Tag Archives: municipal life

Upcoming Fall Fun

Looking for something to do, but tired of researching to indulge your morbid curiosity about the two tired old folks duking it out in the Alabama Governor’s race? Convinced in some sort of deeply buried sliver of your soul that there might be more to life than consumption of a weekly slate of college football games? Feeling as if there’s something missing in your life?

Get out there and experience the reality that most people in the world know and love … or at least tolerate until another morning dawns. “But what to do?” you might be shrieking at your computer screen at this very moment. Never fear, here are some good options for Midtown Montgomery residents looking for weekend fun during coming weeks:

Start a morning at the CIA yard sale. No, no, no the Central Intelligence Agency yard sale, which would be super awesome but probably also a trap. No, we’re talking about the Cloverdale-Idlewild Association yard sale, the 6th annual fundraiser for one of the best neighborhood associations in the city.

It’s October 9th from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. and like most yard sales, the early birds get the bargains. Young people and hipsters who prize the kinds of crap you can find at yard sales are also the most likely to be sleeping in because of long Friday nights. Old people will show up early and buy all the best stuff while the young resign themselves to lolling around on the couch watching ESPN’s College Football Gameday, which features Lee Corso, an old person who has probably already hit 3 yard sales before he dodders on the set each Saturday morning.

The C.I.A. yardsale is pretty great. They have everything from clothing to toys to a whole gardening section (where we sold some of the unfortunate statuary that came with our house when we bought it), all priced to move.

Go see the Springsteen movie at The Capri on September 26th. Bruce Springsteen is sort of like U2: been around forever, couldn’t possibly be more critically acclaimed and totally taken for granted. We’re not huge Springsteen fans. We know people from New Jersey who (while tossing a begrudging bone to that other Garden State musical icon, Mr. Bongiovi) pretty much treat Bruuuuce like The Pope. And he is. He’s sort of the Madonna of white dudes, the American Bono, the working class Mick Jagger, the everything good about the “guy with guitar and kickass band” model of music-making.

If you think you already know what’s up with Bruce Springsteen and don’t like him, you probably haven’t heard enough. One of the bad things about being a musical icon is that people slot you into a box. If your knowledge of Bruce begins and ends with the “Born in the USA” and “Dancin’ in the Dark” stuff from the 1980s, you need to clear your mind and experience the haunting brutality of 1982’s Nebraska or even some of the new stuff like Working on a Dream.

Young people would be making a mistake to lump Bruce in with other middle-aged white guitar rock icons like Tom Petty (who is also awesome) or John (Cougar) Mellencamp (who is less so). Maybe you’re more into John Mayer or Jack Johnson. Or maybe you just don’t think as much about music as you once did because the economy has collapsed and you’re juggling your job (or the search for one) with family obligations and other priorities.

Bruce is the soundtrack to all of this, or could be if you’d listen. Go see this movie. It’s called London Calling, was filmed live in London’s Hyde Park, and opens with the title track being performed (a cover of one of the greatest songs by The Clash). We haven’t seen it, but it is getting rave reviews. It’s a 90-minute live show by Bruce and the E Street Band and if all you’ve ever seen of Bruce live is the Super Bowl halftime show, this movie is sure to blow your doors off.

London Calling is the final of three special programs at the Capri Theatre the week of September 20-26. On Friday, September 24 they’ll be showing one of two showings of the cult classic The Big Lebowski (one of our fave movies ever). Saturday, September 25 brings Alexander City resident and star of Troll 2 George Hardy to the theater to present the documentary Best Worst Movie.

Do Oktoberfest at El Rey. We’ve already explained that we think El Rey Burrito Lounge is one of our very favorite restaurants in the city. That would be true even if they weren’t always having awesome special events like Oktoberfest (Friday, October 1st). We went last year and liked their vegan chorizo dogs so much that we wrote Oktoberfest on our calendar as soon as they announced the date. Of course, they have the meaty kind of chorizo too — and delicious soft pretzels. And beer. Did we mention that there will be lots and lots of beer? Some of it will be kinds you’ve never heard of. All of it will be delicious. And hopefully by then it will not be a million degrees outside.

