I was a little leery about leaving town last weekend. I'd planned a birthday weekend getaway to the Little Red River in Arkansas, but what organizers had called the "world's largest" Ku Klux Klan rally was scheduled for Saturday. As Flyer editor, I had some concerns about being absent from the city for what might be a major news story. I needn't have worried.
After coming off the river mid-afternoon, Saturday, I took off my waders and checked the Twitter feed on my smartphone. I follow lots of local journalists and was able to get a pretty full accounting of the KKK action from their photos and comments. It was soon obvious, as John Branston reported on the Flyer's website, that it was a "non-event."
The Memphis Police did an excellent job of controlling the whole affair, keeping protesters a block away from the sheetheads, and in a symbolic stroke of genius, keeping the KKK in a chain-link cage surrounded by armed, mostly black police officers. The 60 or so bigots in costume spouted their white-power message and waved their grammatically challenged signs to no one. Then, in the ultimate ignominy, they were herded back onto a MATA bus and shuttled off to their pickup trucks.
When I returned to town Sunday, The Commercial Appeal didn't even have the KKK story on its front page. Excellent news judgment, folks.
The park-naming issue remains with us, but the world's largest Klan rally ended up being much ado about nuttin'. And for that we should all be grateful.
Monday was the first of April — a gorgeous day for all of us fools — bursting with sunshine and blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. As my wife and I drove through Midtown to dinner, the forsythia, redbuds, dogwoods, Bradford pears, daffodils, and tulips put on a spring show. In Cooper-Young, the sidewalk tables were full, as winter-weary Memphians enjoyed Chinese, Irish, Mexican, Italian, seafood, burgers, vegan, and cocktails al fresco at the C-Y district's many restaurants.
After dinner, we drove through Overton Square and saw the same thing — outside tables and decks full. Cars were parked all along Madison, inside the once-controversial bike lane. And more restaurants are coming. Not to mention a new theater.
There are lots of good things happening in Memphis right now. Lots of positive energy is brewing. If we could only figure out how to settle this endless city/county school debate. I guess putting all the combatants in that chain-link cage downtown until they get it done is out of the question.
I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...