Sunday, May 22, 2011

American Idol Adventures in Chattanooga

When it was down to the last three American Idol hopefuls, the contestants were sent back to their hometowns in a huge media extravaganza.  One of those contestants happened to be a super talented sixteen year old girl named Lauren Alaina from Rossville, Georgia.  Well, Deb and I are from Chattanooga which borders Georgia and the town of Rossville.  We are actually staying in Rossville right now in the Best Holiday Trav'l RV park off Mack Smith Road.  We have both enjoyed the American Idol show for a long time and I was excited and eager to support our hometown girl, Lauren.  I saw in the paper that she would make an appearance at Coolidge Park in Chattanooga so I planned to show up to support her and hoped that Chattanooga would make her proud.  I openly admit I am prejudice but I really do think she is the most talented contestant and should be the next American Idol.
It was a long and really odd day.  The plan outlined out in the paper was for Lauren to march across the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge in front of the Rossville High School and the nationally honored Soddy Daisy High School marching bands.  This was scheduled for 11:00 Saturday morning and I was ready and waiting at the end of the bridge along with good friends Terri and Lily. 
Oddly, the Chattanooga police started clearing the bridge.  Now I was there just to cheer on our American Idol, Lauren Alaina, but there were parents planning on seeing their kids in the marching bands.   This all seemed odd to me as I had thought they would probably want some spectators to cheer on the parade as it passed and to hear the marching band.  The police were courteous but persistent in herding the milling crowd off the end of the bridge to where it met Frazier Avenue.  My first impression was that it might be a safety issue.  The bridge is very old and perhaps they were worried it might collapse.  Better them than me, I always say.  But that was not the end of it.  They then proceeded to herd the crowd off Frazier Avenue and into the park.  Now the park was where Lauren was to end up but there would be time to walk down there after she passed.  I really did not understand this need to secretly sneak her into the park without anyone seeing her.  I mean, it was suppose to be a parade, with two marching bands. 

