Wednesday, June 30, 2010

black market square

Black Market Square opened over the weekend, but I was out of town so I stopped by last night to check it out.

The concept of Black Market Square is really cool. Owner Michelle Simpson wants a boutique that sells trendy, unique and fashionable clothing at an affordable price point. I think all, or nearly all, of the pieces she sells are priced under 60 bucks. That's pretty great considering that the majority of the other boutique stores in Knoxville are a lot pricier. The difference is, I guess, that Black Market Square does not offer designer labels. Think H&M or Forever 21, but more individualized and thoughtful. You can definitely nab a great outfit at Black Market Square and not feel like you're wearing what everyone else is wearing at the moment.

It's a cute place to pick up a party outfit or something to wear out to drinks with friends. Last night I noticed a few fun nautically inspired tops and dresses and some really great cuff bracelets. Simpson said that new arrivals come in constantly, so it's going to be a good place to check out frequently. I should have spent more time looking at the Men's side of the store, but I didn't. So I am sorry I don't have much to report for the guys. For the girls, there is a great selection of tops, dresses and jewelry. My favorite items in the store are definitely the cowboy puddle jumpers that greet you as you walk in. I think I need to go back and get myself a pair.

The store itself is spacious and clean. Simpson did a great job with the renovation. It definitely has a Market Square vibe, and I hope it does well there. With the Bliss shops and Reruns and the addition of other new to the square shops like Rala and Swagger, it seems like Market Square is finally becoming a destination with more to offer than just food. I am excited to see so many new options downtown. Black Market Square is open 10 to 9 Monday through Saturday and 11 to 5 on Sunday. I definitely recommend that you stop by and check it out this First Friday, or sooner. It's at 23 Market Square, over near La Costa.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bargain B: Magpies

Many people may call me cheap; I prefer to use the word thrifty.

These times call for desperate measures, and I'm not talking about the state of the economy. I'm talking about the transitional period of life called your 20s when you realize you can't live the way you did when your parents were picking up your tab.

The problem isn't so much that I don't make enough money, it's that I am very attracted to the finer things in life (just as Pam, Oscar, and Toby are). It has been difficult, but much to my joy and well-being, I am finding out that, in Knoxville, there are ways to beat the system, to enjoy all the good eats in this city, but for less money.


One cannot argue. Magpies is delicious. I have bought cupcakes there a couple of times, but, as much as it pains me to admit, I have never bought a cake from them. From experience**, I know the vast amount of time, energy, and love that goes into making their cakes and completely understand why they are priced the way they are, but I cannot justify purchasing one at this time in my life.

But, alas, Magpies has given me hope. Hope in the amorphous shape of Crum Bums.

What is a Crum Bum? A Crum Bum is the portion of the cake that is cut away in between baking and decorating. And do you want to know a secret? IT IS THE SAME THING AS EATING A REAL CAKE!! but for only $3.

You can also buy a little side of buttercream frosting to go with it.

One day, I plan to be rolling in the dough, and I will buy all of my friends cakes from Magpies for their birthdays, but until then, I love you, Crum Bums.

Photo from Magpies Facebook Page

North Central
Knoxville, TN, 37917

** a post about this later...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Picks of the Week

On a typical week I will probably go to a show or two, so I figure that I could start giving the Wild Bill's wigshop pick of the week. This week we have two.

Friday night at the Square Room: Rubik, Dave Bazan, & mewithoutYou.

I can personally vouch for this show since I saw them all play in Nashville last night.

The opening band, Rubik, is a fairly straightforward outfit from Helsinki, Finland. When all seven touring members walked onstage I was skeptical but from the first song I was floored. My friend described fairly accurately as Sigur Ros mixed with Wax Fang. It is epic ethereal postrock that had joyous bursts and wonderful melody.
Make sure that you get there to see Rubik

Next comes Dave Bazan. What can I say about Bazan? For starters he was behind the bands Pedro the Lion and Headphones. Both showcase his songwriting fully and are existential explorations of his beliefs on religion. His last album, and first solo album, Curse Your Branches explores more fully his views on the God of Christianity.The album is despairing and hauntingly beautiful, as is his live show. He serenades the audience by himself with an electric guitar and asks for questions. He creates a beautiful moment that is full of brutal honesty. My favorite moment was his cover of Vic Chesnutt's "Flirted With You All My Life." It is a must see. Here is an eclectic mix of his music.

