27 February 2013

Time (poem)

Time isn’t linear
Alone, by itself
It’s circular

With the other three
Dimensions of space-time
It’s spherical

Therefore

The future
Has already happened
And the past
Is yet to be
And the moment
Where we are now
Is the beginning
And the end
And every moment in between

All soul is divided into five parts

26 February 2013

Apparition (poem)

lately
whenever
i talk
to myself
i find that 
i'm really
talking with you

and when i dream
of you at night
i awake
fully aroused
your ghost
still astride me
your scent
in the air

as i savor
the taste
of the salt
from your skin
on the tip
of my tongue

Relationships (poem)

a relationship
between two people
is not about
their separate pasts
but instead about
their common future
forged
in the Now

23 February 2013

A Message from the Church of Divine Orgasm (poem)

Mandatory public fornication
Is an idea whose time has come
Forced misingenation too
Forcing folks to fuck freely
Frees fucking from fugitive fear

Ordain sex outdoors in public places
At least when the forecast is fair
Build fornicatoriums for when it's frigid
Or when the forecast is foul

Forbid furtive fucking in far-out-of-sight places
No one to be exempt from the rule
Straight, gay, and bi will all be equal
Under the eyes of the law

Compulsory nudity will be a corollary
For when, at least, folks are inside
All equal before each other and God
With nothing left to hide
Especially during religious services
Where fabric is a facade from fidelity

When sex comes out of the cultural closet
So many of our culture's ills
Will simply fade away

Men and women will no longer be fugitives
Ferreting out forbidden fruits
Forgotten will be the feigning of affection
Just to fulfill animal needs
Sex will be freed from its bondage to love
And true love from its bondage to sex

Humans will grow up unashamed
Of the natural drives they have
Women released from their pedestals
Will again be the equals of men

Plus, after a hundred years or so
Of everyone fucking everyone else
We will all be the same color

21 February 2013

Civil War fortifications in the Chattanooga area



Occupied by the Confederacy’s Army of the Mississippi (23 July-28 August 1862), by the Confederacy’s Army of Tennessee (4 July-9 September), and by the Union’s Army of the Cumberland (9 September 1863-May 1864), being the focus of one of the longest and bloodiest campaigns of the Civil War (21 August-28 November 1863), and serving as long-term home base for the Union’s Department of the Cumberland (9 September 1863-20 August 1866), the town of Chattanooga and its surrounding region became home to many forts, redoubts, earthworks, lunettes, rifle pits, breastworks, redans, lilts, and other fortifications.

Several of these fortifications, some temporary, some more permanent remain, but even of those long gone it’s interesting, and helpful to historians, to know where they were.

Going from west to east since that is the direction in which the campaign progressed, we find ourselves in Lookout Valley.  Here the Battle of Brown’s Ferry took place on 27 October 1863 at the vital crossing of the Old Post Road at Brown’s Ferry, and the Battle of Wauhatchie took place on 28-29 October 1863. 

In the former case, the fighting was between Confederate Army of Tennessee troops guarding the ferry crossing and troops from the besieged Union Army of the Cumberland who floated down river on Moccasin Bend.  In the latter, the fighting was between troops of Hooker’s Corps from the Union Army of the Potomac and Army of Tennessee troops redeployed from the upper slopes of Lookout Mountain, with the action taking place over ground stretching from Wauhatchie Station to the modern I-24 freeway.

The two disasters were made possible by Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, who had his troops from the Army of Northern Virginia looking southward towards Johnson’s Crook, which upon no other basis than his own imagination he had decided would by the vector of attack.

The west landing of Brown’s Ferry remains much as it was 150 years ago, and the hills on both sides of the landing still have the rifle pits (trenches) in which the Confederates stood their guard.  Some of the rifle pits remain in the area of the Wauhatchie action too.

Lookout Mountain, of course, had rifle pits and breastworks on its slopes and summit, and the battle there took place on 24 November 1863.  West of the Cravens House, the Rifle Pits Trail runs past the trenches of the 29th and 30th Mississippi Infantry, the only ones remaining.

