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Guest Post: “Hope in the Bricks” by Adam J. Maldonado

Last Sunday marked the close of the TN Brewery Untapped, and while there may have been many a tear shed at the unknown fate of the historic building, I hold more hope than ever for those bricks and my city. If you have a phone or computer you have no doubt been to, heard about, read about, or seen many pictures and status updates regarding the TN Brewery Untapped and all the wonderful happenings there.

From live music, food trucks, drunken debauchery, and a general warmth and goodtime feeling provided by the patrons and staff alike. Yes, the Brewery provided an ephemeral beauty and atmosphere near impossible to capture in the glow of silicon screens or in the pages of newspapers. Still, we all have tried, and still are trying to do so.

The Brewery is and was more than a bar, more than a party. What took place at 495 Tennessee Street was surely remarkable and will not be soon forgot as the ripples of this event will continue spreading through our community. Of all those souls I spoke with over the weeks in the Beer Garden of Eden, they each had some story to tell with the building, followed by heaps of praise and kind words in regard to the Untapped project.

Some spoke of sneaking in as teenagers, others taking award winning photographs, and others how they contributed to the doodles and spray painted art all across the framework. These memories, combined with the feelings attributed to what others may look at as a heap of cement, or a soon to be cheap apartment complex, gave way to the thought that maybe, maybe, there is no such thing as an inanimate object.

I remember one couple in particular, tears in eyes, speaking of how they met and fell in love at the roof of the old building. For all those Type A suit wearers out there, an even more interesting aspect appeared. More than the sentimental attachments and tender memories flowing forth, was the ease in which the project produced a profit.

Yes, that is correct, this preservation project, made money. For a relatively small investment, the result from the staunch efforts of a few people created joy for thousands while earning a sweet rainy day fund for themselves. These creatives working together showed the worth of working hard for what you believe in, while remaining flexible and open to other opportunities.

Their business model was simple: produce an idea, say yes, take action, go with the flow and get things done. A lesson plan that could save thousands in tuition costs for a higher education came on a silver platter from these men and women. Please, could someone give them a medal?

This place, above all, provided something desperately needed to the community: a place to gather, converse, and simlply be a community. Just by creating a place for people to be, endless possiblities arise. Artists, businessmen and business women, political officials, farmers, and engineers alike, all mixing and mind melding, conversing on varying projects and how to work together.

The result? We will have to wait and see. The ramifications of this wonderful place will need some time to ferment in the weeks and months to come. Indeed, the buzz in the air was more than that provided by the alcohol. It was pure energy. Electricity in the mouths and minds of all that partook in the event of the year.

If you missed it, do yourself a favor and reach out to those tagged in this note and hear more for yourself. Better yet, find someone with deep pockets and a creative mind, and tell them about it. Point them my way and I will give them an earful. Any of us would. These bricks brought us together. Here we stand, waiting.

Thanks to the Poet Adam for this reflection on the briefly revived biergarten. He was dubbed the “Poet Laureate of the Brewery” for regularly inspiring passerby through his writings.

Take 5: Adam J. Maldonado

Meet an actor turned street poet who’s fascination with people’s stories has secured him a place in the hearts of mothers, scorned lovers, and many others.

Adam the Poet

Adam flawlessly strikes another’s inspiration into his Underwood Champion typewriter.

Stage name: The Poet Adam

Starring roles: Poet Laureate of the People; numerous Mid-South stage productions including Jerre Dye‘s debut of Cicada.

Daily script: Adam takes cues from philosophy, literature, and life as he welcomes each client with, “What’s your story?” He can bee seen around town at events like Tennessee Brewery Untapped,  Broad Ave artsy happenings, and poetry slams. Folks typically approach and hire him on-the-spot for “personalized poetry.”

Behind-the-Scenes: “All the writing done for events is stream of consciousness.” His hands glide across an antique portable typewriter to capture one’s thoughts and feelings onto a crisp page.

Yet, don’t mistake his talent for dictation or caricaturization.  Adam’s empathy guides him toward creating three-minute masterpieces.

How? “The shortest distance between two people is poetry. What separates people is the lack of speaking what is honestly on their heart.” According to Adam, there’s far too much sarcasm and cynicism that hinders relationships. Thus, he bridges sincere communication.

Cool typewriter but what about the web? “For millennials, the power lies within social media. We can have an immediate impact on the culture around us.”

His dream? “For poetry to be pervasive throughout our culture. Turn it into an industry. Something where you can make money, work hard for, and it benefits people.”

e.g., Think personal poet-consultant. Call upon Adam to provide perspective on that difficult life transition or for everyday humor. Only time limits the quantity of muses. So, give him a shout.

(P.S. I purchased my first poem at Overton Square’s Crawfish Festival. My inspiration? Getting lost in crowds. Here’s (part of) poem #981.)

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.

Take 5: Patrick Jones

Meet a laid-back biker who’s keenly interested in cityscapes, green parks, and cartography.

Patrick Jones

Patrick’s 10-speed includes “Warp.”

Stage namePatrick Jones

Some friends call him Pat Jones; but he honestly prefers Patrick.

Starring role: Legal Assistant with Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC

Offstage: Patrick serves on the board of advisors of his fraternity’s local alumni association, TKE, and oversees the granting of scholarships to incoming CBU freshmen.

On the weekend:  “If it’s nice, I’ll ride my bike into East Memphis to see my parents, go shopping at Whole Foods, and then back. It’s a 20-mile loop.”

Biking for transportation? “It doesn’t take that much longer, and you see more because you’re not going as fast. It’s just pleasant.”

Scenic sights? “Right now I’m borrowing a Canon Rebel so I’m taking as many pictures as I can.” Check out his serene photoblog of cityscapes: MidCityScenes.

Favorite spot? “Overton Park. I like that quick transition from the hustle and bustle of Midtown to the calm and quiet. It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere – an oasis in nature.”

That reminds me – your tweet: “Yes, I got over 40 retweets after pointing out that Parks and Rec used an old map of Overton in their last episode.”

But, HOW did you notice that? “I’ve always liked maps.”

“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.