We’ve been through a rollercoaster of a relationship, but I’ve never been prouder to say I love you.
At first, when I was a young boy in your Mississippi suburbs, you were to me the emerald empire of Oz. A magical land that almost seemed like a fable. Tales of your vibrant culture, exquisite cuisine, and the riotous Beale Street made you seem like a fantasy land of unimaginable splendor.
In those days, the excitement of hearing we would be making a trip to Memphis was almost too much to handle. Every excursion was with enviable purpose: Broadway plays at the Orpheum, field trips to your museums with unforgettable lunch stops, laser tag birthday parties, and of course the Zoo. Ne’er did I consider the prospect of being carted up I-55 as anything other than a privilege.
Then I became a teenager, and, like many teenagers are wont to do, I took you for granted. I looked at you with cynical eyes. Locked in my suburban bubble, I spoke with disdain about The Crime™ and complained how no bands I liked wanted to play here because of it. This was of course when I wasn’t busy making a fuss about needing to go to the Beale Street Music Festival, because some bands I liked wanted to play here. Like a frustrated youth would slam the door on their parents, so too did I close off my heart to the wonderful city that had already given me so much. For that, I am truly sorry.
But wizened with age, I realized the err of my ways. I forgot why I even disliked you in the first place and started to remember why I loved you in the other first place. I found myself longing more and more to take part in what you had to offer. I started going to Grizzlies and Redbirds games. I partied on Beale Street. I tried as much barbecue as I could so I too could have a staunch opinion about whose was the best.
One night, during my first trip to Paula & Raiford’s Disco, I said out loud to no one “I love this city.” They couldn’t have heard it anyway as the music was far too loud. The sweat I had worked up from dancing on the light-up floor was concealed by the fog. I was in my own little world, sipping a 40oz. Bud Light from the cash-only bar, thinking about how wonderful and unique this experience was. No one needed to hear me say “I love this city” because they were already thinking they loved it, too. Raiford’s is an epicenter for the magic of Memphis, and that magic is love.
Since that night, you’ve provided me with a full-time job, a stellar troupe of comedians to perform with, and some of the greatest friends I could ever ask for. I even met the love of my life in the iconic Midtown dive bar The P&H Cafe. This is without even mentioning the phenomenal local brands you’ve given us and the astounding local artists you’ve cultivated.
I’ve heard it said that if you love Memphis, Memphis will love you back. I very much believe that.
Happy 200th birthday, Bluff City. I’ve never been prouder to say I love you.