How to Survive “The Summer I Didn’t Comb My Hair” 

What's up, Memphis? How is everybody doing six months into the coronavirus pandemic?

Well, anybody with an ounce of common sense — or a Black mama — knows deep down that America has not responded well to this situation. "Men lie, women lie, numbers don't lie" — the data speaks for itself. While many other countries are slowly opening their respective societies because they practiced strict COVID-19 safety measures based on science, we Americans are stuck spinning our wheels with no clear or sensible national leadership from the federal government.

If 2019 was the "Hot Girl Summer," then I don't know what to call 2020. Maybe the "I Did Not Comb My Hair Today Because There is Nowhere to Go But Kroger Summer"?

click to enlarge © SPOTMATIK | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • © Spotmatik | Dreamstime.com

Yeah it sucks; movie theaters are closed, can't hang out at bars and get publicly drunk like you used to, no Memphis in May, no sports, no amusement parks (my bad, we literally don't have those anyway), and the kicker — Yo Gotti canceled his annual birthday concert in August! Oh Lawd, how will Memphians Black and white get to let loose and express their inner ratchet?

Well, on the bright side, Memphis has a plethora of cool city parks all over the city: Tom Lee Park, Overton Park, Shelby Farms, and the Wolf River Greenway to name a few, plus dozens of miles of protected bike lanes.

I admit, when former Mayor AC Wharton first announced the major initiatives for the Green Lane Project in 2013, I thought such significant resources were misdirected, but I now see the added value of this investment to the city — enhancing the way we use and enjoy our parks system. As COVID-19 has interrupted our regularly scheduled summer, the city's commitment to expand and aesthetically improve the parks we enjoy really seems to bring us together.  

So, let me rant about a few other things: In May, I was living in close proximity to the Wolf River Greenway and would often go for four- to five-mile power-walks on those wooded trails. There are lakes, streams, and quaint little bridges that attract all types: runners, new mommies pushing strollers, people trying to fish, individuals and families on bicycles. Some days it can get rather busy — traffic looking like I-240 out there — so I am mindful of staying on my side (the right side) of the walk path.  

So, I am out for my usual walk one Saturday afternoon, with my headphones on blasting, walk-dancing to Megan Thee Stallion — sometimes pausing in the middle of the path to see if today is the day that my old ass has figured out how to twerk. But it is not, so I keep it pushing. A few feet ahead I see a big puddle on the path, and there are two things I don't do — step in grass (because of dog poo) and get my socks wet — so I am hop-scotching left and right. Next thing I know I am on the ground; a lady on a bicycle ran over me.  

She crashed out too, and when we both get up, she had the nerve to go off on me. Key Glock was bumpin' in my headphones at that moment, so I was already hyped and "On My Memphis Shit" properly cussing her out. Here's the thing: If you out here on the Greenway with your Tour de France bike and Spandex outfit getting your Lance Armstrong on — then shouldn't you be riding on these protected bike lanes? Come on, mane. 

Then, two weeks ago, I am on a morning walk Downtown through Tom Lee Park, along Riverside Drive toward Bass Pro. The city had blocked off the street to car traffic, and it felt exhilarating to just walk down the middle of the street (but not like those idiots you know you have considered hitting walking randomly across Poplar between 201 and Cleveland). Anyway, I have moved to the sidewalk as I pass that pretty AutoZone building, headphones on, when I get clipped by a young dude ballin' out on one of those Birds or Spins or whatever kind of scooter. He crashes into the side railing, almost flipping over the side — which would have been tragic. Again, I got to square up. A fool on a motorized vehicle doing 20 mph should be on the streets (or perhaps those bike lanes), not the damn sidewalk with pedestrians, Memphis! Come on, mane.  

Main point: 2020 has been an extraordinary year, with COVID-19 forcing us to find new ways to safely come together and enjoy ourselves in the Bluff City. Take care of each other, wash your hands, and wear a damn mask! 

Live Strong, Memphis — November 3rd is on the horizon!

Kemba Ford is a politician/consultant in Memphis.

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