I jumped up on a rock wall that was next to the sidewalk and got the attention of one of the Officers. Standing much higher than him in an attempt to project authority I stated; "I am off the sidewalk and bridge".  He was not cowed and he instructed me to go to the park.  I pointed out that it was a parade with a marching band and that many of the parents were waiting to see their kids.  I actually sort of implied that one of those kids might have been mine.  Didn't work!  I asked why they were clearing the parade route and he used the oldest cop out in the book, "I am just following orders".  That one has been used a bit too much if you ask me.  I asked him to call his boss and explain my point of view.  Didn't work!  You know, no one wants to place themselves in a place where their bosses might jump down their throats.  This was to be tested again later in the day!
At this point, the Chattanooga police pulled out the yellow police "DO NOT CROSS" tape which gave me my opening.  I quickly stated, “I will stay on the other side of that tape".  I wanted to be the force that forced them to string that "do not cross" tape everywhere.  The way they were going, I figured it would look like our house after it had been rolled with toilet paper following a big game with a rivaling school.  Fortunately, the police had no intention of doing any more than they absolutely had to.  They ran a single strand of it across the end of the bridge and that was it.  We could watch the parade. 
A rumor started making its way through the crowd that Lauren Alaina was hours away and the parade would be delayed.  The three of us decided to walk down to the park to see what was going on.  Chattanooga is a really cool place.  Coolidge Park is located along the Tennessee River across from the downtown area.  It is connected to downtown by three bridges, one of which is strictly for pedestrians and bikers.  Deb and I actually lived next to the park until we decided to head out in our RV.  As we walked down, we saw these really fun looking cars and motorized tricycles for rent.  Lily was visiting Chattanooga and I thought she would like to see the city while we were waiting for Lauren Alaina.   I rented a bright lime green modified golf cart that was street legal. 
We buckled up and headed into the park.  No one stopped us when we got to the end of the road.  They even moved the barricade aside and we headed into the city proper.  We felt like our own little parade.  We had a hearty but amusing horn and we used it liberally.  I personally made sure everyone noticed us.  We practiced our ergonomic hand waving and got fairly proficient at it.  We had one hour and we made the most of it.  When we reached the opposite end of the Walnut Street Bridge barricade, we told the police lady we were scheduled to escort Lauren Alaina across the bridge in our fun, lime green, buggy and she waved us on through!  I admitted that I was just joking and did not press my luck any further. 
I planned on getting back into the park the same way I had gotten out.  This is where things got a little dicey.  We came around from the Renaissance Park side which leads to the back side of Coolidge Park.  This was the way we exited from the park earlier.  There were a couple of cars trying to get pass the lone police officer at the top of the hill.  Both cars had kayaks on top of them and I figured they were just trying to get down to the river.  Both were turned around.   I used all my charm with the officer explaining that I had exited this way less than an hour before and that the place I rented the little green car was inside the park.  He said the road was closed due to the pending parade and rally for Lauren.  He did not think it possible for me to get into the park.  I asked if I could at least try since I had to return the car.  He said I could give it a try.  Teri and Lily were very impressed with my silver tongue and down the hill we traveled.  On hindsight, perhaps I should have laid off the amusing horn just a little.
The next challenge proved to be my downfall.  A police sergeant pointed at me from across the road and left no doubt that I was not to go any further.  I asked Teri and Lily to jump out at that point figuring I was going to have to head back and try another entrance.  I signaled the sergeant to come over so I could at least try to get through.  I don't think this was a smart move.  Begrudgingly he came over and I was actually surprised that this guy did not pummel me with his baton or something.  I heard later that the police were all volunteers and were not being paid to be there.  That was really nice of them and might have accounted for their lack of patience and overall nasty attitudes.  They were probably not fans of American Idol either.  I did explain my plight and need to return the little funny car to their location which was right past that barricade.  Didn't work and I was happy to get the heck out of there. 
Fortunately, Teri and Lilly had already gotten out of the car and I was alone heading back up the hill.  A large rotund, red-faced, officer hurried across my path with a single hand raised.  I am not sure but on reflection, the other hand may have been on his revolver.  At this point I was focused on how I would get this little funny car back to where I rented it before my hour was up.  Because of this, I did not see the landslide of trouble I had unknowingly initiated.  
This new officer was a little upset to say the least.  I was really glad I had dropped off Teri and Lily in case I had to make a run for it.  This guy proceeded to read be the riot act and I thought his big red face might explode.  He was upset because I had run the barricade, totally ignored the police blockade, tramped all over their authority and disrespected them.  I didn't mean to, really.  It turns out that the first officer had sort of bent the truth just a little bit.  Evidently this red-faced officer was his boss and he had not wanted to incur his wrath and frankly, I understood why.  The first guy had evidently informed this new red-faced chubby boss guy that I had blown right pass him as he tried to throw himself in front of my little speeding funny buggy.  I am sure that, at the time, the three of us in the lime green funny car posed a very menacing profile and he probably thought we were trying to get past so we could blend in with all the traffic in order to escape justice, or something like that.
Once I realized what was happening, I glanced up the hill and my heart when out to this poor fellow who caused this hell to be unleashed on me.  In that moment of compassion I humbly looked into that red, bloated with anger, face and expressed my undying sorrow for the misunderstanding and chocked up the entire incident to a simple (Cool Hand Luck) "failure to communicate".  If the red faced man had had mirrored sunglasses, I might have laughed.  I was actually told to, "Never show my face again".  I was finally freed to head on out of the park with my tail between my legs.  As I passed the first officer, I planned on letting him know that I had covered for him but he would not even make eye contact with me.  That said it all and I knew he was ashamed for his lack of gumption.   
My ordeal was not over.  I was now faced with a much weakened little funny car battery pack.  Chattanooga is a hilly place.  In fact, this section of the city was known as Hill City at some point in the past.  When I rented the car, I was instructed to avoid hills.  He explained that the "warp drive" on their buggies just couldn't take it.  Well, all the streets were blocked for the parade and I did not feel lucky enough to push that envelope again.  The only way to get to the other side of the park was to loop way up Market Street to nearly the highest point in North Chattanooga and head down Tremont by way of Mississippi.  It was a gamble but really my only move.  Long story short, I made it.  I guess it was about a two mile jaunt and fortunately the last half was all downhill.  When I approached the police blockade this time, I took on an extremely humble demeanor and was able to point to where I rented the little funny car.  They were far more considerate and let me through without use of batons or guns or attitude.  I returned the car with one minute to spare, no harm, no foul.   Perhaps that is not totally true, I will have to wear a hoodie from now on in Chattanooga so the red faced officer will not recognize me.  

Chattanooga did proud with Lauren Alaina when she finally arrived.  Last Thursday we found that she had made it to the final round.  Those kids who compete on American Idol all work so hard and are so talented.  They are all winners to me and I hope all their dreams come true.


  1. I am sorry that I missed your adventures! You are TROUBLE!

  2. Yeah, I would have been in a whole lot more trouble if you had been there.

  3. Great story. It would have been nice to be a fly on the wall.
    Both Lauren and Scotty are great talents. He is from Garner, NC which is about 10 miles down the road from us. Kinda cool that we both have hometown folks to cheer for in the finale.
    Syl & Gin

  4. He has a wonderful career ahead of him regardless of how it goes from here. Hope you both are doing well! Phil