Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy Knoxville on 11-11-11: Low Key or Dying Out?

A few souls brave the cold at the Occupy Knoxville Rally, 11/11/11
Josh Flory, whose business blog Property Scope I read everyday, recently wrote an article on the local Occupy Knoxville contingent of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The people he interviewed suggested they were taking a lower key approach than some groups and had decided not to so much occupy a spot as to hold intermittent marches and rallies. Someone from UT suggested that the message of Occupy Wall Street, which has emerged as something along the lines of economic equality is thwarted by the system, doesn't resonate with east Tennesseans.

Occupy Knoxville Rally 11/11/11
Information and sign-up table, Occupy Knoxville Rally 11/11/11
 I would agree to an extent, though I would take some exception with both parts. I think the occupation hasn't been the same here, less as a strategic decision, and more as a dwindling of energy. I know they intended a 24/7 presence in Krutch Park at the beginning. While the UT person was correct, obviously, that east Tennessee is more conservative than the places with larger movements, I can't help but remember the hundreds - and I thought maybe a thousand - of people who gathered the first night. Somebody in our area obviously agrees with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Speaker at Occupy Knoxville Rally
Speaker at Occupy Knoxville Rally, Market Square
Mr. Flory had visited the 11/11/11 gathering on Market Square during the day. I visited after the sun fell. It was cold and a bit windy. People hurried through Market Square intent on their destination and not as interested as they usually might be in the rag-tag gathering. Speeches were made from the stage: some prepared, some less so. Even the prepared speeches seemed to ramble. The tone and phrasing could have been lifted from many protests and rallies over the years. Few seemed to be listening.
Speaker addresses the crowd while co-protester texts on stage

So what happened to the energy and excitement? Where has the movement strayed? I have a few thoughts on the topic. I offer them as someone who is basically sympathetic to many of the complaints and concerns of the Occupy movement:
  • Whose bright idea was it to occupy an outdoor physical space as winter approached? Did that really seem like a good idea? Did you think the American economic system would collapse as a result of your efforts before the first frost? Really? It was an untenable approach from the beginning.
  • "We'll occupy this park until . . . until . . . well, for a long time!" Could an open-ended, unfocused goal be a good thing? I think not. There needed to be a good (early) point to declare the occupation a success and move on toward more seriously building a movement to address the problems.
  • "Don't follow leaders, watch the parking meters." - Bob Dylan - I am a Bob-head and so agree with the sentiment, but could this movement flourish with no central voice? If no person or group is able to speak for the unwashed masses, then the masses are just, well, unwashed.
  • "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" or the central message? It's just all over the place. It leaves the group open to charges of just being "lazy" people who don't like for hard-workers to have money. They are too easily dismissed as "whiners." The message can even be subtly complex: Explain how the system is gamed to make some people incredibly wealthy while others struggle to eat - but pound away on one message. Pick a message, any message.
  • Dress for success. When I saw the first group of marchers there was no way to stereotype them. Old, young, employed, unemployed, educated, uneducated, black, white; they were all present and accounted for. The narrative of aging hippies and young neo-hippies just didn't fly. It flies better, now. Where did everybody else go?
Wall of Slogans, Occupy Knoxville, Market Square, 11/11/11

So, what will happen with the Occupy movement? Will it be a distant memory by the time the leaves return to the trees? Will they find a unified voice? Will they be able to communicate a coherent message to a place as conservative as East Tennessee? We'll check in later and see what happens.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

36 Market Square: The Square's Most Beautiful "New" Building?

36 Market Square, Knoxville
I'll admit I had my doubts and grumbles about the building for a long time. The front facade was crumbling and all parties agreed it had to be removed. Ultimately the back end of the building had to be replaced. The interior, when exposed looked like a small explosion had blown away everything but chaos.

The other exposed exterior wall seemed better suited to the graffiti wall which sometimes contains surprising art by such local creative spirits as Cynthia Markert and Brian Pittman among others. Of course, it also gave voice to some of Knoxville's most disenfranchised or at least disgruntled citizens as they expressed their distaste for or opinions about any number of subjects, but always of TVA whose towers replaced a once vibrant street scape across Wall Avenue with two very large towers.

