A Chattanooga Excursion

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We made a mid-week trip last fall – an easy drive from Atlanta, with many things to do located in the downtown area which appears to be at the tail end of being fully reborn.  In short order… we checked in to the hotel, then walked to the Walnut Street Bridge, which was converted from railroad use to provide a walking path from downtown across the Tennessee River.

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This leads to the “NorthShore” community, which is largely residential but with a good variety of shops, restaurants and pubs along the river.  It’s where Coolidge Park is located, which includes green space, a water fountain, and a carousel that dates to 1894, apparently rescued from a warehouse in Atlanta.

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After a bit of a walk (easy, some hills in downtown Chattanooga), it was time for an Old-fashioned at Barrel + Beast.  Why a mixed drink instead of a fine craft brew?  Well, those are particularly rare to find, at least made within the State (Bearded Iris in Nashville is their only example of “above average.”)

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In any case, a nice place to hang out.  There’s also an alley favored by graffiti artists.  As it turned out, this worked out well for me, actually.

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We returned as the sun was setting, and we were not the only people capturing a sunset.  iPhone to the rescue, such as the top of the carousel pavillion.

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The next morning, literally on the back side of the hotel, we enjoyed two things.  1) Breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company and 2) Ignis Glass Studio, where you can make your own glass ornament… kind of.  You pick the colors of the final ornament, the assistant mixes them and places the glass into the furnace – rotating the shaft to form a round ball, you get to rotate it briefly, then he withdraws it, and you get to blow into it as he shapes the ball.  Not exactly exciting and not a lengthy process, but it’s something you don’t often have the opportunity to do.  While the end result looks great, you don’t have a lot to do with it.  It was fun, but I’d rather spend $40 and suffer the consequences of my errors.  I guess most people just want the ornament.  In any case, a good amusement, and the ornaments are fairly large (other options available).

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I indulged my wife with some gallery visits in the afternoon, and she indulged me with a visit to Hutton & Smith, a small brewery that was a manageable walk from downtown.  A good place for locals to hang out, with decent beers.  On the way, we encountered an odd piece of street art…  It had instructions but needed a model.

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This was a planned walk to ultimately end at Champy’s, ranked #8 of 662 restaurants in Chattanooga.  Okay, we knew this was about fried chicken, crawfish, etc. – by no means fine dining, but a former coworker had recommended it.  And it was good.  It’s also a local dive. 

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In the men’s bathroom, they feature some of the more notorious receipts left with their waitresses.  (Warning: adult material follows, of the teenager variety, or, more likely, the UT-Chattanooga students).

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    • “Can I follow you home?  My mom always told me to follow my dreams.”
    • “Do you work for UPS?  Because I could swear you were checking out my package.”
    • “On a scale of 1 – America, how free are you tonight?”
    • “The girl beside me questioned her sexuality because of you.”
    • “You must be a ticket because you have FINE written all over you.”
    • “I would drink your dirty bathwater.”
    • “Call me.  I’m always available – 911”
    • “Is your name Google because you have everything I’ve been searching for.”
    • “I was going to ask if heaven is missing an angel, but I kinda hope you’re a slut.”
    • “Twinkle Twinkle little star, let’s have sex inside my car.”  At least the meter was right.

To be fair, the tip amounts were often 20% or better, and posting these in the men’s restroom encourages the behavior.  Afterwards, it was our first Uber ride, because… dark streets, long walk.

The next day we started early with Chattanooga’s billboard attraction, Ruby Falls, located on Lookout Mountain.  I had never done it, and now I have.  And… it was worth it.  You get marshalled along, and the guides have the talking points down pat… maybe too much so, but that’s okay.  There are no rubies, but they provide colorful lighting throughout the cave. 

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Overall, it’s hard to imagine being a cave explorer, and at the same time, how awesome it must have been to discover this.  Afterwards, and further up the mountain, we went to Point Park, a ten acre site not quite a Confederate battleground but overlooking one.  This is a very nicely built and maintained park, with good views and a historical area.  It oddly has a statue commemorating Union soldiers, offered as a tribute to both by New York after the war.

I’m fairly shy about photographing other people, but I managed to snipe this one, with which I am very pleased.

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Chattanooga is the perfect 2.5 day visit.  The city appears to be pretty safe for walking at all hours, and it’s affordable with many things to do – many of which we did not, such as the Chattanooga Aquarium (been there – a good one), Hunter Museum of American Art, and kayaking, to name a few.  October was the perfect month for it.

Additional photos are available on Flickr.