The last band to play is mewithoutYou. I really don't know what to say about them, but that they have been on a journey similarly to Bazan's and now they are touring together. There were never really a band I listened to much, but a lot of my friends love them, they are worth a look.

all of this goes down tomorrow night at the square room at 8 p.m. for $15. Fifteen may sound like a lot of money, but it is totally worth it.

Saturday a band out of Nashville called Milktooth are going to be playing at Patrick Sullivan's. It will be fun. This is what NPR had to say about them...

"One of the more mesmerizing CDs I've heard in recent months. Milktooth's self-titled debut dabbles in a bit of everything, from noise-rock to glittering indie-pop and gentle folk. If a single theme ties the songs together, it's a surreal kind of creaky Americana, with spare acoustic instruments and sometimes haunting atmospherics, led by the howling voice of frontman David Condos."
-Robin Hilton, NPR's All Songs Considered

Take a listen here: (I would suggest "Your Arrows")

I really like Condos' voice. The show will be a great time. They are also playing with local band The Black Cadillacs

The show is at 10 p.m. on Saturday night at Patrick Sullivan's for $5.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Saturday Afternoon at the Townsend Wye- 2010

Last Saturday, a friend and I drove to Townsend. We parked in the lot right before the Backporch Restaurant when you enter town and rode our bikes about three miles up to the Wye, where the road forks into the Smokies.

There were people everywhere near and in the river, as it bends out of the park and makes its way toward Townsend. Friends and family were triumphing over the heat and having a wonderful time in the process.

I jumped off a rock into the cold water and looked up. There on a grass-covered bank sat several people; I couldn't help but think of the painting below.- the Smoky Mountain version of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat. We may be more like the man lounging in the lower left corner than the prim and proper men and women scattered about, but in a way, I'm glad for that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Urban Farming Redux

Year two for Farmer Pol is looking promising.

I have expanded my beds, refined my layout, and timed my planting more appropriately. Lettuce, kale, sugar snaps, snows, brussels, broccoli, okra, tomatoes, and asparagus are on the menu for spring/ summer and I've got more in the works for summer/ fall.

Things I've learned this year:

- You can plant earlier in downtown than elsewhere because of the radiant heat. We likely average a good 3-5 degrees warmer which extends our growing period by a few weeks.

- Peas need a horizontal support, vertical wrought iron sounded like it would work well but the peas prefer something smaller to latch on to.

- One 4 foot row of Kale is enough for anyone.

- Go easy on the lettuce seeds, their germination rate is closer to 90% than 9% like I assumed.

- Small spaces allow for a more targeted and orderly garden. The design is as important as anything as it is a showpiece and a functional space.

I love my garden. It is big enough to produce enough produce to be practical, but not so big as to be a burden and time sink. I like to think that people headed to the city county building or out for a walk are pleasantly surprised to see such and unexpected thing in the middle of town as a garden.

Come by, enjoy, I'm happy to share (especially the kale). There are two pretty gardens on W. Hill at Henley, mine, of course, and Brian Pittmans just up the street. Neither of us mind if you look.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

city chickens

C'mon, everyone likes chicken. I know I do. And eggs! I could eat dozens of those amazing morsels in all the multitude of ways they can be fixed. But in this post-Food Inc. world, I often take a hard look at those chicken breasts and cartons of eggs in the store. Where did they come from? Am I supporting an inhumane system of industrialized agriculture? If only there was a way I could know where my food came from.

Oh wait, there is! Right now in my back yard a multitude of plants are working to give me delicious vegetables and berries. I know exactly where they came from. I was there from seed packet all the way back to composting the soil for them. If I was a vegetarian, I could pat myself on the back and stop right now. But chicken.... delicious chicken.

