Harry Potter and The Poodle Perm
Sewanee Travel Blog› entry 9 of 16 › view all entries
Miles Traveled: 231
Roads Traveled: US-127S, SR-111S, US-70S, I-24E, US-41W
Time on the Road: 5 hours
States Crossed: Kentucky, Tennessee
Tanks of Gas: .75
CD’s Listened to: Soul Coughing, Fleetwood Mac, George Michael and some random CD I found in my mail box the day that I quit The Pot.
Harry Potter & The Poodle Perm
“GAHHW-LEEE! You are PURRR-TEEE!” exclaimed a large and in charge truck driver as I entered the exit ramp diner somewhere in between Albany, Kentucky and the Tennessee border. I looked left and right and then realized that he was in fact speaking to me. A wave of mixed emotions came over me. At first, a bit of embarrassed flattery then a bit of “run far far away”, followed by a hey, wait a minute, that compliment wasn’t as nice as it sounded. While sorting out the emotions attached to the complement, I quickly scanned the locals dressed in their just pressed Sunday Best and sat at the counter with my newspaper. A few moments passed and I couldn’t help but notice the weight of the stares drilling a hole into my skull. I swiveled my stool to the right and glanced up quickly only to find a sea of poodle perms and pock-marked faces glaring in my direction. I was not scared, just bewildered. I mean seriously, I had been driving for about 4 hours when I stopped. I was wearing jeans, a baseball hat and a hoodie. I had zero makeup or jewelry on and I feel that my deodorant stopped working about 2 hours into my journey. I was no prize at that moment. I still have absolutely no idea why I received the reckless eyeballing of a life time at that diner.
If there is one thing that I have learned here in Tennessee ��" everything comes down to Southern Salesmanship. There is always a wink, a smile, a gesture. Eventually, being a Northerner you melt a little and give in. You crumble for two reasons: 1) the above mentioned inherent flirting/non-flirting and 2) their use of the English language is fascinating and frustrating to listen to. Oh and unlike up North where we place online ads or in the newspaper when we want to sell something, down here if the above mentioned “southern swagger” fails, just put whatever it is in the front lawn with a “fer sale” sign (I have seen everything from cars to furniture to spare parts to clothing to puppies.)
Technically, there are three towns involved in this tiny region. In order, driving through the mountainside from the freeway to the valley, there is Mont Eagle which is merely an exit off the freeway that hosts a local greasy spoon diner, an Awful Waffle (aka Waffle House), a BP/McDonald’s, a Best Western, a beloved Piggly Wiggly and a restaurant called, “Burnt Wood.” Then there is the town of Sewanee, an adorable little town plunked in the middle of the mountain. The town is home to Sewanee Boarding School and The University of The South, which are built into a small plateau in the mountain and finally, Cowan, Tennessee about ten miles into the valley. I spent the majority of my time outside of the university in Cowan. Cowan is literally a one road, two-horse town with a railroad that cuts through the middle of its city centre. Here is what I know about Cowan: Everything (all 4 stores, 2 restaurants and the gas station) closes at 7pm and everything, except church, is closed or rather, “shut” on Sunday. The door signs do not say, open & closed, but open & shut ��" love it! Furthermore, the locals wave, smile and say, “hey now” to greet you on the street, even if you are a complete and total stranger. Cowan is so small that they seemed to name their streets based on what is located on it. The elementary school is on School House Lane, the Episcopalian House of Worship is on Church Road and the post office is located on…wait for it, Postal Drive. The B&B that I stayed at (ahem, located on Hotel Avenue, which intersects the largest road, ahem, again, called Main Street) was beautiful, in the southern plantation grandiose kind of way and damn noisy. You see, Hotel Avenue is bordered by Main Street and Railroad Way. I am sure that you have figured out what travels down that street at 2 am blaring its horn when it crosses Main Street.
The Campus Experience
What do The University of The South and Harry Potter have in common? Uh, everything, except the sorcery class and flying brooms. The school itself is located in the woods and has a large lake surrounding it giving it a very Blair Witch Project type feeling. ALL of the buildings are made out of limestone and architecturally, they were designed in the gothic style, including bell towers, gargoyles and spires. Sounds familiar so far, but wait it gets better. The insides of the classrooms are made out of dark hard wood, just like in Harry Potter. The most Potter-esque tradition is the robe situation. The professors wear purple robes while they are teaching and the students that achieve an overall 3.5-4.0 grade point average are inducted into The Order Of The Gownsmen. Every semester new inductees are given black robes and get this, the students have their names, activities and accolades embroidered on them and they actually wear them to class to signify their membership in The Order. I have never seen anything like this in my life. To be totally honest, I was stupefied and kind of freaked out by the whole experience.