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Lindale Mill

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It’s been probably several years since I went with a local photography group, largely because, as big as Atlanta is, groups tend to go to the same places again and again.  Group shoots are not the most exciting, as they are fairly anti-social with everyone separating to claim their turf to get the shot that no one else does.  In this case, it was a new, different opportunity, and the timing was right.  I’ve toured plenty of current and aging manufacturing plants in my career, but that’s not cause for a lingering photography exercise though I would have liked to in a good many.

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An abandoned textile mill with a long history, Lindale Mill today has areas that are in severe disrepair, demolished, or emptied for other uses.  The owner purchased it several years ago as an investment and is gradually improving the property in hopes of getting returns for alternative uses of the property, such as access to photography groups ($30) – that’s reasonable, and given the hazards of wall openings, rotting stairs, and trip hazards aplenty, I hope he has liability insurance. 

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The property includes 24 acres and three natural springs.  Presently, the cleared spaces in the mill buildings seem to be used for movie or video filming.  Events organizers are reportedly very interested in holding weddings at the site, a concert promoter says a clear space between the buildings would be a well suited venue for up to 15,000 attendees, and the water supply may some day persuade a micro brewery to take residence.  The future is not yet written, but the owner, Joe, has gone through environmental studies, etc. and has a path forward.

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I’ve been through a good number of operating textile mills, probably the earliest when I was about seven years old and then frequently in the late 80’s and early 90’s pre-NAFTA.  There’s a hum and rhythm to the machinery and a particular odor of cotton being processed, perhaps a combination of the fibers, oils and the wood structure.  This mill… not so much, just signs of decay, a musty smell in closed spaces, and ambient sounds from passing cars and an occasional train. 

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I started in the boiler house, which appears largely untouched, as in, don’t disturb the asbestos.  Looking at the boilers, however ancient they are, it’s surprising they lasted until the facility closed in 2001.  Lack of maintenance takes its toll.  Paint is peeling from most wall surfaces, often in very textured flakes.  An educated guess says they’re high in iron content.  “Field & Stream” magazines and similar are scattered on the floor of a supervisor’s office floor, and a hard hat left on a table.  It’s not hard to imagine that an announcement came through at the end of the shift, telling them not to return, particularly to a career in textiles.  Maybe, they found work in nearby carpet mills, but the majority of (the few) textile mills that remain are supported by military contracts for garments which require domestic manufacture.  Good work if you can get it.

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Pleasingly, I only saw one wasp nest, one pigeon, and otherwise an absence of rodents, spiders, snakes and the like.  Joe has done well there, but the drums of paint thinner dated about seven years after the mill closed makes me wonder if he’s helping some of the bricks breathe again.

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There were a number of signs that had their irony – the below for example at a men’s room.  Others were “out of order” (like the whole place isn’t), “hearing protection required” (at an open end of a corridor where you would now fall three stories), and “Help me” graffiti on an toilet door that needs help, never mind a “Dyeing Department” long dead.

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The full set of pictures are a click away on Flickr.  A wide angle lens is recommended… Donations accepted, etc. etc.

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A Novel Idea

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What to do when my wife jets to Portland for several days?  Watch TV?  Surf the internet?  Play first person shooter games online with my kids and similarly quick triggered strangers? Well, there’s this odd Facebook Event that I’d been invited to, you see. 

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It’s odd entering a restaurant to a silent main dining area but hearing ample noise upstairs.  And, as one speaker roughly put it, “There’s a lot of people into reading here.  On a Wednesday night.  In Canton, GA.  But, I like it.”  Note the emphasis on the town.  Unlikely as it seems, yes, there were over 60 people filling all the available seats on the un-cramped but not quite spacious second floor of The Snug, a self-described gastropub.  The event was clearly a win-win for the venue and the organizer. 

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Raffle ticket in hand (there were drawings for books by the authors), I had just a few minutes to say “hi” to my surprised artist/art enthusiast friends (they knew it would be a game time decision for me…), fly back down the steps for a better draught beer than they offered upstairs, then reclaim one of several remaining stools. 

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And, at that point, it is no longer a socializing occasion, because everyone is gathered to listen to various authors read from their books, on this occasion with a detective/mystery theme.  I know, I know, gentle reader! My wife leaves town, and I go crazy on a week night.  I can’t be trusted.

The evening works out… decently.  I’ll start with the negative to build to better things.  I know the bar area has to wash their dishes, and the cycle isn’t that long.  But the sound of spraying water while trying to concentrate on a reading is a bit of a challenge.  Okay, that’s it for the negative side.

