What would you do on your last day in Memphis? It was a question we bandied around in a staff meeting that became an interesting summer story idea. Staff members' answers range from serious to impudent to sentimental to silly. I think you'll enjoy them (page 19).
As for me, if I had to leave after nearly two decades here in the ol' Bluff City, I'd want to cement some impressions and relive a few special moments. So after the last farewell party, the last hug from the last friend standing, I'd take a couple of days on my own to say goodbye and think about my time here.
I'd take a morning walk around Central Gardens, ending up at Schnucks, where I'd wander the crowded aisles for a final time. Then I'd drive my route to work, west on Peabody, under the looming oaks, past the big brick homes with their lush plantings and root-cracked sidewalks; under I-240, where Peabody becomes Vance, past MIFA, a symbolic and literal check-point between haves and have-nots.
On I would go, across the tracks, past the funky liquor store Jim Jarmusch used in Mystery Train, past the last remaining mansion on Vance, with its Fort Apache fence, past the corner store with the EBT sign, past the fading public housing, Raiford's, Frank's Liquors, to Front Street, to Tennessee Street, where I'd take a long look at the river and the bridges.
Then I'd head 30 miles north, to Randolph Landing on the Mississippi, and I'd put in a canoe. There's an island I'd like to revisit. It's a massive stretch of sand and scrub trees and brush. I've camped there before and I could get there before sunset, easy. I'd pull in, set up a tent, build a fire, cook a steak, nip on a flask, and stare up at the infinite throw of stars until sleep came.
Come dawn, I'd take a barefoot walk along the sand and check out the tracks of animals that came and went from the river overnight. Deer, raccoon, bobcat, black bear, snakes, turtles, possum, mice, water fowl and shore birds of a dozen varieties — evidence of the wilderness on our doorstep.
I'd wander inland to where the sand turns to gravel and pick a small stone or two from the basement of time and put them in my pocket. Pieces of home to carry with me. Then I'd watch the big red ball come up over the Mississippi and be grateful I had the chance to be alive in this place and time.
The tale began in late May, when my wife bought a bird-feeder and hung it from a plant hanger on the corner of our garage. I look back now at those days of innocence and smile — at how we watched for a week, hoping in vain for a bird, any bird, to find our offering. And then, how happy we were when they came ...