Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Name 10 Things You Like About Memphis

There is a clear line between self-analysis and self-loathing.

Often, in Memphis, we don't just step over it, but we run past it.

We were reminded of this a few ago when a guest post of this blog urged us to think about what we like most about Memphis and to build a community on our shared values. It became the springboard for a screed in response that blamed Memphis for everything short of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.

Such is the energy that we will put into trashing our city – no, in trashing ourselves. We often are like the guys who spend their energies thinking up viruses to corrupt our computers. Every one of us has at one time or another said, "What if they would put all that expertise and energy into doing something productive?" The same goes for us.

Yes, we have serious challenges. Formidable challenges.

But that doesn't mean that we don't look for the distinctive assets and shared values so that we can join hands to tackle these tough challenges.

That was what our friend Charlie Santo was doing in his post about Live Where You Live whose central objective is to encourage us to be advocates willing to fight for our city's future. As Live Where You Live says, there is "strength in numbers" and "if we expect anyone to work hard enough to come up with lasting solutions, we need to let people know that Memphis is worth fighting for."

To that, our immediate response was, "Amen."

And yet, Mr. Santo was pilloried for taking this attitude and challenged to name 10 things that give you hope for or that you like about Memphis. To follow up, we asked him for his list, and he gave us 33 things in a matter of minutes. We are printing it here, but we are asking that you take the time to name your 10.

We'd enjoying hearing them here if you're willing to share.

Here's Mr. Santo's list (we'll post ours tomorrow):

* Current Memphis music, including the long list of artists who will be representing Memphis at Austin's South by Southwest festival (Lucero, Jack O & the Tearjerkers, River City Tanlines, Lord T and Eloise, Eightball & MJG, Al Kapone, Free Sol, Amy Lavere, etc.)

* Cost of living

* Memphis Zoo (one of only 4 in the nation with pandas)

* Civil rights heritage that when understood can inspire our future. (e.g., Robert Church Park)

* AutoZone Park – a world class stadium built in the right place with almost entirely private money (how many of those can you name?)

* Memphis Tigers – not just the team, but the way the city rallied around them together

* Harbor town – one of the best examples of new urbanist development in the nation

* V&E Greenline

* Greenbelt Park

* Greening Greater Memphis / the Greater Memphis Greenline / Sustainable Shelby

* SkateLife Memphis

* Memphis Arts Park

* Brooks Museum

* Central Library

* Campus School (an MCS/UofM collaboration and the best elementary school in the state)

* St. Jude

* Le Bonheur

* Church Health Center

* Streets ministries

* Bridges

* Goner Records

* The Big Scoop ice cream festival

* Cooper Young Parents Network

* Cooper Young festival

* Caritas Village

* Indie Memphis

* Halloween in High Point Terrace

* Peabody-Vance Christmas tree lighting

* Soulsville underpass murals on Bellevue

* The Shell at Overton Park

* Memphis Rock-n-Romp

* Willingness to be different

* The fact that my kids don't know the terms "black people" and "white people"


Anonymous said...

Smart City Blog.

Anonymous said...

gee, nothing outside the parkways?

Anonymous said...

"gee, nothing outside the parkways?"

Re-read the post.

hint: "live where you live"


Emily said...

Great list.

Anonymous said...

Great list, Dr. Santo (and SmartCity blog, it is Dr. Santo, though he'd be too humble to correct you on it).

Memphis' image problem is largely self-created. I believe Coach Cal calls those who keep this sense of defeatism going 'the Miserables'. They jam local talk radio lines and post the same old worn-out lines on every Memphis discussion board. Even though they've moved on to the comfort of Southaven or Oakland or Munford or whatever other oasis of WASPiness they've found, they continue to hurl verbal hand grenades at the city so many of us love.

My list of '10 things I like about Memphis' would quickly turn into a list of 20, 30, 50, or 100. This is a great initiative, a real conversation starter. Take it and run with it.

Smart City Consulting said...


Please send your list, regardless of the number.


antisocialist said...

