Can I catch a ride?

I know it’s been awhile. It’s not that I’ve been busy – I have – but not so busy that I couldn’t blog. But since the local election passed, I haven’t felt particularly inspired by anything. There’s nothing like Memphis politics to get you thinking.

There seems to be so little going on that I’ve even stopped listening to Drake and Zeke on the way to work. It had gotten to the point where I’d here them in the morning, then, if I went anywhere after dark, I’d hear the same show again… and if I got into the car Saturday morning… it’s on again in “The Best of D&Z.” Not to mention when they take time off – you end up hearing stuff you heard a few weeks earlier. I know they’re popular, but the station could actually spring for a nighttime and Saturday morning disk jockey!

Anyway, just before I switched from D&Z this morning to Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio, I hear either D or Z ask why the assistant school superintendent needed a chauffeur who happened to be a school security guard. I wasn’t familiar with the story, but I logged onto the Main Street Journal’s site and found a link to the story on Action News 5.

So it seems part of Irv Hamer’s deal to be Kriner Cash’s #2 is to get a driver to and from work, as well as to any location where he’s conducting MCS business. Here’s a portion of the statement from the district explaining things: “The current practice allows the Deputy Superintendent to work while traveling and helps to ensure that he safely and timely arrives to and from work as well as the myriad of sites that he visits on the District’s behalf.

A driver is one thing. But it seems that members of the school security staff are the employees tasked with ferrying Hamer to and fro. They do the same for the superintendent. I’ve been at events where Cash has attended, and let me say, it’s the only time in my life where I’ve seen a school superintendent show up anywhere with armed security. It sends some kind of message.

Perhaps security is necessary for some people at some levels. I know the CEO of the place I used to work at has corporate security people at his house. Maybe if I were a billionaire, I’d feel a need to do that too, although I’d pay for my own, and not pass costs onto my stockholders. When Dick Hackett was mayor, he’d walk down Main Street with no more protection than his communications guy (a nice person, but you’d want someone more imposing if you were in a jam). On the other hand, Willie Herenton had enough police around him to look like a visiting head of state. Of course, I guess it’s up to the individual to determine what is actually necessary.

Back to the MCS thing. One of the things Cash had initially wanted for Memphis Schools was an internal police force. He didn’t get it, but let’s suppose for a moment that he was on track about the need for security in the school system. That being the case, why take away from the finite security force that does exist so they can ferry you and your boy to and from? So you can work in the car? If you’re spending that much time in traffic, move closer to work or cut back on your outside appointments. Why use well-trained, highly-paid security staff as bus drivers? In fact, if you need to work and ride, take MATA – it’d certainly be cheaper (doesn’t the mayor of New York City, a billionaire, often ride the subway to work?). Why not use scarce resources wisely, especially in a time where the system is scrambling for money to put badly-needed educational assistants back into classrooms?

I commute 36 miles a day, 180 miles a week. And I pay for it myself. So Kriner & Irv, if either of you are going from downtown to East Memphis in the morning, can I catch a ride wit’ you?


The Entertainment Committee

The Choices

The girlfriend and I stopped by the Election Commission office last Saturday to early vote. Talk about timing – I was in and out long before either Steve Cohen or Willie Herenton showed up. I’m sorry about that, because I love nothing better than seeing people in competition face each other in situations where one or the other isn’t quite prepared for it. It’s nice to know that the former mayor was willing to act a little foolish with his mother along. That had to make both of them so proud.

Nice flag

Also a nice flag

Speaking of early voting, I actually wrote in a choice for county mayor. While there are actually Fords I like personally, I don’t really know Joe Ford, plus, I have a thing about actually voting for any of them. Here’s my thing about Sheriff Luttrell. Recently, people in custody of his people have had a bad habit of suddenly not being in custody. I’m not completely convinced that either he or his number two, who is running to replace him as sheriff, should be rewarded when the system they have in place to keep heinous criminals off the street doesn’t.


Vote Now!

Okay, I know I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to. I’m not “busier,” but I have been focused on other things. Still, I was kind of disappointed when I was on the Memphis Flyer site the other day. The ballot for the annual Best of Memphis is open for voting. I always enjoy seeing what places, people and events are selected, and which ones I’ve actually agreed with. I was the tiniest bit disappointed when I got to the Best Blog category and quickly saw that this blog was not listed (shocking, I know!).

It's Good Reading!

I mean, c’mon, what’s a brother gotta do? Blog every day? Write about things that interest and entertain large number of Memphians? Geez Louise – you may as well ask for blood – I’m a busy man! Okay, here’s a tease – I’m been purposely bulking up. The team at work wants to do another weight loss challenge. I barely missed winning the last one, and my doctor’s still on me about losing weight, so I’ve got the motivation to jump in with both feet again. I’ll be keeping you apprised. Oh, and if you want to write me in on the Memphis Flyer “Best Of” ballot, it won’t hurt my feelings.

