Friday, February 27, 2009

New owners for Nama

So Gregg White appears to be out of the Knoxville restaurant business for the time being. I'd heard some rumblings about him selling Nama, and the News Sentinel says today that's the case.

The new owners plan to turn Nama into at least a regional brand and franchise it. Before the rumors that Gregg was going to sell Nama started floating, there was talk that he wanted to do something similar. Gregg is going to stick around in a consulting capacity while he pursues some sort of green business concept.

The new chief manager is Gale Huneycutt, whose group is in charge of all the local Puleo's Grilles.

According to Carly Harrington, he'll make a few changes like opening for lunch on Sundays and adding some non-sushi options to the Bearden menu.

I'm sure Gregg will still be around, it just seems strange that he won't actually own any of the places after being a fixture of Knoxville's downtown restaurant scene for so long. It's my understanding that business had taken a bit of a hit in recent months, so I would guess that had something to do with it.

Does anyone have any more details?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chandler's : Part II : Two Parts

The Modern Gal's Take:

Max told me the other day that he'd never been to Chandler's before, so I thought: what better day for an inaugural trip then on Fat Tuesday? We loaded up on the usual soul food offerings: barbecue, fried chicken, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans and cornbread.

The thing about Chandler's is the food isn't just out of this world. Don't get me wrong -- it's good. But the real reason you go to Chandler's is for the total experience which, of course, includes dining in an old Taco Bell, talking to the ladies that work there, eating from a styrofoam box and seeing the autographed Bill Haslam picture next to the drawing of the Last Supper.

And then there's the Chandler's food coma, which is not for the faint of heart.

I was fortunate in that I didn't have a whole lot of work to do on Tuesday afternoon, so I could concentrate my efforts on working through the food coma. It hit me before we even left Chandler's. I got in my car and had to blast the air conditioning to keep from wanting to close my eyes. Max stopped to get coffee on the drive back to the office. I got a pep talk message from CK: "It takes time for the ribs to squeeze themselves through your arteries."

I pulled out every coma-fighting method I could Tuesday afternoon while still at work: I got coffee, I drank lots of water, I chewed gum, I walked around the building. When I got home, my belly still rumbling from the after-effects, I tried jogging with the dog around the block. Not hungry, I had nothing but a glass of wine for dinner. And by 11 p.m., I finally felt like I was ready to take on the world again. The coma had passed.

How did Max handle his coma? He left work at 3 p.m. and went home and napped for a few hours. Rookie.

Max's Take:

The Modern Gal was right, I am a rookie, though I must take into account the fact that I was running on 4 hours of sleep and 6 expended cups of coffee. The bbq, green beans, mac 'n cheese and coke really didn't help things. Luckily I finished my work early in the morning and got to enjoy my food coma at home on the couch. My stomach loved me.

All that said, the Chandler's experience was a treat. It must be the pepto pink walls on the outside or the soul music softly singing you into a slumber that make you feel like you are in a special place.

I do, however, have a suggestion for Chandler's newbies. When you order your food, if it is not steaming on the hot bar right in front of you don't ask for it. I made that mistake. Not knowing the intricacies of the inner workings of the Chandler's kitchen, I ordered bbq that wasn't on the hot bar at the time. My order came from the last dregs of pork in the bottom of a plastic tray in the back of the kitchen. I even saw microwaves involved.

Now I'm sure that on any other day if I had arrived early enough that I would have been served fresh, moist, smoky barbecue, but this was not my day. I was disappointed, but the mac 'n cheese and good company of The Modern Gal made it worth the while. Fat Tuesday indeed.


