local memphis

Take 5: Candice Briggie

Meet a hula-hoopin’ hippe-at-heart who enjoys fresh air, capturing candids, and serving up an exquisite French 75.

Candice Briggie Nocturnal Hooping

Nocturnal hooping is all the rave.

Stage name: Candice Briggie

Starring roles: Server at Restaurant Iris; Daily Helmsman photog and student at the University of Memphis

Favorite Iris drink? “I love making a French 75. It’s refreshing, and it’s topped with champagne so it’s bubbly and fun.”

Capturing the Scenes: “My ideal setting is outdoors. The first rule is to find your light and always keep your eyes open. Take as many shots as you can, and be prepared.” Candice photographs weekly for reporters at the Helmsman and uses a Canon 7D SLR.

More tips? “Refrain from chimping. That’s where you take a photo and immediately look at the camera rather than keep shooting.”

Impression of Memphis? “I loved it right off the bat! It’s been almost 10 years now after moving from Lafayette, Tenn. They’re a lot of transplants in Memphis, and I’ve made the best friends of my entire life. How did we all end up here? I love it.”

Next gig? “I’m going to the Grand Canyon this summer. I want to go to the bottom and climb back up, maybe find a campground.”

Out West?! “The scenery just blows your mind. It gives you a sense of a different time of the earth. Seeing those mountains is amazing.”

Why hooping? “I feel free and sexy.”

Memphis Mayor Listens to Millennials

Mayor A C Wharton of Memphis held a town hall reminiscent of Parks and Rec last Thursday to hear from the city’s young professionals. The auditorium at Memphis Bioworks Foundation was stacked with A-list members of his staff and divisional heads of parks and neighborhoods, the police department, public works, finance, and housing and community development.

Mayor Wharton’s presentation kicked off with…budgets! And income streams (taxes)! The audience appeared stoic, however, the mayor did stress one major expense: protection.

Of the $613 million budgeted, nearly two thirds is spent on fire and police services each year. And who could argue? A place that’s still reeling from a silver-medal ranking as one of the most dangerous cities in America? (Forbes, feel free to dial down the flattery next time.)

What’s $600 million, really? “That’s $2.50 per person, per day. The price of two cups of coffee,” said Brian Collins, the city’s finance director. Sounds efficient for a city with 650,000 residents. But, maybe not the clearest analogy for a 20-something who started his Starbucks kick at age 12. So for Gen-Y readers, that’s roughly two Redbox rentals.

Once the PowerPoint concluded, attendees started firing questions toward city hall leaders. Some asked about lowering the city’s poverty rate (27%). Others inquired about retaining talent. “That’s why we have a full-time chief learning officer, Doug Scarboro,” replied Mayor Wharton.

Memphis is actively trying to improve its workforce by increasing the number of adults who attend college by 1% in the next five years, according to Bernice Butler of Leadership Memphis. Scarboro’s team has partnered with the Memphis Talent Dividend (MTD) and 100 other organizations to create programs and public messaging about boosting education rates for the metro area. Their retention efforts could result in an economic impact of $1 billion, according to the MTD’s website.

In honor of asthmatics and my co-workers in New York, I asked if the city had studied the merits of banning bar smoking locally. The mayor et al. said it was a Nashville decision. But so were county school districts. And wine in grocery stores. While those decisions happened inside Tennessee’s Capitol, Memphis leaders were consumed with the legislative outcomes.

Even though the topic may sound trivial, bars do concern young professionals. It’s where we network, spectate, date, and catch up on the grit and grind. At least Mayor Wharton said he’d look into it. Yet, I prefer he just read this slant article about the improved health effects that resulted from the Giuliani-Bloomberg smoking ban.

The mayor said he planned to continue having these forums because “it’s important that we meet face-to-face.” Janet Hooks, director of parks and neighborhoods, was pleased by the attendance and participation. “It was excellent! The questions were fantastic, and they spoke to the future of Memphis. They were really thought-provoking,” she said.

