Day 179

My, oh my, how busy I've been! 

Over the past week, I had the opportunity to speak with a whole slew of great individuals. It all started last Thursday, when I got to watch / briefly meet with a group of U of M students at an AAF luncheon. Although I didn’t get to chat with them individually, just watching them present proved they all have bright futures in the industry.

The following day, I sat down with Michael Phillips of Choose901 / City Leadership to discuss downtown Memphis and how the city is changing for the better—especially when it comes to attracting and retaining creative-types. Then on Tuesday, I met with Andrew Lebowitz and Billy Nation of AIGA | Memphis for lunch at Rendezvous. They had very kind words for #TGAA and offered up some great advice on how I can better build support for the project. They also host the Creative Memphis podcast and I highly recommend everyone check it out. It’s a great listen, no matter where you live.

Finally, I headed to Aldo's Pizza yesterday for a great conversation with Memphis blogger and resident creative, Holly Whitfield. We chatted about all things Memphis and how the city compares to the other places I've visited so far. To be honest, I'm really bummed I wasn't able to meet any of these awesome individuals earlier in my residency here. However, one thing is for sure, each and every one of them is having a positive impact on the city's creative offerings and overall growth. 

And that brings us to today. I know May is one of the shortest months I have booked, but it honestly feels like I just arrived yesterday. Alas, at 10:40pm Saturday, I hop on yet another train and begin my overnight journey to St. Louis. But before I venture to Stop 7, I want to send a big “thank you” to the Red Deluxe team for showing me a great time in Memphis and introducing me to the city’s incredible BBQ.

Looking forward, my next month is going to be exciting for a number of reasons. Not only does it mark the halfway point of the project, but I’m also hitting one of the most interesting agencies I’ve ever come across — Boxing Clever. Part ad agency, part record label and part book publisher, BC certainly has a lot going on and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. From what I can tell, this group really thinks outside the box and I feel we’re going to get along swimmingly. 

On a final note, a strange set of circumstances transpired on Memorial Day and I somehow ended up on the news. It feels weird being labeled as a "Grizzlies fan" while wearing a Cleveland Indians hat. But, let's look on the bright side... I made the news! Surely, this can be chalked up as a victory somehow. Right?

-Steve-

Day 162

Over the weekend, I was trying to think of how to best describe downtown Memphis. Every time I came up with a new adjective, another one would pop in my head and completely negate the first. What I came to find is that it’s extremely difficult to encapsulate the vibe of a city that has so much to offer, yet so far to go.

So, what can I tell you about downtown Memphis? Well, I’d argue that if you randomly woke up here, you’d be hard pressed to know what decade you landed in. A lot of the architecture blends designs from the 50s and 60s, while the newer buildings exude over-the-top 80s style with neon lights and oddly placed waterfalls. There’s also the staggering number of empty lots that harken back to the lowest points of the 1930s.

That’s not to say all is lost though. Yes, as a whole, downtown lacks that certain youthful exuberance I found in parts of Cleveland, Philly and Charlotte. But there are several pockets starting to build things back up. From the neighborhoods that surround the visible music college and AutoZone Park to new hotspots like Tamp & Tap and Local, there are glimpses of a turnaround everywhere you look. The city is even in the process of building a Centre for Performing Arts next to the Orpheum Theatre, which is sure to help boost another section of the downtown area.

Is the lack of modern aesthetics a bad thing? It all depends on how you look at it. I’ve heard this city’s history from several people over the past week and while I won’t bore you with the details, I do have a firm understanding of why the city is the way it is. Yet, despite it all, the people here are extremely passionate about the place they call home and will happily tell you about the wonders of Memphis. They know that for every down the city has seen, there’s always an up to counter it. As the Grizzlies' “growl towels” stated at their last home playoff games—We Don’t Bluff.

From Graceland and Stax to Sun Records and Beale Street, this is a city that knows what it’s made of and won’t back down from anyone. Hell, this is also a lifelong wrestling city—home of Cleveland Indians fan and WWE Hall of Famer, Jerry the King Lawler—who’ll happily send a personalized chair shot to anyone who talks ill of his salt-of-the-earth, nitty-gritty, for better or worse city of Memphis, Tennessee.  

Over the next three weeks, I hope to expose some of the city's bright spots—from the awesome theater system and “must-see” museums to the hip midtown area and the various Memphis in May festivities. I’m excited to share what I find, but first I need to grab some more of this city’s incredible BBQ. As they say, if you want to win the heart of the masses, always start with their stomachs.

-Steve-

Day 158

I’m now two days into my tenure at RedDeluxe and thus far, things are looking rather promising. Housed in one of downtown’s newer buildings, the RD office is of minimalist design with a lot of cool accents that brighten it up. Most notably, the two-story space features a spiral staircase in the center of the room and even includes access to its own rooftop deck. Atmosphere-wise, things are a bit more subdued here. This is the first agency I've visited that doesn’t have music playing throughout the office and it’s certainly taking some getting used to. On the other hand, I don’t have to worry about listening to any Darius Rucker or Brittany Spears while I’m here. So, all in all I suppose it’s not all bad.  

I spent my first two days getting to know the team and as with all the agencies I’ve been to, I am in awe of how creative the group is. While I haven’t had the chance to sink my teeth into any projects yet, I am greatly looking forward to throwing my hat in the ring as soon as possible. Oddly enough, RedDeluxe does creative for the Memphis Grizzlies, which is pretty awesome since I got to work on a few Charlotte Hornets projects while at BooneOakley. Sadly, I won’t get the chance to see the Grizzlies play while I’m here, which is something I was looking forward to. Damn you, Oklahoma City!

Although I’ve only been here for less than a week, I’ve already learned so much about Memphis and it’s far more interesting than I ever could’ve imagined. From the trolley cars to the giant pyramid, this city is unique and fascinating on all fronts.  I have a lot of exploring to do over the next few weeks and I just hope I can fit it all in as this is one of the project's shortest stops.

Lastly, I finally got the AirBnB debacle taken care of. My host moved me to another unit in the building as of Monday evening and I'm happy to report that I can once again access the Internet. I never realized just how dependent this project was on the web, until I went four days without it. You’d be surprised how far an extended weekend can put things behind, since there's so much coordination going on behind the scenes. I’m glad the situation settled down though, because now I can get my head back in the game to get things done.

-Steve-