MEMPHIS IN COSTCO. Have you ever noticed that what appears to be of a reasonable size in Costco grows in volume and dimension with every mile between Costco and home?
Sure, you need a little lime in your gin and tonic, but there are 50 of them in that green net bag you just dragged into the kitchen and squeezed onto the counter next to those 27 avocados. That lobster dip you sampled was terrific, but that tub you brought home would keep all of Bar Harbor happy for the summer. The average Starbucks doesn’t stock as much Caffè Verona as you do now. Clinics are coming to you for antacid pills. If FedExForum runs out of toilet paper, come on over to your garage. That stuffed bear is so big it not only scares your grandbaby, the fact that you bought it scares the hell out of you. You didn’t need to eat that hot dog the size of a fireplace log, but you had to because that dog and a refillable drink for a buck fifty is one of the five best deals in America and the other four don’t count.
And that silly cheap price on an 80-inch Vizio doesn’t fit in your trunk or your backseat, much less above a 60-inch mantel or under any roof outside of a movieplex.
We just returned from one of those big sweeping trips visiting family and friends and rest stops on several interstate systems in several states. In the Amish country of Pennsylvania, we played with our daughter and son-in-law, winding our way through charming villages and markets, and eating steaks and a key lime pie we bought at Costco. In Washington, D.C., three old brothers sipped old whiskey on a patio in the shadow of the National Cathedral, and tried to finish that Costco key lime pie hubcap we brought from Pennsylvania. In Wilmington, N.C., five couples that have known each other since college sat on a porch beneath Spanish moss above a high tide, and laughed about all the stupid crap we’ve bought at various Costcos when we meant to buy something else. Beach chairs and books instead of shrimp. Cupcakes and roasted chicken salad instead of detergent. In Atlanta, on the last night of the trip, three guys cooked out in the rain, grilling lamb chops from Costco.
But it’s not the just the generic jumboness of Costco we all share any more than it’s just the small world nostalgia of neighborhood memories, or long gone watering holes, long tall tales, and long lost friends that give us common ground. All of those are part and parcel of the common ground we grew in.
I’ve learned that it’s not the place we’re in, but the place in us that connects us wherever we are.
I’m a Memphian, happy to be home, and I want all y’all to come over. I have enough limes and avocados to make limeade and guacamole for everybody. And plenty of toilet paper.
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.