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A City Ignited.

A sold-out Ignite Memphis was held Nov. 18 at Bridges in downtown Memphis. The program was comprised of five-minute, swiftly-paced speeches that acquainted the 350-person crowd with topics from eradicating homelessness to the tribulations of owning a food truck.

Ignite Memphis is one installment of a world-wide movement that encourages cities to share inspiring and zany ideas in a format that’s reminiscent of TED Talks on speed. This was the eighth iteration of Memphis’ production that’s presented biannually by Undercurrent, the city’s monthly meet-up for young professionals.

“We always want Ignite to inspire people,” said Dan Price, a co-founder of Undercurrent and a producer of Ignite Memphis. “We work hard to pick talks and speakers from the submissions that are not only diverse and unique, but interesting, culturally relevant, and backed by passion,” Price added.

Wannabe speakers must apply and be selected to present. Presentations tend to highlight acquired hobbies, lessons learned, or experiences that are deeply personal.

“My heart got so much bigger, and I ended up loving people so much more,” said Joseph Miner while presenting ‘Everything You Aren’t Told About Grief.’ His story recounted the roller-coaster of emotions he experienced after his mother’s death. “As a culture, we don’t talk about grief that much, so talk about grief candidly and be open to share,” Miner said.

Because of the casual format, guests easily conversed with the speakers before or after the presentations while dining on hors d’oeuvres, wine, and craft beer. Some cherished the opportunity to connect with others through broad and meaningful dialogue.

“We live in a world that is so driven by connectivity and all things digital, so it was refreshing to do something that was, at least, a slight deviation from the norm,” said Jasmine Boyd, an Ignite guest. “Imagine, people actually talking about ideas instead of hiding behind Instagram posts and Twitter rants,” she said.

While the Ignite format has been replicated elsewhere, the Bluff City adds a distinct dimension, according to Dan Price. “It speaks volumes to the culture of change, creativity, and encouragement in Memphis right now.”

Here was the fall 2014 lineup. Follow Undercurrent or like them to stay afloat of ongoing events and next spring’s Ignite!

Guest Post: “Week of Trivia” by Elle Perry

I had never done a trivia night, but always wanted to.

Traditional wisdom says that restaurants and bars do trivia nights during the week when traffic is slower. The trivia, with promises of cash, gift certificates, and fun bring in people who may be more reticent to go out when they have to work the next morning.

I thought it would be fun to do an entire week of trivia. More accurately, Monday through Friday. I tried to pick a mix of restaurants and bars around town. All where ones I had been to before. In the future, there’s other trivia nights not included here that I would like to try including Blind Bear Speakeasy (because it’s a speakeasy! nuff said) and Flying Saucer.


On the first night (Monday) we went to the infamous adult trivia held by Slider Inn. Slider Inn, located at the corner of Peabody and Cooper, is one of my favorite restaurants/bars. However, I had only previously visited at lunch time (the have great specials and the wait staff are supremely friendly). Oh yeah, the have an awesome patio, that is zipped up when it’s cold outside.

Anyhow, I heard about the trivia from a former fellow graduate student who managed to stumble in with her dad one night they were doing trivia.

Our total group was made up of eight fearless citizens. We picked a great, evening-appropriate team name, which I will not mention here. Of the 11 teams that took part in trivia, there were several that cause the whole crowd to laugh uproariously when called out.

The questions were tough! There were several questions that came from recent news stories. The format is three rounds followed by half time then another three rounds. During half-time we were pleasantly surprised by getting small shots of an orange vodka poured in our mouths.

Though we fought valiantly (and bet the whole farm on the bonus question), we ultimately did not prevail.

Fortunately, though good times were to be had by all trivia participants. I will definitely be back and I suspect the same of my fellow trivia mates.

And I will never look at pop rocks in the store again without secretly cringing.


On Tuesday night we ventured out to The Cove on Broad Avenue. The Cove is an awesome pirate/oyster bar. They’re known for great made-from-scratch cocktails.

