Wednesday, December 29, 2010

year end thoughts (and how blogging helped me fall for Knoxville)

I'm getting sentimental in my old age.

Nothing makes it worse than when different seasons of life come to an end, so this being my last post of 2010, I'd like to reflect on living in Knoxville, especially in regard to being a writer for the Wigshop.

I've mentioned this in the past, but my first year after graduating from UT was a bittersweet one. Many of my friends moved away to figure out what to do with their lives as I struggled to figure out what to do with mine. I lived in a crappy yet quaint apartment in Maplehurst and watched as downtown Knoxville miraculously made leaps and bounds while the rest of the country seemed to be in shambles. I rode my bike everywhere because I couldn't afford to put gas in my car. I did, however, always seem to have enough money for lots of cheap beer*. Along the way, I was asked to write for the Wigshop. 

I admit that, at first, I used writing about Knoxville as a means to justify living here. I vindicated my decision to stay by trying to prove just how cool of a place it was becoming.

What I didn't foresee was how writing about this city would make living here not just bearable, but legitimate. It opened my eyes to what Knoxville had to offer, and the more I wrote, the more I realized there was to write about. In many ways, it made staying here just as exciting as traveling somewhere new.

Thankfully now I don't feel the need to defend Knoxville like I once did. I'm confident it's a great city in which to live, being a size and caliber that is both close-knit and full of new things to see and do. I'm very proud to call it my home.

So as this year comes to a close, and we ring in 2011, here's to Knoxville, Tennessee. Happy New Year!!**

* One of many things to be thankful for in Knoxville
** My top picks for places to be on New Year's: First Night, Pilot Light Party at Ironwood Studios, and the Public House. Cheers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Big Ears Update

Hey Yall,
I hope that everyone is having a nice Christmas Eve morning. If you are traveling please stay safe. If you are staying in town, still, be safe. The sad news is that Big Ears 2011 is being postponed. The text released by AC following the rumors that were circulating:

Hello Big Ears fans –

Before too much more time passes, we want to end the suspense. Big Ears 2011 will not be taking place during the first half of 2011.

The reason is simple. While we have many exciting things in the works, they were not quite coming together on the timeline we had hoped. So, rather than force things and fall short of the festival that we’ve imagined for 2011, we’ve decided to push the pause button for a moment.

We’ll be making an announcement with more details early in 2011. We can’t wait to tell you about what’s in store.

In the meantime, we wish you a happy and peaceful Holiday season…and a bright, prosperous, and creative 2011!


The Big Ears Team

While this makes me sad, I just want Big Ears to be the best it can be. I have voiced my love for what Ashley Capps does with Big Ears before, and will continue to do so as details emerge. It is one of the best festivals in the country, and I still hope that (as per the rumors) Laurie Anderson or Nick Cave will be curating. The beautiful stormy spring opening will be missed. One of my favorite moments from last years festival was the Sam Amidon show that opened the festival at the KMA. The giant white balloons bouncing across the green lawn outside while Sam Amidon and Thomas Bartlett serenaded a silent audience was amazing. It was one of the live-show moments I want to live in, and was one of the most aesthetically pleasing moments that I can remember. While all of the blusteriness of spring will be absent from this years festival, I hope that AC Entertainment can book the bands to complement the (hopefully) fall line up. I have one selfish request to the beloved Mr. Capps... please give time to Big Ears, don't sacrifice Big Ears 2011 to work on Moogfest. It is a beautiful festival that has the most interesting lineup of any I know of, and it takes place all over my city. That would be the best Christmas present ever.

hopeful and lovingly yours,


Monday, December 20, 2010

lets get (graphically) classy, vols

I don't usually spend too much time thinking about the Vols- I watch their games and wish them well, but I don't fully immerse myself in Volunteer Mania. So it was strange that I was thinking about the image of Big Orange this weekend. What exactly are we? Back in college I mainly saw a big Disney Dog on the sidelines, but there was a real one too (usually with a little orange sweater) which was pretty cool. And every now and then I was a guy in a frontier garb.

Coming from a another part of Applalachia with a similar mascot, I was intrigued. Who was this guy with a musket getting upstaged by Goofy's backwoods cousin? What exactly are we volunteering for?

Learning more about the history of my adopted state, I found out it basically was all about this guy:

And all of of the other cool Tennesseans who went to war (1812, Spanish-American, Civil) back in the day. Even though we didn't start applying it to our sports until 1905.

I remember seeing a cool old logo around campus-

But it was going extinct quickly. UT's strong point has never been graphics (or architecture or campus design either) but it's getting worse:

I mean, unless they officially change us to the "Tennessee Hound Dogs," let's get back to our roots and celebrate the bad ass dudes who gave our state it's nickname. It's time to get back to the real Volunteer symbol... not his hunting dog.