I'm coming up with a list of all the preservation and conservancy groups in the Knoxville area for work. I'm glad to know how many there are in the area and I'll probably share more with y'all in the future. I just visited the Friends of Wears Valley website and my heart dropped at the photograph on their homepage. The least I can do at this point is put it out there and express how sad it makes me. The title of this image is "example of what we don't want."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

mardi gras "parade"

I ran into this "parade" winding its way through downtown. When I caught up with them by the Suttree statue they looked like they couldn't decide whether or not to go on. A few saw me taking photos and started posing. Then a girl threw Dum-Dum suckers to me. I got the feeling they were going to start flashing people. I didn't see anything that crazy, but another girl came up to me and said, "Happy Mardi Gras, sir." and handed me this:

The tag says, "Thank You for Participating! 100% Clean."

I'm sure they are.

in thanks to the pilot light

I am increasingly impressed with the music scene in this town, particularly with what the Pilot Light offers up in late night shows.

I'll get back to that in a minute, but first some dance tickets for your calendar:

Unknown Hinson returns to Patrick Sullivan's this Thursday, the 26th. I love Unknown Hinson, hillbilly country vampire creep show that he is. He's an Andy Kaufman-esq front who never breaks character in public, who's named after his father (listed as 'unknown' on his birth certificate), who's ridiculous, hilarious and silly, all the while being a completely and utterly talented singer/songwriter. He also provides the voice for Early Cuyler of Squidbillies (my favorite cartoon). Seeing a show at Patrick Sullivan's can be great fun, too, up on the 3rd floor with its dirty curtains and crooked floor. Every time I'm up there, I feel like I'm going to fall right out the window or that maybe the building is going to collapse in on itself.

Tesla is playing at the Bijou on Friday, the 27th. If you have a sense of irony or just love 80s rock, then Tesla is your dance ticket.

Crowd-pleasers Wilco are returning to the Bijou on April 18.

I'm extremely excited to hear that Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (Will Oldham) was just booked at the Bijou for a show on May 26. That's some pretty incredible good old music right there. He's got a warbly kind of voice, sweet and pained, and his music is in the Americana/folk tradition, though he's not one who likes to be labeled.

Unrelated to music but deserving a mention: No Reservations chef Anthony Bourdain will be speaking at the Tennessee Theatre on April 4. VIP tickets, including a Q&A after the show catered by Northshore Brasserie, are available. I am curious to hear what Bourdain, ex executive chef of Les Halles, has to say about the Brasserie. How could you describe Bourdain? A lovable jackass? I sure do like him.

Those are the recent gigs that stood out to me. I am curious to hear if anyone went to the John Prine show last Friday and how it went. I was bummed to be on a late flight back to K-town that night.

But back to my original thought: god bless the Pilot Light. Not only does it continue to bring us great 'big' acts like AA Bondy, Black Mountain, Bon Iver and Peelander Z, but its showcase of local talent is phenomenal. I'm always happy to see Woman, or the Cheat or Deek Hoi any time they play, and to accidentally see new-to-me bands on any given night. The Invisible Giants opened for AA Bondy last week. My guess is they've been around awhile but I'd never seen them until last week. It was a great show.

On Saturday we headed to the Pilot Light after 11, not sure if the Tenderhooks show we wanted to see would have started yet. Lucky for me, it hadn't and we accidentally stumbled into the tail end of Matt Jones's set. I was dumbstuck. Here was a man with just his voice and a guitar, with this phenomenal cello player accompanying him. The four of us just sat there, dazed. (Me and my 3 friends; there were others in the audience who I am sure were similarly tranced). This was beautiful, intriguing music. It was a gift to catch that show. Turns out, too, that Matt Jones is from Ypsilanti, Michigan, just a stone's throw from my hometown. Since I can never resist a fellow Michigander, I spent a few minutes talking to him after his set. His CD, The Black Path, is available on Itunes. Go buy it. My accidental introduction to Matt Jones is reason enough for me to be very thankful for the Pilot Light, great weird little place that it is.

Matt Jones, free rights image courtesy of

Monday, February 23, 2009

strange things are afoot at the market square

This thing showed up this week by the fountain on Market Square. It's the interweb outside!!! Knoxville's "Data Dog" will "fetch" you info about what to do and where to go in town. When I clicked on "Restaurants" the first things on the list were Domino's on the Strip and Baskin Robbins on Clinton Hwy. Oh well, A for Effort.