Remember what I wrote above about the troops from the besieged Union army floating ON Moccasin Bend, rather than AROUND it?  That’s because Moccasin Bend refers to the path of the river around the peninsular formation known as Moccasin Point. 

There were no Indian villages, towns, or mound on Moccasin Bend.  There are also no Indian burials on Moccasin Bend, nor are there remains from Civil War fortifications there.  There are, however, Indian burials on Moccasin Point and remains of Indian villages, towns, and mounds on Moccasin Point where their inhabitants would not have to tread water.  There are also well-preserved surviving fortifications from the Union occupation.  These include rifle pits, several gun emplacements, and the base of Fort Walker at the end of Stringer’s Ridge.

I should also note that the tract of land known as Moccasin Point had nothing whatsoever to do with the Cherokee Removal.  The idea that it did is a very popular local myth but is still a myth all the same.  However, the four detachments of Cherokee which departed for the west from Ross’ Landing (three in August 1838 and one in October 1838), as well as the Drew party (which included John Ross and travelled on a luxury riverboat owned by Joseph Vann), getting underway in December 1838), did negotiate their way downriver on Moccasin Bend around Moccasin Point.

Continuing east, our next destination is the then town and now city of Chattanooga.  At the time of the war, the town limits of Chattanooga stretched from the Tennessee River in the north and west to what are now West 23rd Street and Baldwin Street in the south and east.  The Union soldiers of the Army of the Cumberland took over or finished building a number of forts already finished or at least begun by the Army of Tennessee’s Confederates.  There is nothing remaining form any of the structures in town or on its immediate outskirts.

The first set of forts we would have come to going west to east were the series of fortifications upon Cameron Hill.  Before we get to those, though, I need to explain a few things about the geography of that particular eminence and how it was named from that time through the construction of the Golden Gateway in the 1960’s.

The part then called Cameron Hill is the crest and apex of the whole height which had it top lopped off for fill dirt during the construction of what was then I-124 thru downtown.  It’s where the humongous Blue Cross/Blue Shield office complex now sits.  South of what was then West 6th Street and is now West 9th Street was called Terrace Hill.  A lower shelf of the eminence along the east side of Cameron-Terrace Hill was called Academy Hill and later College Hill.  Just to the north of Academy Hill but somewhat separate was and still is Kirkman Hill, called Reservoir Hill immediately after the war because of the redoubt atop it being converted to that use.  The hollow between Kirkman Hill and Cameron Hill was called Stillhouse Hollow, by the way, but US 27 (the former I-124) now runs through it.

Signal Hill, the Army of the Cumberland’s most important communications post, stood at the apex of Cameron Hill.

Fort Cameron, originally built by the Confederates, also sat on the crest of Cameron Hill, but about a city block south of Signal Hill.

Redoubt Coolidge occupied approximately at the current intersection of West Martin Luther King Boulevard and Boynton Avenue on Terrace Hill.

Fort Mihalotzy was nearby on Terrace Hill, at roughly the intersection of West Martin Luther King Boulevard and Gateway Avenue.

Redoubt Sheridan (also known as Fort Crutchfield) stood about where the Boynton Towers building now stands.

Fort Lytle (also known as Star Fort due to its shape) took up around four city blocks on Academy Hill in the about center of what is now College Hill Courts.

Redoubt Carpenter lay atop Kirkman Hill and later became the city reservoir.

Redoubt Putnam sat at the southeast corner of Walnut Street and East 5th Street.

Fort Sherman stretched from East 3rd Street past East 4th Street to East 5th Street between Georgia Avenue and Lindsay Street.

Lunette O’Meara stuck out from the walls of Fort Sherman at the northwest corner of East 5th Street and Lindsay Street.

Redoubt Bushnell sat in the southwest corner of East 4th Street and Lindsay Street.