So I can fork over more money for "organic" chicken (trusting that the farmers followed the the intent of the certification) or I can raise some myself- a few delicious egg-laying, succulent meat-bearing pets. Much more useful than my lazy, good-for-nothing dogs. Alas, I cannot. Yet.

Knoxville does not allow citizens to raise chickens inside the city limits. And culturally it's unacceptable to eat dog meat, so... what to do? A new proposed ordinance is up for a vote tonight at the city council that will allow those who want to to raise a limited number of hens (no roosters! I promise) on their property in the city. Here's the deal- read below and if you agree, copy it or paraphrase it into an email and send it to your city council member:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to express my full support for the Animal Control Board’s proposed ordinance change to allow residents to keep a small number of domesticated chickens. This change characterizes growing interest among our residents to expand urban gardening. This includes the keeping of small animals to support healthy, local food choices. I believe the ordinance is drafted in a manner to sufficiently protect property integrity, property value, and neighborhood aesthetics, as well as increase community interactions through gardening and pet companionship.

If supported by a fully staffed Animal Control force, I believe the currently proposed ordinance for domesticated chickens will benefit the community. Knoxville is not approaching this practice alone. Seattle, Portland (OR and ME), San Francisco, Denver, Fort Collins, Madison, Cedar Falls, and our neighbor Asheville, NC have recently passed similar code amendments. The main themes throughout these ordinances (and addressed by our city’s Animal Control) relate to limiting the number of hens, banning of roosters, and specifying that hens be confined within coops of specific design and construction.



Better yet, join Lo and I at the council meeting tonight at 7:00. Hopefully we can make a big step forward for the urban gardening and organic movement in Knoxville. Thanks!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Clubbing with the Pol

Can you put a price on friendship?

Recently I was invited to join Club Leconte, a club at the top of the First Tennessee building, and have since been tossing around the benefits of that group. What I am having a hard time pinning down is the gain that I would see by joining. Is it worth it to pay a monthly fee to network? Would I stand to improve my situation professionally or socially by joining?

This is where our readers come in. I would love to hear back from any of you that are members of Club Leconte or similar groups. Have you benefited from being a member or is it just somewhere to go?

Friday, June 11, 2010


On Monday I was walking to Market Square on Union and pretty little objects in a storefront window caught my eye. I realized I was standing in front of Rala, the new shop that has just opened to the right of Coffee and Chocolate, on the outskirts of Market Square.

I had been intrigued by this place because I heard Knoxville artist Bran Rogers put up work there for First Friday and, by Saturday morning, had sold half. If you do not know, this kind of occurence could be considered a Knoxville miracle.

Nanci Solomon, who owns Reruns on the Southeast corner of Market Square, is also the owner of Rala. From what I understand, she realized she could do the same kind of business she's doing at Reruns but with art. An art consignment store.

It's a precious store, clean and bright, with prints, cards, pillows, ceramics, candles, soaps, all things hand-made by local and regional artists (as well as a few from a little further away).

The presence of Rala is exciting in so many ways:

1. It helps support and promote local and regional artists.

2. The artwork and objects sold there are by working artists, but placed in a business and sold as retail, because, despite what you may have been told, artists too need to make money. It is not in a restaurant or a gift shop where it will be overlooked or lost, and it's not in a gallery where people in Knoxville seem to be deterred from purchasing artwork.

3. It sort of reminds me of a tangible, real-life Etsy (an internet phenomenon for all things hand-made) that is conveniently located near Market Square.

4. The items will be changed out every two months, assuring something new and different frequently.

5. Where many craft and artisan shops market to an older, richer clientele, the items found in Rala seem geared more toward a younger generation, something I really appreciate.

Rala is a great example of a business that takes the creative person seriously and values their importance. I hope to see more businesses pop up like this in the future, so Knoxville may better retain artistically and creatively talented people.

