Man, I think I'm getting soft in my old age. I was
set to go off on a tangent here about how we need a revolution in
the United States and taking back the government and imprisoning AIG executives
(or at least making them work in the sewer for a month or so) and how their zillion-dollar homes should be turned into homeless shelters and how that guy plastered all over CNN for crying when he had to look for a job on Craigslist because he couldn't take his daughter to Las Vegas for her birthday or buy fancy suits anymore needs to learn the virtues of the everything's-a-dollar aisle at Piggly Wiggly and quit whining and how nice it would have been if Barack Obama could have come into office without inheriting the worse mess of any incoming president in the history of the country so he could concentrate on social change and equality for all more than he's been able to and . . . well, something happened on the way to the computer keyboard.
But let me back up for a moment.
The other night, I was a panelist in a forum of sorts that focused on how to make Memphis a better place. Normally — and aside from the sheer terror of speaking in front of a crowd of more than two people — I would rather crawl under a rock than be involved in something like this. It sounded fairly suspect to me from the get-go. All of the other presenters were younger than I am (that's always a bad sign for me), and all were much more enthusiastic in general about wanting to "make a difference" and make Memphis a better place. Yes, I was leery.
But something strange happened that night: Not only did we find ourselves on the same page about our hometown, but we also kind of wanted to "fight." There was a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-do-something-about-it attitude not only among the presenters but among the entire crowd there to participate. And I felt that night that maybe it's time to put a little redneck in our rhetoric and take off the gloves if we're going to stay in Memphis, which I am, and shut up the naysayers or at least tell them that if they want to bitch and moan about every little thing they see wrong in Memphis they might want to get out of their chairs for a split second and quit making comments on the Internet using horrible grammar. These people act like Memphis is the only city on the map that has crime and strange politics. What I say is that it is the only city on the map that has Wild Bill's.
I know I'm a little late weighing in on this, but when Forbes magazine came out with that deal ranking Memphis as the second-most miserable city in the United States and whatever the other publication was that ranked us as one of the unhappiest cities, I wondered if they had even been here and who showed them around. In my job at the Stax Museum, I deal with journalists and other visitors from all over the world. And if I had room on this page, I would copy all of the e-mails I get from them — sometimes years after they visit — telling me how much they loved their visit here. I have some who find reasons to come back again and again. I just got an e-mail from a very popular photographer in Paris who was here recently, and she sent me photos of the "Memphis shrine" she has set up in her apartment that overlooks a beautiful street in that city. There are several BBC documentarians who e-mail me at least twice a week with potential ideas that would bring them back to Memphis. I got an e-mail this past weekend from a New York Times reporter who just published a cool story on the Stax Museum and wants me to help arrange an appearance here for her when her new book comes out later this year. She said it didn't really matter where, because "I really just want to come back to Memphis!"
And then this morning out of the blue when I was all set to write about the need for a revolution, I met a woman who has started a nonprofit organization to help inner-city kids and has been paying for it out of her own pocket and was trying to brainstorm on how to make it even bigger and maybe, maybe break even so she wouldn't have to spend the rest of the year paying the bills for the event she hosts for the kids. Forbes, how miserable is THAT?
Anyway, I'm usually not one to be a cheerleader, but all this economic mess and greed and corruption and dirty politics has made me, for one, want to fight back and not be a loser. And if you think Memphis is a town with no spine, look no further than the 1968 sanitation workers strike. Go to iamamanthemovie.com and download it. There. Like I said, I am getting soft. It's kind of nice.