While nothing will probably supplant the ubiquitous

I respectfully submit a new design that embraces our heritage:

Graphic Designers: Have a better idea than that piece of crap above? Enter CK's Unofficial VOLS Logo Contest! Post links in the comments section. It'd be cool to see what we could come up with.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why don't you make like a tree...

The Pol is not always the greenest fellow. I'll let you absorb the shock for a moment.

Recently though, I did go to a half day seminar on what may be a fascinating and illustrative portion of the green push that is coming to Knoxville: the Nissan Leaf. While past experiences with electric cars have all but been still-born, the Leaf and it's cousin the Volt are firing an opening volley across the bow of our automotive landscape.

Where others failed the developers of the Leaf, Volt, and soon a number of other true electrics or plug-in hybrids hope to succeed.

First some of the fascinating tidbits:

The triangle of Knoxville, Nashville, and Chattanooga is the only area in Tennessee that will have the Leaf. There are only five states in the country getting any of these cars -- Oregon, Washington, California, Texas, and Tennessee. We probably got it because of Nissan's vested interest in our state, but whatever.

The Leaf has a range of approximately 100 miles per charge and a charge can take anywhere between 30 minutes to 16 hours depending on the charger. (most home stations will charge in anywhere from 4-8 hours) The amount of power for charging is about the same as a clothes dryer.

Nissan is only producing about 50,000 this year and only about 1,000 are making it to our state so don't expect to see them everywhere and no Volts will make it to this market in 2011. The bulk of the people at this seminar were non-urban core district retail people who were looking at the charging stations as a way to offer a service to their customers and make a statement about their business practices. John Craig with the Market Square District Association was there, but that was it for the urbanites that I could see. All that said, I have some issues with the plan.

From what I could tell the plan is playing heavily to suburbia. The main focus of home charging lies on the assumption that people driver their cars into their garage and plug them in and don't think about them until the next morning. This glaring omission in distribution of a potentially large consumer block has me puzzled and concerned. Assuming everyone will park in a garage doesn't exactly challenge anyone's thinking on the relationship of man to car. Maybe I'm asking too much, but is replacing a fuel tank with a battery pack the most innovative change we could be offered?

Let's be honest, shall we. Hipsters, hippies, yuppies, and all shades in between who live in downtown are more concerned than the average American with the struggle between quantity and quality in life. We tend to live in smaller spaces and sacrifice isolation for the benefits that come with the community and increased efficiencies/ economies of scale of the urban life. We are also more likely to embrace alternative forms of transportation than the average person. So why is it we're not seeing a concerted push to make the electric car more of a reality for those who live a less cookie-cutter lifestyle.

I live in a condo, don't own the parking lot I use, and cannot just attach a charging station to the outside of my building. Is the city going to invest in 50 stations to install in all of the city garages? Will parking meters have plugs to supplement for visitors? Will Central Parking add stations to their lot as a service?

I'm inclined toward using a vehicle like the Leaf on a daily basis, but without a viable option for keeping it charged it becomes a bug rather than a feature in my life. And cars should be and always are intended to be lifestyle features and enhancers.

Here's hoping that a plausible solution is found for this glaring problem with the system, otherwise this is all just another fad.

(sorry, will add pictures later)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tomorrow could be a grim day for Knox County: The controversy of Midway

Since deciding to stay in Knoxville and make it my home, I've realized that I frequent West Knoxville less and less. You can call me pretentious (do it, I really don't care) because it's not arrogance that keeps me away but something more. As I grow older, I consider the things that are most precious to me, and as a result, discover the things I disdain. I know I risk sounding melodramatic here, but I think I've developed a chemical aversion to sprawl. (Sidenote: As you read this, please do not mistake what I mean for sprawl as progress. I am pro-progress, anti-sprawl.)

I can assure you, it's not just West Knoxville. I feel it each time I go home to Memphis and stay at my parents' home in the suburb Cordova. Back roads that were once surrounded by farmland are now rows of desolate looking cookie cutter houses, stretching for miles along treeless streets. It breaks my heart and makes me lose faith in the creativity of mankind, to see people's greed at the expense of beauty and living in quality environments. I wonder how we got here, creating places that are cold and characterless, that all look the same, from city to city. Places you can't walk around by foot. Places that only accommodate vehicles. The lofty idea of development- bulldozing land, putting up buildings in hopes to lure tenants all in the name of "stimulating economy" - has made our cities and towns identity-less.


Tomorrow, Knox County Commissioners will vote on whether or not to approve the proposed business park off the Midway exit in East Knox County. This has been an ongoing battle, as outlined by Jesse Mayshark in this week's Metro Pulse. If you haven't been following this very controversial plan, in essence, the Development Corporation of Knox County wants to build a 300+ acre Industrial Park in East Knox County off of I-40 at the Midway Exit. Pam Strickland of the News Sentinel writes about the problems with the plan here.