Fort Jones (also known as Stone Fort because of the layer of stone upon which it was built) stood where the federal Customs House is now, across the street from city hall.

Battery Taft lay south of East Martin Luther King Boulevard between Lindsay Street and Houston Street.

Signal Point, the Army of the Cumberland’s second-most important communications platform, lay roughly in the center of the parking lot of what is now Hunter Museum.

Battery McAloon sat on the Tennessee River, near the end of Houston Street, giving its name to the Battery Place neighborhood.

Battery Erwin was divided in half and took up two positions.  One was in the southeast corner of East 8th Street and Mabel Street, while the other half was in the northeast corner of East Martin Luther King Boulevard and Peeples Street.

Those were the forts, redoubts, and batteries that lay within the town limits of Chattanooga at the time of the Civil War.  In addition to these, numerous earthworks, rifle pits, and breastworks provided additional defense; the strongest of these supplementary structures was the line of works between Star Fort (Ft. Lytle) and Stone Fort (Ft. Jones).

Fort Wood (also known as Fort Creighton) at the apex of what’s now called Fort Wood Hill was the most important defense beyond the town limits but within Union lines.  It occupied a city block and was the venue from which the Union generals observed the fighting on both 23 November and 25 November 1863.

The Chattanooga area was host to another Fort Wood some 25 years earlier, built to house the garrison guarding the detainees at Camp Cherokee (at UTC’s Scrappy Moore Field) and at Camp Clanewaugh (at Indian Springs, underneath National Health Care of Chattanooga).  That Fort Wood stood at the site of the current Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS).

Fort Palmer, which sat atop where Park Place School is now, was built after the Chattanooga Campaign to reinforce the defenses already in place.

Fort Negley (also known as Fort Phelps), built during the siege of Chattanooga, stood within the neighborhood of the same name bound by Main Street, East 17th Street, Mitchell Street, Read Street and Rossville Avenue.

Fort King was the redoubt atop Lookout Mountain at or near the Point.

Fort Hooker was the redoubt anchoring the line of works protecting Brown’s Ferry in Lookout Valley, at least before the Battles of Chattanooga.

The Chattanooga Town Hall on 6th Street served as headquarters for the Union Department of the Cumberland during the siege and for the occupation until the war was officially declared over in August 1866.  After the Army of the Cumberland departed on the Atlanta Campaign in May 1864, Chattanooga continued to serve as a major depot for the Army’s of the Cumberland’s Quartermaster Corps.

The first major action of the battles which broke the siege took place on 23 November when the Union seized the Confederate forward posts on Brushy (Bald) Knob, Indian Hill, and Orchard Knob.  Brushy/Bald Knob is now the center of the oldest National Cemetery in the country and Indian Hill the largest part of the Highland Park suburb.  Orchard Knob, of course, is part of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park (our country’s oldest), and two lines of its earthworks survive, one near the Illinois monument and one on the sloped area.

It took the loss of these forward posts to make Gen. Braxton Bragg, commander of the Army of Tennessee, realize that maybe it would be a good idea to dig in and prepare to defend against an attack from the besieged Army of the Cumberland.  This came after he had his army along the crest of the ridge for more than two months.

While justifiably criticized for the belatedness of fortifying his army’s siege positions, Bragg has long been criticized unfairly for the position of the army’s rifle pits atop Missionary Ridge.  His chief engineer, Captain John Green, was the officer in charge of placing the rifle pits and it was he who instructed that they be dug along the actual crest along the very top of the ridge rather than along the military crest just below it.  But even here, trench warfare was fairly new and the later universal doctrine about the military crest for trench emplacement was not universal.

To Maj. Gen. John Breckenridge, who seemed to be suffering a manic episode during those last two days of the siege of Chattanooga, belongs the blame for the insanely short-sighted system of three lines of rifle pits (one along the top, another along the base, a third 300 yards out) which Capt. Green implemented upon the capture of the army’s three forward positions.

