainted and restocked. The opening of the Park was delayed a couple of weeks, and a dike was built...thankfully, Opryland never flooded again. As you might imagine though, the 'Opryhole' jokes lived on.

As for the 'all country music all the time' assumption....not exactly. Opryland celebrated all types of music. The Park was divided into areas such as:

The Mod Area. 50's OLDIES played from hidden speakers as guests strolled into, through and out of the Mod Area. The workers were dressed like 50's car hops. The games were built on the same era, as were the rides. The 'Little Deuce Coupe' was a tilt-a-whirl-type ride and the 'Timber Topper', a roller coaster, shot on a rail through the tree tops.

New Orleans Area. Here the music was the BLUES. Guests had the opportunity to sip mint juleps in a Bourbon Street-type restaurant as a Mardi Gras brass band paraded past. There was a GOSPEL show in this area, too. You could eat fried clams and ride a magnificent Carousel that had some historical significance. (I can't remember the story anymore.)

Hilltop Area. BLUEGRASS and COUNTRY music played on the speakers. There live shows with fiddles and steel guitars were featured. 'The Flume Zoom', a log ride, and the 'Screamin' Delta Demon', both had tracks that wound through the woods before their rides came splashing down at the end. Craftspeople like leatherworkers, glassblowers, and woodcarvers worked on their pieces as guests watched or bought their own unique souvenier.

State Fair Area. A mixture of songs played from the speakers as guests threw baseballs at stuffed cats in the 'Gaucho Gallery', played 'Ring The Coke', or 'Skee Ball' (for a quarter a game). The 'Tennessee Waltz', a swing ride was in this area along with a huge rollercoaster with double-loops, called the 'Wabash Cannonball'.

A real steam-engine train circled the park and allowed passengers to view the beautiful landscape around the park and some buffalo grazing in the fields nearby.

From years 1973 to 1976 I had a season pass. My friends and I would go almost every day. Our parents would drop us at the entrance of the park in the morning and pick us back up in the evening. We loved the shows. 'I Hear America Singing' was a Broadway-type musical covering all eras of music. In a replica of a 1900-era Showboat, contemporary songs were performed.

One day they filmed several scenes for Robert Altman's movie "Nashville" in this setting. Included with the regular performers were Ned Beatty, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, and Geraldine Chaplin along with Yours Truly and Friends right on the front row. I like to joke that Scott Glenn and I 'did our first movie together'. I can also connect myself to Kevin Bacon in six degrees!

It is not unusual to find a star today who got their start at Opryland USA. Cynthia Rhodes who played "Penny" in "Dirty Dancing" and 'Tina Tech" in Flashdance, got her start singing and dancing on the stages of Opryland.

As you can see, Opryland was built on MUSIC, with the Opry House there on the site. However, there were many more things to do, see, enjoy, eat, and remember fondly.

The summers of 1977 and 1978 will forever be 'the good old days'. Those summers I worked in the State Fair and Mod area games. I came to know Opryland like the back of my hand and love it for the unique gift it was to music lovers everywhere.