I’m used to audio books, but those are voiced by professionals, and if a work starts off kind of slow,  you trust in it and give it time to get a glimpse of the characters and where the tension begins.  Here, and I think without exception, the authors similarly read from the beginning of their books, some with a brief introduction to the scene, others will a fuller description.  But I can’t say that one to two chapters reliably pulls a reader in.  I’d rather skip to a juicier scene with an appropriate intro, but overall, I caught the gist of a character or the direction it might go, and both the crowd and authors seemed more than satisfied.

Also, I cannot say that the longer the description, the better the reading.  I can say that some of the “author background” stories were more interesting than the content of the books – at least as briefly introduced.

For example, two were current or former police officers.  Here’s a paraphrase from a female author who used to do solo patrols in Atlanta. 

“I’m covering my beat on a weekend night, driving slowly down one of those streets with my window down, where every other house has been demolished.  All of a sudden, this woman rushes in front of the car waving her hands.  ‘You’ve got to help me find my husband!  He’s cut!  He’s goin’ to bleed out!  You gotta help me!” 

Her:  “How did he get cut?” 

The lady:  “I cut him!”

After questioning further why she stayed in a relationship with someone who she fought with often, the lady grabbed her crotch and said, “because he loves my Cooter Pot Pie!”

That was better than anything in the books.  Maybe that character appeared later.

The second most humorous moment was when an author said, “Hang on.  I have to turn my book on.”  Hello, technology at a book reading.  I didn’t expect you!

The authors had varying experience both in writing and reading to an audience.  For me, Thomas Mullen was the highlight, in no small part due to his introductory background into policing in 1940’s Atlanta and the constraints on authority for black officers regarding white suspects.  It also helped that he is an experienced reader and the selection that he read from immediately drew interest, rather than a more genteel introduction to setting and characters. 

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In any case, it was a different kind of evening and one that I enjoyed.  Next time (which is a “beach reads” theme), I’ll let my friends know I’m coming, arrive sooner, try the food, and socialize a bit.  A novel idea!

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Netflix Iron Fist – TV Review

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Episode 1:  I LOVE Daredevil.  I got through Jessica Jones tolerably well.  I enjoyed the Harlem experience with Luke Cage.  Now it’s time for some unknown Bruce Lee type to don some green robes and a yellow mask and kick butt!

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Same episode: Um, who is this amiable bore, and when do we see the hero?

Episode 3. Dogged.  Determined. Persistent.  Committed.

No, these aren’t traits of Iron Fist, the titular lead of Netflix’s latest Marvel hero series.  That’s my utter ridiculousness of seeing this wretched series through three episodes.  Of all the actors to be cast as an action hero, they take Will Ferrell, only without the charisma.  Or whatever it is he has.   Ugh.

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Episode 4:  Dear Diary -  I’ve survived, but I’m lost in the forest. Teak. Maple. Oak. Mahogany. Pine. Walnut. Elm.  Ash.  These are much more interesting than the wooden actors in this show.  You’re even making me doubt the actress who plays Claire Temple, Marvel’s resident ad hoc nurse.  That’s shameful. 

Episode 5:  Dear Diary – Maybe I was too harsh!  I must be becoming a critic or something. Actually, it’s not entirely the actors’ fault.  The dialogue often carries the same depth and eloquence we witnessed when Anakin Skywalker romanced Padme Amidala.  Young Darth and Danny Rand share a similar unconvincing rage and stubbornness.  I wonder if I can establish a “7 degrees of Kevin Bacon” to make a connection between the writers of Star Warts and Iron Fist.  That would be time better spent.  Oops. Another episode is starting.  Damn you, Netflix!

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Episode Whatever:  Dear Diary -  Why does Danny get hurt so much? (Psst. Spoiler alert. Danny Rand is Iron Fist). I mean, really? The punches and kicks of his adversaries obviously bring all the accuracy inherited from hard training at the Imperial Dojo of Storm troopers.  Why exert so much energy dodging?  Just wave your fist in front of their face, and they will fall before you!  That’s power.  Iron Fist power. 

Episode 10. Dear Diary - My introspective nature noted in Episode 3 has proven itself again and again.  I deserve the Daredevil Grit Award for watching this.   Why? Why?  Why do I keep returning to this?  Because unlike these actors, I rise above the material, that’s why!

Episode 11.  Really?  The cute Asian girl who almost comes across as being able to really, really like the stiff Danny is part of the Hand, the evil ninja society that Danny must destroy?  No way!  I mean that’s like, skipping from 2 to 4 when connecting the dots.  But I get it.  There’s not that many dots to connect, and the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  The writers must be hauling in handcarts of coffee to keep up the sizzling pace we’ve seen so far.  By the episode count, the grand finale is right around the corner!  You’re running out of time, fellas!  Skip to 6!  Skip to 6! It’s not going to be a pretty picture when you finish it, anyway.  And so much for diaries.  This is all so unworthy of it.

