Thursday, September 30, 2010

Late September Scenes from the City

Here are a few images I liked that didn't really have a full story. I can't get enough of Krutch Park and when you throw in two foot tall chess pieces, what more could you want?

Jerry ponders his next move against a certain blogga. Tip: It is useless!
Urban Baby Checking out the Scene in Krutch Park
Styling Scooter in the Old City, Knoxville September 2010
I spotted the scooter in the Old City. The guy riding it looked almost as interesting as the bike, but he strode quickly away which just left me and the bike.

Great Danes enter Market Square, Knoxville, September 2010
The pictures of the dogs don't do them justice. I think there were seven or eight total and they sucked the air out of their end of the square: immediate celebrities from the Smoky Mountain Great Dane Rescue.

Instant Celebrity: Great Danes on Market Square, Knoxville, September 2010

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You Might not "Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows "

. . . But you may need a scorecard to know which stores have opened in downtown Knoxville and which ones have closed. There have been many closings, openings, rumors and false starts and now comes another unfortunate surprise.

This year has seen the arrival of the Black Market, Fizz, Latitude 35, Swagger and Steamboat Sandwiches on Market Square and Rala just around the corner. John Black Studios are opening this week on Union, Morelock Music opened on Gay Street and this week sees the opening of Nouveau Classics on the 100 block of Gay Street and Carleo's on Central in the Old City. Two additional businesses seem set to open in the Daylight Building and a book store/cheese shop is taking shape on Gay Street.

During the same period, we've also seen the exit of stalwarts such as Manhattan's in the Old City, Havana Moon (which may be returning after construction) on the 100 block of Gay Street and Ten Thousand Villages, Vagabondia and World Grotto on Market Square.

We've seen a false start with Urban Outfitters in the Arnstein Building and now we hear rumors of two different cosmetology schools coming to the Arnstein Building and the Kress Building. The Kerns Building has been purchased, but it's coming incarnation hasn't been announced. The Century Building was sold - then it wasn't. The owners of the Fidelity Building have made noises about doing something different on the bottom floor of their building where "General Store" is now located. And then there was the fantastic vision (hallucination?) of Marble Alley. I'll keep hoping on that front.

Signs were painted and posted today announcing the departure of Abode
Now comes the latest news: Abode, which has been on the square for four years, is having a farewell sale. Allison Sprouse, who along with her husband Matt owns and operates Abode, says the decision was made with great difficulty. They each have other ventures and their family has grown since they opened the doors to Abode and the time finally came to move in a different direction.

She was very kind to talk openly about the decisions and the tears. She says they have loved their time downtown, their children have grown up here and they have enjoyed watching Market Square become the exciting place it is today. Unless an interested buyer steps forward to assume the business, it will close slowly over the next weeks or months. They would prefer to sell the business as opposed to closing it.

Angela Sprouse, Abode and The Modern Hostess, Knoxville
Allison wanted to be clear that the location has been wonderful and the business has been successful, but choices had to be made. Her new business is an event design company called The Modern Hostess and she already has some major events to her credit, including Bruce Pearl's engagement party and wedding. She's excited about the new venture even as she is sad at the end of the old one.

Still, she knows it is time to move on and I hope everyone will wish her the best. She promises a big party this Friday, so stop by and thank her for putting herself out there for the last four years and give her your best for her future.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Taking Care of Business

If there is one constant downtown, it's the flux. Businesses come, businesses go, businesses get proposed and forgotten. Here are updates on a few that I've spotted:

New windows, 37 Market Square, Knoxville, September 2010
Framing for the entrance at 37 Market Square, Knoxville, September 2010
37 Market Square seems to be coming along in fits and starts. It was previously reported that it would be a two story restaurant, but now we know which one. Josh Flory got the scoop today on what is going into the space: Blue Coast Burrito, though the indication is that it won't open before January.  That makes two Mexican styled restaurants on the square with this and Soccer Taco, plus the Spanish influenced foods at Sangria's.

