Frogs and Toads

January 22nd, 2015

In today’s column, I quote a couple of my favorite pieces of advice about dealing with the unfortunate but all-too-real circumstances of our lives. In frog terms.

That’s funny.

Trouble is we keep believing, electing and depending on people who refuse to really deal with any of them. Under any terms.

And that’s not funny at all.

As published in The Daily News, January 23, 2015, and in The Memphis News, January 24-30, 2015

Frog Copy


Years and years ago, I was served a couple of striking culinary metaphors that have not only proven to be unforgettable but seem to get better and better with age.

The first was on the wall of my dentist in the 100 North Main building, one of those focal points you stare at while somebody probes your molars with this and that. It was a photograph of a pyramid of frogs inscribed with this:

“If you find that you have to eat a number of frogs, don’t think about it too long, and eat the largest one first.”

Consider our political swamp.

In the city, the largest frog might be the pension plan – something the council nibbles at while snapping at each other and never seeming to take a real bite out of the nasty thing. Maybe it’s the money we owe our school kids – something the courts have told the council they have to eat but they keep pushing it around the plate.

In the county, the largest is probably the smallest – the small-mindedness of a body that is so concerned about their relative position on the lily pad that the weight of their egos might just sink the thing.

In Nashville, the huge croak of 200,000 working people without health insurance resonates across Tennessee as a special legislative session is about to begin to consider their plight. Even though the solution is being served on our own platter, our own money coming back to us, many of our own legislators just can’t swallow it. All they hear in the night, all that frightens them out in the dark water, is the sound…Obama…Obama…Obama…

There are plenty of frogs. There have always been plenty of frogs. Great, green and yellow, bug-eyed frogs.

Frogs aren’t the problem. The courage to face them is the problem.

If Mayor Wharton’s conviction was half that of his charm, his effect half that of his affect, people wouldn’t be standing in line to run for mayor. Our county commissioners can’t see past themselves to provide any vision for the rest of us. Our governor’s inability to stand up to his own party in the legislature has weakened the office for all the governors to come.

The second of those metaphors was taped to my friend Beverly Cruthirds’ drawing board, a small picture of a toad and the cynical but solid advice:

“First thing in the morning, eat a live toad, and nothing worse can happen to you all day.”

There’ll be days like that this year – an election year in Memphis – a pivotal year in Tennessee and the nation. Plenty of noise out there in the swamp. Plenty of simple solutions promised for complicated problems. Plenty of pandering to bases.

Listen hard for people who can make hard decisions based on reality rather than politics, on progress rather than platitudes. The sound can be harsh but there’s clarity in it. It’s the sound of courage.                                                                                                      

I’m a Memphian, and I like the sound of that.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway

If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.

The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.



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