Looking back through the columns I write each year is always illuminating, mainly because so much of what occupies our civic and social discourse is revealed as ephemeral, meaningless six months or even six weeks later. That list would include: the Paula Deen "n-word" flap; the Kanye West buying Graceland rumor; the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue brouhaha and subsequent KKK "march"; the flap over Steve Cohen's "daughter"; Toronto mayor Rob Ford's public meltdown; the High Point "monster owl"; Amazon drones; the war on Christmas; and Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, aka this season's Paula Deen, to name but a few.
I wrote a lot about gay rights. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in June, and now gay-marriage bans are falling in state after state, as couples sue state governments in federal court, and lower-level federal courts are following the lead set by SCOTUS. Utah, of all places, was the latest state to have its gay-marriage ban over-turned. Brother wives, anyone?
And marijuana moved further into the mainstream as several more states decriminalized pot possession and/or legalized medical pot, and two states are about to legalize weed for recreational purposes, beginning in January. My prediction is that Arkansas passes some form of legalization in November. Pot reform and gay marriage are coming, Tennessee. And it should be fabulous. Let the kicking and screaming in Nashville begin.
I wrote a lot about the "fiscal cliff" and the sequester early in the year, as the U.S. government ground to a halt. And there were several massive scandals that lasted for a minute or two, until attention shifted elsewhere: the IRS "targeting conservatives" scandal; the Justice Department tracking AP reporters' phone data scandal; and of course, the greatest scandal since Watergate — Benghazi. The first two faded as quickly as you can say George Zimmerman, but "What about Benghazi?" became the Republican default response to any political question for months.
My most-read columns were ones about how Memphis and Shelby County needed to "start seeing other people" and a follow-up piece that was a shove-off to Memphis haters. "We got this," I wrote. You worry about your problems in the 'burbs, and we'll figure out how to make Memphis work. Many of you wrote to tell me, "You go, boy!"
The Flyer saw some changes this year. Chris Herrington, Hannah Sayle, and John Branston all bid us farewell, and this issue marks longtime chief copy editor Leonard Gill's finale in that role. Joining us this year were reporter Toby Sells, music editor Joe Boone, Grizzlies writer Kevin Lipe, film editor Greg Akers, calendar editor Julie Ray, and copy editors Hannah Anderson and Shoshana Cenker.
This is our final issue of 2013, a big double-decker that will allow us to take off the week between Christmas and New Year's. We will see you on the other side, where 2014 is waiting to take us on another spin around the calendar.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...