Interest has been expressed recently (em, npw, allie) regarding how Courtney and I came to inhabit the happening urbs of Knoxville, Tennessee. It's really not a very good story, but I'll do my best. Maybe I should come up with a more entertaining alternate version. Yeah, that sounds like more fun, so here are two wildly different stories about how we came to K-town. You decide which one is true.
Version 1: I (the protagonist, because this is my blog) decided in January 2004 to go with Courtney to Kentucky when she got a job at a newspaper there as a reporter. Having been completely listless and barely employed since my college graduation two years before, I figured "What the shit? I love her and I've got nothing else going on." So we moved in together two states from our previous Georgia homes. The small city we found ourselves in didn't exactly light the fire of industry within me as I'd hoped and I soon took up frisbee golf. My dwindling bank account had other ideas, however, and I was forced to seek employment in a warehouse, where I spent 12-hour days loading and unloading bags of dog food and potting soil. I was sort of like Kevin Bacon in Footloose except with a less expensive haircut and no moves to speak of. In my spare time I managed to cultivate the acquaintance of some local university students/ pot smokers/ rock climbers that provided the very occasional diversion from my life of slinging heavy things around. Luckily, or unluckily from both Courtney's perspective and my official stance, I finally received a phone call a few months later from the National Park Service about a job. I'd been applying for just about every job they had available over the previous year and a half and was happy to finally hear back.
The next month or so at the warehouse then came to be sort of like training for me for my soon-to-begin tenure as a ranger at Grand Teton National Park. But that's not what this story is about. In the summer of 2005, while I was back in Wyoming for my second season in the funny hat, Courtney (who is the smart one) decided to pursue her master's degree and settled on the University of Tennessee. Knoxville is located fairly close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so the decision was made partly due to the possibility of me being able to pursue my rangering there. Also, job prospects aside, my penchant for disappearing into large tracts of wilderness on extended solo death marches requires that I live near extensive parcels of public lands. That's why western Kentucky felt like a cage.
Some other things may have played into the decision: UT was where a former college professor of ours and one of Courtney's favorite mentors got her doctorate; it's only a few hours from Atlanta and thus our family and friends; the Sunsphere is like a gigantic psychic magnet, drawing all who gaze upon her golden radiance near and holding them in her orange-draped orbit. Knoxville has a great many more opportunities than did our former Kentucky home, yet that fire of industry within me still burns fairly low. I'm beginning to come around to the idea that I'm not a very industrious person. But that's also not what this post is about.
Version 2: I came to the University of Tennessee as an undergraduate with one goal in mind: to run out through the "T" onto the green field of Neyland Stadium some fall Saturday afternoon as a Volunteer football player. Everybody back home at the steel mill told me I was too small and too slow to play ball at the next level, and my grades weren't good enough to get in to the university on the first go. I enrolled at nearby Pelissippi State for the first semester until, with the help of Jon Favreau, I got my grades up enough and enrolled at UT, where I earned money by working as a groundskeeper. My supervisor, a kindly bald black man, let me stay in his basement office because I couldn't afford housing.
Eventually, through hard work and sheer determination, I made the practice squad, where I toiled for three years as a tackling dummy. Finally, for the last game of my senior season I was allowed to don the orange and white and take the field with the team. When the fans in the stadium took up my cause and began chanting my name (Mickey! Mickey!), Coach Devine relented and put me in for a couple of plays on defense at the end of the game. I surprised everyone by sacking the Georgia Tech quarterback. They made a movie about it that makes grown men cry. It was pretty cool.