Interior view of the first floor from front to back, 36 Market Square

Interior view from rear, looking out toward the square, 36 Market Square

Ken (he asked that his last name not be used) saw something different. He saw the great potential and possibilities in 36 Market Square, the tallest (see views from inside in photographs below) and most spacious building on the square. Of course, he wasn't the first. That would be Scott and Bernadette West who once owned the building but lost it when much of their property was taken by federal agents in 2006.
View from the first floor, 36 Market Square

"Hello neighbors," from second floor, rear windows. 36 Market Square 

View of Market Square from the second floor of 36 Market Square

The view of TVA Plaza from 36 Market Square
A year later, at auction, Ken stepped in, bought the building, and promptly watched our economy stumble, fumble and fall. Not a great time for a huge project needing financing and facing a mine-field of local and national rules, regulations and requirements for reconstructing an historic building on Market Square. He enlisted the help of contractors Christopoulos and Kennedy who, along with site supervisor Mike Laghazzi, would see the entire project through.

Ken, along with his son Josh, patiently set about doing everything that was necessary to make his vision for the building come true. He had memories of eating burgers at the Blue Circle while hanging around downtown as a young guy in the 1960's. Perhaps those memories of what downtown once was made him determined to preserve some of the past while offering a new beginning to an old friend in 36 Market Square. He saved that Blue Circle sign, which wasn't easy I'm told. He hopes to re-introduce it somehow into the design of the building.

Basement at 36 Market Square, Knoxville, November 2011
Second Floor, 36 Market Square, Knoxville, November 2011

Fourth Floor, 36 Market Square, Knoxville, November 2011
He and his wife Brenda, of whom he speaks lovingly, have already enjoyed the building. The two of them have listened to Sundown in the City from inside the building and he, particularly, has enjoyed reading on the roof top, though once that resulted in his being encouraged to jump. He'd hoped to have a deck on top of the building but, so far, that seems not likely. The same difficulties with sight-lines that gave the Wests so much trouble at the Preservation Pub seem to have thwarted those ideas for the time being.

The building contains a basement and four floors, with each being available for lease. The intention at this time is to leave each level open from front to back with retail likely for the first floor and the top three floors, perhaps along with the basement being set for office space. The upper floors are well lighted as windows have been installed on every side, while the basement is smaller and less lighted.

One of two new stairwells, 36 Market Square, Knoxville, November 2011
New Elevator in the rear of 36 Market Square
Old elevator shaft looking from the top, 36 Market Square
The building previously had an elevator, but that shaft was not workable with a modern elevator, so a new one has been installed in the rear of the building. A stairwell has been added to the front to afford direct access to any of the floors above the first.

Mysteries and a couple of treasures were uncovered along the way. Ken said, "Sometimes I felt like Geraldo Rivera." He tells me he found a couple of very old coins beneath the original surface of the first floor, one of which dated to the 1880's. Some of the wood floors inside were able to be salvaged and were donated to Knox Heritage and ultimately used in their Green House project in Fort Sanders. An apparent, sealed passageway to the neighboring building was uncovered. An inscription was found on the fourth floor wall to that neighboring building which seems as if it would have been designed for the exterior of a building, but that wall was never exposed to the best of any one's knowledge. Jack Neely can't seem to figure it out for certain and if he can't, well, you know the rest of that sentence. You can read his musings here.

Mysterious inscription inside old elevator shaft, 36 Market Square
Other features had to covered due to the historical status of the building. Some were surprising. The new brick on the lower floors had to be painted to match the brick above that had already been painted. On the interior the brick had to be covered because that is the way it was originally built. When the contractors tried to add plaster to the remaining original plaster, it crumbled. This dictated its removal, exposing beautiful century-old brick. Generally downtown that is seen as an asset. Not this time. It had to be covered with a new layer of plaster to be historically accurate.

But all that will soon fade to memory as a once proud building opens, once more, for business and begins to build memories for future generations of Knoxvillians. I have a vague memory of going into the building when it contained a business on the corner. I might have bought cokes there for my family in the middle 1980's, if I recall correctly. I hope, along with all of you to be able to frequent the building as a paying customer once more.

So, are you the right tenant for this building? If you think so, contact George Brown ( at Wood Properties and get the details!

