The Big Empty

West Town parking lot

The Big Empty

Scenes from an underpopulated spring afternoon.

by jesse fox mayshark • March 26, 2020


The parking lot at west town mall on Wednesday.

Wednesday brought an almost perfect spring afternoon to Knoxville, sunny with highs in the mid 60s and a blue sky full of fluffy clouds.

In normal times, it's the kind of day that would have seen downtown bustling and parking lots full. But these are of course not normal times, and yesterday Knoxville's mostly-closed commercial districts were depopulated save for the occasional jogger.

Vol Piper Tyler Roy

Vol Piper Tyler Roy and Keith Sinclair walk through 4th and Gill on Wednesday.

In the 4th and Gill neighborhood, the late afternoon air was roused by the wail of bagpipes, courtesy of Tyler Roy and Keith Sinclair, members of Knoxville Pipes and Drums. On Facebook, Roy goes by the name The Vol Piper, and he is taking the opportunity of this odd week to serenade the self-isolating all across town.

"We're going to a different neighborhood every day," Roy said. (His jaunt through 4th and Gill was subtitled, "Bothering UT professors," a reference to the neighborhood's concentration of academics.) He will be in North Hills today starting at 5 p.m.

Roy is also raising money as he goes for Second Harvest Food Bank, through donations on his Facebook page. As of yesterday evening, he said he had raised about $1,400.

The bagpipes he plays belonged to his uncle, Bill Powell, whose death from AIDS raised local awareness of the disease.

Here are some other scenes from around Knoxville.

State Street Garage

An empty parking deck in the State Street Garage downtown.

Kaizen parking

Parking spaces set aside for pick-up customers in front of Kaizen restaurant on Clinch Avenue.

Strong Alley

Strong Alley between Gay Street and Market Square.

UT Pedestrian Walkway

The Pedestrian Walkway through the heart of the University of Tennessee's Knoxville campus.

Downtown Grill message

A chalk message to patrons on the vacant patio of the Downtown Grill & Brewery on Gay Street.