Category Archives: travel and adventure
The Fellini Kroger in Knoxville is commonly considered to be an exhibit of surrealism, hence its nickname after a famous filmmaker. I like that a particular grocery can have a well known reputation, even if the grocer is Kroger, and even if that reputation is ambiguous.
Fellini’s is a 24 hour shopping-center-supermarket in it’s original 1974 condition. The shopping carts fill the nearby creeks and are parked on sidewalks leading to the epicenter. Its gumball machines are yellowed glass. The entrance is a canopy of charcoal grills and seasonal ferns. A Manager Special will likely be tofu or pickling salts. After 10pm there are no lanes open except for the computers, and the lights are turned down low over the produce section. The living sleeps, the artificial endures, and you have come here for your sustenance.
I have dreamed of these late night Fellini runs, the stale fluorescence and drone of refrigerator isles. The fronts of my shins freeze and the wet, spongy slam of a glass door entraps climbing fog upon frozen broccoli. It makes me shudder. I can see the glow of the parking lot from my house on a black, summer night. More than the building, it’s the patrons of Fellini that make it Fellini.
Naturally, I began scouting out how to document the surreality of this locale, in order that you might believe me should you not live nearby. No doubt you have experienced a similar Fellini grocery scene yourself. My investigation began yesterday, and I think that it may be over already (I am afraid).
It was a Monday afternoon and Ashley was with me. She went to the thrift store next door and I entered Fellini to get her regular pregnancy cravings, which consist of wheat saltines, plain cheerios, and carbonated water. Yes, I had more exotic expectations of these days. Even at midday Monday, and shooting from the hip, I was able to get a sense of what I wanted to do later. A lot later, like when they turn down the lights and the people arise from the bed of 3rd Creek. The phantasmagoricality is low in these shots, but remember it was midday Monday.
Then I took this one. Harmless, but it must have stirred attention behind me.
So then I shot this one. You’d think I would have known better than that.
A Fellini guard accosted me. I was escorted to the door, which was at that moment where I wanted to go.
“You can’t take pictures around here like that.”
“Thank you sir, and it won’t happen again.”
“It had better not.”
I escaped into the ferns.
I think I’m going to stick with what I told him. Not to say I won’t post up in the parking lot some night, behind the Taco Bell drive through, with a telephoto lens. But when Fellini confronts you like this it is an unsettling warning. Like an imbalance you witness in nature. Things are not right with me now. I have this soda water and some saltines which helps, but I feel like I really wanted pickles and chocolate.
Goodbye, honey. I’m going camping.
At Max Patch in North Carolina, the Appalachian trail crosses the gravel access road at about .8 mile from the top. We didn’t mean to be, but we became the Max Patch Waffle House for thru hikers. With our pop up tents, cast iron skillet, and water from a five gallon thermos, we supplied luxuries like bacon, cobbler, and even salad with strawberry shortcake.
Eventually we reached the .8 mile summit. There was a shortcut but we didn’t take it.
Then Knox did a rain dance.
For two days it rained. It’s still raining today.
I’m home. Honey?
Everything came to a head as I was looking through the Monday morning Craigslist ads. Browsing for old cars around $1,500: a downsize, a vessel, a hood I could raise and never be reminded of the computer in my cubicle, or my six year old Corolla.
There was a 1976 Datsun 610 station wagon, Tennessee Volunteer orange. Pure metal on the outside, hot cracked vinyl on the in. 4 speed with a new clutch. A dashboard of dusty electrical tape. I called. It was a man I could trust, a man I wanted to meet.
I biked from my office at the University of Tennessee to the library, where Ashley would be between her classes. Many a sales pitch have I prepared in a similar stance of passion: pedaling furiously and piecing my route. She would be excited and our lives forever changed. I wanted grease on my hands. We would make new fleeting memories, endured by great cost: of a 1976 Datsun station wagon. An orange so fluorescent. Panache of the days unseen since my father was a younger man than I.
Ashley was midway through a masters program in Education. Her unconventional idealism soared and stunk. A polarizing pupil, the academics of the university loved her zeal; the public school needed her to manage the classroom. With her physical stature like an eighth grader, it was difficult. She was a flower of naivete being ground in the bureaucratic system. I was waiting and hoping for a compromise that might work for her. I rested gently, having long ago made mine.
And so we had lived these last three years. Once before, we had been risky and a little premature. And still before that, five years before now, young newlyweds drowning in archetypes more similar to the present, although located somewhere in Western Kentucky.
With a new number in my phone and an address in Maryville, I made haste. Ashley wouldn’t understand what anything had to do with an old Datsun. I’ll explain it to you like I had to for her.
to be continued…
smaller file: NYC Spanks Liner Notes and Lyrics
Maybe you’ve heard this old album, but I wanted to share the lyrics.
Around 4 o’clock today, we are going on parade. The route will be Armstrong to Glenwood, Glenwood to Broadway, and Broadway to The Black Market in Knoxville Market Square. Honk if you see us. Throw candy.
We haven’t notified the city, but Ashley, as the member of the force (a crossing guard for Bel Morris Elementary) will be ensuring safety. I am parade commander.
We are marching with paintings, like leafcutter ants, to this month’s exhibit at The Black Market. I’ll be carrying this one:
It’s five feet tall and four feet wide. So is this one:
And Ashley will carry it.
Then we’ll come back for smaller works and a guitar. The parade commander will be providing live entertainment for tonight’s opening.
I know there are people who would love to lend us a van or a truck. However, we insist on an art parade, in the spirit of April, sunshine, and pomp.
