Knoxville, Tennessee

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Logan Wentworth has 4 whole beards that make up 1 big beard…

After leaving Asheville, we drove for some way, took some photos of a beautiful, meandering river that seemed to feed something in my soul,

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captured more sights of wonderful countryside

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and were extra clean from the participation of 74 showers that we’d had in two days.  There’s an old saying in history from somebody or other that goes a little bit like ‘You cant make up for what has gone before’.  Well, it’s a lie.  I had so many showers that I’d made up for pretty much every bad thing I’d ever done in my life.  So now I’m on an even keel, a clean slate, a pain château!

I was looking forward to our time in Knoxville.

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I knew little about its attractions and less so of its patrons.  But I did feel like I knew something of Dr. Logan Wentworth.  Of course, Logan wasn’t a doctor in the old-fashioned sense of the word, ie, he wasn’t a doctor of anything.  But there was something about his profile on couchsurfing that drew him to me and made him seem like an authority on some subject or another.  The fact that when I saw his profile picture it was like looking at myself may have had something to do with it, the handsome b’stard!!  But I just had a good feeling about him and I guess that was why, over a month before we stayed with him and way before we even hit the U.S, I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he had to put us up and become our first couchsurfing host in this part of the World.

I’ve been extremely keen to tell the left hand side of my travelling companion’s face during this journey that I would like to arrive in unknown cities during the day, as trying to find your way around somewhere you know nothing about at night is pretty disconcerting, especially when you’re not only on the wrong side of the road but the wrong side of the vehicle too.  And so it was that we rocked up to Logan Wentworth’s pad at about 8.30 on a chilly, damp and dark Sunday eve, with not a hint of daylight left on Tennessee’s William-less horizon.  The drive to this relatively unknown city was quite eye-opening as it was the first time we had seen proof of the poverty that America can be known for.  As we drove through yet more beautiful countryside, there started appearing ramshackle properties

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complete with old cars that hadn’t had a whiff of a road in decades and the obligatory mangy looking mongrel barking at anything that went by.  And it wasn’t too long before we saw the one thing that we’d been both expectant and dreading of.  THE REDNECK…  Yes, Tennessee is Red Neck country, fo’ sho’.  In string vests or dungarees and usually both, these idiosyncratic folk could be seen doing the things that everyday people do, just in a distinct way.  The way of the Red Neck!  And even though I have a mild fascination for these people, there was also something Deliverance-like about the scenes as they flashed by, not quick enough as far as I was concerned.

On a serious note though, it is sad seeing the way some people have to live in this, the World’s supposed richest nation, especially when we had just come from something approaching luxury.  Houses half-raized, vehicles in states of disrepair, people in tattered clothes.  It made me feel incredibly fortunate to come from a country that doesn’t feel like a 3rd World country covered with a first World veil.  It was my first real taste of poverty here and it gave me the blues.

However, squeezing Trixiebelle into a parking space that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in Boyz ‘n The Hood and greeting Logan Wentworth’s beard cheered me up no end.

This is Logan Wentworth (on the right)…

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Logan Wentworth lives in a house in the downtown area of Knoxville.  The house is pretty much as close to a tree house house as one could expect from a house that was situated not in the distant branches of some bark-a-thon but right here, on solid old groundy house Earth.  It had a woody spiral staircase that seemed like it was leading up to one of these (www.freespiritspheres.com) and other woody bits and pieces that made it feel like I was staying with Woody Woodpecker, annoying laugh aside.  It had some fantastic fairy lights all over the place and other stuff too and if I was living in Knoxville I would steal it off of the current dwellers and barricade myself in, eventually dying from inhalation of stale smells and bird flu.

Logan also lives with a bloke and that bloke has a girl and she dwells in the tree house house too.  The fellow, David Cain Bowers, has one of the finest moustaches I have ever seen on a man and may be some extremely distant relative of mine (his ancestors’ name was the same as my surname, dating back to the 1200’s).  And his missus is a classical musician with an orchestra, blowing into something woodwindy that might be an oboe or might be something similar.  At any rate, she’s reet bloody good at it, I tell thee.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about peoples’ reaction to me when I meet them for the first time.  I’ve met a hell of a lot of people in the last few years, tons and tons (a ton of people is about 13 people I reckon, all weighing about 70-80 kilo’s!).  And some of those people who I’ve met are people who I know I’m immediately going to get on with really well.  But there’s this period of time before ‘they’ know ‘me’ that has to pass before they get the same feeling.  And it’s that period of time that I would sometimes like to eradicate because I feel like we are wasting time with formalities when we could be getting sown to the nitty-gritty business of having fun and being whimsical.  It’s almost like there is an interview period in which you have to feel your way into someones subconscious to let them know that you’re not a moron.  I guess this is a consequence of couchsurfing.  You have to answer questions that you’ve answered a hundred times before so that you can be ‘accepted’ as a person.  And although there was a modicum of this when I met Logan Wentworth and friends, I must say that this process was the most minimal of any people who I have met on this journey.

