Monday, April 29, 2019

Memphis Bound

This last weekend I escaped Nashville and their endless self promotion coupled with the modern day slave auction, the NFL Draft.  An appalling spectacle that already has found one draftee shot and his teammate killed. This on the heels of other prospects having serious domestic violence issues in their history, an issue not new to the NFL the sport that exploits young men, abuse their bodies and further degrade their minds without any admission that the increased emphasis on violence in the sport itself is like a self feeding tool to further take it off the field as on.

It is not lost on me living in Nashville and just returning from Memphis and while the two cities could not be more different in personality, culture and history they share a trait when it comes to crime and violence.  Nashville buries it and covers up that on the same weekend that saw over 300K visitors just an hour away a young man killed his entire family; that a shooting on street within minutes of the main action seven people were shot or another nearby killed.  Then in a neighboring county two Elementary students were charged with planning a shooting.

Memphis has equally a significant problem with crime and violence and the weekend I was there a woman was killed in front of her apartment in the downtown area.  But Memphis is working and aware of the problem and are not in denial as they are in Nashville and seemingly that was acknowledged several times over the weekend with reports on violence. 

The culture and character of Memphis is literally night and day and the faces of the residents when you pass on the street reflect that, there are often random encounters with locals who introduce yourself or with service workers who are more than engaged with those whom they come into contact. I met more people and had more engaging if not highly amusing conversations with the locals in Memphis in a 72 hour time frame than I had living in Nashville coming on to three years in June. 

Memphis is a Chocolate City and that may explain why it has resisted gentrification despite the fact that the city is more interesting, demographically laid out well and has a striking waterfront that is well utilized and appreciated, unlike the filthy Cumberland which the city tolerates but tries its best to ignore as a pest that nearly brought the city to its knees a few years ago.  And like Nashville the division between the have and have not's has been well preserved over the last few years.  While Nashville has found itself outing the first Black Director of Schools under the belief it was racism versus overall incompetence, Memphis has had several. Their schools are no better but they have fewer options that the old money of Nashville have found with their numerous private academies that dot the landscape.   Memphis has its Beale Street like Nashville has its Broadway, it has the Rock and Soul Museum, the Civil Rights Museum, the Cotton Exchange and many others with of course the King of Rock n'Roll's land of Grace and all things Elvis within a 20 minute drive out of town and yet once through those gates is as if entering another world.   Nashville aspires to be any city it is not, Seattle is a coveted choice, Vegas another and it may explain its endless nicknames that they seem to affix with each passing fad.  My God Nashville is a shithole, they should try that one.

Memphis makes no apologies and no excuses they seem to be fine with who they are and the city has a flavor much like its sister City - New Orleans.   The high spirit, the energy and the sense of place perhaps has enabled it to just stay as it is despite the flows of the river and the riches that run through or past it. NOLA turned 300 this year and Memphis is turning 250 and she is not showing her age but is like a fine wine that needs to be opened and savored.  Nashville is yesterday's beer, flat and tasteless and has it self congratulates and humble brags about its varying "it" status they neglect the people that made it so and the arrogance and idiocy that line the streets only further demonstrates how clueless they are.    I sense that while Seattle the real city on the "rise" (which they say here endlessly) shows the risk with the crane collapsing yesterday and killing four is something again Nashville aspires to have. They want a mass shooting, they want a disaster, they need something to prove to themselves that they are worthy of all the lies they spout and bullshit they spread.

Before I left for Memphis the adjacent developer to my apartment (now going condo whatever)  was planning on building more condos and units that were "affordable" and while most of his have sold many are still on the market or going back on the market.  The store that opened as a mini bodega closed abruptly leaving the owners bankrupt as the promised business and traffic never happened and may not despite the endless commercial structures now replacing the promised dwellings.  The neighborhood like many in Nashville has been designated an opportunity zone and that enables investors to build with little to no risk secured by tax breaks and write offs that residential building does not - an irony not lost that affordable housing should be the real development as it is needed but again does anything make sense here?  And this continues with another massive real estate deal that again changes the tune here in Music City.

What the federal Opportunity Zone program does it defers, reduces and, potentially, eliminates taxes on capital gains tied to development within such designated areas.   Gosh its good to be rich and most of it is tied to out of state investors with little to no skin in the game and no interest in what is good for Nashville or the people who live within.  Another absurd development is planned in a area that put in a branch of a coffee shop I go to and it too struggles to keep its roof but more are coming, with more and more money pouring it the cup its all too good to say no to a refill.

But the cup is not bottomless and the reality is that the growth and projections for the city to be some Class A metro may be ending.  The current Government is moving forward on School Vouchers, Anti Voting bills and anti LGBQT laws.  Then you have the move to destroy choice as we know it this states red colors will fly proudly as the Nathan Bedford Statue does off I-65. Memphis had the common decency to simply sell the public park its statue sat upon and the new owner promptly removed it.   This too led the state to completely adjust laws to prevent any other municipalities from doing the same as they do in pretty much every scenario here.  Self rule is sole rule and two cities have two different dynamics but much like the Slave Overseer they have little freedom to run to their own rules.  And the reality that race drives this cannot be overlooked but it is not the primary factor, it is and will always be money.  Then it is the Church which dictates the rules that govern the laws and then the tribe one belongs to and the family from whom one comes from.  I have been questioned in Nashville more times than I can count: Why did you come here?  More an accusation than an inquiry versus Memphis: Where are you originally from?  It takes a five minute encounter with me with a local to figure out I am not from here but in Memphis it was seen as welcoming and inviting, here in Nashville is like pointing to the zombies from the Night of the Living Dead.  It is a warning that another "outsider" a "carpetbagger" here is to take, take something that from what I could tell before I did get here was a shithole.  So don't worry I used to think that I should leave it better than I found it ruled, I have now found the exception. Nashville you will always be a shithole no matter how many fancy buildings or restaurants or conventions you bring as the source of shit is from within. What comes in must come out as they say

Go to Memphis and find soul, literally and figuratively. 

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