Overall, the town hall seemed to resonate with those in attendance. “All of this was new to me,” said John Killeen, a Scranton, Pa. transplant who moved to Memphis last year. “I came here for the music. I love the openness and authenticity of the people in the city,” he said.

Killeen has been surprised by how quickly Memphians engage in meaningful conversation. “I’ve never encountered anyone who’s irritated to talk. That wouldn’t happen in Pennsylvania,” he said. The city’s culture, people, and various local initiatives like the Memphis Teacher Residency and Binghampton’s revival have impressed Killeen so much that he’d “love to stay here for the long term.”

 

P.S. A tip for future town halls: Promote a hashtag to crowdsource questions. While none were announced, Twitter-savvy Maura Black Sullivan did uproot #ACTownhallYP mid-presentation for the conversation streamers.

A Mayoral Mutiny: Foursquare’s Diabolical Distraction

Location apps are looking for you. And me…and us. Restaurants are employing them to reward patrons. Tourists are connecting with local mavens for parking tips. Coworkers are battling for badges. There’s no more hiding.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve rekindled my relationship with Foursquare (after a two-year hiatus). Never have I encountered a more coy application. Foursquare gently nudges the user to let the neighbors know that you’re home. It invites one to leave tips about jogging in city parks. She (yes, she) even whispers alluring “Welcome back” greetings and flattering accolades.

How is Foursquare so sly? Because it’s barely been 14 days, and I’m consumed with the possibility of a claiming a mayorship. Mayor of my own neighborhood?! That doesn’t even take creativity, but I crave it nonetheless. A mutiny is brewing for John D.’s coveted title. (I shan’t friend him for risk of exposure.)

Tips? I’ve been generous – more so than the supposed mayor – in assisting fellow Central Gardenites with their safety needs and scenic running routes. Even photos have been included to increase likes and click rates.

I bet he receives Foursquare’s “passive” recommendations that were enabled last fall. It prompts users with tips about a particular area or business without having to officially check in, according to WIRED. No fingers needed. Very clever, Mr. Mayor.

Foursquare has also probably been granting him access to the area’s most renowned residents. If one is curious about a particular place, the investigator can simply review the venue’s list of frequent visitors. Excellent for questioning, err, I mean interviewing the superusers (Never fear, I’m onto his antics via Mashable‘s guidance.)

So, how does one gain a competitive edge? By diversifying! I’ve employed the help of Jelly, which now allows users to ask nearby experts for counsel. The sporty geo-location feature could breathe new life into this app that was once left for dead by John Biggs, an editor of TechCrunch.

However, not one native has responded to my inquiry about holiday garbage pick-up. I just don’t think my fellow residents are ready for that Jelly. Ergo, Foursquare remains the preferred local choice.

Mayor John, forget Game of Thrones, this is the evermore dastardly “Game of Mayors,” and you shall be usurped.

Mayor Memphis Maverick

(Future) Mayor Memphis Maverick

 

5 Juke Joints where Memphians Jive

What’s a juke joint?

Some say it’s a law-breaking, rag-tag shack that can only be found by word of mouth. Yet, my expectation for any jukin’ hotspot is ironically lower.

It’s typically a grungy, after-hours place where music is a feature, the inebriated sporadically dance, and barflies just watch.

Memphis has been blessed with dozens of them. To begin, here are five places to impress your out-of-town guests if they’re seeking the scrappier side of the Bluff City.

5. The Buccaneer Lounge consistently delivers by showcasing solid musicians, must-see Tigers and Grizzlies games, and piratey decor. Permanently docked on Monroe near the shores of Midtown.

4. Wild Bill’s welcomes everyone…if you’re willing to boogie. Bill’s bands are rooted in soul and funk. Just past North Parkway on Vollintine.

3. The Blue Monkey: It’s okay if you’re already seeing double because there are two monkeys in Memphis: Midtown & Downtown. Bands, billiards, and local beer always flow on Saturday nights.

2. Kudzu’s Bar & Grill: You’ll feel like Robert Johnson when you step inside this bluesy hideaway in the Edge district. The patio-like atmosphere recreates what Clarksdale offers, yet Kudzu’s is conveniently closer.

