MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, My View From Out East Over Twenty-six Years

Going back through files in Word to finalize chapters for the publication of my memoir, I decide to post some of the writing about Memphis on patnotes.com, writing that is neutral in flavor or slanted toward the positive.  I have to admit, after reading this particular post, I must have a fondness for, and enjoy living in Memphis.

A reason for posting the Memphis writing on the first day in September is that Labor Day Weekend is upon us, and people may be visiting relatives and friends in Memphis.  Labor Day is the public holiday of the US and Canada held in honor of working people on the first Monday of September.  Labor Day is celebrated on May 1st in some countries.  If you are a patnotes.com reader and headed to Memphis, write me a comment, please.  I would enjoy hearing from someone out there, now and then.  Thank you very much!

Sculpture in Seattle, Washington, In Homage To Labor Force

THOUGHTS ABOUT MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, PLACE OF TALL TREES

            Memphis, Tennessee, my home for twenty-six years, is tree rich.  Tall, straight trees, deciduous and otherwise, abound.  Memphis is reputed to have the longest growing season of any major city.  This means that a twelve-year-old tree can get up to thirty feet in height, as compared to, say, Texas, a place of less plenteous soaking rains.  Even before the 2011 drought, Texas trees would tend to scratch out a height of a dozen gnarly feet in the same number of years.  Memphis rains come in any style.  They come gently, come as soakers, come as downpours, and come as severe thunderstorms.  They sometimes come with straight-line, gale-force winds, and occasionally with the twisting winds as do the tornadoes of Texas and Arkansas or the hurricanes of Florida.  Lightening lights up the sky, and the thunder booms and frightens, and yet, from my perspective, all seems well, for the most part.  This is different from the Texas big-sky gully-washers that scare people to death and yet do not end the droughts.  Memphis is much farther east than Dallas, my city of birth and rearing, and much farther east and north than San Antonio, my second home because of in-laws there that we visit several times a year, and it being our home for five years in the 1980s.  My opinion of the climate of Memphis, Tennessee is that these unexpected variations in weather through the four distinct seasons are a strong point of marketing this city.  I enjoy the changes the weather here brings to daily life.

Going back to the descriptive trait of tall trees, I will bring up a negative resultant trait:  the grey squirrel population.  It is worrisome, the number of healthy, muscular, bushy-tailed mating pairs that populate the numerous tall trees.  If only these invasive pests could be the cute red squirrels of Britain of the past!  What a difference a property-owner would feel if the scampering, tree-spiraling, acorn-burying critters were the slower, red-coated animals, very much favored in England, now overrun by the large greys.

I like to contrast where I live to New York City, which claims to be green, yet long ago cut down its trees to build skyscrapers, except for Central Park.  The Big Apple does have claim to other parks, and does indeed have a lighter ecological footprint than one would imagine. New Yorkers are said to have a smaller carbon footprint than other states because New York City dwellers do not keep cars as a rule, a big factor in air pollution, a big factor in the footprint. To my way of thinking, a city’s carbon footprint is related to how alert and at the ready the movers and shakers of a place are.  Mayors, Governors, investors in the private sector, well-run conservation societies for land and structures, and leagues for grassroots influence make a difference.  Sometimes when I try to overcome a burgeoning tree-squirrel population, in a battle for the dominance of my property, I think of those supremely urban New York City folks, walking among the skyscrapers and riding the subways, and their talk of soot tracked into their homes on their shoes.  What a contrast to the lawns and streets of Memphis, Tennessee.  I wonder if Central Park affords New Yorkers complete satisfaction in communion with wildlife and wild plants.

