When I'm meandering about the city by myself, I play games to keep myself company. If this sounds weird to you, please ask anyone who has ever been an only child to explain.
I played a game called "Count the Accents on Beale Street" on my lunchtime walks during Elvis Week. The name could use some work, but you get the gist.
When I'm driving, I also like to imagine what the other drivers on the interstate are listening to. Suburban SUV Mom? Either Mystic Stylez or some kind of Swedish death metal. Big Hemi with the truck nuts? You know he's singing along to "All About That Bass."
True story: This game was inspired by a Lyft driver who, um, challenged my preconceptions by blaring some Reba as he pulled into my driveway.
My favorite pastime is a game I call "This Would Be an Awesome _____." The premise is simple: As I pass an empty storefront or an abandoned building, I think of a new use for it.
Peabody Place would be an awesome grocery store, with a huge salad bar and prepared-foods section (and wine, of course).
If H&M had consulted me, they'd be in the old Tower Records space. No offense, Collierville.
Is it too soon to say the former Chiwawa, né Chicago Pizza Factory, definitely needs to be a gourmet hot dog restaurant? Because that would be awesome. If not there, then the space Pei Wei once occupied on Union.
In the old Towery Building at Union and McLean, I envision a charter high school for kids who are interested in the restaurant and hospitality industries, with a working restaurant and hotel run by the students.
I've imagined bootleg Grizzlies T-shirt shops, all-night diners that serve boozy milkshakes, a speakeasy and print shop in the Edge District, a Church Health Center for Animals, and an open-air market in a vacant church in South Memphis. Plus a cat café. And I've found at least three spots that would be perfect for a roller rink and bowling alley with a stage for live music.
My brain is like a pop-up shop that never ends, cranking out ideas ranging from "Why isn't that already a thing?" to "So crazy it just might work" to "Have you been drinking?" I'm not bold or wealthy enough to try to realize any of them. (If you are, feel free to borrow any of the above ideas that appeal to you.)
Please don't revoke my Memphian card for saying this, but some days this city makes me want to scream. "This Would Be an Awesome _____" grounds me, because it reminds me why I'm still here. Because the opposite, "Remember When This Was a _____" is just boring. And it seems "This Would Be an Awesome _____ But This Is Memphis So It'll Probably Never Happen" is finally making way for "Why not Memphis?"
Next Tuesday is September 1st, "901 Day." It's the day we doff our proverbial caps to the city where you can eat at a different barbecue restaurant every night of the week and never get the same main dish twice. Where folks are only half-joking when they say "Z-Bo for Mayor." Where nostalgia teeters on the border between quaint and counterproductive but in an endearing sort of way. And you better learn a thing or two about basketball if you want to have a conversation with anybody. Home of Drake's Dad, an epic love/hate relationship with trolleys, the World's Biggest Bass Pro Shops Ever, No, Seriously, It's a Pyramid, and First-Team All-Defense.
Alas, 901 Day is not an official holiday — yet — and you still have to go to work. Who knows, maybe that will change during the Randolph administration. But if you're looking for a way to celebrate, play a little "This Would Be an Awesome _____." Just see what comes to mind. It might surprise you. It might inspire you. It might be the next big thing, and it might make you a million bucks, in which case I hope you think of lil' ole me and help me open the hot dog restaurant this town deserves.
Let's get more people thinking and sharing ideas. When we see things for what they can be, "This would be awesome" turns into "This IS awesome." It sounds crazy, but it just might work.
Jen Clarke is an unapologetic Memphian and digital marketing strategist.