36 Market Square, Knoxville, November 2011

Enhanced by Zemanta

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas in the City 2011

Ice Skating on Market Square, Knoxville
It's hard for me to believe it's here, again. Thanksgiving seems to have become a small blip on the radar with Christmas seeming to have bled past Thanksgiving on its way to Halloween. It's craziness in many ways. I'm not big on the commercialization of every holiday. I noticed at the Fantasy of Trees there were sponsor notes on every mirror on the Merry-Go-Round and on most of the horses the children rode. Of course our downtown event has the word "Regal" with a capital "R" attached to it for a reason.

Fantasy of Trees, Convention Center, Knoxville, November 2011
Family Photo-op, Fantasy of Trees, Knoxville Convention Center
But enough humbug, there is still plenty of joy in the city for the child in us all. It officially starts the day after Thanksgiving and it started slowly for the crafts persons on Market Square and Krutch Park. There were people walking about, but nothing huge. Krutch Park extension was empty, but ready for bigger things. Ice skaters trickled onto the rink.
I wandered into a few stores and business looked good. Later I talked to several and their faces ranged from smiles to really big smiles, so I'm guessing some of that shopping madness at least mad it into the stores of the good guys and didn't all go to Walmart, Best Buy and Toys R Us.

Fantasy of Trees: Doesn't that look like an exploding Sunsphere atop that tree?
Flamenco dancers at Christmas?
Carousel, Fantasy of Trees, Knoxville

Ginger Bread Houses, Fantasy of Trees, Knoxville
"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

Polar Bears Rockin' Christmas! Knoxville Convention Center, 2011
The Fantasy of Trees was busy, but it was only about half as crowded when the family went last year. Aside from the sponsor material I mentioned above, it is a great experience for young children and it seemed they had more activities for them than ever before. The music while we were there didn't particularly seem seasonal, but it was good. There were gingerbread houses, photographs with Santa (who must have quickly slipped over to Krutch Park for his other event of the evening), and scenes to illustrate the "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" theme. 
The gang is gathered on stage, the crowd awaits!
The lighting of the Christmas tree drew a large crowd, though again, maybe not as large as last year. A woman whose name I did not catch sang a great version of "O Holy Night," and then a series of people took the stage before the main event. Mayor-elect Rogero was as smooth and polished as ever and went out of her way to make people of all faiths welcome, which is such a breath of fresh air in our part of the country. I just really feel we are in for a great era in Knoxville history with her leadership and that of the others who joined her on the city council.

The tree lights, the fireworks explode, Knoxville 2011
Santa, Ms. Claus, Reindeer and, of course, the Chic-Fil-a Cow crowded the stage and Santa did the deed and the tree lighted much to the delight of the crowd. It also set off a barrage of fireworks that was cool, but also extremely loud for some of the younger children present, not to mention for the residents of the Holston Building. 
The WDVX Ho Ho Ho Down, Market Square Stage, Knoxville 2011
Market Square was packed with ice skaters, families and shoppers. Bluegrass music rang from the Market Square stage as the WDVX Ho Ho Ho Down helped everyone get their groove on. The lights on the trees were beautiful. By all appearances it was a great kick-off to the season. It's only the start, of course. Friday night (Dec. 2) the Christmas Parade starts at 7:00. The next weekend (Dec. 10) is the Jingle Bell Run, which is fun to watch even if you aren't a runner. And then, there is the Tour de Lights bike ride (Dec. 15).

So, come to the city. Bring the family and have fun. As for that matter of shopping, it's been decades since it was this good. With the advent of the downtown gift card you can easily get something for everyone on your list.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Columbus Revisited (Sort of): Happy Thanksgiving

Replicas of the Nina and Pinta in front of the Knoxville Skyline
Last November I posted about the Nina and the Pinta visiting Knoxville. It was an interesting stop on our waterfront and though I never went aboard, I took some photographs that, I thought, turned out pretty well. My favorite (above) shows the ships in the foreground with the Knoxville skyline in the background. I thought it was a pretty good picture and the post was pretty popular, so I felt readers agreed.

Recently I recieved an e-mail from John Schindler at Worden, Rechenbach and Brooke financial advisors on Gay Street asking permission to use my photograph for their annual Thanksgiving card. I happily agreed. I consider myself more a writer than a photographer, though even a monkey would get a few good shots out of ten thousand or so over the course of a year and a half. Still, I enjoyed the appreciation of my efforts. A few days later I recieved an e-mail from a UT professor who wanted to use one of my photographs of the Market Square Farmers' Market in a presentation, so I got my photographic strokes for the month.