Had Bragg moved earlier, not only would there have been more time to reconsider plans made by Breckenridge’s temporary insanity, there likely would have been time for Brig. Gen. Arthur Manigault to make his case for placement of the rifle pits along the military, rather than the actual, military crest. 

Manigault did, in fact, have his own brigade dig its rifle pits at the military crest, with the result that the charging Union troops from the Army of the Cumberland bypassed his brigade’s murderous field of fire completely.  But since Brig. Gen. Zachary Deas and Col. William Tucker (commanding Anderson’s Brigade) on either side of him failed to heed his advice and found themselves overrun, Manigault had to withdraw his brigade when they were flanked on both sides to keep them from being completely encircled.

Some maps of the battle area show forts named for Gen. Braxton Bragg, Maj. Gen. Thomas Hindman (whose division was being commanded by Brig. Gen. Patton Anderson), Maj. Gen. John Breckenridge, and Maj. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner.  While the headquarters of those generals were undoubtedly defended by some sort of ad hoc fortifications, none of them rose to the level that would justify calling any of them a fort or redoubt.

None of the afore-mentioned rifle pits and other earthworks making up Breckenridge’s Folly have any remains today.

Fort Cheatham, headquarters of Tennessee’s own Maj. Gen. Frank Cheatham (the Confederacy’s best division commander after Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne), once stood at the foot of Missionary Ridge in the neighborhood now called by its name bounded by the ridge, I-24, East 28th Street, and 4th Avenue.  It was a well-built redoubt.

The Union’s Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman brought troops from his Army of the Tennessee clandestinely across the river the evening of 24 November 1863 after negotiating a system of trails behind high hills on the north side of the river following at secret crossing at Brown’s Ferry.  His troops seized what military intelligence had told him was the north end of Missionary Ridge and immediately dug in. 

Sherman then discovered to his chagrin that they had actually seized a completely detached hill, actually two almost separate hills joined by a narrow ridge.  The largest and westernmost of these is known as Billy Goat Hill and sits at the north end of Chamberlain Avenue, while the other (according to Shutting’s maps of the region at the library’s local history section) to the east is called Angora Hill.  Sherman’s personal HQ sat on the narrow ridge in the center.

Several well-preserved gun emplacements dug into the slopes of the two hills facing the actual north end of Missionary Ridge remain.  Sherman’s rifle pits, at least some of them, also still exist, exactly where they were originally placed, along the actual (rather than military) crest, proving that at the time of the Chattanooga Campaign, that military doctrine was not yet carved in stone.

The actual north end of Missionary Ridge faced Sherman’s command across Lime Kiln Hollow, through which now runs Bonny Oaks Drive-Campbell Street.  At first completely undefended, it was quickly occupied and fortified by Cleburne’s Division, who had been recalled from Tyner Station, where they were about to board a train on the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad going to Knoxville to join Longstreet’s siege of the Union Army of the Ohio there.

This almost separate elevation guarded the tunnel of the just-mentioned railroad through the ridge, and for this reason was referred to by both armies as Tunnel Hill.  The real local name for it, however, was and still is Trueblood Hill.  The site forms the park’s Sherman Reservation, a strange moniker for the site of one of that general’s worst defeats. 

While history books usually emphasize the very late afternoon charge in which the Army of the Cumberland avenged its defeat at Mud Flats (the [West] Chickamauga), in truth the main action that day was at the northern end, where from daylight till late afternoon Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee was repeatedly repulsed by the division commanded by Cleburne.  The charge of Thomas’ troops (Thomas commanded the Army of the Cumberland) was supposed to be a feint to draw pressure away from Sherman.

Some of the earthworks and rifle pits from both sides remain atop Trueblood Hill at Sherman’s Reservation, but the city’s Public Works Department (with after-the-fact acquiescence by the Park Service) has made access to this section of our nation’s first military park rather arduous for the general public and impossible for the handicapped.