This area of mostly farmland happens to be relatively untouched, a beautiful place unscathed by development. Many Knoxvillians don't want it to be developed, especially the people who have called it home for generations.

I decided to take a drive out there yesterday to take some photographs. I wanted a fresh reminder of what is at stake here for East Knox County. It's true, there is nothing there but farmland, rivers, and homes, farmhouses, and barns on stretches of land. There is nothing commercial or sprawling about it. Not yet.

So why put a business park here? Essentially, the Development Corporation bought the land for too much money in a supposedly shady business deal and are proposing this business park in order to make back the money to cover their asses. They say it will bring in thousands of jobs, but they don't even know what business will occupy the space much less how many jobs it will provide.

The Development Corporation masks their greed by promising that the business park will incorporate parks and natural spaces and that it won't result in a domino effect of sprawl, but everyone knows that within a few years, gas stations will pop up, fast food restaurants, and the subdivisions to "sustain" them. East Knox County will be on its way to looking like West Knoxville, and I cannot think of a sadder fate for such a beautiful area. It is a gem, the kind of place that makes East Tennessee East Tennessee- Seven Islands Wilderness, the French Broad River, and expanses of farmland as far as you can see are all there.

What is even more frustrating is that the Development Corporation has been sweeping their already failed industrial parks under the carpet and won't consider using locations in Knoxville that are already vacant and perfect for commercial use. They say they need the acreage on Midway or else their plans won't succeed.

Tomorrow, the Knox County Commission will vote on whether to pass the plan or not. If it passes, it will be a dark day for not only residents of East Knox County, but all of those who oppose the plan across Knox County. Either way, I hope it will motivate a call for bigger and more organized movements to sweep across our county to protect the precious and beautiful land that makes Knoxville special and unique and to think of better, more creative ways to stimulate our economy.

Addendum added 12/13/2010: The vote by County Commission that was scheduled for today has been postponed due to inclement weather. It has been rescheduled for December 17, 2010 at 4pm. IF YOU ARE AGAINST THE PROPOSED INDUSTRIAL PARK AT MIDWAY The French Broad Preservation Association asks you to show up at 4pm at the City County Building to show your County Commissioners you don't want your tax money to be spent on it. See you there. -B

Friday, December 10, 2010

Change in the old city

Greetings internet friends!

I wanted to let you know about a change in the Old City that has been developing for a while. LOX Salon has moved to a much larger space on the corner of Jackson - next to Urban Bar. You may remember the previous tenant in their spot (I can't recall the name) but they also were a salon, and unfortunately, had to close up shop.

While its always a bummer to see businesses fade into the distance (J's Mega Mart ... you were a part of our city and we will miss you), LOX's move into this incredible space is truly something to celebrate.

Brynn started LOX a while ago, and has been occupying the humble spot on North Central between the law firm and Crown & Goose ever since her doors opened--a place that fit the understated salon. A place to seek out. From the beginning, Brynn had a vision of creating community in the Old City. LOX sold clothes and whatnot (jewelry, stationary and a little bit of everything), and they were always a destination spot for First Fridays. The LOX art scene was always inspired and the atmosphere there on a Friday night was always genuine.

In moving to the new location, I think LOX is more formally becoming a larger part of the Old City. The new location, with its huge windows and expansive storefront commands presence, and its great to think of LOX occupying this spot.

At their grand opening this past First Friday, LOX was packed (See B's earlier post and pics). Patrons and friends crowded the salon to celebrate their host in her new space, and to recognize the enormous journey she and the rest of the LOX girls have made since their initial opening.

The new space expands on themes present since the beginning, only now there's plenty of room to do it. The apparel offering is much larger, and will only continue to grow as Brynn sources more locally made/ found pieces, and with all the extra room, LOX can now more formally play host to events in the future. There already is a consignment fashion show in the works for January.

So, the next time you're in the area drop by and say hello. If you're not already familiar, now is the perfect time to meet Brynn and her talented stylists, grab a PBR and see what all LOX has to offer our fair city.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cultivating my cookie skills at Magpies

A favorite childhood holiday tradition of mine was making and decorating Christmas sugar cookies with my mom. I loved combing through our collection of cookie cutters and colored sprinkles. Sadly I've never made any Christmas sugar cookies since leaving home 10 years ago. So when I saw that Magpies, my absolute most favorite bakery of all time, was offering cookie-decorating classes, I sprung for it to both relive the tradition AND take it to the next level -- the Magpies level.

Well, maybe not quite to the Magpies level, but our lovely hostess Maren did everything she could to coach u. First she explained how royal icing is made and how the consistency affects your icing skills. Then we practiced on designs we drew on parchment paper. Finally we took some time to ice and decorate the dozen cookies we were given. And we did it all while munching on snacks, sipping sodas and listening to Christmas music.

