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Editorial Results (free)

1. Cool Shades -

SHADES OF THE FUTURE. We were talking about sunglasses and how you see things through them.

They were cool when you and I were young, no matter when that was, and they’re cool now. Still cool long past things and people once cool and now long gone, like eight-tracks and Fabio. Always cool instead of once cool, not cool, and then cool again, like argyle socks.

2. Another Olympics, Another Time -

SHOOTING THE MOON FOR GOLD. When the Olympics last rolled around, my fellow decathlete, Jeff Chamblin, and I laughed our way through the memories, remembering the competition as if it were yesterday.

3. Laughing Beats Crying -

THE RODNEY PERSPECTIVE. I was depressed. After a couple of weeks of political conventions and mind-numbing analysis by talking head armies to my left and right, I was wondering if I should bother to get out of bed. But I took solace as I sometimes do in the words of the late philosopher, Rodney Dangerfield, who reminds us that no matter how bad it gets, it could be worse, and a lot funnier.

4. The Privilege of Legacy -

WE ARE PRIVILEGED TO BE HERE. As poor as we are, we are far richer than we may realize. As so many struggle to make ends meet, one may wonder why so many are drawn to us. As difficult as it is to breathe the air this time of year, there is music in that air, there is a world-famous beat to this city.

5. We Are They -

THERE IS NO OTHER, OTHER THAN US. They came for them. They came for us.

You may not have heard of Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor in 1930s Germany, but you’ve probably heard him quoted, beginning, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist.” You may have heard or seen some variation of the original referencing Communists or Catholics or Mexicans or Muslims or African-Americans or whatever other, but you got the point because the original and every version concludes, “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

6. To Zoo. Zooed. Zooing. -

YOU’VE BEEN ZOOED. That headline is indicative of the last few months. In fact, it’s the indicative present perfect usage of the new verb this city has created.

7. Eulogy for a Copywriter -

A LOSS FOR WORDS. We lost a good one two weeks ago. Good man. Good son and husband, father and grandfather, brother and friend. Good citizen and arts supporter. Good mentor to students and adviser to college presidents, Episcopal priests and copywriters.

8. Different But Not Less -

THIS IS MINISTRY, BABY. Sometimes we don’t see the difference we can make right where we are.

Brian McLaren – pastor and celebrated theologian, activist and prolific author – was here a couple of weeks ago, and he shared some thoughts about his visit in The Huffington Post:

9. Same Name, No Relation -

THE NAME OF WHAT WE ONCE HOPED TO BE AND WHAT WE’VE ACTUALLY BECOME.

Andy Holt.

The late Andy Holt from Milan, a schoolteacher, a coach, and once the principal of what is now Campus School in Memphis, the national president of the National Education Association and president of the University of Tennessee. His Columbia doctoral dissertation was about the struggle for public support of education in Tennessee.

10. A Place to Grow -

SEEDING TOMORROW IN WEST TENNESSEE. Things grow in Hardeman County. Crops, livestock, husbandry in all its forms – and relationships grow there, too, between the wild and the tame, between an abundance of resources and their conservation, between awe and understanding.

11. It’ll Leave A Mark -

THE MARKS WE’RE LEAVING. People were hooking up, shooting up and throwing up in the woods, on benches and in cars and right in front of children on the greensward. Like the weeds, pretty much everywhere. Like the privet, pretty much out of control. Like the shell and the rose garden and the lake and the forest and the picnic grounds and the pride of a city, pretty much left for dead.

12. Real Memphis -

THE REAL DEAL. When our daughter was 5 we took her to Disney World and totally encased ourselves in Disney plastic. To this day, I’m still haunted by strains of “It’s A Small World” that won’t leave my head, still having nightmares that I’m still in line for Space Mountain.
The third day there, we took a boat to a lake island for a “nature walk.” Hallie looked down into a stream and looked up at me, wide-eyed: “Look, Daddy, real fish!”

13. Insulting In Style -

INTELLIGENT INSULTS. CLEVER COMEBACKS. As we brace for this summer’s political conventions and a general election that promises to raise the lowest levels of public discourse to new heights, I thought I’d share some of my favorite exchanges collected over the years to remind us that we can do this sort of thing with style.

