A few weeks ago I had a great conversation with a bar customer named Richard.
Richard’s lived in Memphis pretty much forever, and has been in Midtown about as long. He told me one of his adult children — who like many of my friends left for what seemed like something “bigger and better” — is returning to the city.
She realized she had all she needed in Memphis; she just had to find out the hard way. He’s welcoming her home with a big “I told you so.”
Memphis has everything, he told me. Food, professional sports, entertainment, culture, business — Memphis has all the trappings of a big city with the friendly closeness of a small town.
“But we’re our own worst critics,” Richard said.
I thought of my conversation with Richard after I watched the video for Memphis CVB’s new campaign for the first time on The Memphis Egotist.
There goes that civic self-esteem problem again. “Comeback” only lends credence to the idea that Memphis is unsafe or uninteresting. As one commenter on the Commercial Appeal website remarked, it’s like a restaurant with an “Under New Management” sign.
The aforementioned CA article (warning: paywall) says comeback can be interpreted two ways: as the city making a comeback, or as an invitation to come back. Neither interpretation is particularly positive. “Hey, yeah, this place has kinda sucked, but things are lookin’ up!” versus “Hey, please give us another chance?” Excuse me while I call my travel agent and tell him to book me a flight to anywhere but that steaming pit of desperation.
The idea that Memphis is on the brink of a comeback? Couldn’t be further from the truth. The Memphis this campaign is trying to promote — to quote LL Cool J — has been here for years. Has it gotten better? Hell yes. Was it awful before? No.
(And don’t even get me started on the obvious nod to Elvis. Will he ever get a chance to rest in peace?)