Some places are considered conservative while others are known to be more liberal. Knoxville, TN would almost certainly fall in the first category. So I wasn’t exactly expecting it to be the friendliest of cities. Upon entering its city limits, though, looks like any ‘ol industrial city USA. I drove toward downtown for a respite, down a cutthroat hill to a parking lot for small private practice offices on the north bank of Holston River. Henley Street Bridge appeared larger than life as it rose infinitely up and away from where I stood. People crossed the bridge’s pathway on lunch break and the whole scene looked like a live billboard. In this midday bustle I made myself invisible.
A man dressed in a crispy municipal shirt and pressed khakis waited for the light to change so I excused myself and asked for the nearest facilities. He took painstaking effort, longer than I would spend on a passing stranger, offering directions to one option and another just a few blocks away. He also took the time to find out a little about me. And he did. Where I am from, and what brings me to these here parts, how long I’ll be visiting, where I’m parked and if my car would be okay parked there for a while. Sending me off with a warm Southern-drawl farewell. It was evident the people of this town see themselves as interconnected.
My eyelids were heavy from trekking through the Smoky Mountains at dawn I wanted to relax a bit before I hit the road again. So I stuck around following signs for Old City that led me to Knoxville’s historic district. Old wood paneled storefronts of run-down parts of town thickened by paint and given new life characteristic of gentrification and an effervescent Bohemia: The Hipsters, it seems you’ll find them along with newsstands stacked with every town’s alternative weekly and good strong hand-selected coffee beans.
Knoxville. Hope you’ll have me back someday.