Archive for the ‘Only In Memphis’ Category
The word for the Women Run/Walk Memphis training Monday night was BREEZE. As in, there was one! Good thing, too, as we were doing hill repeats yet again. Though when I said it, we had just finished hill number one, and I didn’t actually make a sentence. I just croaked out, “Breeze.” I think the coach I was running with thought I was saying, “That was a breeze.” Which it certainly wasn’t.
Five hills later (we did six altogether), I actually didn’t feel as completely trashed as I had the first week. Why? Maybe because the temp was only 83, though the humidity was killer. Maybe because I had had a big protein breakfast–eggs scrambled with summer veggies–and veggie soup for lunch. (What should I eat on days when I know I’ll be doing a really tough workout in the evening?) Maybe it was the two Jolly Ranchers I ate on the way to training. And maybe it was because I am actually getting faster. Nah, probably not.
In other news, my slick (expensive) Nike+ Sport Watch has died. Or, rather, it drowned, on the tide of all of those sweaty Memphis runs. As you can see from the photo, the watch has completely stopped working.
I called Nike customer service THREE times before I was able to complete my complaint, and Nike is sending me a new watch (after asking if I wore it scuba diving. Uh, no). Likely not in the color I want, though, seven days of naked runs later, I’d really like to know how fast and how far I am going. But what really concerns me is that my current watch is less than a year old. The sweat-drenched runs will continue. If it quits again, I’m getting a Garmin. Which I now know is what the cool kid runners all have. Who knew?
Running schedule for this week: Monday–hillsx6. (DONE.) Tuesday–rest. Wednesday–3 miles. (DONE.) Thursday–6 miles. Sunday–4.1 mile race through the leafy streets of Evanston, IL, the college town of my heart, on the way to a last-hurrah vacation in the Midwest. I’ll be wearing purple–Go Cats!
I was always a summer camp kind of girl. From the time I was old enough to stay for two weeks at Camp Whip-poor-will until now, the idea of completely detaching from regular life and spending all day outdoors with a bunch of friends has been my idea of heaven. I am always game for a hike, a canoe trip, or stargazing on a summer night, when you can’t tell the constellations from the fireflies.
I had forgotten about this particular kind of wonderful until several years ago, when my friend Mary invited us to the lovely cabin she and her husband Dave own on the Spring River in Hardy, Arkansas, for the Fourth of July. That’s when I rediscovered the joy of putting on your bathing suit instead of clothes in the morning, never combing your hair, and watching the world go by while partially submerged in a cool, rushing river.
When we first started going, Tomas was six, and the cast of characters included Mary’s college buddies and their kids, lots of eating and drinking, games and charades at night, and at least one epic canoe trip, with all of us in a flotilla of kayaks and canoes. The boater who capsized most spectacularly got the Big Daddy Rollover Award; all of us who have won it over the years are memorialized on the plaque that hangs (where else?) in the guest bathroom.
Fun and games aren’t the only reason I love Hardy so much. I love Hardy for the peculiar Memphis-ness of the place: There is history between us, among us, and around us, history that both pulls us together and breaks us apart. For instance, Mary and Dave were introduced by my friend , long before I knew any of them. Neighbor Woody, back in his salad days, ran for governor of Arkansas against another youngster named Bill Clinton; there’s a framed poster from the campaign hanging in the cabin to prove it. Dave’s grandfather, the redoubtable Lucius Burch, gave life to the name that emblazons the t-shirts we all wear at least once during the weekend: Camp Bear With It. Or maybe his grandchildren made that name up to get through the hard labor they were required to perform when Grandfather was in charge.
Then there’s this: The year we first came to Hardy was the year sweet Norris McGehee Jr. drowned on rocks just like the ones our kids frolic on during every visit. He was six then, just a little younger than Tomas.
This year, the group was smaller than usual — teenage kids and their parents’ commitments cut down on participation — and those Big Daddys who don’t want to Rollover no longer go with us on the canoe trip. I felt a little forlorn about the whole thing, worried that a smaller group would mean less fun, fewer sweet memories. I prednisone six pack needn’t have worried. Neighbors with kids we knew from home filled out the canoe flotilla, the homemade ice cream was just as sweet, and lazy conversations were still punctuated with naps or swims in the river, often with a dog in tow.
