Sunday, February 21, 2010

Charlotte's Levine Museum of the New South Featured in the New York Times

New York Times reporter Edward Rothstein penned a well thought out story on Charlotte's Levine Museum of the New South. The piece ran in the February 12, 2010 Time but was completely over looked by the Charlotte Observer.

Meckburbia thought it noteworthy:

It is unlikely that anything resembling the impressive Levine Museum of the New South would exist anywhere else. A museum of the New North or the New East would be merely peculiar, but here the term “New South” has a venerable heritage, recalling unrealized hopes and great expectations. There is also much at stake in trying to understand just what the term really means.

It came into use in the aftermath of the Civil War, signifying the changes that had to take place in the Old South. A rural agricultural world dependent on slave labor had to remake itself under the tutelage and dominance of the industrial North. This imposition of liberal modernity and urban life incorporated a demand for social transformation, an urgent call for restructuring the economy and a conviction that the South’s deepest beliefs must be jettisoned. It called for a full-scale reinvention. But there was little follow-through, so in the decades that followed Reconstruction, the process was punctuated by reversions and rebellions. The New South was always contested terrain.

The rest of the story is here.

The Levine Museum of the New South is at 200 East Seventh Street, Charlotte, N.C.; (704) 333-1887,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Big Ben Pub Burns

A Charlotte British termed restaurant has been destroyed in a fire this Sunday morning. The location at 810 Cottage Place has be operated under a number of names over the years. As far back as the late 1970's the home has been a restaurant.

My brother even manged the "Cottage" back in 1978. It's longest run was as Proposition XLV. While Fenwicks holds the title for longest continuous operation. Other names that have come and gone Saucy Crepe, Kakies

The building is a total loss, with damages estimated at about $1 million, Charlotte Fire Department Capt. Rob Brisley said.

The blaze started at about 6:30 a.m., and Providence was closed until almost noon.

No injuries were reported in the blaze, which took 60 firefighters to control.

The investigation into the fire's cause is still underway, but Brisley said the fire is believed to be accidental.

Big Ben, a British-themed pub and eatery, opened in 2006.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Senor Tequila Cantina Grill is a hidden gem in South Charlotte

There’s a little strip mall in southeast Charlotte, NC that is home to one of Charlotte’s hidden gems: Señor Tequila Cantina Grill, a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar that has a decent selection of tequilas and a menu packed with food choices from south of the border.

Tequila Examiner By Ryan Kelley

First thing to note is that Señor Tequila is cozy. That’s real estate lingo for “small.” There’s about a dozen tables inside and a few outside, with four stools at the small bar in the back of the restaurant. You do not step into a whole new world from the suburban strip mall that’s outside, but the warm, brightly decorated interior attempts to convince you that you are elsewhere, with bright yellow and deep blue walls, geckos painted with southwestern flair, and a Mexican mask or bronze sculpted sun here and there. The coolest decorations are the barrels that hang from the ceiling which are labeled with brand names of different tequilas. Strangely enough, I thought the bathroom was also really cool (see slideshow for a picture).

The menu is huge. There are tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, burritos, steaks, seafood, beer, margaritas, and, of course, tequila. There are about 20 or so listed on the menu, but they are not always available - they were out of the first few I ordered. I ended up with Cabo Wabo resposado, which was brought out in a kitschy green cactus shot glass and garnished with a lime. I sipped the Cabo while enjoying my complimentary chips and salsa and watched a Carolina Panthers game projected onto the wall. According to user reviews on restaurant review web sites, there have been complaints about the wait on weekend nights. On this particular Sunday afternoon, however, it was a great place to relax. There were only a few other people, and service was friendly and attentive.

I always have a difficult time selecting from a large menu, especially one with standard Mexican fare. Prices at Señor Tequila are reasonable bordering on inexpensive, with entrees ranging from about $10 to $15. Even though it was only lunch, I selected one of the larger plates, the carne asada steak that comes with rice and beans. I also ordered a margarita, made with Hornitos.

The food was fantastic! It arrived piping hot, with a wonderful, spicy beef aroma. The carne asada was perfect - moist, juicy and tender. I didn’t even bother with tortillas, preferring to fill up on the meat and the unremarkable (yet still good) rice and refried beans in a fried tortilla shell. Unfortunately, the margarita was not great. It is your typical, run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant margarita that is made with a bottled mix. It was too sweet, and the taste of the tequila was all but lost.

With my stomach full, my tequila palate still needed to be quenched, so I opted for a shot of Cuervo Reserva de Familia Añejo. I was planning to finish with Cabo añejo, but I have never had the Cuervo Reserva and my server was rather emphatic that I try it. He even brought out the bottle to show it to me. (I humored him with some ohhs and ahhs). Señor Tequila seemed like it would be the perfect place to try some top-notch Cuervo, which also arrived in that kitschy cactus shot glass. I was not blown out of the water by the Cuervo, but it is certainly one of Casa Cuervo’s better offerings and was a great way to end a satisfying meal.

Tequila Selection C+
Food and Cocktails B+
Service A-
Ambiance B

Señor Tequila Cantina Grill
Piper Glen
6414 Rea Road
Charlotte, NC 28277-2528
(704) 543-0706‎

Friday, January 29, 2010

MedCenter One

The faint distant sound of Med Center One, a low rumble at first then louder and louder until it is nearly a deafening roar overhead. And just as fast it is gone from view just a dull whisper against the back drop of city noise. But in this troubling sound, a single word hope.

