The news this morning that the upscale grocer Fresh Market is going to convert the Ike's at Union and Cooper into its newest Memphis location brought great joy to the hearts of most Midtowners.
We were already pleased at the news about Kroger's big rebuild of its Midtown store on Union. We've had Kroger envy for a while now, ever since the Big K built that massive store in Poplar Plaza. We visited that store and we dreamed. Big dreams. Dreams of a craft beer section. Visions of massive new cheese options, instead of the three types of Gouda and four types of cheddar Kroger currently offers in Midtown. We dreamed of wide well-lit aisles, mounds of fresh produce, gleaming fresh-cut steaks, seafood that wasn't pre-frozen.
Yes, we had dreams, but they were still a couple years away. There's a lot of tearing down and building that needs to happen yet. And frankly we, at least the "we" that lives on the block of Idlewild Street between Union and Linden, have fears about the new mega Kroger. We fear our quiet little block will become a shortcut to Kroger's parking lot, a way for clever Midtowners to circumvent the Union bugtussle and sneak in the lot from the east-side door.
Our neighborhood fought Kroger, asked them not to put an entrance and exit on our little street. We went to city hall and asked for help from the Board of Adjustment, but didn't get it. We did manage to get Kroger to promise build a exit/entrance that would make exiting the east side of the lot south onto Idlewild and entering the lot from the south on Idlewild more difficult. But we still think we'll get lots of traffic we don't have now.
So our Kroger dreams are slightly mixed. Better store and better food selection? Yes. More traffic and less peace and quiet? No.
Which is why the Fresh Market move is doubly exciting. It will bring more grocery shopping options into play, and it will presumably reduce some of the traffic going into Kroger. Plus, Fresh Market will beat Kroger to the punch by at least a year.
All in all, I think we're seeing the business community beginning to recognize what we central city folks have known for a long time: Midtown (and downtown, for that matter) is healthy, full of disposable income, and is home to thousands of shoppers tired of having to drive east for choice and quality. Welcome.
Despite that fact, the GOP holds large majorities in those states' House delegations. In Pennsylvania, for example, though Democrats out-polled Republicans in congressional voting by a substantial margin, the GOP holds 13 of that state's 18 congressional seats. In Ohio, it's a similar story, with the GOP holding 12 of 16 seats, despite being out-voted statewide by the Democrats.
It's that way because following the 2010 Census, in states whose legislatures were controlled by ALEC-led Republicans, an absurd amount of gerrymandering took place. Democratic voters in those states were Balkanized into very few districts using ridiculous geographic contortions. It's outrageous, and it's a primary reason we have the current Congressional stalemate.
It also explains how the GOP can get trounced in presidential elections and lose the Senate, but somehow control the House of Representatives despite getting fewer Congressional votes. Salon has put together a fascinating interactive puzzler to demonstrate the absurdity of the gerrymandering.
Wondering how so many nutbags got into the House of Representatives? Wonder no more.
From the MGMT news files, proud papa department ...
MGMT's self-titled third album was released today. You should check it out. Also released today was a new video for a song (Cool Song No. 2) from that album. You can watch it below.
The band also announced dates for a fall U.S. tour, and will playing the Orpheum in Memphis on November 23rd.
Think we might be over-valuing sports just a tad in this country?
Can you spare a liter of milk?
Why Memphis is probably set for water for a while.
Where the drunks live.
The most important map of all.
Of course, now I know I missed the most important news story of the week: Miley Cyrus' (pick one ... or more) salacious, outrageous, funny, sad, pathetic, evocative, drug-addled, pornographic song and dance number.
I do not know if Miley Cyrus is just the latest in the entertainment media's production line of soon-to-be-burnt-out, drug-addled young music/screen stars, a la Lohan, Spears, Bynes, Bieber, Winehouse, etc., or whether she is skillfully, soberly, and purposefully being outrageous to enhance her career, a la Lady Gaga and Madonna before her. Nor do I particularly care. What Miley does musically does not entertain me, nor does she particularly want to do so, I suspect. I'm an old guy who likes his pop music to contain intelligent/pithy lyrics and melodic hooks. The occasional referance to honky-tonks, highways, booze, pot, and old dogs is also appreciated.
And something else entertains me: The Onion.com, which back in 2008 got the Miley Cyrus story exactly right.
The following night, August 22, MGMT — whose lead singer and lyricist, Andrew VanWyngarden, is from Memphis (yeah, I know, shameless plug) — are scheduled to perform on Letterman. Don't be surprised if they play this song.
MGMT's third album is slated for release in the U.S. on September 17.
Phil worked for us for a few years and did a lot of great stories. Then he started going places. He moved to Seattle, where he wrote a novel, Grassroots ..., that got turned into a movie. Then he moved to Brooklyn, where he got married, had a kid, and continues to write and put his energy into various projects.
