DEVELOP UNTIL NO ONE CAN MOVE

If you are one of the many folks who travel Karns Valley Road and Emory Road, get ready for more headaches. Your drive time will grow; your frustration level will increase; and your chances of being involved in an accident will multiply.  

A tract of land located at the intersection of Henderson Road and West Emory Road is proposed for subdivision development. Another tract is also being considered for housing. It’s located on Karns Valley between West Emory and Beaver Ridge Road. That’s right. The second one is unbelievably close to the stop sign at Beaver Ridge Road. At present, cars line up at that bottle neck as they wait to continue the journey toward Powell or to Oak Ridge Highway. 

During the morning and afternoon, Beaver Ridge Road backs up with parents dropping off or picking up their children at school. Now, cars traveling from Oak Ridge or from Hardin Valley will clog the road as they futilely try to get to work or return home with the addition of hundreds of cars at that intersection. 

Ball Road in the Ball Camp community has no fewer than seven subdivision roads that have been added over the past few years. Heavy traffic piles up on this two-lane country road, and the back-up at the intersection of Ball Road and Ball Camp Pike can reach a half mile in the morning. Trains that cross the roads twice leave motorists apoplectic, and their angst is doubled when they drive another mile and hit the snarl of cars at Ball Camp School. 

The same thing is happening in all parts of Knoxville. Developers seem to be building on any piece of ground that they can purchase. They slap up houses at 4-5 per acre. A small subdivision of fifty houses could possibly put 100 or more cars on the main roads.  

What planning is going on with all of this development? I know that the county has the MPC to decide whether or not a project can proceed. Supposedly, that group of folks looks at the plans and makes a decision that is in the best interest of the citizens. However, some proposals are okayed in spite of the objections of the existing communities. If the MPC denies the application, the developer can appeal to the full county commission. 

Of most concern to current residents of communities are infrastructure problems. Huge numbers of cars are added from new subdivisions, but they drive on the same old roads. In one case, community members objected to a subdivision because of ta dangerous existing road. Residents presented photos of a fire truck that had run off the road in a curve that wasn’t wide enough for it and a passing car. The proposed subdivisions were located no more than one-tenth of a mile from that curve. An official answered the complaint by saying that the county had many narrow roads and that people would just have to learn to live with them.  

Other communities are up in arms about the environmental impact new subdivisions have. Roads, yards, and homes that never worried about heavy rains are now flooded due to the runoff from those new streets. Wildlife invade neighborhoods in search of food because their habitats have been scraped clean. Roads are lined with skunks, raccoons, possums, and even deer carcasses that have been hit by vehicles. 

People aren’t necessarily against development. What they detest is uncontrolled building that makes communities worse. Residents want local government to address the problems of roads that can’t handle the traffic before allowing more cars to travel them. They also want developers and government officials to protect against flooding and erosion.  

The explosion of subdivisions is surprising when the current health and economic problems are considered. No one wants to deny “progress,” but everyone wants any progress to begin only after the infrastructure can accommodate it. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Let’s hope our boards and officials feel the same way.   

I'M GUILTY

 I’m guilty. I plead that to many things in my life. Some aren’t especially attractive, while others are just a bit goofy. Still, all of this time spent avoiding most people and places in order to stay healthy has found me looking a bit deeper at who I am. If confession is good for the soul, then I ought to feel wonderful by the end of this piece. 

I suppose some folks might call me a racist. Yes, I’ve had black friends and taught black students. Still, I don’t understand their lives, struggles, and demands. I am a white man who has never outwardly attacked physically or verbally a person of another race. However, I have expressed frustrations at their anger that is so pointedly aimed at white folks. I suppose that makes me a racist. 

Yes, racial equality must be achieved now. Every person, regardless of race or gender, should have the opportunities to succeed. What others will describe as racist are my proposals for achieving that. I believe that all families must insist that children stay in school, apply themselves, and graduate from high school. No child, regardless of color, should be allowed to drop out. In addition, all must continue their educations to develop skills in an academic discipline or a trade that provides a good income and choices in life. Last, I don’t believe in reparations for a certain group. Instead, I support pouring money into schools to make them places of excellence which offer choices for every student. That will help minorities achieve the equality that they want. 

I further believe that most white folks aren’t racist. A minority is disgusting in its hate and attacks of black Americans. At the same time, a minority of blacks are in favor of more violent means to achieve their goals. Most of us believe that the time is now for equal opportunity and an equal playing field. We would all do well to ignore the few extremists in favor of the many like-minded individuals. Joining forces doubles our strength.  

I further plead guilty to being intolerant. Another way of saying this is to describe me as someone who is “righteously indignant.” I live based on a set of principles, and I hold others accountable to these general rules, things such as telling the truth, obeying traffic rules, and treating others as they would like to be treated. My wife and son declare that I am Larry David’s double, only with a little more hair. Like him, if I see a wrong, I attempt to right it. The worst arguments I have are over principle. 

Finally, I plead guilty to being a hopeless romantic. During my entire life I’ve always looked for the ideal. The problem, however, is the “perfect” rarely is achieved. The “real” is much less exciting. Whether the topic has been a job, a car, a relationship, or home, my thoughts leaned toward over-the-top perfection, something that doesn’t exist and could never be obtained.  Over the years, I learned that most things become better based only on the amount of work I was willing to put in. Luckily, my wife and family know my romantic leanings and put up with me until my feet touch the firm ground of reality.  

If I’ve offended anyone with my admissions of guilt, I asked for your forgiveness. Even at my age, I am a work in progress. If some are unable to get passed my confessions of guilt, I will understand. Perhaps at some point, I’ll get all these things right.  

