Cross Country 2005 - Thank God, I'm a Country Boy

Reprinted from West Meets East

For most of my life, I’ve made fun of country music as much as any non-fan. Yet deep within me, I always knew there was a country fan just waiting for his chance to burst free. During the times I got dragged along to the SoCal country bar In Cahoots, I became acquainted with the friendliness of country fans and the unabashed honesty of country songs. One of the experiences I remember most vividly from my first visit to Memphis a few years back is an evening spent listening to a bluegrass band. So when CJ took advantage of my captivity on a road trip a few months back and played a Toby Keith CD for me, my transformation was complete.

On this trip, when my route took me through Nashville, what else was there to do than pay a visit to country music’s Mecca, the Grand Ole Opry? And lucky me, this week just happened to coincide with the celebration of the Opry’s 80th birthday! The format of the two-hour show consisted of a series of 15-minute sets by eight different performers. Among others, I listened to old timers Porter Wagoner and Little Jimmy Dickens and contemporary stars Terri Clark and Trace Adkins (the only one whose music I’d previously heard). My favorite was a last-minute substitution, rising star Rebecca Lynn Howard. What an amazing voice!

And prior to the show, I had an amazing aquatic experience. Unfortunately, our trip to the Bahamas this week got canceled, along with our planned shark dive. But last night, as a consolation for not being able to dive with sharks, I got to dine with sharks. In the mall across from the Opry, the Aquarium Restaurant offered a dining experience... can you guess?... in an aquarium-themed environment. The centerpiece was a 200,000-gallon tank that housed every thing from moray eels and sting rays to a sand tiger shark and a six-foot sawfish. Aquatic décor and deep blue lighting finished off the ambiance fabulously. It couldn’t make up for missing a long weekend of diving in the Caribbean, but at least I didn’t have to worry about decompression illness.

Now, as if Tennessee wasn’t “country” enough, I’m off to Kentucky, home of bluegrass and bourbon. I plan to sample both....

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