This evening, we wandered downtown Knoxville, home to our son Daniel, but a brand new city to me. I was instantly enamored with the old buildings packing surprising archways and hand-carved doors, and between them, slim alleyways where coal used to be stored for warming homes long morphed into warehouses, office space and swanky loft apartments. Although I was running on the fumes of only five hours’ sleep (nothing like pre-trip excitement to catalyst insomnia) and too much coffee, the cure was within reach: each step landing in this new place, cold air on my face, the approaching corner where I would turn toward a view I’ve never seen before.
There’s a lot about Knoxville that sings out to me in the familiar tune of east coast city: the age of the buildings; the spidery ways streets are laid out, some wide boulevards and others intersecting at close quarters; the sense of time aged and changed as this city reinvented itself again and again. Living near Kansas City, which to me always signifies the beginning of the west (and
western cities), and coming from a very old eastern city, I feel a kinship to places where the buildings speak the language of my origins.
The rewards were more than sweet. Besides the glimpses of this place — a tiny cabin on top of a tall building, the shadow where a torch used to hang although the carved candle still hangs -I got to see more of my son’s life, hang out with his delightful new friend, and eat outrageously good food. Fried green tomatoes? Yes, and truth to be told, a few of these delicacies of the great beyond both at lunch and dinner. Freshly-made biscuit? Oh. My. God. With homemade blueberry jam. Pickled okra. Some kind of fried, sauced, smothered and amazingly still light chicken too. Sometimes there are amazing awards for waking up too early and getting flung through space at 30,000 feet until you can land in a brand new place.