A view through the front entrance, 37 Market Square, Knoxville, September 2010
Soccer Taco seems always packed, though I have to say I've eaten there twice and not been very excited by the experience. The service was not exactly rendered with a smile and the food was adequate, but not delicious. I like Sangria's a bit better, but they don't seem to be packing in the crowds. Maybe there is a place for them all. It will be interesting to see.

Nouveau Classics and For Sale sign side by side, 100 Block Gay Street, Knoxville
Nouveau Classics, 100 Block of Gay Street. You may not look until Thursday!
On the southeast corner of the 100 Block of Gay Street, furniture store Nouveau Classics is set to open September 30. This is also interesting because they are right around the corner from long-term Knoxville furniture store, O.P. Jenkins. While they are both furniture stores, one is more traditional and the other store is targeting young urbanites.

Their door was open when I last passed there and I took a couple of pictures through the open door from the sidewalk, but a lady quickly emerged and asked what I was doing in a stern sort of way. I told her I was taking pictures and told her about the blog and she insisted that I not post the pictures because they aren't ready. She looked as if she considered grabbing my camera. I told her I wouldn't use the pictures and she looked skeptical.

I guess I get it that you want your business presented in the best light, but it is free publicity and, as you might guess, the store has to be pretty close to what it will look like thirty-six hours after that conversation. Besides, isn't being friendly to a blogger more likely to get your store presented in the best light?

Carleo's, 117 Central, Old City, Knoxville
Down on Central in the Old City I had a slightly less intense conversation, but also not so warm and friendly. This business has been spotlighted on The Bottom Line. A bar called "Carleo's" opened last weekend, but has its official grand opening this week. A guy working outside described it as a neighborhood pub. He also seemed guarded as I asked him about the place. I'm not sure who I spoke to, but Duane Carleo is the owner and he's had a number of other ventures including Southbound and Da Vinci's Pizza in the Old City.

Am I the only curious person in the city and so I stand out as dangerous? I wonder if these folks have considered that people passing their soon-to-be-opened businesses are their potential customers? I don't mean to exaggerate the interactions, no one was extremely rude, and I do want people to check out new businesses downtown, but a little friendliness goes a long way. John Black was so friendly that it made me more likely to use his business and to encourage others to do so. That's how it works. I'll end with a picture from a shoot he was doing as I passed.
Boy with a spectacular Mohawk is photographed by John Black

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Why we ABSOLUTELY MUST have a Downtown Grocery Store

When I wrote a post a few days ago detailing why we do not need a downtown grocery store, I intended it to be the first part of a two part series giving both sides of the grocery store argument. I know there are people downtown who think the conversation about our lack of a grocery store is silly because we have grocery stores as close to us as most people in the county - and closer than many. I also had in mind that portion of my readers who are considering a move downtown but might be dissuaded by our lack of a grocery store and the angst that seems to surround that fact. I wanted them to know they would not surely starve to death.

I think there are also legitimate questions about whether a downtown grocery store would be a viable economic entity at our current population level. Some say if we build it they will come, others say we better wait until they come to build it or it will fail and we may not have another shot for a long time. I'm not sure on that one.

A couple of readers pointed out that I had only presented solutions involving cars and that this was antithetical to the reason many people move downtown - to become less automobile dependent. I will point out that in my last post my first two reasons did not involve cars. The first was the availability of restaurants within walking distance. The second was the farmer's market, which, I suppose if you were vegetarian, could support a basic diet, though one without spices and cooking oil.

Sometimes on this blog I put my opinion out front. Sometimes I try to report what I see without too much of my opinion entering the equation. Sometimes I confuse myself with the two very different approaches. My worst mistake was assuming that people could read my mind and know that a second post was coming and that I was trying to give the different slants on the topic.