On a slightly related note, the city actually delivered on its promise today and replaced the old pear trees on Union beside MS Kitchen. Now, either replace the tree near the stage or cut the other one down. The people demand symmetry! And what about all those empty tree holes around downtown? Let's keep this going, Knoxville.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Post-Mardi Growl Post

In keeping with the recent theme of animals, I am here to do a quick post on Knoxville's most debaucherous canine event. I am of course speaking of the "Mardi Growl".

To think I took my precious puppy around that mass of sin and raucousness. There were all different breeds from hound to harlot roaming free in downtown Knoxville without a care as to the impact that they may have on the children.


Alas, I did go and covered Bella's eyes most of the time. The only redeeming point was the delicious Cafe au Lait we split and the plate of beignets (sp?).

Anyways I have a few pictures and a video from the event if you chose to look, though I recommend making sure your boss isn't around.

Friday, February 20, 2009

our own little Curious George

Because The Pol had to go and make everyone feel sad with his post about the lonely cat, I'm going to do my best to offer everyone a happy Friday pick-me-up.

Back in July, the Knoxville Zoo had its first baby chimp born in two decades. I don't know what it is about baby chimps, but 7-month old George is so incredibly adorable. And he even has his own blog! Check out some of his videos.

George has been really attached to his mom, Daisy, since his birth, but his father, Jimbo, has been held apart from the pair (I'm not sure why, but I guess it has something to do with the family's development. Earlier this month, he was reintroduced to Jimbo. You can read about it here and see some more photos of the chimp family taken by one of our fellow little Knoxvillians.

By the way, if you want to go see George, the Zoo is offering half-priced admission through Sat., Feb. 28, as part of Penguin Discount Days. (I'm not sure what full price is, but I would presume half-priced is a bargain.)

check it out

Tonight from 6-9 pm Jonathan Bagby is having a photography show at Gallery 1010 (113 S. Gay Street). I don't know much about him, other than he is a bright spot in the Knoxville art scene (I think he lives in Knoxville). The work I've seen of his are large prints of disheveled places in Knoxville at dusk or night. They have great lighting and are very imaginative. He focuses in on places others may tend to overlook.

So if you're in the area, drop in.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

By Golly

Yes, it's true. Dolly Parton has a lot to be happy about right now. In May, she will be given an honorary doctorate from the University of Tennessee College of Arts and Sciences. (lucky for you if you're in her class)

My initial reaction was that of... well, I don't know. I was sort of appalled, but then i read a little more about it, and I have to say, she's alright.

UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek is quoted in the News Sentinel, praising her for "her role as a cultural ambassador, philanthropist, and lifelong advocate for education." She is the founder of the Imagination Library, a program in Sevier County that gives children a book every month from birth to 5 years of age.

Dang, Dolly! That's a lot of books!

What also surprised me is that this is not her first honorary doctorate. Carson Newmann gave her one in 1990 for commitment to education in Appalachia. Also, this is only the second honorary doctorate UT has given to anyone, the first being Howard Baker.

What can you take away from a story like this? Well, looks can be deceiving; intelligence apparently comes in all shapes and willfully enhanced sizes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

be the change you want to see in knoxville

Just when I'm about to convince myself that I'll never find a full-time job with my degree, I run across an advertisement for the grand opening of the most inspiring group in Knoxville that I'm not a part of: Knoxville Overground.

Tonight they celebrate their grand opening in a sweet space in Sequoyah Hills, where they offer communal work space for entrepreneurs of social change. I met Alex Lavidge at a clean energy conference in the fall when I began my job search. After talking to him about his experience in the Silicon Valley and what he wanted to do in Knoxville, I thought his ideas were way too big for Knoxville. Fortunately, I was wrong. His networking non-profit has hit the ground running this year with tons of sponsors and a clear mission for their members: to be the change that you want to see in Knoxville. If you're in the area, check them out tonight at 7:00 in their new location at 1204 Kenesaw Ave. in Sequoyah Hills.

