Great Signs

It's too bad most business signs are just too big to put in some sort of museum. Tallahassee's had some great ones. The old Northwood Mall triangle/arrow. The neon Prince Murat motel sign, which so often seemed to advertise the Prince Rat. The Office Lounge sign, which actually looks modern-retro with its martini glass shape. Both the State Theatre and Florida Theatre signs, classic art deco. The Firestone "shield" sign on North Monroe that was recently replaced with a much less interesting piece (although the old signs are still used in several places on the building).

If you've got pictures of any classics, show 'em off. If I missed your favorites, let me know.


Letters to the Editor

Two excellent letters to the Democrat 4/25 re:WalMart on Gaines.

The author of the first letter ("You can't engineer artistic growth"), Susan Gage, should be familiar to any local interested in art or performance. Between her work at V89 and with the Mickee Faust players, she's been an important part of the local scene for many years.

Paula Zenick, who penned the second letter ("Please, anything but another Wal-Mart") owns Really Knit Stuff in Railroad Square. This shit's not hypothetical to Paula and the other small business owners who make that area worthwhile. Shops like hers are the exact local commerce that the city government seems intent on crushing under chain stores and high-end hotels. You know, I don't buy a lot of yarn, but I'm damn glad someone in town's offering craft folks options. She makes a great point in her letter, too - we can't oppose WalMart on Gaines by financially supporting them on the Parkway.

We've got to stand together against this crap. If we let the city bury every locally produced artistic expression and business, we just as well start filling in the sink holes to replace with concrete pools. Hats off, Susan Gage and Paula Zenick.


Out in Lloyd

No big punk shows this weekend, no keggers, no heavy-drinking house parties. Instead, I've once again been invited to dogsit at a 150-year-old cracker house out on Lloyd's main drag.

When I'm there, sipping a cold one, sitting on a glider on the wide porch in my cut-offs, I wonder how many more generations will be able to enjoy that feeling. How soon before there's a WalMart where the old railroad station now stands? How soon before Lloyd is just another Tallahassee suburb, SouthWood II (or III or IV), generic houses with generic yards and generic children who never see the sun?

But as evening comes on and the heat slowly lifts, all I can hear are train whistles, the burble of the neighbor's turkey and chickens, a far-off dog barking, mockingbirds taunting each other in the pear trees. I can walk through the yard and touch a massive, gnarled live oak that grew there through the days when the home I'm watching was a photo studio, a dental office, a house of ill repute, a temporary Civil War hospital ward, and simply a farm house. That tree may have shaded men who first laid the train tracks that made Lloyd a happening little place in the way back. Heck, it may have been there when the Spanish first made their deadly inroads into the state. And it's not the only giant in the neighborhood.

Spending a weekend in Lloyd heals me. Being around those trees helps me forget about all the live oaks in Tallahassee that have been slaughtered to make room for big box stores and crappy developed neighborhoods. Hearing the wind in the pines reminds me that North Florida should not, naturally, be stocked with palm trees like some Disney park. Feeling the heartwood boards beneath my feet connects me to the other people who fell in love with this area, lived here without air conditioning and ice makers, and still managed to keep from clearcutting the landscape.

We can live with nature, folks. The day the oaks of Lloyd become so much scrap hauled off from construction sites, I'm taking my books and my fishing pole, and I'm haulin' ass for Tate's Hell.


More and More

Seriously, do most little cities Tallahassee's size have this damn many WalMarts?

I don't care if they call it a neighborhood grocery or a supercenter or a happy playtime local people love you funplace. What's the deal?

Selling Gaines

"I don't remember a new building going up down there in forever," said Michael Wright, the assistant city manager for development and transportation services. "Our intent is ... to stimulate development that is market-driven."

I think that really sums up the Gaines Street issue right now. Some unelected staffer (working under Andrew Gillum and Debbie Lightsey, according to the city website) thinks that new buildings will somehow turn into the "18-hour Tallahassee" the city keeps talking about wanting.

I can't help but think that the beauty and life of the Gaines/Railroad area has some basis in reuse of the buildings that are already there. The high ceilings and wood floors of the old RR station that houses The Warehouse; the caboose, home over time to everything from the local Musicians Union to the present day cafe; the old storefronts housing successful tattoo parlors, piercing studios, clothing stores - which of these would be bettered by being replaced with a shiny, new, plywood and drywall building?