I hate the noise but I'm so glad those guys are there, be safe and keep up the good work.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sundance Film Festival Brings Southern Rural Life to the Big Screen

Year's ago I attended a small film festival sponsored by Robert Redford at Park City Utah. The week long event had just changed its name from US Film Festival to the Sundance Film Festival . Back then it was nothing more than a whole lot of skiing and beer drinking with a few movies each evening made by little known producers, directors and actors, who in many cases were the same person. The hype and celebrities were no were to be found.

Now the once small festival is huge and very main stream. Robert Redford has often smiled when asked about his greatest achievement, his answer is often the annual Sundance film festival.

Last year Frozen River became one of my favorites. Frozen River was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic film. The film is a gritty look at life on the economic abyss as well as the edge of the United States where only a frozen river divides the US from Canada.

This year Debra Granik’s “Winter’s Bone,” changes the venue from up North to down South. The film is one that Sundance patrons have called the best movie in the festival.

Jennifer Lawernce in Winter's Bone

Based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel and set in Southern Missouri’s Ozark woods, the film follows indomitable 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) as she scours the pine-strewn hills and hollows near her cabin home in search of her missing meth-cooking father, who put their house up for bond after he was arrested. At the same time she's hunting for her father, Ree must care for her ailing mother and her young brother and sister. Ree’s terrifying outlaw kin are none to happy that she’s asking questions and dredging up the past, but her mission remains singular: find her father and protect her family.

The naturalistic thriller is saturated with small, telling details that collectively create an undeniable authenticity and regional authority; one set of neighbors is dressing a recently slaughtered deer, and more than one rusted-out car litters the otherwise bucolic landscape. This is no accident. Granik, who won the director’s award at the 2004 Sundance for her film “Down to the Bone,” explained her filming process as “visual anthropology.”

Granik, who first started working on “Winter’s Bone” in 2006, ultimately shot the film in 2009 entirely on location in Missouri. They cast locals in supporting roles and used them as dialect coaches. The costume department exchanged Carhartt jackets and plaid flannels with residents, to make sure the garments were stained with the dirt, soot and work of the local land.

“It was these details,” Granik said, “that helped us flesh out the characters.”

A little closer to home The Southeastern Film Critics Association gave "That Evening Sun" its Gene Wyatt Award, honoring the film that "embodies the essence of the South."

Hal Holbrook in Evening Sun

Adapted from the short story by William Gay called "I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down." Writer-director Scott Teems, who makes his feature debut, has been shown in limited relase since Thanksgiving. You can catch Evening Sun this week at the Ballantyne Village Theatre.

If you have moved to Charlotte in the last ten years and have never left the protection of SouthPark or the Brikdale Village you might not recognize the real world that is out there past I-485. But each of these films will leave you feeling a little out of touch with the real world, a world that is hard and never fair. A world free of bling and six figure incomes and multi million dollars homes that are so often portrayed on MTV Cribs.

If you're tired of Avatards telling you how great James Cameron's epic motion picture is or friends that can't wait for Twilight Eclipse (aka Twilight 3) these 3 films might be just what you need.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Cat Moans

The cat weathervane anchored above my house has been moaning for the last 3 hours. The wind rushing past the eves with an occasional rumble, makes sleep elusive. WSOC’s John Ahrens a freakishly narrow shouldered guy I’m used to seeing in Charleston is explaining the National Weather Service’s watch and warning system to a sleepy Charlotte. It’s 11:30.

Funny how the talking weather heads and station executives like to stay on the air for extra innings when storms roll across the Piedmont.

Of course 100 years ago those who lived along Queens Road or out in the hither lands of Providence or Sharon didn’t have the play by play and color commentary of John Ahrens and Steve Udelson nor the computer graphics of WSOC-TV's Severe Weather Center 9.

They just listened to the wind and the rain.

I turn off the flat screen high definition image of John Arenas plunging my bedroom into welcome darkness. The wind pushes harder against the trees that surround my house and I listen.

The rain comes harder, then stops and comes harder still. The cat moans as the wind pushes its tail South then East, then North and South again.

The tornado warning will last until 11:45 and so I listen for that tell-tale sound of a freight train rushing through the night’s darkness. I’m prepared at any second to make a dash to the basement to escape the reported tornado’s path. But all I hear is rain and wind and a copper cat moaning as it pivots in circles on the roof above my house.

I imagine that 100 years ago a weather vane and a watchful eye to the west was about as good as weather forecasting could be. Quiet tin roof panels on a barn across the pasture meant all was well. Livestock running for cover meant you might want to do the same. A banging unlatched door on the chicken coop meant you might want to pay attention.

It’s the thud of a limb on the far side of the house that gets my attention and I get up to have a look. Madison my 7 year old black lab stirs in the kitchen and tags along to see what is up. Close behind Madison is Callie her six month old Labrador student of all things dog. The three of us determine all is well and one by one we wander back to our respective beds.

It’s 12:05 and a new day, the wind has eased and so too the rain, its steady rhythm quiets further as I drift off to sleep.

While not winter's end this storm will be one of many that will signal that spring is coming and with it more weather alerts and Severe Weather Center 9 interruptions.

Next time I think I’ll turn off the talking weather heads, and just enjoy the sounds of rain as it falls across the Carolinas.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Dates with a TV News Reporter Part Five

Soon after the TV girl story first showed up on the web I started getting emails. Some kind, some pretty threatening.

TV girl divorced the Marine two months after he returned from Iraq. She left Charleston and hasn't been back since late 2007. Her carreer has moved on and she's been dating a guy who is just like the Marine she divorced, controling, mean and insulting, some things never change.

The last text message was something to the effect of "you know I can't come back to Charleston and you can't come here" my reply was a final "K".

But as much as we learn from life we also tend to repeat our mistakes, and so it goes.