I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
When the city sleeps
And I’m the only one and I walk alone.
— Green Day, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
The westbound section of the Boulevard between Norman Bridge and Court may be the most depressing stretch of a very depressing road. It’s certainly possible that it may have, at one time, been an optimistic slice of poorly-designed road, ferrying happy folks on an outer loop around Montgomery, a key artery between the Montgomery Mall and the airport.
But the Mall is now dead, with the city unable to destroy it or re-develop it. And although this stretch of the Boulevard is still relevant if you are going to the airport or taking Highway 331 to the beach, most people in Montgomery don’t want to spend much time around this piece of the poorly-named East-South Boulevard. Driving by it, no matter which side of the road you’re on, is enough to take the smile right off of your face. It’s grim.
There’s really not a lot that makes this stretch of the Boulevard all that special – no real reason to single it out. Other stretches of the same road are really equally depressing.White flight and the eastward flood of capitol have left behind a hollow and crumbling infrastructure for many miles of this boulevard.
But let’s look at this segment: You’ve got a fire station at one end and (at one time) a good restaurant at the other. And in between, a puzzling collection of eyesores. And now the restaurant is gone too, smartly moved to a riverside location. What remains?
Come down Norman Bridge from downtown. Pass the abandoned shopping mall at Normandale on your right and a Krystal on your left. After the Krystal is the fire station.
Turn left onto the service road and you’ll see:
1. The Fire Station
Not a lot to say about this. We are glad the government collects tax money and uses it to create public structures that promote the common good. Some people think that city fire fighters are not real workers at real jobs because they don’t work for the private sector. Those people are also the same folks who probably purchased a FDNY hat after 9-11. We like our fire fighters, support the role of city government, and are glad there is a fire station on this corner. We hope it’s a nice one. They were grilling out on a recent lovely Sunday afternoon.
2. A MATS stop.
The most noteworthy things here are: 1) It’s pretty depressing to imagine someone needing to come to this part of the Boulevard but not having access to a car, meaning they have to hang out here for a while waiting for a bus. 2) Every MATS stop should have a bench and covering. So many of them are just signs, with no place to sit and no shelter from the elements. It shouldn’t be that hard to put one of these at every place the bus stops.
3. Import Center Automotive
With a roof shaping like the habit of the Flying Nun, you’d hope that this building would house something more interesting than a car repair place. As it is, it’s set far back from the road and the cars in the lot appear to be “imports” in the sense that many cars are not made in the United States. Also, they appear to be for sale, making this seem something like a repair place and something like a very small car lot. The building looks to be in rough shape and the nothing about the property is particularly attractive or inviting. On the plus side, it is near a bus stop.
We assume this is pronounced “Chellie’s,” but we may be wrong. We sometimes also use “Chell-Izzz,” stringing that last Z out for a few extra seconds to add extra seediness. And this may be one of the seedier bars around (other nominees for that distinguished title: The Shack, Johnny’s Zip Lounge). The signs disclaim any responsibility for “vandalism.” Not sure what that means. We have not yet mustered the courage to wander in here on one of the weekend evenings that it appears to be bumping, but if we do, we’ll provide a full report.
After two empty fields that probably serve as parking for Chellaez on busy nights, you have the ABC Store. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that these empty lots contribute to an appearance of abandonment and blight, we are glad that these lots are empty and not filled with, say, a payday loan store.
For those of you who don’t know what an ABC store is, it’s like this: People in Alabama really, really hate the government. The government can’t do anything right and will always make mistakes (except in executing people … they never, ever make mistakes in carrying out prosecutions and executions). And the government shouldn’t interfere with private business at all … except for alcohol. In the case of alcohol, the people of Alabama prefer that the state government actually sell alcohol and compete with private industry liquor dealers. Why? Well, asking questions like that is what allows the Demon Rum to suck out men’s souls.
As such, here we have the state government selling booze to the low-income folks that hang out in this part of town, leading us to give thanks for the alcoholics clutching their paper sacks as they weave out of the store towards their cars. Thanks for your tax dollars to fund our schools and fire departments, Mr. Wino!
Fortunately, this place is closed on Sunday because Jesus doesn’t approve of people buying booze on one particular day of the week. The other six? No problem! Glug glug!
6. Title Loan/Nation of Islam/Barber Shop
As you can see, this place was actually jumping on a Sunday morning. We assume the cars were because people were studying their issues of Final Call over at the NOI. But maybe there were haircuts being dispensed as well over at Roots of Style. We’re not sure which of the two places offers title loans, but the sign was still up:
We’d assume that the Fruit of Islam would be totally against predatory lending, but as White Devils created by the evil scientist Yakub, we confess that we may not be in on the latest NOI business plans. They may have purchased the building from a title lender and just not taken the sign down yet.
