Monday, September 27, 2010

Oneida, Tenn.

Friends: For the second time in these travels I arrived at a friend's house while he was out and about. Brian, at least, had forewarned me he had an errand to run and might not be there when I arrived. It allowed me a pleasant couple of hours of reading on the porch of his stately "antebellum" home built in 1989 atop a heavily wooded hillside three miles from downtown Knoxville.

After I'd been there an hour a car pulled in. It was Brian's girl friend Emily, who was swapping her car for Brian's to go fetch him in Marysville, right next door to Alcoa, about 15 miles away, down Alcoa Highway. With the cheap energy provided by all the dams in the area Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America) had located there, as it requires a considerable amount of energy to convert bauxite into aluminum. Iceland with all its cheap thermal energy is another center for aluminum production.

Brian is one of the few people I know who has also been to Iceland, and Japan too. Brian had a period in his life when he would scan travel websites for ridiculously cheap fares, or fares that offered g. ridiculous amounts of miles. Occasionally he'd pounce on an airline's mistake. That enabled him to get to Iceland for less than $100. Brian is presently somewhat bound to Knoxville looking after the family home waiting for the market to improve so he can sell it.

Beside a compulsion for travel, we are similarly drawn to cinema and film festivals. Brian has worked for quite a few festivals--Chicago's International and Underground Fests, San Francisco, Palm Springs and others. His movie-viewing has pretty much been reduced to DVDs of late though. His last significant cinema experience was driving 180 miles to Nashville to see Harmony Korine's latest. Nashville is Korine's home town. He introduced the film and was accompanied by Gaspar Noe, a French director with a distinctive vision well out of the mainstream just like Korine. Both have strong cult followings that overlap. I am one of those. Brian said Korine announced that Noe was in need of some female companionship. After the film Brian drove past the theater and noticed that Korine's announcement had worked.

Though I converted Brian to the bicycle when we were roommates in Chicago, the hills and four-lane Alcoa Highway back into Knoxville, that actually has a sign prohibiting non-motorized vehicles at its entrance in Knoxville, which I ignored, has discouraged him from biking of late. I was hoping he might accompany me on my way out of town yesterday morning, but it was a solo venture.

I was lucky it was a Sunday, otherwise the Kingston Pike I took out of Knoxville would have been suicidal on a bicycle. It had no shoulder. Its four-lanes would have been clogged with hurrying traffic. It took me past an array of churches, mostly Baptist, but a good sampling of others. The Christian Science and Seventh Day Adventist churches faced off against each other. A synagogue was a little further down the road. Though Knoxville isn't known as a great metropolis, it was 18 miles down the Pike before I escaped the gauntlet of franchises and development and slipped into rural countryside.

Brian recommended a road other than the Kingston Pike, but the Pike led to Harriman, the only town in Tennessee within my range that had a Carnegie. Knoxville at one time had three of them, including one built for "coloreds," but they were all long gone. It was a little tricky to get to Harriman. We had to zoom in on googlemaps to find a road to it from Kingston without going on interstate 40. My Triple A map didn't show a road, but there was indeed a way.

Harriman's Carnegie celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and still had the anniversary banner draped across its entry between its twin pillars. I asked a police officer on the outskirts of town for directions. He was happy to learn that I had come to see it and proudly proclaimed that it was well worth seeking out. It was just behind the town's fire department on Walden Ave. A historical marker in front of the fire department called Harriman a "Utopia of Temperance." It had been established in 1891 as "an ideal industrial city, an object lesson for thrift, sobriety, superior intelligence and exalted moral character, where workers would be uncorrupted by Demon Rum." One of the town's founders was a member of the national temperance party.

The white brick library had lost none of its majesty. The two story building stood alone on a grassy lot just a block from the main street. I felt no disappointment that it was a Sunday and I couldn't go inside. Seeing it from outside was more than enough.

From Harriman I picked up route 27 north to Kentucky, which will lead to a couple more Carnegies once I cross the border. The temperature has finally cooled thanks to a cloud cover and a bit of a drizzle. Its not even 60 degrees today, barely warm enough to eat outside.

Later, George

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