DON’T KILL AN HOUR, LIVE ONE. The other day, I showed up for a 10:30 meeting in South Main. As often happens when Siri helps you with your calendar, coupled with chronic CRS, the meeting was actually at 11:30.
So I took a walk.
I strolled by new sidewalks going down and new colorful retail going up in old spaces and places, and past the new green grass of the amphitheater that ramps down into the ramped-up and newly renovated National Civil Rights Museum. Over here, firemen wash trucks in the morning sun. Over there, art students look for their light. Here and there, people come in and out of businesses and residences made interesting not just by their names and offerings, but by where they are, and by how what once was has been turned into right now.
I started in front of a vacant lot turned into a pocket park and bocce ball court. I wandered by the Memphis Music Foundation, the Blues Foundation and the foundation of a long gone building turned into a courtyard and outdoor movie theater. I stopped at Bluff City Coffee, where the day starts around here over a cup, and looked down the street at Earnestine & Hazel’s, where the night ends around here in a longneck – the once drug store, once whorehouse, turned into iconic joint, home to a mystical cheeseburger and a haunted jukebox.
And, this being Memphis, I ran into and caught up with a couple of old friends, met a couple of new people and found out about a couple of things. All in a couple of blocks, all in an hour. Not for Trolley Night or Saturday’s Farmers Market, not during some festival or event, just an average Thursday morning with an hour to kill.
I highly recommend South Main by the hour. In fact, I highly recommend Memphis by the hour. Out of the car. Off the grid. On foot. I’m planning on being early to my next meeting, too, and the one after that.
When the city hired a Belgian firm – Belgium, you know, chocolate truffles, those weird waffles you get at fairs and Hercule Poirot – and paid them 200 grand to brand Memphis, I thought we’d lost our mind. Then the Downtown Memphis Commission hired a Nashville firm – Nashville, people – to brand South Main, and confirmed it.
Those efforts have drawn all the attention they deserved and are now best forgotten, but there is a lesson. Perhaps it takes another set of eyes, another viewpoint – not Nashville’s, however – for us to see what others see in us.
Since my walk was prompted by finding an hour I didn’t know I had, by stealing a bit of calm in a bunch of busy, I looked at those few blocks as I would on vacation somewhere else, engaged only with what strikes me, what catches my eye.
Take off and take an hour for yourself somewhere in your city. There is much to see.
I’m a Memphian, and Memphis is a trip.
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.