Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Best of the World 2013

View from standing on the wrong side of the River

Hmm... this isn't going to one of those short narratives.

Our time in Memphis has narrowed down for the year... we've had a blast with friends, seeing shows, basketball games, concerts, and generally having more fun than we've ever had in Memphis before.
But, it's starting to get cold so it's time to go... we're heading east before we head south. The loose plan is for a stop around Atlanta then Jacksonville to play with our Grandson... then home to Stuart and Istaboa.
Remember, it's the dream being realized? Time to head back, the nice weather, and friends that go with it.
And, yes I know, there are those who feel there is no better life than full time living aboard our boats, but we've been doing the cruising thing for many years and we like to think of the boat life as a dream being realized, but sometimes, for us anyway, it's fun to hop on the Bus and say — there's no place like home — and our dream remains floating somewhere awaiting our return.
For the first time, we're—gonna—miss—Memphis!
We're just discovering that something's happening here and, yes, I've written about it a lot recently.
One of the things I find most interesting is how Memphis constantly ends up on the list of some magazine, website, TV show, or anything else that ranks cities. We're either the most dangerous, least attractive, most interesting, and once upon a time, the most beautiful.
For whatever reason, our hometown of Memphis has found itself on a lot of lists in the last few years... Notoriously, in 2010, Forbes.com awarded us the dubious honor of being The Most Dangerous City In America, then, the next year we lost our ranking to Detroit and slipped to the second most dangerous city in America. In 2010, Travel and Leisure named us the city with the Least Attractive People In America, but somehow within 2 years we became the 26th of 37 in the same category. (Maybe a lot of our dangerously ugly folks moved to Anchorage, which is 37th on the list.)
A year or so later we were named the second Most Interesting City In America To Visit by Trip Adviser.  In the 1950/60s we were routinely ranked The Most Beautiful City In America by whoever ranked things in those days.
So now,  it seems the times they are a changing.
Now, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC has put us in the Top 20 Must See Places in the World and there are only 4 cities in the USA on the list.

Cut from Nat Geo's website:


Photograph by Bob Bronshoff, Hollandse Hoogte
Tennessee’s fast track
It’s easy to forget about Memphis, a mid-size American city wedged into the southwest corner of Tennessee. Our collective memory of Memphis seems frozen in the mid-20th century: Elvis and Graceland, B. B. King and Beale Street, Martin Luther King, Jr., and his “Mountaintop” speech—the last he’d give before his assassination on the balcony of Memphis’s Lorraine Motel in 1968.
Certain aspects of Memphis’s past stifled the city for decades, snuffing the spirits of residents and scaring away visitors. But there’s something newly electric in the air.
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, located on the grounds of the famous Stax Records, is at the forefront of that revival. The museum, along with its Stax Music Academy and the Soulsville Charter School, celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2013 with concerts, parties, and Stax to the Max, a huge outdoor music festival. It’s far from a solo act.
All around Memphis, locals are pursuing grassroots projects more often associated with Brooklyn or the Bay Area. The nonprofit Project Green Fork has certified dozens of Memphis restaurants as sustainable, linking chefs with farmers and stimulating a vibrant local food community along the way. Running the culinary gamut from down-home Central BBQ to upscale Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, the eateries are held to admirably high standards in sourcing and sustainability. The complete article here.
Me thinks it's all that danger lurking in the River City... Really?  No, not really.
It's more dangerous out in the burbs, and the most prevalent threat out there is standing in line at WalMart on Black Friday or road rage on Germantown Parkway during rush hour. Think the gangstas' got guns in the city... check out the good ole boys in the burbs.
Crew Istaboa's reasons for leaving the suburbs and moving back into the City of Memphis had to do with things like: we have no kids, rush hour traffic, the lack of diversity, food? No, our little burb Cordova had excellent ethnic fare, though undeniably, the best dining in the Mid-South is in Midtown and Downtown, but the main reason we left our burb was... well... boredom.
Dangers in Memphis and it's surrounding areas are like anywhere else, there are always parts of town one should be wary of... and, one had better respect that or the possibilities of suffering harsh consequences are great.