The lovely Maren shows us how it's done

Practicing on parchment paper

There's ONE MORE class on Tuesday, and if you hurry you may be able to get a spot. This is fun for all ages too -- my class' youngest student was a seven-year-old boy there with his mother and his grandmother. YOU HAVE TO CALL AND MAKE A RESERVATION, or else they won't have enough supplies for you. Call Ryan at Magpies at 673-0471 to make your reservation. The class costs $25 for one person or $40 for an adult/kid duo.

Finished product: some got smushed in transit, some I snagged from Maren's stash, others are already in my belly

P.S. Hey Peggy, I'm totally ready for my cookie-decorating gig!

Monday, December 06, 2010

An intimate chat with B

My friend Jamie interviewed me for this post. Thanks, Jamie!

J: You have an event coming up this week. Can you tell us a little about it?

B: Yes, I am co-hosting the first ever Open Studio Night at 17th Street Studios this Thursday night, December 9 from 7-9pm.

J: 17th Street Studios? Please explain.

B: 17th Street Studios is an artist workspace in Fort Sanders. Currently there are ten artists with spaces there. Thursday night, we invite anyone to come check it out.

 17th Studios, under construction

J: That sounds really incredible. How and when did these studios start?

B: I guess it was sometime last year when I was given a tour of an unused floor located at Redeemer Church to see if I had any ideas for it. I immediately thought, "Artist studios," because the idea had been on my mind for a few years prior. The space was also well-suited for it. It was perfect timing, too, since two of my friends who are artists, Carri and Brian Jobe, had recently moved back to Knoxville. I told them my idea, we pitched it to Redeemer, and about six months ago, the three of us moved in.

J: How did you find the other seven artists?

B: By word of mouth. We talked about it to friends, and they told friends. Recently the Arts and Culture Alliance found out about us and have been sending artists to us looking for spaces. We weren't quite sure how it would all work out, but we knew if this was something we really wanted (a community of artists to work alongside in an affordable space), there were other artists out there in Knoxville that wanted the same thing.

J: So what kind of work are people making there?

B: We have painters, sculptors, photographers/ 3-Dimensional workers, drawers, ceramicists, illustrators, filmmakers, and an architect-to-be.

J: So what can we expect Thursday night?

B: Only the best night of your life. Not really, but it might be one of mine. We just want people to come hang out with us and talk about art with us, or not art. There will be snacks and beverages, too.

J: Thanks, B.

B: No, thank you.

Open Studio Night
1642 Highland Avenue
Contact:,,  for more information

Friday, December 03, 2010

holiday kickoff!

Even though they lit the trees and opened the ice rink last week, starting the official city sanctioned Christmas season, I always need a buffer zone between Thanksgiving and Christmas muzak thats longer than one hour. So now that I've had a week to prepare myself, I'm ready to dive in. And this month's First Friday is a really great way for a Knoxvillian to get into the holiday spirit. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the not to miss things going on this weekend:

If you've ever had the desire to see every children's dancing troupe in the metro area this is your golden opportunity. At first it may seem a little cheesy, but standing along Gay Street with thousands of genuinely excited people is enough to melt the most cynical heart. It's long, it's random, but it's awesome. See you there tonight!

Getting together to sing all the old carols is something Knoxvillians have been doing almost as long as there's been a Knoxville. But most kids today probably only recognize them as the elevator music they hear in Best Buy while they shop. In the old tradition you can get together with your neighbors and, you know, actually sing about peace on earth together. This concert is particularly Knoxville-ish: described as "earthy and folksy" with "more flannel, less traditional choir and more like a hymn-sing"... and this is your opportunity to sing carols with Matt Morelock on banjo! It all goes down this Sunday at Redeemer Church (17th and Highland in Fort Sanders) at 5 and 7.

Speaking of Mr. Morelock, he'll be hosting Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks at his shop on Gay Street tonight. If you haven't been there, Morelock Music has become in my mind one of Knoxville's unexpected gems (on the magnitude of Yee Haw or Magpie's) and this may be the best way to see it- with good live music and lots of beer.

OK, so I don't like the way we mix consumerism and Christmas, but you have to buy gifts sometime, right? Instead of heading to the mall and giving your money to huge corporations, how about buying some local arts and crafts? You have two opportunities this weekend: the always interesting Handmade Holiday Trunk Show at Abode's former space on Market Square and at the Emporium on the 100 Block of Gay Street. Support local artists and artisans and get gifts that are like no other!

Finally, what's Christmas without decorations? Now you have a chance to walk through one of Knoxville's most beautiful neighborhoods and actually go up and into it's beautiful houses and see them in all their holiday splendor- by candlelight! What is more old skool Christmas than that?

