Category: Tennessee

28 Sep

When the crows fly

Chattanooga, Tennessee No Comments by Christina Cooke


Ok, so they’re starlings. But the convention was tonight, in the parking lot outside the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

18 Sep

Is that a catfish on your arm?

Chattanooga, Tennessee No Comments by Christina Cooke

Jeff Leigh makes sure all of his customers read the sign mounted on the counter before he sets to work with any needles.
“The tattoo you choose to get will be with you for the rest of your life,” the placard reads. “So before asking how much, ask first about the skill and talent of the artist. You are getting tattooed, not buying groceries.”
It’s a warning that has been passed down through the tattooing community for the past 30 years, he said.
Leigh opened Hillbilly Mother Fucker Tattoo — known as HMF Tattoo to the children — on Cloud Springs Road last January, after a friend’s unfortunate encounter with a train provided him enough money to fund the start-up. He had worked at five or six shops and was glad to get his own place.
The 36-year-old specializes in free-hand, custom artwork, while his employee, Scott Anschuetz, 29, takes care of piercings and “flash” art, or tattoos based on pre-drawn designs.
Leigh said the demand for tattoos in Fort Oglethorpe is high. He estimates that he produces 15 to 20 tattoos a week and spends an average of two to three hours on each session. He charges $100 an hour and requires a $60 shop minimum.
He said the most original tattoos he’s produced recently (that he can mention) have been a chicken drumstick and a catfish.
“Fourteen years and I’ve never done a catfish,” he said. He noted that he has done a few bass.
When people come into the shop with ideas, Leigh starts by sketching the design onto their skin with a permanent marker. Once both he and the client are pleased with the look, he sets to work with the needles.
Leigh describes his style as “traditional new school,” or his own twist on the traditional tattooing aesthetic.
Allen Tate, 32, who hangs around the shop and sometimes volunteers to take out the trash, said that when people see Leigh’s trademark skull drawing, they know it’s his work.
“Everyone is well pleased,” he said.
Leigh got his first tattoo, a dream catcher on his left upper arm, in 1991. Since then, he has gotten more than 20 tattoos, which have blended together to form solid masses of design on his forearms. His favorite is the mohawk on his head, a strip composed of a skull with question marks and exclamation points streaming from its forehead.
Leigh said that like himself, most people he knows are “in progress.” They periodically drop by the shop to add a new portion to the design spreading across their skin.
“You don’t see people with just one most of the time,” he said.
He said he enjoys creating artwork that has the ability to hold memory.
Every tattoo on a person’s body marks a spot in time, he said. “And it’s going to be here a lot longer than I will.”
Published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 3, 2006

02 Sep

Finish your beer, there are sober kids in India

Chattanooga, Tennessee 1 Comment by Christina Cooke

You don’t have to know anything about roving gypsies or Queen’s head-banging rock opera to hang out at JJ’s Bohemia — though it could help you score big at the bar’s trivia night. The Chattanooga watering hole opened about a year ago on Martin Luther King Blvd. and has quickly become a central hangout for the city’s hipsters.
The barroom has exposed brick walls, dim lighting and utilitarian décor: two red couches at the front, two round tables at the back and a row of cushion-covered kegs along the bar.
On Thursday night, one-man-band Scotty Karate took the stage around 11 p.m., wearing a Willie Nelson T-shirt and buffalo wig with antlers. His left foot clapped a cymbal, his right foot pounded a drum, his fingers wailed into an electric guitar and he warbled about super cuties and digging holes. He was likely chewing gum too.


