Cool Shades

August 18th, 2016

Good sunglasses these days cost about what my first car did, but I have to admit the lens technology is amazing.

Put a pair on and you see the light, all the light, but it doesn’t hurt, it helps.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, August 19, 2016, and in The Memphis News, August 20-26, 2016

(photo: Our granddaughter Campbell at about 11 months, rocking those shades.)

Cool Campbell Copy


We were talking about sunglasses and how you see things through them.

They were cool when you and I were young, no matter when that was, and they’re cool now. Still cool long past things and people once cool and now long gone like eight-tracks and Fabio. Always cool instead of once cool, not cool, and then cool again like argyle socks.

Sunglasses are just cool.

I recently talked to some folks from Facing History and Ourselves about a cool idea they had as part of their launch of a new program called Facing History Together. Ask people to write a word about how they see Memphis and its history on the lens of sunglasses and then share the view. And they had a cool place for that, too, the Levitt Shell, so that’s what they did at Shades of Blue: A Celebration of Memphis Music and History, the last event of the summer. On a section of lattice on their sponsor deck they displayed some of the sunglasses people brought – a word on the left lens and another on the right – a shaded cross section of Memphis.

There was bit of people hearting something, some peace and love – you know, the view presented by some of our local blogs and websites and Facebook pages with so much blinding sunshine we need sunglasses to see any truth at all, serving so much sweet tea and white bread that any real flavor of the city is lost – but there was just a bit of that. 

There was a lot of truth about Memphis in most of those left and right word combinations:

Diamond and Rough. Chaos and Kindness. Rich and Soulful. Orange and Mound. Blues and Roots. Different and Deep. Soul and Heart. Food and Culture. Small Town and Semi City. Friends and Music. Strong and Hype. Soulsville and Woke.

What these folks are trying to do is to get us to look truthfully at Memphis history in light of Memphis today – to look at who we really were and who we really are – and to see the positive power of truth honestly change a city for the better.

Home and Hope. Grow and Explore. Hope and Rhythm. (In)Formation and Empowered. Invested and Change. Upstander and Vitality. Resilient and Power. Unexpected and Understanding. Vibrant and Creative.

As I listened, as I read the words on the lens, what I heard and saw were people a generation to two generations younger than me joining others and getting us to finally talk about lynching, to finally call a massacre a massacre and put up a marker, but all the while celebrating the raw richness of this place and its people and choosing to live here and move it forward, and to keep the beat that made us. What I heard and saw was my city tomorrow and I liked it. What I heard and saw was scrawled on another pair of those sunglasses:

Lost and Found.

I’m a Memphian, and that’s just cool.


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