14. Elephants Abound -

The old joke goes this way: Every morning on the commuter train to work a man watches another man read his paper, meticulously folding every page to a single column width, then unfolding and refolding as he reads each column top to bottom. Finally, unable to stand it anymore, the first approaches the second and asks, “Why do you do that?” “It keep elephants off the train,” comes the reply.

15. High Water Marks -

LORD KNOWS, THE CRICK DOES RISE. The last time I was on a cook team, the Mississippi was lapping at the top of Tom Lee Park and I’d been lapping at a number of things for a couple of days myself.

16. Memphis Barbecue Primer -

IF YOU DON’T GET YOUR BARBECUE HERE, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU GET IT. The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is next week. One of my first columns was about defining barbecue when no definition should be necessary. Sadly, we’ve slipped further and further down a saucy slope and basic definitions are required again.

17. Tennessee Legislature's 2016 Session: Unbelievable -

THE STATE OF UN. In this nadir of presidential elections with everyone awash in slimy sound bites, with Congress and a Supreme Court nominee stuck in the mud, it takes truly jaw-dropping state legislative idiocy to draw the attention of the national media, make the monologues of late-night hosts and inspire “Saturday Night Live” skits.

18. Tickled Pink -

MEMPHIS IN BLACK AND WHITE. AND PINK. I’m glad Billy Orgel got engaged at Justine’s because that inspired his family to save it, not because they miss the crystal and crabmeat but because the place is personal.

19. R.I.P. Sears Laurelwood -

DOUG, JANICE, SUSAN, PETE, DAD. AND SEARS. Doug Ford – two-time major winner and golf Hall of Famer – is 93, and coincidently that’s what I shot at Ridgeway last week.
Janice was a high school girlfriend, and she liked her horse a lot more than me. Susan was a junior-high girlfriend, or whatever you are when you’re 12, and our relationship was worth peanuts. Pete was my best friend, and just about the coolest things we’d ever seen were vending machines that served hot food and Cokes in cups. My father believed in my mother, the United States Navy and Sears – because whatever story he was telling or advice he was giving, at least one and probably all three got in the conversation.

20. A Great Big Little Golf Course -

OVERTON EAGLES SOAR. When the city last talked about closing the Overton Park golf course, I told my story in a column.

Rumor has it, the course is in jeopardy again – a possible Greensward replacement – as if repurposing existing green spaces will justify destroying others, as if all the stories that have made the park so personal to so many are worth no more than a parking spot, as fleeting as a phone call from power to council.

21. Open to Progress -

WE CANNOT REMAIN STILL. When the news of the assassination broke on April 4, 1968, I ran to the dorm phone to call home to find out what in my world was going on, if my city was on fire, my family safe. All the lines to Memphis were busy, the answers would have to wait.

22. Time On The Porch -

ON PORCHES. Whatever porches are about, the best ones are about time. Time for swings and rocking chairs and reflection. Time spent alone with your thoughts or time shared with others sharing space and experience. Time to be very quiet. Or very loud. Life in real time.

23. Careful What You’re Being Sold -

ZOO DOO IS BACK. In the early ’90s, an enterprise started in Memphis to market recycled zoo dung – talk about organic – called the Zoo Doo Compost Co. A pungent and powerful fertilizer, raw product supplied seven days a week, a clever name, a great promotional headline, “Gardeners Love This Crap.”

24. Dull Pencils For Sharp Problems -

WE NEED THE SHARPEST PENCILS IN THE DRAWER. I don’t do my own taxes. In fact, my taxes send TurboTax into default mode, crash laptops and fry transformers. H&R Block blocks my phone number.
My accountant does my taxes, only because he’s known me for decades, he speaks Dan, and he uses the Gordian Knots in my finances to train his people.

25. Shameful Performance -

SHAME ON US. This week, the Memphis City Council ran over a whole room of citizens and a whole city and parked right on top of something they care about.

Every council member should be ashamed.

26. Thanks, But Go Save Someone Else -

COMING TO SAVE US IS STARVING US. We recently dodged the state Legislature’s latest effort to save us from ourselves, reaching into Shelby County to raise our poor and pitiful children from the depths of despair – Shelby County Schools.

