Vines and trees, shrubbery of sorts, all growing over the back yard fence. Where there used to be trees are merely stumps now. The wooden back porch has been taken away, rebuilt, no rail. The rickety wooden picnic table is now glass and metal. A few flowers raise high up toward the sky this morning. Sky blue, clouds stretched, birds chirp and crickets call. Water in my plastic cup ripples each time I strike a key.
My morning run today took me to the track at what used to be Lynn View Middle School where I celebrated some of the most embarrassing times of my life while simultaneously cementing some of the longest standing friendships. I played five years of football on that field, walked a countless number of laps around that track, ran an exhausting amount of laps up and down “Victory Hill”. First kiss, first tackle made, first fumble recovered, first time discovering a human turd in the bleachers.
Lynn View was never very nice, never very classy or even presentable but they tried and we were proud of our middle school. Not because we loved it that much but mostly because we didn’t like, albeit unfairly, the surrounding middle schools at the time. I half expected to see some people using the track on this cool, party cloudy but gorgeous Saturday morning but when I arrived it was only me and one other guy – an old guy, likely Lynn View class of 1920.
A metal trash can was on its side just beyond the fenced entrance, hole busted in the bottom, cig butts, plastic bottles, chewing gum packs and more littering the surrounding area. The green wall making the leftmost side of the bleachers read in bit stretched white letters “Home of the Lynx”. Cracks were scattered throughout the concrete track. The lines were still there but barely visible for the fade of time and untended weeds had left their mark. The concrete bleachers were littered with cigarettes, chipped stone, broken wood and poorly written graffiti.
The parking lot / viewpoint from the opposite side of the field hasn’t changed a lot – half grass, half gravel. In the back was what appeared to be a regular bonfire location, littered with soft drink bottles and plastic buckets scattered around the otherwise scorched circle.
I’ve recently been listening to the Night Vale Community Radio podcast during my morning runs and have been experiencing some eerie sensations while running before the morning light in Carl Cowan park off Northshore near where we live in Knoxville. The playground and waterpark are abandoned, pairing well with the dark sounds of the podcast creating a scene similar to that of a place that had only recently experienced the Rapture. You can still hear the laughter of the children sliding down the slides, swinging high on the swings, splashing their siblings and friends under the water-spouting umbrella.
Lynn View painted a different picture today, though. While the sun had already started rising before I arrived, Night Vale still created a scene with my surroundings. With the exception of the older gentleman going around the track with me, the picture painted was a location where the Rapture happened months, if not years ago. Grass grew high over the old baseball field, dugouts remain as if boarded up and empty for a century or more. The same water fountain I gorged on to discomfort as many as 15 years ago remains attached to the side of the building housing the bathrooms and concessions and multiple blocking dummies sit unprotected from theft or the elements in the growing weeds out in the open in the fields.
I ran about 2.25 miles this morning and will be getting ready to start an awesome day with my folks. Touring my old city brings on a mixture of emotions. It’s beautiful in its own way, many new things yet nothing changes. It’s often heartbreaking to see the town is more obsessed with keeping up with Johnson City by opening up more chain restaurants and chain retail stops instead of harnessing the local talent or featuring their lovely local food fare. Pratt’s remains open and Pal’s is still the best fast food on the planet but it’s easy to lose sight of them driving down a road lined with IHOP, Applebee’s, Cheddar’s, Olive Garden, Cook Out and more Wendy’s locations than are necessary for a large town, let alone a small one.
Kingsport apparently loves Wendy’s something fierce.
Even though the town has grown to be incredibly unoriginal and carless when it comes to the local flavor and even though large portions of the town have fallen into a great state of disrepair, such as the Lynn Garden community has, there’s still something about it. Maybe it’s the Eastman air but there’s definitely something that makes it oh, so good to be back home if only for just a little while.