So, what is the reason for having a grocery store and what is my opinion? As Wendy said in her comment on the previous story, "One allure for some downtown dwellers is the ability to live car-free, satisfying all of one's needs in walkable urban environment." Amelia added that, as a new downtown resident, she agreed with the fuss about a grocery store, stating that, "My husband and I chose downtown so that we would drive less."

I agree with both these sentiments more than I even realized I would before I lived here. I moved downtown because I constantly drove here for music, food and church. I would meet friends here, bring guests here and generally found it more interesting than any other part of town. Since I don't work downtown, I knew that would mean driving out to work, but that won't (hopefully) last forever.

So, at its root, part of the reason for the move was to avoid driving downtown all the time. It was consistent with the other choices I've made, like buying fuel efficient cars (I drive a Prius), carpooling (click here if you are interested in carpooling or other alternatives to driving) and being a committed recycler.

Once downtown, I enjoyed the benefits I had imagined, walking to everything I do except work. It was a choice of a life-style as much as a home. In many ways it feels like stepping back in time and I really like that. What I didn't realize was that it would become addictive. I regularly plot routes home when I'm at work so that I can take care of errands in order to avoid leaving the city once I'm here. As I've noted before, I can't bring myself to drive the half mile to the State Street Recycle Center, so I walk the half mile lugging a large white bag that could give someone the impression I'm homeless or that I'm Santa Claus practicing for my big night.

On the unusual weekend or week night that I have to get behind the wheel, I feel frustrated. In some ways I suspect this must seem selfish to people who don't live in a city, who might say, "Poor thing. You have to get in your car and can't have everything delivered to your little condo in the city." That may be a valid criticism. All I know is that I like the feeling of community that walking near one's home engenders. I like the idea that I'm not contributing as much to our "Red Alert - Don't Breathe the Air" days. I enjoy living more simply when possible. I think I'm not in the minority downtown.

So now you know: I very much want a downtown grocery store! I'll try not to assume you can read my mind in the future. Opinions? Vote above and I'll report the results in a few days. Comment below if you have a thought.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Open for Business in the Daylight Building! (plus a tease for more to come)

Many of us have waited, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so much, for the Daylight Building to finally assume a semblance of the vision dictated by David Dewhurst. I've been walking past it for a year, crossing to the other side to avoid portable toilets, construction vehicles and varying types of electrical, appliance, plumbing and other debris. I know the people who live in Pembroke (across the street) have gotten tired of looking at the mess. On the other hand, I think everyone understood when this started that the end result would be an (hopefully) attractive building and, most importantly, a building with some life, and that has to be worth some pain in the interim.

John Black in front of his new studio, Union Avenue, Knoxville, September 2010

At the beginning of last month the promise began to come to fruition, with the first residents moving into rented apartments. Interestingly, while I've heard that they are pretty expensive as rentals go, they seem to be filled with UT students. Another surprising note is how many of them have a pet - or more. The tiny patches of dog-duty grass in the area are struggling. I couldn't help thinking as their parents moved them in that even that act took no small amount of faith: the building was still a construction zone across the front, resembling an aging warehouse more than an integrated portion of a vibrant downtown.

The faith seems to be paying off: John Black Photography will slowly begin to ramp up their business on the southeast corner of the building this week. John is originally from Scotland, but grew up in Ireland and has lived in the US for many years, giving him what has to be one of the most interesting accents in the metro area. He has a degree in photography and seeks to apply an artist's eye to the most simple portrait. Beginning with a commercial shoot this week and ramping up from there, the business will be the first long-awaited sign of commercial life for the Daylight Building.

John Black Photography, Union and Walnut, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 2010
 It will not be the only sign of life for long . . . John tells me that an invitation and engraving shop will also soon join the line-up and - Big News - an organic food shop will be opening, with the possibility of a few tables and a small cafe! It may not be a full-service grocery store, but it's another piece of the puzzle. I didn't get a precise time-table, but I got the idea that everything was set for opening when the spaces are ready. From what little I know about construction (approximately nothing), it looks like the spaces could be ready in the next few weeks. An attempt was made to bring in a wedding shop, but that appears to have faltered. We could have had one-stop shopping for your big day!