Basically, this is a great city to spend the Christmas season in. Go check some of this stuff out, stay warm, and we hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

they can't tow us all, can they?

In the independent spirit of our town, I came upon the above scene of civil disobedience. Parking is a fluid, instinctual game downtown, particularly in the "1 Hour" areas and "Commercial Loading" zones. The city has put up nice little yellow signs taking even more parking away for some reason, and our fair citizens have responded with an overwhelming "Meh." One thing that you can take comfort in is that there's more of us than them- when I look around and see dozens of cars with the same laisseze-faire attitude towards parking laws it warms and emboldens my heart. Surely an upswell of popular practice makes it OK? They can't tow us all away, can they?

Happy Holidays, Knoxville. Remember, buy local... and beware the meter maids.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

suddenly, there were trees

Trees! An instant instant forest has risen on the 100 block of Gay Street (much like a bunch of walking trees did outside a fortress in a certain epic fantasy trilogy that I'd reference here if I was a raging nerd). Anyways, they look good even though we won't get to see them in their full splendor until spring. It kinda makes you wish it was like this all the way down Gay Street, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Raise the Tree : a good cause

Raise the Tree

Delivering Christmas, Supporting Communities

Want to share the Christmas spirit? Want to support local non-profits in the process? "Raise the Tree" looks like a good way to go about doing that.

Basically you pick one of the non-profits, pay for the tree and bam it gets delivered to your door for free.

Here is a snippet from their website

We created Raise the Tree to “Deliver Christmas and Support Communities.” Our plan is simple: Bring back the spirit of Christmas by delivering REAL Christmas trees to your home on the day that the YOU choose, and then turn around and give 25% of our company’s profits back to local non-profit organizations in Knoxville. Which non-profit organizations? The ones that YOU choose.

Raise the Tree has already partnered with 8 Knoxville non-profit organizations including: Ijams Nature Center, Young Life, The Salvation Army, KARM, Tribe One, STAR, Holy Paths, and Second Harvest Food Bank. Partner organizations each have their own “home page” within Raise the Tree’s website where they get 25% of the profits from the sales on their respective page.

We look forward to seeing you very soon... specifically, when we show up at your front door to deliver your family's REAL Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas.

Paul Dickenson and James Trimble
Co-Founders and Primary Truck Drivers for Raise the Tree

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Amplifier: Knoxville's first and only street paper

Today we have a guest post from David Morelli who has been working with Redeeming Hope Ministires to launch the Amplifier. Don't know what I'm talking about? Read on.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

The Amplifier launches today!

The Amplifier, you say? What in the world...?

The Amplifier is Knoxville's first and only street paper!

Street paper? Again: what in the world...?

A street paper is a cool, entrepreneurial way for the "winners of capitalism" (i.e., the homeless or radically poor) to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, the good ole American way. It works this way: a vendor--typically a homeless person operating as a free agent--buys issues of The Amplifier, at cost, and then turns around and sells them to the body public for a dollar. He then reinvests the markup, purchasing more inventory and earning an income. Voila, microcapitalism at work for the least of us.

The Amplifier is run out of the basement of a group of community-minded people in Fort Sanders. Check out their website.

So, if you see someone, whom you may ordinarily brush aside as panhandling, trying to gain entrance to our wonderful consumer economy by selling something that's not a windshield wash at a stoplight, then I implore you to swat away your preconceived objections and spare a buck for a fledgling, home-grown paper that's just trying to make it out on the streets of our scruffy city.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

These streets will make you feel brand new

It was just last week I was telling someone I was feeling a little antsy in Knoxville. It happens every now and then. It's nothing a vacation can't fix, but I'm holding out for travels during the holidays, so for now, I've been looking for ways to get my mind to think about Knoxville differently, to look at it in a new way. My city deserves at least that much from me.

It helps when a day comes along that is perfect, and Knoxville offered that last Friday.

My night began with dinner at the Bistro with a group of friends. That place has become a fortress (a refuge, a stronghold) in a lot of ways. Everything about it, the old brick walls, the beautifully crafted bar (Miss Lil's suppleness), brings warmth and comfort in a way that many other restaurant cannot.

Sidenote: I shared the Lipitor Burger with a friend: 2 8 oz. patties, 6 pieces of cheese, and 4 pieces of bacon, and it was delicious.

After dinner, we walked next door to the Bijou for the Sufjan Stevens show. I had not listened to his new album Age of Adz and was told I should prepare myself, but I decided to just dive in head first. It ended up working out for me; it was phenomenal.

I wouldn't typically write about going to see a concert, but for those that weren't there, I thought it appropriate to share one thing in particular about the show. Sufjan Stevens talked about how he was glad to be back at the Bijou after having been here during Big Ears. When they had talked about tour stops, he decided against Nashville, but wanted to come back to Knoxville. He said we should be proud to live in a city that would take on something like Big Ears. I think everyone in the crowd who lived in Knoxville beamed a little more brightly upon hearing his remarks.

