Friday, September 25, 2009

Walking Tour Of Nashville

The original plan was to drive the two miles from the Holiday Inn at Vanderbilt into downtown Nashville. But the clouds provided protection from the sun, plus I noticed that Music Row was halfway between Vanderbilt and downtown, so I decided to walk instead. I was looking forward to seeing Music Row, since it is the heart of the country music industry where hundreds of record companies and country music related endeavors were located. I was imagining it was in downtown with shops, nightclubs, museums and buzz of activity, like Tin Pan Alley in Manhattan. Was I ever mistaken. Music Row is two parallel tree lined streets, four blocks long, and the functional equivalent of a business park with low and mid rise office buildings. No retail space, no foot traffic at all.

Trudging downtown I headed east on Broadway, past the historic Union Station coverted to a Wyndham Hotel, then by the Sommet Center area (Kiss is coming to town on a Predator's off night.) Then turned north and passed by the original Grand Old Opry venue, Ryman Auditorium. Then walked up to the State Capitol and related state government buildings, mostly Greek style architecture. From there I decided to head towards the Cumberland River, as I noticed several bridges on the map that spanned the river. On my way there I ran into a good part of what I was looking for in Music Row. Along Second Street and the eastern part of Broadway there were the country music nightclubs, guitar shops and museums that I had visualized, just without the music industry venues.

Going a block east of Second St. I came to the Cumberland River, and on the other side I see this large stadium. Then it dawned on me. The Tennessee Titans, who started out as the Tennessee Oilers temporarily located in Memphis, were based in Nashville. Looking a little bit south, I saw a bridge that was carrying only pedestrian traffic. This had to be the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge I noted on the map. I looked for the entrance, not finding it until 3rd or 4th street. My first thought was that a pedestrian bridge was an extravegance. But then I concluded this was probably an old bridge that used to carry vehicle traffic, but which was later replaced by a parallel larger bridge a couple of blocks away. However, then I saw the plaque saying that the bridge was dedicated in 2003, so that blew up my theory. As I headed on the bridge, looking ahead and becoming visible once again was LP Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans. Of course! They built the bridge so people could walk to the games from downtown Nashville.

Walking back to Vanderbilt, it started to rain lightly. I did stop by the downtown Holiday Inn to rest, and to check out the facility since I had almost booked that hotel instead of the Vanderbilt location. I made the trek back and arrived at the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt four hours after I had left. That's my exercise for this trip.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's Wrong With USC?

Well they're still ranked #10 and certainly could easily win the Pac 10 again, as prior year stumbles have not detracted from USC ending up each season as one of the best teams in the country. But this year something might be different. The offense is having trouble putting up points and against Washington, USC did not make the game winning plays that we're used to seeing.

Before the start of the season, the outlook was for USC to have a terrific offensive team with the entire OL returning, perhaps the best in the country, plus an incredible stable of running backs. On the other hand, losing almost all of their defensive starters, the USC defense was a question mark. So the USC inability to score, barely 30 points in two games against apparently less than stellar defenses, has been highly puzzling. After deep reflection, it seems to me that the answer may be at QB, or the lack of a QB. In looking at USC's amazing run the previous seven seasons, they have been blessed with talented and experienced quarterbacks. Even when breaking in a new starting quarterback, it's been a John David Booty or Mark Sanchez who served a three year apprenticeship before becoming a starter, coming in to take over the reins. This year didn't look to be any different, with third year sophomore Aaron Corp seemingly ready to take over. But perhaps like his equally highly regarded high school contemporary, Chris Forcier, now second string quarterback at Furman, perhaps Corp isn't the answer, and that's why maybe Pete Carroll took the shocking step of pegging true freshman Matt Barkley as #1 QB. With teams daring SC to throw the ball with 8 man fronts, even talented USC OLs and RBs haven't been able to consistently run the ball, griding out gobs of rushing yards on some plays, and next to nothing on others.

Of course, the game winning sequence for Washington was the last second drive for the go ahead field goal. In this context, it was on the USC defense to stop Washington. USC's defense has been surprisingly good, with new defensive linemen and linebackers stepping in to field a solid defense. But when it came to crunch time, this defense may have been better then expected, but at this point it is not nearly as good as the previous defenses, as hinted by its inability so far to create turnovers. It couldn't stop Locker on 3rd and 15, and it couldn't stop Locker from moving deep into field goal territory. It was good enough to stop Washington from scoring a game winning touchdown at the end of the game, with Luthur Brown's crushing hit on the Washington tailback causing Luthur to celebrate like it was 1999. But I guess he didn't realize that a game winning chip shot field goal coming up on the next play would have the same effect. So to that extent, the SC defense just did not do its job.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Effect Of Recession on New Chinese Restaurants

Remarkably, the recession has not seemed to have affected the number of Chinese restaurants operating in the San Gabriel Valley. Yes, restaurants have ceased operation, but in almost every case a new Chinese restaurant shows up to take the place of the one that closed down. This is evidenced by the relatively small number of vacant restaurant locations in the SGV.

However, there is now one sign that the recession might be taking its toll. We're now seeing planned new branches of existing successful Chinese restaurants scrapped or on extended delay. The sign indicating a branch of Hunan Seafood at the old Red Ant Cafe location on Valley Bl. in San Gabriel is no longer in the window. The return of Lu Din Gee to San Gabriel at the vacated Newport Seafood location is taking forever, with the construction site in disarray. And there is no longer any indication of Jazz Cat Cafe opening a branch in Fortune Plaza on Valley Bl. in San Gabriel across from Hawaii Market.

Indeed, the newly opened Fortune Plaza is an especially sad looking place. Most of the space is empty. There is a Yogurtland at the back of the Plaza, but I might have been their only customer today (the trash bins were empty), as it is inconspicuously located and hard to find. Given how crowded every other Yogurtland is this is quite unusual. Of course, as somebody pointed out, how many malls are anchored by a Yogurtland?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kevin Prince Out With Broken Jaw

There isn't the level of hand-wringing I expected with the news that UCLA QB Kevin Prince broke his jaw in the Tennessee game and will be out to 3-4 weeks. Perhaps this is the result of the fact that there might only be one worrisome game--at Stanford on October 3--in his absence. Or perhaps it reflects the fact that Prince has merely been efficient some of the time, as opposed to having amassed world class stats in his two starts. Then again, maybe with the improvement in the OL over last year, perhaps even Kevin Craft wouldn't be able to repeat his 2008 performances. One thing, though, is that the oddsmakers have clearly taken the QB situation into account, with UCLA being only a 10 point home favorite over a Kansas State team that barely beat Massachusetts at home and then lost at Louisiana Lafayette. Well, it's Richard Brehaut's team now, at least for the next two games.