Sunday, September 23, 2007

The urban jungle

Or forest, as the case may be. As I wrote at the outset of Sidewalk 208, Idaho is an increasingly urban state, but also one where wild lands and wild critters are still close at hand. We've had elk wander into Treasure Valley traffic this month, and East Junior High School on the fringe of the downtown Boise core was locked down one afternoon last week as Idaho Fish & Game officials tranquilized a brown bear that had scrambled up a tree on the school grounds. Here's a story and video about the capture. Experts say the heavy forest fire season is one reason we've seen more wildlife within the capital city limits this year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Are 208's days numbered?

Here's a trivia question for you: How many states still have only one area code?

I'll give the answer at the end of this post. But it's on my mind because the Idaho Statesman reported today that Idaho might run out of numbers in its single area code by 2010. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission hopes to stave off the inevitable by reducing the size of number blocks it allocates to cell phone companies from 10,000 numbers per block to 1,000. As the PUC's press release says:

This is the second time Idaho has been able to delay another area code. In August of 2001, the FCC projected Idaho’s area code would exhaust in the fall of 2003. In 2002, the commission ordered Boise area telecommunications providers to return numbers not in use and then receive new numbers only in 1,000-number blocks as needed. Today’s order expands number pooling to include the entire state. Not required to participate are rural providers that do not have local number portability or rural companies that do not have a competitive landline or wireless provider. Pagers, because they do not have local number portability, are also not mandated to participate. However, the commission is strongly encouraging paging companies to participate on a voluntary basis.

When the day of reckoning finally comes, would you rather see one area of the state (probably southwest Idaho, due to its population heft) keep 208? Or would it be more fair to allow current 208 users statewide to keep their numbers while assigning the new area code to new numbers, no matter where in the state they are?

How many states still have only one area code? The answer is 14, plus the District of Columbia.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Boise's essential neighborhood

What makes a great city? To me, a hallmark is that it has great neighborhoods where people not only live, but work, eat, drink, play, and mingle in close proximity, preferably in a pedestrian-oriented environment.

In Boise, many of our neighborhoods outside downtown and the near North and East ends sadly developed in the mid-20th century, the same time people became reliant on their cars. Instead of sidewalk-lined shopping districts, we got strip malls fronted by huge parking lots and subdivisions bereft of sidewalks. It's not impossible for a neighborhood like this to meet the ideal I noted above, but it's more difficult.

For example, my Central Bench neighborhood is seeing many cool restaurants and other amenities emerge along Vista Avenue, but Vista's auto-centric vibe detracts from the strolling ambience the best neighborhoods can claim. Bown Crossing in southeast Boise is a brand-new neighborhood whose developers understand what a neighborhood ought to feel and look like. Yet Bown may never become a truly timeless neighborhood because it's only affordable to a small percentage of Boiseans. Great neighborhoods need people of all economic classes, too. The newly emerging Linen District on downtown's west end may yet fill this bill.

All of this is a long way of getting around to saying that the Hyde Park Street Fair returns to the North End, Boise's most fully realized urban neighborhood, this weekend. The name is a misnomer, of course; the festival has gotten waaaaay too big to happen in Hyde Park, the North End's compact commercial area. All the more reason to enjoy the festival this weekend (4 to 10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday), then return to Hyde Park some other time to enjoy more leisurely sidewalk dining, suds, and shopping.

Two additional notes:

While in Hyde Park this weekend, consider hitting up the Idaho Earth Institute's annual Yard Sale, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday only at 12th & Eastman.

Also consider leaving your car or truck at home. The weather will be gorgeous this weekend, so walk or bike to Hyde Park if you can - or at least carpool, park many blocks away from Camels Back, and enjoy the stroll. Click here for the festival's website, which includes a music schedule and map.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fall concerts galore

I don't remember a season as packed with concerts as this autumn is turning out to be in Boise. It's getting to the point where music fans need to pick and choose among shows to avoid blowing the monthly entertainment budget in a week.

Even more amazing is the prospect of two great shows going head-to-head on the same night - not once, not twice, but three times in September alone. It's a happy, if somewhat frustrating, situation indeed for a remote metro area that often gets overlooked on tours. Let's hope it lasts!

