Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Looking back on Knoxville

So...Knoxville took forever to get out of. When I last posted on here, it was last Monday in downtown. I walked outside and a storm moved in quickly. I talked to a few people getting off work from the federal building next door. They were fascinated by what I was doing. With the time of day and the weather, I decided to try the homeless shelter for the night. It was less than a mile away. I'm glad I did. Quite the experience...
As I approached the shelter, I had to walk under a lot of overpasses or bridges. It was like something out of a 1970's cop movie. I came across an angry drunk dwarf (seriously), who was cussing out everyone that went by him. There were people everywhere!! Some were rolling cigarettes and selling them in little sandwich baggies. One young couple was rolling cigs onto old filters. Pretty bizarre. So I made it to the shelter. You walk in, and it looks like an airport terminal. There are bags stacked everywhere. Backpacks, suitcases, trash bags, a little of everything, all around a big circular desk in the lobby. I showed my id, filed out a basic questionaire, read and signed a rules sheet, and I was in. Here's how it works...they serve 3 meals a day. You can come in for those, but then you have to leave again. You have to be at the shelter by 6:30 pm (I got there at 6:28). Until 9:00, you can sit in the chapel area (both sexes), or, you can hang out in the courtyard (males and females are seperated outside). So I went to the courtyard, and it looks like a smoke break in jail. Men of all ages and looks, standing around and smoking, talking. Most pulled out little baggies of smokes (like the kind I saw for sale outside). Talked to a few people, and as you can guess, you get all kinds. There are the obvious drunks and drug addicts. There are people with serious mental health problems. And there are people who are trying, but took a wrong step or 2 in life. A few of the guys I talked to had jobs. Some did not care. They hung out in the downtown area all day, begging for money, coming back to the shelter to eat.
At about 7 or so, they started taking groups of guys up to the beds. You could go or wait. When you go up, you stop at a counter and get a towel and washcloth and head for the shower room (showers are mandatory). You shower, get dressed, turn in your towel, and get assigned a bed and get sheets and a pillowcase. Then you enter the dorm. A huge, huge room! I counted about 150 people in there that night.
Once you have your bed, you can hang out there or go downstairs and go outside or in the chapel. Lights out at 9:00. You can imagine the sounds of that many men sleeping. I had trouble sleeping and went into the bathroom area to the sinks, where other guys were because they could not sleep or they needed to charge up phones and whatnot. Finally got about 3 hours of sleep. You have to be out of the dorm by 7am. Went downstairs and got in line for breakfast (biscuit, oatmeal, applesauce, and some kind of fried chicken piece). And 2 cups of the hardest coffee I have had in a while (loved it lol). While in line, a blonde girl in front of me started talking to me. She asked how my first night was. (New people stick out badly.) So we started joking around. Then some harmless flirting. We sat down together, ate, and went our seperate ways. Never heard her name. So now I can scratch off "flirt with cute girl in a homeless shelter" off of my bucket list :-)

Headed back towards the library to double-check the city map. This time they would not let me in because of my pack. It was too big. Other people from the shelter could get in with 3 or 4 backpacks because each one was small. Mine was not allowed on property, even though it was the day before. So, off we go into west Knoxville...the longest road of businesses I have ever seen in my life. Usual weather...very hot, and then a nasty storm rolls in. I think I saw every store I could think of, and every restaurant I could think of (except for Denny's and Golden Corral, of course) on this road. It's insane. I was lucky to find 1 tiny patch of woods to camp in when the storms came back. And there I was, in my tent, from Tuesday night until Friday morning. Just waiting for it to stop raining so I could leave. Everything wet. Out of food and water. Just stuck there. So, I was happy to leave the area on Friday.
Knoxville is an awesome town. I could see myself living there, because it has everything you need.
But now it's just a blur in the past.

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