Sunday, October 31, 2010

Help Radnor Lake Heal November 5-7

The recent and by far the worst flood in the history of my hometown, Nashville, also took a swing at Radnor Lake, which is situated just a few minutes outside the center of town. From May 1 to May 3 2010 between ten and twenty inches of rain fell. The Army Corps of Engineers has described the Nashville flood as a “1000-year flood event,” which, judging from this widely seen Slideshow, seems accurate to me. Material losses were in the billions. Thirty-one people died in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi; two of which were close friends of my parents.

In September when I was in Nashville after my trip to Scotland and Ireland with my father, I was amazed to find the city going about its business as if nothing had happened. It’s hard to see the effects of the flood unless you look very closely. You have to go inside the houses to see the cracks in the walls and foundations. Or you can go for a walk.

Since we’d been walking for two weeks, my father and I decided we’d keep it up and have a walk around Radnor Lake, Tennessee’s “first natural area and protected eco-system.” For those of you who are not familiar with Nashville’s gem, Radnor Lake is on Otter Creek Road accessible from Franklin Road. or Granny White Pike. Drive slowly: Radnor Lake is a natural area teeming with wildlife.

Otter Creek Road crumbled into the lake during the flood and the severe storms that followed. It was closed for months afterward, but it is now open to walkers and runners. When I was there, a representative from FEMA was there discussing plans to save Otter Creek Road with a ranger, which attracted the attention of walkers (myself included). At one point the ranger turned to the group and said, “We’re going to save every tree we can.” There was a weird sigh of relief, like a group of relatives had heard a loved one would pull through after all.

People who walk at Radnor Lake (and that’s me whenever I’m in Nashville) are wildly protective of their gem. Nashville almost lost this sanctuary a couple of times. The L&N Railroad company might have hunted and fished it to death, but in 1923, at the urgings of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, an "elightened" executive from L&N declared the site a “Wildlife Sanctuary,” which put an end to hunting and fishing at Radnor Lake. In 1962, a construction company bought the land and intended to develop it. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and political leaders, 747 acres were preserved. In 1973 Radnor Lake became Tennessee’s first natural area and protected eco-system.

From 1946 to 1979, a colorful lady nicknamed Mrs. Mac protected Radnor Lake officially as its caretaker. I think her spirit lives on in the thousands of people who protect the lake so fiercely. Hundreds of volunteers have helped to rebuild trails, but more needs to be done to repair the park. It’s going to take years.

The Friends of Radnor Lake together with The Chestnut Group are hosting the Love the Lake Art Show November 5-7. If you’re in Nashville, please attend. If you’ve never been to Radnor Lake, why not use this opportunity to check it out? And say hello to this big fella for me. He's a survivor.

I must be off,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Want a relaxing weekend in England?

There is nothing more relaxing than a walk through The Peak District (The Midlands, UK). Unfortunately, it was raining most of the time we were there last weekend, so we did the next best thing: We went to the pub, where we discovered that a little rain doesn’t keep the Brits from a relaxing walk. Dozens of walkers came in while we were reading our Sunday paper.

Leave your muddy boots at the door! a sign read as we entered the pub in the tiny village of Harrington. I felt a bit embarrassed that I didn’t have any. I love walking. I am a walker—a dedicated one, which is just another expression for an obsessed one!

“I usually have muddy boots,” I said to the waiter who brought me my cider. “It’s just, well, this weekend, they’re in the shop.”

“Fair enough,” he said, because I’m sure he didn’t know what to do with me.

“I’ll try the pear cider this time,” I said and scooted my clean shoes under the table out of sight of the walkers at the next table.

Torrential rain finally caught up with us on Sunday in the picturesque village of Tissington. I wish I had been able to take a photo of Tissington, but it was literally a puddle on the side of the road when we swam through it.

It didn’t rain the entire weekend, though. Backing up to Saturday. It was dry enough for us to enjoy an unexpected bit of fun at the Crich Tramway Museum Village. The hefty entrance charge of 12 pounds each was almost worth it. We amused ourselves like kiddies for a few hours, riding the renovated streetcars from all over the world. George the flea circus stall cleaner’s mother even found a tram that used to drive by her home in Budapest. Great fun, especially for children who are still biologically, um, children. With a woodland trail and sculpture garden and a picnic area overlooking the valley, the Crich Tramway Village is a fun-for-the-whole-family sort of place.

