Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Movies

Can you believe how much movie theaters have changed? Gone are the days of standing in line on the street waiting for the previous showing to let out (and trying not to listen to people talking as they left so as not to spoil the ending).

Some of Charleston's old theaters that have gone the way of the wrecking ball were absolute gems. The Kearse, on Summers Street, was perhaps the grandest, but I liked the Virginian on Lee Street the best. The Virginian had plush velvet seats that were quite comfortable compared with the most theaters of their day. It also had the only balcony seating that was typically open (most others seemed to have a "blacony closed" sign perpetually placed on the stairway), and that was the preferred spot from which to watch the show.

I am glad they saved the Capitol, but it was the downtown theater with the least amount of charm in its movie configuration. I like it much better now.

And speaking of theaters, the new renovation of the old State theater on Washington Street East near the Capitol is just beautiful. Those folks should get an award for their efforts. It should be held up as a model of how an old theater should be reclaimed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Downtown Charleston in the 1970's

I grew up seven miles from downtown Charleston. After I had gained sufficent maturity in my mother's eyes to be alone in the big city I would spend every Saturday the exact same way:

9:12 AM - Catch the KRT to downtown. 50 cents fare.
9:30 AM - Disembark the bus at the Charleston National Bank Plaza on the Summers Street side.
9:45 - Walk down Capitol Street to National Record Mart and wait for them to open the door.
10:00 - 11:00 - Peruse and purchase the latest album of my desire (Bad Company, BTO, Doobie Brothers, etc.), or...
11:00 - 11:30 - Walk around the corner on Lee Street to Turner's Record Shop. The place always smelled musty. I still own albums I bought there and they still smell like mildew.

From there it was a free-form bounce around town depending on the whim of the group that had met up by then, but some fairly regular stops were:

The Diamond
Frankenbergers - Only when my "rich" friends were along. Their parents had a charge account.
Silver Brand Clothes
Embees (only to stand outside and watch the young ladies come and go)
Kresge's (the only downtown store with a pet department)
Kessler's Jewelry (Pawn) - You never knew which Mr. Kessler might show up - the nice one who wanted your money or the one who shooed you out of the store "I don't allow boys in my store!"

And then there were the other absolute, never-miss, day-is-not-complete-until-you-go-there stops:

Sonny's Mod Shop - Incense, posters and the coolest clothes that made your mom cringe.

Arcade Books - or at least a stroll through the Arcade on our way to...

...Arthur Treachers Fish and Chips. I could not leave town without a belly full of greasy fish and chips.

One final stop on my way to the foot of the South Side Bridge where I would hopefully catch my bus at the very last minute before it left town (but I walked home more than once because I dawdled too much at...

...Lance's! O the joy of nosing around, in and through boxes of merchandise that had seemingly been there since WWII. I'm sure I never spent a total of twenty bucks at Lance's, but I spent hours upon hours searching for the perfect something. Years later, after they had moved to Capitol Street I took my young daughter to Lance's to find some widget she needed for a school project. It just wasn't the same.

Of course some days included movies, but that is another post for another day.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Some Things That Make Charleston a Better Place

In no particular order, and in no way an exhaustive list:

Ellen's Ice Cream
Taylor Books
Rick Lee's Photoblog
The Boulevard
Dan Kehde, Mark Scarpelli and the Contemporary Youth Arts Company
The 200 block of Capitol Street
First Watch
Capitol Roaster's Cafe

The Boulevard

I love driving Kanawha Boulevard. Unless I am in a hurry I will always take the Boulevard when I travel in from South Charleston. It is the only place in town where one can drive at a leisurely pace for more that a half mile without being stopped by traffic controls. I think the Boulevard, in its present form, is one of the best features of Charleston. It is a relaxing alternative to the high-stress I64 route.

Sometimes I ride my bike along the Boulevard. I have never found it too difficult to cross all four lanes to reach the sidewalk (although it would be nice to have a few more cuts in the high curb between the sidewalk and traffic lane). Sometimes I will drive to the Capitol and take a walk on the Boulevard.

For the past several summers, beginning with the Goldman administration, the City has been closing off the east-bound lanes from the South Side Bridge to the Capitol to allow more people to use the Boulevard for recreational purposes. I have taken my kids and their bikes down on few of these Sunday's. Not many people are attracted by these events.

The vocal minority of our city's population that wants to remove or reduce vehicular traffic thinks that more people will be able to enjoy the riverfront if we make it only accessible on foot. I think they are dead wrong. Many people, especially visitors to our fair city, would never see our riverfront unless they drive by.

While it seems to me that there is a fate-accompli attitude about changing the Boulevard, it also seems to me that most of the folks pushing the agenda are people that do not use the Boulevard and probably won't in the future. Most of the city government folks I see promoting the idea only pass over the boulevard on the South Side Bridge.

With a mandatory $200 million sewer project staring us in the face, it seems unconscionable to consider spending at least that much on a face-lift that is simply unnecessary and will not be an improvement for the livability and visitability of our city.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Begin Again

Oncee let me know that I am not alone in the loss of all of my blog entries. I guess it's time to accept the loss and get on with blogging.

I have begun work on WV Hot Dog Blog, a project I have been thinking about for a while. I encourage everyone to go over and post a comment about your favorite WV style hot dog.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Gone...All Gone...

Easy come, easy go.

Blogspot giveth and Blogspot taketh away.

{insert other platitude here}

Every post and comment has been erased from this blog by a force beyond my understanding. Not that there was ever anything that would make the Pulitzer folks take notice, but dang, that was a lot of typing just to be gone with the proverbial wind. Having received no help from the support folks (if they really exist) on a possible recovery of all the lost posts, I am resigned to simply starting fresh as of today.

You know, the whole blogspot thing is pretty cool for a free service. It's hard to complain when it goes wrong.

For posterity: This blog began during the 2004 election when I found no online outlet for my anguished soul to vent about the state of local Charleston politics and matters that affect us Charlestonians. I had hoped it would become a fair-and-balanced (and not in the Fox News sense of the phrase) discussion board. Instead it became a quiet non-political place with four or five regular readers and posters. Since then several local bloggers have found their own niche and I don't intend to duplicate their efforts.

Here are some of the locals (in no particular order) and my view of their niche:

Don Surber - The local right-leaning mainstream media staffer.
William Stewart - The local (albeit Putnam Countian) politico neo-con.
Bob Coffield - WV law and health care issues.
4HAKS - Friendly neighborhood computer game and digital photo geek.
Spike Nesmith - Various and sundry musings of our local Scottish DJ.

There are others, but frankly I'm in no mood to write a ton of stuff and then let the Blog Gods delete it again. They'll have to earn my trust again.