Monday, July 11, 2011

Who are we? Who will we become?

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I'm prone to making odd connections. Several events I've attended or walked past in the last few weeks merged in my mind and presented the question: Who are we? Of course, if we are a city - even a small one - the answer to that question isn't simple. We are and should be diverse. Some of us prefer the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra while others prefer Sundown in the City. Many people love the Vols while others are simply irritated with game day traffic and don't have any use for college football. We all, apparently, love biscuits.
So, if we are diverse and diversity is good, what is the question? What decision do we have to make? While there is little danger that the KSO or the Vols will disappear any time soon, there are other, smaller scale pursuits that will only survive if they are supported, will only grow if they are supported in a large way. Some of these caught my attention.
Linda Parson Marion reads her poetry at Union Avenue Books
I attended a poetry reading at Union Avenue Books. I mentioned it in a previous post: Linda Parsons Marion read from her book Bound. It was a great event and plans are underway to make it a monthly happening at Union Avenue books. I believe the appreciation of poetry, while always more limited in appeal, is a measure of the intellectual pulse of a culture. For a poetry reading it was well attended: around twenty people listened and a few purchased the book.
Greg Tardy takes a solo at Jazz on the Square, Knoxville, June 2011

Jazz Great Donald Brown mingles at Jazz on the Square, Knoxville
I've also enthusiastically supported the Jazz on the Square series. The music has been absolutely phenomenal when the weather hasn't interfered, which has been the case a couple of nights. Isn't jazz about as sophisticated and urban as any American music?
Lance Owens sits in with the regular band at Jazz on the Square

Knoxville Jazz Legend Lance Owens
A reliable group of about fifty to seventy-five people station themselves in front of the stage and probably some number of those dining outside at the various restaurants chose that time so they could eat and enjoy the music.

Then there is wrestling. This fine sport, some of you will remember, has been prominently featured on this blog as a part of my post on least appropriate Christmas floats. On a recent night when a decent crowd gathered at Union Avenue Books for a special event, hundreds of enthusiastic wrestling fans gathered on the square. Masks, Mohawks and mullets could be spotted throughout the crowd of mostly families. The pantomime of wrestling, which is the best it could be called, was awful. The crowd roared; hundreds of them delighting at every move.

I stayed only long enough to take the pictures and pondered as I walked home - is this who we are? More people will come to downtown for wrestling than for jazz or poetry combined? The announcer at the wrestling match even put it directly: "Forget music, we're gonna make this a wrasslin' town." Is that true? Is it possible? You vote by what you support, so what do you want to see downtown, jazz, poetry or wrasslin'? It's your choice.

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At July 11, 2011 at 12:37 AM , Blogger Andrea said...

If it wasn't for this blog I would not know about Jazz on the Square. I can't wait to get to a show.

At July 11, 2011 at 1:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's wrong with wrestling? Watching a 70 year old man blow into a saxophone is no more culture than a couple of 250 pound men in tights beating the daylights out of each other. Different strokes for different folks. East Tennessee actually has a pretty rich professional wrestling tradition. Yet another thing that makes the region unique.

At July 11, 2011 at 8:13 AM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Andrea, so many events that happen downtown just don't get the publicity they deserve. I'm glad to spread the word about Jazz.

Anonymous, I must respectfully disagree. While I tried to make the post as even-handed as I was able, jazz, and excellent music in general, is much more cultured than "250 pound men in tights beating the daylights out of each other."

Both do reflect a culture, but I think they say very different things. One is about an expression of beauty and the other an expression of violence. Still, in my post I'm simply pointing out that attendance and financial support of events will dictate which kinds of events will continue and which will disappear. On that we can agree, I think.

The contrast to me can be highlighted by imagining visitors to our city, either from other parts of the country or the world. Which would you want them to stumble into on Market Square? I know the answer for me is music or other arts over wrestling. Maybe it is different for you or maybe you don't care what such an imaginary visitor might find, but I do.

I'm simply expressing my opinion. If we disagree, that's perfectly acceptable. Obviously from the numbers I mentioned, you are probably in the majority.

At July 11, 2011 at 9:31 AM , Anonymous Art said...

Sorry to offend anyone, but people generally choose their entertainment based on their level of intelligence. "Wrestling" is a bottom-of-the-barrel entertainment that is but a few degrees above animal fighting; in the case of wrestling, the participants have slightly larger brains and voluntarily choose the activity in hopes of profit. Other than that, no difference.

Also, what events people attend is often a function of publicity, but that can be deceptive as well. People who are attracted by poetry and jazz tend to have a great many interests--people who love "wrestling" obviously have fewer.

At July 11, 2011 at 11:39 AM , Blogger Clint said...

Interesting. The only reason I read this blog is because my wife was reading it and laughin' so loud I was beginning to be embarrassed because the neighbors were starting to gather outside.

Pretty decent blog, although we might disagree on whether all this diversity is a good thing or just another PC issue.

Apparently we do not disagree on wrasslin'. It's purdy stupid---with the exception, of course, of twenty year old ladies in bikinis in the mud.


At July 11, 2011 at 12:07 PM , Blogger Cindy Ellison said...

Well, dear Clint ... I can't help it if the neighbors don't have a life and are jealous of the merriment that appears to be coming from ours!

Remember, Clint, several months ago how I tried to "prepare" you for downtown Knoxville? ;~) Remember Suttree's experiences on Market Square and downtown Knoxville? Thinking of diversity, during the 1950s there were so many people working and shopping downtown and I remember it as an exciting place and time. The streets were crowded. I don't remember that many cultural events being scheduled downtown except The Dogwood Arts Festival booths on Market Square. The movie theatres seemed to always have great attendance.

Just sharing some reflections ...

At July 11, 2011 at 12:35 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Well, strongly worded, Art, but clearly a legitimate opinion.

As for Clint and Cindy, it was never my intention in writing this blog to draw undue attention from anyone's neighbors. I'm pleased to hear that someone chuckled at something I said since I think writing anything humorous is a hard thing to do.

As for the whole diversity/PC/How-it-used-to-be issue, I think any city that uses that word is necessarily diverse. I like being around people who have different languages, backgrounds and cultures. It's one of the variables that makes a city different from a suburb or a small town.

It's encouraging to know, Clint, that you think the blog is decent even if we disagree on a few points. I'll follow my better judgement and respectfully defer comment as to the specific type of wrestling you seem to prefer. :-)

At July 11, 2011 at 2:56 PM , Blogger tthurman said...

What, no love for Jell-O wrasslin'?

At July 11, 2011 at 7:02 PM , Blogger Melinda said...

Not sure what it means but one of the owners of Union Ave Books is on the Board of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, and the store will be carrying the KJO's new CD coming out this fall. Said owner has also provided legal representation to wrasslers in the past. I'm kinda like the blog Hilobrow: it's good to be both but not Middlebrow.

At July 11, 2011 at 9:47 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Leave it to Mr. T. to bring up the jello. Clearly we are a culturally discerning group. And now Melinda informs us that she is a part of all of the various cultures discussed! I knew there was a unifying thread. I should have just blogged about Melinda, the original Ms. Diversity incarnate! (Although it might be worth noting that one group is a purveyor of books; one a purveyor of music and the latter is in need of legal representation. Just saying.)


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