Out of all of the trivia nights that I found locally, The Cove has the latest time. Especially given that it takes place on a Tuesday night.

When I put the together the schedule, trivia was listed at 9. However it actually started at 9:30. Given experiences with Slider Inn and The Cove, it appears that the bars wait until as many people are in place as possible before starting. So the time trivia gets started seems to be fluid within about 30 minutes or so.

As it turned out, the trivia guy was the same as Monday night’s trivia at Slider Inn. I started off alone answering questions, because teammates had not yet arrived. I actually answered all of my solo questions correctly.

About four additional folks showed up. I do think that the late time was a deterrent.

Unlike Slider Inn, there were about six or seven teams competing. We were in first place after the first run, but ended up falling the fourth after the second. We wagered all of the possible points of the bonus question (which revolved around ranking the order of creation of toys from the 1980s). We ended up answering the question correctly and winning the whole game!

They actually played part of Bandz A Make Her Dance in honor of our team name (selected by me)

We ended up closing our tab too quickly however because the grand prize was $35 on our tab. So one of our team members got some pineapples soaked in tequila while the rest of us scarfed down deluxe shots of some sort of cinnamon flavored whiskey (not Fireball). I am pretty sure I teared up immediately after.

Due to the lateness in the evening, I ended up using Lyft service for the first time. It was great, except that the driver had not yet received her pink mustache for her truck, which is part of the appeal, to be honest.


On Wednesday we ventured to Tamp & Tap downtown. Tamp & Tap is a super cute coffee and brew (read: beer) restaurant. They also have soup and sandwiches. (And brunch!) Their trivia is hosted by MemphiSports’ Kevin Cerrito. There is an 8-person limit for teams, and the trivia changes themes every week.

That night the theme was Disney. I’m not a huge Disney person, but the questions were broad enough that generally someone on our team had an idea. In case you’re wondering there were about 6 or 7 teams.

We ended up in a tie for best team name (Books A Make Belle Dance), which had to be resolved via Mario Kart. One of our valiant teammates won, which gave us a free pitcher. We ended up saving that for a future trip.

At the end of trivia we ended up in a tie again. This time for second place. So more Mario Kart. Same teammate won again, which earned a $25 gift certificate to local t-shirt shop Sache. We gave him the shirt since he put in so much effort.

Upcoming trivia weeks at Tamp & Tap are Memphis trivia, logo trivia (sounds intriguing), and Friends.

I know my friends are particularly interested in the last one. 🙂

And they will have their trivia tournament in June.


On Thursday we went to Cooper-Young favorite Young Avenue Deli. (Known as “the Deli” by frequent patrons.)

The place was packed. Not sure if it was due to trivia or because it was Thursday. There were about 15 teams though.

Like the first two nights, there is no limit on team members. However, there is a limit on space at any given time. Deli trivia is part of Memphis Trivia League so things seemed more formal, with printed out slips of paper to keep notes on. The top five teams also went on to future rounds (carrying their points with them).

Out of all of the nights so far, these seemed to be the most difficult questions. The questions ran the gamut.

To do well here, a group would need to have a team with a lot of different expertise.


On Friday, me and a handful of friends headed to Ubees, which is located on the Highland Strip.

But alas, the trivia person had a tent down at Memphis in May Barbecue Fest and there wasn’t a backup person. To say the least, I was disappointed.

It was also two hours before their infamous Power Hour (insanely cheap drink specials, I’m talking 3-for-1 type deals).

The only other night I knew about was T.J. Mulligans, but no one was willing to drive to Quince or Cordova to take part.

And that was my week of trivia. It was a ton of fun, and honestly got a little bit tiring towards the end.

I definitely will be doing trivia again. Just not for a week straight. See you around town!

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Thanks to Elle Perry for initiating and enduring the “Week of Trivia.” Drinks were won, egos were shattered, and new friends were made. By day, Elle coordinates the Teen Appeal; every other second, she’s a Memphis super-connector. 