7. Auto Detail King
This building looks rough. Unclear where they actually do the auto detailing. We’d guess that it isn’t on site. The homemade sign doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence that these ought to be the folks to paint and touch-up your car. But maybe you have a think for stencils and monarchy.
8. Airport Barber and Style Shop
It’s fun to imagine the competition between the ABSS and the Roots of Style folks that adjoin the Nation of Islam place. Certainly ABSS has the larger building, although it may be in worse shape. Why do they need that much space? It’s a very large building for a barber shop.
Also, there is the fact that the Airport Barber and Style Shop is over six miles away from the airport. That said, it is on the way to the airport, so maybe that’s legit. But it’s less than four miles away from the state capitol, so when you’re coming up with names for your barber shop, you might as well pick something that’s somewhat cooler (and closer by) than the Montgomery Regional Airport.
9. Freeze Daiquiri Bar and Grill
After the barber shop, you’ve got a whole bunch of empty space. You’re talking about a big empty lot, a cell phone tower, and then what appear to be two more parcels of land — one grass and one gravel. In our experience, these latter two lots were parking lots of the next building, which was once the very-good Capitol Oyster Bar.
We’ve written before how we like the COB because it was on this kind of sketchy block, keeping it real as the economy crumbled around it. But then the COB made what was (we’d assume) a smart business choice and left this block. In its place, we have Freeze Daiquiri Bar and Grill, which encourages us to eat, drink, and chill. Get it? Because it’s called Freeze, they want us to chill?
Needless to say, we are not likely to check this place out. A quick online search reveals no reviews of the food from the grill part of the “bar and grill.” Dwayne L. Bradley applied for a liquor license from the city back in April 2011, and we guess he got it. But there are never, ever, ever any cars here. We miss you, Capitol Oyster Bar.
Another look at Freeze, only because the sign hilariously suggests that they have NFL Sunday Ticket, starting at 5 p.m. after almost all of the NFL games are over. Do they realize that the Sunday night game is on regular TV? If someone wanted to watch out-of-market NFL games, they would be doing it somewhere else before 5 p.m. Given that the place appeared to be closed on a recent Sunday afternoon, they may be already out of business.
Oh, and they evidently kept the bleachers that the COB used for outdoor seating for live music. Freeze is using the bleachers to offer folks an awesome view of a wooden fence:
10. Kade’s Day Care Center
They take kids at six weeks old. If you have a six-week-old child and feel like you need to take them here, the busted up place between a daiquiri bar and the Island Lounge, you need some folks to step up and help you raise that baby.
11. The Island Lounge
Someone named Tapengo Williams applied for a liquor license back in August of 2011, so someone still thinks this place is the site of a viable business. Since we have not been inside, we cannot confirm the rumors that it is an enchanting tropical paradise. On the other hand, islands aren’t all awesome. If you’re in a Cuban prison, you’re still on an island.
12. Next you’ve got a giant weedy overgrown lot. Some people were using it as a cut-through by day. Unclear what goes on here after the sun goes down. A sign in the lot says it’s 2.51 acres and is for sale for around $200,000. We assume that since our reviews of the surrounding real estate have been so glowing, it has probably been snapped up by a motivated buyer by this point.
13. The Petro station
That’s the last thing on the block. Well, it’s the first thing if you’re coming from the other direction, obviously. No idea what’s it’s like in the Petro, but it’s probably a gas station with beer and candy and whatnot. Around the corner if you turn left is K&J Rib Shack, which has some sweet spray-painted pictures of food on the exterior wall.
It’s not entirely fair to end the review of this scenic block here, since across Court Street is what we call “the Murder Chevron,” on account of my having seen a dead body in the parking lot within the first few weeks of having moved to Montgomery (a guy from Selma killed in what was suspected to be a drug deal gone wrong). And it’s not entirely fair to start the review of that block with the fire station, since across Norman Bridge is the Diplomat Inn, which may be, um, how to put this diplomatically, well, not exactly the kind of hotel at which you would reserve a room for the most favored diplomats.
According to Wikipedia, a boulevard is, “usually a wide, multi-lane arterial thoroughfare, divided with a median down the center, and roadways along each side designed as slow travel and parking lanes and for bicycle and pedestrian usage, often with an above-average quality of landscaping and scenery.”
East South Boulevard? Still working on it.