After the show, we walked to the grand opening of the Public House, which was icing on the cake. It was packed with people enjoying themselves over beers and nicely portioned plates of food. A couple of people I ran into commented about how they felt like they were in New York, feeling all fancy.

My night felt the same way, but the fact that I was in Knoxville made it all the more sweet.

Monday, November 08, 2010

storycorps, knoxville edition

If you've been downtown lately, you may have noticed an airstream stationed on the south end of Market Square. That, my friends, is the StoryCorps recording studio; and it's pretty awesome that it's here in Knoxville.

Most people who are familiar with StoryCorps are so because of NPR, which features a StoryCorps segment every Friday morning during Morning Edition. While it's awesome that NPR features the segment, StoryCorps is actually its own entity. From its mission:

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.

StoryCorps tag line is, "Every story matters," and I think that's such a sweet sentiment but also one that's often overlooked. In the ever transforming media age, I think we're beginning to overlook ourselves; and we forget about what a joy it is to sit down and just listen, just connect. Oral history is somewhat lost, and that's a shame.

I've been a fan of StoryCorps for a long time; and when I found out the traveling recording studio (The MobileBooth) was coming to Knoxville, I was hoping I could snag an appointment...and I did. So last Sunday, Halloween, my dearest and headed to Market Square to tell our story.

The process is simple. You think of the person you most want to talk to and then think of the story you want to tell. You need to go online to the StoryCorps site to reserve your slot. And then you just show up A producer is there to guide you through the process and to take notes during the conversation, but for the most part it's just this really cool opportunity to sit back and talk to someone you love.

I talk to Scott every day and, yes, there was a producer in the booth listening to our conversation; but I found this to be an extremely intimate and personal experience. We talked about things that we haven't talked about in a while. We had a chance to review our personal history. And I will cherish it always. At the end of the session, we received a free CD of our conversation, and our story will be archived with the thousands of others at the Library of Congress. Forever. That's really, really cool. We were told that only about 1% of the stories are chosen for radio or podcast, but that doesn't even matter to me. This was one of the most valuable things I have done.

As I mentioned, you can talk about anything. But StoryCorps does have a few special initiatives to ensure certain stories are being told...and heard. I linked to the full list, but among them are September 11 stories, stories about Memory Loss and stories by and for the LGBTQ community.

It is completely free to tell your story, but of course the program survives on donations. Totally a worthwhile investment in my book. StoryCorps has already been here in Knoxville since the beginning of October, but the good news is that they'll be here for another week. If you'd like to participate, get online to see if any appointments are still available. Go archive a part of who you are.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Knox Public House: A Review

It very rare that the whole wigshop crew can get together. Wednesday night we all met up (sans max: he was working and 8 of 9 is not bad) at the soft opening for the Knox Public House. A Public House is, for those who care, where the word "Pub" comes from. The idea is that a Public House is an establishment that is locally based and can be the focal point of a community. The Knoxville Public House is located in the most wonderful area in town (also where I live): Downtown North/Emory Place Historic District. Located 212 W. Magnolia directly next door to TVB (Tennessee Valley Bikes) it offers something new and exciting to an area that has been neglected.

The bottled beer selection is large and varied. The prices are really good. The draft beers are also all quality: Avery IPA, Torch Pilsner, 1554, Budweiser, and Highland Ale.

We all enjoyed the charcuterie boards. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I love preserved meats (especially pork products) and Knox Public House did not disappoint in that department. It was all delicious. This is what the food looked like before we got to it.

The bar itself is aesthetically pleasing, as are the menus.

The wigshop-ers give the Knox Public House a 5/5. The Grand Opening is TONIGHT (FIRST FRIDAY). The regular hours will be Tuesday-Saturday 4 p.m. until close which will most likely be 3 a.m. One of the owners told us that they plan on serving classic cocktails, at the absolute latest, by January. The recent trend of speakeasy style bars is going to inspire the drink menu. Good drinks with local based everything = wigshop love. Go to the Knox Public House as soon as possible.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

an ode to the neighborhood potluck, fried chicken, and music

a few weeks ago, i searched for "potlucks" as an activity category on facebook. it was mainly on a whim to see how many people in the social networking sphere liked them too. it was kind of late at night, and i had just missed a my neighborhood's monthly potluck. to my surprise, it was there. and i proudly displayed "potluck"ing as a personal "like" on my profile page.

i really think that potlucks are what we need more of in our society. i am amazed at how sitting around a table and breaking bread together really forms community. food helps us cross social divides to strengthen groups around common goals like ridding our city of crime and blight (read about our neighborhood gatherings). friendships and potlucks are best when they are combined with activities. like shape note singing (the annual old harp thanksgiving singing is just around the corner).

