When I schedule my work week with interview days, transcribing days, writing days, working on my monthly lineup and public relations every day - it seems that I never take a day off. It isn’t like this for every writer …just the obsessed ones. I admit that I think-eat-sleep work more than I probably have to, but it is what I enjoy. My daddy was an overachiever and, though I live on a much smaller scale than he did, I like having something that is my niche and giving it 110 percent. It could possibly be that what I do is simple for everyone else, but that I just go the long way around – that’s okay, I enjoy the journey and those I meet along the way.
After cooling it with the romantic relationship, I found myself back where I was in my weekly goals. While my boyfriend was holding me, it seemed that my legs were still in the running position and as soon as he let go, I took off at the speed of lightning and finished everything I possibly could for the week, leaving me with (gulp) a day off! A day off that my boyfriend worked, so that meant that I really had a whole day off – to myself without anything to work on or anyone to see.
This was a day I would truly ‘take off’. No stopping someone at a restaurant and shoving my card in their face asking them to tell me their story, no answering emails about scheduling interviews since I had just booked myself a couple of months ahead …and no running errands for Mama, worrying about a meal together or struggling to share my time between her and my boyfriend. This was Jen’s day off.
With knowing that Mama doesn’t like to be alone at night and I didn’t get anyone to stay with her, I just planned to be back at the end of the day. I didn’t plan anything spectacular, I just made a lunch date with my friend Cindy before she has her baby and I would not get another chance to plan with her for a while.
After that, I didn’t know what else I would do. My thoughts were to go ride Smokey or go to Point Park. I had my riding boots in the back seat and had on ‘active wear’ just in case I went to the park. Cindy and I did more talking than eating and, after a two and a half hour lunch (we had a lot of catching up to do), I took off with absolutely no set agenda. My car began driving on I-75NB toward Knoxville without me really thinking about it. Okay… so I was going to stick my feet in the beautiful water somewhere near Ocoee and bask in the sunshine.
As I spontaneously drove the stretch of highway and thought about where I would park and how I would find a place, I got nervous thinking I had no idea where to go and I was not prepared. I told myself that it was okay, and that I was still doing a bucket list thing – driving somewhere with no agenda and not using my GPS. I traveled along the interstate thinking I would just hit the first town I came to and explore their little shops and possibly a café for a light dinner.
Don’t you hate when a police car is right on your tail? I was going the speed limit and he was not running his emergency lights so I guess the only problem was that I was not going fast enough for him. When I could get over, I let him pass me so he could drive 80 comfortably without my law-abiding manner bothering him.
It was a beautiful day so I turned off my a/c and opened my windows. I didn’t fill up with gas before I left because I didn’t even know where I was going, so I took the next exit which was Sweetwater and I pulled into a gas station. I had seen a sign by the exit advertising ‘The Lost Sea’. I wasn’t quite sure what that was or how long it took, but anything with the word lost in it, didn’t sound like a good idea for a directionally challenged girl.
When I paid for my gas and got a bottle of water, I asked the girl at the counter what there was to do in her town. She said “Absolutely nothing…” My shoulders dropped and I let out all my breath with “Really?!” She then said, “Unless you want to go to Lost Sea.” Apparently, she wasn’t that impressed so I doubted that I would be.
When I got back in my car, I knew that I needed to go ahead and drive to Knoxville. I had passed through before, but had never really seen the town. Surely they would have cute places to pull in and to watch interesting people in their habitat – it was just an hour and a half from Chattanooga and would be nothing like my six-month Long Island excursion. I had no big expectations it was just something different to do for a few hours. Had I planned, I could have started out early and Googled places to visit, but it was after four o’clock and my only thoughts were to try a very casual eating place since I was not dressed for anything nicer.
I didn’t quite want to give up on Sweetwater though. I took a little country road to see if maybe there was an antique shop or something interesting. There was just a lot of farm land – ‘hey! Farms! I need to contact a farm for a ‘Growing Local’ story! No… this is my day off… no work.’ When the road only led to more pastures and farms and my brain kept thinking about work, I decided to turn around and get back on the interstate and just get to Knoxville before I ran out of time.
