Knoxville Girls

The first indication that our trip to Knoxville might not have been the most well thought out plan was when I accidentally booked my friend Alison on the wrong flight.

"See you at the airport at 9:30 tonight!" I typed blithely in an IM on Friday. 

"I'll probably be there more like 10:30pm," she replied.

"What?" I typed back immediately. "The flight is at 10:40pm!" (I did it just like that, except with seventeen hundred more exclamation points. While frothing at the mouth.)

"Nope, just double-checked my confirmation email," she replied a moment later. "Definitely 11:40pm."

This is how I discovered that I'd booked her on the 11:40pm flight and myself on the 10:40pm one. I'm not even sure how I did that, but I fear it might mean I have to remove "excellent at booking flights for other people because I get a weird high from finding the cheapest deal" from my resume. That's okay, it took up too much space anyway. 

Funnily enough, my flight was delayed for an hour, so we ended up leaving San Francisco at the same time on totally separate flights from adjacent gates and flying—or so I like to imagine—on parallel paths right next to each other in the sky. If I hadn't had a middle seat, I'm pretty sure I could have just looked out of the window and seen her in the plane next to me, head bowed over her copy of Fast Company. (She brought Fast Company on this trip, I brought Us Weekly. Therein lies every difference that ever existed between us.) 

We had decided, a few weeks ago, to go on a ladies' trip to Knoxville. We had decided this when three very fortuitious things happened almost simultaneously: a) airfare dropped to a ludicriously low price and, when paired with a discount code I had for a hotel, made for one amazing deal; b) Alison reconnected with a childhood friend currently living in Knoxville who wanted to meet up; and c) we realized that the Lemonheads—my very favorite band in the world—would be playing at the Bijou Theatre that night. 

Plans were made. Tickets were booked. Flight times were mixed up, unknowingly, by me.

The point of Knoxville was to do not very much at all. "What I really want to do," said Alison, as we sat at the airport, waiting for our identical-yet-separate flights to take off in tandem, "is to drink champagne and read gossip magazines while gossiping."

"Ah," I said, knowingly. "You want to do Things For Ladies."

"Yes," she said. "Things For Ladies."

When we arrived at the Atlanta airport at 7am just a few minutes apart, we went straight to a coffee shop in the hopes that the caffeine IV had finally been invented while we were mid-flight. "Well," said Alison. "We're on vacation. I am having pie for breakfast." 

"That's the spirit," I said. "Maybe we should have a beer as well."

(We didn't have a beer as well. Are you kidding? It was 7am! Give us some credit.) 

Upon arrival in Knoxville—it's a thirty-minute flight from Atlanta, the sort of flight that makes you think "my goodness, I should have just walked," which is something you would definitely stop saying if you actually had walked it, especially while dragging a carry-on stuffed with two months' worth of Us Weeklys—we headed to our hotel, which that weekend was also playing host to the Ringling Brothers Circus, a cadre of drunk college students attending something called "the world's largest paint party," and, as it turned out, the Lemonheads themselves. That sounds like the opening line of a joke, doesn't it? Yeah, tell that to the staff of the Holiday Inn Knoxville Downtown. I bet getting that day-glo paint out of the sheets was no laughing matter.

A little worse for wear after three and a half hours of intermittent sleep—sitting up, squished into middle seats between strangers—we left our bags at the hotel and wandered into town while we waited for our room to be ready.  On the way, we passed a man who called over to us. "Y'all like dogs?" he said. We shrugged a noncommital "sure"—although mine would have been less noncommital and more enthusiastic if he'd prefaced "dogs" with "hot"—and asked him why. "Go thataway!" he shouted, pointing left. "There's a whole lot of dogs over there! Eight thousand of 'em!"

And this is how we stumbled into Mardi Growl. Yes, I said Mardi Growl.

And oh, what a sight it was! There were dogs in tutus at Mardi Growl, and dogs bedecked with shiny bead necklaces. There were dogs in Superman costumes and dogs in showgirl dresses and dogs in neon tuxedos. There were eight thousand dressed-up dogs—from chihuahas to Saint Bernards—wandering around Knoxville's main square, which, between you and me, was a lot to take in after a redeye. I mean, I'm used to seeing dancing pink unicorns when I'm jetlagged and discombobulated, but I wasn't expecting to see a boxer in fairy wings. 