Now that the vision of higher-end retail and housing linked to the downtown has been adopted...

Adopted by whom, when? Once again, Tallahassee city government is determind to point that shotgun straight down into the bottom of our shared boat and pull the trigger.

Let me just put it this way: would you rather hang out on Gaines or the Parkway right now?


Red Clay Hills

From my stoop, it sometimes feels like I can see all of Tallahassee. Or at least that all of Tallahassee passes my place during the day. Perched up on my castle wall with a beer, Saturday's a neverending parade. Bike kids on homemade machines, asses up as they coast, dirty patched pants in the breeze. Folks hustling to work, maybe cursing Tallahassee's miserable public transit service, maybe just wishing they could be kicked back in front of their own place with a brew. Businessmen, lawyers, and lobbyists strolling in the evening from whatever backroom deals kept them here back to their hotels. (Unlike the ones on their way to work, the men in suits can always be surprised into a quick hello when hailed from on high.)

A ranbow of cars, flashing back sunlight or lamplight. Spankin new rims and tires on a beat up piece of Detroit steel from the 80s. Jumped up pickups, radios thumping hiphop or country depending on who all the driver's impressing, a splash of mud across the fenders and door. Hippie tribes in old volvos, headed down toward New Leaf or Samrat. Cute girls on scooters, one of the few plus sides to the current gas crisis.

My wood-frame cottage was built in 1930, when Monroe Street was thinner and my yard was wider. Almost 80 years of bachelors taking in the weather and the river of city life. The taps may run and the walls may rot, but the view is worth every penny of the rent.


514 Gaines St./Bytchlys RIP

The smallest venue with the sturdiest stage didn't quite make it, folks. "Bytchlys" at 514 Gaines St., a diy music space run by Vermin from White Trash Messiahs and Alain from Euphoria Tattoos, is having its last two shows this weekend and next. They basically got screwed on zoning and rent, so it goes.

Damn shame, too. The last thing Tallahassee needs to do is actually lose venues. The space may not have been much larger than my living room, but they worked like dogs to build a very solid stage (even if the lead singer had to stand in front of it much of the time). They also had one of the most serious (and seriously over-sized) PA systems in town - hell, a band in that little joint sounded better than anyone ever does at the Beta Bar or Big Daddys.

I guess that's the fate of diy spaces. They come, they go, they leave behind stories, a few pictures, and an example of what can be done when locals put their heads together and make it happen.

Movin' On Up

I didn't go to SAIL. I'm [barely] a Leon grad. But two of my kid sisters did the alternative school thing and thrived. Heck, I've been to SAIL proms, sporting events [you should have seen the co-ed SAIL basketball team attempt to take on Rickards - the SAIL team got slaughtered, but their cheerleaders held their own], uncountable drama productions - more than I ever got into "student life" at the big school on the hill.

Anyway, point being, my mom's had at least one kid in public schools in Leon County for 25 years now, and the last one graduates from SAIL this year. The school's having some sort of get together today for all their current and former students to visit the old digs one last time before the haul off for the new buildings. (Only SAIL would make sure to schedule a school-wide function on 4/20.)

Congrats on the new space, SAIL. You may be the redheaded stepchild of the local school district, but you'll always have my respect.


Big Daddys and the indie music scene

Tallahassee's music scene is a damn sight better than we get credit for. You want blues? We got blues. You want rock? We got rock coming out our ears, from cover bands at Bullwinkles to southern rock and metal going down at 514 Gaines St. or even Floyds (aka, The Worst Music Venue in the Southeast). Whatever your taste, somebody around here's making that kind of noise.

I don't make a whole lot of dough, and 90% of my fun budget goes to live shows, mostly of the oi, punk, hardcore, and ska variety. Okay, and maybe a taste of rockabilly when Unknown Hinson stalks through town. I'm not a picky guy, I'll happily rock out in a shed, someone's living room, a backyard (until the cops show up), a coffee house deck, a public park, or an actual bar and venue. I'll support damn near anyone who throws shows and supports the scene. But the time comes when I can't support a venue any more. And that time is pretty much here for Big Daddy's on the strip.

