Jerry Clower Couldn’t Even Make This Stuff Up

East Tennessee is a little nutty. We all know this. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact we’re less likely than others to lock our crazy relatives in the attic and more likely to elect them to office. Whatever the reason is, things happen here you probably would not encounter anywhere else in the world – at least not on such a regular basis.

Honestly, crazy is a constant condition in this neck of the woods. Shucks, my tiny hometown has made the Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno show twice: once for the beer run and once for the drunken stationary bike rider.

Now, after you’ve lived here for awhile, you adapt. You accept folks shooting red light cameras or assaulting each other with pork products as routine occurrences. And it takes a whole lot of crazy to raise your eyebrows.

But yesterday, my eyebrows were raised so high I gave myself a headache.

Perhaps it’s because I stumbled across insanity in places where I least expected to find it or maybe it was the accumulation of crazy that got to me…

See, first I discovered by way of Michael Silence that Elvis has endorsed Obama and bootlegging is making a comeback. This information alone is not so bad. In fact, it could inspire a half-decent Southern Rock song.

But then, I stumbled across the news that one of our more controversial state lawmakers, Representative Stacey Campfield, may have a challenger for the House’s 18th District seat. This challenger would be Ron Leadbetter, associate general counsel at the University of Tennessee. In 2000, Leadbetter filed two lawsuits against UT and then-President J. Wade Gilley alleging that Gilley discriminated against white men by hiring and promoting less-qualified women and minorities.

Finally, (and this craziness hits a bit closer to home) there was this in the Tennessean:

When state Sen. Mike Williams wants peace and quiet, he takes the stairs down to the Legislative Plaza parking garage, where a wide desk and a high-backed chair are wedged into a strip of concrete next to a bank of fans.

He heads to the makeshift office, he said, when he needs refuge from the General Assembly’s chaotic traffic of lobbyists and lawmakers. The office-away-from-the-office — not quite in the legislature, but not quite outside it, either — is emblematic in some ways of Williams’ status in the Senate, where he is the only independent in the body otherwise evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.”

My senator leaves his office to play in the garage? He has a desk by his parking space. That’s not crazy at all, right?

So, is it official now? Can we just change our district from #4 to #BR549?

Or maybe we ask Elvis if he approves first?

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16 thoughts on “Jerry Clower Couldn’t Even Make This Stuff Up

  1. That is very interesting about the ‘bootlegging’ (really home brewing, not bootlegging) and I can attest it is true at our household. I do not like to be carded when I am middle-aged,wrinkled, and half my hairs are grey, makes me think I am living in Nazi Germany or something. When they started carding me and my husband for beer, I went up to the very lovely Countryside Vineyards in Blountville and purchased a home brewing kit for around a hundred dollars and since then we have been making our own and I can say it is much better than what you can get at the store, and a whole lot of fun to make.

  2. Regarding Mike Williams, it is clear that you have it in for him. Personally, I am happy that he is willing to do what it takes to get the quiet he needs to focus on his work, it’s outlandish to fault him for going the extra mile and you even go so far as to label him ‘crazy’ for doing so. It would be much more honest if you would just write whatever policies or family relations of his that you really object to rather than do this indirect backstabbing routine.

  3. I don’t have it in for Mike Williams nor do I know any of his kinfolk. For the most part, Mike is a nice guy. However, I do find it embarrassing that he opted to make a statement by dressing up as a deceased race car driver. And yes, I think it’s insane that he maintains a makeshift office by his parking space. Focus on his work? How much legislative work do you think he’s getting done down there?

    From Tennessean:

    “On Thursday, he parked himself at his desk in the garage, still wearing the jacket emblazoned with Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 that he wore to that morning’s Senate session.

    A Styrofoam cup of Diet Coke within reach, he pulled paperback books about the NASCAR great from a cardboard box, signing each one to send to kids in his district. On the front cover of every book was a sticker: “Mike Williams for Tennessee.”

    Damn, I hope he didn’t break a sweat.

    I agree with Williams on some things: other things not – either way it doesn’t change the fact that senate sessions aren’t meant to double as costume parties.