Naturally, the only thing to do was to find a spot, sit there, and do this.

And naturally the only thing to do after that was to go back to our hotel room, draw the blackout blinds, get into our beds at 4pm, and take a two-hour nap.

(I'm not sure about you, but I am basically describing my ideal Saturday. Although if we're being really picky, there'd probably be fewer bichon frises in French maid costumes. Eh, tomayto, tomahto, right?) 

The show was that night, and it was excellent. Previously, I had only seen the Lemonheads in fairly grungey dive bars, but this concert was in a charming 1909 theatre called the Bijou, which made the whole affair feel very fancy, particularly as there was a pretty classy bar next door and nobody stamped my hand or made me wear a plastic bracelet. 

I know some of you might think that the way I feel about this band is a little......intense, so I won't go on too much about the show (you can email me if you want the play-by-play), but I would like to point out that there was a girl in the front row next to me who was crying. She was CRYING. It was very Beatlemania-1967-slash-Biebermania-2010, I assure you. On the one hand, I felt a smug sense of pride that this wasn't me. On the other hand, of course, you're only as crazy as the company you keep. 

The next day, Alison and I slept in as late as we possibly could—which was pretty late considering we were three hours behind and hadn't gone to sleep until almost 2am—and then went in search of some barbecue. Something nobody told me about Knoxville is that 85% of it is closed on a Sunday. Luckily, Calhoun's was not one of those places.

The food was good, but my favorite part was that something we ordered was called creamed corn puddin. No G. Just puddin.

I love imagining the person programming that register. Now should we put a G on puddin, Mr. Calhoun? Nah, we don't need no stinkin' G on puddin. This puddin speaks for itself. Just put "puddin!"

We spent the afternoon in Knoxville's Old Town, browsing the three stores that were open—a shop that sold clothes for girls who wanted to look like Bettie Page, a winery where an eager young man treated us to a sample of Knoxville-grown muscat, and a vintage store where I almost bought a great pair of fan earrings until I discovered they were (not-so-great) shoe clips—and then we met some of Alison's old friends in a scotch bar. A scotch bar, by the way, is a great place to spend time with people you haven't seen in a very long time (in her case) or don't know at all (in mine) because....well, it's a scotch bar. Nobody is very shy for very long. 

We left the way we'd arrived, on a tiny commuter plane back to Atlanta–where we were seated behind the guy I'd got talking to in the security line in San Francisco a few nights before; small world or what?—and backtracked for dinner to the very same airport cafe we'd eaten pie in for breakfast. (We were far more sensible this time. We had nutella cheesecake.)  It wasn't the world's longest trip—or the world's most exotic—but it was exactly what I needed: full of laughter, adventure, napping, champagne, and puddin. I tell you, you'd be surprised at the restorative powers of puddin. 


Filed Under:
susie g
Mar 07, 2012

i'm going to need the play-by-play!

Mar 07, 2012

Wait one second! Don't you have a photo of you and Evan Dando together? I feel like you're leaving out a VERY important part of this story.

Rebecca S
Mar 07, 2012

Yes! What Tamara said!

Mar 08, 2012

It's the previous post to this, ladies above!

I think intense is OK. It shows dedication, commitment, character!

Intense + crazy = getting caught trying to break into his hotel room at 2am. Or paying the maid to steal his used towel or toothbrush!

Mar 08, 2012

PS. Oh I see, you mean HOW the picture came about, of course! Sorry, pre coffee typing!

Alison Presley
Mar 08, 2012

BBQ + US Weekly + Dogs in Costume + The Lemonheads = The best girls' weekend ever.

I think it's all very standard myself. Just "Girls' Weekend" and this very formula will pop right up.

Seriously, just what I needed too.

Mar 08, 2012

I'm so glad you had fun in Knoxville! It's a sweet little town. If you ever come back, I'll give you a tour of HGTV!

