I wanted to write a few words about this past weekend before time gets too far along. I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday filled with whatever makes you happy. The Urban Family had a great several days – much of which we shared with family and with a few thousand other people in the city.
Thanksgiving is special to me, as I mentioned last week, and this one turned out better than I would have hoped. We alternate years with having our family with us on Thanksgiving day and this was the off year, with Urban Father at Urban Brother’s house in Birmingham and Urban Daughter and family with Urban Son-in-Law’s family, so it could have been a lonely affair. Not so at all.
For us, it started on Tuesday night when Aaron Thompson and Sapphire provided a free meal as a way of saying thanks to a host of downtown people. We were honored to be included and enjoyed a table with Chyna Brackeen and Darrien Thomson. Good food, gracious host and good company. Urban Woman would add Chocolate Martini to the list, as well. I noticed that among the guests was Cris Eddings of Five Bar – the co-owner of Sapphire’s next-door competitor. Isn’t that so Knoxville?
Since Urban Woman didn’t have to cook large amounts of food, we slowly enjoyed the morning over several cups of coffee and took our dish to the Downtown Fire Station just before noon. A good number of people came through with food this year and it was a pleasure to give something back to those guys. I think they appreciate the gesture, but it mostly makes us feel good. A special thanks to Mary Kathryn Durr who has organized it each of the last three years. If you missed the chance, watch for notices on my FB page next year and join in.
Our most meaningful moment actually came at Five Bar where we had our Thanksgiving Dinner. You may have read here last week that they offered a free meal and accepted donations, though they didn’t ask. The result was about half the people eating there appeared to be poor or homeless. Urban Woman and I ate at a table with a man named Anthony, who said he was a veteran of the US Marine Corp and he recently arrived in Knoxville from Indiana. He admitted to a drinking problem, but said he planned to stop. He asked if we were rich, but he never asked for money and kept pointing out that he had some cash to pay if they would let him.
It was impossible to leave that meal not feeling a deep gratitude for the life that we are so fortunate to live. We aren’t rich in terms of the world, but in his world we are massively wealthy. I’d arrived at the restaurant with an amount in mind that I would donate and by the time we departed, we decided to double it. How can we live in the luxury we have compared to so many in the world and not help where we can?
Several families – including Mary Kathryn Durr’s were present serving tables. I am completely impressed with the idea and the generosity displayed by 5 Bar hosting the event. (Update: They served 388 dinners and raised $3,385 for the Love Kitchen. Cris Eddings said they, “hope to double that next year.”) If you can catch it next year, do so. You will leave more grateful than when you arrive.
Friday was filled with downtown activities. Urban Woman and Urban Daughter wanted to shop on that day, after all, so we did some downtown shopping. We also honored our thiry-year tradition of attending the Fantasy of Trees. Urban Girl was all about the crafts this year and she enjoyed the spinning strawberries and the carousel. Finger-nails and face duly painted, we hit the house briefly before attending the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Krutch Park. This was her sixth in a row.
And it was a good one. The choral groups which had been spotty were replaced with the Old City Buskers playing jazz versions of Christmas songs, which was a big improvement. The sound system worked this year, which was a big improvement. The event started promptly, speeches were cut short and the tree was lighted within minutes. Very well done. The biggest improvement was in the ending: Last year the tree was lighted and that was it. No one said anything, no fireworks, no nothing. The crowd slowly dispersed. This year fireworks followed the lighting, an emcee thanked the crowed and gave instructions for where to line up to see Santa and the Old City Buskers broke into another song. Perfect.
I stopped by to check out the ice skaters. I’ll say that the appearance of the ice rink has improved. Greg Blankenship added some external touches that made it not so ugly on the outside and that’s a welcome improvement. People roasted marshmallows in the middle of Market Sqaure and the HoHoHo Down cranked up with a young singer backed by a group of children from the Girls and Boy’s Club. I passed a group of carolers as I left the square.
So, the shift was cleanly made from one season to another. It’s startling how seamlessly that happens around here, which is a tribute to the city events people like Judith Foltz who was present on Market Square to help Freddie from WDVX light the tree on that stage. Next up are a host of Christmas events. Check my events page for a complete list, but this week we get some of the big ones: The Christmas Parade on Friday night, the start of the Holiday Market on Saturday and the Old North Victorian Home Tour on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll see you there.