Thursday, March 31, 2011

Photographs Waiting for a Blog to Happen

Weather reporter Cheryl Scott on Market Square, Knoxville, March 2011
I've done this before, usually toward the end of a month when it becomes apparent that certain photographs, while fun, good or otherwise interesting, simply haven't attached themselves to a particular topic or haven't presented me with enough inspiration for an entire blog.
One more time - A really smart car would circle the block to avoid getting ticketed.
Dave is back in the house! (or out of the house and on Market Square)
If there is one theme to several of these pictures, as well as many throughout the history of the blog is this apparent, heretofore unknown-to-me fetish for vehicles. If there are any psychoanalysts among the readers, feel free to analyze me in the comment section.

Usually the Harley catches my eye, but how about this Honda? (Beside 36 Market Square)
Flow Mojo, still steppin' out around town, now hangs at the Transportation Center.
I hate to see them disappear into my files without ever surfacing, so I group them and offer them up as a collection of recent images of life in the city. So, in that spirit, here are a few from this month.

Maserati, Union Avenue outside Pembroke, Knoxville, March 2011

"My Maserati Does 185. I lost my license, now I don't drive." J. Walsh

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mayors, Mayors, We Got Mayors, Yes We Do

Faith Coalition Event for AIDS education, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2011
Market Square for most of its history has served as a forum for many different and widely divergent groups desiring to express a message of one sort or another. In the short time I've written this blog I've chronicled gatherings of members of the healing arts, LGBT advocates, anti-abortion proponents and so on. Sometimes the crowds are large, sometimes only a small circle of supporters appear and often no one pays any particular attention to the people making proclamations or speeches.

On a recent evening the response to those gathered on the stage at Market Square was, to say the very least, minimal. I think I may have been the only person watching as facts were read by famous and semi-famous local notables. Startling to my ears was the relatively straight-forward manner in which they read facts related to the AIDS epidemic.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2011
Current Knoxville mayor Daniel Brown, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and prospective Mayor Madeline Rogero each read from prepared texts to no one in general or, more accurately, to me as I took their pictures. It was somewhat jarring to hear Madeline Rogero say the words "vaginal intercourse" in public - not that I've ever heard her say them in private. Mayor Burchett's text seemed much more conservative and I suspected that was by design.

The event included drummers from Austin East High School (who I unfortunately missed), signs placed throughout the square giving information about the AIDS epidemic and booths offering further information regarding testing and related issues. The organization behind the effort was the Faith Coalition working out of the Knox County Health Department.

Mayoral Candidate Madeline Rogero, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2011
I'm not ready to give the UrbanGuy endorsement to Madeline Rogero, but I'll say that I run into her often at the various downtown events I attend and that makes me view her more favorably. Maybe our common interests mean she sees the world in similar terms. Or maybe it means I'm often where the crowds appear and she is campaigning, still I haven't see Marylin Roddy around town. I've seen Madeline at the R.B. Morris/Marshall Chapman concert at the Laurel Theater, Waynestock at the Relix, Pecha Kucha at the West Jackson Workshops and now talking about sex on Market Square. I'm just saying she may be the one for me.

It was interesting to see such an event coming on the heels of Knox County expelling Planned Parenthood from the classroom because a parent group complained that they mentioned their website which had links to definitions of sexual acts of which the parents did not approve. The group is also wanting to be sure that this organization does not provide any training for teachers who will  now be charged with providing sex education in the schools.
Knoxville Mayor Brown, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2011
So, we're concerned about AIDS, but more concerned about who talks about it and which links may be on their website. Still, on this evening when no children were present, we acknowledged that we have a problem that encouraging abstinence does not seem to be successfully addressing.

Mayoral Trifecta, Burchett, Rogero, Brown, Knoxville, March 2011

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Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Cold, It's Spring and Knoxville is about to Explode

Sculpture on Gay Street, Knoxville
Just when we thought we'd moved past winter, it has re-emerged from its lair. It was just cold and damp enough this weekend in the city, that short sleeve shirts didn't do the trick no matter how much you told yourself that April starts this week. It is that happy time of year, however, when I remind myself that in the battle between the cold, harsh winter and the warm, green spring, the good guys are definitely going to win.
Sculpture on the side of the Holston Building, Knoxville

Sculpture in Krutch Park, Knoxville
And that exploding part? Well, the Bradford Pear trees have exploded and so have the Redbuds. The Dogwoods can't be far behind - which brings us to that little festival that happens in Knoxville this time of the year.
Sculpture at Clinch and Market, Knoxville
The first sign in the downtown area that the Dogwood Arts Festival is gearing up is the annual arrival of the sculptures. This is the fifth year for the sculptures and this year they will remain on display for a full year - meaning, if that trend continues, we'll have a permanent rotating sculpture exhibit downtown. The first of these have arrived and are included in the photographs you see. Some of them may not be finished and none of them are labeled, so take them for the early photographs they are and check them out for yourself after the exhibit is fully installed this week.