  4. If you brew it and sell it, it’s bootlegging, which is what Esco is discussing here. Different than home brewing booze because you fear the Illuminati.
    Now, I think its good that you support Sentator Williams. I assume you live in that district, so at least he’ll have your one vote to keep his feelings from being wounded.
    However, I wasn’t aware Mike Williams had any actual policies. I thought he was mostly a yes man, as in “Yes, we will raise taxes during a surplus year. Yes, we spend the surplus on bacon! What a wonderful ideal, Phil! Yes, we will fund programs with an unstable source of revenue. Yes, we can add a few more cents on for trauma centers. Yes, we can outspend what our tax base will support. Why, yes, yes, yes, Phil! Why yes, Phil, I love the idea of state-funded daycare! Why let’s even do a summer pre-k! Yes, Phil, I like your new basement. Yes, Phil, you are cute!
    And when the state prepares to tax all other items that are currently exempt to make up for the shortfall who do you think your yes man will be?

  5. And when the state prepares to tax all other items that are currently exempt to make up for the shortfall who do you think your yes man will be?

    Less likely should he opt to seek re-election, don’t you think? In which case, maybe we should encourage him to do so?

    And as funny as the “cute Phil” thing is, let’s be entirely fair and honest here, the budget passed by a majority, which means the finger needs to point in a whole lot of directions.

    The fact is, in this area specifically, Senator Williams is getting a hard time because we have a LOT of smokers. He generated a good deal of press for being the vote which tied up the tobacco tax increase. Therefore, they hold him personally responsible for getting in their pocket.

    A handful of others are reeling over his alleged involvement in the Hale Springs Inn renovation. Those folks toss him in with the Chamber of Commerce/Rogersville BMA lot and want him gone in order to prepare for their “Great Change Which Is `a Comin’” – you know the one where the terminated park and rec director will be vindicated, the entire BMA will be outed and the heavens will open up and the angels sing… yeah, that one.

    Then, a few people complain he is not available by phone or won’t return emails. I tend to believe this is true since I’ve had that problem myself. My solution is if I have a question about something going on in Nashville, I’ll ask House Representative Stacey Campfield fr. Knoxville. He doesn’t represent my district and doesn’t owe me any answers – but he responds anyway.

    See Deborah, there’s another fine example of someone I’ve picked on and do not have it in for. In fact, I’ve got a great deal of respect for Campfield. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s not sitting on his ass in the garage and when he does do something embarrassing, at least it’s for a larger cause.

  6. Ms Military, I neither support or oppose Senator Williams at this time. My comment came because there has been out of the blue two days of posts criticizing him. First there was criticism of how he dresses, which I feel is the sort of argument which belongs more at the high school lunch table than as a statement from a well regarded journalist. Then there was an accusation of mental illness because he chooses to locate his desk in what appears to be the only quiet area he could find at his workplace. There are indeed people who are crazy in government, but doing what it takes to try to get work done is not an indication of that.

    Angie, I think that the additional points you made just above about the Senator are a much better critique and are not personal like the comments about his dress. These things here are all important and reasonable concerns. Thank you.

  7. Signing books is not what I’d consider work, Deborah.

    Criticism of how he dresses? Let’s get this straight: I wasn’t making fun of his collar or his tie. I did not imply he was his shirt wasn’t cool enough or that he’d never make the cover of GQ. The man dressed up like a race car driver for a senate photo.

    Yes, I think this is inappropriate. Yes, I expect him to behave in a more professional manner. If me pointing that out disturbs you, feel free to go sit at another table.

  8. Angie, by sit at another table do you mean you wish me to stop commenting here? Just checking, it’s not completely clear what you mean.

  9. No, I am not recommending that you stop commenting. If I weren’t fairly open-minded about comments, even those I find somewhat insulting, I would have deleted them already. My blog. I can do things like that.
    What I am saying is simply this: if you find the content of this blog outlandish juvenile and consider it to be indirect backstabbing or if you assume that because I find Mike Williams’ behavior inappropriate: I must dislike his relatives, you are under no obligation to read it.

  10. Angie, that’s not my intention, and sorry I should have presented it better.

    There are certain assumptions I do make and I think there is probably something to them, I will state them.

    At the Review, you have a column that people seem to like, it’s your personal experiences, kind of like a blog. It gives color to the paper and most people look forward to it.