Less well-known than some of the other structures is the network of twelve blockhouses that guarded the length of South Chickamauga Creek, which was still called Chickamauga River at the time (and justifiably so, since it is at least as big as the Sequatchie River).  None of these, of course, remain. 

On the property of Camp Jordan, however, two surviving large man-made earthen walls enclosing the south and west sides of a peninsula formed by the junction of the South and West Chickamauga Creeks most likely date to the Civil War, according to anthropologist Raymond Evans and park historian Jim Ogden.  The structure could have been an anchor fort for the twelve blockhouses or earthworks constructed by Union troops who bivouacked there in the winter of 1863-64.

While there were almost certainly at least a modicum of defenses at the Western & Atlantic Railroad’s Chickamauga Station and its adjacent village (formerly across the tracks from the airport terminal), none remain.  However, during the occupation of the Chattanooga region by the Confederacy’s Army of Tennessee in the summer of 1863, Cleburne’s Division was stationed in the Hickory Valley area and built several redoubts, gun emplacements, and rifle pits.

Hickory Valley runs from Harrison through Enterprise South and Tyner to East Brainerd and the South Chickamauga Creek.

Cleburne’s troops built two redoubts to guard Chickamauga Station on Milliken’s Ridge, one protecting it toward the north on the ridge’s Dupree Hill and another to the south on the ridge’s Stein Hill. 

The first redoubt, overlooking the former Shepherd mansion called Altamede to the east as well, stood atop Dupree Hill where Grace Works Church now sits.  This structure had been long-since destroyed by the final owner of Altamede, who had sold off the top of the hill for dirt.

The second redoubt stood atop Stein Hill in the exact location now occupied by the water tower at the end of Franklin Drive overlooking Perimeter Place Mall.  In fact, the base of the redoubt still exists, supporting the water tower, surrounded by the remains of the rifle pits which provided a supplementary defense.

Cleburne’s troops also built two redoubts to guard the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad’s Tyner Station and its associated village, again, one to the south and the other to the north.

The southern redoubt at Tyner was built on Tyner Hill, at the spot now occupied by Tyner Middle School.  But the structure for which the redoubt was destroyed was the original Tyner High School, built in 1906, burned in the 1950’s.

The northern redoubt at Tyner lay smack in the center of the village of Tyner, next to the house which Cleburne used as his headquarters.  This redoubt, for which the Tyner Redoubt Soccer complex is named, is remarkable well-preserved.  Unlike the village, which was seized under eminent domain along with my great-grandfather’s store and the village of Hawkinsville along Hickory Valley Road north of Bonny Oaks Drive which disappeared in the construction of the former Army Ammunition Plant.

Cleburne’s troops constructed a fifth redoubt at the then county seat of Harrison, along with earthworks for a battery.  If these still exist, you’ll need scuba gear and a minor miracle to see them, since they are under the waters of the Chickamauga Reservoir along with the town.

Writing this piece, especially when discussing the various armies, brought to mind the Battle of Five Armies which forms the climax of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit.  Count them: for the Confederacy, the Army of Tennessee and (a portion of) the Army of Northern Virginia; for the Union, the Army of the Cumberland, (a portion of) the Army of the Tennessee, and (a portion of) the Army of the Potomac.

Final note:  The Confederacy’s Army of Tennessee was named for the state, while the Union’s Army of the Tennessee was named for the river.

APPENDIX:

Noquet’s planned forts, Confederate

In January 1863, Maj. James Noquet, chief engineer in the Confederate army’s Department No. 2 (later called the Division of the West), sent a message to his commanding officer, Gen. Joe Johnston, detailing his plans for the defenses of Chattanooga.  He identified three possible approaches by an invading Union army: first, from the north by way of the Walden’s Ridge road, roughly along what is now US 27; second, from the east by way of Cleveland or Harrison by an army crossing the Tennessee River some distance above Chattanooga; and, third, from the west by an army crossing at Kelly’s Ferry or further down river at Battle Creek and coming over the step of Lookout Mountain.


