IDIOT KILLED BY REAL AMERICANS; PRETTY MUCH ASKED FOR IT. That’s how I imagined my obituary would read when I entered Alabama and never came back. Poking around the Lowcountry of South Carolina with Brian was one thing, but venturing by myself to the Bible Belt and sticking my nose into other people’s business felt like quite another. Fortunately for me, Hollywood, AL was not what I expected it to be.
As I understand it, the way most people encounter Jehovah’s Witnesses is as follows: you’re in the middle of dinner, someone knocks on your front door, tries to convert you, you nod politely and close the door. Imagine my surprise when I knocked on Harry’s door, had a ten-minute conversation with him, and then he tried to convert me. “Read your Bible every day!” he told me.
Harry, like a lot of other people, moved to Hollywood to work at the nuclear power plant that began construction in the mid-1980′s. Halfway through construction of the second cooling tower, construction on the Bellefonte (that’s “BELL-font”) nuclear facility stopped. Why? It’s unclear (which is an anagram for ‘nuclear!’), but the reasons seem to be chiefly economic, and I was assured by several people, including the mayor, that safety risks were not to blame.
Whatever the reason for the cancellation of the plant’s construction, it certainly didn’t help the town’s economy. On the bright side, the influx of workers who showed up at the plant seems to have stuck around. I couldn’t shake the feeling, though, that this Hollywood is between breaths. It’s a tiny little town in the same way Hollywood, SC was, sure, but there was a sense as I explored the main road that more or less completely comprises Hollywood, AL of… anticipation? Of something just on the verge of happening, something to crack open the status quo.
And then it occurred to me: of course! The incandescent rebirth of Quetzalcoatl the infinite fire serpent in 2012!
Wait, what? No, sorry.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) recently decided to restart construction on the Bellefonte plant. Nobody knows yet if they’re going to move forward. The company in charge of the construction has a board meeting scheduled for next month at which they’ll decide the fate of the plant. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re also deciding the fate of Hollywood – the town will still be there one way or another – but if they finish the plant and it goes into operation, that will bring four thousand new jobs to the town (and nearby Scottsboro, too, but this isn’t Going Scottsboro so whatever). Which would mean maybe the Hollywood Shopping Center, utterly abandoned during my visit and apparently for the last thirty years, too, could get some business going.
Completed in April, the TVA’s nuclear training facility across the street from Hollywood sticks out like a sore. potentially radioactive thumb. It is an angular gray building, inside and out, and it was built to facilitate training of the workers, contract and otherwise, who will soon be flooding the area if the plant’s construction continues. I tried to speak to someone involved in the construction who might have intimate knowledge of the proceedings. I was gently rebuffed, but there’s still hope: assuming he can get approval from his supervisor at the TVA, I might be able to interview him on the phone next week. Fingers crossed, everyone.
Tomorrow: the real Hollywood, exploding meth labs, the illuminati, and I get electrocuted!