The postcard
I was a bit concerned that our local financial planners were blending Columbus with the pilgrims, but that's their perogative, right? When I recieved my copies of the post card, I realized I needn't have worried: they cropped the ships! I'm fine with that and still proud of having a photograph selected, but I thought the juxtaposition of the old with the new is what made the photograph interesting. I guess when an artist completes the work it is no longer his!
Still, it was a pretty cool interlude in this blogging adventure. If you, like my new financial advisor friends, enjoy the photographs on the blog, I'd encourage you to go to the Stuck Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page, like it, and enjoy the eight hundred or so photographs of Knoxville. I've added more, recently. While you are at it go to the Knoxville Urban Guy Facebook Page and "friend" me.

I hope you all have a quiet and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Labels: , , , , ,

QR Codes Invade Downtown Knoxville

Urban Toddler and Urban Woman with "Day at the Beach"
I haven't found the proper time to explore the various sculptures placed downtown this Spring as part of the Art in Public Spaces. In a very cool move, the Dogwood Arts Committee decided the sculptures would be placed for a year only to be replaced, presumably by next year's works. I love this because it keeps art downtown while keeping it fresh. My favorite sculpture from last year, "Flow Mojo" did survive (at the transportation center), but most were moved out after a few months.

This year's sculptures have been given a bit of an upgrade in another way: QR codes have been added to markers beside each one. If you download a simple app to your smart phone, you can read the code and get a cool description of the work of art along with other information about the artist's concept, pricing and contact information. It includes the option of voting for the "Best in Show," though I believe that voting ended a few months ago. If you want to try it out, you can click the picture below to enlarge it, download the app to your phone and scan the code in the picture.

QR Code for "Day at the Beach," Downtown Knoxville
 Also included is a "map" link which shows you how to navigate to the other works downtown. This portion is fascinating because it makes me think of the new signage being planned for the city. It would be so simple to include these codes on signs labeled "Where Can I Eat?" or "How Do I Get to the River?" or "What Live Music is Available Tonight in the City?" which would be so useful for our out-of-town guests and for some residents, as well. It seems like a no-brainer.

Imagine QR codes applied to the various walking tours downtown. The History of Country Music Walking Tour could include the standard information along with links to recordings of the actual music being discussed. What if we had QR codes on the corners of buildings giving the history of the building? Maybe we would grow to love our buildings enough that we wouldn't want to tear them down. Not that we would consider that anymore, of course, but you get my drift.

"Day at the Beach" by Wayne Trapp, Krutch Park, Knoxville
I spotted another cool use, as well. I found a downtown building which is for sale and wondered what it might look like inside. I noticed a realty flier in the window and stepped up to have a look. In addition to the information you might expect, it contained a QR code which, when scanned, takes the smart phone to a website that offers a tour of the inside.
I'm not usually an early adopter of various bits of technology, though I'm not particularly technology averse and I realize this is not new technology to those of you who are into it to a greater degree, but this could really be an amazing technology.

What other uses can you imagine in the city? Leave a comment with your ideas. In the meantime, get out into Krutch Park or onto Gay Street or the World's Fair Park and begin exploring some great works of art aided by a cool new technology.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, November 21, 2011

Knoxville's Underground at the Crown and Goose

Crown and Goose Underground, Old City, Knoxville
Have you ever been in London's Underground? Have you ever ridden the Tube? I hadn't until this past summer and we came to depend on it and, finally, to understand it. It's actually a very simple and reliable subway and we've got a bit of it right here in our little city.

Glocester Underground Stop, Kensington, London (our main stop)
Jeffrey Nash brought a bit of London to Knoxville with his Crown and Goose restaurant which opened in February 2008. The business has grown and is now bustling most evenings. I remember parking across the street in the small parking lot at the corner of Summit Hill and Central and having my car be one of a dozen or so. Urban Woman and I met friends Kevin and Melinda there on the most recent First Friday and found that parking lot and the next several behind it packed to capacity. A policeman directed the seemingly impossible traffic. We were thankful to live downtown and to be on foot.