My list took a few minutes because some of my initial choices were on Mr. Santo's list. I was striving for ten other things, but miscounted and ended up with the following elven items:

Payne's BBQ
Pink Palace
MEM Terminal exterior
FedEx planes flying overhead at night
Tom Lee Park
Playhouse on the Square
Young Avenue Deli's Fries
Cooper-Young Development Corporation
Silky's goats (are they still there?)
Top's BBQ sauce

Four of mine are food related, fwiw.

antisocialist said...


Michael Hughes said...

-The culture of food in this city. From the wealth of independent restaurants to the hordes of individuals who enjoy dining out, cooking at home or simply just discussing food. This is a great city for those who like to eat.

-Many factors contribute to the ability to "find" oneself or at least a good career path. I moved here almost 9 years ago & held a number of jobs in different industries until I found what I was truly passionate about. The cost of living & connectedness of the city (everyone knows everyone else) allowed me to afford to find what I was not only good at but loved doing. If I would have stayed in San Francisco I don't think that would have been possible or affordable.

-People love to give back here. We've held two benefit parties at our house alone in the past 9 months that were very well attended & everyone opened their checkbooks.

-The arts community is so vibrant & varied. Its amazing to me that we have such an incredible talent pool of creative, artistic individuals here.

-Most people that I have come across here are eco-conscious in some way. There seems to be an overall desire to "green" this city.

-Project Greenfork. With the abundance of restaurants comes an abundance of waste. PG is helping restaurants do something about that.

-The enormous immigrant population. There is nothing more fantastic than walking into the Vietnamese market on Cleveland. Its as if I've gone to a foreign country.

-Everyone has a story. People come here from all over & bring with them many stories to tell. All you have to do is listen, most of the time its pretty interesting.

-This is a city for independent businesses. We love to support the small guy, the start-up, the passionate believer. Our small businesses are our soul & personality. They speak volumes about us.

-Filmmakers. According to MovieMaker magazine we are the #8 best city for filmmaking. Thats something to be proud of.

Jenny Sharpe said...

1. The countless opportunities to do something meaningful in a big way that impacts the entire community.

2. We're not too small for a project to be insignificant and not too large to have too many barriers or red tape to get it done.

3. The ability to feel a great sense of community due to having so many groups with every interest possible.

4. We're real. We're honest. We're authentic. We got soul.

5. We know how to have a good time!! We're not as stodgy or snooty as other cities.

6. There's a major upsurge of organizations starting to work on elevating and cultivating Memphis' amazing cultural assets.

7. We're gritty and resilient. We've been through hell and back numerous times - from the Yellow Fever Epidemic to the MLK assassination - and we rise up to fight our way back up every time.

8. You can get around the greater Memphis area so easily! People who complain about the distance from "out east" to "all the way downtown" are so spoiled.

9. Our many talented entrepreneurs, as we have always had.

10. Being a part of the community during its upswing is a thrill.

Anonymous said...

Great List, with AT least 6 things outside the Parkways, depending on how you look at it,, But Where do we go from here? Too many little groups and movements, we need a larger momentum organization to get us all on the same page, the many, many who love this blog and would love to do something BIG, to further this paradigm.

Louise said...

To the previous lists my first thoughts turn to:

Overton Park West Redevelopment Corridor
Broad Avenue Arts District
Wolf River Trail System
Memphis Heritage
Stewart Brothers and Gate City Hardware Stores
South Main
Shelby Forest
Shelby Farms before being discovered
The Parkway System and Overton Park
Memphis Botanic Gardens
Snowden Elementary School
Belvedere Boulevard
Highpoint Grocery
The Urban Arts Commission
Methodist/Le Bonheur Medical Center-Memphis Bio-works Redevelopment including St. Jude and Uptown
Collierville Town Square
Humphreys Boulevard

Zippy the giver said...

Nice list.
You deleted my list which only took me 5 seconds to come up with BTW.
I'm the guy you complained about.
What's worse, complaining or complaining about a complainer? Hmmm.