GOD HAVE MERCY ON US

I saw the obituary for a high school friend in the paper. It made me sad and just a bit shocked. The reminder that people my age and I are reaching the last few years of our lives also delivered a jolt. Younger folks are tired of hearing about “Baby Boomers,” and I somewhat understand that. We’ve been center stage for a long time. What those “young’uns” might not know is that we old folks have witnessed plenty of rotten things during our years.  
I remember polio, not because the disease afflicted me but because I knew young people who had been struck with it. One boy lived in our neighborhood and wore braces on his legs. Children got vaccines before they entered school, or they lined up during the first day for them. A few years later, entire families lined up to receive polio boosters that were placed on sugar cubes. 
Children also had to be tested for tuberculosis. Again, at school we lined up and waited for an injection under the skin on the backs of our forearms. A few days later, we showed our arms to a nurse who pulled some students out to further examine suspicious looking places.  
Before vaccines were developed, we suffered with chicken pox, measles, and mumps. They were part of growing up. Kids would miss several days until the rashes or swelling abated. Then, feeling weak and exhausted, they’d be back at school and ready to make up the work missed.  
My generation lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Younger children didn’t grasp the fact that diving under a desk during a practice drill was of little use if a nuclear weapon were exploded over Oak Ridge. I suppose none of us realized that walking home drills after a pretend attack was improbable since everyone and everything around here would have been vaporized.  
Older and younger children did understand the tragedy of President Kennedy’s assassination. The country shut down, and a heavy pall fell across the land. Things weren’t much better a few years later when Martin Luther King, Jr. And Bobby Kennedy were also gunned down. We worried about the direction of the country and its future. 
Our teenage years brought the chances of being drafted to fight in Vietnam. That war was fought on the backs of young folks, but most of the generation never did understand exactly what soldiers were fighting or why they were doing so. We just knew that young men were shipped to a country far away and too many of them never came back. Even the soldiers who came home weren’t welcomed with parades and cheers; they were instead met with jeers and taunts.  
The attack on 9/11 shook us to our foundation, and the citizens of this country joined in one voice to announce that we would not be defeated by such cowardly acts. More wars ensued, and young people were killed and maimed. This time, those soldiers were our children instead of ourselves, and we would have gladly traded places with them. 
Now, we face this damn virus. It respects neither age, sex, nor status. It only wants to spread. Our country first met the challenge with strength and determination to defeat the problem. We stayed home, socially distanced, and followed the rules set by health officials. 
When cases began to ease, we too quickly returned to life. It was a tragic mistake. Now the virus is attacking again, and as many as 75,000 cases are reported each day. The death toll rises and now includes small children, as well as Baby Boomers.  
Virus fatigue keeps too many people from fighting again. The answer to the problem is still adequate and accurate testing, social distancing, and mask wearing. However, too many people refuse to wear masks. It’s such a small thing to do, but folks scream and holler and complain that doing so violates their rights. What I say to them is that their rights end where mine begin.  
Yes, we old people have faced many difficult times in our lives. This pandemic, however, is the scariest thing I have seen. The American will has been dulled, and citizens lack the determination or sacrifice necessary to stop the virus. For the first time in our history, America might lack the courage and leadership to save itself. I hope God has mercy on us.  

GO GRUBBY

Amy bought me one of those micro-shavers that trims and shaves and cuts. It’s a neat little gadget that gives me a break from the shaving ritual that I’ve followed for decades. This new razor would be nicer if I used it to cut the scraggily parts of a beard, but my wife told me years ago that I needed to shave off the beard I’d grown and that I should never grow another. The fact is this one daily activity is not much fun anymore. 
Not long after puberty arrived, I got excited about being able to be a real man and shave. As soon as a bit of fuzz appeared on my cheeks, I loaded an old razor with a double-sided blade and proceeded to scrape the areas. The fuzz disappeared but was replaced by a dozen small red rivers caused by the nicks from a razor crossing skin at awkward angles. I exited the bathroom with small wads of toilet paper plastered to the wounds, and, yes, there was much laughter from family members.  
Sideburns were fashionable my high school senior year, and I grew a pair that reached half-way down the sides of my face. I’ve never been good making things like that match, and on occasion, one strip of hair was longer than the other, and my whole head looked cock-eyed.  
My first year in college, I thought I’d look great with long hair, a moustache, and chin whiskers. Those areas weren’t shaved and remained “rough.” Before long, I shaved my chin, but I kept the moustache and kept my upper lip covered for years. 
During my early years as a teacher, I also grew a beard. It was spotty and had two gray streaks on my chin. My students nicknamed me “Skunkie.” With that name and a bit of more-than-gentle persuasion from Amy, I made the decision to shave that beard. Doing so unleashed a whole lot of ugly, and my skin suffered from a severe case of razor burn.  
The moustache stayed for several more years. It eventually came in solid gray, and I whacked it away. When people asked why I’d shave it, I told them that when it couldn’t be seen any more the time had come to get rid of it. The stares from family and friends ended before long.  
For the last 20+ years, I’ve shaved this mug and kept it free of hair. To me, it’s looked the same during that time. However, sometimes, I wake up enough to see the face looking back at me and wonder who the old man is. I look at the top of my head and see that it is too quickly becoming as bare as my face.  
Since I’m retired and only substitute a few days each week, shaving is no longer something I have to do every day. In fact, during the summer, I only break out the razor when I my face is covered with white stubble or I must be in public. The excitement of shaving that came in my teens has long since disappeared. I complete the task as quickly as possible and hope too many places haven’t been missed.  
The luckiest men are those who have little or no beard. They can skip one daily chore or perform it only a couple of times each week. The rest of us will have deal with the cold steel against our faces or go “grubby.” I, for one, am thankful that I’m not expected to shave my legs and armpits.