When it comes to gardening and yard work, Memphis’s wild violets, a groundcover so rampant as to illustrate the concept of perfect natural selection, reign supremely and  ubiquitously over well-tended gardens and manicured yards.  The wild violet is a four-stemmed, heart-shaped-leafed weed.  A yard-worker in Memphis has two options for pulling them up by the roots:  you pull by the mature root ball (when the plant says you can), because it has lived sufficiently, or you use a forked thin probe, a “weeder.”  There may be one exception—sometimes a dozen or so of the wild violet babies can be rolled up out of damp soil, several at a time, because their tender roots have not dug deep.  It is dexteritously satisfying to the gardener to grab the mature stems of the five-inch green plant low down close to the moist soil and feel the roots let go.  I have pulled so many of these at one sitting (I sit on a wooden wine box), that the tips of my fingers become sore and my brain indelibly printed with the image of the plant.  I have drawn it, watercolored it, and sent the art to a friend on a postcard.  The wild violets grow in between cracks in the brick walk, and they grow all through the landscaping– nestling in with the Creeping Jenny and Ajuga groundcovers.  Wild violets find their way into potted plants—it is irrational.  They pop up in a fertilized, herbicided, mown front yard of grass.  These lively and tenacious green critters, sweet when looked upon individually, are entirely too aggressive.  I suppose the Texas equivalent would be the Spanish moss in trees.

Having established that my city is green, green in the sense that a Memphian meets nature coming and going, I progress to describing a business view of Memphis, a view that a Chamber of Commerce or public relations firm would release:  Memphis is America’s distribution center, having sprung to life almost two hundred years ago on the banks of the Majestic Mississippi River as a gateway to middle America.  Memphis was the cotton planter’s launch pad to the world.  In about 1870, fifty percent of all U.S. cotton crops were bought and sold here.  Cotton turned the wheels of the Southern economic engine at every step of the way.

Three-quarters of the nation's cotton was being grown within 200 miles of Memphis at the turn of the twentieth century. By river and rail, cotton rumbled into the city.

Memphis is promoted as excellently suited for companies wanting to consolidate inventory at one multi-regional base.  Many millions of tons of logs and other bulk commodities are shipped out of Memphis on barges every year.  “Memphis is the largest hardwood lumber market in the world . . . and The National Hardwood Lumber Association was founded in Memphis in 1898 and sets grading standards for hardwood lumber.  The inspection school trains more than 240 students each year,” states a 1984 promotional booklet published by BellSouth Corporation.

The most famous public-trading company in Memphis is Federal Express, whose multitude of airplanes come and go seemingly continuously out of a hub near the Memphis International Airport, a medium hub size facility, home base of Delta-Northwest Airlines.  For a Memphian lunching on the patio of Bosco’s, a midtown pub and grill situated in the flight pattern, she or he would count nine Fed Ex planes overhead during a one-hour lunch.

Another well-known company relocated to Memphis from Connecticut in recent history—International Paper.  Thought of as a conservative group of white-collar workers, the administrative branch of the company built an alluring campus of blue-toned highrises.  The pretty surroundings, obviously with tall trees, have peaceful walking paths, flowerbeds, and shrubs for workers and persons doing business there to enjoy.

There is much development in medicine and the health sciences in Memphis.  New buildings have increased the outreach.  The University of Tennessee Health Science Center serves our state and the entire country in the training of doctors, dentists, nurses, physical therapists, and other health providers.  The faculty have achieved a high ranking among medical schools.  Regarding hospitals, our “Med,” serving three states, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, is known for cutting-edge technology and for treating trauma cases in rapid time.  Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center has expanded and built a state-of-the-art treatment center.  Many other strengths abound in Memphis:  a vibrant downtown emphasizing residential restorations, an excellent baseball stadium for Redbirds, feeder team to St. Louis Cardinals, The Peabody Hotel—“The South’s Grand Hotel,” Beale Street for Blues Music, bars, and strolling late at night, Grizzlies NBA Fed Ex Forum, Trolley Ride from the bluffs to “The Pinch,” an old émigré neighborhood near St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  The trolley passes the National Civil Rights Museum, one of a kind in the world.  The downtown area has Mud Island featuring a paved miniature Mississippi River, a Mark Twain-themed museum, an outdoor concert arena, and a monorail to transport you to the island.  Furthermore, downtown has a stunning Chinese Art Museum on Main Street, near the antique Orpheum Theatre, which has a gilt ceiling and immense glass chandelier.  The Cannon Symphonic Hall is modern and thoroughly appreciated by music lovers and ballet goers.  Out east, in a suburban area approximately a dozen miles from downtown, the Wolf River Trail has been built with private money.  This is a wonderful outdoor-exercise addition to the popular Shelby Farms, a huge preserve with buffalo, too many geese to count, Patriot Lake with canoeing and paddle-boating, and hiking and biking trails.