1. Earnestine & Hazel’s, downtown on South Main, is best described in bullets:

  • Brothel (formerly)
  • Soul burgers
  • JukeSoul-box
  • Nate the Bartender
  • Spirits (shaken, stirred, and ressurected)

Memphis is full of authentic dive bars and this only scratches the surface. If you have a favorite for us to try, please comment below or via #MEMJukeJoints.

Mixin’, Minglin’, and Movin’ the Needle

ASPIRE is the new network on the block for young professionals, and it’s warming up more than its own house. It’s fighting poverty, pushing service, and connecting faith-minded millennials across town.

That’s a lot for a Thursday night, but it didn’t deter the 60-plus who attended the kickoff for ASPIRE: Catholic Charities of West Tennessee‘s initiative for young adults. The first meeting was held at Overton Square‘s Local Gastropub and featured Chris Wallace, general manager for the Memphis Grizzlies and board member of CCWTN, as the guest speaker.

Mike Allen, president and CEO of CCWTN, founded ASPIRE for recent college grads and other young people who yearn to connect and serve others. “Feel the energy in here. Some people know each other, but a lot don’t; hopefully, tentacles will spread,” he said.

John Austin Tubbs, a student at Christian Brothers University and ASPIRE steering committee member, said that he got involved “because of the networking and that it’s uniquely based in volunteering.”

Allen personally informed Tubbs and other key influencers about ASPIRE because he considers it “a breeding ground for future board members and volunteers.” While Allen’s goal is to support Catholic Charities, it’s not the only resolution. He’s also focused on the overall potential impact to the city. “If they wind up on another board, then that’s also a win,” Allen said.

The events, which are promoted through Facebook and Twitter, are open to all and involve a service component such as bringing food or clothing items for a pantry or shelter. Social media is how Alison Powers, a design engineer with ThyssenKrupp, learned about the program. “I belong here; these are people that I get energy from,” she said.

After graduating from Stanford, Powers moved to Memphis for her career and has since been involved with her church and anti-poverty issues as a board member for the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality. “The sense of community is something unique to Memphis, and I love that,” she added.

Upcoming (and cleverly titled) events include May’s “Cosmos & Claret in a Convent” with Amy Weirich and September’s “Burgers with Bishop Terry” in Bishop Steib‘s backyard.

[The CA also published an article about ASPIRE (which is how I found out).]

“I love Memphis” may sound cliché, but these three don’t care.

You’re 26. You live in Midtown. You boogie downtown. You go to tweet ups and meet ups. You volunteer. You happy hour. You hum the blues. You grit. You grind. You are Memphis.

So, what?! Along with the thousands of other folks? I’ve never been shy of the bandwagon, so it’s refreshing to see what will hopefully evolve from a cultural fad into lasting civic pride.

That pride is palpable, and there are entire sites dedicated to it. Let’s review a few: Choose901, I Love Memphis, and theGRIND.

Choose901 offers a robust terminal for navigating the city. Whether it’s restaurant picks, prominent local blogs, or job openings, you can find many up-to-date tidbits. Choose901 is more down-to-earth than an “official visitor’s guide” in that it includes the most interesting part of our city: the people.

  • My favorite feature is Choose901 TV where you can meet residents like Samilia Colar, an entrepreneur-seamstress, or Kevin Mattice, a math teacher turned coffee-lover. Well, maybe you can’t meet them here, but that’s my point. I feel like I have; this site builds community!
  • Helpful tips? I have no clue who’s in charge of Choose901. I want to learn about the writer(s), publisher, photographer(s), developer(s), owner(s)…some bios or added detail on the about page would suffice. Also, its “enjoy” tab leads the user to a gargantuan listing of past and upcoming events. It would be nice to have them categorized by type (e.g., music, sports, and fundraisers).

The I Love Memphis blog is operated by the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of its staff: full-time blogger Holly Whitfield. The blog’s extensive posts span the gamut from Elvis-related to highlighting local causes and needs (Project 50). I Love Memphis has been an activity portal for locals and visitors since its founding in 2009 by Kerry Crawford, and it’s still charming.