323 Union Avenue
near Market Square

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What to do on a thursday night

Thursdays are the new fridays y'all. Do you need something to do to kick start the weekend a night early, or do you just like music? Tonight at my favorite venue in Knoxville, the Pilot Light, a couple of really great bands are playing. Two are represented by a Knoxville based record label named Arcade Sound Ltd.

Arcade Sound was started by a local guy named Ryan Foltz. Following his dream he started his own label. There is a really good article by metropulse located here.

The Bands that are playing tonight are:

1) Toro y Moi
I saw Toro y Moi at the Pilot Light last semester, and he was awesome. It was a really cool show.

2) Millionyoung
Millionyoung is represented by Arcade Sound Ltd. and is killing it on the Chillwave scene. His stuff is really catchy, dreamy, summer pop music.

If you haven't heard of COOLRUNNINGS you should sincerely check them out. I would recommend the song Slumberland and San Dimas Oasis. They truly are a Knoxville band. You may recognize Brandon Biondo from his work with The Royal Bangs, or keyboardist Elliott White from the band YUNG LIFE. They have formed together to make some music. The band also features one of my favorite Knoxvillians: Dancing Dan. He leads the audience in dancing. So you know it will be fun. They are also represented by Arcade Sound Ltd.

The Show is tonight at the best venue in Knoxville, The Pilot Light, at 10p.m. for $10, and y'all it is going to be worth your money.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

knoxville from afar

"Now is the night one blue dew..."

In the world of literature, Knoxville is represented admirably by two works: Cormac McCarthy's Suttree and James Agee's Pulitzer-winning A Death in the Family. Agee's work (and Agee himself) has been much celebrated our town in recent years- he now has a street and a park dedicated to him in his old neighborhood. Few Knoxvillians, however, have taken the time to read the book that made him such a notable native son.

It's a good book, particularly compelling if you've ever experienced the loss a family member. I know many of you don't have the time or desire to read the whole thing, but I think that everyone that loves this city should read the prologue "Knoxville: Summer, 1915". Not forced to in a high school classroom (which has made far too many people hate literature in general), but on their front porch in the early evening, listening to crickets. Because, that's exactly what the passage is about.

I was recently out of the country sitting in a bizarre tropical airport with a copy of A Death in the Family. I reread the prologue thinking about coming home. I doubt many other scruffy little cities have been so lovingly described. Sitting in the tropical heat, I was suddenly homesick for my porch swing. I wanted cool breezes and tall maple trees.

It occurred to me that the hundredth anniversary of that immortalized summer is coming up in a few years. The first time I read that passage a while back I was mainly stuck by what Knoxville had lost. Somewhere in the eighty years after 1915 our town had lost its charm, its pleasant character, its "Knoxvilleness". I think it's noteworthy that the passage was written in 1935 in New York City by a man who had left here. For a long time you had to leave Knoxville to love it.

Rereading "Knoxville: Summer, 1915" now, I realize that we have gained back something. I realize that my little house could have been one of those described by Agee. Market Square is filled with people again. One could walk through one of a half dozen neighborhoods this evening and see near the same scene as 1915 presented. I realize that Knoxville: Summer, 2015 might be the most like Agee's 1915 than it has been in a century. It makes me glad to be home.

Friday, June 04, 2010

flying biscuits, fast feet and wild and wonderful whites

Today is First Friday, so there's bound to be a bunch of fun stuff going on in and around Downtown. And out in Bearden. I stopped trying to keep up with First Friday a long time ago, since it has grown so much in the past year or so. I just go with the flow; and that way I don't feel pressure to follow an itinerary.

But there is one very fun event I'm planning to attend this evening, and that's the City People Second Annual Downtown Dash. If you haven't heard of City People, it's "a group made up of residents, business people, elected officials, preservationists, activists, and artists working together to address issues concerning Knoxville's center city." It's a group of conscientious citizens who work to make downtown a better, more fun place. Key word: fun. If there's one thing I know about City People, it's that they know how to have fun. (You should consider joining. Membership fees are really low, and benefits are listed at their website).

