Soul Man, Soul Mate

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In high school, and even as a fraternity member in college, I was not much of a dancer. Squirming and gyrating to pop rock seemed awkward and a little phony. Simple jumping up and down to the beat, as the male and female groups do today, seems more fitting. At fraternity parties I tended to dance with the Nashville couples who had set steps, sort of like line dancing. Eventually, however, I did get a reputation as a wild dancer. But I won’t claim that it was dancing at all.

There was one man to emulate when it came to dancing: James Brown. With the funky beat of his band, it was hard not to feel the music directing the feet and the whole body from inside out and the floor up. Hearing a James Brown hit today immediately generates the same reaction – full abandon.

The figure of the soul man was significant in the late-1960s in Memphis. The attributes, attractions, and limitations of his type are worth further study.

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Mid-America Crossroads

Passage to Memphis

Dear friends, we miss you and think about you. I want to account for our not seeing you and for our not hearing from one another in recent months. Public transportation, or the lack thereof, has frustrated me since I returned from Europe in 1972 with an intensified love of train travel. As I get older, and my friends and family get older too, the problem of safely and conveniently traversing Tennessee highways, amid a growing number of rude, dangerous-driving commercial truck drivers and an Interstate 40 strewn with large truck-tire fragments, has resurrected my dismay over the absence of public transportation. I see no good reason why there is no rail or quality bus travel between Tennessee’s major cities that comes close to what is available in northeastern states. But then again, given our politics of me first and let’s go it alone, I do understand why. Still I quietly rage against our fate and the status quo. I want to come to Memphis more often and more comfortably.

Yes, members of my aging circle still think of joints, rhythm, frustration, miscommunication, and alienation. But usually it is in the context of bodily and social-service malfunctions. Parental oversight, pop festivals, literary discussions, and idealistic political activism have been supplanted by power of attorney, hearing defects, healthcare plans, assorted pains, and lowly immediate topics, such as chronic funk and creeping forgetfulness.

This is the preface for a story that sets the stage for a few more stories about rail travel. My passion for trains goes way back and has not diminished, though realism has hardened and practicalized my life in many ways. This first history-laced story focuses on Memphis as a transportation hub. Others highlight personal experiences with train travel – life-altering experiences that I could not have had any other way nor done without.

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A Fractured Brotherhood

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Who wasn’t dumb when young? Blessed are they who survive to laugh about it.

The 1960s were not for the faint of heart or overly idealistic. The same caution applies to the story for which these few words feign preface. Thinking of that time brings to mind the term wasted. But the times were wasted in intriguing ways.

Those who find modern society perplexing and unruly surely did not attend a large public university in American in the 1960s. The chaos was both diffuse and acute – and unremitting. Nonetheless, there were core standards that set a pace – even under long, unkempt hair and amid bizarre street-theater antics. We were wackos then as we are now in aging. Still there were, and are, steady limits that continue to yield results and reassurance.

* * *

The recollections associated with this introduction started with a dream about a hunt for a missing person. I began getting visits and phone calls from a disparate group of individuals with little more in common than prolonged proximity to one another long ago in youth. The individuals were roughly equivalent in experience, intelligence, class, wealth, ethnic and social background, and aspirations – but different enough to make interactions among them interesting and unsettling, offering a context for the personal evolution of all involved.

A youthful initiation into the world of intoxicants figures in this account. No serious offenses or accidents derived from said experimentation worse than what I had already accomplished as a very sober, yet equally dull-witted, 16-year-old driver. My first accident occurred two weeks after getting my license. Driving with four or five friends on the way to school, I was hit from my left at an unmarked neighborhood intersection. One friend broke his collar bone. Though the other driver was charged, it was as much my fault as not. The second was about eight months later after being caught downtown at night in a fresh snow storm with a car full of church friends. Of course, no one wore a seat belt; one girl in the lap of another friend hit her tooth on the dashboard. I was not charged, due to the ice, slow speed and minor damage to the other automobile, but I knew it was my fault ultimately. The third time, maybe a year later, while double dating, my engine (in the same car) caught fire in a quiet out-of-the-way suburban neighborhood. To my father’s dismay, the car did not burn up. Still it was damaged enough in my three accidents that my father traded it (rather than me) for a green Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible. Finally, I had learned my lesson: there was no way I was going to scratch that beauty.

An excursion in fraternity introduced me to new ways of self-defeat – and maturity.