Here's a partial listing of big and/or interesting shows coming up in the next two months:

September 10 - Beyonce (Taco Bell Arena)
September 13 - The Academy Is ... (The Big Easy)
September 14 - Bright Eyes (The Big Easy)
September 14 - Richard Thompson (The Egyptian)
September 20 - Helmet (The Big Easy)
September 22- They Might Be Giants (The Egyptian)
September 26 - Smashing Pumpkins (Qwest Arena) canceled
September 26 - Dave Alvin (Alive After Five)
September 26 - The New Pornographers (The Egyptian)
September 27 - Queensryche (The Big Easy)
September 28 - Slightly Stoopid (The Big Easy)
September 28 - The White Stripes (Idaho Center) canceled
September 30 - Bryan Adams and George Thorogood (Idaho Center)

October 2 - Curtis Stigers (The Egyptian)
October 3 - The Black Crowes (The Big Easy)
October 4 - Nick Lowe (The Egyptian)
October 8 - Widespread Panic (Idaho Center)
October 16 - Interpol (The Big Easy)
October 18 - Neil Young (Morrison Center)
October 20 - Josh Ritter (The Egyptian)
October 30 - James Taylor (Idaho Center)

November 3 - Built to Spill (The Egyptian)

When making your plans, be aware that the touring show of Monty Python's Spamalot is in town at the Morrison Center October 30 through November 3.

Update 9/13/07 - The White Stripes have canceled due to drummer Meg White's anxiety attacks, but I've added two other shows I forgot: They Might Be Giants on September 22 and Dave Alvin, who closes out the 2007 after-work Alive After Five series on the Grove on September 26 - allowing plenty of time to get to either the Smashing Pumpkins or the New Pornographers afterward. Rock on, kids!

Update 9/18/07 - The Smashing Pumpkins show has been canceled, too, probably due to slow ticket sales. The lesson may be that Boise can only handle so many major shows in a short time frame. The Pumpkins and the New Pornographers probably do appeal to much the same demographic, and maybe overlapping with the last (free) Alive After Five show wasn't such a good idea, either.

Update 9/22/07 - Just added the Bryan Adams/George Thorogood and James Taylor gigs.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Art in the Park

Boise's fall arts season gets off to a running start each year with Art in the Park. Now in its 53rd year, Art in the Park is the largest annual fundraiser for the Boise Art Museum. Head down to Julia Davis Park to browse amid more than 250 fine art and craft vendors from across the Western U.S. and beyond.

Admission is free, and this year the Boise Art Museum is free all weekend, too. It's a great opportunity to see the 2007 Idaho Triennial, a showcase of the state's contemporary art that just opened at BAM. Art in the Park also features plenty of food vendors, live entertainment, art activities for children, and some of the most enticing (at least from the outside!) "comfort stations" you'll ever see (above).

Art in the Park opened Friday and continues from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, September 8, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, September 9. Forget parking near the event. Park downtown and walk the short distance to Julia Davis Park, or catch the shuttle bus that's circling from the park to the heart of downtown. Shuttle bus service also is available from the north side of the Boise Towne Square mall, near Dillards.

Welcome to Sidewalk 208

Idaho is best known as an outdoors state, with more designated wilderness and more miles of whitewater river than any other state than Alaska. But for all its natural riches, Idaho is also an increasingly urban state. Sidewalk 208 (named for our still-one-and-only area code) will bring you words and pictures from Idaho's cities. I'll focus on Boise, since that's where I live, but I'll try to bring you glimpses of other communities as well.

I'm Julie Fanselow, the founder of Sidewalk 208. I'm best known in the blogosphere for creating Red State Rebels, a blog on Idaho politics that's been going strong since 2003 and now features writers from all over the state. These days, I am managing a new nonpartisan blog called and doing online organizing for the Study Circles Resource Center. But arts, culture, and urban planning are other major interests of mine - and all topics on which I plan to touch here on Sidewalk 208. If you share these interests and would like to contribute to the blog, please write me at juliewrites at yahoo dot com.