Sculpture surrounding pool at Krutch Park, Knoxville

Sculpture in Krutch Park, Knoxville
Also of great interest to me this week is the annual Rhythm and Blooms concerts. Happening all around downtown and at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens this weekend, these concerts feature some excellent artists and favorites of mine, including Daryl Scott, Scott Miller, Robinella and the CC String Band!, and the Felice Brothers. The music onstage at the Market Square Stage is free Friday and Saturday night and that's where you'll find Robinella and Scott Miller on Saturday night. Some of the music will be held in John Black Studio in the Daylight Building, so if you've read about it on this blog but never made it there, this is your chance. Forty dollars gets you into anything any of the three days, twenty gives you one day.
Sculpture in Krutch Park, Knoxville

Sculpture in Krutch Park, Knoxville
It doesn't stop there, of course. This Friday is First Friday and this weekend is the Knoxville Marathon. I'll write more on First Friday later. In the meantime, catch up on your sleep this week because there won't be time for any of that foolishness starting this Friday night.

Sculpture on Gay Street at Krutch Park, Knoxville

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day! I'm not sure why.

A Muscogee collage from various public domain ...Image via Wikipedia

Are you? I mean, I'm happy for the Irish and I suspect I have a little Irish back in my own ancestry, but why do we all wear the green and go for the day with such gusto? I also have a little Creek Indian in me, but I haven't noticed any celebrations breaking out on their behalf. How about we pick a day and dress like these guys?
Cocoa Moon - the Latin restaurant - dressed up for St. Patrick's Day
Really, no other group causes us all to act as if we are all related. I know it's all in good fun and I really don't mind. I enjoy celebrating different cultures, it's just that I don't understand how this one captured the imagination of so many. We're even chided if we don't participate - "Where's your green?"

Latitude shows the green and snags a media interview.
Jack Neely, who wrote a great article on the subject last week, suggested that perhaps our identification with the Irish reflects our American inclination to support the underdog and the defeated. Again, I submit to you my Creek ancestors. You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger underdog or a group more thoroughly defeated.
Junior League Band, Blueplate Special, Knoxville
Ah well, might as well join in. Knoxville goes for it to a small degree. We have Irish music and green is abundant, though mostly for commercial reasons. There is no parade. I caught the Blueplate Special that day at WDVX. The first artist, the Junior League Band was not Irish, nor did Lissy Rosemont and her band play Irish music. Their website describes them as an "old time inspired rock band." That's probably a fitting description.
Lissy Rosemont sings and Irish Ballad
She played banjo and every song featured an electric rock guitar. Their music and particularly her vocals reminded me greatly of Hilary Hawke who I wrote about a while back. One hails from Georgia and the other from New York, but they have arrived at similar musical styles, at least to my ears. Lissy did end with an old Irish ballad in honor of the day.

Four Leaf Peat, Blueplate Special, WDVX, Knoxville, St. Patrick's Day 2011
There was no mistaking the Irishness of the next band. Hailed as "Knoxville's Premier Traditional Irish Band," and perhaps our only traditional Irish Band, Four Leaf Peat. I believe they said this represents their fifth consecutive St. Patrick's Day show on the Blueplate.

Four Leaf Peat, WDVX, Knoxville, March 2011

Four Leaf Peat, WDVX, Knoxville, St. Patrick's Day 2011
They are a talented group playing a wide range of traditional instruments and sticking very close to their tradtional Irish roots. I enjoyed them live, but I'm not so much a fan of the genre. Hearing that style music once a year is enough for me.

Now, if you want to talk about some Creek songs, that's another discussion altogether. Here's a little clip to get the movement started.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Blue Coast Burrito is Open!

Open for Business - Blue Coast Burrito, Knoxville, March 24, 2011
In what promises to be a season of full of openings, Blue Coast Burrito became the first new business to open its doors. It's an exciting new opening on the square and continues a trend of Latin-themed restaurants on the west side of Market Square. It joins Soccer Taco, Cocoa Moon, La Costa and Sangria's. Ironically, given the large number of what you might expect to be similar menus, each place has its own twist on the theme and the prices cover quite a range. For Blue Coast Burrito the spot on that range is at the lower end, which is nice. I love the restaurants on Market Square, but it is difficult for two people to eat dinner for much under $30 and you can easily spend much more. It's pretty easy at Blue Coast Burrito.
The tiny notice that Blue Coast Burrito might open today.

It seemed as if the desire was for a low-key opening. The only indication they would open today that I saw was two small computer-printed notices in the window yesterday. Even the wording left some question in my mind. It said, "Please visit us on Thursday, March 24" in very small font beneath a notification that training was in progress. I thought maybe this was a second open-house, but we went there on hopes it was a quiet opening and it was.