Needless to say, it's unlikely that we'd hear anything about entrepreneurial efforts with the economy as it is. Let's hope Knoxville fits.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's all a matter of perspective

Well I've been meaning to get this up for a few days now (but AT&T has screwed that up) and so unless it snows today this will seem a little behind the times.

I went to pick my wife up from her office on campus the other day, after it had snowed the 4 inches earlier only to discover this sad sight.

This cat lives on this roof more or less. People who live in this house will daily put the cat out on the roof while they go to work, class, whatever, and leave the cat to fend for itself. Well thats ok when it's 70 and sun-shiney, but on snow days it's just a bit rude.

My wife said she had been watching that cat pace, then go over and relieve itself in the snow, the go back and sit by the window all day, just hoping that someone would come let it in.

All this to say, if you ever think your day is going bad, please make a copy of this picture and put it in your cubicle.

At least you're not this cat.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

autumnal memory

Medical Arts Building in autumn

Friday, February 13, 2009

The End is Nigh

Well downtowners, it's finally upon us.

The 100 block of Gay Street is closing for renovation for (wait for it) ... 18 months. While this will be a big inconvenience to those who frequent the area, the work should make for a better 100 block, with trees, benches, bike racks and wider sidewalks along this very popular stretch of street. The 100 block is arguably one of downtown Knoxville's main centers, and this renovation will only further that growth.

This raises several questions for downtowners: how will those businesses on the block hold up? (Nama recently signed a 5-year lease, and what about the new Cuban resto?) Also, what about prices on all the apartments and condos? Will rents come down? Is now the time to buy?

Well whatever will happen come Monday, I think we should be sure to live it up on the 100 block this weekend, because it's gonna be a loooong time before it's back to the quiet block so many of us have come to love. 

good music for love day

AA Bondy is severely awesome, and he is playing tomorrow night at the Pilot Light. You can hear a sample of his music at NPR, which covered his SXSW show last march.

He's played at Bonnaroo a few times (I think) and opened for the Felice Brothers (another awesome band) last September at Barleys. I saw that show with my friend JZ, not expecting much from the opening act. He let me how incredibly awesome he was. His songs are chilling, haunting, lovely. I guess I would call it Americana. Grotesque Americana. Dark. Pretty.

If you're looking for something to do this Saturday, Valentine related or not, I would highly recommend the AA Bondy show. It's only 8 bucks, and he's worth far more than that.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Identity crisis?

B's post from yesterday got me to thinking about a topic which I've thought much on before but not come to many conclusions: What is Knoxville's identity?

The smaller mid-sized cities in this country seem to do best for themselves when they project a strong and mostly positive image. Think of Asheville. Austin, Texas. Savannah. Boulder, Colo.

Growing up in Memphis, I always thought of Knoxville as that city where UT is and nothing more, and I don't think I'm alone in that thought. As a student at UT, I thought of Knoxville as a city full of rednecks. That was partially my fault for not giving it much of a chance, but I don't think I'm alone in that thought either.

This is roughly my one-year anniversary of returning to Knoxville after a 3 1/2-year absence, and Knoxville certainly doesn't hold those same identities in my mind. Sure, there's still UT and rednecks, but I've come to love how the city embraces its local music scene. There's a funky, progressive edge thanks to things like the Big Ears festival. There's a love for the outdoors (though for the record, I don't think Knoxville does a good job of embracing the Smokies ... it seems like that's left to Pigeon Forge/G-burg).

Remember when the NY Times said the locals call Knoxville "The Couch"? Yeah, I'd never heard that moniker for Knoxville in my life, but I can see now why it works. People seem to come to Knoxville never intending to stay, but then they never leave.

