Wednesday, June 30, 2010

End of the Month Details

Well, I made it through a month. There are a few things worth noting and wrapping up as we move into July.

The first poll asked whether Sundown in the City should continue. The final numbers revealed a split among the Stuckinsideofknoxville readers: About 45% said to keep some version of it, while about 55% expressed doubts or said it was over. Since the survey included so many participants (13), I feel obligated to inform the city fathers (and mothers) that the people have spoken. Embarrassingly, no one spoke to the blogger to report the misspelling in the title. Speak up, people!

The first guess on the object surrounding the base of the tree was not a guess at all, rather an informed opinion: It is a TreeGator. Congratulations to Anonymous, who seems to be one smart cookie, since he (or she - it is anonymous) also figured out the mulberries. It appears to be a 15 gallon, Treegator Jr. Pro. I like the name, TreeGator, but it raised a new question: Since there is only one on the row of trees and it is sometimes moved among the trees, does that mean the city can only afford one? Since this will clearly be a long, hot summer, should we have a Tree Gator drive to save more trees?

Finally, a big "Thank You" to everyone who has read the posts. When I started writing, I wondered if anyone would know it was here. If there are no readers, does a blog really exist? I need not have worried. So far, there have been about 1700 page views by over 800 people, 114 of whom have returned at least once. People have visited from 120 different cities in 22 states and 6 foreign countries. Not a bad first month.

Happy July, everybody!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Someone Showed Me a Picture and I Just Laughed"

I've probably taken close to 1000 pictures in the month of June. Many of them were so terrible I deleted them. Some were good enough I included them in the posts. I didn't have room for some others that I thought were really good - particularly of the Dirty Guv'nahs and Blues Traveler. Yet others are fun or interesting, but there wasn't really a story they seemed to fit. I'm including them here for fun. Click to enlarge and see them better.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

If there was to be evidence that Knoxville is trying its best to become a more open and inclusive city that celebrates everyone, this was probably it. For the second night in a row (Friday night with Kuumba), I was startled to find a big celebration happening on Market Square. And for the second day in a row I missed the parade - and I bet this one was great. It was the Knoxville Pridefest, which is an annual LGBT event. There were booths and a very relaxed, happy crowd. It isn't unusual to see gay couples strolling hand-in-hand downtown these days, but it was very different to see so many smiling couples greeting each other and having a good time. My favorite shirt said, "Out is In." You don't see that everyday in east Tennessee.

There were booths set up with serious purposes, like the booth for HIV testing and the Democratic Party (no Republicans?), as well as the usual vendors and booths selling passes for the VIP room provided by Cocoa Moon. It wasn't so many years ago there was a move afoot to change the name of Gay Street. This felt much better. Of course there had to be a drag contest.

Interestingly, I found no coverage of this in any of the traditional media outlets in town. There was some coverage of the Gay Pride event in San Francisco and sadly the comment boards were nasty. Maybe it's good that there was no local coverage, just to avoid that nonsense. Maybe it isn't newsworthy, which could be good. It certainly felt celebratory on the Square. I only got a few pictures because I was hurrying to the Emmylou Harris concert, but you can find more here.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Boulder to Birmingham (to Knoxville)

Knoxville continues to get quite a stream of musical talent. Too much for an Urban Guy to afford. So an Urban Guy has to improvise. Emmylou Harris, who is an amazing treasure in American music came to Knoxville as part of the Bijou's Jubilee fund raising weekend. As such, the tickets were expensive, starting at around $65 (with service fees) and moving north of $100 if you wanted to be close to the front.

The good news is that the Bijou Theater, which seats around 700, doesn't have a bad seat. A New York Times critic said it may be the best listening house in America. The building is the fourth oldest in Knoxville and dates to 1817. The theater was carved out of the building and opened in 1916. It has seen ups and downs over the years, with performances by the Barrymores, the Marx Brothers and the biggest stars of Vaudeville. It subsequently became a porn movie theater and several times has come close to demolition. It was most recently saved in 2006 by a variety of individuals including Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment who introduced Emmylou last night. I've seen too many shows there over the years to remember them all, but some that stand out in my mind include Koko Taylor, Bobby Bland, Joan Baez, The Cowboy Junkies, Jefferson Airplane (without Grace Slick), Roger McGuin, Steve Earle, Taj Mahal and Robert Earl Keen. Of course, there is the whole Tennessee Shines series.

I fell in love with Emmylou the first time I heard her voice on the radio. The song was "If I Could only Win Your Love," the Louvin Brother's song. I loved that voice from the beginning. I eventually saw her in concert when she performed in the Pavilion on the World's Fair Park as a fundraiser for WDVX, which is one of the most important radio stations in our region, preserving bluegrass and Appalachian music and serving up great doses of Americana, as well as live music daily. The show that day was wonderful and I fell in love with Emmylou all over again. She stayed after the show and signed my album covers and sat beside me and talked as comfortably as if we had always been friends.

