Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nightmare on Gay Street

Best scary family photo - 100 block Gay Street, Knoxville.

Cutest family photo - Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010
The (First Annual?) Nightmare on Gay Street terrified the north end of downtown on the 100 Block of Gay Street Friday night. Numerous booths representing businesses and organizations handed out treats, painted faces, carved pumpkins and otherwise scared everyone passing by. A graveyard sat spookily in front of Slam Dot (major sponsor and planner of the event) and a band played at the south end of the block while WNOX broadcast from the other end.

Pumpkin carving at the Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010

Fortune Telling at the Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010

Cemetery at the Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010
One of the most exciting things I noticed at the event was the fact that small children, teenagers and adults took part with equal enthusiasm. With the block closed to traffic, as it was in the Hola Festival, the setting was perfect for the fun.
Mary Poppins and escort, Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010
Creepy surgeon and nurse, Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010

Bumble Beetle?, Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010

Indigenous Representation, Nightmare on Gay Street

The Joker, Nightmare on Gay Street

There's Waldo!, Nightmare on Gay Street

Teenagers having fun, Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010

It's Elementary, Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010

One centerpiece of the fun was a Halloween costume contest which featured intense competition.

Urban Cowgirl spreads her charms in the little tyke costume contest
Teen Costume contest, Nightmare on Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2010
Meanwhile, merchants on Market Square handed out treats to the little trick-or-treaters, but sadly, they ran out of candy early. I think the event could easily be a joint venture, with Market Square going a little more all-out next year. One suggestion I would have for any future festivals on the 100 block would be to have identifiable people or stations ready to give out information. This would have been helpful at both the Hola Festival and this event.

Still, it was great fun and I hope events continue to be hosted on the block. As more business open on the western side of the street, it would be a good way to have people realize what the 100 block has to offer - much as Market Square has done with Sundown and other events. With a continued push, the 100 block could begin to give Market Square a run for its money as the go-to place downtown.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"All the leaves are brown . . .

and the sky is grey."

Sunsphere, Knoxville, October 2010
 I love autumn. No question, hands down, always been my favorite season. I like the others for various reasons, but fall is a reflective time, old life slipping into dormancy with one final flourish of life at its fullest. I think of Bob Dylan, Thanksgiving, "California Dreaming," a panoply of colors and emotions. The end of life and all its contemplations and complications.

Market Square, Knoxville, October 2010
A walk through the city showcases the beauty of the season set against an urban backdrop. Colored leaves, the Sunsphere, Market Square and a cute young lady walking her dog through the fallen leaves.

A Cutie walks her dog through Market Square.

Even the cutie looks reflective, though her dog looks worse.
 So, those are the sights and sounds of the season one might expect. Halloween is near and one might even expect to see a witch or two. I've seen many running around downtown lately. I even saw a few zombies last weekend. But this is the city and the city often delivers the unexpected. That's what I found on a walk around town on Thursday afternoon - the very unexpected.

Mickey Mallonee, Santa and the Christmas Moose in Krutch Park.
I found Christmas in the City! I guess it is never too early. Mickey Mallonee, Director of the Office of Special Events for the city stood on stage with Santa, (Is he flashing North Pole Gang signs in that picture?) and what looked to me like the Christmas Moose, but I suspect may have been a reindeer. A small crowd was gathered as the opening of Christmas in the City was declared and many sponsors, none of whom seemed to be present, were dutifully thanked. This is Mickey's last major event after ten years in the position. She's a delightful person who has done an excellent job. From Boomsday to Christmas in the City, the events in Knoxville are often impressive and very nicely managed. I hope the progress made during her ten years will continue.

Santa and the Christmas Moose, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2010.

Mickey Malonee surrounded by the trappings of her last event.
Meanwhile, I'll ignore Christmas for a few more weeks while I enjoy the first cool weather, the beautiful leaves, the first drizzly, winter-like days and the days of pure deep-blue skies. Bob Dylan and the Mamas and the Papas will provide the soundtrack for some serious reflection. I'll also pause for Thanksgiving, the very best holiday on the American calendar. After that, when I'm ready for a few weeks of Christmas cheer, I'm sure Mickey will have everything in order for my urban enjoyment.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Turn the Page

After spending about twenty-leven hours today working on a couple of new features for the blog, I'm going to let them be the news for the day. If you'll look at the top of the blog you will see a link for "The Soundtrack." These are songs and artists that have been featured on this blog. I'm working my way up from June, so it is very incomplete for now, but I should be adding more all along. There is a little note about the song or artist and why I included them. Also provided is a link in case you would like to go to Amazon to explore further.

But wait, there's more . . .

On the right hand side of this screen is a corresponding slide show of songs from the blog. If you click any one of the slides you can hear the track without leaving the blog. The songs will continue playing (30 seconds for each one) as long as you are on the page. Each of these also serves as a link to Amazon should you decide to look into it further.

