Saturday, June 18, 2011
I just crossed the river after an impromptu trip to St. Louis, and I'm mad.
I'm mad at Memphis.
I had humble expectations for our trip, excited to visit the City Museum about which I'd heard amazing things and just as excited to score another chocolate chip cookie from Crepes, Etc., a cute bakery next door to the hotel where I'd shot a wedding. But mere hours after our arrival, after eating some (dare I say) great Tex-Mex at Rosalita, rolling around at the foot of the arch and soaking in the lovely variety of architecture, I started to feel an unpleasant twitch.
The twitch got stronger after a leisurely walk downtown, eating a yummy breakfast at Rooster (furthering my belief that most meals need to be in the form of a crepe) and then having my head explode at truly the coolest museum I've ever experienced.
Look closely. Do you see the kid climbing in the wire cage from the suspended airplane? I KNOW!
Part steampunk, part giant welding experiment, and a rooftop ferris wheel and circus thrown in for good measure, the City Museum is 10 stories of letterpress type and terracotta building facades and preserved bug specimen and children climbing in cages and abandoned bank vaults and glee. It's like somebody designed a museum based on Jean-Pierre Jeunet's dreams and it actually exists. You know how I know it's 10 stories? Because my 4 year old rode a slide from the top of the building all the way to the bottom.
All 10 stories.
I'm in awe just typing that sentence fragment.
After several breathless hours of exploring, we ventured onto the Magic House, a clever children's museum with a decibel level hovering somewhere around an indoor DC-10. We left slightly deaf and hungry and fell on a pizza so delicious that it makes me want to weep. Our waitress at Good Pie explained that the owners fly in the dough from Italy because why mess with perfection? Just two blocks away we treated ourselves to chocolate malts at The Fountain on Locust. and I couldn't decide what was making me more sad - that the pizza I just ate blew Trolley Stop out of the water or that this chocolate malt was leagues beyond anything Wiles Drugs or the Silver Caboose could produce? On our drive back to the hotel, I noticed a wild Moolah temple that is now home to a bowling alley and movie theater. Everyone seemed dressed up on their way to somewhere exciting.
Caleb and I exchanged guilty looks. "I'm mad crushing on St. Louis," he confessed as made our way back to the hotel.
I was, too.
Saturday morning was the lovely discovery of Rue Lafayette, a Parisian bakery in the heart of Lafayette Square, one of the oldest and loveliest neighborhoods in the city. Give me some macarons and Victorian rowhouses and I'm a goner. We spent the next hour driving around the neighborhood, gasping over the architecture and renovations in progress, stopping to look at For Sale signs and grabbing flyers from open house signs in yards.
The itch was a full blown flame.
We hopped back on I-55 and made our way home, my mood darkening as we sped closer to our River City. I suppose the timing is in keeping with my usual moods. Now that our house is for the most part finished, it means it's time to settle, which is my cue to get out the map and start throwing darts to reveal the next destination.
But it's deeper than that. Now that the baby is here and we're looking at the rest of our lives, trying to make sense of our jobs and our dreams and desires, we've been asking ourselves what we want.
I want to live in a city that hums with energy, that offers walkable neighborhoods with blocks and blocks of shops and restaurants that reflect the creativity of its residents.
I want to live in a city that doesn't feel like it's constantly struggling to keep up.
Honestly, I want to live in a city where I don't have to "be the change." Yes, it's lazy. But I have so many dreams for this city that just don't square with its bank account, its small size, and its racial, social strife.
I want my children to experience big city living as a way of life.
I want to live in a big city as I am a big city girl at heart.
But I can eat all the imported dough from Italy pizza and gorge on hipster boutiques and gasp over swoonworthy architecture in my fantasy big city, and it'll be an awfully lonely enterprise.
I never expected to meet so many wonderful people in Memphis, and the only thing that makes me sadder than feeling like I'm living the wrong city is the thought of having to be without so many great friends in the right one.
Damn y'all are for being so awesome.