Tag Archives: knoxville

Rainy-ville on the Hill

I love a good rain. Just not when I’m in it. (Isn’t that true for a lot of life? All good urban and economic geographers are aware of the powerful NIMBY: “Sure we need a new subway line, nuclear power plant, and shelter for the homeless, but Not In MY Back Yard!”)

I somehow managed to avoid the rain today while going from Burchfiel (my proper geographic home away from home on UTK’s campus) to South Stadium Hall (under part of Neyland Stadium) where I have my Anthropology of Genocide class. After class, I was even more fortunate: the sun came out and surprised me, given the bleakness that had previously filled the sky. The heavens opened up during my evening class tonight, and I peaked out the window from the fourth floor of my safe haven in the Burchfiel conference/seminar room and watched other less fortunate students without umbrellas get out of class only to find themselves immobilized by the rain. There were some who dared it, and others who were prepared to face the downpour with their umbrellas held high.

But for those who forgot, or ignored the prevalent warning signs swirling in the atmosphere above them today – they found their space suddenly limited, their comfortable space narrowed to the underside of a pedestrian bridge between our hallowed halls on the hill.


I do appreciate those of you who slugged your way through my feeble attempt to write at the end of the day. Thursday are an inimitable pain. I can’t complain too loudly, as I brought this academic hardship upon myself and, indeed, I do enjoy all of my classes thus far, it just so happens that the lineup of Thursday classes pushes my brain to the boundaries on a day when I usually could use an extra nap.

I have had an excellent first few weeks here at UTK. That’s mostly an understatement, for it fails to do justice to the situation. Despite being constantly overwhelmed with my school workload (mostly reading for the Geographic Thought seminar), I am really enjoying the camaraderie of fellow grad students who are as enthusiastic about geography as I am and having a wide range of professors who don’t mind you picking their brains on occasion. This is no way a slight to my undergrad experience at UTM – the program does an excellent job with the resources it has, and I think undergrads get a much more personal education than they would here, simply because of the sheer number of students here compared to at UTM. Both are high quality programs, and both provide a service for their universities – there is just a difference of scale. At the graduate level, however, we are known. Professors know our names and our research interests, considering us colleagues in training.

Perhaps the best part, though, is simply interaction with fellow grad students. There is almost a sense of “finally!” that can be added after that sentence, because a person like myself longs, at times, for intellectual interaction on that level with peers who are as completely engrossed by the subject as well. My advice to any potential grad school applicant (whether any of my readers fit into that category, I do not know…) is to make sure that the schools you apply to are schools that have that interaction and camaraderie among grad students. Yes, it requires more work than simply surfing a departmental website, but it is worth it.

While I’m spitting out mostly unrelated items to blog about, a sad product of not blogging often enough, I’ll just briefly say that Karen and I are enjoying Knoxville apart from campus as well. We’ve gotten to know some of our neighbors recently, through a Labor Day/Boomsday get-together (yes, we call it Boomsday here, for the magnificent 20-minute fireworks show that the city spends millions on each year). We’ve also decided to join Church Street United Methodist Church, a very exciting church in the heart of Knoxville, perfectly situated between downtown and campus. And on an related note (however selfish it may sound), CSUMC has stone floors, a pipe organ, a choir that can tackle complicated classical choral music, and handbells. We’ve also auditioned and been accepted into both the Knoxville Choral Society and its smaller chamber ensemble, the Knoxville Chamber Chorale.

Well, it has been raining on and off as I’ve written this, and my brain, despite being frazzled to begin with, is starting to clear with the writing, so I’m saying goodnight before I wake up any more and miss my chance to fall asleep to drip drops on the window panes.

Church Hunting (and a small dose of Geography)

If you need any proof that Knoxville is as much in the buckle of the Bible Belt as West or Middle Tennessee, the other day while returning the ladder we rented from Home Depot I was scanning through the FM radio stations from bottom to top (the 80-somethings through 100-somethings) and I found three Christian radio stations. Before I even got out of the 90’s. And those weren’t the only ones! Now I no longer have an excuse to switch to NPR or classic rock if I’m bored with hearing a song three times in a day (as happened often in Martin while listening to K-LOVE or AIR1). I can just rotate between Love 89.1, K-LOVE on 103.1, and a plethora of gospel stations.

And man, are there are a lot of churches.

Karen and I are starting the church search today at Fountain City UMC at 11. We decided we would see about the services on our first visit, then narrow it down, and then try out some Sunday Schools/Bible studies with the ones we really like. Of course, being musicians, we’ve narrowed the expansive list of churches down to those that are Methodist, Baptist (and one non-denominational church recommended by our pet groomer), have a choir and handbells. This, however, does rule out several churches that are only contemporary (for some reason, choral music and handbells aren’t found in contemporary churches…hmm…), but we’ll probably visit some contemporary churches as well.

So many to choose from, so little time! As we have been driving literally all over town the last several days, Karen and I have seen so many church buildings in so many shapes, sizes, and denominations. If there are any Christians out there in the world who need a place to try to find out what they personally like/need from a church, Knoxville is the place to do so. Within about a 10-15 mile radius from the center of town, that person could probably visit a different church every Sunday and not be done before new ones are started. Seriously.

All of this is very good, of course, and it reminds me of how similar things can be between places if you look for the similarities. Take for example, Martin and Knoxville. You wouldn’t think, on the surface, that the two cities (and I use that term loosely when referring to Martin!) would be all that alike, but you’d be wrong. Both are fairly typical Tennessee cities. Both, with four-year universities but also a strong (and large) conservative Christian demographic, are some of the most interesting places in the country to have intellectual political and moral debates. These isn’t your Boston or New York or LA, where it’s (naively) easy to assume that everyone is a liberal, Democrat, non-church-goer. These are interesting spaces!

Right here in Tennessee, who knew?