John hoped to have an open house for First Friday in October, but said he will not likely be ready for the crowds in time, so he's anticipating hosting people First Friday in November. Magpies, for whom he's photographed their First Friday crowds, will probably join him that night as a co-host. Photographs and cupcakes sound like a recipe for a great night! Watch for announcements and join us for this celebration of a building once on a fast track to a future as a stunning parking lot converted instead to homes and livelihoods for a fresh group of downtown residents.
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Dirty Guv'nahs Rock the House

The Dirty Guv'nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010
 I'll admit upfront that I'm a groupie. If I was a newspaper writer I would have to confess my conflict of interest and disclose that this was the ninth time I've seen the group (for pictures of their most recent Sundown show go here). I've seen them more times than I've ever seen a musical act with the exception of Bob Dylan, who I've seen around 30 times, so his record isn't likely in jeopardy. I was in good company at the sold out Bijou Theater as most of the audience seemed to know every lyric.

Black Cadillacs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010
 The show opened with the Black Cadillacs, a local group who I also happen to have seen twice before, though both times they only played abbreviated sets of Bob Dylan music. Tonight they played what I assumed was original material and they proved to be a good opener for the Guv'nahs. I feel they've grown as a band since the first time I've heard them. If my memory is correct, this is the first time they've had a keyboard player and the organ was a good addition to their sound. They suffered a bit from vocals that could have been more out front in the mix. With some work on the tightness of their sound and some honing of their song-writing skills, this could be a band with a bright future.

Dirty Guv'nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, Septemer 24, 2010

Dirty Guv'nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010
 The Dirty Guv'nahs took the stage by storm from the beginning, opening with "Brown Little Bird," and showing the results of months of hard touring with a muscular, yet crisp performance throughout the night. Some of the songs appear to have evolved on the road, including a slightly different intro to "Lovely Bones," which was a highlight. As they did at their last Bijou performance, friends stepped onto the stage to add their talents to the mix, including a female vocalist, who could have been higher in the mix. Also joining them onstage for several songs - particularly songs off their most recent effort Youth Is In Our Blood - a saxophone player formerly with Gran Torino who added a Stax Records, Memphis soul sound to the songs. Finally, a violin was added by another friend, to very nice effect.

Dirty Guv'nahs, Bijou, Guest Vocalist

Dirty Guv'nahs with extra vocals and saxaphone, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee
To say that this band has gotten better doesn't begin to cover their transformation. From a fun band with a good rock-and-roll sound, they have evolved into extremely competent musicians with a solid stage presence. The writing of James Trimble (lead vocals) and Michael Jenkins (guitar) has always been exceptional, but now pushes beyond anything they had achieved in their early work. While songs like "Blue Rose Stroll" remain crowd favorites, and justifiably so, the newer songs such as Baby We Were Young, We'll Be The Light and New Salvation are quickly becoming the mainstay of their repertoire.

Cozmo with the Dirty Guv'nahs - He played his sunglasses off - literally!

James Trimble and the Hoskin boys: Aaron and Justin
Also, Cozmo seems to have finally been completely integrated into the band. It may be that he fit seamlessly from the beginning and my own connection to the earlier incarnation of the band took this long to give way to the current lineup. He has given the band far more musical muscle than they had previously, and while I'll always love the old sound with Michael playing all the lead, they play nicely over each other, with Cozmo supplying the muscle on his Fender and Michael supplying the nuance and texture on his hollow-body Gibson guitar. There also seemed to me to be another shift: I thought Chris played more organ than electric piano than he had in the past, but maybe I've just not focused on it before. In any case, I really liked the work he did on the organ and his harmonica playing wasn't half bad, but the song, which he wrote was an excellent addition.