Here's the schedule for Saturday night:
- Apr 21, 8 PM, Cost To Be Determined
- Apr 21, 11 PM, $free, RAVE!, free glow sticks, bracelets, straws and more. fist pump your ass off !

That's 4 bands - 4 popular local bands - sharing a 3 hour bill. And if you've ever been to any music event in Tallahassee, you know that shit won't start on time. Add this kind of insanity to higher door prices, zero re-entry (even for the 21+ crowd), crappy bathrooms, and an increased reluctance to actually pay the bands.

The time's come for a new indie venue. I nominate St. Michael's Pub on Gaines St, because they're willing, have PA, and will actually let the bands have most of what they take in at the door. Problem there? 21+ only, because it's a bar. Damn it, we need a new space.


TMH babies

My hippie folks had my three sisters at home, midwives directing, female relatives and friends cooking and tending to the rest of us kids. I came first and took longest, so I got to be the only hospital baby. Like most of my closest friends, I popped out at Tallahassee Memorial on Magnolia.

This day and age, it's kind of a funny feeling to know you live like a peasant in your home village, walking distance from your birthplace. On the one hand, have I wandered far enough afield? On the other, I can't explain the feeling of security and comfort I get from such an anchored feeling of place. Not rooted completely - I could pull up and haul off if I had to. I've done it before, Lord knows. But anchored against the storms of life, protected from the big winds.

I'm at the age now where a bunch of my buddies are busy having their own sprats. Twice now, a bunch of the regular gang have packed a cooler and hid out in a dark corner of the new Women's Pavilion parking lot to basically tailgate waiting during a birth. At least three more little 'uns are due to emerge in the next couple months. I just want to help leave those guys with a good place to call home.

Tallahassee needs

Walmarts, developers, lobbyists, trustifarians, asshole venue owners, high school kids in hand-me-down SUVs, palm trees, chain restaurants, meth addicts, ravers, Soular System shows, "Reagan" republicans, shut-up-hippies, FSU football fans, pushy Baptists, power tripping cops, condos, overpriced hipster hangouts.

dive bars, punk bands, taco stands, political hotties, oak trees, city-owned sheep herds, hours daily of public transportation, branch libraries, booths at the flea market, independent music venues, underground publications, good tattoo artists, large parades, cheap housing, respect for already existing buildings, diy sports.

Condos on Park and Franklin

You've gotta be fuckin kidding me. Some [pick one: a)complete idiot, b)far-thinking individual] did some minor renovations on that crappy 60s-style 4plex apartment building behind the roundhouse on Park Ave. and is now trying to sell the units as condos. For something like $189,000 each, if I'm remembering the sign right.

Look, not for nothing, but the 2 bedroom, classic Tally-style apartments - high ceilings, hardwood floors, funky kitchens and all - directly across the road from those "condos" rent for under $400 a month. Not a block up Park, across the tracks, on the same side of the damn road, squat a set of crackhead crash pad apartments that face onto Cadiz Street and rent for even less.

Heck, don't get me wrong - that stretch of Park is easily one of the prettiest little neighborhoods in town. Close to everything, chock full o' interesting folks, lined with beautiful cottages and so on. But anyone who would buy a crapass, flat-roofed, wanna-be condo for a couple hundred thousand must be from out of town. And slightly slow.

Gaines Street WalMart

Give me a fuckin break. Did you know that if you stand where they're putting in a WalMart at Fallschase, on a clear day you can see the one on the Parkway? How damn many WalMarts does this town need?

I've lived in big cities. Tallahassee's growing, and there's nothing that can stop that short of the Gulf rising to the GA border. Do we want to be south Florida, a blight on the landscape, mile after mile of stripmalls and big boxes? Local culture shot and buried under city deals and concrete slabs? Or do we want art, music, communities where folks of lower income can still be proud of their neighborhoods?

FSU doesn't own Tallahassee. Neither does Killearn (hell, it's about time we let them break away anyway). If I hear one more motherfucker say, "downtown needs a grocery store, that's why no one lives there!" I'll be hard pressed not to throw punches. I live downtown. Quit telling me what I fucking need.

Right now I need a god damned beer.