Memphis is sustained by social and emotional tendrils. Long after I left my college fraternity, a former brother occupied a house near campus with his best friend, who was not our fraternity brother but a party beast beyond any in that organization. When they gave up the house, my uncle and aunt and cousin moved in, and my grandparents moved next door. Within no time, my other two first cousins moved, each with a wife and child, into separate houses within a block of my aunt, uncle, and paternal grandparents. This area of Memphis became a frequent and much-appreciated resting place, especially after I moved into a duplex on the other side of the tracks, closer to the university, about six short blocks away. We all surrounded the location of my old fraternity house. In effect, it was as if over the years of significant events, I had not moved out of the realm of fraternity but rather stretched my links from it to the university and broader world beyond.

This story explores youth and fraternity as a potent, hazardous coupling. Though the subject and the telling may seem small, the personal consequences were enormous. And they live on in countless ways.

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The Monk

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Exposed to the elements, stoic monks teach us ways to live and die.

Circa 1968, my philosophical college associates and I quipped, satirically shedding trappings of our suburban upbringing, that when we died, we would like for our carcasses to be thrown in an outside trash can for disposal. Looking back, there may be hidden irony in our joke: half-educated white boys resigning themselves, even seeking, to be dispatched by Memphis garbage collectors.

Nothing clears the head like big outdoors. I should have recognized that earlier from my childhood, when I spent most of my free time in wide-open spaces.

Every single day, my brain is cleansed and my thoughts refreshed by dreamy sleep and exposure to a pastoral setting under huge skies where fields, trees, and hills stretch to the horizon. The out of doors purifies and restores: it is a more effective eraser than drugs and drink; it is a better muse and memory supplement, too.

I suppose the impact of taking to the streets of downtown Memphis in the mid-1970s offered a similar benefit. Like a modern-day monk of Tennessee, one could unburden one’s soul in the big outdoors of a struggling city by a river, while afloat, alone, alongside an occasional familiar and the drift of harmless strangers.

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Entirely Myself

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There is ever unfinished business.

Uncertainty is a nagging demon, inflaming doubt, tempting inaction. Calm determination and experience give us the tools to weigh importance. They give us steady balance and courage to step from shadows, beyond the captivating flatness of certainty, to practice and play in our given fields – the ones we inherit, the ones we earn. They give us the sense to discern when to venture out, when to stay home.

Never so foolish as when ever safe, never so damned as when never tied.

There are ever matters to finish – until there are no matters at all.

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Memphis Movie Palaces

Click here to read this story by Beverly Cruthirds.

This week’s feature is a story by Beverly Cruthirds about Memphis movie houses in the 1950s and 1960s. It was immediately evocative of three things in particular when I read it: riding the bus; the dark, ornate, labyrinthine interiors of those oft-visited movie theaters; and Mr. Peanut. The tap-tap-tapping on glass by that over-sized mechanical peanut, outfitted in top hat and monocle behind a shop window on Main Street near the Lowe’s State, quickly came to mind. The roasted aroma that enveloped the sidewalk outside the tiny shop is probably why the memory lingers so strongly and connects so readily to thoughts of nights and days out at a movie downtown.

Beverly’s clear and honest descriptions are rich for another reasons as well. A glimpse of the personal experience of another, especially a long-time friend, through his or her own eyes, stirs one’s own memories of doing similar things, adding layers and colors – textures, sounds, and smells – to the storytelling. It magnifies the individual experience knowing that others were thinking and doing the same things at the same time with the same sense of intrigue and relish.

Taking a ride on a city bus would not seem a very exciting venture to a young person today. But for an early teen around the 1960s, it was not only stimulating, it was loaded with import. A bus ticket was no less than inexpensive access to a vast urban environment full of interests and new experiences – a passage to freedom.

There is something deeply satisfying about immersing oneself again and again in the Memphis of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s – especially if one was young, healthy, white, and near middle class in that place and time. In the 1960s, when I was ten to twenty years old, Memphis was essentially beginning its leaderless period – in other words, a young person, particularly a white male, was fairly free to fly if he kept his activities within, or under the radar of, the law. Well into the 1970s, I recall thinking Memphis was the perfect size in terms of territory and population and level of adult supervision. It had the intimacy and connectiveness of a town, but with some of the amenities and anonymity of a city. Memphis of that day was mostly comfortable and relatively safe. Kids spent a lot of time out of doors and ventured far afield from home on their own and with buddies.