1. Central BBQ when they cut the meat right.
2. Peabody Hotel
3. The People
4. Shelby Buffaloes
5. The Zoo
6. Sun Studio Shakes (and tour)
7. HiTone
8. Music Foundation
9. Common Ground Memphis
10. The new effort to curb crime, Blue Crush and all it's ancillaries, Cyberwatch
11. Town Hall Meetings
12. MidTown North Community Assoc.
13. Tomeka Hart
14. Dr. Kriner Cash
15. Bridges and Tarrin McGhee
16. Pink Palace
17. Independent Filmmakers and Theaters
18. Staxx/Soulsville and the school
19. Police and Fire Department
20. Sanitation workers do a great job
21. The Landscaping, Stringer's
22. Mud Island Park
23. The Flea Markets and antique shops
24. Summer Ave from Knox East
25. Cooper Young Burke's Books
26. Golden Palace Indian Food
27. Memphis Drum Shop
28. Church Health Cntr
29. Bangkok Alley
30. Coach Cal and the boys!
31. Smart City blog!
32. City Champs Band
33. Opera Memphis,
34. Symphony
I could go on all day!

You have mistaken
"the very concerned and frustrated who are feeeling the pain"
and painted them with a brush that is not appropriate.
I don't know one person that would take the time to even have a complaint about Memphis that didn't deeply care and have concern for Memphis and especially the PEOPLE of Memphis that suffer under our swept and ignored disfunction. Memphis has begun addressing those problems this year.

Leaders don't take heed of disfunction because people were saying, "it's fine, everything is fine, we don't mind being stabbed in the back by leadership turning a blind eye for 40 years". They took heed because we got fed up and started complaining. LOUDLY, a lot.
Don't get the issue twisted, we care, deeply!
Deeply enough to risk being ostracized by people LIKE YOU for saying what is so for us.

Remember this:

It's an axciom.
When the other 110 schools have the exact same curriculum as the 'best" and all are accountable for the same results, the children will be free-er.
When the re-entering ex incarcerated are given a real and effective rehabilitation program and jobs that pay enough after completion they will be free-er to contribute rather than suck off resources.

It's frustration, deep, deep, deep concern, and the willingness to look like an idiot to get some light on the core issues that continually feed the disfunction and how to solve those problems in a repeatable, sustainable, and affordable manner.

Memphis absolutely could be the leader in the green and sustainable cities move.

Aaron said...

This list comes from my wife Michelle:

The Memphis Zoo
Beautiful Rhodes College Campus
Downtown YMCA - diverse and full of people how are trying to live healthy lives
Ms. Cordelia's Deli
Harbor Town green belt
Snowden school
Central BBQ on Central
Trolley rides
Not having to wait in line to ride the trolleys!
Our beautiful antique midtown bungalow
All the antique and beautiful buildings in Memphis
The Orpheum
Being able to actually drive my car down town
Walking to Cafe Eclectic
Memphis Tigers
Springtime in Memphis

Courtney said...

A few things that weren't on Charlie's list ...

New Ballet Ensemble

The dental school and eye school that bring hundreds of students into the area ... now only if we could convince more of them to stay.

Lots of places for a lazy runner to stretch her legs ... especially if you start at my front door.

Downtown Elementary

The community of writers living here and Memphis Magazine for running an annual fiction contest

Stacey Greenberg--basically everything she does, but most especially dining with monkeys.


Shelby Forrest

The Mississippi River

University of Memphis--for employing my husband and letting me go back to school.

I know sort of a personal list, but it's mine.

Smart City Consulting said...


Please understand: we are not complaining at the complainer. We just would appreciate it if you could keep on the subject.

Anonymous said...


Why did you think they were talking about you? Feeling guilty?

Smart City Consulting said...

Now, now. Be kind. You've got to love Zippy's enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

A few things I like about Memphis --

1. The people. Cliche as it may be, I've lived in many other places, and I've never met such friendly people.

2. The spirit. Memphis rallies -- be it around the Tigers or the riverfront or the old growth forest or distressed friends in faraway places. I will never forget venturing to the Wal-Mart on Germantown Parkway late one night in September 2005 and seeing a line of people as far as I could see waiting to place bags of goods--bought with their own hard-earned money--in the back of a truck for delivery to people they had never met. I was compelled to do the same.