PATRICIA’S FAVORITES – SIGHTSEEING  (updated 03/11)

 1)  Lobby of The Peabody Hotel, “The South’s Grand Hotel”

Whether or not you see the trained ducks march to or from their Italian Marble Fountain, carved all from one piece and topped with a live floral magnificent display, come to this space, so memorable architecturally and for people-watching, listening to piano, and sipping a beverage.  Be sure to look up at the ceiling!

2)  Trolley Ride:  On June 29th of 2007, ran until 1 AM

Stand at any corner on Main or Riverside; trolley runs every 10 or 12 minutes all day, every day; fare = $1

To “Ride The Loop”, which gives you a look from “The Bluffs/Bluffwalk”, get on the Yellow Line, between “The Pinch” District (north) and G. E. Patterson (south), where Arcade Restaurant (540 S Main) serves, near National Civil Rights Museum.

3)  Chinese Art Museum in Peabody Place Museum, 119 S. Main Street, Pembroke Square, Concourse Level, 901 523-ARTS, www.belz.com, 10 AM – 5:30 PM and Noon till 5 on Sat/Sun.

See a breathtaking private collection of the Belz Family– Fu Dogs, Jade, rich woods, reds, so beautiful!

4)  Cotton Museum, 65 Union Av., 901 531-7826, $5, Tues-Sat 10 – 5, Sun Noon – 5; Cotton ran the Southern economic engine.  This museum is new.

5)  The Orpheum Theatre, west of Beale Street, has been restored to old grandeur with gilt walls and a magnificent crystal chandelier.  Film series in summer.

6)  Redbirds Stadium, Union St. @ 3rd & 4th is a local source of excellence architecturally. As I understand it, private money built it, and it got all the state-of-the-art designs. Memphis’ AAA Redbirds feed the St. Louis Cardinals.

7)  Completed in 2011, Wolf Trail, Humphreys Blvd. @ Shady Grove/Baptist Women’s Hospital area, attracts walkers, bicycle riders, moms with babies in strollers, dogs on leashes, and nature lovers in general. A beautiful bridge of Ipe wood, rusted iron, and silver wire span the Wolf River.

8) The Racquet Club, Sanderlin between White Station and Mendenhall, hosts a professional tennis tournament each February. It is easy to park for $5 nearby, walk to the facility, and buy a ticket for the day or night, priced at $30 or $40. I get up-close-and-personal with famous players.

9) Lifetime Fitness Center of Collierville, Just north of the intersection of Poplar and Houston-Levee Rd., this big place has many members. I spend several hours each week with inspiring coaches in dance class or core work, or just riding the elliptical machine and doing mat work.

RESTAURANTS

1)  Huey’s for a juicy “World Famous” Burger; try the thick breaded red onion rings; try anything for “Pub Grub”; extra-casual; so casual you can write on the walls.

2)  The Rendevous, for barbeque, has astounding “Southern” Black Culture effects.  This restaurant is amazing, attracting dignitaries constantly.  It is in an alley near Holiday Inn Select.

3)  “Daily Grill” at The Westin offers a comfortable meat & veggies dinner or lunch with excellent service.  You look out at the Fed EX Forum.

4)  Encore has one of the best chefs in town and is elegant and pricey.

6)  Paulette’s (formerly in midtown) is a local treasure for French Country Fine Dining.   901  260-3300.  Relocated to River Inn, 50 Harbor Town Square (in downtown) March of 2011, (riverinnmemphis.com).

7)  Boscos, for a thin-crusted pizza and Famous Flaming Stone Beer, 2120 Madison Av., 901  432-2222.

8) Swanky’s Tacos, Poplar @ Kirby, southwest corner, never disappoints foodwise, and has a lively vibe. Their enchilada plate is good.

9)  Humdinger’s, behind Chick-Fil-A on Poplar @ Massey, serves African-spiced fillets of fish:  Tilapia, Red Snapper, and other. Sauteed zuchinni and other sides are delicious as well.

10) Interim Restaurant, Sanderlin near Mendenhall, across from The Racquet Club, has a pretty bar area out front of dining area. Dining room shows well because of its modern kitchen on view to diners.  901 818-0821, 5040 Sanderlin Av.

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