Past, Present, Future


This is the time of year that everyone takes to Facebook and Twitter to say something to the effect of “Good-bye and good riddance 2012, you sucked. Bring on 2013”. I, for one, will not be among that crowd. 2012 has been one of the best years of my life. I’ll not bore you the details as I’ve done enough of that here during the course of the year. I will say that if 2013 is half as good as 2012 was, I’ll be the happiest sonofagun in the Tennessee Valley. Of course, ‘Bama winning next week would go a long way toward making that a reality. Unfortunately, according to the national media, our lowly boys have no such chance against the awesome might of Notre Dame.


Last week, the family and I packed up the family truckster and headed down to spend Christmas with my folks in Montgomery. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line I have become a Scrooge (or Grinch if you prefer). I have nothing against Christmas, I’m all about celebrating the birth of Jesus. But I do think the whole thing is overblown and over-commercialized. Even then, the whole ordeal serves in a purpose since the week gives us a chance to reset, visit loved ones and it gives our society a common point of reference.  Despite the fact that I can acknowledge and appreciate the event, for some reason when it rolls around I get a bit crotchety. This year was no exception. On the bright side, the boys had a good time and they seemed to be genuinely appreciative of their several tons of Ninjago Legos and ‘Bama paraphernalia.

My Christmas mood notwithstanding, the trip was melancholy for another reason. After years spent teaching dance to the youth of Montgomery, my folks are hanging up their pointe shoes and retiring to the mountainous West. This, coupled with Baba’s passing earlier in the year, means that my life-long ties to my home state are essentially broken. Of course, those ties can never be truly broken, but they are from the standpoint that there is no longer a base there; I no longer have a “home” in Alabama. This makes me sad. To be clear, I’m not upset with my folks. After teaching ballet in Montgomery County Public Schools for more than twenty years, they have each earned the right to do what they want in retirement (not that they need my approval anyway). They both love the big mountains, snow, and lack of humidity out there, and I’m very happy that they’re going to a place that they love. For them, home means retiring to a place in the mountains, not remaining in central Alabama.

It is the thought of home that I will miss, not their house (ya’ll might guess my thoughts on a garden home in a homogenous development in a 10th ring sub-urb). My gloominess is a psychological issue. The state of Alabama is still there. Montgomery is still there. So, in a sense, nothing concrete has changed. The saying goes that home is where is the heart is. I’m not sure that I can totally agree. My home is in Chattanooga, and my heart is here. But when I think of the word “home”, my first thought is of Alabama. To be truthful, I’m not as in love with Montgomery as I once was and I can’t envisage a scenario that would lead to me moving back there. I have absolutely no desire to leave Chattanooga, but Alabama is never far from my thoughts.


Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation was one of the inspirations for this blog. Kuntlser wrote Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere – books that influenced me heavily as a planning graduate student. Every year he offers a post with predictions for the upcoming year. This year he offers a very well-reasoned, but depressing (shocker) outlook on the future. I will again bite his style by offering predictions for the New Year. My predictions, however, will (primarily) be limited to issues affecting urban design in Chattanooga. Looking into my crystal ball for 2013 I see that:

-Andy Berke will become our next Mayor. This is a very good thing.

-Marginal progress will be made in making the T-Dot design for US-27 suck less. It will, however, still suck and we may well have to drop the “Scenic City” moniker. The TDOT lack of understanding that cities consist of more than highways never ceases to amaze. They are PROUD of what they have done to us- witness their website celebrating the three dozen+ massive concrete retaining walls that are the new reality of our downtown.

-The local architectural community will (continue to) step up. I don’t think we’re quite ready to see a boom in downtown building just yet, but there will be some action. I think the Urban Design Challenge indeed challenged our designers to raise their game- it also reminded our development community of the breadth and depth of talent to be found here. There won’t be a ton of new work, but what is built should do us proud.

-The Downtown Design Guidelines will be adopted. Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to say that this will be a good thing. I will say, however,  that there is at least the possibility that it won't be a bad thing.

-I will continue my personal boycott of downtown establishments that show disregard for good urban design. I'm not going to share my list as it now includes some locals in addition to the chains. The bad news is that the list is growing...the good news is that from a culinary standpoint I'm not missing anything.