27. Last Word: The Trade, Hardaway-Todd Grudge Match and Tomato Aspic -

Jeff Green leaves the Grizzlies for the Clippers and Lance Stephenson leaves the Clippers for the Grizzlies.
That was the trade at the NBA’s Thursday afternoon deadline that caused much of Thursday’s deadline buzz as well as lots of social media reaction.
Some of the reaction was tempered by the other part, a protected lottery pick for the Grizz as well.

28. The Original Pop-Up -

POP-UP WAFFLES. Pop-up concepts are hot. Popping up in spaces – Broad, the Edge, the Brewery, the Fire Station – reclaimed and repurposed to show what’s possible, the original character of the space adding flavor, the here-today-gone-tomorrow aspect adding spice, the unusual nature of the things served – things not seen every day and everywhere – adding adventure. Millennial curiosity addressed, the need for gratification met, the existential question asked and answered.

29. Timeout For Fresh Quotes -

THE SPORTS QUOTES YOU HAVEN’T HEARD. While the Super Bowl, Iowa and New Hampshire are behind us, the rest of the primaries, the general election, and a million tired sports analogies and metaphors are regrettably still in front of us … as in, we’re still in the early innings.

30. Last Word: EW&F, Midtown Rent Rise and A Closer Look At The Pyramid Deal -

One seemingly ordinary winter’s night in Downtown Memphis, I was going from event to event focused on work – specifically trying to stay on a schedule in which several things I wanted to cover were happening at the same time.
That is usually when you miss the experience that is Memphis on an everyday but definitely not ordinary basis.
So I get in a parking garage elevator and on the next floor David Porter – of Stax Records fame – gets on and he introduces me to his friend, Maurice White – the founder of Earth Wind and Fire. They too are trying to be in several places at the same time.
As they went their way and I went mine, I remember thinking this is quite a special place.
The encounter slowed my stride a bit and took some of the edge off the schedule – noticing for the first time how many people were out on a winter’s night in our city having nothing but a good time made better by all of us going our different ways.
White, who was from Memphis, died Thursday with his band’s music stronger and more relevant than ever.
If you grew up listening to EWF when the songs were new, you know that the bright and funky sound and the positive, affirming, and diverse identity of this music was quite intentional at a time when there was plenty going on that could have pushed it the other way.
If your parents or grandparents grew up listening to EWF, this music is a part of your family’s tradition that calls to mind special occasions and even your own mild surprise the first time you found yourself dancing to it with your children.
And if your folks’ vinyl record collection from back in the day included Earth Wind and Fire, that was one of the ones you listened to when they weren’t around and one of the ones you took with you when you got a place of your own.

31. Letter to the Editor: Memphis Zoo Is in Favor of Parking Solution at Overton Park -

In his column last week, “History Lesson,” Dan Conaway made an absurd comparison related to the Memphis Zoo’s current parking challenges and the fight to prevent I-40 from cutting through Overton Park in the 1970s.

32. A Bit More Super -

CARE ABOUT THE GAME. I’m a homer. I can’t watch a sporting event for the beauty of the game, the spirit of the competition, the skill displayed on both sides. I want somebody’s butt kicked and for good reason.

33. History Lesson -

A HISTORY LESSON TAUGHT, NOT LEARNED.

When I first wrote about attempts to steamroll Overton Park, a friend told me a great story. He was in his parents’ living room one afternoon in the late ’60s listening to his father go on and on about the battle to keep I-40 out of Overton Park ... too late to stop it, who are these silly protestors anyway, yadda yadda ... when they turned on the local news.

34. Who’s In Charge? -

IT MIGHT BE RIGHT, BUT IT’S FLAT WRONG. A week or so ago, 27 trees disappeared from Overton Park’s greensward – a fancy word for yours and my yard since Overton Park belongs to us.

35. Blowing The Whistle -

WE HEAR WHAT WE WANT. I have an old white dog. She’s like a lot of old white dogs. She has a lot wrong with her, aches and pains here and there, problems internal and external, sagging everywhere.
She spends a lot of time napping in front of the TV, snoring while she’s at it, talking to herself and dreaming about what used to be, having nightmares about what she imagines is coming.