As usual, a wave of sadness as palpable as the summer humidity hit me as we were driving home from Hardy, past the boot store in Ravenden, past the melon stand in Portia. I am always surprised by it, though I don’t know why. Everyone’s sad when summer camp is over, aren’t they?
I first met Carroll Cloar at the old Ben’s restaurant in downtown Memphis, sometime during 1991. He and his wife Pat were drinking martinis before a (very) late lunch, which seemed so civilized. My pal, the inimitable Nancy Sorak, knew them, of course, and it is because of Nancy that I got a chance to look at this amazing artist up close and at work, near the end of his life. I will always be grateful.
I was editor of Memphis magazine then, which gave me a sort of free pass to get to know whatever parts of Memphis I found interesting. That’s how I found myself one hot summer afternoon in Cloar’s studio, which was an airy room off of the rest of his home, located on a big, wooded lot on Greer in East Memphis. (After Cloar died, the property was sold; it is now a cul-de-sac of newer homes.) Carroll was working away on something — I wished I’d looked closer at what it was — but what I remember best were the walls of his studio, papered floor-to-ceiling with newspaper clippings, photos, pages torn from magazines, whatever he found interesting. It was all glued carefully to the wall, and had yellowed with age, so he worked in sort of a sepia-toned time machine of buy clomid online australia inspiration, though the studio also had big windows that let in natural light.
He was gentle and gracious, very intentional about his work, even with a self-conscious visitor in his studio. He seemed shy. I was struck by how much he still looked like his childhood self, which I recognized from some of his most famous paintings. (That’s Cloar, above left, in his 1955 painting “Alien Child.”)
More than 20 years later, it is 2013, and all over Memphis it is the Summer of Cloar, a celebration of the centennial of the artist’s birth. (He died in 1993.) Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Brooks, which is where the largest of the Cloar exhibits is mounted. There are more than 80 paintings on display — it was a little overwhelming — and I marveled, again, at how well Cloar showed the flat Arkansas landscape, and what a fertile, sophisticated mind he had. I hadn’t noticed before how exacting a technician he was, with every dot of paint exactly where it made the most impact. I also hadn’t remembered, though I had noticed it back then, what a dark side there was to his work. It’s almost like he painted with the mind of the child who had lived with stories of panthers and ghosts and hard discipline, and remembered just how a whipping feels, and how dark it gets in a cotton field at night in rural Arkansas.
I was also struck by how many local friends and acquaintances had lent their Cloar paintings for the exhibit, and it was fun to hear them tell stories on the audio tour of their families’ relationships with Cloar over the years. Not for nothing do those who know this place best call Memphis a big small town. And maybe all of us in this humid, Southern place live with stories of panthers and baptisms and dead neighbors and lost friends.
Fortunately, Carroll Cloar remembered those details better than most.
Well, it looks like we are nearly at the crest of the flood here in Memphis — as of 8pm, the river at Memphis was at 47.84 feet. (Though it also looks
like the Memphis gauge is still broken. Nice.) On our nightly reconnaissance of the neighborhood, some things look pretty much as they have for a few days, but new areas of the island, especially on the Wolf River side, are flooded tonight. (This photo shows the low point of the sidewalk on the Mississippi side of Harbor Town. This was the point where I feared the road would flood, forcing us to evacuate. Thank you, sandbag volunteers.)
Those poor Marina Cottage homeowners are getting it from both sides, though, as the water filled up the parking lot between their homes and the condo buildings behind them today. It looks like the sandbags just didn’t hold off the water, and several onlookers (including a guy who works at Miss Cordelia’s who has been watching this parking lot all day) said there was pumping going on earlier, but it just couldn’t keep up. This photo was taken from the driveway of the condo buildings, looking across to the marina. I guess I don’t have to tell you that you normally can’t see the marina straight across the water.