-Like it or not, I will continue to blog for at least one more year.

-As mentioned earlier, the press is doing everything they can to convince people that Notre Dame will beat Alabama. They have pulled all manner of statistics to make their case. I will make a prediction for the game using my own statistical analysis (that is about as solid as what the DB’s on TV are using). My analysis is based on the last opponent of each team – Georgia and USC. Alabama proved to be 4 points better than Georgia, Notre Dame was 9 points was better than USC. The link between these two teams is Georgia Tech. Georgia beat Tech by 28, and Tech just beat USC by 14 (Sun Bowl). We then know that ‘Bama is 4 better than UGA, who is 28 better than Tech, who is 14 better than the Trojans, who are 9 worse than the Irish. This means that Alabama is 37 points better than Notre Dame.

My prediction: ‘Bama 49  UND 12.

Happy New Year!!


Pond Hopping

After taking a couple of weeks off, it’s great to get back to my Saturday morning writing routine. As you may know, the Mrs. and I were abroad for the last couple of weeks. One of my fraternity brothers, an Englishman from Birmingham (Bur-min-GUM, UK  not Birm-ing-HAM, AL), finally decided to tie the knot. This was not an event I was going to miss. I considered a daily blogging of the trip, but I'm sure that would have worn y'all out, and I’m not sure I could have kept up (to say nothing of the shockingly poor state of wireless connectivity over there). I tried to jot down some thoughts and observations while I was there, but when I got home and read through everything it turns out that it was more a travel journal than it was an observation of urbanism. In any event, it was an entertaining trip and my brain hasn’t really reengaged, so this post is a series of excerpts and observations from the travel journal. Be warned: this is a long one, and has naught to do with urbanism or Chattanooga.

I'm on a plane from Hell-on-Earth (ATL, Baby) to Amsterdam. It will be a miracle if I survive this flight. It appears that the flight attendants are on a mission to get everyone on board housed. I was greatly anticipating a cocktail, this being the first night of our vacation and having sat on the runway for an hour before our plane departed. I watched with great anticipation as the attendants rolled the cart up the aisle- it was like watching a slow motion wave- you could see the jubilation as each successive row was served. When our turn arrived, I ordered a glass of red. I was handed a 14-ounce Dixie cup filled with the finest boxed merlot that the Deltoids could muster. Kick ass. I love wine and generally prefer to partake in a manner that allows me to appreciate and savor it. This, however, was not one of those times. About a third of my way into the "glass", I looked up to see that another cart was wheeling down the isle, handing out more booze. The first three times this happened, I was fair game. It feels like we’re kindergarteners at nap time and the attendants are filling us "juice" so that we will all pass out. It turns to that Delta Flight 6012 is filled dozens of lushes- and I am not the worst one (that award goes to South African lads sat behind us). I'm not complaining, I've had box wine from a Dixie cup before, but this is quite an auspicious beginning to the trip....

Delta- keeping it real.

After the booze cruise that was Delta flight 6012 we arrive in Amsterdam for a connecting flight to Birmingham…only there is no connecting fight to Birmingham. At this moment I realize what Amsterdam Schipol and Chattanooga have in common: 2" of snow brings the joint to a screeching halt. All flights to the UK for the day are cancelled. The best the KLM folks could do is get us a flight tomorrow morning (which means we're going to be cutting it close for making the wedding…like, putting my tuxedo on in the cab close. We'll see how that turns out.) The silver lining to this cloud is that we have an overnight in Amsterdam that we did not anticipate. We checked in to the hotel, and then went back to Schipol to catch a train to Amsterdam Centraal. We didn't get to spend much time, but I loved it there. Being unprepared for the trip, we didn't have an itinerary, so just we just walked around (in the bastard cold) until we got lost, then found a little place to have a few beers and a bite to eat. The architecture there was awesome- a great mix of old and new. The thing that impressed me most though, was the sheer number of people of the street. Everywhere we went, there were people (despite the bastard cold). There were also tons of bicycles. I'm hoping to get back there sometime soon and spend a little time (perhaps in the spring though). From the "you can't make this up" files, our hotel room number at the Steigenberger was 420 (but let me be quick to point out that despite the reputation of the city, we did not partake).

My first view of Amsterdam.