Noquet proposed to defend against an invasion by the first route with Forts 1, 2, 3, and 4 south of the river, presumably along the south bank of the river, supported by Forts 13 and 14 north of the river.  To defend against the second approach, Noquet proposed Forts 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.  For the third approach, Noquet proposed Forts 11 and 12 supported by Forts 8, 9, and 10 if necessary.  The map accompanying his memo is unfortunately lost, but one can derive a less than vague idea about where these were if you know the terrain.  At least one of his forts was Fort Cameron atop Cameron Hill; the other may never had even been begun, or they may have been appropriated and enhanced by the besieged federals.

11 February 2013

Paris in Chattanooga

Believe it or not, I have found several things in the downtown area and other parts of the city of Chattanooga that remind me of Paris.  Before I get into the meat of that, however, I want to add a little context.

After returning home in the early 1990’s from four years in the Philippines (two with the Navy at Clark Air Base and two with the U.S. Refugee Program in Manila), I found there were certain things always at the edge of my awareness which meant home to me.  I had missed them without even knowing that I had missed them.

First, and this should have stuck out like a skunk in a cat shelter (think Pepé Le Pew), was mountains.  Four years in Central Luzon with nothing around but Mount Arayat right in the middle of the Central Luzon plain and Mount Pinatubo (which made things so interesting for all of us in June of 1991) at its western end.

Second, believe it or not, was the scent of cow dung.  It’s not as readily available in Hamilton County as it still was in early 1992, but I grew up with it where I lived in grammar school.  It’s certainly more fragrant than the rather pungent stench of carabao.

Third, and when I realized it I sat bolt upright in bed at 2 am (not being able to sleep in Ryall Springs because it was too quiet after Manila), was the sounds of train whistles and of the trains over the tracks.  After all, I grew up never more than a mile from the CSX line through East Brainerd, and at night we could also hear the Norfolk-Southern across northern Hickory Valley through Silverdale, Tyner, and Bonny Oaks.

Of course there were reminders of home even in the Philippines.  I mean besides the Tennessee state flag on the wall of my barracks room at Clark and of my living room in Manila.  For instance, whenever I met a Filipino or two or three and told them where I was from, a reference to “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” would inevitably follow. 

One of my favorite memories from the four years I spent in the Philippines came from the Asia Night Beat Band, one of the two house bands at Cheers, a nightclub right outside the gate of the air base.  During their first set on their first night, after several rock songs they changed pace with the Tennessee Waltz.  When they finished, I went up and thanked them, and they included it in every set after that as long as they were there. 

Several months after relocating to Manila as a civilian, we were walking down the sidewalk looking for a place to eat and saw their name on a marquee of a hotel and went in.  The singer saw us, stopped mid-song, and, pointing at us and after saying something to the band, began singing the Tennessee Waltz as the band switched tunes.

That song also played a big part in a night a bunch of us were at a restaurant called Armando’s in downtown Angeles City while I was still at Clark, but that’s another story.

The flag, by the way, remains in Manila.  One of my Filipino friends from work begged me for it when I brought it to my despedida (going away party).

The Philippines isn’t the only foreign country, or foreign context, in which I’ve found a reminder of home. 

About a year after getting involved with Iran’s Green Movement in the summer of 2009, I did a Google search for Iranian restaurants in Chattanooga and found, to my great surprise, that the top night-spot in Tehran, Iran, prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979 was none other than the Chattanooga Restaurant and Coffee Bar on former the Pahlavi Street (now Vali Asr St.) across from the former Shahanshahi (now Mellat) Park.  The owners relocated to Glendale, California, after the revolution and brought the restaurant with them, at least in name and menu, where it still exists.  Unfortunately, however, there were no Iranian restaurants in Chattanooga.

