Welcome to Memphis…

Welcome Home

Got back to the city after a delightful Thanksgiving holiday with the family. There’s something interesting about airports. There’s always a sign in every airport I’ve been in. The one that says Mayor So-and-So welcomes you to wherever-you-happen-to-be. I flew into the city during the temporary mayoralty of Myron Lowery a few weeks ago. The large brown sign over the escalators heading down to the ground transportation level at Memphis International Airport had read “Mayors Dr. W.W. Herenton and AC Wharton Welcome You to Memphis.” Because of the temporary change at in city leadership because of Dr. Herenton’s retirement, a temporary placard with Lowery’s name had been pasted over Herenton’s.

Of course, the names have changed since then. Lowery has gone back to City Council. Shelby County Mayor Wharton is now Memphis City Mayor Wharton. I didn’t think of that until I got to the escalator Sunday night. An entirely new sign had been installed. The blue sign, obviously added after Wharton had ascended to the city job, read “Mayors AC Wharton and Joyce Avery Welcome You to Memphis.” D’oh! I guess the version of the sign with the name of current county mayor Joe Ford is at the painters. I guess that’s the benefit of having long-serving mayors.

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright…

The Woods

Having been married (and not married), I know I’m not the right person to give anyone marriage advice. So I’m not going to step too far into the car wreck controversy swirling around Tiger Woods. I don’t know why he couldn’t get his SUV out of his own driveway without hitting anything. I don’t know why his wife, Elin Nordegren, had to use a golf club to bust out the window of the SUV. I don’t know know anything about NYC club hostess Rachel Uchitel and whether she’s ever done anything more than show TW to a seat in a club. I’m not even going to try and guess why Uchitel has retained spotlight chasing attorney Gloria Allred.

Really?

I do have a couple of questions. If Woods isn’t legally obligated to talk to police, why is the Florida Highway Patrol trying so hard to get a statement? If they thought anything was going on, they should have acted on any suspicions that morning and taken someone in for questioning. Of course, if it was just a situation of Woods missing the end of the driveway, why not talk to police and get it out of the way? If he’s been pitching Buicks for all these years, why was he driving a Cadillac? Okay, that’s not that big a deal, but – since he was in a GM vehicle – why not just call OnStar and have them unlock the doors automatically and skip using a golf club to bust into the car? And would someone so widely recognized step out on his wife and two kids step out with someone who works in such a public arena?

Two last thoughts. David Letterman has got to be glad someone else is in that spotlight… And how long will this keep the sports media in a choke hold?

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A Moment’s Respite

I really don’t expect anyone to read this blog before Monday. After all, it’s Thanksgiving, Black Friday and a big weekend for college football. Everybody should have better things to do than read blogs. Although I have actually gotten several Facebook messages from people in the last few minutes (one from one of my best friends after getting together for lunch for the first time in years, two from a couple of lovely women I know — that’s why I went into TV! Don’t get the wrong idea — both are happily married).

Back in the Big C

Did some traveling for the holiday. Had enough Delta miles for a free ticket to Ohio, so I’m in Columbus, staying with my sister. Mom is up from Florida, so just about everybody was on hand for the holiday, which went very well. There was a little snow on the ground this morning, giving the visit that nice winter-timey feel. One nephew is getting ready for grad school, the other just turned 7. My niece turns 13 in a few months — so I’m really feeling for my brother and sister-in-law — teenagers are so much fun. Although, she is incredibly nice and very well-behaved. Hopefully, her head won’t start spinning around when she has that birthday.

As I mentioned, I had lunch Friday with my friend Jim. We met when I started working at the University City McDonald’s in 1975. About 8 years later, we worked together in the sports department of the Columbus Dispatch. It’s always been one of those friendships that’s been easy to maintain. Funny story. In 1987, I was in my second job in TV news, in Savannah, Georgia. He came down for a visit so we go to a Japanese restaurant. As the chef worked the grill in front of us, I was telling Jim how (relatively) well-known I had been at my previous job in Casper, Wyoming. One, not a lot of African-Americans on local TV there. Plus, it was a relatively small market. When the Dispatch ran an article about me (local guy makes good out in TV out west), I ended up getting a congratulatory letter from Wyoming’s single congressman at the time — Dick Cheney (!).

Good Burger!

Anyway, we’re sitting there and a woman sitting next to us interrupts to ask if I’m the Doug Johnson who does TV weather. I’m pretty impressed now, since I have the chance to show my good friend how I’m becoming well-known in my new market. Yes, I tell her, and thanks for noticing. Then she asks me what I’m doing in Savannah. Now I’m confused. Turns out she had also recently moved to Savannah from Casper — and knew me from Wyoming, not Georgia! Anyway, Jim and I went to the original Max & Erma’s in German Village today. If you’re ever in Columbus, try to get by there. It’s a really cool neighborhood and a nice restaurant. It’s a chain now, so it’s lost the quaintness it had when it was just one or two places here, but the food’s still pretty good. Take an appetite and order the Garbage Burger. You’ll thank me.

Can you hear me now?

I’m kind of excited for the upcoming week. I broke down and ordered an iPhone. Considering I regularly use two different Apple computers at home, a third a work and own 3 iPods, I’m kind of surprised that it’s taken me so long. Since we’re a Mac-based office, the bosses are generous enough to pay for the plan if we pay for our own phone. I had held off since I had about a year left on the contract of my current phone. But even though I’ve increased my plan a couple of times lately, my bills have still been pretty high. High enough that I’ve just become willing to pay the $100 to end the contract early.

Hello?

