Location, Location, Location
I just got back today from a short trip to Memphis, Tennessee. The air was crisp and at times blustery, but being there for the first time and looking around, I had such an immediate sense of things familiar and things foreign, all at the same time. I have traveled to many places in the South, both recently and over many years, yet I couldn't quite put my finger on the familiarity aspect - the vegetation, the brick and stone used extensively there, reminiscent of my childhood in the midwest, the trees changing color. The old buildings, homes, downtown area a bit dilapidated but showing signs of coming around - all familiar to me, all like or at least similar to home in Chicago. Of course, I just said home in Chicago, right? Interesting slip of the type, since I haven't lived there in over 20 years. There were aspects of the city that were foreign - how the city is laid out, for example, encircled by highways. How many of the buldings and roads were named after people famous in the city. Danny Thomas is everywhere in Memphis, on buildings (St. Jude) and others, on roads, at the airport, to name a few. And then there is the "small time" celebrity of Elvis (he doesn't need a last name) where almost every store you walk into has a picture on the wall with him and the owner or other celebrities. In certain parts of the city, it really feels like Elvis is still there, since his name and image are plastered all over. One store I happened into was a famous men's store called Lansky's, downtown. In addition to a major guitar collection (BTW, Memphis is the home of Gibson guitar - tours available) of famous performers, there are blown up pictures of Elvis being fitted by the much younger version of the owner with some new duds. I asked the owner, Bernard Jo, about the pics. "Oh", he said, "Elvis came in all the time before he was famous" - real nonchalant. "He was a good boy." In a soft southern accent, of course. I was there with my brother and my parents for a business event and so together we were able to compare and to contrast our experience of a new city with the one we knew closest and best. It's funny how all of us had these resurgent feelings of Chicago - maybe it was the change of seasons that was informing our perceptions. Whatever. It was clear that being together as a family, without spouses and unfortunately, sans our sister, who lives far, far away, the soothing experience of what is familiar combined with the stimulation of what is foreign engendered that long ago but not forgotten feeling of being a family for the first time, as kids. Discovering the city for the first time together. You never know what things bring you back - smells, fall leaves, old red brick houses. But it all comes rushing back, just like it was yesterday. Of course, it was many yesterday's ago. But for a moment or two, there is that memory and illusion of how it all was. In Chicago. I mean, in Memphis.