Beyond history or nostalgia, what I feel and most like about Beverly’s story is this clear composite of the living Memphis of my youth. The story captures a sense of liberation. For the most part, it was not a time of smash hits and fireworks – of great things in the general scheme of mankind. In reality, for most of us, Elvis and other local notables were just other Memphians availing themselves of the easy pickings like everyone else. It was a time of average activities and arrangements that might have been sustainable, were it not for the rush of developments, the righting of unseen wrongs that let us wildly imagine that we could continue in such a way despite hidden realities. As I said, leaders were virtually invisible in Memphis: leading families abandoned the field of practical urbanism. Good families were utterly disinclined and unable to heal the great city in time. Nevertheless, Memphis was once a paradise of sorts in which to come of age.

Click here to read this story by Beverly Cruthirds.

Two Degrees to Hound Dog

My Memphis/Elvis Story
from Harold Day

The time frame for my Elvis story was 1957-1958. I was in grade school – 3rd to 5th grade or so.

The Pack of boys in our neighborhood were out in the street (Fillmore Avenue) playing kick ball.

A motorcycle stopped at the stop sign at Fillmore and Labelle. We scattered as it gently accelerated in the direction of our game. As is passed through us at a reasonable pace, we could not help but notice it was Elvis on a white Harley-Davidson. We all looked at each other and began babbling/comparing observations. Yes, indeed it was Elvis.

One of the older girls who happened to be in the area took her handkerchief and wiped it all the way across the road to ensure she had covered the area where Elvis’s motorcycle had tread.

We boys returned to the kick ball game, our attention span and celebrity acknowledgement having rapidly reached their limits.

There is a footnote to Harold’s Elvis journal: “We visited Edison’s House/Museum a few weeks back while staying in Sanibel. We took a guided tour. Near the end, the docent said an average of x number of folks visited this residence every year, did anyone know what was the most visited residence in the nation?” “Graceland?” “Very good,” said the docent. Harold privately reflected, “30 years ago that the most visited residence in America was one that once belonged to a pop singer/entertainer would have bothered me. Now? Phssst, just as soon Elvis get the attention.”

* * *

What Is This?
A Note from Me (Jerry)

In early August, I sent some variation of the following as an email to family and friends closely associated with the Memphis that I knew:

I am collecting stories about personal connections, contacts, and near misses with Elvis. I ran into a colleague at a party Saturday night who lived in Whitehaven in the late ’50s and early ’60s. She had a load of vivid stories related to Elvis before he became over-sized. She graciously and enthusiastically typed those up for me. (She’s a bit of show-biz herself.)

I have no idea where this is going. Elvis is definitely a tie that binds old Memphians – musically and socially, comically and tragically. If you were around then, you have a unique insight into an insular, if not innocent, world on the brink of getting fat and crazy. Release your pink-Cadillac anecdotes upon a needy world — if you dare.

* * *

A number of citizens and former residents of Memphis retain lively memories of Elvis. Some were but a few degrees separated from him at one point in their lives. Somehow I might add to this story over time if I collect more of these anecdotes. For now, I want to share some of these personal remembrances in the pure voice of each contributor. I most enjoy, and I am sure that readers will too, listening to unfiltered storytelling.

* * *

Near Elvis
from Jamie Pope Petty

Elvis. Don’t need any other words for people all over the world to know of whom we speak. Most Tennesseans likely have some connection or story related to Elvis and I’m no exception. I was born in Memphis in 1957 at the time he was just coming on the music scene.

My parents both attended Whitehaven High School in Memphis and were just a year or two younger than Elvis. Although he didn’t go to the same high school, teenagers in Memphis were quite familiar with this rising singer and attended early performances. At the time they actually used the word “greaser” (probably because of his slicked back hair) and weren’t overly enthralled (of course, he wasn’t “famous” then). My mom tells of him briefly dating a friend of hers (?Vivian) and that he brought Vivian home to my grandparents’ home in Whitehaven (on Brownlee) and kissed her on their front porch (apparently Vivian’s parents opposed her dating Elvis, thus she spent the night at my mother’s – but knowing my grandparents, I imagine they wouldn’t have been thrilled either).

My dad’s father, Fred Pope, worked at a machine shop with Vernon Presley and told stories of Elvis working there at one time. My grandfather joked that he once gave Elvis a quarter and told him to go get a haircut. He said Elvis didn’t work there for long.

The next Elvis connection was when my family moved in across the street from Graceland into Oak Acres apartments (which are no longer there). My mom talked about Elvis riding his motorcycle over to the apartments with Natalie Wood on the back. I have pictures of me as a little girl in front of the gates at Graceland.

