Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why the worst day giving a walking tour is still better than the best day practicing law.

 The typical walking tour customer is:
  • These people are not at an appointment with their lawyer.
     See how they're smiling?
     On vacation
  • Relaxed
  • Interested in what you're saying
  • Self-selected
  • Happy to be there
The typical lawyer’s client is:
  • In some kind of trouble
  • Feeling trapped
  • Desperate for help
  • Wondering how to pay your fee
  • NOT happy to be there 
How do I know? Because I’ve done both. And believe me, it’s not even close. And here’s the thing. This typical lawyer client and walking tour customer could be the exact same person, just on a different day and in a different situation. And therein lies the difference.
Sorry about that “therein.” Sometimes I can’t help myself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

There's No Statehouse in Franklin, Tennessee

But that doesn't mean people don't come to Franklin looking for one.
It's happened twice that I know of.
Here it is, right in the middle of everything.
I'm in the middle of one of my walking tours on the town square by the Confederate memorial, when someone interrupts, asking, "Where's the statehouse?"
I answer, "Nashville's the capital, it's there."
No, they insist, "The statehouse of the state of Franklin."
Oh, that statehouse.
When I tell them they're about 300 miles away from it, they get very disappointed.

What they're looking for is the capitol (or statehouse) of the "Lost State of Franklin." Yes, there was such a place. For four years, from about 1785 until 1789, four counties in western North Carolina broke away and tried to form a separate state. Approval by Congress failed by just two votes. Ben Franklin didn't think much of the idea, even though its proponents tried to curry favor by naming it for him instead of their original idea, "Frankland."

Nobody ever used to ask me about any statehouse. The only reason they do now is because of a History Channel show "How the States Got Their Shapes." 

We like to think there's a Franklin State of MInd. Once, there really was.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Grave Matters in the Cemetery Raise Funds for Preservation

 Franklin on Foot, Heritage Foundation Partner to Share Stories Behind the Tombstones

It’s the personal stories of everyday life and important events that make history matter, and Franklin’s Rest Haven and Old City cemeteries are full of gripping tales and touching anecdotes from the citizens who founded Franklin, experienced the Civil War here and were a part of other key moments in the town’s history.

Twice in 2011, local walking tour operator Franklin on Foot partnered with the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County to offer guided tours of the cemeteries, including costumed re-enactors portraying the most colorful, historically important and often tragic souls buried there. The popular events attracted hundreds of people, and in December, Margie Thessin of Franklin on Foot presented a check for $2,000 to the Heritage Foundation. Proceeds from the events will support the Heritage Foundation’s efforts to preserve history in Franklin and Williamson County.

“It’s so important that we include the people who shaped the future of Franklin as we share the stories of what’s happened here over the course of 200 years,” says Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation. “Through Franklin on Foot, Margie Thessin does a phenomenal job of bringing those stories to life.”

Franklin on Foot offers guided walking tours year-round. For more information, visit

Founded in 1967 by a group of citizens with vision who wanted to protect the historic resources that make Franklin and Williamson County a special place, the Heritage Foundation has played a major role in keeping Franklin and Williamson County from becoming “Anywhere USA.”The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving our historic resources.  Programs include the award-winning Main Street Program, and the Downtown Franklin Association which promotes and revitalizes the 150 unique places to explore in the 15-block downtown National Register District. To learn more, visit

Monday, January 2, 2012

The best way to understand a place

If you really want to get to know a place, walk it. Sure, you could drive around with a guidebook and a map. Or you could hop on a tour bus where the driver doubles as the tour guide. Maybe even a big red double-decker bus with a fresh air observation deck. Or you could fly over in a commercial jetliner at 33,000 ft. You just don't get that much out of it. 
Trevi Fountain, 2010

My most memorable experience visiting an unfamiliar city was Rome, 1976. I was attending a junior year abroad program in Florence. Art History Professor Gunther Stamm announced a field trip to Rome, and directed us to meet at the train station at 6 a.m. When 6 a.m. arrived, I was the only one there...well, besides Gunther. So Gunther and I went to Rome, just for the day.
We walked the entire city, from the train station to St. Peter's, to the Colesseum and Roman forum, and the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, Piazza Veneto and the Spanish Steps. It was my first time to see the Sistine Chapel, and it was before the ceiling was cleaned. We descended into the Forum, and stood on the spot that Brutus stabbed Caesar, checked out the poured concrete at the Pantheon, and ascended the Spanish Steps. All the while my tour guide/professor Gunther gave me a semester's worth of education in one very long day.

I didn't go back to Rome until 2010. But it all felt familiar. Because of that one very long day back in 1976.
By the end, yeah, my dogs were barking. But there was plenty of time to rest on the train ride back to Florence.
You gotta walk.