SURPRISE. THERE’S A BOOK. A couple of years ago, friend Willy Bearden – storyteller, writer, historian, filmmaker and lead singer in the Earnestine & Hazel House Band – and I worked on a project for Elmwood Cemetery. Willy scripted and produced a combination walking/driving tour of that magic ground and I voiced it, spending hours poring over the script with Willy and recording every word of it.
Having not heard the final edit, I picked up the CD at Elmwood and slipped it into the player in my car. My voice proceeded to guide me among the storied stones and souls, telling those stories, and causing me to say to myself, time and time again as I listened, “That’s interesting, I didn’t know that.”
And I didn’t. It was brand-new information.
If you have ADD tendencies, trust me, making ads is a good way to make a living. You already think in what you think are clever 30-second bursts, you’re intensely interested in everything until anything else comes along, you move deftly along the surface of any subject able to change the subject at the first threat of depth, and you’re terrific at cocktail parties, presentations and other events that begin and end within an hour.
And you’re very often surprised by things you’ve done; first because you’ve forgotten you did them, second because sometimes they’re not bad, and third because someone else likes them.
So when Nautilus Publishing in Oxford said they wanted to do a book of my columns, I was surprised. In fact, when Neil White, owner and noted author in his own right, told me, I believe my response was, “No s--t?”
When the columns they picked for the book aligned with my list of favorites, I was surprised again.
But most of all, I was surprised and amused and humbled by the pull quotes – something pulled from each column and highlighted – that Neil and his folks thought best represented my thoughts.
As you might imagine, they were brand-new information. Here are a few.
“We’re known the world over for the beat of our mojo, for the depth and breadth of our creativity, the warmth of our hospitality, and as the most giving city of our size anywhere. Yet, if you listen to us, you’d never know it.” Page 3
“The truth of what you see every day in Memphis is better than the fiction other cities have to come up with to make them interesting.” Page 23
“Where is the Memphis that asked you to not just listen to the music but to write it?” Page 128
“Catholics, Jews, Protestants, agnostics and atheists worship there every weekend, packing the lobby, and filling the cracked vinyl booths and bad-motel-restaurant chairs like pews.” Page 183
“Sharing a trail can give new meaning to sharing views.” Page 199
The book, “I’m a Memphian,” comes out in October. Hope you’ll get one. Or twenty. If you do, I’ll be grateful. And surprised.
I’m a Memphian, and I love sharing that with you.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.