I attended a kindergarten in Memphis called Joyland that had an Elvis connection of some sort. He came to visit the kindergarten one day, but didn’t sing for us. Mrs. Thompson (hard to believe I remember her name!) just introduced him.

We moved away from Memphis when I was 7, although we frequently returned to visit family – and to drive by Graceland (although I don’t recall that was a definite agenda item). When I was 16, I started dating a boy named David Hill and we dated for two years. His father is Ed Hill, who was a gospel singer with J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. While I dated David, the Stamps sang back-up for Elvis. Mr. Hill would tell us stories of life on the road and times with Elvis. I remember one story about Elvis watching the Stamps on television when they were doing some sort of fund raiser and that Elvis called in and said he would make a sizable donation if all the Stamps would jump in the pool. It must have been filmed near a pool, memory makes me want to say in Hawaii. And all the Stamps jumped in the pool. He would also tell us about how much Elvis loved to eat – big breakfasts, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and cheeseburgers on French bread at Rotiers Restaurant when he was in Nashville.

I got to go to a concert in Murfreesboro in probably 1975 to see Elvis and the Stamps perform. We had front row seats and Elvis was giving out either boas or scarves – I jumped up to have him put one around my neck (and maybe get a kiss) as I got caught up in the evening and David pulled me back down in to my seat embarrassed, so I didn’t get a boa. We thought we were too-cool for Elvis at that age and acted bored, although I remember his show was pretty lively and amazing and I secretly loved it. I remember his white jumpsuit and some of the low-light solos. We got to go back stage and Mr. Hill introduced me to Elvis and we shook hands – he had already met David.

Not two years later, I remember being in the tub (yes) and one of my roommates at the time (I was living in a duplex during college) came and told me that Elvis had died. I immediately called David (we were no longer dating at that time) and he said his dad was on his way to Memphis to be with Elvis’s family – which extended beyond his biological family to all the musicians and crew and managers that traveled and performed with him. I still recall the heavy, disbelieving feeling of his premature death and the outpouring of grief from the public. Now my 18 year old has pictures of a young Elvis in her room.

Note: Ed Hill is second from left in this photo: .

* * *

Memphis Mafia at the Movies
from David Ellis
via Harold Day

(Harold and David served Mass together a lot as altar boys at St. Johns in Memphis.)

I was about 10 years old. My mom and sister worked at the old Strand Theater on Main St. Elvis used to come in often during weekday matinees so as to avoid crowds. I had come down on a city bus after school that day and was sitting in the empty theater watching a movie starring Guy Madison about a dinosaur that had been unearthed by some construction explosions in the area. I got up to get some popcorn and saw Elvis and a couple of the Memphis Mafia coming in to see the movie. He had already been kidding around with my mom and sister for a few minutes, as I found out a little later. Anyway I went back into the movie and Elvis and the others were sitting in the center of the middle section. I was star-struck. I sat down in the aisle seat of the row just in front of him and kept looking over at him. He knew I was distracted by his presence as he and his friends talked outloud and laughed at the otherwise silly movie. I guess they soon became bored with the film and got up to leave. They headed toward the aisle on which I was sitting and as they passed behind me, Elvis patted me on the head and said, “Hi, sonny.”

Keep in mind that the theater was empty all this time. I got up and followed them out to the lobby. The outer doors of the Strand were glass from floor to ceiling and a multitude of girls and young women had gathered outside, but the management would not allow them in and had locked all the doors to protect Elvis from them. There was quite a bit of pushing and shoving and shouting so Elvis and the others then left by an emergency exit.

* * *

Bitten Blue Blue Blue
from Gail Nicholson

My friend, Jane, when we were about six, built a trampoline in her back yard with planks and an old bed spring. For a nickel, she would let me and the other kids in the neighborhood jump on it while she played a 45-rpm of “Hound Dog.”

My Mother was very big on taking the family out to look at Christmas lights every year. We would always go to Elvis’s house because it would be lit solid blue “Blue Christmas.” One year we took my friend, Linda, with us and she ventured up to the guitar gate and was promptly bitten by Elvis’s dog. She wore the teeth marks proudly for several years thereafter.

Years later while I was in college, I worked at a local department store, Parks Belk. Linda Thompson, Miss Tennessee (a prerequisite for an Elvis girl), had once worked there, too. Linda would come in wearing a full-length white fur coat and chat about her life at Graceland with Elvis. My thought was always how lonely she must be to fill her time in such a fashion. She graduated from Elvis’s girl to a star on “Hee Haw.”

