Sunday, June 21, 2009

Got 'Dem Deep Ellum Blues ...

Any Dead Head knows about them Deep Ellum Blues. It was a Grateful Dead standard for years and its been covered by countless musicians from Bob Dylan to Muddy Waters. Take a listen to this Levon Helm's Band:

For years this eastern part of downtown Dallas was the center of black commerce and culture. It was situated between the Central Business District and the rich Swiss Avenue residences. The area got its start in 1884 the first factory, the Munger Improved Cotton Machine Company, opened in what is now Deep Ellum. In 1913, Henry Ford opened an assembly plant here to manufacture the Ford Model T. In 1916, the first building built for and by blacks in Dallas—The Grand Temple of the Black Knights of Pythias—was built.

In the 1920's and 30's Deep Ellum was the prime jazz and blues hotspot in the South. Artists inluding Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, and Bessie Smith played in Deep Ellum clubs. After decades of neglect and decay, the area has re-emerged as the home of Dallas' artist and counter culture. At one point, Deep Ellum had become such a popular attraction that the streets often were blocked off to traffic, especially on weekends.

Today, Deep Ellum struggles with high rents, zoning restrictions on businesses, and a perception of a high crime rate that has made people reluctant to visit the area. A recent visit visit to the area show's and Deep Ellum is still struggling to survive.

The "Big Blue Dot" marks the entrance to "Deep Ellum"

Home to the Hot Rod and Tattoo Culture,
nothing says retro like an old Ford Coupe

another take on the classic Ford coupe.

This is the place to find a local watering hole.
And what better than The Elm St. Bar?

Street art is everywhere in Deep Ellum

Several former warehouses have been adapted to urban housing.

Several building have art deco influences

Even with the transition to young and hip, Deep Ellum is still a meeting place for the African-American community.

Here's the view from Elm St. toward modern downtown Dallas.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hey, Babe...Bounce It Off The Tanker!

Texas has numerous "only in Texas" moments, and Texas League baseball is one of them.
The Texas League stands out as one of the most historic and interesting of all the minor leagues. In over 100 years of operation, the league has produced many notable events, interesting players and colorful personalities. The league was first formed in 1888 and at times spread over 1,000 miles from Jackson, Mississippi to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Longview, Texas (my home) had Texan Field and the Cannibals of the 1932 Texas League.

The League is always entertaining. On April 30, 1983, the El Paso Diablos pounded the Beaumont Golden Gators 35-21. In 1910, Harry Ables of San Antonio and Arthur Loudel of Waco both pitch all 23 innings of a 1-1 tie at San Antonio. Trailing the Beaumont Exporters 6-2 entering the top of the eighth inning on August 6, 1930, Gene "Half Pint" Rye of the Waco Cubs set a record when he hit three home runs in the same inning. By the end of the game, Rye had driven in eight of the team's 18 runs that inning, leading his team to a 20-7 victory. Tulsa Drillers',Dave Righetti, established a record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game when he whiffed 21 Midland Cubs hitters in 1978.He did not figure in the decision however, leaving the game after nine innings with the score tied 2-2,

Today, the minor league clubs still offer one of the best bangs for your buck entertainment, since anything can happen in the Texas League.

Frisco's Dr. Pepper Field is home of the Rough Riders the Ranger's AAA team. The stadium looks like an East Coast resort with its greyed clap board siding, reminding the visitor of a turn of the century resort village.

The upper levels are available for private parties.

San Antonio's Nelson W Wollf Stadium, home of the Padres AA farm team the Missions is owned by the City of San Antonio. The night we visited the "SpamMobile" was there handing out Spam-terrific goodies.

The nightly festivities always include the Mascot Race, where the San Antonio Taco, races a local kid around the bases. Apparently tonight's winner didn't care for the prize, a year's supply of Spam!

Corpus Christi's Whataburger Field is home of the Hooks the AA team of the Astros. This is one amazing park. It is designed to blend into the surrounding warehouse entertainment district, which also includes a great ice house bar and a converted cement factory - transformed into an outdoor music venue.

The best part of a minor league park is the ability to get "up close and personal" with the players. Here's the view from the bull pen.

You can also, trade pitching strategy with the guys waiting to warm up.

But, the outfield is where the action is. Whataburger Field includes a little league field, volleyball court, and basketball court just past the center field fence.

Right feild is home to a swimming pool for those who want to cool off between innings.

And finally, over the left field bleachers, is the ship channel ~ for those big hitters who want to bounce a homer of a passing tanker!

The night we visited, the Hooks played the Wichita Wranglers in a twenty inning barn burner...
Final Score:

Also, here's a peek at the Old Concrete Street Ampitheater

and the Brewster Street Icehouse, located next to What-a-burger Field

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Let's chat about Chattanooga...

... now that gas is a again on the rise, let's look back at a vacation from paradise - Chattanooga, Tennessee. Home of "See Rock City" and Ruby Falls, Chattanooga is the antithesis of Orlando. The city has lured visitors for over 100 years with its tourist attractions. In 1895 the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway was completed taking tourists to the top of Lookout Mountain. Additionally, in 1925 Lake Winnepesaukah, a family-owned amusement park, opened on the Tennessee/Georgia border, just down the road from Chattanooga and in 1926, the Tivoli Theatre became the first public building in the country to be air conditioned. With Ruby Falls, discovered in 1928, inside of Lookout Mountain and 1932's opening of Rock City, Chattanooga became the nation's foremost tourist destination. While the flash of the modern tourist destinations such as Orlando, Fla. have surpassed the now quaint offerings of Chattnooga, the city remains one of my favorite places to visit. The city's attractions can be divided into the "Riverfront" and the Stone Mountain" areas with downtown nestled in between the two.

The Riverfront is a mix of old and new. It's home to the the Tennessee Aquarium, the Chattanooga Lookouts Baseball team, I-MAX, Arts Bluff District, and home of Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival. Take a look...

Located in a bend of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga was settled first by the Cherokee Indians and in 1816, John Ross established a settlement which grew into an important Southern trade center. This view is from Point Park atop Lookout Mountain.

Downtown, located on the river, is full of pubs and cafes located in old commercial warehouses and other buildings.

The Magic Mushroom is located in the old Coca Cola bottling plant.

The Arts Bluff District is a collection of restaurants, private galleries and public museums of art. The view from the overlook affords a great view of the Walnut Street Bridge.

Built in 1890, the Walnut Street Bridge was the first to connect Chattanooga's downtown with the North Shore. The bridge was closed to motor vehicles in 1978, repairs and structural modifications have been made to turn the bridge into what is now a pedestrian walkway. The 2,376 foot (720 m) span is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world .

The Tennessee State Aquarium features six glass peaks (it was in the process of doubling the museum's size).

There are several neat buildings onthe way to Stone Mountain and the Inclined Train. This is the Lee buidling, named no doubt after the famous Southerner, Robert E. Lee.

The Incline Railway's view up the mountain hasn't changed much in the last 100 years. When you reach the top, you can walk to the Point Park Battlefield and the Battles For Chattanooga Electric Map.

Along the walk to the park is a nice 1920's - 30's neighborhood.

Another of the homes between the railway and the park. To get to Rock City or Ruby Falls, go back down the inclined railway and drive up the mountain road. It's worth the drive to get there.

Yes, you must see Rock City. I wasn't sure about this one - but it's well worth the price of admission. The rock formations and views were great, was were the ones inside Ruby Falls. Here's one last picture from Rock City, and yes you can see seven states from the park's overlook.