The good news for these homeowners is that the water isn’t too deep in the parking lot, and the sandbags seem to be keeping it from getting in the building. The other bit of good news comes from the fact that we saw three Memphis firefighters checking out both their property as well as the situation at Maria Montessori next door (if you look closely in this photo, you’ll see them standing on the sandbag wall behind the school; note that the first row of sandbags is now submerged). I asked if they’d had a tripped alarm or something, and they assured us that they are doing regular windshield checks in the neighborhood, which made me feel better. “What’s a windshield check?” I asked Andy as we were walking away. “They drive around and look out the windshield,” he answered, laughing at me. Oh. Well, I’m still glad they’re here.
The flood in Memphis led the national newscasts again today, and if you read carefully, you’ll see that the real trouble isn’t only along the Mississippi, it’s along its tributaries as well: the Wolf, the Loosahatchie and the Nonconnah. The problem when the Big Muddy is in flood is that there’s nowhere for the tributaries to drain, and that’s why if it really does rain later this week, low-lying areas of North Memphis and even farther east might be in trouble again. Lots of good — and recent — details in this update, filed tonight by The Commercial Appeal. Evidently Gov. Haslam is in town tonight to have a look at the flooding, as is Diane Sawyer, who tells us on her FB page that there’s a “very tense week ahead — all people can do now is watch, wait, hope and pray.” Uh, thanks. As if we weren’t worried enough. (Everyone’s worried but Buddy the black Lab; here he is cavorting in the yucky water that is flooding Ben’s Park. I know it’s gross, but it was also really hot today. When I took this photo, it was about 88 degrees.)
Diane Sawyer has a point though: At the moment, officials say the highest water might stick around for as long as a week, and that we won’t see signficant decreases until the end of the month. Friends, that’s a LONG time from now. Of course many folks in the area are way worse off than we are in Harbor Town, but I talked to a Harbor Town friend tonight whose family has evacuated, and they are STRESSED. Not knowing what will happen to your house, sleeping someplace unfamiliar, not knowing when you’ll get to go home, or what will await you when you do … it’s awful. (Here’s yet another look at the high water of the Wolf River Harbor from underneath the Auction Ave. bridge. Note the line of sandbags in the foreground.)
My heart goes out to everyone who is displaced tonight, or who won’t sleep for worrying about
the rising water. To all of my friends who have been in touch worrying about us: We are still fine. As I write this, I can hear Andy and Tomas yelling at the Grizzlies (who are in the playoffs … yeah) down the hall, the air conditioning is cool, dinner was tasty. Thanks, as ever, for your thoughts and prayers.
Actually, it does feel quite normal around our house today: A trip to the downtown farmers’ market for strawberries and lettuce, a trip to the salon (finally!), Andy and Tomas to Costco, and all of us
looking forward to the Grizz game and a fun birthday party tonight. The thing that’s not normal: You can now see water from the sidewalk on the Wolf River side of Harbor Town.
The filling-in of the other side of Island Drive continues. The berm I mentioned last night now consists of two feet of dirt and gravel, topped by sandbags. It’s a little scary to think of it giving way, but of course that street needs to stay dry for us to stay home, so THANK YOU to the City of Memphis (and federal emergency dollars) for getting that done.
Heading south on Island Drive past the roundabout, though, people won’t be so lucky. The road isn’t developed with curbs and berms like our section is, and several brand-new condo developments are right in the path of the water. Saw a Twitter post this morning calling for sandbaggers, and it looks like plenty of folks in the Pyramid parking lot have responded. We’ll likely join them before this is done.
And as if you need more confirmation that there’s a heck of a lot of water flowing past Memphis, the National Weather Service reports that the river gauge at Memphis is BROKEN. The last correct reading was at 8am: 46.8 feet. (I know, I’m obsessed with the river level.) I think that gauge is at the bend in the river near Presidents Island, but don’t know for sure.
Not just homes and businesses on shore are affected by this flood: Here’s a fascinating Bloomberg story about how river closures and changes affect the business of the river, particularly the oil and farm products that are regularly shipped up and down its massive length. One of my St. Mary’s friends is a maritime lawyer, and she says that floods always mean trouble for river shipping, with loads hitting bridges, etc., etc. Yipe.
I’ll leave you with a smile today: You know you’ve been living in Floodland too long when you look across the street to a neighbor’s driveway, and think stacks of bags of garden pebbles are actually sandbags!