Episode 13.  I admit.  I cheated.  I searched “Iron Fist episodes” just to confirm that this was, indeed, the final chapter.  It improved my spirits greatly!  And, for this episode, the characters kind of fell into a familiar pattern, well, an all too familiar one.  The stiff, the nut job, the romantic interest, the voice of reason, the jealous “I shoulda been Iron Fist,” and, really, the only character I’m happy to see when she’s on screen, Madam Gao.  She makes Daredevil better, but her talent here only helps the goings on rise all the way to tepid… when she’s on screen, that is.

So, bring on the Defenders.  I’d watch Daredevil any day, even if I have to put up with… this.

The Defenders

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Nick Cave–Live @ Thomas Wolfe Auditorium

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Last I saw Nick Cave, at the Louisville Palace, Nick Cave began the show with an energetic and wholly consuming rendition of “Jubilee Street.”  Two years later, he’s begins the concert seated through the entirety of “Anthrocene,”  a relatively subdued song from his latest release, The Skeleton Tree.  Honestly, it’s a disappointment, but by comparison only.  Whereas with “Jubilee St.” he claimed the audience, here he wooed them with a stage presence not needing to be defined by constant motion.  This would be an evening of the slow build.

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My objective lens for this show was a lady seated next to me, excited for her first show and very familiar with his work.  I’m more of a recent convert, and only some of his songs strike the right chords with me.  I think she was utterly amazed that he would just sit there, given the look of disbelief she gave me between songs.  To be fair, she was with her boyfriend, and I kind of feel sorry for him for all the attention she gave the much older me, but that’s the concert experience – something that can be shared when people hear and connect with the same things. 

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After one song of sitting around, Cave was done conserving energy.  From this point, he roamed the stage, to the right, to the left, to the right and, well wait, back to the right.  He found his sweet spot – a group of fifteen or so at the corner of the stage who responded with raised arms, clearly giving back to Cave, and their gravity pulled him their way.  Others along the stage front seemed to figure this out after a time…  Cave exudes stage confidence, but not of the Robert Plant variety where adoration is assumed and acknowledged, but rather sought and gathered.  Throughout the show, when Cave stopped to focus on a small group, he would make circular motions with his arms and hands – perhaps gathering their attention, perhaps making it personal to those he gazed upon.  The woman next to me would mime his motions time and again throughout the show.

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And this is a lesson for those who haven’t been to one of his shows.  Seize the floor.  Actually, the first lesson is to buy your tickets the moment they go on sale.  Avoid regrets later.  In any case, get floor admission. The area in front of the stage was full of people who claimed it, no doubt offending those who paid for pricey “front row” seats.  There is no seating at floor level when Cave performs, and if you want to experience Nick Cave, keep in mind that he pays little attention to those beyond 30’ from the stage.  This is not from lack of appreciation, I think, but from his need for a responsive audience in close proximity.  It’s what feeds his performance, and that helps everyone.  The capacity for this venue is ~2,400.  The photos don’t represent the length of the venue or the size of the crowd – a sell out. 

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Highlights to my ears were “Higgs Boson Blues,” “Into My Arms” (which melted the lady next to me – the song she most wanted to hear, I think), a fiery “Red Right Hand” – with a lyrical edit to make fun of Presidential tweets,  and “Push the Sky Away,” where Cave finally pushed into the audience, stepping on the arms of the theater seats and immersing himself with fans on the floor.

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As for the Bad Seeds, they’re really good.  The main ingredient is collaborator Warren Ellis, alternately playing guitar, violin, piano and anything else that needs doing.  Ellis is incredibly comfortable in his own space.  He doesn’t need the attention from the audience, but at times gives his attention to them.  More often, he’s in his own world, seemingly with great enthusiasm playing the music he loves, often with his back turned to the audience. 

Overall, fans will like this show for a the standard set list which spans his career pretty well.  Did I like the songs better on the previous tour?  Yes.  Does it really matter?  No.  It’s the kind of show that must be seen and experienced… And Asheville, NC is a great destination city for a concert.

Set list:
  • Anthrocene
  • Jesus Alone
  • Magneto
  • Higgs Boson Blues
  • From Her to Eternity
  • Tupelo
  • Jubilee Street
  • The Ship Song
  • Into My Arms
  • Girl in Amber
  • I Need You
  • Red Right Hand
  • The Mercy Seat
  • Distant Sky
  • Skeleton Tree

Encore:
  • The Weeping Song
  • Jack the Ripper
  • Stagger Lee
  • Push the Sky Away

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