When I went to Paris at the end of April 2011 (the day after the 27 April tornadoes, by the way), the only place that was for me an absolute must to see was the one where Thomas Paine lived after James Monroe won his release from the prison where he had been held since the Reign of Terror.  The apartment building is at 10 Rue de l’Odeon, in the Odeon district.  The French, grateful to his contributions to freedom and to their own Revolution, have a plaque there which reads (in French): “Thomas Paine, 1737-1809, English by birth, American by choice, French by decree, lived in this building from 1797 to 1802. He put his passion for freedom in the service of the French Revolution, was a member of the Convention, and wrote The Rights of Man.”

Ok, we saw it, I photographed it, even had myself photographed in front of it.  Then we left to find a place that had caught my eye immediately when we reached the sidewalk from Odeon Station on the Metro on our way there. 

Directly across the street from the top of the stairs was something I hardly expected to see in Paris:  the Tennessee Café.  Yes, it is done in Volunteer orange and white, with gold outlines.  It’s on the main street through the northwest of Paris’ Left Bank (south of the River Seine), the Boulevard de Saint-Germain.

And, yes again, I had my picture made there too.

Besides the great food there, I was grateful to its existence because it forms one corner of the entranceway to a Paris hidden treasure, St. Andrew’s Court of Commerce.  It was even new to my host, who had lived continuously in Paris since 2006 and intermittently since 1984.

In addition to the Tennessee Café, St. Andrew’s Court of Commerce (Cours du Commerce Saint-Andre in French) hosts Café Relais Odeon, Le Pub de Saint-Germain, Un Dimanche a Paris (the country’s premier chocolate shop), and Café le Procope, the oldest café in Paris in business continuously since 1686, as well as a number of small shops.  It reminded me somewhat of Jack’s Alley here, except that it is three times longer and 300 years older.

Now, fast forward about ten months and we get to the main subject of this piece. 

When I began living the inner city this past June (2012), I found the area changed considerably from when I was working down here in 2006.  I was most surprised by the changes in the “official” downtown between Georgia Avenue and Cameron Hill, from Martin Luther King Boulevard to the Tennessee River.  Townhouses, apartments, and condos meant people actually living downtown.

As I’ve walked around various days, I’ve seen many things which remind me of Paris.  No, I didn’t do too much LDS back in the Sixties (Star Trek IV reference).  Maybe too much nostalgia, but it’s real to me nevertheless.  It all started with a trip to the restroom.

In mid-June, my son took me out for a combination Father’s Day and birthday (27 June) lunch at the Hair of the Dog Pub on Market Street.  He suggested there because it was one of three he had gone to on his 21st birthday (21 May).  In the natural course of things, I felt nature’s call, and when I got to the appropriate location downstairs found a dual-flush toilet exactly like the ones they have all over Paris now in restaurants, hotels, and homes.

I asked, by the way, and while the facilities for women downstairs have the usual kind of toilet, the one upstairs is definitely of the French variety.  The men’s toilet upstairs is the usual kind.

The toilets of Hair of the Dog are not its only aspects which remind me of Paris, however.  The atmosphere there reminds me of some of the neighborhood cafes in the French city, as does the fact that the entire inside is a smoking area.  I quit in 1998, but I still like that.  Also, their eating deck can be shielded from bad weather with thick plastic sheeting like all the sidewalk cafes in Paris.  Speaking of which, Hair of the Dog also has a sidewalk café.  It’s also the only place downtown other than the library in which I am comfortable enough to write.

On Sundays they usually have coffee from the Mean Mug Coffeehouse on Main Street, another facility they own, and they also brought the Irish back to Irish Hill with the Honest Pint on Patten Parkway, which is something else reminding me of Paris, which has a large number of Irish and Irish-themed bars.

Other downtown venues I’ve seen with a sidewalk café component include Applebee’s, Chili’s, Panera, Taco Mac, Noodles & Company, Taziki’s, Five Guys, Ice Cream Show, Pepper’s Deli, and Top It Off Yogurt.  So does Jefferson’s, which occupies the space that so long hosted the Brass Register off Fountain Square.  The latest addition, bordering Miller Plaza, is Community Pie Neapolitan Pizza and Handmade Gelato; they also have a raised sidewalk café with garage door style windows to protect the area when it’s cold or rainy, just like some cafés in Paris.