Anna Louisa
Mar 08, 2012

This sounds like a perfect mini-vacation...does anyone have suggestions for other spots along the east coast that are good for a weekend trip? (I'm D.C.-based)

Mar 08, 2012

Yes, but exactly HOW did you end up getting a photo with Evan Dando?! That's what I want to know.

Mar 08, 2012

That sounds like a fun girls' weekend!! I haven't had one in forever-- they are the best :)

Mar 08, 2012

Had I known in advanced you were going to be visiting my city, I totally would have recommended WAY better restaurants than Calhoun's. It's a good town, and pretty advanced for a small-ish city in the bible belt. I'm glad you enjoyed it though!

SF Reader
Mar 08, 2012

Is this one of those cruel tricks where you purposefully skip the big reveal in the hopes of driving your readers crazy? 'Cause it's working. For the record, I had completely forgotten about the Lemonheads but am now all in a dither as to what it was like meeting Evan Dando.

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 08, 2012

Haha! No, of course not! I just thought that part of the story would be interesting to, like, five people. We met outside the theater before the show. He was incredibly nice, though seemed exhausted. Said he was really tired from touring for three months straight but was going to try and put on a good show (which he did!) I said some truly inane things, I am sure of it, but he was a good sport.

Mar 08, 2012

Found myself laughin out loud at the imagined inner monologue regarding the puddin receipt. This was the perfect pick-me-up on a rainy day, so thanks!

Mar 08, 2012

I too want the play-by-play. I want to know how you ran into Evan Dando! Was he nice? Was he high as a kite? Did you exchange phone numbers? You know, the usual.

Mar 08, 2012

Next time I think you should come to Asheville, NC. Just a bit further east than Knoxville but still open on a Sunday. Plus we're "beer city usa" so you could definitely drink a beer for breakfast. :)

Kelly H
Mar 08, 2012

Aw come on!! We need details about the meeting of your Mr. Evan Dando!!!

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 08, 2012

Details are above! You can always email me for more.

Mar 08, 2012

I'm a Us Weekly kind of girl as well. One has to get the news in, somehow.

Also, fun fact: I'm dating the cousin of an ex-member of the Lemonheads. Not that that's actually close to really knowing the guy, but it's all I've got.

Mar 08, 2012

Holly - I am a big fan of your writing, and am so glad I found your blog. I find this entry to be incredibly quotable: Day glo in the sheets? Only as crazy as the company you keep? Ha!
However, I don't think I would be at all surprised to discover the restorative powers of puddin'.

Mar 08, 2012

I'm from a town even farther east in Tennessee than Knoxville and lived in Knoxville itself for a while. Pretty much everything is closed or opens late/closes early on Sundays. It's something you don't even think about if you grew up in the area like I did, but it can get annoying at 7 on a Sunday night when you really want to go out somewhere and the only places open are Wal-Mart and maybe the movie theater.

Mar 09, 2012

I just about died laughing reading about Mardi Growl. Still cracking up! "Y'all like dogs?"...

Camels & Chocolate
Mar 09, 2012

I'm so glad you guys loved Knoxville! I love Market Square, particularly after the remodel, and have BBQ, beer and puddin at Calhoun's every time I'm back visiting. And my sister and her boyfriend were, indeed, participants in the Day Glow Tour that very night.

Also, one major thing I'm adjusting to being back in the South--whether Nashville or Atlanta or anywhere in between--is that, brunch establishments and Whole Foods aside, EVERYTHING is closed on Sunday. (But when do the ladies do their shopping, I ask?)

Mar 15, 2012

Fun post. It made me realize how much I really, really, REALLY miss working with ya'll. Your next visit in Tennessee needs to be Memphis. Heather and I will meet up with ya'll and we'll hit all of our favorite spots. And, yes, there will be champagne.

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 15, 2012

JOEL! I'm coming to Memphis the last weekend of March with my family......

May 19, 2016

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Wow super! Ik heb ook een paar maanden mijn lange haar kort geknipt! Het voelde echt goed om zoiets te durven! Gewoon iets compleet anders!

Feb 04, 2018

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