36. Let’s Not Forget -

BELL. BOWLING. CROWE. GARDENHIRE. KELSEY. NICELY. ROBERTS. AND NORRIS. As the Tennessee General Assembly gets going in 2016, let’s remember how they started 2015 – with the abandonment of common sense and decency and hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans.
The story of what they did bears repeating as a cautionary tale. If we let them do it again, we all bear responsibility.

37. Diverse Learning -

The black kid across the hall came from Pearl in Nashville and had a full-ride scholarship.

All I knew about Pearl was that they’d bounced Memphis Treadwell out of the gym the year before to go 31 and 0 and win the state basketball championship. So the kid must be a baller, right?

38. Christmas Coming Home -

CHRISTMAS TIME. Every Christmas I tell this story, and in the telling Christmas comes home.

It was my first time to England and overseas, and prime time for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Soho.

39. The Truth, Whole Truth, Nothing But the Truth -

THE INS AND UNS OF OUR TRUTH. Truth is the truth. It isn’t inconvenient, inconsistent or incomplete. It isn’t uncomfortable or unpleasant and certainly not untrue.

But what we’ve made of the truth is all of those things.

40. A Great Zoo. A Great Embarrassment. -

IF YOU CAN PARK A HIPPO, YOU CAN PARK AN SUV. “Finally,” the young TV reporter said, “somebody who’s happy with the zoo.”

The zoo’s general manager was involved in controversy, his vision in question. The reporter found plenty of people at the zoo gate ready to feed the GM to the lions, but Nora and I were the first he talked to who liked the guy and he wanted a little balance for his story. You remember balance? Good reporters used to have it, and this guy was good.

41. Knee-Jerk Outbreak -

A SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS. WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States government has mobilized against a clear threat to the country.

Troops have been sent to identify and capture members of an ersatz government openly operating here in defiance of federal law. This group claims theirs as the only true religion, and that laws be based on it as prescribed in the tome of that religion. They believe no other laws to be valid in the eyes of God, and no rights assigned or any authority recognized if any are based on such godless laws. They seek to prohibit the teaching, or even mention, of any other religion in schools.

42. Ginkgos And Thanks. And Thanks Again. -

LOOK FOR THE WONDER. REPEAT. I write about it every year. And it’s happened again.

Right outside my window is a ginkgo tree, and another on the other side of the house. Every fall they engage in an ancient mating dance, a spectacular competition for attention. So exhausting is the effort, it doesn’t last long. So intense is the result, it’s explosive. And then it’s gone.

43. Angels Of Our Better Nature -

SPIRITS OF A CITY. Emily Sutton and Annie Cook were prostitutes. And angels.

44. Billions And Billions Of Grins -

GOOD NEWS IS GROWING. Really. I only have 500 words here and what my friend Andy Cates had to say last week is worth far more, several billion dollars worth actually, and what St. Jude had to say at the end of the week adds billions more.

45. Funny Way With Words -

HIGH IQ OR NOT, STILL FUNNY. Friend Gene sent me something – as he often does – that was very funny. It was also something – as it often is – we’d both seen before but forgot.

46. Can We Talk? -

WE’RE SIMPLY NOT COMMUNICATING. I’ve been saying for years that our city, as a city, does not understand or value the role of marketing and branding in the city’s game plan.

47. Around Here, You Hear Belz -

BELZ IS AT IT AGAIN. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING.

If you think you know Memphis, and you don’t know about him, you don’t know Jack.

Following his father Phillip as patriarch to the Belz family, Jack Belz led Belz Enterprises for decades, a company close to or at the top of Tennessee property owners for all that time. A quiet philanthropist and quiet pioneer in the concepts of city gateway centers and discount malls, Belz went very public with the world-class renovation and reopening of The Peabody.

48. Ghosts Of A Paper -

–30– In 1936, she was the society editor and all of 24 and he was a graphic artist for The Commercial Appeal and barely 21. A man walked up to her desk, the first one you came to off the elevator at the front of the old city room, and asked, “Could you tell me where I could find Cal Alley?”

49. A Pothole 26 Years Deep -

CRUISING LIKE IT’S 1989. Let’s pretend you can get three cans of tomato soup at Seessel’s for a buck instead of just one, a six-pack of Bud for four bucks instead of six or seven, and a pound of hamburger for 89 cents instead of five bucks. Hell, let’s pretend there’s a Seessel’s.

