Midtown

21 May

My last post got me thinking.
And missing.
My home city.
My home neighborhood
of Midtown
Memphis.

Memphis - Girl Trip!

I lived on 12 different streets
in my 20+ years there.
I got to know it well.
Midtowners tend to move a lot,
but never far.

Trading up
for hardwood floors
from just down the street.

Many move to Midtown,
but being raised there is something.
Something different.
For better or for worse…

I was addicted to coffee by the age of 10
thanks to the Seessel’s on Union Ave
who put their fresh brewed pots
by the free butter cookies.
With sprinkles.

Witnessed my first shooting
while I was in junior high.
Saw a drive-by
by the time I was in high school.
A woman shot a guy
in the butt.
At the Mapco on the corner of
Cooper & Central.

Speaking of school,
Mine was across the street from the
Memphis Zoo.
At the time it seemed normal to hear
monkeys while in class.

My parents were hippies
who played music at the P&H.
Tagging, dragging along
my six-year-old self stretched out in the booth
fighting sleep
staring up at the scary cartoon characatures
painted on the ceiling.

Fifteen years later,
I sat in the same booth.
Drinking beer.
Listening to my friends play
instead of my dad.
No need to fight sleep.
But still creeped out by the paintings above.

Discovered punk rock at age 15
with my best friend.
Too young, but together
we took flyers for shows
like they were golden tickets.
We’d get dropped off by our moms
outside of Barristers.
And just hang out
hoping there was a show.
Often there wasn’t.

Late night robberies.
Matched by late night runs to
Video Magic and Baskin Robbins.
There was a bullet hole in the glass
that always caught my eye
while I sat in my pink chair and
ate my sugar cone.

Piggly Wiggly parking lot.
And the graveyard ’round back.

Barefoot in the riverwalk on Mud Island.
Face painted with primary color balloons.
Stubbing little toes
on the ridges of the Mississippi replica.

Summer camp consisted of
the stage at Playhouse on the Square.
Instead of cabins and canoes.

Now-n-Laters for 10 cents
from the Barksdale 8 till Late supermarket.
Hard as a rock.

Saturday mornings spent
hiding in the record shelves at WEVL
while my mom did her storytelling radio show.
Only coming out to read PSAs
on air.

Pre-school mornings at Cooper Cottage
complete with field trips to the Midtown Mini-Mart.
Afternoons spent with my dad
at the Morris Garage by the train track
overpass on S. Barksdale.
Eating pork rinds
and drinking Coke out of glass bottles.

The cold smell of books
in the old library on Peabody.
The giant tree bench in the children’s section
kept me company after school.

There’s a dogwood tree
on Meda Street in Cooper Young.
My parents planted it there
when I was born.

There’s a parking lot
just a little further down.
Where a friend of mine was
shot and killed
years later.
While delivering pizza.

Little holes torn in the tarp of the tunnel
on the Libertyland Log Ride.
Letting way too much light in.
And letting the scariness out.
One year it caught fire
and it made the news.

In 6th grade I discovered I needed glasses
while at Lupe & Bees Mexican Restaurant.
Across the street from what would become
the Lucero Warehouse.
Of which, I saw a lot of.

Summer days at Overton Park.
40s bought by bums.
If you bought them one too.

Milkshakes at Wiles-Smith.
Grilled cheeses at Dinos.
Toothpicks at Hueys.
Homework over bad coffee at CKs.

Most of these memories have been replaced
by adult ones.
On the same streets,
in the same places.

Either way.
Midtown,
I am yours.
For better or for worse.

My grandma Dorothy
and grandfather Ransom
in Midtown.

Old Photos

20 Responses to “Midtown”

  1. Ricky 21. May, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Cool post.
    Did the shootings in West Memphis influence this at all?

    You’re a good writer.

  2. Kerri Snead 21. May, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    I love this, we love you, midtown misses you! I’m going to go find that tree! xoxo

  3. Lacy 21. May, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    mmmmmmm, butter cookies with sprinkles & coffee.

  4. Meredith 21. May, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Wow, this is really great, Sarah. It makes me want to go to Midtown and walk around and see all the stuff you are talking about. The images are so striking, like the bullet hole and the ice cream and watching bands play at the same place since you were a little girl. And your mom had a storytelling radio show?! How cool!
    Very moving piece.

  5. Brandy 21. May, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    LOVE!

  6. Cathy 21. May, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    Oh Sarah, this is just wonderful.

  7. mom 22. May, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    i love you sarah fortune. this is beautiful. and a magic travel back in time for this mom, who cherishes all the ways in which you see the world and for all the ways i remember you have helped me see it, too.

  8. Daddy 22. May, 2010 at 5:42 am #

    Last week I was envious because you were in Hawaii. Now I’m envious of your writing skills. You were the beauty, and the best part, of Midtown for me. This is a wonderful thing you have written. Thank you.

  9. christine 22. May, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    wow! allot of that brings back memories of my child hood too. Little Rock and Memphis share some of the same qualities. good post!

  10. Rachel Townsend 22. May, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Sarah this is beautiful. Wow.

  11. Robin 22. May, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Oh man, this is so beautiful it really makes me want to cry! I didn’t grow up in Midtown except to visit my family who lived there, but you capture your childhood so beautifully- the dichotomy of lovely, happy things intersecting with tragedy.

    So many of your memories here are mine too, and you do really right by them. I miss you, girl.

  12. sasha 23. May, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    fantastic. miss that town something fierce.

  13. Sarah Fortune 24. May, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Ricky – Thank you. Actually, no inspiration from the recent shootings. West Memphis always seemed a world away from Midtown. Very sad story though.

    Meredith – I’d love to show you around! And yes, my mom is a “professional storyteller” and did a community radio show for years (mostly of other people’s stories).

    And to my mom & dad – thank you.

  14. sue 24. May, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    this makes me really, really miss Midtown. it just got warm up here in Chicago and I’m having some serious nostalgia for biking around Midtown in those hot blue lazy evenings with the air almost green overhead and the tree frogs and cicadas making everything all dreamlike. I feel like I still know every sidewalk crack and parking lot.

    great post.

  15. Mary 27. Jun, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    wonderful! I read it with great interest – So interesting what frames our lives. thank you.

  16. Bob morgan 26. Apr, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    I can hardy see the key board my eyes are so full. what a trip down memory lane. From the time I was a boy to adult. The sights, the fillings, even the smells. Aspen went to Cooper Cottage when we lived on Felix. We still are good friends with Debby and keep in contact with her in Mobil Al. I grew up in that area. I know and miss it greatly. Thank you so much for that wonderful trip.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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