This past weekend, Morristown, TN, midway between Knoxville and Johnson City, played host to the Vietnam Moving Wall. A half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, the Moving Wall has been traveling around the U.S. since 1984.
As I mentioned in my recent July post about Johnson City, I have made a concerted effort during my four years of Tennessee residency to take in as much of the state’s natural and political history as possible. For starters, I visit my sister in Memphis once or twice each year, and often stop off in Nashville along the way. The state’s two largest cities have much to offer, and my August, 2016 post on the subject remains one of my most-read entries. Secondly, I hit up the state’s spectacular hiking trails as often as possible. Panther Creek and Seven Islands are two favorite tramping spots close to where I live, while Cummins Falls, further afield, has a short, but tough, hike to a spectacular, watery destination. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the jewels of the national park system, is 90 minutes by car with traffic, and I could write pages upon pages about the joys of hiking in the Smokies. Finally, I commute to Knoxville each day for work, and have gotten to know that city almost as well as places like my original hometown of Chicago or my beloved Mexico City.
Tennessee began as a series of settlements in the late 1700’s, farmsteads usually established on or close to one of Tennessee’s many rivers, and grew from there. Few buildings from that time period remain, although you will find some early 19th-century brick “Federalist” architectural gems in towns like Jonesborough and Rogersville, and several in Johnson City. If it is log cabins, moonshine stills, and one-room schoolhouses that you are looking for, however, you’ll have to look a bit harder; most are preserved at various public parks and open-air museums. Here are just a few:
In the four (so far) years that I’ve lived in Tennessee, and over countless holiday visits prior to my having established permanent residency here, I’ve managed to explore quite a bit of the Volunteer State, from the Delta blues history of Memphis in the west to the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains in the east. One corner of the state that I have, for the most part, overlooked – and for no real reason – is the “Tri-Cities” corner of Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City.
I am actively working on changing that.
The last two weeks have been interesting in my world. I found myself quitting a job that was simply never going to meet its full potential in favor of what I hope will be a better career opportunity. In the short term, as these things go, the move is lateral, and it actually has a longer commute, but I hear nothing but good things about the place, so I will do everything I can to quell the cynical side of myself that – all too often – comes to the forefront.
I pride myself on being punctual, hard working, and loyal to any company that I work for, so changing jobs isn’t as easy or commonplace for me as it is for others. I do have a weird vibe about the fact that I left my last job without giving proper notice, but I simply didn’t have the chance to give a proper two weeks’ notice.
You see, I had to take a week for myself. This included catching up on errands, going for a hike, and visiting my sister, who as Loyal Readers know lives in Memphis. The last time I saw her down there was in Thanksgiving, 2016, just two months after our mother passed away.
Many of my blog introductions begin with the following sentiment, but it really is true: Where does the time go?
My, what a crazy year this has been.
Thanksgiving is normally a time for introspection and reflection, for remembering everything that you have in your life, and for spending the day – or at least the afternoon – with friends and family.
I will be spending my Thanksgiving alone.
This is probably for the best.
Summer in Tennessee is normally too hot for hiking, but these past few weeks have seen temperatures perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Additionally, rainfall for the year has been well above average, so that means that Tennessee’s lakes are full and its waterfalls are raging.
I have tried to take advantage of every free day to get out and about. Here are a few Tennessee hiking destinations from recent excursions worth mentioning:
Nashville has been in the news a lot lately. The Nashville Predators, an NHL expansion team that debuted in 1998, are fighting for the Stanley Cup. They won their last two games, and the the city’s nightlife-rich streets have been filled with even greater than the usual number of revelers. Additionally, the 2017 Country Music Awards air this Sunday on CBS, and the CMA Awards are the city’s perennial Big Event. If that isn’t enough, it was just last month that Governor Bill Haslam announced, from Nashville, that legislation recently passed naming Tennessee the first state to promise free community college tuition.
Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the south, and last year it surpassed Memphis, three hours to the east, in population. Downtown Nashville, its Cumberland Riverfront in particular, has much to offer.
It has been four years since I made a year-in-review post such as the one you’ve just started reading. But 2016 has been an interesting year. I was promoted twice, took a few day trips, and bought a car. On the other hand, my mom passed away, as did countless artists and celebrities, all of them before their time. Additionally, my general stress level seemed to increase tenfold. There have been times, during these last two months in particular, when it seemed as if 2016 would never end.
2016 highlights and lowlights
What a year it’s been!
I think I speak not just for myself but for many people I know when I say that 2016 has been a tough year. Locally, over 700 structures were recently destroyed in the arson-fueled fires of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. The 14 distinct blazes, which are still less than 20% contained, have taken seven human lives, as well as the lives of countless bears and other animals.
Community response to the Gatlinburg fires has been phenomenal. People have opened up their homes to the displaced, and more canned foods and sundries have been donated to the city than it even has room for! It seems that Thanksgiving, which formally starts the holiday season, has brought out the best in almost everyone.
On a personal note, I left the smoky air of East Tennessee for a few days and visited my sister in Memphis for Thanksgiving. It was good to spend time with her and enjoy a good meal; the last time we were together was for our mother’s memorial service.
My sister had to work the day after Thanksgiving, so I took the opportunity (after sleeping in, of course) to do a bit of self-guided exploration of urban Memphis.
And by “urban Memphis,” I mean “the hood.” Continue reading “Exploring Urban Memphis”
November has, thus far, been rife with disappointment. On a personal level, I have slowly been making peace with my mother’s passing, less than two months ago, while weathering a relationship break-up that felt like a sucker punch. Regarding the former, it took several weeks to even register the fact that my mom was gone. As for the latter, I’ve been trying to assess what I must have done wrong, but am slowly coming to the conclusion that I will never know for sure. All I can say is that I haven’t been sleeping well.
On the world stage – and for the second occurrence in my lifetime – the better candidate for the United States Presidency won the popular vote but lost the election. And the other day, I logged onto social media to learn that one of my favorite mood poets, Leonard Cohen, had passed away at age 82.
At times like these, I tend towards the melancholy. I spent much of yesterday doing some archiving and came across a few blog posts from 2013. I realized that it was Election Day, 2012, when I moved to Mexico City and established gringopotpourri.com. My blog has changed a lot over the years. For one thing, the writing is better now than it was then. Darker, perhaps, but also better. The regionality of the content has also shifted from being mostly Mexico-focused to being largely Tennessee-focused.
To “celebrate” my blog’s four-year anniversary, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite posts for you, along with comments on how those posts either came to be or how they hold up today. And as always: Thanks for reading!