50. Mining Crap -

SO MUCH CRAP. SO LITTLE TIME.

Since I allowed Apple to plant iOS 9 on my phone, on my iPad and in my psyche, my email is a crap shoot, iTunes is no longer playing my song, Siri won’t speak to me, Firefox won’t let me on my own home page and U-verse goes south daily.

51. Two Tasty Stories on the Side -

A STORY IN EVERY BITE. Last week’s column reminded me of a couple of stories about food. My main editor – my wife – reminded me that I’ve told them before. That happens a lot. It’s about to happen again. Just think of them as second helpings.

52. A Tasteful List 2015 -

MEMPHIS ON A PLATE. Presenting the fifth helping of the Tasteful List, updated for 2015 – an alphabetical survey of local flavor in one decidedly local man’s opinion.

Could I get another napkin over here?

53. A Steeple in Hell -

THE CHURCH OF GROUND ZERO. Headed to my desk, I passed a photograph on the wall. I pass it several times every day, but when I typed 9/11 at the top of the page, the date this column would run in The Daily News, I realized what the column would be about:

54. Always Coming Home -

MEMPHIS FROM THE BEACH. When I first shared these observations a few years ago, I was doing pretty much what I’m doing right now – keeping the sand out of my beer and helping my dogs stare at the ocean. Like that activity, I think the observations are worth repeating.

55. Memphis Representative -

4,880 MILES MORE SOUTHERN. There he was again. Nora and I were watching a show about historic homes in Memphis on WKNO and when they paused to pitch for support, he was one of the volunteers manning the phone bank behind those pitching.

56. Poor Performance -

OUR POOR KIDS ARE GETTING THE BIRD. During political seasons – that’s pretty much all the time – I’m often reminded of what my first boss once told me, “You know that beautiful, almost iridescent, blue-gray dot in the middle of chicken (crap)? That’s chicken (crap), too.”

57. Thank You, Thank You Very Much -

A THANK YOU NOTE FROM A COPYWRITER TO ELVIS. Elvis was once asked what kind of music he played. “I play all kinds,” was his response.

That pretty much sums up Memphis, and Elvis was pretty much the sum up of its parts. Part gospel and part blues, part country and part soul. And all original. Part dirt poor and part flashy rich, part Mama’s boy and part nasty and naughty. And all surprising. Part glitz and glitter and part sad and tragic. And all too real. Part Mississippi and part Tennessee. And all world shaking.

58. Hey, I’m Back Here -

HOT? GET IN LINE. I have three absolute favorite expressions for hot – everyone who lives in the grits belt needs at least one.

My third favorite is Halle Berry hot – substitute your mercury raiser.

59. Haunted History, A Story Retold -

WORRY ABOUT THE DOGS. Depending on who’s talking and when, history around Fort Pillow changes.

At the time of this story – one I shared first in a 2013 column – it was called the Cold Creek Correctional Facility, a minimum-security operation farming about 6,000 acres in Lauderdale County. Next it was called the Fort Pillow Prison and Farm, next door to something called the West Tennessee High Security Facility, now the West Tennessee State Penitentiary.

60. Granddad, Hambone And The KKK -

IF THE KLAN DOESN’T LIKE YOU, PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK.

Before their last sheety little show here a couple of years ago, an Exalted Cyclops of the KKK – must be just one hole in his hood – was quoted on Channel 5 and in The Huffington Post, “Y’all are going to see the largest rally Memphis, Tennessee, has ever seen. It’s not going to be 20 or 30 – it’s going to be thousands of Klansmen from the whole United States.”

61. A General Invitation, Revisited -

COME ON BACK TO ELMWOOD, GENERAL FORREST. I first issued that invitation in 2013 and while we haven’t yet heard from the General, we’ve heard from just about everybody else. The invitation stands because – as it has been for some time – it’s past time.

62. It’s the Law -

THE LAW, AND I QUOTE. Oh, the outrage! Across the nation, people have reacted to the laws passed and validated by the courts, their liberty threatened, the Constitution violated, the republic at risk.

63. My Kind of Crazy -

CRAZY LIKE CHISCA. Lauren Crews told me that people think he’s crazy.

