Elizabeth: The Hidden Gem
While traveling in the north of the state, I come to a town that I never knew existed. It was fairly large with a robust main street, and I thought it was a wonder that I (and one would assume everyone else) had never heard of it. As I discovered the town, I was able to "zoom out" and see the overview. My point of view was from the northwest corner of the main town. I could see a wide river to the north, a river road, and a main street up higher. The town was built on a curve of the river, so the west end of the city jutted up to it with a cliff and the east end followed the curve and stretched on far out into the distance, but seemed like a slum. A river to the south? It suddenly made sense why this Kentucky town was so obscure - it was located north of the river. But, it was most definitely Kentucky.
I was on a trolley ride but kept leaping off the trolley to take pictures. The buildings were fantastic. Each one was a work of art with an extremely elaborate facade. I knew that each building was a wonder inside also. I didn't know if I would ever be back to this town, and I didn't know if anybody outside of the town had ever seen it. I wanted to capture every little detail to go back and study it. As I traveled east through the town, the buildings started to appear more run down. Some doors were ajar and I would peek my head in. I didn't feel safe entering any of the buildings - the bricks were loose, roofs were rotten. One building stood out as "Andrew Jackson's House." I knew it was his house because there was a bust of him in the house. It was crumbling brick, but I was so curious to go inside and see if there are any artifacts. I never did, but that curiosity was always in the back of my mind. I also made a connection between the recent surge in removal of confederate statues and the fact that his iconic building was crumbling. I thought that if I wanted to explore, I had better do it soon before the building collapses.
The trolley driver met up with me again and I asked her to show me the slums. She told me it might be dangerous, but that we could have a look if I stay with her. Main Street was a good bit higher than the river and we followed it as it curved around the bend. At one point, before Main Street curved down to enter the slums, we could look down and see the whole sprawling area. The buildings were all about 3 stories high and close together. It wasn't the ramshackle slum area that you would expect from a small Kentucky town, but more like a low income area of the city. The area was washed in an orange streetlight glow and the area was thick with smog. We didn't enter.
I am in a third floor apartment that I'm temporarily renting during my stay. It's in the middle area of the town in the area that was once opulent but is now in disrepair. Suddenly, a giant hole about 20 feet across forms in the floor and crashes down to the next level, which causes a corresponding hole to form there and fall to the first level. We can see into each other's apartments and we know it isn't safe to be in the building. There's also an unarticulated fear of other people or creatures roaming at night and getting into people's spaces. I left the apartment to try and find an Airbnb for the night.
I walked back up Main Street in the dark and saw things I hadn't noticed in the day. between most of the buildings were alleys going all directions like a web. I was so intrigued by these alleys, but I saw unsavory characters coming in and out of them, so I thought it might not be safe for me to go exploring alone. Most shops were closed, it was 8pm, but I see a vintage clothing store that's open and I duck in. She doesn't have a huge inventory, mostly coats and nothing really that interests me. She's a jolly girl, though. She has round glasses and black bangs and reminds me of Kim-Joy from The Great British Bake Off. I comment on her late hours and she laughs and says, "I like to keep the shop open later so I can justify not opening up at 7am!"
I mention to her that I'm looking for an Airbnb for the night. Particularly, I'm looking for something inexpensive for me for the night, but I might be interested in finding something nice for when my husband arrives in the future. She seemed to have a lead somewhere and we left her shop and went upstairs where her apartment and several others were. I met two of her friends who lived in the building. One friend was very concerned for my safety. I was in danger in that town at night because I wasn't a local. He thought the best thing to do would be to disguise me. I look around the apartment for items I can use to conceal my appearance, but he doesn't think any normal items are sufficient. He hands me a white porcelain mask that covers everything but my eyes. I put it on and think that it would draw more attention than anything else because it's so obviously a mask, but he thinks it's perfect.