Knoxville in a Nutshell


Recently, I took my first trip to Knoxville, Tennessee.  I’d been to Knoxville before, but this was the first time it was an actual destination.  I’ve been on too many business trips where all I’ve seen is an airport, a room, a bunch of computers and maybe a palm tree on my way back to the airport.  My first day – Monday – was like that.  I worked from early in the morning till way after dark.  All I did was work, eat and sleep.

Sadly, the first thing I saw in Knoxville (other than the client) was the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.  A gunman had shot several people there the day I arrived in town.  I stopped by Tuesday evening to show my solidarity as a fellow UU.

I only had one other day where I didn’t have to work late.  However, I didn’t really know anything about Knoxville.  I did remember they had a World’s Fair there when I was a kid.  My grandparents had gone there (and – yes – all I got was a T-shirt).  After work, I jumped into the rental car and headed downtown.  TomTom found something called “Worlds Fair Park”, which I assumed was my destination.  How many World’s Fairs could there have been in Knoxville?  However, I found out the fair had been held in 1982, so I wasn’t sure if there would be anything left to see.

I didn’t have to worry.

Once downtown, I could see a large golden ball standing high above the buildings.  This was the Sunsphere, the symbol of the 1982 World’s Fair.  It reminded me of one of those old RADAR bubbles except it was on a higher platform.  It could have been a giant golf ball except for the color.  I found a place to park (free parking in downtown Knoxville – wow!) and took a little walk around the area.  It felt like a college atmosphere.  There was a “dancing fountain” with tall geysers of water pulsating to music.  Kids were running around the edges of it in their swimsuits.  Others were playing Frisbee in the large grassy area in the center of the park or sitting at the edge of a long lake that flowed under a bridge lit in what looked like tea lights.

The Sunsphere was open for business.  I guess I came at the right time; I found out later it had been closed up until 2007.  I took a quick elevator ride to the observation area.  It reminded me a lot of the St. Louis arch, a narrow walkway and a bare observation deck except for some historical information about the area.  Apparently the best time to go to the Sunsphere is during the day when there’s an excellent view from 200+ feet in the air.  Unfortunately the sun had set by the time I got to the Sunsphere.  The golden glass serves as a two-way mirror.  By day, outsiders only see the golden ball.  By night, all the insiders can see are themselves – squinting – trying to look past their reflections to the view outside.

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