There were also semi-comedic points: James' mother going crazy when he waved to her, Cozmo playing his sunglasses off and stepping on Jame's mic cord, James knocking his microphone stand over and dramatically counting eight to the next part of the song - which had just ended.

Dirty Guv'nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

Dirty Guv'nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

As with most Guv'nah's shows, there were juicy covers. When they pulled out "Like a Rolling Stone," I was completely caught off-guard. It could use more polish, but it was great sing-along fun for the crowd. "Give Me Some Lovin'," the nugget by the Spencer Davis Group was less surprising and a perfect fit for the band. They also included "Instant Karma," (John Lennon) and ended with "The End," by the Beatles, with the jamming portion perfect for the band, but the final portion needing a bit more polish if it is to be used in the future.

Dirty Guv'nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

It was a fantastic night to listen to music in Knoxville. The Dirty Guv'nahs seem destined to become something much bigger than a local band. James declared this was his favorite concert they've ever done. I think I've heard him say that during at least five of the shows I've seen. I hope he keeps feeling that way and I hope each phase of their career surpasses what went before it. I believe that to be true, so far, and I greatly anticipate what comes next for this excellent band from our city.

I'll end with their video for "We'll be the Light." After you hear it, you'll want to follow this link to buy their latest CD Youth Is In Our Blood. Happy listening.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

It Takes Every Kind of People

"It takes every kind of people To make what life's about, yeah
Every kind of people
To make the world go 'round"

Words and Music: Andy Fraser
Performed by (pre-"Addicted to Love") Robert Palmer

Today marks the 100th blog I've written. It seemed like a good time for a little reflection on you. That's right: you. Who are you and what do you want?

One of the interesting elements of writing this blog has been experiencing its growth not just in total numbers, but in the diversity of its readers. To say that the readers of this blog are an interesting blend is like saying there are a few bricks in the sidewalks of Gay Street. Initially, I thought my audience might be people who live downtown or people who might like to move here, but weren't certain for a variety of reasons - such as no nearby grocery store. It makes sense that people who are from here might also be interested. All that's been true, but . . .

While I can't identify many of the types of readers I have, consider some that I can:

The Healing Community: I wrote a blog, early on about a memorial held on Market Square. I was moved by the experience and I suppose that showed in the tone of the article. The group holding the memorial included massage therapists, meditation teachers and others concerned with wellness and well-being. They found my blog, sent it to each other, put up links and suddenly I had readers from this group all over the country.

Realtors, Engineers, Contractors and Developers: The first wave from this group came when I blogged about the installation of the sign on top of the First Tennesse Bank. Also, I often comment on Josh Flory's Property Scope blog because he sometimes writes about downtown properties and related issues. Much to my surprise, Mr. Flory featured my blog on his blog and suddenly groups who normally read about property started reading my blog. Many have continued.

Neo-Nazis: Who would have predicted this one? When the neo-Nazi rally hit Knoxville I blogged about it pretty extensively. I devoted many hours to taking photographs, editing and selecting the best of them and writing the blogs - there were three by the time I was able to move on. What I didn't expect was that neo-Nazi websites would link to my blog - apparently because they like to see their pictures just like the rest of us - it certainly couldn't have been anything I said. They all, helpfully, labeled mine a non-racist website. Still, they came and they return from time to time. That post continues to be, by far, my most-read.

International Readers: I had no idea this would happen. Are they ex-pats? Could people all over the world really be that interested in Knoxville? I'm not shocked that there might be readers from England, Canada and, say, Mexico, but Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates? Turkey, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam? Macedonia, Latvia, Russia and the Ukraine? I've had readers from Israel and today one from the Tulkarm, in the Palestinian Territory. I wish I had the key to peace Middle East to blog for those guys.

