After living in the Washington, DC area for 17 years (Maryland first and then Alexandria, VA), it’s good to be back in East Tennessee. Many things about Knoxville have changed, but the best things have stayed the same. The mountains are still as beautiful, the people are still as friendly, the city’s charm still inviting.
I live in Old North Knoxville. The house I live in is 98 years old. The house across the street is 120 years old. The neighborhood’s old; it has character and a gentle, wise energy. I love this old house. It wraps its arms around me like an old friend.
We (my nieces and I) have named the house “the Bungalow,” because … well, because we could. We give pretty much all inanimate objects a name. I know, I know, it’s odd. But we’re odd (as you’ll learn through future blog posts).
Anyway, back to the Bungalow. For the most part, the house has been renovated and is quite special inside with ten-foot ceilings, crown molding that’s a foot wide, and lots of small details and fixtures. It still needs a bit of work, but we’re getting there one project at a time.
Living in an old house requires you to be more accepting and less demanding of perfection and instant gratification. For instance, the house creaks. A lot. Pretty much everything shakes a little when you walk through any room. The front door requires some jiggling to lock or unlock. There isn’t a straight line in this place. Hanging pictures takes a lot of patience and skill. The rule of measure twice, cut once? In this house, you measure a dozen times and be prepared to possibly cut twice. And you’ll say very bad words. And possibly drink more.
There’s one room that wasn’t renovated (not sure why); we call this the Creepy room. This room is next in line to be redone, so for now we don't use it for much. Deuce (the resident cat and ruler of all things) tends to sit in front of the door to the Creepy room and meow or just stare at it. For no apparent reason. No, that’s not creepy. At all.
Sometimes when I’m here alone, and it can be daytime or nighttime, I hear things. Things that indicate someone is here with me in the other room—and not necessarily the Creepy room. I’m convinced there’s a ghost in this house (now I can’t get that song out of my head—if you don’t know what song, I’m not sure we can be friends).
The front yard is probably my favorite thing about the Bungalow. When I first moved in I decided I wanted a fairy garden. So, I did what any fairy garden aficionado would do—I dug up the entire front yard. This was required to start over. In the process of digging up the yard, I unearthed large marble stepping stones. Knoxville used to be known as Marble City (starting in the 1880s). The marble from Knoxville has a pinkish hue and has been used in quite a few popular places: the National Gallery of Art, the Lincoln Memorial, the US Capitol, Grand Central Station, and the New York Public Library’s famous stone lions, Patience and Fortitude.
Again, I digress. In the process of my archeological dig, I found one stone, then two, then three, then more. It was like a treasure hunt! Over time, they’d gotten buried under the dirt and shifted from their original positions. I dug them up and replaced them to make a walkway through the garden. I’m sure there are more, but those will have to wait for another day.
If this April wasn’t the longest January on record, I’d be out there digging and planting now. The fairies are waiting.
The neighborhood cats seem to love the Bungalow as well. They make themselves at home on the porch, they’ll swing by for a head butt or two, they’ll have a chat with Deuce through the living room window. It’s the cat hangout apparently.
My neighborhood’s a block away from Happy Holler (yep, you read that right). Happy Holler is home to many of Knoxville’s newest craft beer pubs. It’s a quirky, fun, place to visit. There’s more than beer—Wild Love Bakehouse (best pastries on the planet) is just down the street (I do a lot of writing there). Magpie’s Bakery is down just a few blocks. Happy Holler has yoga, antiques, food, and did I mention beer?
Most of the houses in Old North Knoxville have been or are being restored and renovated. A walk down most of the streets is stroll back in time. Each house has its own unique look and feel. People sit on their front porches, children play outside, almost every yard has either a dogwood tree or several azalea bushes. Best of all, cats roam unfettered. Bungalow life’s pretty darned good.
It’s good to be back in the south, y'all!
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