Up bright and early, and back to Schipol. Our flight left (more or less) on time and we're on our way to England. At this point, the only question is whether or not Ms. Rushing’s checked luggage will be coming with us. This is not an issue for me since I packed 10-days worth of clothes into one carry-on bag (tuxedo included). All of D's clothes for the week (including formal wear for the wedding) are, for the time being in European airport baggage limbo. Oh, the anticipation...

Touchdown in Brum, and yes, it appears that D's luggage got here before we did. Not sure how that works but who's complaining. The father of the groom, the incomparable Alan Jones, met us at the airport. I could go on forever about the man, but the fact that he would spend his time two hours before his son's wedding picking up Americans from the airport gives you some insight into the measure of the man. Alan whisks us away from BHX and off to our destination- the lovely village of Henley-in-Arden. We checked-in to the hotel (a lovely number called the White Swan), had a quick shower and shave, then met the wedding party in the pub downstairs for a quick pint before heading off to the ceremony. Off we go, I’ll give you the details tomorrow.

An international, All-Star line-up...not quite Reservoir Dogs.
by DC Photographic

The wedding was held in St. Nicholas Beaudesert. A beautiful church that is only about a thousand years old. I bullshit you not...ten centuries...1 Millennium...a hundred decades. Interesting bit about the church- I noticed that the arch is not centered on the space and asked if anyone knew why. Apparently, in the early years of the building, the north wall started to sag and it was discovered that the wall was built atop an underground stream. So they simply moved the wall a couple of feet, redid the roof and called it a day. Brilliant. The ceremony was an awesome experience, a hundred people in black tie, gathered in a 1000-year old church in a quaint English village- it doesn't get much better than that.

St. Nicholas Beaudesert
Who needs symmetry?
After the ceremony, the town crier (yes, town crier, and yes, it was very cool), announced the newlywed couple and led us to our first reception at the Medieval Guildhall (a youthful building, having been constructed in 1448).  After a nice, warm Winter Pimms, the crier led us to the wedding reception at the Blue Bell- a proper English Pub (and restaurant with 2 Rosettes)  in a mere baby of a building, being only about 500 years old.

With the mother of the groom at the Guild Hall.
Chattanooga needs a Town Crier.
by DC Photographic
How to describe the wedding reception...hmmm...I don't think I can do it justice. Lets just say that I have some very good friends in England who enjoy life, and we celebrated the bride and groom well into the night.
Father of the groom, the incomparable Alan Jones.
Belting out some Sinatra with the groom and a some Villa fan.
Always looking for a chance to show off the Phi Delt pin.
 It is worth mentioning that during the evening some of the lads were having a go at my patent leather opera pumps. I tried to assure them that these shoes are quite traditional, and that in even more recent times they were favored by the likes of Sinatra. I sent them off to do their homework, but was left to defend my “girls shoes” for the rest of the evening. (A quick note on current language: literally everyone over here says literally...a lot…literally).

My new favorite shoes.

I don't recall exactly when we called it night, but I woke up the next day at 1 pm, just in time for Sunday lunch with the newlyweds and the groom’s family. This will be a day of rest: time to see my friends, have a pint while watching the Manchester Darby, then off for a curry and an early bed. The highlights of day however, were the texts and calls of formal apologies from the lads for slating my footwear. One of the men noted that he found a quote saying that the shoes were “preferred with formalwear by many leaders of style.”  Ah, the joy of getting one over on my English friends...in formalwear no less. US of A-1, England-nil.

If they're good enough for Ol' Blue Eyes,
they're good enough for C.
Today we hoped in the car with Bride and groom for a day in the Cotswolds- through Stratford-upon-Avon, then down to Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-water, Moreton-in-Marsh and Broadway. It doesn't get much more beautiful or English than the Cotswolds. Virtually every building is built of Cotswold stone, a honey-colored, oolitic Jurassic limestone. Each of the villages feel unique, permanent, and welcoming. The scale and atmosphere of each place is outstanding. We finished up the day with fish and chips back in Henley, thus completing my English culinary trifecta in one day- full English breakfast, steak and ale pie for lunch and the aforementioned fish and chips. Time for bed, travel day tomorrow.


Off to Paris. I think I’ll leave that as a topic for another blog post, but I will mention one of the highlights of the trip.