* * *

Vampires and Elvis
from Jerry Murley

I don’t know if your memory is like mine or not, but mine is easily stimulated by a single word or incident, after which it takes off and gallops in unpredictable directions and goes on ruminating for days. Facts are okay, I suppose, but memories are something with greater drive and possibility. In the end, it all is about number one for us; if you haven’t realized that yet, you haven’t been to the mountaintop.

Being a not very experienced aging man, I depend on the remembrances of others to feed my memory and imagination. I have known older people in denial about aging who thrive to excess on the fresh energy, smooth complexion, and muscle tone of younger people. Like vampires they drain young fruit dry in ways that are not sustainable and are unhealthy for all parties. Others, like me, derive nourishment from the memory and stories of others; without them we wither in a spiral of diminishing me-ness. There is definitely a healthy balance somewhere in there, but I suspect that few of us ever attain that level of self-sufficiency and interdependence.

Here is what a dinner-party encounter with my friend Jamie stimulated in me:

Elvis was a source of pride, amusement, bewilderment, and, sometimes, slight embarrassment in my neck of the woods in Memphis. I can’t claim or deny any association with him – not even a single sighting in the wilds of Memphis. I certainly am no musicologist, so I cannot comment with any authority as to whether he was a genre blender or bridger or not. I do know that his success and model was a boon to young men in need of a niche who wanted to explore active participation in music making and the music scene. As with much of rock and roll, rhythm and blues, blues, gospel, country, and pop, a deluded neophyte could halfway convince himself that he could perform if those other people could get away with it.

I attended one live Elvis concert at the Memphis Coliseum during the last years of Elvis’s life. As Rick Dees asserted every morning on the local radio station, Elvis had by that time consumed one too many jelly donuts.

But as you might suspect, if you know him, my father met Elvis and one of Elvis’s girl friends in the 1950s or early 1960s. My father was with a small gathering of Memphis Junior Chamber of Commerce members (Jaycees) as part of the dedication of a new structure at the Memphis Fairgrounds. He crossed paths again with Elvis in 1971, again at the Memphis Fairgrounds. It was a U.S. Jaycees’ event honoring Elvis as one of the ten most outstanding young men in America. For the most part, Elvis frequented the Memphis Fairgrounds for the rides in the 1950s and 1960s — and last performed at the Coliseum in 1976.

Elvis was often pictured in the Memphis newspapers giving someone in the hospital a check or a new Cadillac. I think this practice influenced my personal armchair solution for redoing the Vietnam War circa 1970. I hypothesized that it would have been cheaper, if not more ethical and effective, if the U.S. had dropped Cadillacs on the North instead of draftees and munitions.

It is surprising how many young men in and around West and Middle Tennessee resemble Elvis: the sleepy eyes, the mischievous smile, the soft vulnerability concealing Southern cunning. There is Mississippi blood running through the veins of a lot of folks. (I swear that one of my nephews could have passed for Elvis in his early twenties.)

Since the 1970s, I have regarded Memphis as the capital of north Mississippi as much as an engaged component of Tennessee. The mental and cultural compass of Memphis points south rather than east. Tunica is more relevant than Nashville, Knoxville, or Chattanooga. That observation is surely not novel, nor is it a criticism, it is an assessment of essential character that would be very difficult to refute. For much of the rest of Tennessee, Memphis is the attractive bad boy who plays a mean guitar or wails a tortured song. Few Tennesseans, other than the most warped, see Memphis as anything less than a fun getaway – a journey into the wilderness back to the raw power of funky beat, dancing feet, racial competition, big farms, big manufacturing, and a big forbidding river.

One my college friends in the early to mid-1970s was called Elvis by another of my old friends. This was not just because his parents’ home backed up to Graceland. He sort of looked like Elvis, with his shy, winning smile, sweet disposition, sly wit, and twinkling eyes. In essence, he was more Elvis than we thought, because his unfinished life ended near to when Elvis’s did and was even sadder. Such derailings were a large part of the Memphis story around the 1970s.

I remember when Elvis died, mostly because my wife and I were hosting a young house guest from England at the time. The three of us were at a blues nightclub in Downtown Memphis at the time of the news. It was stunning. For Memphians past a certain age, it was as if time had stopped and whatever innocence remained of the past in Memphis had disappeared at the same time. It took almost ten years from King to Elvis, but the end of old Memphis was final, except for a handful of historical relics and old Memphis friends who seemed to never really change.