The first thing I noticed about Knoxville was that it sold beer for 2 bucks a can in the local pub (Pabst Blue Ribbon) and that the owner of that pub had just done some hard time.  She was an extremely generous lady cos she gave us free drinks, what with Logan Wentworth being a friend of hers and all.  Then Logan Wentworth, my travel braud and I shot the breeze and that’s when we realized that we loved Dr. Logan Wentworth.

Unfortunately for us, Knoxville, indeed Tennessee as a whole, didn’t have the year round Costa Del Sol warmth that I believed it would.  In fact, it was cold as a box of fish fingers that you forgot were in the back of the freezer.  Why don’t you have them for dinner tonight?  Go on, it’ll be like when you were a kid and your mum made you fish fingers, chips and beans for dinner.  Or put them in a sandwich, white bread only mind, with some Thomas Knight.  ‘Captain BirdsEye…’

Because Logan Wentworth is a man about town, we did some rad things whilst in Knoxville, Tennessee and we met some sweet peeps too.  Peeps like Kevin, the guy who owns ‘Yee-Haw Industries’ (www.yeehawindustries.com).  Kevin was about to buy a million and a half old printing blocks that would have given him the largest collection of old school printing blocks in America.  As soon as Kevin knew we were from outta town, he told us to follow him to a secret cabinet from which he pulled a bottle of ‘real’ Kentucky Bourbon.  He said he could only get one or two bottles of this stuff a year because it was proper proper!  Then he took the bottle top between his teeth, popped of the cork like an old salty sea dog and invited us to take a swig.  Now, I’m not a big whiskey fan but like most men I know, at some stage in my life I’ve tried to be.  I’ve gone through a period of ordering it at the bar, straight, double straight, on the rocks or with a dash of water and I’ve even gone so far as buying a bottle of it and keeping it at home but it just sat there, sneering at my lack of manliness from the shelf before I hid it behind a bottle of Malibu or Crème de Menthe.  I would shift my eyes towards it as I walked into the room where it was stored and then quickly look away before it caught my glance, wishing that my 30 quid had been better spent, notably on Mars Bars and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.  But whiskey does hold a kind of mysticism for me.  Its like the key that gets you through the gateway into the World of ‘real men’, men who work for 30 years in the same company and are sole providers for their family.  Men who have sailor tatts or who have had an old school 3 litre Rover at some stage in their lives, who have short first names and have never taken a sick day.  Throw in an 18 carat gold chain and an adoring wife in her mid 50’s and the generalization is complete.  I, as you can probably imagine, am or have none of these.  A dark rum and coke is about as close as I come.  But in spite of my whiskey short comings, I supped from the bottle of 73% vol., 140 proof Bourbon and once I’d swallowed the vomit in my own mouth, decided it wasn’t as bad as all that, passed the bottle on and vowed never again to try to be a real man.

The shop Kevin owned sold posters and such like, that he created for up-coming events.  Here are some that have been made over the years…

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and these are some of the blocks he uses…

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It was a wicked place and Kevin was a real geezer.  We checked out some other cool locations, including a sweet ass record shop, owned by a dude who invited us to come and hang with him whenever we fancied.  We were shown a very cool Theatre that had just been renovated to look like it did in its glory days…

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and also went to a café that had a daily radio show broadcast from within and that every lunchtime had a free live performance that was broadcast live on air, called The Blue Plate Special.  However, although our first day was spent as is generally the norm, as tourists of our newest temporary habitat, it was the following nights’ events that would make me feel like an honorary Knoxvillian…

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Once a year, when the end of winter is in sight and Tennessee glimpses the spring sun readying its noggin’ for its fedora or whatever that seasons head warmerer might be, the time has come to remove the ice rink from the City centre.  And although it was January and unseasonal blizzards were yet to make their ice dance towards these ere parts, it was the time of year for children to put away their skates and don their post-winter, pre-spring whatevertheywears.  But not before some adults had had one last chance to add meaning to their post-Christmas survival.

