Yesterday, there was a movie being filmed in Bristol (Virginia not England) on the street outside the Blackbird Bakery where I was working. One of the production assistants told me that it’s a Christmas movie called Believe and he mentioned the actors’ names and looked at me strangely when I showed no sign of recognition. They’ve also been shooting in the red brick LC King building a few blocks away where dungarees, jeans and jackets hardy enough for the toughest customer have been designed and triple sewed for over 100 years. It’s a fourth generation business that’s keeping up with the times by adding the odd tote bag, wallet, denim skirt and skinny jean. The retro style was “crushing it,” according to the weird LA creatures with their spiky hair and 12 hole boots who were browsing at the end of their 12 hour day.
It doesn’t take long to walk around Bristol. State Street is the main street and it’s a nice place for a visitor to wander but not so good for people who need a pharmacy, a carton of milk or a magazine. These things are 10 minutes or more away in malls scattered along the highways spreading out from Bristol like octopus tentacles. There are small metal plates embedded along the centre line of State Street so that pedestrians know if they have crossed the state line between Tennessee and Virginia.
Beyond State Street is the Civic Centre, the TV and radio building and the fire station and a great little park with a helicopter hovering midair and an eternal flame burning in a memorial to war veterans. The railway station is at the end of town near the sign that insists, night and day, that Bristol is a great place to live. Only freight trains stop these days and when they do State Street is blocked and cars and the odd pedestrian (usually me) queue up waiting for it to move on. This happens several times a day. Buses don’t stop at the Greyhound bus station either – the building is a boutique brewery now – so it’s impossible to arrive in Bristol by public transport which is a pity, and probably a headache, for the people responsible for Bristol’s growth and development.
Bristol sells itself on being the Birthplace of Country Music (the museum with that name is definitely worth visiting) but there’s also a magic shop where David and Merlin the dog entertain their customers and sometimes share secrets, a comic store (just like Sheldon’s favourite on the Big Bang Theory), a world class photographer’s gallery and an art deco theatre where I recently witnessed the extraordinary sight of ballet performed to mountain music played on a fiddle and a banjo. Naturally, the dancers were wearing LC King’s dungarees.
Bristol is the kind of place people pass through on their way to somewhere else and then wish that they’d stayed longer or they arrive for Rhythm & Roots, the annual 3-day music festival that takes over the town in September, or come to experience what “flying fighter jets in a gymnasium”sounds like along with 159 999 other NASCAR fans crammed inside the 8th largest sports stadium in the world, and find other reasons to linger.
Now that Spring is here, it’s not just the daffodils that are bursting into life. People are out walking, jogging, cutting grass and tidying yards. There are parts of Bristol where the houses look like small hotels and handfuls of shiny 4 x 4s line the driveway. In other parts, they are sad and broken-down but always there are people sitting on the front porch ready to wave and say ‘howdy’. It’s people who make a place memorable and it’s becoming clear to me why Bristol really is a good place to live.
Categories: An American Adventure