So I'm curious what everyone else thinks. What is Knoxville's identity? What do you think Knoxville wants its identity to be? What should it be? Is it even important that Knoxville has a strong, dominating identity? Why is The Modern Gal asking so many questions? ... Ok, you can skip that last one.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Like a vapor

I was talking to my friend after eating brunch in Market Square on Sunday. It was gorgeous outside and there were some musicians playing bluegrass next to the lawn. I was taking all this in, like I take in every Sunday in Knoxville (it's my favorite) and I was sort of gushing about how proud I was of Knoxville this past weekend in regards to the Big Ears Festival:

" progressive, and all these people came in from out of town..."

My friend made the pretty picture I was painting fall apart when he said very sarcastically, "Yeah, but I also feel like I've been cheated on by this city."

It's funny how I was going on and on about how great the festival was when all I attended was 10 minutes of a drum workshop in the Woodruff Building. My only friend who actually went to several shows did so because she works at the Bistro, and she got in for free.

When I asked other Knoxvillians why they didn't go to any shows they said they just didn't understand what a big deal this all was and they never grasped what Big Ears was until it was all over. Or they said it was too expensive. Did anyone else get the feeling that this was a festival more for out-of-towners than it was for Knoxville?

I admit I probably missed it all due to ignorance about the bands. I know I'm not as progressive as I'd like to think, but is the rest of Knoxville? I'd hate to think down here in East Tennessee we're too busy running around without our shoes on to know about avant-garde music. Or do we just not care?

I did experience the residual effects of Big Ears. I worked Saturday night, and one of my tables was John Hassel and Maarifa Street, guys from all over the world. They were very praiseworthy of Knoxville and the Bijou Theatre. Matmos sat on our patio and I overheard them talking about not being able to play at the Square Room.

From the crowd we saw, Big Ears was a huge success.

I hope Ashley Capps intends to do this again next year. I thought it was great for Knoxville. I just wish I knew that before the fact.

check out what pitchfork media and the new york times had to say:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Old Roads

This is more of an inquisitive than informative type of post.

I am a concerned resident of the Fort Sanders neighborhood. Every day that I hop in my car I have to drive over these old cobblestone roads that run down 12th, 13th, and 14th (maybe more?) in the Fort. I really like the old look of the roads and the fact that they have probably been around for eons. The frustrating thing about the roads is that they are in a serious state of disrepair. Now I know that the Fort does not hold the highest property values in town and it probably isn't the home to a great number of historic preservationists, but it seems like if the roads are being kept around, then maybe the potholes, cracks, dips, etc. could be fixed every once in a while. I'm not the first to notice that they have done a number on my shocks over the past couple of years.

Call me nostalgic. Tell me I'm wasting my time. Remind me that I live in the Fort and no one really cares.

Here is the inquisitive part of this post. I heard a couple of years ago that some historic society somewhere won't let the city get rid of the cobblestones. Kudos to them. (Unless I misheard) My questions are, who is in charge? when can / when will they be fixed? how old are they? Etc. It is important to have historically significant roads in our city. It is important to preserve things worth preserving. But seriously Knoxville, those roads suck bad.

Sorry I didn't really do my research and contact the persons of interest, but I figured you all would come through as always with information and advice. Thanks in advance Knoxvillians!

Friday, February 06, 2009

river house

from The Pol (who's work computer blocks Blogger) via ck:

I love my building.

It was built in 1928 to house the workers of the Henley Street bridge and has lead an interesting life ever since. Maybe later I’ll talk more in-depth about its years as a flop house and drug den but that is for a later date.

Today I just want to share my joy of living in an old building. As I lay in my bed last night I was struck with the amount of connection that I felt with the city just through my heating system. You see I have radiator heat in my building. If any of you have ever lived with radiator heat you know it is an art.

Sometimes it’s freezing cold in your house because the temperature outside is 40 degrees and the thermostat hasn’t kicked, or sometimes, like last night it’s blazing hot because the temperature never got above 20 and the radiators went full tilt all day long.

So over time you realize the way to counter that problem is to do the most illogical thing in the winter, you open a window. This creates an interesting situation where you have two blankets and a dog on your feet balancing the 15 degree draft that helps to regulate the 100 degree+ radiator beside your bed, and then the noises of the city lull you to sleep.

