IT'S THEM MEMPHIS VIBES Code orange. Ozone. Still--creepily still--air, and gravity that grabs you by the ankles and sucks you toward the ground like a pair of strong invisible hands. It seems that after a summer of ornery storms and temperature vacillations, the atmosphere in Memphis decided upon a little Labor Day celebration of its own. This here is some porch sittin’ weather. Unless, of course, age or infirmity makes it a good time to stay inside. There’s a mythological element to the porch, something uniquely Southern, though porches can obviously be found anywhere. The related stereotype that we’ve all heard has to do with pace. But though the old refrain that stereotypes are based upon some sort of reality (or created by "reality" on TV, nowadays) this doesn’t mean that the resulting label gets it right. The ability to slow things down, to take in the world rather than constantly engage it, is an asset. It’s an especially valuable one, too, in this the age of the handheld PDA, video-gaming, Internet accessible, video and picture-capturing (global positioning) cell-phone that can organize and facilitate one’s life in three seconds flat. But is that really so? Does one really need, or want for that matter, EVERYTHING in the palm of their hand? Memphis, in particular, has a strangely social culture for a largish American City. There are literally a thousand things to do here, though 95% of said things are hidden treasures of a kind--diamonds in the rough, as cliché rears its ugly head once again. And when you get home from whatever choice you’ve made from amongst the myriad, its nice to be able to reclaim and redefine the "things are slower in the South" concept. Take this weekend for example, which started with the 6-hour extravaganza on the new bridge involving a dagger-toting crack head with a reported taste for child pornography, and the undivided attention of local news media as he threatened to hurl himself into the Mississippi River. In spite of the things that surfaced about the man after the fact, it was exhausting to watch the spectacle, though I suspect more so for anyone unlucky enough to have been dealing with the resulting traffic. My journey then led me to Beale Street, where I took in a mere few of the one-hundred or so musical offerings for the weekend. And ran around. And ran around. And ran around. And after the running shoes came off, how nice to sit and watch a day go by from the front porch. No cell phone. No televised life and death drama. Just Memphis. Atmosphere. I guess I could whip out the old dictionary here to qualify atmosphere, but who really wants to move? Besides, the atmosphere itself is complex, this being Memphis. And it makes you realize that even without craziness on the news, or craziness around town, or craziness as you navigate the 17,000 options on your new cell-toy, a "slowed" pace does not make the things encountered any less dense. There seem to be vibrations here--be they healing OHM’s or jarring shudders. And this weekend, with the air stilled, they seemed to be swirling around us. People out on the porch, watching other people. Watching a sky that watched back through its code orange haze. Listening to the trains roll by, some faster than others. Listening to the sirens, the music, the cicadas screaming. Maybe as a culture, we’ve lost track of the art of simple observation. But sitting on the porch, it can be reclaimed, stereotypes of lethargy be damned.


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