I hope you enjoy the new features and will explore them. I'll be adding more as time goes by and, hopefully, I'll also have time for more posts. Let me know what you think.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Daylight Update

Helio (with staple gun) and Florentino fight bats and make ceiling magic
 The daylight building continues its transformation with the advent of new sidewalk surfacing and a new look to the underside of the sidewalk cover. Recently I noticed two young men staring across the street with post-traumatic stress syndromic (I know) expressions on their faces. I was standing on the opposite sidewalk in front of the Pembroke building and when I stopped one of them (Helio) ran across the street to show me a (very) small animal clinging to a tree. He insisted - and I believed him - that when the disturbed bat exited the wooden slats he and Florentino were covering, that he looked much larger with his wings spread and his teeth bared, inches from their faces. Who will remember the dangers faced down by these brave men when this building is all shiny and new?

Here they are, hard at work, after the batscapade (I know, I know). They are doing a wonderful job and the underside is going to be beautiful when they finish and the lights are added. Mr. Dewhurst, I hope you are reading this and looking at this photo of two very hard-working men, because they clearly deserve a raise. I'm just mentioning it.

Meanwhile, in the area under the bat sanctuary, businesses are coming to life, slowly. John Black and Amanda Taylor are hard at work documenting the mugs of various Knoxvillians at John Black Photography.

Sarah proudly braving caution tape (Ty is inside) at The Happy Envelope

At the other end of the sidewalk, The Happy Envelope held open house on the 22nd and the crowd packed out the store and spilled onto the street. Stop by and see them for all your invitation and small engraving/design needs - when Helio and Florentino are not blocking the way with their mondo lift machine - I think they are almost finished!

Open House at the Happy Envelope, Union Street, Knoxville, October 2010
Also coming along, is Just Ripe, with a selection of staples and organic and locally grown foods. Here's a couple of pictures of the progress on their space taking shape.

The pace, according to Kristen Faerber, is up to the city. Come on Mayor Haslem, take a few minutes from that campaign (and all that unseemly discussions of guns in parking lots - what's next, guns in bathrooms? Guns in bars? Oh wait - never mind) and get this store open. We're hungry!

Kristen - boothed for now, but soon to be store-fronted!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Tree Gator Alert! City Gains Emergency Funding for Tree Gator!

TreeGator is filled once more! Union Avenue, Knoxville, TN.
I'm guessing it must be the federal stimulus money. Shame on you readers who have criticized this program! All summer while the temperatures hovered in the mid to upper 90s with no rain in sight, melting streets and causing grown men to cry, the Tree Gator sat, empty, neglected, set adrift in this urban ocean with no purpose.

Those of you who may have missed the previous posts, the TreeGator started as a mystery. It was helpfully solved by a reader named "anonymous." When first we saw the Tree Gator, it was full of water and full of purpose. I noted that it was sad the city could only afford to save one tree at a time, but who could have known what would come next?

Once empty, the TreeGator was never filled again. It remained around the base of the same lone tree on Union Street, just off Market Square beside the Market Street Kitchen, languishing and humiliated. It must be that not only could the city only afford one TreeGator, it could only afford one round of water - until now! Just in time for these most excellent 75 degree, cloudy and rainy days, I was shocked to see it bulging with that most precious H2O, once more. I had to jiggle it with my toe, just to see if it was true.

The stimulus money must not have been enough to purchase more TreeGators, because it is there, all alone, helping save that one, single, privileged tree. Maybe we'll snag another one during the next recession.
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

StoryCorps Comes to Market Square

StoryCorps Trailer on Market Square, Knoxville, October 2010
One of my favorite things to catch on the radio on the way to work in the morning is Story Corps. It is certain to find the poignancy in everyday life and pretty likely to take me close to a tear or two. It's such a beautiful reminder of the grace and eloquence in the simple story of a life. Often, when I listen to the amazing and often difficult journeys so many have taken, it reminds me how fortunate I've been in my life and how grateful I am for everything I have and for the people I love and by whom I am loved.

If you've never heard of it and don't want to get up at 6:20 to listen to the radio, the basic idea is that ordinary people are recorded telling short stories of a relationship or a portion of their lives, usually with someone they love. The recordings will be archived in the Library of Congress. If you want a sample, you can listen to a few (or as many as you like) here.

So, it was exciting to me to hear the StoryCorps group was coming to Knoxville and to actually see the mobile recording studio parked on Market Square, waiting for anyone with a story to tell. Maybe they are waiting for your story. "Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Early Evening in Fort Sanders

When I started this blog, I fully expected to write about a very large area from Fourth and Gill, to Happy Holler through the Old City, across downtown proper to the river and over to UT and Fort Sanders. "Oh, but I was so much bolder then, I'm humbler than that now." In the year since moving downtown, I realize how strongly I don't want to drive when I'm home. Since I don't own a bicycle, that leaves my feet. I enjoy walking, but I have limits. The occasional foray into UT or Fort Sanders requires that the weather be nice and the day be leisurely. I've never walked to Happy Holler and I've only walked to Fourth and Gill once. So, my neighborhood is large, but smaller than I planned.