Lyceum Film Theater

Downtown After Dark: Dark No More

Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!

A long run is not always clear from the beginning. For certain, bridging the distance starts, and continues, in small, ordinary steps. But the power of enthusiasm can slow with drudgery and diminishing returns.

Pretense is a powerful force in human affairs. It touches the functioning of friendships, families, social groups, communities – and even nations. One starts out pretending to be a head of household and then a parent. Then one day, others in one’s family enforce one’s provisional assumption of roles by pretending to act as if those roles are genuine and fitting – as if to say that one’s expression of duties conform in some way to conventional standards of behavior acceptable to one’s community.

In such a way, Fronts Street Arts, in Downtown Memphis, pretended to assert local cultural significance. And then gradually, others in the community pretended that in some regard it mattered. I pretended to be an impresario, a general director, a person with novel ideas about Downtown recovery in which average people played a part. Then, a few others, particularly very generous friends, pretended to act their parts in concert with my pretenses. Pretending made it so for a long six-year run for me personally. In the end, that community theater of group make believe was snuffed out by accumulated drudgery and divergent interests: new pretenses arose and were applied elsewhere.

Baby Boomers have a reputation as being all for themselves, at least that is what some of the generation wedged between the World War II generation and the Baby Boomers claim – as do those overly repentant Baby Boomers who have let a pendulum of irrationality swing wildly to the right. But Baby Boomers had a curious way of wrapping some kind of community or passionate political involvement into their self-interests. For thirty years, some of us have clearly not been as vigorously attached as before, but many Baby Boomers did act in their twenties. And some exemplary few continued to draw and maintain a consistent line of connection between their self-interests and the public interest.

A child of Baby Boomers might well ask himself, What might I do to enrich the public arena in ways that suit my self-interests and capabilities? Aside from commitments to professional public service and charity, what can younger generations do to effect change at the level of their own brick-and-mortar communities – the world they actually live in? Local seems, and is, so small, but it is everything in the aggregate. And nothing much happens for good locally without personal initiative and inventive group coordination and passion.

In movies and books, I cannot abide an otherwise good story that resolves itself with gunshots or an explosion. Those are cheap shots that do not build and do not satisfy: they change nothing for the better – they are a manufactured stop rather than a fruitful pretense forward. Contrary to rightist mythology, it is not the gun that is the great equalizer of mankind: it is creativity. That creativity can stand in solitary surroundings, but even on its own it tips the balance in favor of community good. Creativity is the thunderous sound that requires no ears to hear it. It is the blood pulsing through our veins. Creative individuals are the building blocks of community whether they like it or not. If they share their fire with others in common cause, concerted acts redound positively to posterity. Though these pretenses may end, perhaps in drudgery and diminishing returns – more often than not, they are much better stories than those that lead to gunshots and explosions.

Read the story of Lyceum Film Theater here.


Nine and a half inches by twelve and a half inches folded in half. Audacious, outrageous, delusional – and completely satisfying. “Silly,” as one hybrid hippie-schoolmarm-type behind a bookstore counter said of its most raucous serial.

I had seen nothing like it in American, except perhaps for the works of the enterprising Mr. Franklin, and have seen nothing like it since – in print. The idea came to me as part of my imaginings about a more perfect world. It came to me after visiting England in 1972. Three models, Punch, Swift, and the Fabian Society pamphlets, were influences of this self-published attempt at full-bore social humor and criticism.

Nothing in my background, except Center City, would seem to have pointed in this direction. But then, maybe everything did. I had come to view the world as if I were Gulliver on his travels. I marveled at the same time that I was appalled – all the while rolling with laughter inside. It was a far cry from my grandfather’s religious tracts forecasting imminent doom and eternal hellfire. Through the remainder of my life, even with more heavy responsibilities, I have not left that mindset and fascination: a newborn in a madhouse.

Read it here.

Out There with John Ealey

I really don’t have anything pithy to add as a lead to this story. It is quite surprising to me how much fun it was to research and put together. It’s good to be reminded of why we labor to do the things we cannot resist doing. I only wish I could capture the magic ingredients that made this piece so rewarding socially as well. Most every member of my Memphis family was drawn into the endeavor, and I think it was almost as pleasurable for them as it was for me.

I found someone who was lost. Actually, what else need be said?

Read it here.