Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Characters Everywhere

LoonyMy daughter and I talked while eating crepes at the French Market Cafe this weekend – I had strawberries and cream while she enjoyed the butter and sugar style.  We did a lot of eating and talking this weekend.  Lots of different topics.  Lots of things discovered.  It was good.

One of the areas we covered was the number of “characters” that abound in the Knoxville and East Tennessee area.  You know what I mean  . . . the quirky, funny, possibly a little crazy or just plain weird folks that seem to be a part of everyone’s home town.  The ones that, if you haven’t actually met them, you have heard about them.

My daughter was comparing and contrasting Knoxville and Atlanta where she now lives.  In her words, “One thing’s for sure . . . Atlanta doesn’t have near as many characters as Knoxville.”

At first, I leapt to the defense of my hometown.  “Atlanta has them, they are just spread out or unnoticed because of the shear size and pace of the community”.  Then we talked about it and I began to change my mind.  Every town has one.  But we have a lot more than one.  We really do have a lot of characters.  Maybe it’s just Tennessee in general.

You’ve read about our Southern quirkiness in many novels - there’s Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird and Forrest Gump – and then there’s TV – Ernest T. Bass from The Andy Griffith Show, any of the Beverly Hillbillies or The Dukes of Hazzard

We have them here.  You have read of my fascination with the late moonshiner Popcorn Sutton.  If not, you can read about him here or here or just Google his name.  Popcorn was quite the character on the surface.  Under the beard and overalls was a human being with lots and lots of faults, some scary, some sad, some obscene.  But we seem to forgive all that if you’ve got a good story.

We have the man who has become known as the Bikini Man, an older gentleman who is in the process of gender reassignment surgery.  He walks on one of the busiest main roads in Knoxville every morning.  He wears a giant blond Dolly Parton style wig, a sports bra and spandex biker shorts on a good day . . . I have literally seen him wearing a bikini on occasion.  He also rides a pink scooter if he has further to go.

Then there’s what has become affectionately known as The Fellini Kroger.  It’s a regular Kroger grocery store but the variety of characters shopping there seem to be straight out of a Fellini movie – surreal.  Weird things seem to happen during each visit – stories of a toe found in the parking lot, sightings of morbidly obese 3 foot tall albino twins in overalls, the man shopping in his tighty whiteys and tube socks.  There is even a Facebook fan page devoted to the store called Friends of the Fellini Kroger. 

I could go on, there are many more examples.  We love our characters here.  Hopefully we leave them alone or when necessary, get them help.  I’m sure Atlanta has them too.  It is the South after all.
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Marsha said...

There is a man in Powell, TN that walks down clinton highway carrying a cross all the time. I find him odd, a little scary but definitely committed to getting his message to the masses.

Tere said...

Marsha - I have not seen this man but I will certainly be on the lookout for him now!