I only made two excursiouns this month, and one of them was rather short. Armed with a rumor from a student who had stopped in my office, I went out on a weekend morning in search of the Giant Octopus of Knoxville. You might think we didn't have octupi here, what with Tennessee being a landlocked state and all, but the student insisted that they had seen it "somewhere downtown, maybe in the old city."
"An octopus? Like a mural?"
"Kind of, but big! And not, like, an official mural."
I took that to mean that it was a graffiti mural, which only made me want to see it more.
"Do you remember where you saw it? Was it near anything?"
"Well, it was sort of down Henley Street, but where it turns into another street. You go over that bridge after the music sculpture, and it was just kind of there on the wall."
With directions like that, I couldn't possibly go wrong, right? I know that Henley becomes Broadway, but that's where the whole thing breaks down. The music sculpture, which I interpreted to be the large treble clef near the Old City, isn't on Henley. It's at the end of Gay Street in a little plaza. Worse, there are multiple bridges and overpasses in that area, so the octopus could have been anywhere. Amazingly, I found it on my first try:
It's on a wall that borders the parking lot of the Graning Discount Paint Center on North Broadway, immediately to your left after the overpass. It's fortunate that it was next to a parking lot, because I had to get out of the car and really study that thing. Some of my friends think it's a squid, but squid don't have beaks, so I'm sticking with octopus. That doesn't account for the horns, though, or anything else that's going on in that picture. That little line at the bottom is a row of pregnant women, marching toward a tiny man whose head is the symbol for radioactivity. They may or may not be chased by pirahna, as seen on the far left, and the octopus may or may not be helping them by shooting that ink.
In short, I have no idea what's going on there, but isn't it still kind of awesome?
The same day that I saw the octopus, I also went to the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. Early spring is probably a horrible time to visit such a place, but I was intrigued, and wanted to see if it was worth going back to in the summer.
The Botanical Garden is located on the former grounds of the Howell Nurseries:
I'm not sure what happened to the nursery, but all of the buildings are still there. On one side of the road, where the terraces, vegetable garden, and stone greenhouses were located, there's a lot of old, castle-ish stonework:
While it is in a little bit of disrepair, mostly with glass missing from the windows and vines creeping in:
it's still very pretty:
and will no doublt be prettier with flowers and grass around.
The real highlight for me, though, given my love of ruined things, was that the old commercial buildings for the nursery business are all still in place, slowly crumbling in the larger part of the gardens across the street:
And oh, boy, are they crumbling:
As one of my friends put it: "They didn't even need to advertise it as a garden. They could put a big sign on the side of the road that says, 'Ruined greenhouse! Open to the public!' and you would have shoved people out of the way to get in."
It's true. They do have ruined greenhouses:
and I would shove people out of the way to get to them.
There's a lot of other stuff to look at, too, like rusting barn roofs:
vacant sales counters behind glassless windows:
broken fountains flanked by crumbling statuary:
I really can't wait to go back in the summer, as this tiny leaf I found on my jacket when I was leaving:
suggests that the garden might also have plants.