Thursday, January 9, 1992 Knoxville, TN

A cold and wet Knoxville day, the mist so thick you can't see the top of the two buildings that grace this lovely skyline. I sit here in that particular funk associated with such days in such cities -- a funk generated by another five hours on a plane coming back from New Year's in California and two lackluster days in this muscular and sleepy place. I adjusted to my old life almost instantaneously, which is much more than I can say for my adjustment to Berkeley life. Whereas, while in Berkeley, my four months of solitary progression around the country seemed like a dream -- a dream interrupted, slipping from memory -- now my two weeks in Berkeley are such. Figure has become ground once again, and those in California -- my role among them included -- who had not changed during my four month evolution have been replaced in analogue by Knoxville, it's inhabitants, and my truck, sitting quiet and wag-tailed in David's front yard.

The battery, old and frozen, was dead of course, but an easy slide down the hill to the electric bump of the clutch popping up and she was purring contentedly, if a little surprised, beneath me. Being back in the truck, in Knoxville, with my role pre-prepared, was a jolt. It snapped me out of my jet lag into the present, revealed the past to me once again, and stirred in me an urge alien of late: to write. I began to remember things that I'd wanted to write about, to structure once again events into words, to open my eyes wide as a spectator, and evaluate my future as a series of points with indefinite connecting lines. And then the great flow of energy and events threw me an interesting curve in the form of "Travels with Charley", a book so well written and so amazingly evocative of my time on the road and in Maine that I felt that alien urge grow, that love of linguistic acrobatics fester and mutate. It was great. Too great, almost. I began to wonder if there was a point in writing at all, seeing as Steinbeck had expressed my exact state of existence 30 years ago. I toyed for a moment with the idea of throwing the book out before I got any further into it, toyed too with the idea of not writing anymore for lack of originality, then decided in a moment of egotistical sanity that it didn't really matter if I duplicated the things Steinbeck wrote about. And Good John urged me on himself on page 76: "What I set down here is true until someone else passes that way and rearranges the world in his own style."

So anyway, last night Dave and I went to a Vols basketball game -- a fairly boring experience involving fans rabid and rude, men in various forms of knee wraps, and tiny women with orange panties suspended at bizarre angles from large and uniformly blond chant leaders. After the game we walked in the drizzle back to my truck and drove to Dave's place where we were treated to the exquisite torture of watching two of his friends have a subtle and barbed fight. Chris is about to move to Nashville and Carrie, his girlfriend of the past year, is not going with him. Whether they are fabricating these arguments to ease their breakup is not clear, but the quiet and bloody words in the air were, framed in the silences of Magnum P.I. It was a thoroughly frustrating affair seeing these two people who obviously like each other a lot entirely unable to communicate in anything other than hackneyed malicious phrases -- and don't think I'm immune to this sort of thing in similar situations.

My bed that night was warm and spinning slightly, my head lively with gears and butterflies and possessed by a peculiar, surreal Herbie Hancock funk line occasionally interrupted by the pointless and arrhythmic barking next door. Eventually I fell asleep and woke up eleven hours later to this heavy and damp day, cozy in my now stable bed. I drove down to the Old Town, to the only coffee shop in Knoxville, from the window of which, waving, were Chris and Carrie. I joined them cautiously. They seemed relaxed and pleasant today and we chatted for a while. A ray of happiness began to emerge from my warm bed to pass through these reconciled lovers and off into the thick fog towards the weatherman's sunny predictions. As they left I commandeered their table by the window where I now sit, across the street from the sports bar, down aways from the campus, and, as all Knoxville is, in the shadow of the stadium.

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Chez Zeus: Writing: No Simple Highway: Knoxville, TN

Last modified: Wed Feb 18 21:28:51 1998
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