(Editor’s note: This column was written before the polls closed Tuesday. If for some reason the election has been thrown into doubt because of hanging chads, Russian interference or some other heretofore unimagined electoral debacle, then you may find this column even more useful.)
We’re losing our bi-annual conversation crutch. Every other year, an election brings a flood of topics to our water cooler confabs. This year it ranged from immigration to constitutional amendments to whether the booming economy was teed up by the previous administration in Washington. But now, with the ballots cast and counted, we are faced with the need to discuss things other than who will take the house seats in Orange County, upstate New York and the Phoenix metro.
We live in a beautiful and wonderful place, with so many things worth talking about that have a far greater chance to affect our day-to-day lives than the price of political ads in Maricopa County. For instance:
The Mill and the John Sevier Hotel. Johnson City’s downtown resurgence hit a speedbump with the loss of Tupelo Honey. It was not a huge speed bump, however, if my taste buds were to be trusted. Word is that another restaurant could be opening in that space sooner than later. But now, the repurposing of these two huge downtown landmark buildings has the chance to open the throttle on downtown revitalization. Forget for a moment just the sheer square footage of available space. The improvement in the quality of available space is exciting in and of itself.
Rab and Grant Summers opened the mill for tours last week, and the general reaction from the 75 or so people who took them up on it was, “Wow.” Grant spent two years working on a similar project involving a million-square-foot Lucky Strike warehouse in North Carolina, so he’s had a pretty good handle on the mill project since day one.
Grant said he hopes to woo the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce and the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership into the space once it’s complete, and he’s taking pains to make sure the refurbished building is worthy of high-quality tenants.
Grant and his crews have stripped off many layers of old paint to reveal the wood beneath. There are new custom windows going in under the new roof joists, and the views from the building are great. A boutique hotel is planned for the old Mize property, and an upscale restaurant is in the works for the next corner over. So, the West Walnut corridor revitalization is underway.
Over on the South Roan side of downtown, the John Sevier Hotel plans aren’t as firm yet as the mill’s, but then the mill had a pretty fair head start.
Another worthy topic: Buc sports. Kudos to Scott Carter, athletic director at ETSU. The football team is ranked in the Top 25 and the basketball season is about to start, with expectations high for Coach Steve Forbes’ charges. If you still haven’t been to a game in Freedom Hall since the renovations, get there for a game in 2018-2019.
Yet another topic: Opportunities for the holiday season. From Thanksgiving through Hannukah and Christmas to New Year’s, the next two months offer you a plethora (you see, that word can be used without “veritable” in preceding it, despite what you may have read elsewhere) of opportunities to add joy to your life and the lives of others.
If you haven’t been to church lately, talk with someone about whether it’s the right time to start back. I’ll just say it’s very hard for any self-respecting pastor to hit you with the fire-and-brimstone during Advent.
If you’re more secular, this season still offers opportunities to make your life better. Call your go-to charity (I won’t list any here for fear of failing to mention your personal favorite) then share with your friends what its needs are, or share with your charity what your friends’ needs are. Better still, call a charity you’ve never worked with, but are curious about.
The passage of time from election season into the holiday season seems to me to be a natural time for us to move from concentrating on what divides us to concentrating on what unites us. We are all part of this community, and despite all the harsh rhetoric and finger-pointing engendered by politics, I believe the vast majority of us care for that community and each other.
So, it’s entirely up to you, but I’d recommend taking that watercooler time to find out what you and your friends and colleagues agree about. Talk less this season about what’s wrong, and concentrate on what’s right in the community, then talk about ways to magnify that. Who knows, you may even find yourself wanting to do something good. ‘Tis the season, after all.