Tags: april fools, art parade, bel morris elementary, crossing guard, if your grandma had balls she'd be your grandad, market square, new york subway, parade commander, pomp, the black market, you are what you eat. so be nice to plants and bees and (therefore) your own self
(by Levon who is still listening to Tyler James, “It took the fire”)
With renewed vigor I’ve come home to Knoxville determined to do something. I still don’t have the what exactly, but I’ve got the where. Kentucky and Virginia are forever our family homes, but this is the place that we’ve come, left, returned and decided to stay. However, having just returned from Tazewell for a few days, I have stories to tell which you may not believe and shouldn’t repeat.
This is Brian Addair, or Fathead, and Shane Wilson. It’s down off the hill at Aunt Gwennie’s. Grandmother’s hill is in the top picture. The trophy is Glen’s. Glen raced pro motorcross and everyone was raised to be as tough as him. That’s why Dustin is named Dustin, because when you read “Dustin” on the back his shirt, it’s because he’s “dustin’ you.”
Pa Paw was serious about racing. If your cousin missed a double, they’d quickly pull his broken body and wrecked bike around the other side of the jump.
“Com’ on Brent, Eddie made it easy!”
Then they’d pull Brent off to the side and Chad would make it. Chad was the best, after Uncle Glen. Anybody will tell you that Pa Paw carried a handful of rocks and so that you would at least try. You knew you’d get hurt if you didn’t. The worst thing you could tell him was that you couldn’t do something. Or make excuses. ”If? Why, if your grandma had balls she’d be your grandpa!” He said other things like that, too. Some of them worse.
Grandmother’s hill is off Dial Rock in Tazewell, VA. Just take a left at the Pop Shop if you’re coming from 460. I was walking my dog the other day and a truck stopped to ask me directions by a person’s name. That’s what kind of town it is.
Aunt Gwennie goes out to Eddie’s hill everyday to feed the mules. When Gwennie asks me to do anything, I say yes. It’s because she isn’t asking. Little Zach went with us to help, that’s her grandson.
The first time I met Gwennie she put me in boxing gloves up against Fathead. Go back and look at how big he is. The family has never questioned my loyalty to Ashley, or ever worried about any misbehavior. This is little Blake playing in the Green Room at Grandmother’s. Blake and I survive by our tenacity.
Shonna married Zach Ruble and they built a house out’ Gratton, just past Burke’s Garden. It sits in a valley between two ridges and at the fork of two creeks. An old church is in front, full of yesterday’s everydays. Zach told me once,
“Whenever I take a notion to fish, I just put on my boots.”
The first day little Zach missed a big one. The second day big Zach said,
“A fish like that, he’s the only one in that hole. What if I hook him and you pull him in?”
“I think that’d be a good idea,” said little Zach.
I didn’t catch a thing, instead I went what Uncle Larry calls “Squirrel Fishin.” That’s when you throw your line in the trees all day. After I lost a few hooks I figured I was getting too expensive.
Shonna took me to Lewisburg, WV for a day. She has three real estate offices in the region and covers Abingdon, VA to Snowshoe, WV. Lewisburg is a real nice place and they know it.
I was researching art galleries when I found something that made me smile. I’d seen it before, but not in “America’s Coolest Small Town.”
That magazine has Shonna on the cover. The lady there said I could have one and I said, “No thanks, we have a few.” Lewisburg is really cool, but the “Best Town on Earth” has long been reserved and proclaimed as Madisonville, KY. But if Lewisburg wants “cool,” then we can keep “best.”
We listened to Alan Jackson over and over because I had to learn “Sissie’s Song” to sing. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard, but it carries a lot of hope.
Anyone will tell you I’m a card shark. Probably one of the finest produced by the Kentucky educational system. Dustin is a good partner, we whip our wives every time.
But we really didn’t have a chance with some of the experience we were up against.
I’m trying to decide if I can repeat any of the stories I’ve heard over the last few days. I secretly shot videos, but I definitely can’t play those either.
The only times I’ve ever been to prison was to see some of these boys when they were in. I don’t know half of what they’re talking about, I guess I’m not accustomed to being the minority in a conversation about the great indoors.
This is Isabelle. She’s a pretty little girl, people tell her all the time that she looks like Ashley. She says, “No, Ashley looks like me.” She asked me if I had a girlfriend. I told her no, but her cousin wouldn’t like her asking me very much.
I don’t know what the last count is on how big the family is. Everywhere you look, you see little happenings like this one. Grandmother has 9 kids with about 50 first cousins. That generation ranges in age from 11 to 49 and probably has another 80 kids. Grandmother even has a handful of great greats. There’s more on the way.
But that’s not a clue that Ashley and I have any news.
I’m done talking about Tazewell now, I have to get to work. We’ve all spent some rough moments together lately but it has been good to have each other. It makes me value where I have come from and where I have found myself. We have been formed in one place and added context in others. It matters to recognize that. To continue a good story, we should see to it that it’s the one we want told. And also that we know the one we have.
Tags: 460, alan jackson, aunt gwen, burke's garden, dare, dial rock, dustin you, fathead, gratton, heritage, hope, it took the fire, kentucky education, legacy, lewisburg america's coolest small town, lewisburg west virginia, lineage, madisonville best town on earth, motorcross, muddy creek, notion to fish, pa paw, playstation 3, pop shop, prerogative magazine, prison houe cards, prison tales, sissies song, squirrel fishin, tazewell virginia, the hill, trailer, trout fishing, tyler james
When Aunt Gwennie tells me to do something, I say yes. That’s gotten many a feller in trouble, but I suppose trouble is looking at me either way, most cases.