Hi. Welcome to the internet where our motto is “That thing you like sucks and you should feel bad for liking it.”
There’s something about the human condition in which we want to be thought of as having good taste.
We want our friends – possibly our family – to think of us as people with impeccable opinions about things like pop culture, food and whatever else people have opinions about.
And it’s all subjective.
What is one man’s elegant taste is another’s high falutin’ hogwash. What is one person’s good old-fashioned fun is another’s idea of gauche or lame.
But the truth of it is, few of us are so tightly packed we fit neatly into a single box.
It’s hard, however, to step outside that zone and declare to your opera loving friends that you own the Monkees box set and think Mike Nesmith is an under-appreciated musical genius.
It can be hard to tell your rowdy buddies in low places that you think Celine Dion has a helluva singing voice and that damn Titanic song makes you well up.
So what did we do? Did we declare ourselves to be complex organisms with a vast array of likes and dislikes that should not be governed by an arbitrary, peer-reviewed concept of what is or is not cool?
We invented the idea of guilty pleasure. The things that we like, that makes us happy, but that we see as incongruous with our idea of whom we are and who we hope the outside world thinks we are.
So these are some of the best guilty pleasures in the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge area – though to others they might simply be pleasures, sans the guilt.
6. Attending cheesy dinner shows
Look, the performers in Sevier County are exceptionally talented.
They sing. They dance.
They act like pirates or lumberjacks or members of a murderous feud fueled by ignorance and tribalism. But they’ve never really been for me or at least not the version of me I project to the world.
Like Donny Osmond, I’m a little bit rock and roll and most of the shows in the area play a type of music with which I would never publicly associate.
I would go so far as to call a few of them quite cheesy. However, I’ve had friends star in various productions over the years and they would invite me to see their show which I would magnanimously do.
Invariably, I’d catch myself midway through tapping a toe to a song about bass fishing or drinking cold beer on a Friday night with jeans that fit especially well.
The John who grew up on the Beatles and Nirvana and Public Enemy would cast a fleeting glance around, making sure no one had caught me having too good a time, then go back to toe tapping and considering the vagaries of honky tonks.
5. Dining at chain restaurants
Many are the times that I have written on this website that when traveling, one should eschew the chain restaurant lifestyle and explore the local cuisine.
But damn it, sometimes a man is just in the mood for some Chick-fil-A, Cracker Barrel or Shoney’s or whatever particular suits you best.
And sometimes, I just want to go to the Hard Rock.
Is that so wrong? I love museums. I love slightly overpriced pub foods and as I have previously declared, I am a little bit rock and roll.
I want to eat some nachos and listen to Journey while seated next to a leather vest worn by The Edge in Toledo in 1987. And yes, I would like to loudly sing the chorus when the Neil Diamond song comes on, thank you. Bah, Bah Baaaaaaaah.
4. My taffy obsession
Visit tourist towns all over the world and somebody’s selling taffy. Who eats taffy? No one knows.
There ain’t a damn taffy shop in regular towns.
Seriously, drive all over Knoxville, Atlanta, wherever and try to find someone making taffy. It’s not happening.
But go to a tourist town? Somebody’s making taffy on every other corner and on the corners in between are fudge shops.
This feels like a Seinfeld bit. What’s the deal with taffy? I’ll tell you the deal, Jerry. It’s freaking delicious.
I’m buying the taffy. I’m eating the taffy. I’m giving it to people as gifts. I’m going on a tour. I’m coming to your city and I’m bringing taffy, baby. We’re gonna be rich.
3. Going to the movies
Sure this is from the ‘before times’, but hopefully it will be an option again soon.
Ever been worn out on vacation? Sunburned, exhausted, just want to sit in a cool place and veg out? Go to the movies.
Movies were great and will be great again, eventually. There are snacks and air conditioning and, if the movie sucks, you can nap.
2. Going to the museums
Some of the “museums” in the Smokies make perfect sense. Wonderworks? Right. Got it. Lots of fun for kids, lots of fun stuff to do.
The Titanic? Yeah it’s a bit odd to see the Titanic rising towards the parkway, but it’s fascinating, there are diverting attractions. I get it.
Why does the National Enquirer have a museum in Pigeon Forge – or frankly – at all? No freaking idea.
But as much as the idea of a National Enquirer museum is the antithesis of all I am and have stood for in my life, it’s pretty fun. Same for the Alcatraz East Crime Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not stuff.
As much as I want to roll my eyes and be aloof, if I’m being honest, I like it.
1. Riding go karts
Look, I know. It’s not a newsflash that go karts are fun.
But, objectively, why would an adult ever want to drive a go kart on vacation I just drove for hours, all the way here, in a monstrous SUV with state-of-the-art technology, super responsive steering and braking and I was making 85-MPH on the interstate like it was nothing.
Now you want me to pay to climb into a matchbox car with a lawnmower engine that tops out at 18 MPH and steers like I’m driving a mentally deficient camel? Where do I sign up?
But, yeah. Put me behind the steering wheels of that thing and I’m suddenly 14-years-old and ready to crash and bang my way around the track with my uncles until they kick us out of the place.