But really, there does seem to be a strong collective vibe that things are happening here, some of it can be attributed to the changes in politics, but the really positive changes mostly revolve around the arts.
Remember, we've been absent for almost 20 years and I'm sure that this has been in the making for sometime, but these are our thoughts.

The Music:
Our young musicians have picked up the mantle that was laid down by their predecessors when they, understandably, left for California, Nashville, New York, and Atlanta in pursuit of fame and fortune.
Some of these new artists are now dusting off those old vinyl records and digging the old Stax tunes by David Porter and Isaac Hayes and the plethora of Memphis R&B artists who came out of Booker T. Washington High School.
The young rockers are revitalizing the Rockabilly Sun Studio styles of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis, the Burnette Bros, and Johnny Cash. (Yes, Cash was a rocker before he wasn't.) Many of these young local artists are merging the past with their own innovations and producing some very interesting results. e.g Star and Micey, Amy Levere, Harlan T. Bobo, and The North Mississippi Allstars.
The local Hip Hop scene has evolved into one of the most influential styles in that genre...(I'm an older white guy so I know of this from my young friends, Melonie, and Google) Crunk or Krunk originated in Memphis by Hip Hop artist such as Three 6 Mafia and Al Kapone and many others.

Of course the Blues is the foundation for all the above and Memphis pays homage to it almost everywhere, everyday.

Blind Mississippi Morris
From yesterdays unveiling of the first Blues Trail marker.

Want to taste a little Memphis Music Flavor?  Talented photographer and award winning filmmaker, Alan Spearman, has put together an interesting collection of videos starring some outstanding examples of the young Memphis Sound. Hotel Memphis
And, here's another one of our recent discoveries...
Cut from their site: 
Our mission:
To build a community by educating, entertaining and inspiring a diverse audience through highly interactive live shows combining music, education, and conversation.
Really interesting virtual concerts by groups from all over the country. All of this comes out of a sound stage around the corner from our apartment, done by very talented folks, and some are old friends. Check 'em out here

The Art, Photography, Film:

Within the Parkways that serve as boundaries for areas such as Midtown, The Pinch, Downtown from North to South Main, and the up and coming Crosstown Arts District, there is art everywhere... also, on a strip of land where homes were once demolished to make way for Interstate 40 until the citizens of Memphis fought, won, and diverted I40 around the city in order to protect Overton Park, Broad Street has now joined the other areas as an Arts District... in these creative little Bohemian sectors one cannot throw a rock and not hit a gallery or an artist.
And yes... Memphis  made another list. Flavorwire's Best City for Young Artist.
Move over Austin, ’cause with a cheap cost of living and lots of public art works, Memphis is attracting your hipsters. They may have sauntered in for the delicious home cooked meals, but creative minds have come to love the sleepy Southern town thanks to initiatives like Live from Memphis and the Urban Art Commission. The crowning achievement, Memphis in May, is a month-long shindig celebrating foodies, at the World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest, musicians, at the Beale Street Music Festival, and a kitschy International Week where one far-flung country is celebrated. Guerilla artists, you’ve met your match. No medium is too weird for Memphis.
 Like that... No medium is too weird for Memphis.

Our longtime resident artists, such as John Robinette, Bill Eggelston, George Hunt, Craig Brewer,  and Willy Bearden to just name few, are ushering in and cultivating a whole new generation of young artist of all genres.
There's definitely some mojo in this town... Listen to what award winning film producer, Craig Brewer, has to say.

Craig Brewer from Choose901 on Vimeo.

So Memphis, Thanks! We've had a great time and look forward to returning Home, that's Home, with a capitol H, in a few months, but now it's time for this crew to do some cruising aboard Istaboa.
We can't wait to leave and can't wait to get back.

Happy Holidays... Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Adios, Mi Amigos, see ya when we return.



Pic O' the Day