    It’s not a serious hard-core news beat column though and that’s fine. But I’ve noticed that on your blogs here and the old one you cover much more serious news and you do analysis and research. Your columns here are much more serious and newsworthy than most anything in the review itself. That suggests to me that deep down inside you are not really only a light personal experiences columnist, but you are a serious journalist. It’s just the Review doesn’t let you go in that direction, so you have this here as your outlet.

    That’s the background behind my statement that I felt that criticizing a man’s dress was “the sort of argument which belongs more at the high school lunch table than as a statement from a well regarded journalist”. I was saying it was NOT characteristic of the direction I see you taking your work here. It’s feedback. You don’t have to accept it, and I’m not ranting at you, but rather telling you how those two columns in a row present themselves to myself, and I think possibly others. I love the hard news you do, and I also like your local events and family writing, but things that seem petty about officials stuff I find to be a turn off. There is so much bad behavior by our local politicians that it seems to me there is a lot of real dirt to be dug up and not just mocking someone’s clothing. Now, if Williams is doing a terrible job, then his dress is fair game as part of a all out assault. But the dress thing was one of the only bits of news I’d seen of him. Also if he was a friend or relative, mocking is fair game as well, but when speaking of a public official, given your work, it comes across that you’re wearing your journalist hat at that point and I hope for more hard news when someone does that. Yes, I realize this is a personal blog as well, but it also serves a professional side I think, and is an important source of news and information for many people in this area. I like to see it developed and progress and maybe in my mind I sort of have recruited you to be the real news person locally for better or for worse. :-)

  11. I give up. I hereby state it is officially fine for Mike Williams to play dress-up during Senate meetings and hide in the garage. Likewise, it’d be okay if Lamar Alexander wanted to don a white sequined jumpsuit and pretend to be Elvis – so he could make the statement he was “taking care of business” in Washington. And if he wants to barricade himself in a bathroom for quiet time: this would be cool too.

  12. Angie, i love this man. He has brought so much money into Hawkins County. He loves history and is a preservationist. He was responsible for the grant for the Inn, and if the city hadn’t done its juvenile power grab, it would be up and running. Some call him a “yes man” while others complain he won’t rubber stamp the party line. That confuses me.

    You know he truly doesn’t care what party someone is in, just what is best for the constituents. Politics has become so polarized today that people sadly have lost sight of the value of that in their elected officials.

    He is an original, and somewhat eccentric, just as you and i are. I think all three of us are just precious, despite our critics.

    See you on the soccer field!

    Love,
    c

  13. I’d not go so far as to say I love Mike. I like him just fine – and happen to agree with you regarding the money he has brought into the area. Nowhere will you hear me dispute that fact: and he’s always been given credit here where credit is due. But that works both ways. When he behaves “eccentrically”… I mention that too. Perhaps it does seem as though I’m picking on him but there was a short span of time between his dress-up story and the garage office.

    Politically – yes, there’s been a lot of negative focus on Williams from the State Republican Party. Then, he switched parties, which lost him a large block of voters. In the long run though – I don’t think its the uncivilized nature of government which will hurt him: it’ll be the tobacco tax increase. Williams’ role got a lot of press and I don’t know about entire district, but the majority of voters in Hawkins and Hancock County will hurt you if you come between them and their Kools. Of course, that’s neither here nor there…

    Fact remains, as we speak, there’s a southern comedian out there somewhere working on brand new material which starts out: “One time there was this Ol’ Tennessee State Senator. He made a habit of dressing like Dale and even kept his office in the garage…. They wouldn’t let him come upstairs on account of… Well, he and Representative Leadbetter decided one day they’d go talk to Elvis.”

    Yes, I suppose I am eccentric too. Point taken. But if I come to the soccer field dressed as Scarlett O’Hara, I’d have to expect people would talk.

  14. Pingback: This Bears Repeating… « DeMarCaTionVille

  15. Angelia, it is a joy to me to read your essays. You are an inspired writer, and you know how i love the written word.

    I would never give you the what’s for, but i love what you wrote about me. Thank you.

    When i think of you in costume, the picture is more an exotic Tahitian young woman in a sarong. Now that, along with your new haircut, should pack the soccer field with daddies.

    i hope you will letterbox with my girls and me this summer.

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