Earlier this week my buddy Greg sent me a news clipping from the Newport Plain Talk, the newspaper that covers everything that goes on in Newport, Tennessee. If you knew anything about Newport you'd know you'd want to know everything about Newport.
You see Newport, like all of Tennessee, is a fascinating place.
Oh they've got their Starbucks, their Walmarts, their parking problems, their corrupt city officials, all the general malaise that affects the rest of the country. But Tennessee, and by proxy Newport, is located at that dark intersection between Appalachia and the Deep South. It isn't afraid to parade around its reptilian DNA that characterizes an America from a different time period. It's chockfull of drunkards, snaggled teeth, moonshine, first cousin sex, snake handlers and more than 93 Chick-Fil-A franchises.
In other words, it's a voyeur's paradise. Particular if that voyeur is smart-ass Jew from NY.
Tennessee is also the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. Unfortunately remnants of that close-minded ignorance is alive and well in the Volunteer state (though hardly to the exclusion of the other 49 states, I'm looking at you Mississippi).
Which is a shame, because until we open our hearts and our minds to different ideas and cultures we can have no hope for the future and for our children. (This was an intentional schmaltzy misdirect.)
Perfect example, take the clipping that Greg sent to me.
It's the story of Deanna Holt, an 18-year old old graduate of Cocke County High School who was just named Miss December. It's a heart warmer and my congratulations go out to her, her family and her make-up artist. But further down in the story, and this is where being open minded and curious comes in, I discovered that December is officially Safe Toys and Gifts Month.
I don't know if other Tenneeseeans dug deeper, but I did. And discovered there's a whole host of toys I should scratch off my Hanukkah list. Like the You Can Shave the Baby Doll from North Korea (pictured above) with the oddly hirsute cankles. I might have purchased that for my daughters, but now I won't.
Similarly, I won't be taken in by the fancy packaging and the "style", "music" and "flash" of this innocuous looking toy...
Maybe it's best that I leave the gift purchasing to my wife.
Or resort to iTunes cards.
Of course like most internet-surfing adventures, all was not lost, I did find a must-have, conversation-starting, HR-notifying toy that will be perfect for my work desktop.
In case you're wondering, and how could you not be, the name of this robot is The Punisher.