The Capri Motel

Johnson City, Tennessee

The Capri Motel is a twelve-roomer, settled on the strip of a four-lane highway that connects East Tennessee’s fastest-growing city (Johnson City, population 55,000) to the state’s oldest (Jonesborough, population 4,100). Half a mile north of the Goodwill Store and three-quarters of a mile south of Crowder’s VAC and GUN, the Capri is a one-story affair made distinctive by its fifties neon sign. Its competitor, the Johnson Inn, which sports a much larger sign boasting LUXURY FOR LESS, hopes to lure travelers with its blue-bottomed swimming pool (which is roughly the size of a king-sized bed) and in-room microwaves (which may be rented for an additional fee). The Capri Inn doesn’t make specious promises of luxury or by-the-hour rates. It’s a quiet, simple, and clean motel, so respectable that the owner, Eleanor Thomas, lives in a gray and white frame house right on the motel’s three-acre lot. If customers come by and there is no one in the tidy office, they only have to ring the bell and Mrs. Thomas will come trotting across the yard.

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—Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones is the author of Leaving Atlanta, a novel. She is the Geier Writer in Residence at East Tennessee State University.

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