Playing Host

The Kids Are Alright

I took a day off this week because my sister’s son came down for a visit. Eddie’s a pretty sharp guy, working on his master’s at Valparaiso University in Indiana. He brought a friend along. During his year on a church mission in South Africa, he met a nice young lady from Germany named Natalie Zaiss. She’s in the U.S. to visit him (women will travel the world for us Johnson men… oh, it’s true). They got into town just in time to provide an assist to my trivia team on Monday night. I ferried them around Memphis, showing them the sights on Tuesday. Most of what I showed them was around downtown, since I live there. Pyramid, Mud Island, Main St. Trolley, Chisca Hotel, Mason Temple, National Civil Rights Museum (which I didn’t know was closed on Tuesday) and Jackie Smith.

Duck! You Suckers!

I took them into the Peabody to see the ducks in the lobby fountain, and it turned out we were there just in time to see the duckmaster bring the fellas downstairs so they could go to work. Red carpet, velvet ropes, throngs of people lined up outside the middle elevator. In 11 years of living in Memphis, that was actually a first for me. After ribs for lunch, I took them by to see local raconteur Joe Larkins and his lovely wife Bethany Smith. I’m going back to work on Wednesday, but I’ve suggested the Civil Rights Museum, the Stax Museum and Graceland. Fortunately, all air conditioned facilities.

Old Enough to Know Better

After a brief flurry of activity, my blogging once again slowed to a crawl. The muse was keeping her distance, for whatever reason. But, if you wait long enough, inspiration will present itself. Often in the form of an angry, 70-year-old man.

From the Commercial Appeal

After voters pretty much slept through the non-event that the recent county primary turned out to be, former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton storms back into the collective consciousness, spouting opinions that make a lot of people scratch their heads and wonder what’s wrong.

Hizzoner has declined to appear at a debate sponsored by WREG-TV (full disclosure: I worked at Channel 3 for 8 years). Dr. Herenton believes that the regular panelists who pose the questions at 3’s debates, Norm Brewer and Otis Sanford, are in some way biased towards him. He made the point to a reporter that this bias stretches back years. It’s possible that he’s confusing detached, non-partisan coverage and commentary with bias, but I certainly don’t want to speak for him. I don’t know Sanford, except for his commentaries at the CA, which always seem well-informed. I do know Brewer, since our time at 3 overlapped. In my view, he’s a fair man.

Which One?

Perhaps the voters in the Greater Memphis area are familiar enough with the Herenton record (a dozen years as superintendent of schools, elected to 5 terms as mayor, etc.) that they wouldn’t necessarily gain anything from hearing additional discourse during his attempt to win the 9th District Congressional seat from incumbent Steve Cohen. By the way, in case you don’t remember, this piece in the Memphis Flyer should serve to remind you that he doesn’t think much of Rep. Cohen either.

When it comes to the people asking questions during debates, I think all the local stations that have aired debates have done a good job of choosing fair panelists (my ex-wife was a panelist during a gubernatorial debate on Channel 3 several years ago, and did a fine job).

The Choices

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that either of the current questioners are in fact, biased against the candidate. If that bias were to show up in the form of the questions posed, wouldn’t it be pretty obvious? And wouldn’t that also reflect positively on the candidate who recognized that? ‘See, I told you they were biased…’ And isn’t there a chance that something like that could actually engender some sympathy (and votes) for the maligned candidate? I mean, if you keep your cool under fire and calmly present the salient details of your 30 years of public service and plans for your work in Congress, would it really matter how biased the questioners were?

The former mayor didn’t deign to debate any of the other candidates in his last campaign either. Of course, if you’ve got four terms behind you and solid electoral support, it’s really quite feasible to skip a joint TV appearance with several lesser knowns. On the other hand, if you’ve been out of office (and the public eye) for months and are running against someone who has as much success at the ballot box – and is the incumbent – you’d do yourself well to showcase the differences between yourself and your opponent as publicly as possible. Depending on the good will of your traditional support without doing anything to shore up that support (anything except personal attacks), might be short-sighted.

I did think it was interesting that Dr. Herenton made the point to a television interviewer that he did not dodge tough questions, asking the reporter himself for confirmation. Of course, some of the best Memphis TV over the last decade-and-a-half has been the former mayor walking away from news cameras (which he did again during this interview after a particularly inflammatory comment).

The Trilla’ from Wasilla!

While I’m happy that we have such interesting political figures, it worries me that many of them are capable of getting voted into office.

The Governor & the Comedian

The former governor of Alaska (and vice presidential candidate) was in Illinois for a fund-raising event this week. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Sarah Palin expressing her views. Those views obviously strike a chord with many Americans, but it seems the more distance a politician puts between him or herself and the middle, the more they’re open to mocking. Tina Fey had a pretty good career going, but she should be sending regular payments to Gov. Palin.

There was another event in the Chicagoland area, timed to coincide with the governor’s appearance. Chicago’s Admiral Theatre didn’t just hold a Sarah Palin look-alike contest – the entrants were all strippers. After all, the Admiral is a “gentleman’s club.”