After all, he paddled a canoe from the Twin Cities to New Orleans – just him and his dog. He rode a bike to New Orleans, too, all the way down Highway 61 in the summer, the heat driving him dizzy into ditches.

64. In It Together -

WE’RE RELATED. For a few years, Nora was in a handbell choir at our church. The choir was invited to perform here and there. Being an Episcopal church, those trips were more a celebration than a solemn occasion, and, like the service itself, food and drink were central to the issue at hand. I tagged along because the here and there included roux-full places like Mobile and New Orleans.

65. The Irish in Us -

BOOM. HERE’S TO THE IRISH. Recently, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Ireland. Stereotypically, a country where conservative is a matter of degree not choice, where killing each other over religion isn’t current news but DNA, where progress is measured in pints.

66. Listen for Home -

WHEN YOU’RE HOME, YOU CAN HEAR IT. I was recently reminded of a story I heard from an actor friend years ago when he was in town for a commercial I was making. His name was Robert Lansing – if you’re old enough, you’ll remember him from TV’s “12 O’Clock High.”

67. A Measure Of Truth -

A MEASURE OF JOURNALISM. As I wondered what to write about while on vacation, I was bailed out by New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan and my friend Jay Martin, who sent me her article. Ms. Sullivan upon ending her teaching stint at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism left these parting words for her students:

68. Corporate Speak -

WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE. Corporate speak – the art of saying very little with a great many words in order that something very little might appear to be very great, or that something very grave might be buried under so many words that there is little chance of digging it out – continues to thrive, its practitioners legion, its impact so significant that since the Supreme Court declared a corporation to be an actual person, corporate speak, is now, officially, the language of actual people.

69. Time to Produce -

MEMPHIS: THE SEQUEL. “People who make movies – people like Francis Ford Coppola and Milos Forman and Sydney Pollack, and our own Craig Brewer and Willy Bearden – and people like me who write and produce TV spots and videos all have something in common. We know just how damn good Memphis looks through a lens, we know how deep the local talent pool is for actors and crew, we know how wide the choice is for great locations.

70. Getting to the Bottom -

A BIG BASS PROBLEM. We’ve done it. Just like a lure, the light reflects off a shiny object and draws a crowd.

A huge shiny object. A huge crowd. And we’ve done it again. We’re letting something tiny by comparison, a minnow to a record catfish, foul the water and spoil the catch.

71. Can We Still Be Friends? -

DIVORCE MAY BE BEST. After all, it was a shotgun wedding.

He grew up in an old neighborhood under the shade of old oaks – a big city boy with more ambition than brains, a dreamer always looking past the weeds in his own yard to greener grass. He was fun alright – into good times and great restaurants, live music and funky joints, nights that start with sunsets on the river and end at dawn next to somebody. He spent big, too big. Lived large, too large. And, truth be told, he could be a bit scary and more than a bit grabby.

72. I Believe in Grit and Grind. Amen. -

GLORY BE. As an early convert, I was there for their first win ever – the first outward and visible sign for a city so in need of faith. While we knew grit and grind all too well, who knew we would come to embrace that identity and its disciples with religious fervor?

73. Memphis Taking Big Steps -

BIG STEPS. Part of our vacation ritual involves underwear, kitchen gadgets, camp shirts, socks and shoes – all items available in branded abundance on the cheap at Tanger Outlets.

74. Dead Reckoning 2015 -

GHOST OF A RIVER. Jimmy Ogle is a Memphis history savant. He knows things about our people that even they didn’t know.

75. Let’s Face It -

THE FACE OF UNINSURED TENNESSEE. I washed down my eggs with a big swig of cold reality, decidedly unsweet.

The woman serving me was familiar in the way regular customers and servers are familiar, not close but not strangers, not really friends but really friendly. “Haven’t seen you in a while,” I said, an opening that invites but doesn’t require an explanation, that notes a change in appearance without referencing it.

76. Pray Tell -

PRAYING FOR TENNESSEE. This being Easter week, let’s open with a prayer. Aren’t we all Christians – at least all of us who matter – and in Tennessee, the Promised Land?

77. Days These Days -

GOING RIGHT BACK OUT THERE ANYWAY. I get lots of email about the kind of days friends are having these days – days like mine.

I need to write a column, but looking at a video on my phone of grandchildren splashing in the rain, I realize I also need to wash the snow-salt-sludge off my car.