On Saturday we also went to The Attic Sale at Chatsworth (Sotheby’s Auction) and laughed our heads off at the utter crap they were auctioning off. Moth-eaten paintings of questionable worth even if the moths hadn’t got to them, chair frames, dishes, moth-eaten butterfly collections and a seemingly endless supply of teacups. What’s with all the teacups?

Chatsworth Castle

The gem of the East Midlands, however, is Kayal, a South Indian Restaurant in Leicester. George the flea circus stall cleaner and I roamed Leicester for almost an hour before stumbling upon this wonderful, packed, restaurant. If you live anywhere within a hundred-mile radius of Leicester, you have to stop by for one of their out-of-the-ordinary curries and rice breads.
Nottingham, on the other hand, was a bit of a bust. As British cities go, Nottingham is fairly indistinguishable, but for the Castle Hill, which hasn’t actually had a castle on it in several centuries. There are lots of Robin Hood statues, though, so knock yourself out.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type

Monday, October 18, 2010

Now for Something Completely Different

I have talented friends. I'm going to tell you about four of them right now who are multi-talents. Three are from my Belmont days, and they are all wonderful, smart and TALENTED people; one is a TALENTED artist I met during my Urbis days (which I believe are over for good).

Todd Williamson is a painter. He was a singer when I went to university with him, but now as a painter he has carved out a solid non-representational style. He's solid as well. Right now he needs your clicks to win the contest Art Takes Miami (where you can also read more about him and view some of his work).

Janet Ivey-Duensing is the face and TALENT behind Janet's Planet, recently honored with Parenting Journals Editor's Choice Award. The site is informative, fun and deserving of all the praise it gets. Janet is a true multi-talent: singer, presenter, educator. She does it all.

Lori Fischer, a dear dear friend, has so many irons in the fire. Recently she wrote a short film featuring Olympia Dukakis. Lori is a writer, an actor, a singer, and a teacher. She's collaborating on a film project right now. Check it out.

Finally, I met Jennifer Bower as a poet. She's now come out of her shell as a brilliant artist. I've told her so often, but I'm telling you now: she tells a story in every picture. I love what you do, Jenn.

Wow, there's hope for mankind after all.

I must be off,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Romancing the Blarney Stone

The Blarney Castle
In 2009 Tripadvisor voted the Blarney Stone the “most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.” And I kissed it. You better believe it. You see, when you kiss the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world, you receive the gift of gab.

 Like I need it!

The stone is harder to kiss than you might imagine. For starters, it’s on top of the Blarney Castle, which is worth a visit even without the stone. The stone, however, draws thousands of tourists to Blarney each year. You’ll have to pay to enter the castle grounds, but you’ll be glad you did. There’s nothing else to do in Blarney besides get pissed at the pub.

Christopher getting ready to romance the Stone
To kiss the Blarney Stone, you have to lie on your back and lean over the side of the castle. The stone is set into the parapet much farther down than most people can bend. The fellow holding me kept saying “deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper.” As you know, if you read my post “Shakira in Ireland,” I am quite flexible. I managed to arrive at the stone with half my body hanging over the castle.

My father, who was taking this picture, was having trouble getting the right angle, so I had to kiss the Blarney Stone for quite a long time. Despite the length of the kiss, there was no tongue.

There are many legends of the Stone. Most are pretty silly. Apparently Clídna, an Irish goddess told Cormac MacCarthy, the fifteenth-century builder of the Blarney Castle, that if he would kiss the first stone he saw the morning of a particularly sticky lawsuit, he would be able to talk his way out of it. He did, and then he took that stone to the top of the castle for safekeeping.

The Stone is bluestone, which is a bluish-gray sandstone, so if you intend to bend toward it, make sure you see a bluish-gray stone before you pucker up.

“Yeah, you have to bend quite a ways down,” I bragged to my father as we were climbing back down from the castle.


“It’s bluish-gray, you know,” I said.

“No. Really?”

“Yeah, totally different from the rest of the parapet,” I said.

Then my father got quiet. “I don’t think I kissed it.”

“I don’t think many people can.” I was doing a back bend as I said this.

“Man!” This is my father “cursing.”

I think it’s safe to say that the Blarney Stone is not the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world. That would be about a foot higher, where most people (who are not as flexible as myself and Shakira) romance the parapet.

I must be off,