Those who know me, know that I love food. On that Wednesday, I had the dining experience of a lifetime- a meal at Le Taillevent. The restaurant has been called the “high court of Haute Cuisine” and one of the “best restaurants in the world”. They recently lost their third Michelin star after holding it for 34 years, but this is still a serious restaurant. This is the big leagues- high french cuisine in Paris. This is what my mother was training me for all those years ago when teaching me what all the silverware and glasses were for.  Despite lofty expectations, the food and the experience delivered. It was everything I thought it would be – stereotypical French waiters, more service staff than guests, and sights and flavors that I can’t begin to describe. I’ll stop short of saying it was the best meal ever, because the place was pretty stuffy and I was a nervous wreck throughout. I definitely out-kicked my coverage on this one. But in the end, I managed not to spit in the soup, and we had a fantastic meal -  definitely the dining experience of a lifetime (sorry Charlie Trotter).

Also, the view from our hotel room did not suck.

Friday was a relatively uneventful return trip to England. That evening we had a night on the town with the Jones’ for a few pints, a curry, and a few pints.

Saturday is of course game day in England. We returned to St. Andrew’s – home of my beloved Birmingham City Football Club. I have a sterling record as a blues fans when watching the boys on English soil- they have never lost when I've been in attendance. This time we had an in-form crystal palace to contend with. After going down 2-nil, it appeared that my record was in jeopardy. However, a header by Zigic, and thundering a header by (my man of the match) Papa Bouba Diop evened the game, won Blues a point and preserved my record.

Now that we're playing a league down and our owner is in jail,
attendance has suffered. On this day 17,000 of 30,000 capacity.

The return trip was fairly uneventful, minus the obligatory delayed flight out of Hell-on-Earth (ATL, baby). It was a fantastic trip and one that I will never forget. It was, however, great to get home to Chattanooga!!

Ya'll have a very Merry Christmas! See you next week.


People who live in glass houses (shouldn't throw stones)

Yesterday was one of the busiest days on the Rushing Calendar. The first Saturday of December means MainX24, Stern’s birthday, and the SEC Championship game. I didn’t get to spend as much time on Main as I would have liked, but from what I saw, it was rockin'. We had a house full of friends and Alabamians to celebrate Stern’s fourth birthday party. If you don’t know already about the epic SEC Championship game, an explanation from me won’t help. In any event, this may be my last post for a couple of weeks for reasons that I will reveal later. Y’all be good and I’ll be back soon.

It has been brought to my attention that in the past couple of years I’ve been a tough critic on some downtown buildings. I’m not ready to concede this point – the fact is that I’ve been pretty good about holding my tongue. Unfortunately, there are a number of projects that warrant a good dressing down. Our city, however, is a small one- everyone knows everyone. For that reason, I will note that my critiques have been limited to the crappy, faceless, out-of-town corporations that have besmirched downtown with their generic bullshit. In my defense, I will also point out that I’ve dedicated many more pixels to praise of virtuous urban design elements in our city than I have to panning the bad ones.

In my youth, in athletic endeavors, I was known to get a bit lippy from time to time. I was almost never mean-spirited, and it was always a joy to find an adversary who enjoyed a bit of banter as well. That little trait taught me that if you’re willing to dish something out, you better be willing to take it. I also firmly believe in the philosophy that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Although I don’t currently live in a glass house (but desperately want to), I figure turnabout is fair play. So today, I offer some recent work of my own for your appraisal and critique.

I am not an architect and don’t portray myself as such. I don’t solicit building design work, but from time to time I have occasion to either partner with an architect or take on a small residential commission for a client. This week I offer a glance at a couple of projects I’m currently working on. One is near completion and one is under construction.  The first is a home in another county designed for a retired couple. The second is a home in an urban neighborhood for a young couple. I must admit I didn’t consult either client before writing this, so details are omitted. I originally wrote brief project synopses for each, but have decided not to include them. I didn't give the BWW folks a chance to explain their work, so it would unfair for me to do so ;)

So, there you have it. I’m not afraid to put myself out there for critique. Please feel free to rip me a new one. But remember, Chattanoogans live in these so if you’re not respectful in your critique, I won’t post your comment (if you want to be mean, lets go do it over a beer ;)

T******* House

S***** House