and amazing free performances by local musicians. take this event tonight for example. relix variety theater is hosting abigail washburn (and special guests- we hear its cruz contreras tonight, but we imagine there will be more). the evening will begin with a potluck before the show begins.

mrs. lo and i saw abigail perform in a similar setting this past spring at the glowing body on central. at that time she was practicing songs for an upcoming recording session. mrs. lo and i raved about the evening for weeks to our friends outside knoxville because of how unique it was to listen to songs almost being written in our midst.

in the middle of the show, she told a quick aside about how she loves potlucks, especially when folks bring good vegetarian dishes (this was no different at the glowing body). lo and behold, however, a box of kfc chicken showed up much to her surprise. and she loved it!

so, mosey on down to my neck of the woods in Old North Knoxville tonight. if you miss it, abigail will be there for the next two wednesdays as the artist in residency performing songs from her soon-to-be-released album. (oh yeah, her hubby is bela fleck)

it's not too late to pick up a box of kfc and make our guests feel welcome to knoxville again!

Relix Variety Theater
1208 N. Central Street
8pm (show starts) 7pm (potluck)

p.s. she'll also be there on Nov. 10 and 17 in case you miss her.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Go. Vote. Now.

It's election day so this post is short.

Read THIS for the local races.

Read THIS for a breakdown of the national profile.

Go HERE to find your polling place.

Vote Early, Vote Often, and Write-In-Spellings

Friday, October 29, 2010

hide your wives

hello knoxville. stan here. it's been awhile, i know--i have no explanation. but i figure this picture was worth sharing. the blogger you know as the pol sent this disturbing image along. apparently, it's creep out your co-workers day.

please humiliate or ostracize accordingly.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Random thoughts while driving through Broadway and 5th

I drive down Broadway quite a lot in one week, as it is near where I work and live. I finally took some photos of some changes on 5th and Broadway for you all.

First of all, Minvilla Manor is almost done (or maybe it is done by now). It looks very nice, if I do say so myself, but (of course) I have a couple of complaints. I know because of certain constraints they couldn't, but I wish they had kept the white brick (because boy do I have a thing for white brick). Unfortunately for my taste, they had to revert back to the historic surface, which is unpainted brick.

What is funny and a little strange to me though, is that when they tried to take off the white paint, they found it too difficult, and so decided to spray paint the whole building "brick" color. My hope was that once they saw the difficulty in scraping off the white paint, they'd think, "The white stays," buuuut they didn't.

The front of the building with its porches looks amazing, but another sad fact/rumor I heard was that because the building is for permanent supportive housing, the front doors of each unit will not actually function, as they want people to come and go through one main entrance. This makes sense for what the building is intended, but again, that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Another interesting fixture in the neighborhood, diagonally across the intersection from Minvilla, is an archway with a lamp hanging from it.

I meant to write about this a long time ago when it first went up because I think it's pretty sweet. The archway obviously stands as a symbol of St. John's Lutheran Church's connection and service to all the people that are right across the street from them at the Salvation Army, KARM, and soon, Minvilla Manor.

Last spring, I was able to take a sneak peak of their sanctuary while on a walking tour of the neighborhood. The couple that was showing us around talked about the church's commitment to maintaining the beauty of the church (it is INCREDIBLY beautiful and well-maintained inside) and also to the homeless community around them, two things I can get behind.

Anyway, amongst other things, these are some things I think about when I drive that way, but only when I'm not trying to avoid hitting an ambulance or a van parked outside of KARM.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wigshop The Vote!

OK so you know you can't escape it. There are two days left in early voting and I, your resident politico, am here to encourage you to go and do your duty.

First, as always go here for a list of voting places and a sample ballot. There are two long reads on the ballot, a constitutional amendment and a charter amendment. I suggest you read both before heading to the polls.

The constitutional amendment enshrines the right of every Tennessean to hunt, it's that simple. This action, as I understand, is needed as the number of hunters across the country has fallen steadily over the years and has become a distinct minority. It's nothing controversial and doesn't allow people to come through and kill you pot-bellied pig for fun, so vote yes.

The charter amendment reduces the number of signatures needed to get a referendum on the ballot. Again, I suggest voting yes. It's always better in my view to have too many ballot initiatives than too few.

The governors race is pretty much a no-brainer. As I have said before, if you like downtown Knoxville, you have an obligation to support the guy who oversaw much of the current revitalization.

The only race I am a bit concerned with it the state senate race. I lean republican, but I don't lean Campfield. While he is a nice enough guy, I don't have the confidence that he would make a good senator. Randy Walker may not have a great shot right now, but I have met Chuck Williams, the independent, and do like him a lot and think he would be a great outsiders voice.