Locally, some of the readers are musicians and people who love music, thanks to many blogs on the topic, but also thanks to particular blogs that were linked and passed around, such as the Indie Grrl Showcase and the Knoxville Jazz Festival. Some of the local readers are the leaders of our community, thanks to my blogs about the last couple of Knox Heritage events, such as the Dancin' in the Streets Street Fair. The hip-hop, slam poetry crowd came on when I featured the Southern Fried Poetry Slam and Elder Beatmaster.

I've had readers tell me they were disappointed that I didn't want the city to buy every sculpture and others say they share my opinions about the various pieces of art. I've had readers tell me I'm providing an important service to downtown and others that I'm writing fluff, wasting people's time and I obviously am an attention hungry . . . well, not nice person.

So why does this matter? I think it matters because that's a pretty diverse group of people who might not have an intersecting point beyond this blog. That could produce some interesting interaction in the future. It also matters because, as I express my opinions, it isn't likely that everyone from Cordoba, Argentina to Ulsan, Korea, from Knoxville's hip-hop community to its civic leaders, from the Healers to the Nazis will agree on every point, but it's possible that, as we respect each other's opinions, it could encourage some thoughtful discussion, and that would be a good thing.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Angels in the City

Knoxville is filled with all kinds of people. Some are a little strange (who you are dictates who is strange :-) ), some are funny, some are sad, some are a little scary, many are interesting and most of us are some of all of the above depending on the day you spot us.

Some people downtown are angels. I think maybe who you are and what you need dictates who your angel may be. Sometimes your angel might give you a flower if you need to be picked up - or your angel may spread rose petals on the sidewalk where you pass. Sometimes a dollar, a drink of water, a treat for your dog or a simple smile on the street marks your special angel.

One of the angels I ran into recently did a simple thing that made our whole table laugh, smile and have a better night. It was a Wednesday night we sat around a table in Coffee and Chocolate, talking about getting a new Metropulse before walking home. For the people who read from outside Knoxville, Metropulse is a free, weekly newspaper that often features information and articles about downtown. I think everyone who lives downtown reads it. It officially hits the street on Thursday, but everyone downtown knows it is placed in the rack on Wednesday evening. Leftovers, by the way, are dutifully recycled. I've seen them in the recycle bin on State Street.

Miss Metropulse/AKA Part Time Angel
So, we'd just mentioned getting it on the way home, when into view came a beautiful lady making deliveries. I pointed and said, "There it is, now." I didn't consider that she could see me point. She entered the coffee shop where she was to fill the racks. Before doing so she walked to our table and handed us each a fresh copy! Where else could you get your Metropulse delivered directly but downtown? It was a simple thing, but it added the cherry to the top of a very nice evening. She came and went so quickly I only had time to snap a picture and I didn't get her name. I'll call her Miss Metropulse and count her as one of my angels.

Who might your angel be? And to whom should you be an angel? Don't miss your chance!

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why We Don't Need a Downtown Grocery Store

This topic is often discussed when people talk about downtown. Some ask, "How can you live down there without a grocery store?" It's as if residents all over downtown are starving inside their loft apartments and condos. I haven't noticed too many starving downtown residents, so what gives?

Every couple of months a new rumor floats about the advent of the latest grocery savior. Just over a year ago the owners of French Market thought they would have to move to make way for a grocery store in their building. There was the owner of the Market Square Kitchen on the news talking about bring a grocery store to the Daylight building. Neither grocery store appeared. Aisle Nine opened to much fanfare, only to become a convenience store for the old city, which of course uptown has in the form of "General Store." The owner of Downtown wine intimated he may enter the grocery store sweepstakes in the storefront beside his original business, but the latest plans there call for a book store with a cheese department.

So, many rumors, few groceries. How come people aren't starving?

It turns out there are a number of options for a person who is sufficiently hungry. For one thing, I suspect people downtown may eat out a bit more than the average citizen. There are so many easy, delicious, if somewhat pricey, options no more than a few blocks from any residence in the downtown area, that it is very tempting to leave the kitchen clean (or a wreck) and walk to a place where you already know the menu and the waitstaff recognizes you when you walk through the door.