For Paris-quality croissants, go to Greyfriar’s Coffee & Tea on Broad Street.  I spent a year looking for something close to what I’d eaten in Paris, and these are not just close but exactly the same.  In addition to the croissants, they have great coffee roasted in-house, including the only French roast I’ve had that doesn’t just taste like burnt coffee.  Plus, they have French-sized cheesecake (about 1 inch cubed) which is delicious.

One new feature to the downtown landscape that pleasantly surprised me is the number of racks of bicycles for rent.  Those are ubiquitous in Paris, but I didn’t expect to see them here.

A little bit outside the boundaries of the “official” downtown, I have several times passed Stone Fort Inn bed and breakfast on East 10th Street.  Stone Fort Inn occupies the spaces formerly occupied by the Colonial Hotel and the Choo-Choo Diner (no connection to the complex in Southern Rialway’s former Terminal Station).  One of those times passing by, I went in and checked it out, and it reminded very much of a bed and breakfast we came across near the Tennessee Café called the Hotel de Seine.

On the outskirts of the official downtown but still within it, several parts of the Bluff  View Arts District are reminiscent of the City of Lights.  The most immediately obvious is Rembrandt’s Coffee House with its garden patio.  It’s a little bit hidden, but the small alleyway with its fountain between Rembrandt’s and the River Gallery is identical to many courtyards and alleyways in Paris.  Besides Rembrandt’s at Bluff View, you can also get a bit of Paris-like experience dining in the outdoor section of Tony’s Pasta House and the double deck at the Back Inn Café.

Paris is littered with parks and plazas and squares (many of which are round), and gardens, and Bluff View’s detached Herb Garden reminded me of many of those as soon as I saw it.  Likewise, the River Gallery’s Sculpture Garden could have been plucked right out of the Left Bank (Paris south of the River Seine).

Which brings me to public art.  Every quarter of Paris is filled not only with parks, plazas, squares, and gardens, but public art.  The Sculpture Garden is one of the oldest examples Chattanooga has, and I was very pleased to see the proliferation of public art in downtown and surrounding areas that has joined it in recent years.  A couple of sections of the city which lie beyond downtown are of note.

The Big Nine (E. MLK Blvd.) sports many new murals, one of the most recent on the side of the landmark Live and Let Live Barbershop, owned by Virgil McGee, Sr., featuring jazz artists who stayed at or played on the former E. 9th Street throughout the 20th century. 

Newcomer to the Big Nine Champy’s Fried Chicken has another mural and its dining area, almost entirely outdoor, is fenced in and can be protected with plastic sheeting like the deck at Hair of the Dog and nearly all the cafés in Paris.  Champy’s also has giant heaters hanging off the ceiling exactly like those Delmas’ in the Latin Quarter of Paris, which sits on the famous Place de la Contrescarpe, the site of venues frequented by writers such as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.

For sculpture as public art (other than Bluff View’s Sculpture Garden), the best section of the city is Southside, particularly Main Street.  In fact, the city’s newest public park, Main Terminal Art Park, is full of avante-garde sculptures as well as exercise areas.  Even more recently, the Sculpture Gardens at Montague Park has joined Chattanooga’s venues for public art.

Completely detached from downtown in St. Elmo, Pasha’s Coffee & Tea Shop and Blacksmith’s Bistro share a large sidewalk café offering another glimpse of Paris.

If you want an actual taste of Paris and France in the literal sense, there are a number of restaurants in the area offering French food, though the best of which I know, Café Francais formerly in the Brainerd Hills Shopping Center went out of business in the past year.  You can also have a glass of California red Zinfandel, since that is the variety fastest growing in consumption in Paris; nearly every café, brasserie, bistro, and restaurant offered it, except for places like Maxim’s and Le Procope.