Before pulling out onto the interstate, I got out my GPS so I could push the POI button when I got closer to Knoxville and get an idea of points of interest. I passed Farragut and saw “Trader Joe’s” listed on my GPS. I remembered my Long island friends loved Trader Joe’s and a few Chattanooga friends would go to Trader Joe’s in Atlanta. I had even heard rumor of Trader Joe’s coming to Chattanooga, so I thought ‘why not?’
When I went in, it was just like any other store to me. Maybe because I am not a shopper or I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular, but I just felt it was quite ordinary and nothing really jumped out at me. I also felt pressed for time to get back to Chattanooga so Mama wouldn’t stress out.
When I got back in my car, I got my phone and Googled ‘best food’ in Knoxville. It listed a few places, but the place I was dressed for was “Wild Wings”. Yes, that was perfect! I would check out this place that advertises the best wings in town and have a beer.
My GPS led me there and it had a beautiful fountain in a pond outside as patrons sat on the deck nearby. The sun was out and I wanted to enjoy it so I planned to sit outside too. With my bottle of water empty, I had to stop at the ladies room first. I asked a young man who worked there where the restrooms were and we were standing right there. He pointed and I looked at the signs on the door reading ‘Dudes’ and ‘Hot Chicks’. I pointed to the ladies’ room and joked, “I don’t think I am allowed in that one!” The boy who was the age of my youngest son said, “Oh no, you definitely get to go in that one.” Maybe when he grows up, he will choose to be a lawyer – I have known them to be just as charming even though I knew they were lying through their teeth (insert tongue in cheek here).
I sat at the bar outside where everyone seemed to gravitate. Some were watching a game on TV and others were in a group standing by the water and then of course you had your usual bar people who sit hoping to find some action. If I ever sit at a bar to eat, I rarely make eye contact because I am not there for ‘that scene’. It felt really nice outside and kind of nice to be in a totally different place where I didn’t know anyone.
The moment I heard the group by the water say, “Chattanooga”, I perked up my ears so that I could join in on a conversation rather than look like a bar person waiting for action. They said that Chattanooga has really changed and is the best city. My heart swelled with pride and I said, “I live in Chattanooga, what do you like best about it?” The two girls who had said that looked me up and down and shot me a look as if to say “who invited you to this conversation?”
Trust me, I wasn’t trying to get in on ‘their action’, I just wanted to hear what they had to say and … to have something to write about.
Work. Dang it!
Am I really that boring of a person that all I think about is work? In my defense, that is like asking an astronaut if he ever gets tired of going into space. Each and every thing fascinates me and my mind is always writing or thinking of a good story. I love it!
When I ordered a Mic Ultra with a glass, I was told they only had solo cups. Yuck, beer in a solo cup. Why not? I tilted the cup to ease the foam as I poured my beer and it didn’t help. It foamed up anyway… a lot. While I let the foam settle, one of the gentleman in the group (who I named Smokey the Bear because he lit up a cigarette) answered me saying, “I am from Chattanooga. I went to Hixson…” I didn’t want to move or looked perturbed by his smoking because I had already ordered a glass for my beer and didn’t want to look like a bar-snob (but I think I might be).
“Hey, I went to Hixson too …what year?” He had about five years on me and I did not know him, but he continued to talk about all of the places in Chattanooga that had changed since he lived there. He said that Knoxville didn’t have quite the riverfront that Chattanooga had and he mentioned a lot about the arts. Other than to settle my curiosity about what they liked, I didn’t feel the need to finagle my way into their group – especially with the ‘hot chicks’ glaring at me and Bear smoking.
I turned to order my wings and the bartender suggested I try a sample of two kinds. One kind was called The Slayer – they were saucy and the other was called The Boss which was a dry rub. Both were amazing and opened up my sinuses. My favorite was probably The Boss. Just hearing the word boss, made me think about my interview the next day and that I better order a water and start back home.
Bear and his friends were getting louder, while I observed a couple meeting for the first time and trying to impress each other. Another guy on their left was in a white shirt that had his work logo on the pocket. He didn’t look happy - he must not be an astronaut …or a writer. I didn’t seem to fit in with any of these people. They were either too happy, or Eeyore.
After I finished my water, I got in my car to head back to the BEST city with quite the riverfront. My Chattanooga.