Inevitably, however, one must face the kitchen, and what to do about this lack of food? For starters, the farmer's market keeps downtown awash in good, fresh food for about six months of the year. We shop in the original Knoxville supermarket. Jack Neely in his book Market Square: A History of the Most Democratic Place on Earth recounts a time when everyone in the area came to Market Square every week to buy their food. How ironic that the residents who live closest to it now discuss the need for a food supply.

Given that one cannot stock a kitchen completely from the Farmer's Market, aren't we desperate for a full-service grocery store? Well, not really. Here's the thing: How close are you to a grocery store? It's not in your back yard or at the end of your driveway. You probably drive a mile or two or three. It turns out, so do we. Food City on Western is just over a mile from downtown. The Krogers on Chapman Highway and Broadway are about two miles away. According to Mapquest, the Kroger on Kingston Pike is about nine minutes away - and you have to pass Fresh Market to get there.

Three Rivers Market is just over a mile from downtown, if you want simple, basic, earth-friendly fare. If you really want to shop the American way and buy in bulk, Walmart beside Walker Springs takes about 12 minutes travel time.

So what is the fuss? I'll give my take on that in a later post. Meanwhile, let's test my new-found Google Map skills and see if I can give you the map view of the above!

View Groceries Near Downtown Knoxville in a larger map

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Then there's this other sculpture . . .

Previously I've talked about sculptures that I'd just as soon the city not purchase at the end of their exhibition downtown. I also pointed out some that I think are worthy of keeping downtown.

There are a couple additional sculptures among those in the current downtown installation, that I feel compelled to toss out for public discourse. I've walked through the World's Fair Park near the convention center a few times lately and they each beg me for inclusion in our little sculpture conversation, so here goes. I'll ask readers for help on this, since my understanding seems to be limited regarding such things.

Sailors Warning - Duke Oursler - Painted Steel - 13'X5'X5' - $12,000
The first isn't unattractive in some ways. It certainly has a good vertical leap, it's sleek and I like the primary colors. I'm not sure what it means and I'll have to confess it looks like a banana with an eye, to me. Sometimes I'm able to read the title and get some idea of what the artist was after, but in this case I have no clue. I can't find an allusion to a sailor anywhere in the piece. Can a reader help me?

Antique Picnic - Durant Thompson - Steel, Wood, Truck, Barbecue 7'X8'X17' - $5000 
The second piece gives me a stronger reaction. When I first saw it I laughed and thought, "What a clever idea, to take a broken down vehicle and make something useful (a picnic table and barbecue grill if you can't tell from the picture). The more I looked at it, the less enamored I became. I realize every artistic endeavor doesn't isn't making a statement, but this one seems to be. The more I thought about it, the less I liked the statement that was being made. What do you think it is saying, if anything? I started to feel it was a negative statement about our region, playing off the stereotype of broken down, rusted vehicles with flat tires sitting interminably in front of the house. Making matters worse, it is beside the convention center which hosts (when times are good) visitors from outside our area. Is this what we really want to present to them? On the other hand, maybe I'm making too much out of nothing or missing the point entirely. I'll happily be educated, if you want to weigh in. Just be nice. This isn't the comment board at the KNS site (thankfully).

Flow Mojo, Krutch Park, Knoxville
Finally, a reprise for a piece that I wrote about previously: Flow Mojo by artist Mike Roig. I picked it as my second most desirable piece to keep downtown and I later learned that it was voted the Best of Show by the Dogwood Arts judges. Maybe my taste is pretty good, after all. I do hope the city bought that one. If not, you only have a few weeks to come to Krutch Park and see it live and in action. The installation is due to be removed at the end of October.
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Movies and Gators

The Florida/Tennessee weekend doesn't quite have the emotional pitch it had a few years ago. It hasn't been that long ago that the winner of the game would likely be in the national championship mix and the loser could well be there by the end of the season, as well. All that was a few coaching changes ago. It is still exciting, but now there is room for a few other events to carve a little space for themselves.

Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church Praise Choir on Market Square
 Friday night on the square featured the first in the Movies on the Square series. This week's movie featured a pig which we suspected could be Charlotte's Web, though I suppose it could have been a different porcine action flick. I'm guessing there wouldn't be too many places in the country where a movie would be preceded by a praise choir - but that's exactly what was featured Friday night. Performing as a warm up to Wilbur and company was the Chilhowee Hills Baptist choir. I spoke to a gentleman from the choir afterward who pointed out that their performance reflected the way they worship every week - the way, he stated, that worship "ought to be."

This cute dog did not seem to know it was UF/UT weekend
Saturday morning brought another of our recent scaled-down farmer's markets, with more crafts than food. I'm hoping they return to their former glory on the weekends we don't have a UT home game, but I'm thinking the vegetables may be playing out. All I know is I don't remember enjoying vegetables as much as I have this summer since my grandmother stopped having a garden many years ago. I'll hate to see winter for that reason, if nothing else.

Urban Baby says, "You seem like a really nice Gator." Market Street, UF/UT weekend 2010
Six young Gators headed to the game.
Of course, there were Gators lurking about the city, and all in all they seemed to be a pretty subdued bunch and both sides of the collegiate sporting equation of the weekend seemed to be downright congenial. The smack talk of yesteryear fading with the loss of Spurrier's sarcasm, Phil Fulmer's easy target, Lane Kiffen's arrogance and national championship expectations on both sides. UT fans were admitting that they likely couldn't win and UF fans were admitting that they couldn't help but like Dooley. In some ways on Friday night, particularly, it wasn't obvious there was even a big game in town. What a difference a few years and not-so-few changes can make.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mary Boyce Temple House, Brian Pittman and Fun to the Rafters

Mary Boyce Temple House, Knox Heritage Even, Henly and Hill, Knoxville
Knox Heritage Open House at Mary Boyce Temple House
One of the privileges of belonging to Knox Heritage is the opportunity to see restoration and/or preservation projects while they are in the process of being completed. Past tours have included the S and W Grand and the Daylight Building. This past Friday night members were given an opportunity to tour the Mary Boyce Temple house at the corner of Hill and Henley. A great amount of work has been completed by and under the direction of Brian Pittman a local architect who fell in love with the house as a small child.

Brian Pittman tells Restoration Stories, Mary Boyce Temple House, Knoxville
One of the two original fireplaces remaining in the Mary Boyce Temple House

Second Original Fireplace

Returning a building such as this to it's original grandeur isn't easy. Brian alluded to the expense as well as the difficulty of encouraging the people who had taken up residence on the premises that they would need to go elsewhere. Drug use and prostitution were daily occurrences in the building. Brian said he, "explained to the prostitute that she could no longer work there . . . and I bought her a bowl of soup." He said that he once walked in on two people smoking crack in the building.

More than the exotic people he encountered, Brian talked of his attempts to restore the building to its original beauty. This meant removing the fire escape, as well as additions to the inside of the house which compromised its original integrity. It is definitely a labor of love and a very expensive one.

View of Henly Street Bridge and Tennessee River from Mary Boyce Temple House
 In addition to being an architect, Brian is a wonderful artist. His drawings of cathedrals are very well known to anyone who has walked past the Graffiti wall on Wall Avenue in recent years. Now featured in local galleries, proceeds from his drawings go toward the renovation work - certainly a cause worth supporting.

Brian Pittman talks to guests outside the Mary Boyce Temple House

A large crowd had a great time, Knox Heritage Open House, Mary Boyce Temple House
So what do you need to do if you support this kind of work? Please join Knox Heritage (or make a contribution) and, if you are able, buy a work of art from Brian. You'll be helping yourself and Brian, but most of all, you'll be helping your community.
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