The Way We Roll

April 21st, 2011

As I’ve written before, nostalgia is way overrated. Put another way, it’s a pleasant enough place to visit but you can’t live there. But there are places and experiences here in the real world that are so like a world we remember that we can be transported there, albeit briefly.

And the vehicle might be something brand-new.

As published in The Daily News, April 22, 2011, and in The Memphis News, April 23-29, 2011 



Five decades ago, my world was self-contained. Within a couple of blocks of my house on Highland, there were, in order of importance: not one but two drug stores with soda fountains, a movie theater, a bakery, a Dairy Queen, a Toddle House, Little Pigs Barbecue, a toy store, a five-and-dime, a record store, a Y – with a pool – the hill at the Waterworks, trains every day, a firehouse where they let you slide down the pole, and some grown-up stuff like a library, a hardware store, a vet, a bank, a post office, two grocery stores, six churches, three gas stations, a furniture store, a jewelry store, a barber shop, a beauty shop. And my school. And a college.

None were further away than five minutes walking, two minutes running or one minute peddling. You took your dog with you to most of them.

Five decades later, I have come full-circle. Within a few blocks of this house just off Highland, on one corner frozen in time, there are: a grocery store where the butcher cuts your meat to order and I fully expect to see June Cleaver checking out the chops, a pub, a pizza joint, a cleaner, a beauty shop, a dentist. And electric Aerobic Cruisers. And spectacular salads you design yourself. And original sandwiches on artisan bread, as big as your head.

None are further away than five minutes walking, two minutes running or one minute peddling from the new Shelby Farms Greenline. And, yes, you can take your dog with you.

Charlie McVean, legendary commodities trader, champion East High alum, Greenline cheerleader, and originator of ideas-from-out-there-somewhere extraordinaire (remember robot jockeys on hackney ponies?), has returned to the neighborhood he grew up in on a sleek, dark charger – a combination human/battery powered bicycle he’s calling an Aerobic Cruiser. Riding shotgun is Jennifer Chandler, author of Simply Salads and Simply Suppers, who has served up another helping of Cheffie’s, a sort of gourmet do-it-yourself café sharing space with McVean’s Cruisers.

The Crusier, according to its brochure, has a range of 75 to 100 miles on a single eight-hour charge and can go 682 miles on a buck’s worth of energy – and that just gets better, and gets better for you and goes faster, if you decide to pedal. Side by side with the uber-bikes, Cheffie’s puts you in charge of a whole stainless steel bowl full of your personal taste – and there’s a big deck for you and the dog. And there’s gelato.

Both of these hip ideas anchor the north end of The High Point Terrace Shops, a tiny neighborhood center virtually unchanged since TV was a hip idea. Things tried and true right next to things a little weird and wondrous and completely original. Old ways of doing things in smaller spaces right in the middle of big ideas that move us in new ways.

That is so Memphis.

I’m a Memphian, and that’s the way we roll.


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