JJ’s regular patrons shout greetings to people who enter, and, for the most part, abide by a sign on the counter that advises, “Finish your beer, there are sober kids in India.”
If you’re thinking of stopping by the neighborhood hot spot, here’s a tentative schedule of events:
Monday: Pub quiz with Eddie
Tuesday: $2 Guinness
Wednesday: Open mic night
Sunday: Movie Night

26 Aug

Fleeing to the falls

Chattanooga, Tennessee No Comments by Christina Cooke


When you break a sweat picking the newspaper from the front yard at 7 a.m., it’s time to visit Foster Falls, a 60-foot waterfall in Marion County, Tennessee, about 40 miles northwest of Chattanooga.
That’s exactly what I did today, in the company of four friends, who, like me, craved the sweet relief of something cold.
We panted and sweated down a boulder-strewn trail to the edge of a large pool — and gazed skyward to behold… a tiny trickle of water, splattering down from the top of a sandstone cliff.
Ok, so the drought has not been kind to Foster Falls. But that didn’t make the water at the bottom any less refreshing.
Foster Falls is in the Tennessee Valley Authority Natural Area and is the ending point of the 12.5-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail, known for its exceptional views, spring wildflowers and winter ice formations. The cliffs along the trails in the Foster Falls area draw rock climbers from all over who like sport climbing and the challenge of overhangs.
This afternoon, we treaded water in the deep part of the pool and watched, sometimes cringingly, as climbers ascended the rock face behind the waterfall and released, kawoosh, hitting the water. Around the banks of the pool, some sunned on the rocks and others threw sticks for their dogs to fetch.
After a while, we wrapped ourselves in beach towels and climbed the trail back to the parking lot.
We hit the Dairy Queen in Jasper about 15 minutes down the road back to Chattanooga, just in time to buy an ice cream Blizzard before we dried off completely.

26 Aug

100 miles — If I don’t die first

Alabama, Cycling, Georgia, Tennessee No Comments by Christina Cooke

Rain dripped off the front edge of my helmet Saturday morning as I pedaled with about 2,500 riders down Chestnut Street in Chattanooga on the first stretch of the annual 3-State, 3-Mountain Challenge. The 100-mile bicycle ride would take me through three states and up three mountains by the end of the day — if I didn’t die first.
I participated in the 62-mile version of the ride last year, but decided to pedal the full century this year just to see if I could. Fueled by Pisa Pizza’s chicken ziti from the night before and prepared with the energy bars in the back pocket of my jersey, I pushed off at the soggy, 8 a.m. start feeling slightly nervous, but ready.

I hit Suck Creek Mountain about six miles into the ride, just as it stopped raining. The five-mile climb and five-mile descent were gradual enough that I felt warmed up, but not exhausted by the end.
I came across the first food and drink stop at the base of the mountain in Powell’s Crossroads, where bikes lay strewn across the lawn and riders clicked around the pavement in their cycling shoes.
I refilled my barely-emptied water bottles, ate a piece of a banana, and then headed toward mountain No. 2.

The dogs who usually chase cyclists along the roads leading to Sand Mountain stood complacently in their yards as we passed, rather than snapping at our ankles. The riders before us, I’m sure, had already worn them out.
After a while, I settled into a pace line, a single-file group of riders who took turns cutting the wind for each other. Except for when I was in front, the distance passed much more easily with the help of other riders.
We hit Sand Mountain after 52 miles. My legs strained as I pumped up the mountain that was slightly steeper than Suck Creek, but nothing in comparison to what would follow.

Throughout the ride, I had been dreading the final climb up Lookout Mountain on Burkhalter Gap Road. The climb, which started at mile 80, has a reputation among cyclists for being especially brutal. I was worried my legs would shut down midway up the mountain, and, being clipped in to the pedals of my bike, I would crash to the pavement.
I crept up the mountain
among a loose group of riders, who seemed as daunted by the climb as I. During the last quarter-mile, when the road took on a 17 percent grade, I had to stand up on my pedals and lean over the handlebars to keep any kind of forward momentum. I couldn’t think of much more than the pain.
Once I crested the mountain, my mood drastically improved.

Though I felt relatively strong through most of the race, the climb up Lookout Mountain and the 10 miles following depleted every bit of my energy.
I pulled into the finish line at Finley Stadium just over 6 hours after I started. I was thrilled to have finished, but couldn’t get off the bike soon enough.
Published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 6, 2007