Massive Saxophone at the Crown and Goose Underground

View toward the bar, Crown and Goose Underground, Knoxville
With a little help from our friends and their friends we were seated in the Underground or Speakeasy (I think I've heard both) soon enough. We entered through the cute faux telephone booth. Apparently Jeffrey and Pat are pretty careful how many people get seated inside which made the experience much more pleasant than if it had been crowded and commensurately louder.

Excellent Jazz Band, Crown and Goose Underground, Knoxville
 Inside, the design is set to mimic the interior hallways to the Tube, with the tiles and arches and perfectly inset diagrams of the various lines of the tube. We sate next to the Picadilly Line which runs past Hyde Park and Picadilly Circus. An excellent jazz trio played at the street end and the bar was nestled snuggly on the opposite end. Viewed from one end it really does mimic the London Tube.

View from the bar, Underground, Knoville
The menu is limited to a raw bar and cheese plates. Urban woman, to whom no meat is overcooked, chose the cheese while I went with a sampler platter of fish. I had a drink and she had water, which brings up the cautionary note: It's expensive. After the food, single drink, taxes and tip, we dropped $70. The band was great. The company was superb and the atomosphere was stellar. I loved the food and our host was gracious. Still, that's a lot of money to drop for a meal and we couldn't do it often.

I'd suggest you try it. Maybe split a cheese plate or a fish plate. Certainly go when the jazz is playing if at all possible. It's a different experience than anywhere else in the city.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Market Square Farmers' Market: A Final Tip of the Urban Hat for 2011

Market Square Farmers' Market, Knoxville, November 2011
The air has turned cold. The ice rink is being installed on Market Square and the crops are diminishing. It can only mean that the end to the Market Square Farmers' Market is coming soon. There will be an open-air crafts fair between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some of the farmers I spoke to indicated they would continue opening their stalls each week with the random lettuce, kale, beets and tomatoes they have left. The pepper guy, the bread guy and the coffee guy shouldn't be impacted by the end of growing season locally.
Jeff Scheafnocker, Three Bears Coffee Cart, Market Square Farmers' Market
I thought I'd run a few, probably final pictures of some of my favorite vendors. I've bought great food from each of them. I buy my coffee from Jeff Scheafnocker with Three Bears Coffee Company. He's pictured in his cart which used to be Just Ripe's cart before they got all grown up and opened a store front. Jeff's coffee is available there.

Crosswind Farm, Hazel's Salad Dressing, VG's Bakery
Pictured in a row are Crosswind Farm where we've bought many tomatoes and mountains of the best lettuce you'll ever place in a salad. Next to them you see Hazel of Hazel's Salad Dressing, which is great. My favorite is the Rosemary Lemon, which is also a bit lower calorie so the Urban Guy doesn't get too rotund. Of course, perennial favorite VG's Bakery is next in that row.

John Ledbetter and Hines Valley Farm, Market Square Farmers' Market
This year was the year of okra in my home. I couldn't get enough. Urban Woman finally protested that we were turning green and pointed on one end, but I kept buying it. We boiled it mostly, but we also fried, baked and grilled it. Our favorite okra came from Hines Valley Farm and was sold to us by the ever-congenial John Ledbetter.

Rick and his fresh-baked artisan bread, Market Square Farmer's Market
Our trip to Paris this summer only strengthened my love for good, fresh-baked bread. We've had some great bread locally from Harry's Deli and Tellico Grains, both of which do a wonderful job. I always find myself gravitating to Rick's stand on Saturdays. The sourdough bread is great as are all the other varieties we've sampled, but I always come back to a baguette. The first bite as I walk home with my vegetables is always the best.

Flowers at the Market Square Farmers' Market, Knoxville
I found this year that I often returned home with locally grown flowers, as well. The lady pictured here had some very unusual looking flowers and I bought a bunch from her. There are several excellent flower vendors at the Market this year. I wish we could get a permanent flower stall somewhere in the center city just selling bunches of beautiful fresh-cut flowers. It was one of my favorite things about London this summer and since I'm unlikely to afford another European trip for a long, long time, it's nice to see so many flowers closer to home recreating that great vibe.

Local Crafts fill Market Square between Thanksgiving and Christmas
So, catch the last bit while you can. Thank these good people for the good they bring into our lives and lets all hunker down for the winter and await their return next spring.
The Pepper Guy - Great Produce and the Most Colorful Display Award

Labels: , , , , , , , ,