MEMPHIS FROM THE BEACH. I’m on vacation, but I’ll be home soon, and here are some thoughts about that I first shared a couple of years ago.
Right now, I’m probably on the beach, keeping the sand out of my beer and helping my dogs stare at the ocean. It’s a big ocean – big enough to help you forget whatever you were so worried about a couple of days ago. Staring at it properly is a big job – big enough that making sure you don’t miss the next dolphin breaking the surface or the next crab making a break for it is more important than whatever you were doing last week. That’s pretty much the way the dogs look at it, too. We don’t miss a thing.
One can get a little reflective doing this – and a little drunk – causing one to get a little philosophical.
As much as I need the break from deadlines, meetings and blinking cursors, I don’t need a break from my town.
When I come home from Louisville or London, from Paris on the Seine or the one on Kentucky Lake, from Venice or Venice Beach, from the north side of Chicago or the east side of Manhattan or the south of France, I am always glad to be back.
This is the skin I’m in, and what matters most to me is in here, met here, loved here, born here, raised here, died here. While we could look better here, get in better shape, take better care of ourselves, we are a smile to come home to, a hug as sure as the humidity.
When I graduated well back in the last millennium, I had shots at copywriting jobs at Leo Burnett in Chicago, McCann Erickson in New York, a Santa Barbara boutique and an ad agency in Memphis. The money was about the same – 600 whole dollars a month – and I knew I could survive on that here. We were just married, and Nora had a job that could transfer here. We could also sponge meals and laundry off parents.
We’re still here, and while I’ll always be curious what might have happened if I’d pursued those jobs, I’ll never be sorry.
You can jump right in here, get to the deep water faster, and find out if you can swim. If you want to address America’s urban challenges, there’s no better laboratory for discovery. If you want to raise a family in the real world, there’s no warmer, greener ground.
But you have to jump in. You have to look for answers, and hiding from a problem is no answer at all. From behind walls and gates, from way up high on a balcony, Memphis and this beach can be distant, abstract things.
From down here, you can recognize and respect the danger, but you can also feel the breeze and the power, get the place between your toes, and watch for your wave.
I’m a Memphian, and I just saw a whole school of dolphins.
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.