78. First At Last -

TENNESSEE. FIRST AT LAST. That’s our new slogan. Time to own it. Some of you, my faithful readers, tell me I should be more positive about our prospects as a state. Look at the circus in Nashville – and remember how much fun I had at the circus as a kid, how hard I laughed at the clowns. Watch our march backwards, our retreat from progress – and think of it as a parade, marvel at how the marchers stay in lockstep with their eyes so firmly closed, applaud their speed and coordination.

79. Chock-Full -

STORIES 90 YEARS IN THE MAKING. The other day, Willy Bearden and I visited with Norman Blackley in his kitchen. Willy and I are suckers for stories and that kitchen was chock-full.

Matter of fact, Norman built the kitchen. “Everything in here cost about 200 bucks,” he told us, “put it in myself. This was the garage. Needed a kitchen more than a garage.” He has other garages behind the house. Like the one that holds the 1978 Lincoln Town Car he restored. Or the 1965 Chrysler New Yorker. Or the 1920-something Jordan he’s working on now. His 1955 Chevy’s not back there. It’s in a museum. However, in another garage there’s a tank he built to float his 1927 Chris-Craft 14-footer. He was with his mother when she bought it in 1930 and he’s had it ever since. “Gotta keep it wet,” he explained, “the mahogany shouldn’t dry out.”

80. Join In The Waffle Shop Ritual -

MEMPHIS RITUAL. The Memphis of Memphis is best shared around tables, best accompanied by good food, and best expressed in good stories.

Mildred’s story, for instance. I told it last year, but here it is again because Mildred spent 70 years earning the telling.

81. Let’s See -

EYE OPENERS. I learned recently that Leadership Memphis is raising $50,000 to start something called Expanding Horizons College & Career Tours, taking 400 promising students from their SUCCESS High School program in eight Memphis schools on college tours in June.

82. A Word About Reality -

“REALITY JUST IS.” I stood in the bathroom in boxer shorts and shaving cream and cheered words coming from my radio – words good enough to overcome that image I just put in your head – words like these:

83. Done Unto -

BELL. BOWLING. CROWE. GARDENHIRE. KELSEY. NICELY. ROBERTS. AND NORRIS. Since last week’s debacle in the state Legislature – the abandonment of common sense and decency and hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans by their elected representatives – the ether and printed pages here and elsewhere have been full of various explanations and finger pointing. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s simply point that finger at those who raised their hands.

84. Lifelong Fan -

YOU GOTTA LOVE ‘EM. When some fall in love, falling headlong and defenseless, even despite subsequent events and the weight of time and change, never mind the disappointment and the heartbreak – never mind life – the love remains because that fall and the feel of it last a lifetime.

85. Tribute to Good and Decent -

DRAWING A CROWD. The line started at one end of the big room and wound its way out into the hall.

The widow and the son and the family received the soft words about the hard loss, the sympathy, the hugs and the tears, the emotional exchanges of finality, the shared experience of a life lived and now over. A visitation, yes, but it seemed more than that quiet, somber label would suggest.

86. Frogs And Toads -

OF FROGS AND TOADS. Years and years ago, I was served a couple of striking culinary metaphors that have not only proven to be unforgettable but seem to get better and better with age.

The first was on the wall of my dentist in the 100 North Main building, one of those focal points you stare at while somebody probes your molars with this and that. It was a photograph of a pyramid of frogs inscribed with this:

87. Who Are You? -

KNOWN BUT NAMELESS. Who the hell are you? I’m not mad at you, I’m mad because I don’t know who you are and I should. No clue. Known you since the earth was cooling and I couldn’t come up with your name under Dick Cheney’s enhanced interrogation, not if I had to listen to Barry Manilow sing or Rush Limbaugh talk until I came up with it. You look so familiar we might be brothers … but I know my brothers. Their names are … give me a sec. I don’t have any sisters. I think.

88. Sick Irony -

A SPECK OF CEREAL. Insure Tennessee reminds me of Lorne Greene, David Letterman and a can of Alpo.

You remember Lorne, don’t you? Dad on “Bonanza”? In an old commercial for Alpo, he made his ancient dog fetch a stick to get fed. As she struggled back with the stick in her gray jaws, Lorne suggested that her longevity was due to Alpo – dog food, he said, “without a speck of cereal.”