World's Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2010
Recently I did make one of those longer walks, across the Great Divide that is Henley Street. It's faster to run across between cars, but it is more pleasant to walk the pedestrian bridge, crossing above the fray. I paused on the Clinch Avenue viaduct to take a photo of the World's Fair Park. It really has grown up to be a nice place.

Shoe Art, off Laurel Avenue, Knoxville, October 2010
Further into Fort Sanders I found this view. Do you think students live somewhere in this vicinity? I'm not sure I'd like this much footwear dangling outside my home, but I have to admit it is kind of cool in a college-daze sort of way.

Sun Setting on Southern Section of the Knoxville Skyline - View from Laurel Avenue
There was also this pretty good view of the southern section of Knoxville's Skyline from Laurel Avenue.

Amy Greene, Knoxville Writer's Guild, Laurel Theater, Knoxville
The reason for the walk was to attend a reading by Amy Greene from her book Bloodroot at the October meeting of the Knoxville Writer's Guild. Amy grew up in the Morristown area and her book is set in the Appalachians and follows a family through multiple generations using several narrators. The portions she read were captivating. There is no mistaking the influence of Lee Smith, but then, how could anyone read literary fiction set in Appalachia and not think of Lee Smith?

Amy Greene reading from Bloodroot, Knoxville Writer's Guild
The reviews have been very kind to the book and Amy seems like a very promising writer. You might want to check out the book and you might want to check out the next Knoxville Writer's Guild meeting if you like your entertainment of the literary persuasion. November 4, Michael Knight will read from his new novel The Typist: A Novel.

And we should have great walking weather for at least one more meeting!
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

City People Tour of Homes

City People in blue shirts helping all the tour takers.
One of my favorite things to do is take the City People Tour of Homes. I think this is the fourth time I've made it. The first two were filled with comments like, "Wouldn't it be cool if one day . . ." The third time was a year ago and I was within a couple of weeks of moving, so it was more like, "Hello, I'll be your neighbor, soon." That was great fun. This year the theme was more in the direction of saying hello to people I've met in the last year and introducing myself to new people. It was fun to say, "I've lived downtown for the last year."

This year ten condos were slated to be featured, but one had to be cancelled due to a family illness. Of the remaining nine, one was in the Southeastern Glass Building and I'd attended their open house, so I skipped that one, leaving eight. I had a very hard time getting pictures that did the condos justice, so I'll hit some highlights.

Second Floor at 304 S. Gay, Knoxville

Third Floor at 304 S. Gay
The first stop was the Phoenix building and it featured a great view of the Kress Building. Next up was the Everitts' residence at 304 S. Gay Street. I took a couple of photographs, but they don't really do it justice. The home is two floors, each of which are long corridors with side-rooms. It's a great place for the kids and features a great patio view of Gay Street directly across from WDVX.

Interior shot of one of the units in the 300 Building
Next door, and not part of the tour, but cleverly enjoying open-house on the same day, the 300 building was on display. The units inside are beautiful and have excellent views. They are also very expensive - $350 to $450 per square foot. That seems like a stretch for downtown Knoxville in 2010. Much better pictures than mine and a more complete description ran recently on Property Scope. You can find it here.
View of Mast General from Interior of Lerner Lofts

View north on Gay Street from Lerner Lofts Patio
125 Jackson Avenue (above Remedy Coffee) was a cool space that featured a great view of the
trainyards out the back (which comes with authentic train sounds all day and night) and, of course, excellent coffee downstairs. The unit at Lerner Lofts featured my favorite views (of Gay Street) from inside and the patio, but the space was small and the climbing was not for the faint of heart.

View from 29 Market Square

The Climb of the Day - 29 Market Square
The climb-of-the-day has to go to 29 Market Square. No need for gym membership if you live here. They had my second favorite view - a perfect view of Market Square.

Condo in the Daylight Building
The Daylight Building had a unit open and they are small, but well designed to optimize the space.

127 S. Gay, Knoxville

Shawn in 127 S. Gay, Knoxville

Interior Wall in 127 S. Gay, Knoxville
Another unit I really enjoyed was 125 S. Gay. It featured a great view of the 100 block and, while small, featured a good shape and design. I liked the fact that a logo from long ago on the outside of the adjacent building was visible on the interior wall of this condo.

The Carson, Central Avenue, Knoxville

Interior of the Carson, Central Street, Knoxville
My favorite condo and the biggest surprise of the day goes to The Carson at Cumberland and Central. It is nearly under the James White Parkway and the front looks like a warehouse. Sounds terrible, right? It's great. Each of the units has just below or above 2,000 square feet of living space, a personal garage (only ones downtown) and a private back yard! They were also very nicely designed.

Eco-friendly Green Shuttle Bus
This year's tour featured a shuttle bus that continually made the circuit and, of course, the friendly people from City People.
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