So, having seen her, I was having a hard time paying $65 and a hard time knowing that she was only a few blocks from my house and I would not see her. I went to the show with the idea that I might get a cheaper ticket and, if not, I would walk home a little sad, but not so broke. I got worried when I saw the "sold out" signs on the door, but just like with B.B. King last winter, a kind soul immediately sold me her spare ticket for $30. I sat on the back row, but the theater is so small, that wasn't bad and since I was sitting next to the soundboard, the sound was perfect.

I can't remember all the songs she performed, but there were no poor performances. The band was tight and her voice was much better than I had hoped. It has clearly lowered over the years, but is still distinctive and clear. She sounded very close to her original recordings even on the early songs. Some of the songs she performed include Orphan Girl, Red Dirt Girl, Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight, Love and Happiness, Wheels, Pancho and Lefty, Michelangelo, If I Could Only Win Your Love, Bang the Drum Slowly, Get Up, John and Evangeline. The highlights for me were "If I Could Only Win Your Love," for nostalgic reasons and "Wheels," also for nostalgic reasons as I thought of her time with Gram Parsons. As the show ended, she brought her dogs out on stage, introduced them and made a plea for animal adoption. I'd hoped I could get a picture with her after the show, but no such luck. Still, it was a very good night.

Labels: , ,

Kuumba Ya My City, Kuumba Ya

I have to get on top of what is going on around here. I think I'm up on everything. I dare to leave my house without a camera and what happens? Kuumba breaks out on Market Square! I missed the parade and the featured dancers, but I caught a few songs by Steph Jones and thought he was pretty good. "Kuumba" is Swahili for "creativity," and the Kuumba Festival is a celebration of African Heritage focusing on dance and song, as well as crafts and other arts. It has been sponsored once each year by the African American Appalachian Arts, Inc. since 1989. There were booths and artists and various activities. Lots of colors and hairstyles. One of my favorite things about an event like this is seeing happy children. You can see a fun video of a Zulu Stilt Dancer on Youtube from the 2008 festival. The event last four days and started at the Knoxville Museum of Art and Market Square before moving to Chilhowee Park for the subsequent days. I'll try to watch for it next year and catch the parade!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spring in the City

The Whittle Building and the Andrew Johnson Building

Remember what it felt like in Knoxville before the pavement started melting? Remember when you could walk around downtown and not be forced to swim through the humid air? Before the daily drum-beat of air-quality alerts? That's right, about two weeks ago! Spring is a great time in east Tennessee and in Knoxville (unless you are a severe allergy sufferer). The skies are a perfect blue, the clouds drift lazily by, the temperatures hover in the 70's and the humidity is low, low, low. Then it stops. The oppressive heat and humidity settles in and we hope for early morning reprieves of temperatures below 70 or an evening breeze that clears some of the steam from the bubbling surface of the streets. In honor of spring, To fight the pain of the stifling heat, I'm including some pictures of the city taken back when the weather was nice, way back two weeks ago. Most of you will know the contents of the pictures, but for the people who've been reading the blog from other places, I'll try to include a bit of orientation. The Sun Sphere alone would be enough to make the unknowing person wonder if the pictures were from another planet.

I noticed the clouds were great and grabbed my camera, but I was about thirty minutes late catching the best of them and it got worse as I went. The pictures are in chronological order starting above. I think you'll see what I mean about the sky. Maybe I'll try again sometime when the clouds are magical. Remember, you can click the pictures to make them larger. Can you guess where I stood when I took the pictures?

Church Street United Methodist Church Bell Tower

The Sunsphere - which for you foreigners is the primary remnant of our 1982 World's Fair. I always thought it was bizarre that you want to build an observation tower, you are building in a town with great hills and you put it in a hole. I guess the intention was to make it as bizarre as possible, anyway. The structure beside it is our convention center.

I believe that's the Foundry in the foreground and the L&N Station and Fire Station lurking on the other side of the bridge

This is also on the site of the World's Fair Park. It now features this great fountain and an excellent playground. It is also in the shadow of the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 24, 2010

All We Are is Busk in the Wind

There's been quite a stir lately about busking in the city. While most cities of significant size have crossed this bridge long ago, this is just one more example of Knoxville being an old city that is just regaining its footing as something more than the abandoned hub of the suburbs. I'll have more to say about the saga of Bill Page after his next court date, but suffice to say for now, that buskers add greatly to the city experience and the idea of harassing them is antithetical to everything contained in our aspirations for downtown. The idea that some law enforcement officers and some of the commenters on local sites seem to hold that they are the same thing as panhandlers is simply not true.

In the spirit of what may be known as the Great Busking Debate of Summer 2010, I'll introduce you to one I met tonight. His name is Antoine and, as you can see from the pictures below, he plays trumpet. He plays it very well. Not apparently interested in popular tunes, he was playing jazz riffs that took me back to childhood and the street musicians in New Orleans. I had him pegged for a New Orleans transplant. Of course, I was wrong. He's from Atlanta from which he moved last fall with his wife and only child. She's an accountant whose job has fallen through, so if you are in need of an accountant, ask the guy on Market Square blowing the steamy jazz. I asked if they would stay in Knoxville and he told me, "What ever the Lord wants." Nice guy. Very nice music. Say "hello" when you see him.

