Monday, June 25, 2007

Road Trip

Baltimore is cool. It has history. Real history. It goes back hundreds of years. Has great universities. Has world class hospitals. And it's convenient. And it's not nearly as hot there with four seasons! Affordable too. Compared to New York and such that is. The architecture there is wonderful. Old and new. The harbor is great. Actually the inner harbor shares the some of the architecture of the Jacksonville landing. People are everywhere. Federal Hill is great. I have family that lived there decades ago. Their old brownstone is now worth over a million I'm sure. Really, Baltimore is a cool town. And it's smack dab in the middle of the northeast. You're a stones throw from DC, Philly, New York, and Richmond. If art is your thing that's a good place to be.

And then we meandered down to Lynchburg, Virginia. A small little town. 65 thousand souls. It has a couple of universities. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University is huge there. And everyone
loves and misses him dearly, liberal and conservative. Seems he did a lot for Lynchburg.
The only thing I could compare it to is how Tallahassee would react if Bobby Bowden died. It would be a sad day in our states capital. Anyways. I really thought Lyhcnburg was going to
be lame but it snuck up and bit me. It's affordable and historic. They've done a great job restoring their downtown. It's thriving. Loft apartments and little cool restaurants. We ate Indian for lunch. A really great children's museum called the Amazing Square. Also, I saw
a really great artists coop building across the street. Ten stories tall with contemporary art galleries and 25 artist's studios. Also housing an art store. Really, really cool. Right on the water. And there are hills, and it's really just a great little town. Liberals are thriving there. It's a miracle.

And then we stopped through Asheville. I want you to know I've heard chatter about Asheville
for close to ten years now and have never had the chance to visit. I expected a lot out of Asheville after all of this talk, and it delivered. It's just an amazing little town sitting right at
the foot of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. You can see wonderful scenes with billowing
mountains right from downtown. Breath taking really. Not to sound giddy. But it's really
awe inspiring for someone like me who's from Jacksonville to see mountains. And the architecture is great downtown. The very contemporary right next to the very old. People walking around all over downtown. All over. Musicians playing on corners. Jazz, blue grass, folk. Right there. Like waiting for a subway in Times Square. All free. All culture. We ate at a vegetarian restaurant that had an entire menu of wonder. Everything could be ordered vegan also if so wished. They even brewed 6 organic beers.

I mean if Jacksonville had a place like this it would be a landmark. And in Asheville it's just another restaurant. The parking was affordable and easy to get to also. To sum it up I was so impressed with Asheville that it took me a day or two for it to register. They even have a really cool arts district in a warehouse area down by the river. The only thing negative about Asheville I might have to say would be that it's too cool. One could easily feel uncool. I did feel a bit old.
But it really is made up of all types. Sort of like Atlanta, San Fran, or New York. A microcosm of culture at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains.

And then we had a little visit in Greeneville, South Carolina which was an absolute surprise. I had no idea that Greeneville was as frickin cool as it is. I mean for Pete's sake they have a waterfall creek running smack dab through downtown. Kids and such playing all over swimming and screwing around. The river park goes for like half a mile! Along the stream are several band shells shaded by trees. The downtown is really developed. I mean many many blocks. Enough developed blocks that we were tired as hell after walking for three hours. There's a trolley car that goes all the way down Main street. There's even an arts district right on the river where several artists have rented studio spaces. I mean it's developed. Big money. Great restaurants. Great hotels. Very historic. Historic markers all over with associated statues. And while looking at the real estate for the city I found houses for 150K. New construction. Really amazing to find deals like that in a city with that much culture.

And if that wasn't cool enough after messing around in Greeneville for a few hours we drove only about a half hour or so and we were up in the Blue Ridge Mountains to watch the sunset. I want you to know those mountains are amazing. They aren't as impressive as the Rocky Mountains, but they are gorgeous in their own right. Not a bad batch of mountains to have in your backyard. The mountain biking there must be out of this world.

So anyways. That's it. A little road trip. Several cities with bustling downtowns. What are they doing that Jacksonville isn't? How long will it take before we can catch up? Are we playing catch up? If so, why? Hope you all get to get out of Jax for a bit when you have a chance. Check out the other cities. Get an idea of what works there, and bring that idea back here and implement it. Our Southern neighbors are doing it. Let's use them as examples of how it can be done here.



Mark Creegan said...

Hey Byron! Sounds like a great trip. I love Aseville and have many friends up there. Great music scene there. I got your email but my email wont let me resond for some reason, maybe we can hang out soon and catch up. My friend Kurt Polkey contacted me today and he is interested in meeting everyone and talking about doing art stuff. Hes a great painter! But maybe we can all set up another meeting and just throw out ideas, talk about the various projects in the works and see what else we can do.

CREATEjacksonville said...

Love this post Byron. Makes me want to visit these places. Unfortunately, my recent trip to San Fran is not worth talking about...don't get me wrong- I think SF is an AMAZING place to see art of all types. BUT that trip just wasn't geared towards art for me. :(

Thats really cool about Kurt Polkey. He IS a great painter. I heard he is going to have a show at Jane Gray pretty soon.

Anyway, I would love to be included in the next "meeting" as well. What's going on with the art walk thing we talked about last time?

Byron said...

Glad you are back. Must have been a fun trip. The culture in San Fran is amazing though isn't it? Did you go to a park or a club or anything worth sharing about?

How would you describe San Fran to me if I've never been there before? It would be interesting to get a fresh perspective and description of the city.

I'm down with meeting this Friday. Same bat time and place if everyone is down with that.
I think we're talking about the Art Walk project when we meet with Kurt if I'm not mistaken.

Do we need to start an email group to work on these projects so we can broadcast these sort of discussions to everyone who is interested and involved?

cheers Brittni...