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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

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.

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