Go to the Wine Festival. We like wine. It gives us that warm feeling, loquaciousness, and, if consumed in sufficient quantities, it can make us forget about the current political climate here in Alabama (Can you tell that we’re thrilled with the current crop of folks being offered up for election in November?).

On Saturday, October 9, go to the River Walk Wine Festival. It’s noon to 4 p.m. at, well, duh, at the Riverfront. It’s $25 a person with music, wine, food, all the usual festival stuff. We were at the river for the Dragon Boat races and had a blast. And as the weather cools, it’s even better to be taking advantage of one of the best parts of downtown.

While we know a little about wine, we’re far from the readers of the insufferable wine magazines. We don’t go to the wine snob Websites or offer the discriminating curl of the lip if offered something less-than-elite. We know only enough to know what we like. And that’s why it’s fun. We’re actually pretty populist about it, being able to sit on pickup tailgates drinking cheap beer with the good ol’ boys one day, while swilling a Spanish reserva rosé with friends on the patio the next.

The River Walk Wine Festival promises to be a good time. At least 11 distributors are featured on the festival’s Webpage. And we promise to have a designated driver. We are also glad that this is not on the same day as the Oktoberfest because we’re not sure we could mix that much wine and beer.

We know there’s more stuff coming up – just wanted to share these events with anyone looking for stuff to do. And please, as always, if you know of cool upcoming events, drop us a line so we can help spread the word.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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Todd Strange Speaks to Emerge

By Kate and Stephen

We first heard about the “Future of Montgomery” program by way of Facebook. Hey, we live in Montgomery! We think about the future! Perfect! The Facebook event told us that the program would be put on by a group called Emerge Montgomery, which we were unfamiliar with, and would be held at a center of civic gathering – the Max Credit Union over near Eastdale Mall. As a sidebar, we learned that Max Credit Union was, according to their conference room’s “Wall of History,” founded with $125 stashed in a cigar box.

As for Emerge Montgomery, we discovered that it is, according to their website, “a program of Leadership Montgomery in partnership with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.” Further:

“EMERGE Montgomery is The organization for young professionals to connect with each other and the community. It is a built-in network of contacts for 22-40 year olds who currently live in the Montgomery area or are considering Montgomery as a place to live.”

Leadership Montgomery? Well, that’s here. And the Chamber? Well, you know what a Chamber of Commerce is.

Being between the ages of 22 and 40, and armed with a healthy interest in the future of the city in which we live, we decided to attend. The Facebook event told us that we would hear from three important Montgomery leaders:

· Todd Strange, Mayor of the City of Montgomery,

· Elton Dean, Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission

· Nim Frazer, Chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

Dean didn’t show, but the comments by the other two guys were particularly interesting. Most of Frazier’s comments were praise for the members of Emerge and Leadership Montgomery, saying that they were bright leaders of tomorrow, that sort of thing. The people we met were certainly nice enough and very interested in what we did, where we worked, etc. There was a lot of card swapping, name dropping, and conversation about whether so-and-so was the V.P. or the Senior V.P.

Frazier’s comments encouraged the audience to join the Chamber of Commerce and participate in their events. He noted that his father was also the head of the Montgomery chamber, and reminded us all of how CNN drove their giant news bus into Montgomery a few months ago and did some reports.

But the show was really about Mayor Strange, who talked for about 45 minutes to an hour, all off the cuff, unscripted, without notes. He was casual, fairly open, and quite warm. He came off as candid, while excited about the prospects of the city he leads. It was hardly our first exposure to the mayor, but our longest duration of hearing him talk by far. And he saved plenty of time for questions.

Strange began by talking about his arrival in Montgomery at the age of 33 as a regional manager for BellSouth. He said that on his first day of work, he went to meet with the Chamber of Commerce and not only joined, but promptly set out selling memberships. He indicated that he made numerous false promises in order to induce people to join, prompting a great deal of laughter from the audience.