Patio Hopscotch across 38104

Springtime in Memphis summons the stodgiest from their cubes to outdoor dining. Fortunately, for self-professed people watchers and the light-depraved, patios are aplenty.

They’re in such abundance that I couldn’t begin to list them all. Each one offers up its own vibe, perks, and unique menu. So, I’ve narrowed it down to a dozen decks within the 38104 zip code:

These places pack patrons on weeknights and weekend afternoons. Below is an interactive map that includes individual descriptions for each and easy-to-map directions.

So bike, hopscotch, or stumble your way through Midtown (with shades and sunscreen, of course).

 

Take 5: Veena Rangaswami

Meet an intercontinental non-profiteer who digs blogging, the Far East, and has a soft spot for Elvis.

Veena Rangaswami

Puzzles never get in Veena’s way, especially when they impede global progress.

Stage name: Veena Rangaswami

Friends call her: V., Veeno, Veener, Vienna (i.e., she’s too friendly)

Starring roles: Program Manager (and expert catch-all) for The Wandering Samaritan, a New York-based nonprofit startup; recent graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service

Daily script: “Connecting international travelers with a sponsored miracle bank – donations fund miracles around the world.”

Really? “Yes, if travelers find a need, then they can help fund it.” Veena mentioned a friend of the founder’s who was passing through Nepal and learned that power outages were preventing children from doing their homework at night. He sent word to Wandering Samaritan who subsequently sponsored a solar panel installation for that family.

Your inspiration? “After college, I worked in India and taught English at a home for working street children in Bangalore for four years. Child laborers, runaways, those begging…anytime you see a child alone, you can call a helpline that sends the police and a social worker who bring them to a transitional home.”

Behind the scenes of blogging: “I like to issue challenges to myself. It started when I was applying to grad school. It was a way to keep my friends everywhere updated on what was happening.” See Veena’s “Wonderful World.”

And the King? “I love going to Graceland. Whenever family would visit from India, they would always want to see Elvis’ house. I bribe people to come to Memphis so I can go; I like to share it with other people.”

Personal best? A conservative estimate of 27 visits.

(Thanks for introducing us, Dylan Perry!)

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.

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.”

Memphians vs. #MEMICE

Winter 2014 has proven to be a cold one. Many states expected to be pelted with snow and ice, yet one city was taken by surprise.

Once a year, the streets of Memphis are graced with a thin, white covering that melts away the next day. Yet, it’s an event that brings citizens of this Mississippi River town joy, despair, and hysteria.

Below are real reactions to #MEMICE ’14 by real Memphians.

Take 5: Deidra Brooks

Meet the Queen of Commuters: That Girl who works two jobs and lives within a three-block radius.

Deidra Brooks

Deidra soaks up the mighty Mississippi in her rooftop oasis.

Stage name: Deidra Brooks

Starring role: Education & Classes Coordinator for the Memphis Development Foundation a.k.a. The Orpheum Theatre

Daily script: “Impacting the future of theatre. If you expose children to theatre at a young age, they’re more likely to continue appreciating it later in life.”

Behind the Scenes at the Orpheum: “We have tons of students from Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri that travel for hours to see our Student Matinee Series. These are shows that are produced by international children’s theaters that come and perform.”

Moonlighting gig: Hostess at The Majestic Grille

Insider tip? “The roasted-chicken flatbread is my favorite. And the soups are always good.”

Any notable encounters? “I did take John Mayer‘s order one time. It was the night of his concert at the FedEx Forum, and there were several entrees. The grilled salmon was initialed ‘J.M.”’

What energizes you? “I could spend hours on end” being surrounded by music and the arts. “Everyone wants to do what they love.”

Social media muses: “Follow Mindy Kaling on Twitter; she’s effortlessly funny. Beyoncé, of course. And Pinterest. I basically decorated my whole apartment based around things I saw on Pinterest.”

Walking to work? “That’s the best thing ever! I love this city, especially the spirit to just grit and grind.”

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.