In short, I would love some feedback on the Stacey race. Is anyone inclined one way or the other? Why? How can I vote for someone who tried to join the congressional black caucus just to make people mad?

OK go vote and remember, when in doubt Write in Spellings!

Monday, October 25, 2010


Halloween week is upon us and I'm hearing lots of buzz about the festivities going on around town. This list from WVLT is pretty comprehensive. Lots of family friendly activities.

If you're looking for not so family friendly activities, the Old City is probably my favorite location for Halloween debauchery. Lots of bar hopping and unique costumes.

I'm gearing up for trick-or-treating on Sunday. This will be my first year as a Knoxville resident that I'll actually get trick-or-treaters, and I'm hearing rumors that my neighborhood gets something like 700 of them. That's scary enough right there.

What are your Halloween traditions? Favorite bars? Best trick-or-treating spots? Better yet, what are your (or your kids) plans for costumes?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spreading downtown too thin?

I know this is like three weeks after the fact, but who remembers this month's First Friday (hint -- there was a bit of discussion about it here on this very blog after it happened). There were A LOT of people out because there was A LOT of stuff going on.

I will never, ever, ever complain about people coming to downtown Knoxville. I'm glad to see downtown so bustling. But ... there was still TOO MUCH going on. Besides First Friday, Pretty in Pink was being shown as part of Movies on Market Square, the 100 Block of Gay Street was having a reopening celebration (technically part of FF, but I think there were people who came out specifically for that) and the Wine on the Water fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was happening, well, on the water down at Volunteer Landing. And those are just the things I was aware of ... I know there were a few other happenings planned at clubs in the Old City and elsewhere.

I made it out to eat and hit one store on Market Square that night and didn't get to do anything else because I couldn't get anywhere else for the crowds.

Like I said, even though I'm not terribly comfortable in crowds, I won't complain about people coming downtown. I will whine a bit about not getting to take part in all these wonderful things because they were going on simultaneously and as good as I am at multitasking I've yet to figure out how to be in four places at once.

I get that it's a beautiful time of the year and everyone wants to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. I get that UT football is its own force of nature, preventing anything else from happening in Knoxville seven Saturdays a year. Can we try to plan a little bit better though? Can we skip Movies on Market Square on First Fridays of the month? Can we try to hold some events on Sunday afternoons? Or even Thursday nights and agree to all be useless on Fridays at work :) Let's not only entice people to come downtown, but give them a chance to actually enjoy downtown and not just the function they're coming to take part in.

What do you think ... is this a pie in the sky request?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The truth about Beardsley Farm {it's awesome}

Even though I've heard the name Beardsley Farm thrown around quite a bit the past few years and have participated in Snow Day, their winter fundraiser, for the longest time I've had no idea what they are all about. Until yesterday.

Katie Ries invited me to take a tour of the farm. She is one of four AmeriCorps workers there, and she gave me a much-appreciated rundown of what happens on the urban development farm. If you read no further, just know this: It's really really awesome what Beardsley Farms does.

First, and I think most importantly, did you know that they don't sell any of their produce? Well, I didn't. They give it all away to organizations like the YWCA and Food Not Bombs. They also use organic practices, no pesticides and all that stuff. This philosphy in itself is pretty amazing to me: to give the very best to those that cannot afford it.

Another function of Beardsley is to provide community beds where anyone can coordinate with them about planting and harvesting their own food. Food in the Fort has about five beds that they use for their program to feed the homeless. Something I think is pretty sweet as well is that next to the community beds, they have a gleaners bed with produce that anyone passing by can take.

The more I learned yesterday, the more I wanted to know how to help them.

My first proactive endeavor is to ask you to consider going to their next fundraiser called "Raise the Roots" on Monday November 22. Mahasti Vafaie, owner of the Tomato Head, and head cook of the Maryville T Head, Robert Birkholz, are going to prepare a meal for all those attending to help raise money for the farm. The event is at the Tomato Head in Market Square and you can buy tickets in advance here.

The fact that this private event is at Tomato Head sells itself, and for a mere $25, to have a seated meal prepared by the owner of one of the best restaurants in Knoxville (and maybe the world), with all the planning and preparation that go into events like this, well, it's a steal.

Some of the ingredients will be provided by Beardsley, and Tomato Head is providing the rest. Alcohol is not included but will be available for purchase.

Need a date? As an added bonus you can take Knoxville's 72nd best blogger, yours truly. Take a ticket, gentlemen, and get in line.


If you can't attend the event, Here are other ways you can help and support Beardsley Farm:

You can donate money.
You can donate tools, materials, and seeds.
You can donate time by getting your hands a little dirty. Just call or email them.
You can spread the word to your friends and peers.
If you're a teacher, plan a field trip with them.

Oh, and they have bees!!

Beardsley Community Farm
1719 Reynolds Ave.
Knoxville, TN 37921