The Downtown Dash is a very fun 1 mile race that takes place, obviously, downtown. If you haven't already registered, you can still do so. Just show up at Pete's restaurant at 540 Union Ave. between 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The race begins at 7pm for elite runners, and then the rest of us will get started at 7:35. After the race, there is an awards ceremony in Krutch Park. Now hold on to your hats...If you dress in your best biscuit related costume and run the race, you are eligible to win an award for the best biscuit bolt costume! Because, that's right, this weekend is also the highly anticipated International Biscuit Festival!

We mentioned the Biscuit Festival a while back and sure are excited that it's finally here. So Biscuit Festival gives you extra incentive to head downtown for either First Friday, or a fun Saturday, or both. You can visit the website I linked above for a full list of events.

Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention the East Tennessee premier of The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. That's tonight, Friday, at 8:30 at The Shed out in Maryville. If you don't know anything about Dancing Outlaw Jesco White and his wacky family, then you sure are missing out. Dancing Outlaw is a cult classic documentary about Jesco and his family, and this new documentary, produced by Storm Taylor, looks to be awesome. You can get ticket information, directions, and view a film trailer from our buddies Knoxville Films. I think that after I do my dash, I am going to dash on over to Maryville to catch the premier.

Happy weekend, y'all.

Update: Lo has just informed me that his lovely wife is showing biscuit-inspired art at Coffee and Chocolate as a part of the International Biscuit Festival art competition. After you run or stuff your face with delicious biscuity treats, head over to Coffee and Chocolate to check it out!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More than a Miracle

As a foodie, one of my abiding loves is creative uses of everyday foods. Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and vinegar become a caprese salad. Brussel sprouts, honey, olive oil and pepper make for a delicious roasted veggie dish. And chicken, bacon, cheese and love make up the Double Down by KFC.

Before you say anything, please accept the premise that even a chain restaurant can surprise. I was skeptical at first as anyone would be. How, I questioned, could anyone improve on a chicken sandwich that Chic-Fil-A already perfected? Why even try? So as I approached this new offering, I wasn’t exactly optimistic. It’s not like this would be KFC’s version of the McRib or anything… or would it?

My favorite local KFC is located at 409 N. Cedar Bluff Rd. With a combined feeling of corporate glitz and real world grime, it is great to know that no one there knows my name so that I can enjoy my fried goodness in peace. So with a head full of doubts, I ordered my first Double I wish I had ordered a second.

From the first bite to the last, the balance of Fried chicken, crispy bacon, melted cheese product and mayo sauce lulled me into a gentle and loving embrace. To say that I loved it would be doing an injustice to the meaning of love, and I would be cheapening that special bond between man and his food. I walked away from that red letter moment in my life with a clearer view of what is possible in our culinary world, and those possibilities now seem boundless.

Go try it yourself.

409 North Cedar Bluff Road
Knoxville, TN‎
(865) 693-0795

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A tragic loss for one of our neighbors

If your a regular reader of other Knoxville-centric blogs, you may have heard that one of our city's blogging superstars, Katie Allison Granju, today is dealing with the tragic death of Henry, the oldest of her four children, at age 18. Katie is an author, maintains several blogs on parenting (her main one, Mama Pundit, appears to have crashed with the news of Henry's passing) and works for Ackermann PR.

You can read Katie's own honest account of her son's struggles with drug addiction and the brutal assault which left him with serious head trauma for the past few weeks.

Some of Katie's friends in the community have set up a fund to help her and her family manage the costs of Henry's care. Her coworker Shane Rhyne says you can donate by doing the following:

Simply write a check made out to Katie Allison Granju.

Mail it to:

Crystal Cardwell
c/o Ackermann PR
1111 Northshore Drive, Suite N-400
Knoxville, TN 37919

We’ll handle it from there and deposit the funds raised into an account for the family.

At the very least, please keep Katie and her family in your thoughts. I cannot even begin to fathom what she's going through right now, and yet I know that I or any of us could be faced with the same heartbreaking situation at any point in our lives. We love you, Katie.