Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It comes in my favorite time of year and both the season and the commemoration suggest quiet contemplation, which suits my personality pretty well. I don’t particularly take a cue from the Pilgrims who, after all, obliterated those same indigenous persons in the years that followed, but I still like it. If you believe in God, it’s a great time to say a little “thank you.” If you don’t it’s still a good time to recognize your good fortune in having a safe place to live, food, friends and family who love you. Many people in the world would love to trade places with any one of us.
In the spirit of quiet time with family, I’ll take tomorrow off and enjoy my own. I hope you are able to do the same. I’d also like to suggest that you skip Black Friday. It’s not worth it to get some cheap stuff a little cheaper. I’m not a big shopper in any case, but if there’s a day I will do anything to avoid it, it’s that day. It just seems like such a manipulation and such a sad follow-up to a day of contemplation.
So, I’m going to give a few suggestions and I’ll tip you off to some of the things my family will do. Maybe I’ll see you at some of them.
The list for Thursday isn’t long, but it doesn’t need to be. Urban Woman and I will have our Thanksgiving dinner at 5 Bar. Why? Because all the money they take in will be given to the Love Kitchen. It’s an event they call the Thanksgiving Day Charity Feast and the idea is that they serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM and do not charge. If a person chooses to eat for free, that’s ok. What they hope is that enough people will pay what the meal would normally cost or more than it would cost, that a significant amount of money is raised for the charity. It’s something they do every year at each of their restaurants. Join us?
Of course there are other things you might do, like the Autumnfest 5K, if you are feeling energetic. I’ll hope to sleep in, have my lunch and take a nap followed by a slow walk around the city, weather permitting. The stillness of the city on a holiday is a sweet stillness, indeed. If it really is snowing, we’ll make coffee and read. There is also a very cool concept happening at Hops and Hollers where a potluck will commence at 4:30.
You could also go to the Fantasy of Trees, which runs from today through Sunday. We never miss it and this year we’ll be joined by Urban Daughter, Son-in-Law and, of course, Urban Girl who, at five-years, is just about the perfect age. We’ve been going since her mother was her age. This will be the thirtieth annual and I highly recommend walking over to the convention center to enjoy it. Money raised goes to Children’s Hospital.
Later on Friday we’ll be in Krutch Park for the lighting of the Christmas Tree. We may listen to some of the music on the Market Square Stage for the WDVX Ho Ho Hoedown. We’ll watch the skaters on Market Square and make hot chocolate. We’ll likely doze while watching some football. Don’t like football? You could catch the Knoxville Ice Bears vs. Fayetteville Fireants.
If you want local music, there’s plenty of it around on Friday night, but I’d encourage you to consider the Brownie McGhee tribute show, Brownie’s Black Friday Blues Bash, at Relix featuring Labron Lazenby, Robinella and Devon Jones and the Uptown Stomp. Knoxvillian Brownie doesn’t really get the local love he deserves in my opinion. You could also catch the Clarence Brown’s performance of A Christmas Carol on Friday or Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Nothing says Christmas like that hungry little Tiny Tim.
Saturday is the day I’m going to suggest that you shop, if you have some gifts to purchase. It is Shop Local Saturday and that feels a lot better to me than rushing to Walmart the day before to spend money that leaves our city. Why not put money directly into the local economy and help your neighbors?
Maybe you start by thinking Market Square. It’s not a bad place to start. Local businesses Rococo, Earth to Old City, Bliss and Bliss Home, Coldstream Market (take the walk up-stairs – it’s worth it) and Fizz join other stores like Bluetique, Earthbound Trading Company, Local Motors and the Peanut Shop to get you started. But venture out, people, and I don’t mean only to Mast General Store, though that’s fine.
Take a look at Union Avenue. Rala has great local and regional art. Just past the Oliver Hotel (it’s ok, venture almost a block from Market Square!) you’ll find CitiFid-o, Nothing Too Fancy and The Tree and Vine all three of which are perfect for Christmas shopping. One block further and you can grab lunch at Just Ripe and shop next door at Knoxville’s only independent book store selling new and used books.
While at Union Avenue Books I have three suggestions for you. Local authors have a new short-story anthology, Three Bridges, that looks fabulous. I heard some of the readings from it on Sunday and it’s very good. A suggested children’s book: The Unmade Moose. It is a sequel to Lisa Soland’s beautiful book The Christmas Tree Angel and you can actually pick up both. Urban Girl enjoyed the first book last Christmas and she’ll have the sequel this year. (Full disclosure: I helped edit both books, so you’ll see my name in the credits. Yes, I’m biased – but I get no profit from either book.)
It’s also a good time to pick up a calendar for next year and I highly recommend the Knox County Public Library’s “Knoxville Remembered” Calendar. Your money helps the library features scenes from our local history. My favorite photos are those of the Harris Building (or the Watauga Hotel), which was partially demolished with the remainder becoming Regas Restaurant, and the photograph of the construction of the Kress Building on Gay Street. Hopefully soon we’ll have photographs of the restoration of that same building. You can get your copy at Union Avenue Books.
Please move about the city. Hit Gay Street and look beyond Mast General Store. We always find great gifts at the Art Market. The Parlor and Pioneer House have excellent gifts as do the gift shops at the Knoxville Visitor Center and the East Tennessee History Center. Want something really nice? Walk three whole blocks south from Mast General Store and visit our downtown jewelry store, Rick Terry Jewelry. If we want different types of businesses downtown, we have to support them.
Please walk over to the 100 block of Gay Street. You’ll find the shopping there to be better than it has been in years. O.P. Jenkins furniture store (I know, it technically faces Summit Hill) has been there since long before any of us came to downtown Knoxville. They are very helpful – I bought a day bed and four chairs there recently. Pro-tip: Check out the basement bargains. The 100 block proper has new businesses Bootleg Betty (buy your formal dresses for those Christmas parties), art in The Village, home decor in James Freeman Interiors and the brand new Bula Boutique. And don’t forget to walk down into the Old City and visit Mango’s Decor and Company on Central Street beside the Melting Pot.
As an alternative, check out the Be Social, Shop Local Holiday Boutique at Paulk and Company on Williams Street. Where else are you going to sip mimosas and beer while shopping work by local artists and craftsmen and women? It’s always a cool place to hang out. You could also catch author Lisa Soland and get her to sign your copy of The Unmade Moose at the Theatre Knoxville Downtown at 11:00 AM and return at 8:00 PM for the beginning of their Christmas production, The Game’s Afoot; or Holmes for the Holidays. Directly between the theatre and Paulk and Company is Tennessee Valley Bikes for the biker in the family.
If you’ve still got energy on Sunday, a lot of the above is continuing: Both plays, the Fantasy of Trees, ice skating, of course. Maybe you can catch what you missed the other days because there is definitely too much to do. I hope to see you out and about. Speak if you see me and introduce (or re-introduce – I’m terrible at remembering names) yourself if we haven’t met. But mostly, have a great Thanksgiving. I’ll see you on the other side with a quiet little post for Friday.
One final note: Yes, I am not oblivious to the fact that the Michael Brown verdict set off marches nation-wide, including in Knoxville. I have over 200 photographs of the event which I will sort through in the coming days and I’ll write about it, but I needed time to sort out my own thoughts about the situation. Maybe that will be one of the things I’ll reflect on in the next few days.