3. The Zoo. My family held a membership there for three years and visited well over 100 times. It never gets old.

4. The Brooks Gallery. Same as above.

5. The University of Memphis, which has decided to be a trend-setter in university-neighborhood relations.

6. All of the colleges and universities in Memphis, which bring diversity and keep Memphis interesting.

7. Community-engaged faculty of above-cited universities and colleges. I live in a college town now, and I have yet to meet another Phyllis Betts, Richard Janikowski, or David Ciscel.

8. The food. I miss Central and Cozy Corner and Leonard's. I even miss Tops.

9. The Pink Palace and The Children's Museum. Both supply endless hours of fun.

10. On a personal note, St. Mary's Cathedral. Besides being my church home, it has some of the most fascinating architecture (inside and out) of any structure in the area.

These are the first ten that come to mind.

Zippy the giver said...

Now, why would I ever feel guilty about caring?
Nope, SCM made it pretty clear who the pillory came from.
I stipulate that I can be harsh, but, that's because it's wholly ineffective for me to be nice to myself or others to be nice to themselves about the default future we are automatically living into when we shut others out, the one that is already ruining Memphis, especially when it victimizes a certain cast as a vital mechanism of it's existence. When unrecognized as the core issue, we will never be effective at any plan, 300 years of institutionalized stupidity has yielded it's result, if we don't learn that we are idiots.
Don't mistake dogged determination and tenacity for "enthusiasm". That's just a backhanded insult."Southern Nasty nice". I grew up with that.
You now have the attention of the federal justice department, looking over the shoulders of everyone in charge.
Like I say, there are too many things to list on the positive side, and conversely the negative side, but, even they have a positive side as they are getting some attention. When we settle for ineffective efforts and take no self assessment of our effectiveness, we become nothing more than narcissists, looking for another "look good feel good" project to fail at. We fail those who need service and those who deliver the service.
Maybe a post where we gather the stats about how effective all the "programs" actually are is in order, or, do they even have a way to measure? If thy don't, that is telling.

Anonymous said...

Common Ground
Lakes in Raleigh
MS River Front
Memphis Zoo
Ballet Memphis
Flowers along the Parkways
The ways Memphians can laugh and tell it like it is!
Trees in Memphis!
Our history of non violent protest
Tiger Basketball
High Point Grocery
Dr. Cash
GREAT sanitation workers in my neighborhood!!! THANK YOU!
How easy it is to get anywhere
National Civil Rights Museum
Peabody Ducks

Karen said...

One very big one which is the dynamic and diverse arts and cultural scene in our community and a second related one - the individuals, businesses, and foundations that support it. You need to travel outside Memphis to truly appreciate what we have.

Anonymous said...

Memphians have the proper right to pride that pales a peacock. More innovation, invention and world-shaping, groundshaking concepts, styles and other types of influence have come out of residents of this town than most other cities on earth. It is that much of a world-class city because of so many things that made the world a better place to live in.

EcoMemphis said...

1. I love Memphis for it's (nearly subversive) determination to make this a great place to live - nay-sayers be damned.

2. I love the suburbs. There's a lot of cool stuff happening out there even hip midtowners would envy.

3. I love that Memphis is understanding that we don't have to seek permission from our political leaders to have the communities we want.

4. I love that Memphis has tremendous appreciation for beauty - in our art, in our yards, in our performers.

5. I love there's still a sense of 'new-ness' here. That we can make Memphis what we want it to be.

6. I love that we have strong multi-cultural communities.

7. I love that we have a strong, positive history/identity - we know it, we own it, and we don't apologize for it.

8. I love that we are Southerners, and will be pushed, but only so far. There are many times, when what we care about is put on the line. Then, we stand strong and take care of business.

9. I love that we love our babies. Memphis has a tremendous culture of parenthood and trying our damnedest to be the best we can be.

10. I love our parks - Riverside Park, Shelby Farms, Shelby Forest, Peabody Park, Cancer Survivers Park - with lots of activities like golf, frisby golf, tracks, hiking, boating, fishing, etc. I feel lucky to have these available.

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