From the Chicago Tribune

A Brazillian woman named Eloah Rocha won the $2,500 first prize (you know a prize is a big deal when it comes on a big cardboard check). Well, maybe she’s going to use the money for college tuition (Irony or sarcasm? I’m not sure).

I just feel lucky that I’m not good-looking enough to be the target of parody.

(Not the) Endorsement Issue

It’s nice to have your judgment borne out by events; not to reinforce the idea that you’re right about something, more so to give you the idea that you’re not completely wrong.

Get out and vote!

I’ve been telling people since I moved back to Memphis 3 years ago that in my opinion, Deidre Malone would be a good candidate for Shelby County mayor. That is, once AC Wharton decided he wanted to do something else, which of course, would be predicated on Willie Herenton deciding that he wanted to do something else. I know Deidre from her time at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where I was always impressed with her ability. So was the hospital, since they eventually made her a VP of communications before she left to start her own business.

Nicer than the office she had when I worked with her!

Once the former city mayor decided that he wanted to be a former mayor, giving the county mayor an opening to move across the plaza into City Hall, Deidre had her chance to join two other Democrats in the primary for Shelby County mayor. Interesting that anyone would want the job when you consider that the outcome of city-county consolidation could make the job go away, but I guess it’s best to be prepared for any eventuality.

Anyway, since early voting has begun for the May primary, the Commercial Appeal has begun the process of making endorsements for the various positions. I don’t know that there’s a legitimate need to make an endorsement in the Republican primary for mayor (sorry if that offends any Lunati supporters, but Sheriff Luttrell is quite a formidable candidate). But it was nice to see the CA come out for Malone on the Democratic side.

Don't take my word for it!

While I think the world of Deidre and am convinced that she would be an excellent mayor; I’m not actually endorsing her. One, I don’t really think any opinion I’d have on the subject would amount to that proverbial hill of beans that we’ve all heard about.  And two, it would be unfair to my place of business, since there’s the possibility that we could end up working for any candidate, and it’s better not to show really overt favoritism before the fact.

Basically, what I’m saying here is that I’m pleased with myself that the newspaper has pretty much validated my earlier judgment for many of the same reasons I had used in the first place. You however, should use your own best judgement and vote for one of the 5 candidates in the two primaries (or write in your own)!

Hello World (I’m Still Here)!

It was a year ago today that I started this blog as a reaction to getting laid off from FedEx. I said at the time that I was going to use the blog as a way to catalog some of the things I was going through, having become one of millions of unemployed Americans. That didn’t last long as a reason to blog. Rod Starns and Jonathan Epstein, the guys who own & run Running Pony Productions, gave me a job less than two months after I got laid off. I have to think the economy is getting better; they’ve hired two other full time employees since they brought me on board.


There are some good people working at my former place of employment. And it’s still a business that was based on a very good idea that has been executed very well. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that there are some real chowderheads still working there. Have you ever noticed that those folks usually find a way to get bypassed when a company is downsizing? Beside dodging the axe and holding meetings, I’m not quite sure what value they add to an organization. C’est la vie, as the man said.

I’ve touched on some of these things over the succeeding months. One, when you go through a trauma, you find out who your real friends are. Support can come from some pretty unexpected places when you’re going through hard times. That’s when you learn that some of the people you know like you a lot more than you ever thought they did. You also learn that a lot of them respect you a lot more than you thought they did. Unfortunately, you also find out that some people don’t have as much use for you once you’re not in a position to do as much for them anymore. Of course, they might just be turned off by neediness. Unless it’s theirs.

The Happy Couple

I can’t say I met a good woman who has helped me get through all this. Turned out that I already knew her. It’s interesting how you may want to end up with one person but it takes you all kinds of time to realize that they just aren’t going to like you like that. In the meantime, it takes about the same amount of time to figure how that there’s someone else who likes you just fine, once you start paying attention. Yes, I know it happens in the movies all the time, and I know that all life’s lessons are taught by the movies. Plus, it keeps my wonderful mother from giving me all kinds of grief over being the only one of the kids who’s “alone.”

Happier Working

I’ve been back in Memphis for three years now, almost two years in the first home I’ve ever owned (along with the bank) and coming up on one year in my new job. We’ve got a black president and the world hasn’t ended (it probably won’t, but it will keep the ratings high at Fox News, look what Bill Clinton did for them!). Politics continue to be half crazy in Memphis (completely crazy when a Ford or Herenton is involved!). I’ve only been in two car accidents since I’ve been back (double the number I’d been in for the first 23 years I’ve been driving). And my ex-wife still isn’t speaking to me (don’t ask).

All in all, even with the job thing and falling out with a couple of people, it’s been a pretty good year. I ‘m not suggesting that any of you lose a job to test that theory. And as Joe Larkins pointed out to me the other day, if I wrote more, he’d read more. I’m going to try and do that. I hope to have another progress report next April.