Tag Archives: public transportation
Early one morning in Mexico I awoke from a vision. Before anyone in the house had stirred, I had boiled my Nescafe and begun frantically scribbling my instructions. I’d like to recite them for you:
Sell your car.
I took a jog and recited my typical objections.
How will I get to my gigs? How will we visit family? Won’t that be painfully inconvenient? Is Knoxville really a public transit town?
A vision might be a slight exaggeration, actually the idea was a long time coming. Before a household becomes carless, it first has to not have two. We sold our other car years ago to pay tuition (the one I’m living in, below).
The steps were stretched out. I worked at a bank in Fountain City and took the bus twice. When I worked at the University I would bike in nice weather. Ashley biked to school, rain or shine since we sold car #1 in 2006. The most hipster points for her.
We left our car in Virginia while we lived in New York City. Hoorah, but then we lived out of the trunk for eight months. We drove it down to Mexico and left it in Texas. We came back to Knoxville last year and made a new rule: one tank of gas a month. More biking and walking. Plus thinking ahead, making better choices, etc.
We drove to Mexico again this year, then drove back the next day. There was an emergency, and it would have been hard without a car. We got back to Mexico and I had this “vision.” Every time I was away from our car, I didn’t want it.
Nonetheless, after we returned, family circumstances required us to drive to Virginia every weekend for nearly two months.
Still, “Sell the car.”
But I need to buy canvas and transport a keyboard!
I sold the keyboard. People had stolen our bikes. I bought another bike. Ashley became pregnant. Come on.
“Sell the car.”
Hail storm. The car isn’t even worth that much.
“Sell the car.”
Okay, we did it. It’s been a month. Peace and simplification. We feel more aligned, and in tune to home by traversing it slowly and by our own pegs.
I had a gig last weekend. We took a Mother’s Day trip to Virginia. I took the bus to Cedar Bluff and back in five hours (West Knoxville)(!!). I go to the grocery a little every day. It isn’t always convenient. Transportation is never mindless anymore.
PART 2. A rant on public transportation.
Early on in our blog’s history, after a fierce attack on hipsterdom and parental allowance, I decided to ease off and not be that type of blog. After all, I am a gentle man. That said, I’ve transitioned now.
I mentioned casually that it took five and half hours to get to W. Knoxville and back on a Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t sit on a bus that entire time, I waited for scheduled buses that never came, called to find out they never would unless requested by a passenger already on the bus, was told to walk to different stops, stood outside Walmart for an hour to transfer, and probably spent two hours on the bus winding around the mall and some hospitals. Bring a book.
The bus system needs help, but truthfully I’m not sure how a city like Knoxville could have a great one. Until everybody needed it. Lets consider it the result of 75 years of misguided city planning. Why is Knoxville a narrow 30 miles along the interstate? (Cars would be the answer). Knoxville would likely need five or six bus systems, and an express train to connect them. And 75% of the population to use it. I bet new sprawl would look stupid.
Why can two people take a bus down the entire country of Mexico for $140 total, stop and transfer wherever they want, catch another bus typically within an hour, and have the bus be nicer than flying business class anywhere in the US? Cars and gas in Mexico cost roughly the US equivalent. So does flying. The answer is that the people have demanded that infrastructure.
A Greyhound bus ticket to Madisonville, KY from Knoxville, TN is going to cost $135 for two, and that’s only 270 miles. It will take 9 hours. And Greyhound is the only option I know of. Amtrak is the sole passenger rail system in the US, but I’d have to catch that in Memphis. And Amtrak prices look like airline figures.
I just wonder something. I’ve seen railroads in my town and other towns, too. Some places even have vacant train stations that they rent out for concerts or as office space. Do these railways connect? Because if they do, it could be like the internet. Just imagine. All these railroads we see everyday, only with people on them. Going from one place to another, playing cards and having coffee. I heard Europe does it all the time.
We’re America, we do what we want. Lets want better.
Tags: amtrak, bus system, car sharing, cedar bluff bus route, federal aid highway act of 1956, fountain city, greyhound, hipsterdom, intentionally carless, knoxville area transit, mexico bus travel, nescafe, passenger rail, public transportation
This will be a scattered post as that’s the way things are right now. This post will also be Harlem part 2. But first I need to back up a little to fill in some pertinant details. Saturday while we were in D.C. our laptop unfortunately died. I mentioned that, but I never said how we resolved the situation. Instead of going to Brooklyn on Sunday as planned, we decided that our trip was pointless without a computer to continually keep us moving in our job and apartment search. Sunday we computer shopped instead, then slept on the decision, and bought a Macbook on the way into the city on Monday.
On Tuesday the Macbook died. Yep, dead. I disgustedly put a couple bucks in the hostel computer to google “macbook beeping.” Macbooks will repeatedly beep three times and never finish their startup if the ram fails to power up– in case you wanted to know. So now after the death of computer #2 within 48 hours, we have been taking subways to libraries to keep up with things like blogging and all the apartment hunting/ job searching we’re supposed to be doing. Libraries give you 15 or 45 minute guest passes. The hostel charges 1.00 per ten minutes. It hasn’t been going well.