I am curious as to whether the AT&T 3G network is widespread enough to make having the thing worth having, especially when I’m on the road, since I am doing a lot more traveling for work. I know that Luke Wilson has been spending his time between movies appearing in a series of AT&T TV spots trying to downplay the alleged difference between Verizon’s 3G coverage and AT&T’s. Well, it’ll be easier to send texts using a keyboard instead of the number pad on my old phone.

11 and 0!

And props to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. The football team beat Illinois today, going 11-0 for the first time in school history. Nice job and good luck in the Big East championship!

Top Ten

Combating Crime

Memphis has made another list. This time, like a lot of times, it’s one of those lists that no one wants the city to have made. CQ Press goes through the FBI crime stats for 2008, looking at serious crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. While Camden, NJ is the most dangerous U.S. city, according to the list. Spot number 10 belongs to Memphis. You can see the entire list here.

#10 (with a bullet?)

The survey is sort of a “raw numbers” comparison, looking at the incidence of crime by population. The fact it doesn’t look at other factors has leaders in the cities that make the list complain that its too simplistic. Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin has said in the past months that the ongoing Blue Crush initiative has made strides in making the city a safer place. Whenever you’re dealing with statistical information, you can get nearly any type of answer you’re looking for. No one knows who said it first, but Mark Twain said it best: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

It’s hard to say whether Memphis is truly the 10th most dangerous city in the United States. There are parts of the city where I wouldn’t want to linger, even in the middle of the day. On the other hand, there are parts of town where I feel comfortable walking well into the night. That’s something that’s probably the case in most places. There have been a more than a few stories on the evening news of late that remind us of the crime problems our city suffers. There’s no easy answer. More police could help. Citizens being a little more careful and concerned about their surroundings would be good too.

Keeps your eyes open. It could help.

Don’t Eat Too Much (but if you do…)

I got the chance to make the big drive from Memphis to Little Rock over the last couple of day. We went for a video project, which went very well.  It was cloudy on the day we had to be inside and bright and sunny on the day we had to be outside.  Can’t ask for better than that.

Time for Lunch!

Fine dining in FC!

Anyway, the big part of the trip wasn’t necessarily work, although that went extremely well (nice clients; one from Central Ohio). No, we had to figure out whether we were going to eat lunch on the road or when we got to Little Rock. Will saw a billboard for the Ole Sawmill Cafe in Forrest City; we decided to stop there after a little in-car debate. Good move. Think a local version of Cracker Barrel – gift shop full of knick-knacks when you walk in, then you go through a door into the dining area.

BIG buffet!

What'll have, hon?

Buffet service. According to the website, it’s the longest buffet in Arkansas (I’m taking their word for that). We got there on fried chicken day (as we found out, every day is fried chicken day). It’s been a long time since I’ve had fried chicken good enough to mention it to another person. Crispy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside. The vegetables were cooked to within an inch of their lives, but the lasagna was good, the gravy for the mashed potatoes was outstanding and the place was full of waitresses who called everybody “hon.”

It was good enough that we talked about it after lunch most of the way to Little Rock. And talked about it some more when we had a really bad dinner at a restaurant in downtown LR. Once we finished our shoot the next day, it was coming up on lunchtime, but instead of dining somewhere in town, we decided to wait the hour or so it would take us to drive back to Forrest City so we could hit the Ole Sawmill one more time.

The chicken was good again. I overhead one of the kitchen staff say that he was in the back cooking chicken so fast it didn’t have time to be anything but fresh. The pork chops were pretty meaty too. I had to sleep a few extra hours after getting home because of all the food I ate. I think Will & Dave were feeling it too.

Miles of smiles

So if you’re ever on I-40, take exit 241-A and stop by. They’re open at 6 in the morning everyday of the week and open until 9 at night, except on Friday and Saturday, when they’re open until 10pm. And you can get in there every day of the year except Christmas.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

He Gone

I’m one of those people who can admit a mistake (some of the time). I had been a tad critical of some of the local TV coverage of Allen Iverson’s exit from the Grizzlies. There seemed to be a bit too much supposition on his reasons for leaving without any sourcing.

My point at the time was that we should actually wait for something a bit more definitive before throwing AI under the bus. Sure, it was pretty likely that he had walked out on the team because he didn’t want to accept a backup role. But everybody thinking that doesn’t make it reportable, even if it happened to be true.

So, once the Grizzlies waived Iverson, we had a better idea that it was actually true. Of course, I have to note, that even though the team has released the reluctant player, there’s still no confirmation from the man himself that he’s not playing anymore.

Okay, I guess that whole multiple source thing is no longer applicable in journalism. I can accept that. Seems like in some cases, no source is okay too. Kinda cheapens the whole profession, but if that’s the way it goes, I’ll go along.

Making Progress

So Far, So Good?

The Grizzlies have gotten off to a bad start. The Tigers are 1-1, but that one in the loss column was pretty close, and a lot of observers have already accepted this season as a write off. The idea is that Coach Pastner has lined up one of the better recruiting classes in recent memory. So, no matter how the team does this year, they should be gangbusters by next year. Either way, it appears that people are coming to terms with the exit of the former coach.

I’ve only met Pastner once, but he is a pretty personable guy. I can see him being very convincing when it comes to getting recruits to commit to the University of Memphis. And even if he’s not the strongest floor coach, he’s got enough talented help to get by. So, will he be another John Calipari? Another Tic Price? Gene Bartow? Dana Kirk? Larry Finch? Way too soon to know, but I’m thinking that’s not going to stop some fans from building him up… while some others are waiting to tear him down.