Monday, September 08, 2008

Jack Neely and the Sunsphere of Doom

I met Jack Neely on Friday. Actually, I was never formally introduced to him, but I did see him, and I stood in close proximity to him for two hours.

If you don’t know who Jack Neely is, go pick up a Metro Pulse sometime today. He is one of my favorite writers. Friday night was the Knox Heritage Art and Architecture Tour, where Knoxvillians were given a chance to see the city again for the first time. Jack was my group’s tour guide.

I am not a natural reader. I love books and reading, but there is a daunting factor to the whole process, especially when I open up a newspaper or a magazine. The pictures usually distract me and I end up only reading captions. Some of my heroes are writers who entice me to read. One of those writers is Jack Neely. It is not only the tasteful way he puts words together on a page but also the subject matter he chooses. As the intern at Knox Heritage, I file away an endless sea of articles. One fourth of those seem to be written by Jack, and I read most of them. It has taken me months to do a task that would have taken a normal person a few days.

On Friday night, I checked people in at Sapphire for the Art and Architecture tour. Of course, I was anxiously awaiting one man’s arrival, curious to see the face behind all of those “Secret History's.” And then, in the twinkling of an eye, there he stood. I couldn’t see his face at first because he was backlit, but I could make out his name tag. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I was delighted. Jack stood there, stylishly wearing white converse and a white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He had a cool smile and liquid blue eyes. He was twice my age.

As we continued on with the tour, I was so busy looking at him that I couldn’t process most of what he was saying. He endearingly stammered over his words, lit up as he talked about an outlaw that walked across the Gay Street Bridge, and even toasted a wall of old bricks. I had to leave the tour early to go see a friend’s art show. For some reason I made the decision not to meet Jack before I left. I guess I’d like to still keep him a mystery. From what I did gather, however, I came to this conclusion: Jack Neely is Knoxville’s Indiana Jones. He does what he can to protect and preserve what makes Knoxville unique, even if he is only able to memorialize buildings that once existed with words. His whip (pardon the cheese) is his keyboard. I guess that makes me the girl with “I love you” written across her eyelids.


benjamin said...

oh, big b. you slay me.

Jack read an essay about knoxville at the blue plate last summer during a farewell show for phil pollard. it was pretty awesome. you should have been there.

ck said...

big b knows that nothing is as sexy as a man with an obsessive amount of archaic historical detail crammed in his brain. nothing.

max said...

restraining order!

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog via my brothers blog "great Smokey Mountain blogspot" and saw your story about not meeting Jack Neely.
Well...I used to live just around the corner from him and drank a few adult beverages on his porch!
Are you jealous?

Anonymous said...

Oops...Brothers site is Great Smokey blog, not mountains...look him up sometime!