Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Earlier in October Anne and I drove down through Kentucky and down to Knoxville, Tennessee, to meet a few fabulous folks at Fanboy Expo’s Totally Awesome Weekend, a convention we’d never done before. After we’d had another round of geek fun, we capped off our weekend with quite a bit of sightseeing (including but not limited to a giant dragon)…
After the convention and an elevator ride into the Sunsphere, lunch was an immediate necessity. Other than a restaurant choice pegged through the magic of Google Maps, we didn’t have complicated plans for our downtown wandering — head from point A to B; eat food; marvel at incidental sights along the way. The area in general and one alley in particular caught our eyes and brightened our day.
Even before we set foot on the streets, images were already bombarding us inside the parking garage. Downtown Knoxville has a limited number of free garages and a handy online map that points them out. We docked in the one closest to the Knoxville Convention Center and found ourselves greeted by this sight from across the street.
On the way to food, we stumbled into the middle of a Saturday farmers’ market. Dozens of residents wandered up and down their Market Square, shopping at booths for handicraft, foodstuffs, and other assorted goods. In the center of it all was Krutch Park, an oasis of nature amid the happy crowd.
Our lunchtime destination was a farm-to-table gastropub called the Stock & Barrel. They’re really proud of their extensive bourbon collection. Anne and I aren’t drinkers, but the sandwich selection lured us in, along with the phrase “duck confit fries”.
After lunch we walked over to the Knoxville Visitors Center, which has its own giant-sized mural letting you know you’re almost there.
We were hoping for brochures, but had no idea their Visitors Center doubles as a free stage on weekends. Local public radio station WDVX hosts musicians of diverse genres for free afternoon performances. We walked in just as one Luke Elliot was wrapping up his set.
Travel brochures were of course on hand, as well as a fair selection of Knoxville souvenirs for discerning travelers of all ages.
My favorite part, like nearly everything posted above, was a complete surprise — a hidden, half-block-long, mural-covered niche called either Strong Alley, Armstrong Alley, or Graffiti Alley depending on who you’re asking. Normally when we walk around a strange city and see an alley between buildings, we assume that way lies crime and bodily harm, and we keep right on going. This time, scintillating colors and familiar images beckoned to us and demanded our attention, kind of like a flat Pennywise minus the demonic murdering.
Anne was hesitant at first and held back while I charged in, camera a-snappin’. Once I’d gone a few minutes without the Jets or the Sharks knifing me to bits, she joined me in admiring what local artists have done to create a brilliant safe space.
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Previous chapters in this special MCC miniseries: