Music in Memphis

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We truly have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to music in Memphis. Sadly, because I am old, wrangling babies, and averse to going anywhere the music is accompanied by a cloud of cigarette smoke (still Memphis? Really?), I don't get to hear much of it. But happily the past few days offered up a bounty.

musicians in memphis

The divine Misti Rae (accompanied by Davy Ray)serenaded the Food Truck rally audience at Court Square. She's fond of Old Hollywood and Marilyn Monroe ditties. I like tamales. I named my child Harlow, so imagine my bliss at being able to (finally) eat a chicken tamale in Memphis and listen to Misti purr "I just want to be loved by you." Yum.


Then my man and his band Cotton and Coal played a show at the Blue Monkey. Smokey, smokey blue monkey. I felt and smelled like ass the next morning but I was thrilled to see Caleb back in action. And oh my god, there were people! Out at a bar! I forgot that there is there other subset of people who have the ability to go out on a Saturday night and Do Stuff. Without children. It was kinda awesome to behold. What else is awesome? Going home with the lead singer.

musicians in memphis

I'm a big fan of Glorie, the instrumental rock band, and particularly of Jonathan Kircksey, cellist for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and future composer for my web series Select City (I just need to tell him that part). So I jumped at the chance to capture the action as Glorie went back into the studio at Ardent to record their newest EP. The room was just overcome with strings and sound and vibration and me trying to sit really still and not accidentally f-up the recording. It was beautiful and a really lovely way to spend a slightly hungover Sunday.

My Birthday Wishlist

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Today is my birthday, and I'm using the opportunity to wear my "It's MY Party, Dammit" Birthday Girl Hat and be only slightly more self indulgent about my dreams and wishes in a public forum. Because if anyone scoffs at the following list, I can just point to the It was my birthday! excuse.

For the past few years, I have on again/off again turned my fractured attention to something I was calling Wishomatic, a city-specific website that helped connect the dreamers with the do-ers. When I first moved to Memphis from LA in 2006, I was beyond frustrated that the city wasn't moving to ride the Food truck wave that seemed to be sweeping everywhere but here. I noticed abandoned buildings that would make for great boutiques and restaurants. I found myself a lot of the time saying, I wish we had this, I wish we could do that, and what if we had a website to aggregate all of those wishes!

Wishomatic was born. It would be like craigslist but with the functionality of Facebook. People could pitch their ideas and then those with the wherewithal to make it happen could connect. I met with Launch Memphis. I pitched the idea to Memphians in the know. I made the idea unnecessarily complicated, got pregnant, and watched my idea, along with the world economy, go down in flames.

But still, the wishing.

I started beating the drum again a few months ago, tentatively reaching out to folks about making it happen.

And then the amazing Candy Chang had to go and trump me. Neighborland is everything I wanted for our city: simple, user friendly, and effective.

I stewed a bit, mad that someone beat me to the idea, then quickly got over myself. They were looking for community managers for future cities to add to their beta testing, so I threw my hat into the ring. I have no idea if and when Memphis will be added to their slate, but in the meantime, in lieu of no website, I'm just gonna update my own wish list. Right here. Right now. Please feel free to add yours, mock mine. Let's just get a conversation going and I don't know, maybe a candy store to open downtown, too.


1. Open an old fashioned candy store/soda fountain downtown. Like Miette in San Francisco. I want to walk into this adorable candy boutique and be overwhelmed with sweets and eye candy and a severely-bobbed shopgirl with bright coral lipstick. Miette in San Francisco is the gold standard. But mine would have a party room! Because what little girl - or mom - wouldn't want to be taken to Sugar and feted with Erica Thewis' macarons for her birthday party? (p.s. John Bragg, do you know what a treasure you have in her??)Local artists would work with P. Ashley Rix, the local chocolatier, and make custom Memphis wrappers for his chocolates. Maybe there would even be an ice cream bar, with a hipster mustachioed gentleman serving up old fashioned sodas and floats. When I blow out my candles, I am going to pretend I am doing it here.

candy store

2. Open a restaurant or food truck devoted to french fries. Someone heard my silent pleas and finally opened a tamale truck. Now I just need some else to follow suit and open Hot Potato, the french fry truck! It delivers twice-fried frites (the Anthony Bourdain way) and a variety of dipping sauces. Does standing inside a truck with a giant vat of deep fried potatoes in July in Memphis sound like a living nightmare? Absolutely. But a girl can dream. The truck also makes waffle fries so I can eat them without giving my dollars to hate mongering Chick Fil-A. If I am going to hate myself for eating french fries, I want it to be because of the impact on my thighs, not my gay friends.

3. The Memphis Symphony Orchestra presents Bugs Bunny at the Shell
Hands down, one of the best date nights I ever had with Caleb was attending Bugs Bunny at the Hollywood bowl. They screened classic Looney Tunes while the symphony played the score. And those cartoons were how most kids my age were first exposed to classical music. How magical to repeat that with my kids at our very own mini bowl at Overton Park?


4. I'm not finished with the Levitt Shell. What about Morning Wiike up? You and 30 of your friends and neighbors all convened at 6 AM at the Shell to Just Dance. I have no idea where you get a screen for this. But seriously, if you need to exercise and this is the only time you can do it, how fun would this be? In my fantasy, a food truck serving breakfast burritos and coffee is a mere 10 yards away.


5. On the same train, a dance class that teaches the routines to classic MTV videos. Cause if I'm gonna get all sweaty exercising, I'd rather do it like this:

6. The Blow Out Bar

It's a brilliant business model that has sprung up everywhere but here. A salon dedicated to just blow outs - no cuts, no color, just a menu of different straight hairstyles. My twist? Have the other side of the salon devoted to only curly hair. Link the two with a braid bar.

braid bar

Teleportation Girl

Monday, July 16, 2012


She was sitting on the carpet in her bathing suit, her eyes scrunched shut, mouth twisted to the side. Concentration of the fiercest kind. She peeked one eye open, caught me staring.

Mom, do you want me to tell you something? This is her standard greeting.

Sure. I sat down across from her.

I've had something weird happen to me.


When I close my eyes, I can make myself go places.

Really? (Sure you do. Swim lessons are in 10 minutes)

No, it's true. It happened a lot when I was a little, but not as often now. I close my eyes and I go somewhere.

Like when you dream? (This is her third summer of swim lessons. Level One swim lessons. She was so traumatized by last year's brief foray into Level 2 that getting her to bathe -for the past year - has been a struggle. Showers are her preferred method - butt first into the water with her face WAY WAY away from the shower.)

No. I mean, really there. I feel the floor under my feet. I feel the lunchbox in my hand. I'm at school.

She's clever, throwing in the sensory details. Somehow without me saying she knows that if I couldn't succeed tunneling to Narnia through my closet, having a magical baby with teleportation skills would be the next. best. thing. My dream last night, I should mention: a palm reader stops me on the street. She takes me by the hand and smiles at me, points to Harlow. "Does she see the ghosts that are always around her?" My stomach lurches. But the woman just smiles that serene smile. I crouch down and ask Harlow the question. "No," she replies. She twists a hunk of hair and pulls into her mouth to chew, a habit.

"I just feel them as they play with my hair at night."

Back on the floor, she closes her eyes and demonstrates, willing herself to teleport to school - SCHOOL - so she doesn't have to return to Level 2. The thing is, she's had an amazing breakthrough. By the end of Level 2: Part 1 two weeks ago, she was jumping into the deep end and swimming underwater, sputtering to the top but not inhaling buckets of water like the week before. (We've had the Talk. She is NOT, in fact, a mermaid) But it was clearly an unsettling experience; this weekend she spent her time in the Giant City lodge pool staying safely in the kiddie pool, staying as far away from the end as possible. And I don't blame her. My anxiety dreams for years always focus on water. I'm swimming through an ocean at night when I see fins slice the water. I'm praying they are dolphins when I wake. She comes by this honestly.

By Monday morning, when the miraculous sleeping in and claims of stomach pains weren't swaying me, it was a desperate bid for magic. I walked her over to Miss Holly's and left her parked on her beach towel as class was about to start. When I looked back, her eyes were shut tight, hands balling up beach towel in her fists. To the swim instructors, she might have looked like she was praying. When I pick her up from lessons, I'll be sure to ask her how was school.

14...15 months

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Good hair day

I'm such a sucker. Every summer I fall for it, the magazines with their bright, shiny pictures of kids pedaling bikes in their bathing suits, the lawn picnics, the outdoor movie nights. The articles extolling the virtues of lounging in a hammock, of slowing down and chasing your children through sprinklers. Then I remember where I live, that summer will largely be spent grim faced and hunched over our coffee table doing crafts with Harlow, trying to wrestle said crafts out of Declan's little paws while ignoring the ever-present trickle of sweat pooling in the back of my knees.

Summer in Memphis. 100 + degrees with the added bullseye painted on your back for every passing mosquito. It's two months spent largely indoors where I try to run a business from home in my busiest season, my children climbing the walls when not occasionally dipped in a neighbor's pool for a moment's peace.

This is just one explanation as to why the blogging has trickled to nothing, why Declan, if he is so inclined, will look back at these posts and wonder why he vanished from the reportage.

He is so much of my day, this baby boy who is now walking 75% of the time. He locates the scissors as naturally as breathing, makes a beeline for the stairs the times I forget to lock the gate behind me. And he is just all boy. Where "hey" was his first word, "boon" was second, "ba" is pretty much all that comes out his mouth as in ohmygodaballdidyouseetheballineedtheballNOW. Balls, trucks, anything with wheels. He grabs, he smashes, he bangs his head into furniture and LAUGHS in the face of danger. He actually seems to enjoy hitting his head, so much so that Harlow head buts him to get an easy laugh. He burps and farts and it SLAYS him. Burp back at him and you are sharing a joke with drunk frat boy who just happens to be in diapers.

But as much as he is a burgeoning meathead, he is a snuggly, snuggly monkey. He pounces on anything furry. He routinely pulls me close for a hug, burying his ever-damp head into my neck. He touches his forehead to mine, no doubt marveling at his mom's cyclops eye and coos. This closeness, this quiet moment, this is the erstwhile summer in the hammock. Then he hauls off and smacks me in the face and bites my hand. What are you going to do.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It never fails to make me smile, the effort parents will go to cajole, bribe and beg to get their kids' fingers/pacifier/lovey out of their mouth/nose during photoshoots. I've always found those moments to be especially charming. Kiddo isn't always gonna rock a pacifier or clutch that lovey for dear life to endure having their picture made with this really enthusiastic stranger and her camera. For me, it's truly a snapshot of who that little man or sweet baby girl truly was in that moment.