Who are we? Who will we become?

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I’m prone to making odd connections. Several events I’ve attended or walked past in the last few weeks merged in my mind and presented the question: Who are we? Of course, if we are a city – even a small one – the answer to that question isn’t simple. We are and should be diverse. Some of us prefer the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra while others prefer Sundown in the City. Many people love the Vols while others are simply irritated with game day traffic and don’t have any use for college football. We all, apparently, love biscuits.
So, if we are diverse and diversity is good, what is the question? What decision do we have to make? While there is little danger that the KSO or the Vols will disappear any time soon, there are other, smaller scale pursuits that will only survive if they are supported, will only grow if they are supported in a large way. Some of these caught my attention.

Linda Parson Marion reads her poetry at Union Avenue Books

I attended a poetry reading at Union Avenue Books. I mentioned it in a previous post: Linda Parsons Marion read from her book Bound. It was a great event and plans are underway to make it a monthly happening at Union Avenue books. I believe the appreciation of poetry, while always more limited in appeal, is a measure of the intellectual pulse of a culture. For a poetry reading it was well attended: around twenty people listened and a few purchased the book.

Greg Tardy takes a solo at Jazz on the Square, Knoxville, June 2011

Jazz Great Donald Brown mingles at Jazz on the Square, Knoxville

I’ve also enthusiastically supported the Jazz on the Square series. The music has been absolutely phenomenal when the weather hasn’t interfered, which has been the case a couple of nights. Isn’t jazz about as sophisticated and urban as any American music?

Lance Owens sits in with the regular band at Jazz on the Square

Knoxville Jazz Legend Lance Owens

A reliable group of about fifty to seventy-five people station themselves in front of the stage and probably some number of those dining outside at the various restaurants chose that time so they could eat and enjoy the music.

Then there is wrestling. This fine sport, some of you will remember, has been prominently featured on this blog as a part of my post on least appropriate Christmas floats. On a recent night when a decent crowd gathered at Union Avenue Books for a special event, hundreds of enthusiastic wrestling fans gathered on the square. Masks, Mohawks and mullets could be spotted throughout the crowd of mostly families. The pantomime of wrestling, which is the best it could be called, was awful. The crowd roared; hundreds of them delighting at every move.

I stayed only long enough to take the pictures and pondered as I walked home – is this who we are? More people will come to downtown for wrestling than for jazz or poetry combined? The announcer at the wrestling match even put it directly: “Forget music, we’re gonna make this a wrasslin’ town.” Is that true? Is it possible? You vote by what you support, so what do you want to see downtown, jazz, poetry or wrasslin’? It’s your choice.