Yoknapatawpha Crossing


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Before there were interstates, Kingston Pike was not a heavily trafficked road. Nonetheless, it is a well-known fact that the pike was a favorite choice of bootleggers running moonshine through Tennessee, so clearly, the road has always gone from here to there, even though the route, once upon a time, wasn’t anywhere in particular. Nowadays, Kingston Pike is one of the major roads through Knoxville, TN, because once interstates were invented, Knoxville was made a crossroads: history imploded, traffic exploded, and stores chased cars.

When I was growing up, there was frequently a need for driving through Knoxville on Kingston Pike, because all the stores were in Knoxville. Driving through the outskirts of west Knoxville would invariably prompt my dad to tell us about how he could remember, a passing twenty years ago, how everything we were looking at had been undeveloped farmland, and how unbelievable all this new development was. It was like a mantra, and eventually we all learned to grin good-naturedly. We know, Dad. Things change.

I was home for Christmas, and one night (not Christmas Eve) I was driving over to Knoxville (because in addition to the stores, it also has all the bars). Generally, my approach was to get off Pellissippi Parkway at Hardin Valley, which is the super-secret back way into west Knoxville, not so much as a shortcut, but as an excuse to get off the well-travelled roads and drive through some undeveloped farmland.

Since time immemorial, there had been a lonely gas station at the Hardin Valley exit, but as I exited that evening I saw something that (now, in retrospect, after being foreshadowed) shouldn’t have been surprising at all. A grid work of pressed steel was rising from the hillside, a metallic outline, waiting to be hung with drop-tile, insulation, wires, glass, and concrete. It was nearly finished then, and even at a Tennessean construction pace it’s probably almost finished now.

When I was in middle school, I had a crush on a girl. Of course she was beautiful, but she was also spunky, and now, now myopically molding my middle-school morals, I can easily claim that it was the spunk, not the beauty, that I wanted. Last year at a party I saw her, face covered in a plastic mask of rouge and eyeliner, wearing a blouse with a slash from neck to navel, an almost-skirt, and a Solo cup of Natty Light. Later in the night she was vomiting spunk in the bathroom with the door open.

Several years ago, I read a set of fantastic novels. They were imaginative, entertaining, epic, and perfectly constructed. In the author’s later work I found much to enjoy, but nothing to compare to his first effort. I’ve been afraid to read them again, fearful that I would find fault. Instead, they live on in my memory, immutable, the best scenes echoing, sparking endlessly between my synapses, colors and words perfectly reconstructing in loops.

All my life, creepingly, ducking my consciousness, things have been changing, and like someone living in a strobe-lit world light occasionally impinges upon my eyes. I see, and am surprised.

What I want, the way the world should absolutely work, is for everything to be the way I remember it, and eventually young people will laugh at me good-naturedly for feeling this way, while my memory grows more perfect and brilliant.


Written by Daniel Grady

February 14, 2008 at 23:39

Posted in Rants, True Stories

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