Sometimes a weekend comes along which encapsulates a large swath of the urban living experience. The simple range of what one encounters in an active downtown area is an attraction in itself. The weekend doesn’t have to include fireworks or festivals. Simple, common experiences cumulatively illustrate why so many of us are attracted to an urban lifestyle.
Our weekend started on Friday with the grand opening at Nest Knoxville. We dropped in early and a crowd was already building, exploring the new space, congratulating owners Natalie and Marshall Stair, and enjoying a great spread of food and wine. In case you missed my article on it recently, here is what they are up to. Half-way back home, we stopped for an hour or so on one of our favorite patios to enjoy a couple of cups of coffee at Market House Cafe.
Arriving home for the evening, I made one of my favorite summer dinners: Peaches, cherries, two kinds of cheese, nuts, crackers, small sausages and two fresh-baked muffins. I threw in a couple of bottles of wine and invited a friend to join me in a quiet courtyard. Many of us who live downtown either have semi-private or private spaces we can access on balconies, in courtyards or on rooftops and those are the spaces many of us love. My friend joined me for light dinner and subsequently another friend dropped in. The evening was delightful, unplanned and a not-uncommon urban experience. Living in close proximity to others and staying out of cars tends to lend itself to that sort of thing.
Saturday morning found us at the Market Square Farmer’s Market where the produce is nearing its peak. It’s a bit ironic that we moved to the city to enjoy more fresh vegetables than we ever did before the move. I doubt we are the only ones who focused more on whole foods and healthy eating simply because of the ease with which we can access so much fresh food. Great thanks every week to Nourish Knoxville for bringing and growing the market. And to the farmers who deliver the goods every week. We ended the market with more coffee at Market House. I know. We’re pretty hopeless.
We kept close to home most of the rest of the day, but awakened on Sunday morning about 8:00 AM to the sounds of large machinery digging up Union Avenue looking for a leak below the street. Later I was told they suspected a leak because no water was making it to the sprinklers in the Locust Street Garage. Eventually they determined there was no leak. Rather, the contractors who recently updated the infrastructure on the block had not connected the water to the garage. Not good. The road was closed a full day, crews worked from around 8:00 AM to around 9:30 PM.
Why bring this up? Because it illustrates the inconvenience and sometime frustrations of living in the city. I probably don’t point out often enough that this isn’t for everyone. I can’t imagine living outside a city, but some people simply aren’t made for some of what comes with the choice. Through the course of our weekend we were panhandled several times and – perhaps the biggest menace of all – had to remain wary everywhere we walked lest we be trampled by Pokemon Go enthusiasts oblivious to their surroundings. It’s a jungle out there.
It may seem odd to see photographs of Norris Lake on a website devoted to downtown and in an article about an urban weekend. As it turns out, most of us have cars or access to other transportation and we actually use them sometimes. The shots included here are from the spot we spent our Sunday afternoon (plus enjoyed some very nice Cruze Farm hot dogs) and it’s only 35 minutes from downtown Knoxville. Amazing natural views and outdoor activities are just a very short car ride – or in some cases bike ride or walk – from downtown. We’re lucky like that. And we appreciate friends who invited us to their spot.
Back in the city, I dropped into a not-uncommon neighborhood-style party in Fort Sanders. James Agee Park was the scene of a “Hot Jazz Picnic,” and it was both hot and jazzy. A modest crowd enjoyed great music, art and food on a lovely summer evening. Residents of Fort Sanders and friends from downtown mingled and enjoyed the lazy summer night.
I capped it off by attending the CD release party for “Working on Engines,” Greg Horne‘s fine new CD. I’ll not extol it’s virtues at length, Wayne Bledsoe wrote a fine review for the Sentinel and Mike Gibson wrote one for the Mercury, both doing a better job than I’d do. Barley’s was packed with musicians and friends-of-musicians – the kind of people who know how much Greg has added to others’ projects – including many in the crowd. Supported by a top-notch band of some of Knoxville’s finest players, the superb set was well received by those gathered. The new music is very solid and I’ve enjoyed it while I’ve written this article. I’d encourage you to pick it up if you enjoy good local music.
So, there you have it. There are lots of other ways people enjoyed downtown living this weekend. Any weekend in the city excludes more possibilities than it includes simply because of all there is to do. It also includes minor or sometimes major irritations and inconveniences – and sometimes short excursions to our non-urban local riches. Still, a new retail opening, a world-class farmers’ market, spontaneous meetings with friends and quiet meals, a neighborhood party and a brand new CD from one of our city’s best musicians certainly illustrates the richness of what our downtown has to offer.