89. A Cool Ending to 2014 -

As is so often the story, 2014 ended with others seeing more in us than we see in ourselves.

A story of tween and teen sisters from Switzerland via Germany, of Scandinavian design and meatballs from Sweden, of a 12-year-old made a superstar chef by a national television audience.

90. Christmas Coming Home -

CHRISTMAS TIME. Every Christmas I tell this story, and in the telling Christmas comes home.

It was my first time to England and overseas, and prime time for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Soho.

91. A Present for the Kids -

GIVE THANKS. This Christmas, our country has given our kids a chance. As a county, we had a chance to do it for ourselves but local government wouldn’t fund it and local citizens wouldn’t pay for it. As a state, our governor had to be talked into asking for it and our Legislature would rather not talk about asking for help at all.

92. Back to Normal -

NORMAL. AGAIN. Last week, Bob Loeb and I took a stroll through the 1950s in the reality of 2014.

93. Just for Pun -

SUFFERING FOOLISH. Just when you think your cold is getting better, it snot. If you think that’s bad, I’m just getting started.

As I write this, Thanksgiving weekend is winding down and my cold, a gift from my grandchildren, is just getting warmed up. Nora’s gone to church, the dogs have fled to another room, I’m out of Kleenex, and the last sneezing exhibition numbered 18. Not feeling much like writing a column, I opened my email and saw these from my friend, Gene:

94. Ginkgos and Band-Aids – and Thanks -

LOOK FOR THE WONDER. REPEAT. I write about it every year. This year, just last week, it happened again.

Right outside my window is a ginkgo tree, and another on the other side of the house. Every fall they engage in an ancient mating dance, a spectacular competition for attention. So exhausting is the effort, it doesn’t last long. So intense is the result, it’s explosive. And then it’s gone, leaving only a memory.

95. Holden’s Hat -

FINDING MEMPHIS. Last week the Church of the Holy Communion inaugurated a reading group called Words, and enticed an eclectic baker’s dozen of participants with Muddy’s cupcakes. I can’t speak for the rest, but I’ve worked for much less.

96. The ‘Meh’ Generation -

ALL THIS IS GETTING OLD. Mitch McConnell is 117. Across the aisle, Harry Reid is 132, same age as Nancy Pelosi over in the House, and John Boehner is 98.

The last time any of them had an original idea, they had to call it in on a rotary phone. The way they get somewhere, or fail to, is as antiquated as our infrastructure, as much in danger of collapse as our bridges.

97. Anonymous Friends -

HONEST EXCHANGES. Parked at the curb, he honked his horn when I walked by, earbuds firmly in place, somewhere in the middle of Morning Edition.

“Where’s your wife?” he asked through the open door of the city bus he was driving. “Stress fracture,” I answered, “I’m on my own.” “Hope she gets better soon,” he said, “and tell her I’m retiring November 21st.” “I’ll do that,” I said, leaning in to shake his hand, “and good luck.” I stepped back, and he pulled away with another toot of the horn and a wave. He’s been waving at us like that for years since his bus is generally passing when we walk out of our driveway each morning, as familiar he to us and us to him as one morning is to another, a dependable sign that this day is up and on schedule.

98. May We Remember -

MAY WE NOTE LEST WE FORGET. The day after Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee died last week, I told my audience that I was going to open my remarks with a question, and I knew I was going to be depressed by the answer.

99. Let’s Make Sure It Fits -

A couple of guys I know have been renting tuxes around here for 50 years. The first guy, Guy Miller, was a photographer with a studio on Cleveland where Saigon Le is today. He started renting tuxes there as a sideline in 1965 and then hung up his camera and went formal full-time.

100. Different Windows, Same Views -

THIS MORNING. THIS TOWN. This morning, I woke up in a challenged neighborhood. You know the challenges well.

The population is declining and aging – talking about the good old days, bemoaning the present, fearful of the future. The city is trying to reinvent itself – built on a booming business now faded and all but gone. Young people aren’t returning. One major employer dominates and other jobs are mostly in government or in lower-paying positions in service or tourism. People outside the city point to it as the source of the area’s problems.