Friday, February 18, 2005

My mom has been sick off and on for a few years now, so I have been making more mercenary trips over Sam's Gap late at night.
The new highway, despite my best efforts in my Earth First! days, does indeed rock harder than a Korean washer with a full load of Wranglers. It's not a lot faster, but it's a lot safer. And pretty. Despite the well-lit truck ramps and other lights there are still several places up there without so much light pollution where you can stop to stretch the legs, maybe throw down a downward-facing dog, or have a smoke, or look over gorgeous black peaks silhouetted against a starlit navy-blue sky before getting on your way.
On the Tennessee side, the whole road is pretty dark until Erwin. Once I pass the Okolona Road sign on the right, and then the Doozy Truck Covers neon on the left, come around the turn and pass the cut in the hill, the glow from my college town floods the dusty night sky all around and it stays that way, kinda envelopes you all the way to Sulpher Springs.
Since I moved to Asheville, oh, eight years ago, Johnson City's obvious growth could be gauged annually from the ambient light of well-fed capitalism lapping either shore of the guardrail. I've watched these indicator lights of humming humanity grow in intensity and number: lots more people, stuff going on. Intriguing, but I never got off the interstate on these night flights until the Gray exit. Good job, folks. Wish you well. But just passing through.
But last weekend I spent multiple days at my parent's house. I had occasion to wonder just what sort of growth this is. Dad was in Daytona. Sis was out of town training for a new job. Mom needed company and a safety net for her improving condition. So hold on, I'm coming, and I'm bringing my work with me, I said. Have laptop, will travel.
On Saturday, Mom said she'd like to go out to eat. Mom likes Cheddars and Cootie Brown's. Heck, I decided I liked Cootie's -- they had for-real vegetarian options and for-real handicapped access. Their black bean tamales were tasty. And there was a close proximity to Mr. K's Used Books, a hill-top home-bound mom-magnet if there ever was one.Lots of cool stuff, I thought, business makes marvels, who'd a thunk it.
I said to Mom, how great is this - this couldn't make it here when I was a young'un. Apparently the new folks moving in, their money, the economy, whatever; this apparent silver lining to urban sprawl almost made up for the condos in the cornfields. Yet, I found when it came time to check the email and turn the crank and check the news, I couldn't even get on the bubble. Anywhere.
You know, the internet, y'all. No wireless access. I had no way to do my thing. First time, ever. I was . . . paralyzed. And shamed, obviously I've become uber-geek if this would bother me so much. And then, pretty grumpy. I mean, what kind of civilization is this?
Back home, I did a search. Within 20 country miles of 37659 there were 3 wi-fi hotspots: Panera Bread, Tri-Cities Regional, and the Hampton Inn on St. of Franklin. This doesn't include places like the Barnes & Noble where I could download a special app and use it to access their wireless network for a fee (The B&N in A'ville has free access). I don't want to do that, that's stupid.
Right now I'm marking this up to differing cultural values. Fruity Paris Of The South vs. workman's Little Chicago. Remaining Johnson Citians: is this assessment accurate? But wow - if so, pretty telling indicator of what JC deems necessary. Hooters and NASCAR cafes, yes. Internet hubs, no. Surely I'm missing at least one cool bookstore, independent coffeeshop or cafe where I could drink some coffee and burn a battery down. Someone post suggestions if you got 'em, I'm due back this upcoming week.

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