He quickly moved into talking about Hyundai jobs and a state bond issue of $5 million, which the city used to purchase the old Colonial Bank building downtown at 1 Court Square, facing the city’s famous landmark fountain. He ran through an impressive list of items that conveyed in addition to the building: laptops, furniture, art. We’d like to hear more about the city’s plans for these items. Current plans for the building involve making some cosmetic changes to the outside of the building, while leasing the inside space to merchants and businesses.

Mayor Strange stressed the value of inmate labor, saying that the city employed 20 prisoners to tear down the old Riverside Heights properties.

He touched on public schools issues and crime, noting that he himself had been pulled over in the various checkpoints that police officers are employing around town. He mentioned city plans to renovate Cramton Bowl and suggested that the city was in the running to secure a contract for some sort of college football bowl game in coming years. He discussed the future construction of a building designed to attract women’s athletic events and also previewed an upcoming $250,000 public relations branding rollout to tout Montgomery’s new slogan – the “Capital of Dreams.”

Questions from the audience involved the smart code issues discussed regularly here on MML, the city’s plans for green space, the prospects for a downtown grocery store (upshot: deli likely, full grocery store unlikely), and plans for the abandoned Montgomery Mall.

All in all, our first exposure to this whole scene was a positive one. The mayor seemed frank and easy-going. The people from Emerge and Leadership Montgomery were professional and evinced a genuine commitment to  the often unrewarding work of civic engagement. The crowd was racially mixed and seemed to have a real interest in making Montgomery a better place. And on a weeknight during the summer doldrums, you really can’t underestimate how important it is that they were able to fill up the room. We’re hoping to continue to follow the activities of this group of “tomorrow’s leaders” and track the difficult work of charity, community improvement, and civic participation. Groups like this are one of the many driving engines that make democracy work.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a dog, a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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Filed under City services, Crime and Safety, Government, Legal Issues, Parks, Race

In Praise of Neighborhoods

By Sandra Nickel

My husband, Jim, and I spent last weekend with friends in New Orleans, which we consider not only to be a city of incredible restaurants and festivals but also a city of neighborhoods that absolutely pulsate with life.

New Orleans' Iberville Projects

Inspired by the new HBO series Treme, we set off to visit the community which is said to have given birth to some of our country’s finest jazz and blues musicians. Our first discovery,  just west of Treme, was the Iberville Projects. While their ongoing presence on what many locals consider some prime real estate is the subject of not a little controversy, the well-kept dwellings are some of the finest Depression-era multi-family architecture we had ever seen:  clay tile roofs, handsome iron balconies, six-over-six windows and set-backs that made the large buildings feel less imposing.

Treme itself turned out to be much less gritty than we expected. As the country’s oldest African American neighborhood, it seems to have fared far better than Montgomery’s own landmark African American community, Centennial Hill, where the rich stock of shotguns and bungalows is pock-marked by derelict properties controlled but ignored by absentee owners.

The excursion got me to thinking about Montgomery’s wonderful neighborhoods and how we often take them — and what they have accomplished — for granted. Cottage Hill has fought valiantly and frequently won battles against uncaring owners and demolition by neglect.  Both Capitol Heights and the South Hull District have, without skipping a beat, become richly multi-racial and multi-cultural. The Garden District worked with public officials some years ago to create Bellinger Hill Park, which has of late become a favorite haunt for dog-lovers from all over Midtown.

Old Cloverdale, with its biannual tour of homes, Christmas tree lighting in the park, and ferocious dog-with-a-bone willingness to take on any entity that threatens the character of its historic district, provides a model for neighborhood leaders all over the city. And Greater McGehee Estates has just unveiled a new web site worthy of any commercial business.

The City is certainly doing its part by providing professional guidance to residents of King Hill, Five Points and the West Fairview areas so that they — the residents and not the professionals — can articulate their visions for what they want their somewhat beleaguered neighborhoods can become. The plans can be viewed on the City of Montgomery’s web site. It will be absolutely fabulous to watch the dreams of those residents become a reality!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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Filed under Historic preservation, Real Estate, Sandra Nickel