Dre\’s Ramblings

My run-ins with Birmingham’s finest

I don’t seem to have the best luck with my limited run-ins with Birmingham’s finest.

I got pulled over by a police officer as I turned into The Summit late Saturday afternoon. He seemed nervous as he walked up alongside my car. I’ve had some insane things occur with my car, which I affectionately call “Big Blue” since it was purchased during my working for a corporation phase. It’s the lone remnant of that time. It definitely doesn’t look perfect as as result of those insane things; the entire left side is torn up.

Anyhow, I was told that I’d not renewed my tag as of yet. I’m still a Yankee at heart, so I still call them license plates. I suddenly remembered that I’d never received notice of renewal. I was told that it didn’t matter and that I should have known. This would be true if I’d grown up here, but I’m still used to the notion of something much more logical with regards to renewal, like renewing based on your birthday month or something like that. I told him that I’d recently moved and he said “yeah, I know all about that,” which still puzzles me. When he returned with my ticket, he had still written down my old address on it.

Now this is the point where I must say that this officer was ten times nicer than the guys I dealt with my last and only other experience with Birmingham’s finest. I slight tangent for a moment…

I was visiting Birmingham in 2000 for City Stages and I’d just dropped my friend Chris off at home because he was sick. I for some crazy reason, wanted to go back and see James Brown perform at the Coca Cola Stage. I ended up finding a parking spot next to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (a placement I still find funny considering it’s directly across the street from the Civil Rights Institute and what follows). Continue reading

Enjoying the ride
May 18, 2007, 10:30 am
Filed under: Birmingham, AL, Commentary, urban issues

Today is National Bike to Work Day as I reported on The Terminal extremely early this morning. Why was I up posting that early you ask? This is in part because my new career forces me to be up before the crack of dawn attempting to figure out what’s going to go on that day. NOTE: As all of us know, it still never really ends up being good anyway 😦 I also had an inkling to do something that I’d looked forward to doing as a result of the job change: ride my bike.

Unfortunately, the body just didn’t feel like moving much this morning, even for a simple seven-mile bike ride. Things have definitely changed.

Now, it’s been nearly 5 years since I started riding my current set of wheels. I got them from John (incidentally the same person from whom I received Ed (a.k.a. Whitekitty) – who appears to be doing much better). It was a replacement for what I’d jokingly called my Ford Explorer early on in my school career – a black Murray with front suspension. Back when I had the “Explorer”, most SCAD students didn’t drive to class; you saw a network of cliques and bikers weaving the streets of the historic district.

As the college grew and I got older, I joined the parade of drivers, severely reducing my dependence on what had been my primary form of transportation. One visit to the doctor about a year before I moved here shocked me back into the need for self-propelled motion. A return to living in the downtown area didn’t really hurt either.

During that time, I rode the bike to work every day (except when the forecast called for rain). I averaged about 3 miles a day on the bike, doing the ride to and from work twice a day (went home for lunch whenever possible) and then riding to the gym to work out most evenings. I’d bike to Grayson Stadium if the opportunity presented itself. And it was nothing to do a 25-mile ride on the weekend or ride out to my Jaycees meetings on Tuesdays (though they’d insist that I get a ride back home) or to ride in the rain (I didn’t think I was going to melt like I seem to now 🙂 )

I thought that by working and living in the same neighborhood, I’d be able to take advantage of that exercise again. So far, the hustle and bustle associated with start up has kept that from being an option. I really miss the release it gave me from life’s problems and the lack of stress that seemed to exist after a ride, or exercise in general. Continue reading

The Ramble: Is it really all about the “dome”?

The numerous online forums here in town are always interesting to click through, especially when there is a hot button issue dominating the boards. In recent weeks, the issue in question is the expansion of the BJCC and the development of an entertainment district for the convention center district by Performa Entertainment Real Estate, Inc.

The development of the entertainment district is a no-brainer; locating such an attraction near Malfunction Junction provides visibility near one of the busiest intersections for interstate traffic in the Southeastern United States. The area’s redevelopment will most likely generate additional revenue for the city and the county through encouraging passersby to stop and take a moment to find out just what’s happening around town.

The more interesting debate among those that take place in the forums is the one about the expansion of the BJCC. Everyone points to all of these reasons why the expansion must include a 70,000 seat “dome” and not a 40,000 seat “arena”. In a city that is quick to point out how quickly something is out of date and needs to be replaced, maybe the real issue is whether or not the current situation is really broken. Maybe it’s also a case of deciding whether political grandstanding in an election year will keep us from exploring the possibility of doing what is truly best for the city and the region.

Legion Field is currently sitting by minding her own business, waiting for people to decide a fate that is not based on whether or not it can be salvaged and reborn, leading a renaissance of an area, but rather whether or not it’s heir apparent can support one game out of the year that locals most identify with it. I will not say I’ve taken an extensive poll, but I have heard from several people that they come to the Magic City Classic not as much for the game, but for the tailgating and the socializing. Neither of these issues would be addressed with a new facility downtown, though general parking for those that do attend the game for… well, the game would be, relieving many from being worried about being blocked into someone’s personal lot by others that want to stay for the entire experience.

Now I am one of the biggest proponents of seeing this city’s downtown grow and thrive, however this is an opportunity to take advantage of an existing asset and help bring back a great community. Yes, I said great community. My last merchants association meeting took place at Rickwood Field this week. I decided to drive down 5th Avenue North to get to the ballpark, taking me past Legion Field’s front door and through its neighborhood. I’ll save my piece on Rickwood’s needs for a later date…

The area surrounding Legion Field still has signs of its commercial past, one that would have been its entertainment district of the day, and one that would not be that hard to return to the area. The field still hosts international events, including the upcoming Futbol Internacional opening event next month. The field serves a purpose and provides a backdrop that few other cities can provide in the age of the enclosed multipurpose facility. In an ideal situation, the expanded BJCC could be hosting a concert and a convention while the Magic City Classic or an event like it takes place on the West Side and something else is happening at both Railroad Reservation Park and Fair Park. In other words, the urban synergy that so many people talk about would actually be taking place. The area around Legion Field is worthy of seeing some additional investment in it, though it will not come until someone decides that renovating one of the most revered structures for football in the South can be done.

This is a case where it is not an all or nothing proposition; you can have as much as you desire. I’ve had people tell me why you have to have an expanded BJCC or a renovated Legion Field. Why can’t you have both? While naming rights are not necessarily the purist’s way of dealing with issues, selling the naming rights for Legion Field and using the funds generated from that “sale” to upgrade the facility would allow for football games and the real reason that many come out, the idea of “sitting out in the elements” to enjoy the game or event, to rule the day. The need for expansion is definite, however let’s not forget about what makes Birmingham, Alabama unique.

Share ’em if you got ’em. One more later on today…