But he never forgot Phil Campbell, Alabama, and a little more than three years ago, he decided to get the Phils back together again for another reunion. Everything was rolling smoothly. Lots of Phils were committing to being there. But as fate would have it, a few weeks before the scheduled reunion, Phil Campbell, Alabama, was wiped out by one of the devastating tornadoes that struck the state in May, 2011.
Undeterred, the Phils turned what was to be a happy reunion into a relief mission. Now they're trying to make a film about it. A few weeks back, Flyer Phil contacted me about getting some assistance on building the film's website and told me about how they were trying to make a trailer but had little money. I told him about the MGMT song, "Pieces of What," which the band played at Memphis in May in 2011, and dedicated to the tornado victims of Alabama.
Shortly thereafter, the band made the song available and the trailer got made. You can watch it here. It made me well up a little at the end. Feel free to contribute. It's for a good cause. Learn more here.
Sure, there are the usual complaints about morale, crappy management, lack of advancement opportunities, poor equipment, etc. — the kinds of things you'd get in almost any company's internal anonymous survey. But, one aspect of the officers' jobs that drew much criticism was the statistics-based evaluation, in other words, a quota system for traffic tickets. Here's a portion of Bianca's story:
"They've started tracking officer's stats, from alarm citations to how many calls to report to arrest tickets," one anonymous patrol officer told the Flyer. "A felony arrest can take hours, and they're more difficult to come by. So if an officer has six felony arrests in a month, then he's going to be in the red zone, because he hasn't written enough alarm citations or traffic violations. And then he is counseled by his lieutenant."
The officer said the program deters officers "who love to sniff out big crimes and be a police officer." Williams agreed, saying it can also cause less mature officers to violate citizens' civil rights, because they're just looking to make an arrest and boost their productivity points.
This intrigued me, because I'm about to go to court to fight a traffic ticket for running a stop sign. I don't normally fight traffic tickets, and I've had a few through the years, mostly for minor speeding, i.e. 45 mph in a 35 mph zone.
So why am I fighting this one? Because it's totally and egregiously bogus. I'll explain:
I drive Peabody/Vance Avenue from my Midtown home to the Flyer's downtown office at least twice a day. I've been doing this drive for 20 years. I know that there's a four-way stop at Vance and Lauderdale. And I always stop.
A few weeks back, I was heading home for lunch, and I stopped at the intersection of Vance and Lauderdale. In fact, three cars stopped simultaneously at that intersection on that day — one approaching me from the east on Vance, wanting to turn south in front of me; one from the north, on Lauderdale, wanting to go straight in front of me. We all did the "wave the other guy through" routine. After a few moments, the guy across from me went first. I went second.
Imagine my shock and surprise when blue cruiser lights appeared in my rear-view mirror about 10 seconds later. The officer approached and said (I shit you not), "You know there's a stop sign back there, don't you?"
I said, "Yes, I do. That's why I stopped."
The officer said, "No sir, you totally disregarded that stop sign. You ran right through it."
I sputtered and looked at him in disbelief. I went through the whole scenario of the three cars, the waving, etc. No dice. This cop continued to insist I "totally disregarded" the stop sign, and gave me a ticket.
So, even though it's a pain in the butt to go to court over this, I'm doing it. I've even got a lawyer (who I'm sleeping with, by the way). And also married to. She's going to represent me in fighting this stupid injustice.
I have no idea whether this cop just wanted to mess with me or whether he had a quota to meet or whether he somehow(??) mistook me for another vehicle. But he's going to have to tell his tall tale in court. And I know I'm fortunate to have access to legal help; most people would probably just pay the fine, which may be the whole point.
I go to trial in September. I'll keep you posted.
But let me just say that the idea of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian buying Graceland and hanging around Memphis gives me goosebumps. Or is that just a toxic rash? I dunno. Anyway, this story does give me an excuse to post a picture of Kim and Kanye and tap some of that sweet, sweet Internet traffic.
I keep a close eye on this website, which lets me know the Mississippi's water level, now and for the near future. Over the past couple of weeks, the Mississippi has dropped from 26 feet above normal to around 10 feet. That's a quick fall, which means there are now hundreds of acres of freshly exposed islands and sandbars, which we love to explore. Sunday, we pulled in on an island called Hickman Bar, a couple miles north of the city. In fact, it's close enough that you can still see the skyline if you get to high ground. But this is a place where we've seen bald eagles, deer, foxes, coyotes, herons and egrets, and where I've caught a few nice big catfish, emulating my hero, Jeremy Wade.
But Sunday, it was all about exploring. I'm fascinated by the footprints you find in the drying mud near the waterline. Like this one, a coyote, no doubt.
And these nice great blue heron prints.
And there was this, which looks like an alligator, but I ain't sayin' it is.
And finally, this oddity of tide and current. (Or some sly "artist" who beat us to the spot and thought this piece of driftwood deserved a display.)
Here are a few screenshot highlights.