  • My favorite feature is 5 Things to Do This Weekend which provides a heads up on the cool and quirky events (along with schedules, venue information, and pricing) every week. If you ever come up short on plans, check it out.
  • Helpful tip? A plus to this blog is that most of its content has a long shelf-life. However, it would be nice if the latest and greatest was identified with more chutzpah. The homepage begins with page one and goes to 549; all the posts look the same. Maybe some type of color-coding or highlighting would help the reader distinguish between the new and old (rather than a fine-print dateline).

theGrind is an online magazine published by students of Rhodes College that launched last month. It presents profiles of residents, events, art, music, and photography that is unique to the city. theGrind’s crisp layout and striking imagery allows the reader to nearly feel the pulse of the city through the lens of Midtown millennials.

  • My favorite feature is the overall design and the photography section. It’s up-close and stunning! For those of you who’ve moved away from Memphis, just visit this site every once in a while to cure your homesickness.
  • Helpful tips? Overall, the navigation is straightforward and the content is organized, however, the transitions can be jarring. Several of the sections have different looks and styles to display content so it can give the impression that you’re jumping to another site. Also, Humans of Memphis does not list the names of the subjects that I assume it’s quoting. (Maybe it’s intended to be gallery-esque and not the typical interview profile?)

Super Social: Choose901 and I Love Memphis do an excellent job of engaging readers through social networks. @Choose901 recently had a t-shirt promotion where it announced a code via Twitter for people to purchase an exclusive run of shirts. They sold out faster than a Justin Timberlake concert. @ILoveMemphis has done an excellent job of responding to reader questions and sending timely reminders about events. @TheGrindMemphis is still working up its Twitter following, yet its Facebook page is loaded with content and has more than 1,000 likes.

This trio promotes Memphis and provides a service to the city. These sites are more than a billboard or brochure, they engage and listen to their audiences through social networking and fun promotions. While it may be confusing to some to see multiple Memphis-centric sites popping up, they each have a niche to fill for our natives, transplants, and passerby. Kudos to each of you and keep the hometown love comin’.

Overjoyed with Undercurrent

“Find a job. Find a date.” Memphians have done both at events hosted by Undercurrent, a free networking organization that brings together more than 100 twenty and thirty-somethings each month. “We’ve been laser-focused on what we do best: creating a social space for people to make meaningful connections,” said Patrick Woods, the founder of Undercurrent.

Local Gastropub served as the downtown venue for the first Undercurrent event of 2014, which marked the sixth in the series.  Beer flowed freely from the communal table taps as newcomers and veteran attendees greeted one another. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder similar to a New Year’s Eve countdown, while the proximity provided a respite warmth on the 20-degree Monday night.

Millennials are not the only ones involved, companies have also found it beneficial to align with Undercurrent. “It’s an H.R. decision for companies; the city needs to attract and retain young talent,” Woods said. Launch Tennessee, Start Co., and Christian Brothers University have sponsored previous events.

Chase Gil, a manufacturing engineer at Smith & Nephew, recently returned to Memphis from Fort Lauderdale for his career. “I didn’t realize how much Memphis had to offer for twenty-somethings, let alone that Midtown was home to many places that were strikingly similar to where I would spend my free time in Florida,” Gil said.  This was Gil’s third time to attend Undercurrent. “I love the concept, since it is encouraging the development of connections with other like-minded people in our city,” he said.

When people purposely want to engage with one another, the possibilities are aplenty. Alliances forged from these face-to-face encounters could later result in big-screen ventures. Two filmmakers in Memphis met at Undercurrent for the first time and have since considered collaborating on a project, according to Patrick Woods.

Whether or not another Bluff City film surfaces, Undercurrent will “continue to produce excellent events…that focus on connecting big ideas,” Woods added.

 

The images were pulled from Undercurrent’s Storify. To learn more about Undercurrent and the upcoming February event, follow @GetUndercurrent or visit the Facebook page.