Today I went to the Mac meca of the world on 5th ave and said I needed some answers. Actually, Ashley gave them the sweet talk and the trendy guy at the genius bar took it back to his panel of geniuses and said yes, the ram was bad and they were sorry. New Macbook.
Now back to last night and our adventure to Harlem.
We were exhausted from walking all day and disappointed that we didn’t like Brooklyn. I was disgusted at Apple and was feeling like we were squandering our trip trying to fix computers instead of trying to relocate. After our nightly homemade spaghetti and a Brooklyn Lager we were reading books and feeling sorry for ourselves when I thought I should call my friends in Manhattan. I called two people. First, Lynsey.
I went to high school for one year with Lynsey and I think we spoke last in 1999. I facebooked her a couple of times to let her know we were coming. Maybe you share the feeling with me that while its easy to facebook someone after 10 years, there is still some hesitation to pick up the phone. When I called she was surprised but said she was singing in a club later that night. Her record producer was taking her and we should come. I said something like, “I can’t wait until the day we feel home enough here to get on a train at this time of night to find our way to Harlem.” I was thinking I’d be more scared trying to find my way home at who knows what hour. She said we could get on hotspot.com to find the connections to the club, Melba’s www.melbasrestaurant.com/. I said we didn’t have a computer. She texted us the directions and we got out of our slump and left.
After a 45 minute subway ride, we walked up the steps into Harlem, our first entry onto Manhattan for the trip. Melba’s is a small R&B club on 114th St and Frederick Douglas and we stuck out for several reasons: we were underdressed, wide eyed, and white. Lynsey got us in and soon we were at a table yelling over the band. The misfit Ashley and I, the friend from ten years back, and the Harlem record producer. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t sitting back at my hostel listening to Russian laughter at The Family Guy.
When Lynsey took the stage she turned every head and stopped every mouth in the club. She was that good, and her producer was beaming. Western Kentucky people just don’t reunite and take over a club in Harlem everyday. We said goodnight, I gave the producer and her my demo and then we left for the blue line as they got in a Mercedes parked right out front.
We forgot to pee before we left.
Our directions memorized, maps put away, and possessions secured, we tried to look like natives. On the subway we learned that the late night routes had some complications. Some stops were cancelled for construction, one of them being our connection back to the L train and Brooklyn. We didn’t realize this fact until we blew past it. (It wasn’t the express either, that was our first guess.) Now what? We had absolutely no idea what to do other than what she had texted us, and now we both had to pee terribly. What’s a better elixer for panic than having to pee? We were on the A train, which the map said eventually would go to Brooklyn, only to the other side of Brooklyn after it first dropped all the way down Manhattan. There, we could catch the L back from the other side, and backtrack home. After forty five agonizing, knee twitching minutes, we made the connection. Ashley had to pee so bad she was on the verge of tears. To our dismay, the connecting station had bathrooms but they were locked after midnight. We waited at the above ground station, looking down at newspapers blowing across a part of south Brooklyn I hadn’t wanted to find myself. There were only two other people waiting as we paced back and forth trying to contain our bladders. Ashley finally ran behind a stair case and I set up guard. As I went for my turn, a guy started walking towards us as if he knew what we were doing.
Then the train came and we got on.
The train had a sign with more bad news. The late night subway closed four stops before ours and shuttle buses were finishing the route, again for construction. I whispered expletives and twisted my legs about three times. Ashley was the only one with the brain capacity to be nervous. All I could do was look around the subway car wondering where the best place to humiliate myself was going to be. Three kids were dozing off to my right and a guy was standing by himself with headphones at the end of the car. I’ll just say I was holding it about 99.3% at this point. I resolved that I would pee right there in front of everyone as soon as we stopped. When we stopped, Ashley grabbed me by the arm and jerked us up to the shuttle bus. I was blacking out with pain, standing in a crowd waiting to get on.
I couldn’t even sit down on the bus. I was the only one standing, next to an empty seat where Ashley kept saying she was sorry. For three stops I cried inside and my heart was breaking. A semi truck in the industrial shitpool we were in was backing into a garage and blocked us for another three minutes. Now I was holding it about 98.7%. At our stop, I ran off before everyone else and went straight up to a wall as about twenty people followed and passed behind me to the right. I was still peeing when they were way out of hearing distance as Ashley was saying please, please, please lets go.
We ran to the hostel.
If you never listen to another word I say, heed this advice. If you are in a city and you see a public bathroom, go in. Make yourself do whatever you can. You’re not guaranteed to have one when you need one, and you’re not guaranteed that public transportation will go as planned.
Today I called friend 2, John, who is a musician in the East Village. I last spoke to John when we were in college together in 2004. However, I’m past my word limit for today. Now that I have computer #3 I’ll get some photos up. I’ve got to get looking for a job first.