Ahh Knoxville, you never stop giving.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Big B's First Friday Run Down

I love First Fridays. There are many reasons why, but just in general, I look forward to them every month (except last month-it was too cold and too January).

I heard it was supposed to warm up tomorrow, but I'm not sure what the evening will be like. I'm sure you'll need to bundle up in order to make the rounds.

I'm not one to study up on who's showing where. If I catch wind of a show that I want to go to, I'll make it a point to get there, but most First Fridays end up about the same way for me.

Due to the growth of First Friday down Central, I think the best way to get around is by bike. That way you're not confined to where you parked your car. But I'm not hardcore and therefore won't be biking tomorrow.

I'll park in the Market Square garage and walk to Gay Street. If I've heard something's going on, I'll stop in at Yee-Haw and silently admire their vast collection of letters and symbols for their letter press. Then I'll tell my friends what prints, stationery, and journals they can buy me on my birthday.

Then I'll walk down Gay Street (toward Nama and Sterchi). Here is the crux of First Friday- Gallery 1010, the Downtown Gallery, and the Emporium. All have food and the Emporium has wine. It's also where most of the shmoosing happens if you've attended the art department at UT (which, don't get me wrong, I enjoy once a month)- I may run into an old professor who will tell me where they went while on sabbatical or how their current students are. And I'll run into former studio mates that have stayed in Knoxville and we'll find comfort in the fact that we're both still waiting tables.

Somewhere in that process of walking back and forth across Gay Street, some man will politely ask my friends and I to check out Unarmed Merchants and we'll eat and drink while sitting on their gnarly benches made of trees. If you look up you'll see what else I want for my birthday. It's hanging from the ceiling.

As we step out of Unarmed Merchants, one of my friends will say: "It's too cold! Let's go watch a movie."

And then I'll whine, "But we haven't been to Fluorescent (at Central and Broadway) They have free beer and good food. And I still haven't been to the new Three Flights Up (near Old Gray Cemetery) or Ironwoods Studio (??). Come on, they have free cupcakes at Magpies."

And at least one of my friends will say, "Oooo. Cupcakes."

And we'll be on our way.

Don't let me fool you. It may sound like I just eat and drink my way through First Friday (which is all a part of it), but it is also, for me, most assuredly about seeing something new created by someone in Knoxville. It ain't New York, people, but I always see something endearing or profound, something that inspires me to keep on painting. And that assurance, on top of a belly full of cupcakes and wine, is a Friday well spent.

Note: The painting at the top is by UT professor Jared Sprecher. You can see it tomorrow at the Emporium. Also, other points of interest are LOX and the Birdhouse.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

dogs in drag

Today at 1:30, Bill Haslam is taking time off from his gubernatorial campaign to announce an important event in Knoxville: The 2nd Annual Mardi Growl. What? Apparently, to spice up the doldrums of February, our fair city has decided to sponsor a parade. With dogs. Dogs dressed up in costumes.

It all happens on Feb. 21 at 11:00 am in the Old City. I'm thinking about entering my two dogs. Even if you don't have a dog, come by and watch all us dog owners preen over our pooches and fret about their sequined drag costumes.

It's sure to be ridiculous.

Monday, February 02, 2009

snowy weather, part 2

Here's a brief follow up to MG's snowy post from two weeks ago. No cute dog in these pictures, but at least there's a shiny train! These shots are from my phone, so sorry they're a little weak.

Now I'm from the Midwest, so this is pretty much just a minor dusting compared to what I've seen up there. But I have to admit that after 5 years down here, this snowy day is a magnificent sight. Anyone want to join me outside? I'll be catching snow flakes on my tongue! I love it. I hope everyone is safe and warm today. Be careful on the roads. (These shots are dedicated to Stan, who is experiencing his first snowy Midwestern winter up there in St. Lou). Stan, see Regas up there in the background? You miss it here, or what?!