Christy very helpfully explains the process and the menu
We were met at the door by Christy who explained how to order and gave suggestions and explanations of the menu. Everyone was exceptionally friendly and keen to see that we had a good experience. I chose two steak tacos in corn tortillas while Urban Woman tried a latinga chicken burrito. The service through the line was great, though folks are obviously still learning. The meal with drinks, food and tax came to just over $16. That's hard to beat downtown.

An Urban Woman makes her selections in the food line.
We took our food upstairs to the Margarita Room, which is cozy and features a nice view from the big windows beside each table. A bar is located upstairs which served only beer for the first day because the paperwork had not come through to serve mixed drinks, though we were told margaritas would be served starting tomorrow.

Seating area on the first floor, Blue Coast Burrito, Knoxville
How was the food? One small problem presented itself: the burrito was cold. I'm not sure how that happened since we watched them make it, but when it was pointed out to the staff, we were immediately given another one which, after being put together, was steamed. I'd recommend that you ask for that. After that small glitch we enjoyed each of our dishes very much. The burrito was spicy, which we love and the corn tortillas (you can have flour if you prefer) were very tasty and the steak also was very good.
Upstairs view from the rear - Bar and seating - Blue Coast Burrito
I also liked the fact that, with the structure of the food preparation, you can get your food, eat and get out quickly, yet it also seems like the kind of place (particularly upstairs) you wouldn't mind lingering. There are televisions mounted on the walls, which I realize is the expectation in a casual dining situation in 2011, but which I do not like. Still, and those of you who read this blog regularly know this would be important to me, the sound on the televisions is muted in favor of excellent music playing at a perfect volume over the sound system. It was loud enough to listen to if you are so inclined, and low enough to hold a conversation without shouting at the people across the table.

Cozy nook in the front of upstairs - Oldest facade on Market Square in clear view.
I think they fill a void in terms of price for the quality of food and I'm quite certain we'll be back. I'd encourage you to give it a chance the next time you are downtown. I'd bet you'll enjoy it.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Friday Night in the Art of the City: Keegan Luttrell at the Emporium

First Friday, Market Square, Knoxville, March 2011
I'm startled to realize I've got one more post about First Friday from March and just next week we have another First Friday. Where did the month go? So, here is one final post on the last one, just in time to write about the next one.

First Friday this month got a great boost from the unusually spring-like weather. A light jacket made strolling outside very comfortable. While the crowd wasn't as large as those from the fall, it definitely surpassed the last several very cold First Fridays. People were actually able to enjoy outdoor dining for the first time in a while.
Symbolizing "nature," this young woman performed at Urbana
One of the must-stop spots on a First Friday night - and I might even say the most important, to me - is the 100 Block of Gay Street. My group loved it before and all through the construction project when it was at its least lovable. Now that it is the prettiest block downtown, it simply sparkles. After a great meal at the Crown and Goose in the Old City, we started with the Emporium.

Downstairs at the Emporium, 100 Block, First Friday, Knoxville, March 2011
The increase in First Friday traffic was obvious downstairs where hors d'oeuvres and drinks are served and the resident artists display their work. Often there is music, though there was none playing while we were there.
Acrylic and other mediums - Keegan Luttrell
Kegan Luttrell, Emporium, Knoxville, March 2011
Upstairs, featured artist Keegan Luttrell's exhibition entitled "Uproot" excited the crowd with a wide range of works ranging from canvas to sculptures made largely of found objects. She says that her work explores, ". . . the linkage between life and death. The idea that a memory lasts beyond our existence has become the root of the reason why I create." While, no doubt, some of the works might appear inscrutable to those of us with less exposure to and understanding of artistic works, they were always challenging and sometimes exhilarating. She also has fascinating performance art video on her website (linked above).
Sculpture of found objects (wine cup not included :-))
Urban patrons look into the mysterious well
The bottom of the well - A shattered view
Each of the mediums engaged offered something to the viewer - or participant. The sculptures invited visitors to peer inside and see themselves, broken at the bottom of a well (of shattered wishes?) or to experience lostness in a white expanse accompanied by ambient sounds in the work, "Lullaby." If you put on the headphones, step inside and really shut out unrelated sensations (which I found really quite easy), the result is a surreal, almost out of body experience. It didn't actually take me where the artist described in the accompanying note, but it did transport me to a different place.

Young Woman experiences "Lullaby" by Keegan Luttrell
The inside view of "Lullaby"
The exhibition will be mounted most of the rest of this month. The experience of "Lullaby" alone is enough to make it worth the trip. Who knows? Maybe you are catching a major artist before the rest of the world tunes in.

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