In the non-digital world, there are many topics that are risky to broach. In Knoxville, it is equally hazardous to show fondness for downtown, which is the east part of the city or Farragut, which is the west part of the city. The topic is so loaded that my harmless description of east and west is likely to rile people into heated discussions of locations, directions and boundaries. Knowing the sensitivity of this subject, I will try to step tenderly onto the thin ice of discussing our city’s downtown area. Our home is halfway between downtown and Farragut. It is as easy to access one as it is the other. Last week, we found ourselves downtown multiple times for various purposes. We parked in one spot and walked to multiple locations each visit. It is a very walkable area, except for the heavy crowds of homeless people. Aggressive, panhandling, intoxicated, public urination homeless. I don’t think that makes a good environment for very small children. At one point on the sidewalk, we literally had to step over a river of urine.
Children are really a non-issue though, since the downtown businesses cater to adults. Pub, pub, boutique, club, boutique is the landscape. We (and by WE, I mean Doug. I would have just kept looking for another place to eat) had to LIE about Tommy’s age to take him inside what was essentially a pizza place that served beer. The people inside were more sober than the people on the sidewalk. On the second night of a new movie, the theater wasn’t even half full. If the lobby is not packed on Friday and Saturday nights, the theater will not survive. Truth be told, I liked the visits downtown with just Doug, Tommy and I. It felt like we were a part of the local community instead of couch potatoes. We met other friends without small children and enjoyed the atmosphere. Downtown is very visually attractive. The mix of new and old buildings is a comfortable fit. There is far more tagging out west than in downtown Knoxville. The only time I felt unsafe was when we were walking in the giant empty parking lot. It’s as if everyone in the restaurants and pubs live in the lofts downtown. Where are the other people parking? Are there other people? Maybe when they open the underground in ten years, there will be an ice cream shoppe and a unique toy store that doesn’t sell anything that you can find at Toys R Us. Until then, I will continue to recommend downtown to people without small children. I suspect that most of the downtown crowd likes it better that way.