Enjoy the pictures, and remember, you can click them to make them larger.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Things that make you go, well, to the Internet to try to figure it out

We had fun with the Blackberry car mystery. It's time for another round of "who knows what in the world this is about?" It looks like a life preserver around the base of a tree, but as far as I can tell the tree isn't adrift. In fact, it looks just like all the other trees in the row of trees - and they don't have any visible support. The row of trees are not recently planted and the device wasn't employed until recently. It looks like it may be filled with water or some other liquid. I was hesitant to prod it to be certain. I believe it's been around the base of more than one of the trees in that section of Union Avenue by Market Street, but I'm not sure. Remember, you can click the images to get a larger view. What do you think? I'll give a shout out to the detective who breaks the case. Happy sleuthing.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Talking Trash, Talking People

Trash in cities has a long and interesting, if smelly history. For hundreds of years after the advent of cities people had to be careful walking down a street, ever watchful for falling garbage thrown from living quarters above. We've moved a bit past that, thankfully.
So what do you do with garbage in downtown Knoxville in 2010? I would not have known or thought about it until we moved here. It turns out there is a pretty conventional answer to that question: You take it outside to a plastic dumpster just like folks in the suburbs. There are some differences: Our taxes pay for the dumpsters to be available and to be emptied, unlike in the county where you have to pay directly for garbage service. Our bins are larger and they are communal (That means we share them. The bins are not communists!)

The largest difference is more poignant. Given recent opposition to transitional housing in Knoxville, I'm guessing it isn't a difference most people outside of downtown want to experience. While jokes about dumpster diving may be common, it is a reality in a city. It is possible to live in a suburb and know homeless people and know garbage scavenging only in a theoretical sense. You never really have to see the reality. A city keeps us more honest. There are people who are not as different as you might like to think from me or you who have to resort to going through garbage to survive.

It gets even more personal when it is your garbage. When you have to think, "What did I throw away tonight, that I considered completely worthless, that would be important enough for a fellow human being to dig through a garbage can to get? I hear someone going through my garbage can most nights. It's hard to not see these invisible people when it is your garbage they look to for hope.

Interestingly, given the chance to share our communities and in the form of Housing First, helping people who are chronically homeless, Knoxvillians are choosing to fight it at every turn. The one thing that we might be able to do to help these people have a home and not have to go through our garbage, we resist because we don't want them close to our homes. We prefer they stay invisible, theoretical, not flesh and blood like us. Life in a city forces us to face the truth in all its beauty and ugliness. That's a reason many people should never move into a city and it's a reason I love it. It keeps me honest.

This man pictured going through the garbage at the corner of Wall and Gay Street agreed to have his photograph taken. The pictures are not pleasant, but they are real and they are a part of this city.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 21, 2010

She's Sixty-Eight but She Says She's Fifty-Four

I really don't have any idea how old she is - let's say timeless and ageless. Maggie Longmire was born, has lived and performed in east Tennessee for long enough to seem like a natural part of the terrain. Sadly, as long as I've heard her praised for her smooth vocals and picturesque songwriting, I think I'd only crossed paths with her once. She performed a couple of Bob songs at  a Bob Dylan Birthday Bash a couple of years ago and I caught her there.

This past Saturday night I was able to hear her do a set of her own songs at the Bistro on Gay Street. The Bistro is an intimate little venue which features quiet little tables great for conversation or listening to excellent music. The food is always delicious and it features a full bar and the largest nude painting allowed in east Tennessee. Any of the above is worth the effort to drive or walk to. It is housed in the fourth oldest building in Knoxville, built in the 1820's. Originally a residence, what is now the Bistro and the entrance to the Bijou Theater was originally the basement before the city of Knoxville removed the hill in front of it exposing that floor.

Maggie played on this particular night with friends Jay Manneschmidt and Alexia Pantanizopolous. Jay is an excellent guitar player I first ran into at Music Therapy which performed for years every Friday night at Borders on Morrell Road. Led by Danny Gammon of Y'uns, they now they perform at the Time Warp Tea Room. Alexia is better known as part of Norwegian Wood, who were featured in a recent post. Maggie, meanwhile, is also well-known as part of the Lonesome Coyotes, a longtime Knoxville band. Got all that?

The trio moved through a range of Maggie's songs, including songs from her most recent CD. Maggie's CD "Teachers and Travelers" won the 2003 best local CD release and she won the best local musician in the Metro Pulse Readers Poll that year. Her voice is strong, her playing subtle and her lyrics evocative of a past that she lived and learned about from her family and which seems universal in her capable hands.

It was a wonderful show and the small audience responded appreciatively. Though there weren't very many people present, those who were seemed attuned to every word and that is a gift not often rendered to musicians playing live music. I'm glad I was there and I wish more people could have heard her.

PS. Without using Google, can you name the song quoted in the title? Just seeing if you're awake.

Labels: , ,