On the evening in question, I was supposed to be watching David Cain Bowers (he of ‘King Super and the Excellents’ fame) and his team of underdogs scrambling their way around a course in a relay race, from the comfort of the local booze establishment.  At 15 minutes before race time and with 2 men down, I was asked to step up to the plate and become the Knoxville Nigel Mansell.  But instead of racing motor cars around a racetrack I was gonna be racing a 5 year olds plastic tricycle around an ice rink!  BLOODY HELL, was it just about the most fun I’ve had since I sprinkled mint chocolate milkshake powder on a cow pat and watched a moo-er gobble it up.  In teams of around 5, we were to each perform 1 circuit of the rink before ejecting ourselves form the saddle as quick as poss for the next person to jump aboard and shoot off, relay style, though you try to shoot anywhere on a plastic wheeled tricycle on ice.  Why other places don’t partake in these sorts of events is ludicrous.  Everyone had such a great time, and by the time we got to the semi’s, not only was i completely mahoolered, I’d met about a hundred people, had my years’ fill of excitement in one evening and couldn’t care less who won cos i and everyone else was having too much bleedin’ fun.  In England, you’re not allowed to have fun once you become a grown-up.  In Knoxville, it was the law.

The next morning, we headed to Cracker Barrel for our first taste of American Country Cooked Fast Food Heaven (www.crackerbarrel.com).  Slightly hung over but with my name on a trophy in the Preservation Pub (although i still don’t know what position we came), we headed for biscuits and gravy, eggs sunny side up and maple syrup and bacon.  And although I’d experienced it previously, I really felt like I was in America.

And so our last night in Knoxville came and went with dinner at some friends of Dr. Logan Wentworth’s.  We all bought something to eat, his friends supplied the beer (they brewed it themselves and I must confess to tasting no finer stout than I did that night) and a night of chattle ensued.  And when we left Knoxville the next morning, it was agreed that this was always going to be an experience that we looked back on in years to come and thought ‘BLOODY LUSH GUFF’.

I like racing kids tricycles on ice.  I like Knoxville, Tennessee.  And I like Dr. Logan Wentworth.  They do say everything comes in three’s, don’t they…

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9 thoughts on “Knoxville, Tennessee

  1. Aside from the rednecks, the poverty, and the surprising cold, Knoxville sounds incredible. I love the posters and the room full of printing blocks. Did the blocks contain images, or were they mostly type/text/fonts? Cool.
    It isn’t hard to imagine you on that trike, what a good time!

    You sprinkled chocolate milkshake powder on a cow pat? On a karmic scale I wonder how much damage you did, and if you’ve had a chance to make up for it.

  2. Ha ha, yes Kerry, unfortunately i did do that, as a bored and inebriated teen. I would hope that this weeks cleaning of Alpaca poop, thus enhancing the comfort of their living quarters, has gone some way to appeasing the karmic forces!
    Re: the printing blocks, i believe the guy had a collection of small images, hearts, stars, birds, etc, the rest of the images were scanned from external sources.

    Thanks for the comment, hope things are swell with the four of you…

  3. I live in Knoxville and Mr. Bowers happens to be my best friends uncle. (He does indeed have a fine moustache.) I am glad he helped introduce you to our fine town.

  4. Hey Soooolllllll

    OMG it is so fun to read your regurgitations, and your writing style is getting really tight as well.

    Love to you.

    Beth

  5. I live in Knoxville as well. I was born WAY out in the country and grew up there.

    Actually, redneck is as redneck does. You wanted to see something worthy of pity, so you saw it. Would you feel worse for someone living in a half-razed (not raized-AMAZING I was also educated in Knox county and didn’t need spell check to catch that one) or someone HOMELESS. You were downtown, yet no mention of the mission district where the homeless are helped by Knoxville residents tirelessly every day.

    But you are right; Knoxville is a treat indeed. I left here for more than a decade and came back to roost forever. Judging from the number of my neighbors who hail from New York, New Jersey, Florida and the like, you are a little behind on the “discovery” curve.

  6. I like your blog, and I’m happy you had a good time in Knoxville. As a native, I must say that living here is pretty awesome. It’s really too bad that you couldn’t have been here during warmer weather. Spring in Knoxville is the shizznit.

    Your blog was recently featured in a local weekly newspaper, Metropulse. So expect a bunch of hits coming from the greater Knoxvegas area.

  7. What great fun! I very much enjoyed this colourful opinion of such a great city. Nice to see English folk escaping the prime USA destinations for something a little different-Knoxville is surely that!

  8. Holy shit. You hit the big time in Knoxville, looks like. Shortsighted? Screw that. You rock. I am in awe of the trip you have taken; verrrry few people do this. Sucky comments suck! Ignore them! Delete them if they show up here, they have it coming. I know you will stay honest in your writing.

    Reuben has to go “aggression class” sometime soon, but is currently asleep downstairs.

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