Personas, part 1

So last Thursday I did an interview for the “Q&A” section of next month’s Memphis Magazine. We talked about all the stuff I expected – how Downtown has changed since I’ve been down here, the panhandling problem, those kinds of things. At the end, my interview complimented me on being one of her easiest interviews ever. “I’ve got to tell you, though,” she said, “To a large extent you were the person I expected to meet after reading your blog. But in some ways you’re not. It seems like you play a character on your blog to some degree. A persona.”

It’s funny she said that, because it’s a topic I had thought about blogging about for some time anyway. So, in this two-part series, I’m going to explain the difference between the character I play on this blog, and who I am in real life.

If you read this blog, you read things like, “I went out to the Saucer on Pint Nite and drank 10 Dos Equis Special Lagers.” (Side note: When the interviewer sat down and ordered, “Dos Equis, the one on the green tap,” I knew we were going to get along.) You read stuff like, “I stayed out at Hoop’s Bar until 1 in the morning and drank 7 Coronas, and I would’ve been fine if people hadn’t bought me those shots of Jager.” And, “Looking forward to the next Tuesday night at Circa, where they have $2.50 Chimay.” Seems like it’s all about the drinking. Drinking drinking drinking.

I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s NOT about the drinking.

It’s about the PEOPLE. That’s why I go out every night. That’s why I stay out as late as I do.

Tell ya a quick story. Saturday night I was at Hoop’s Bar with a group of people. We were all tired from a week of Christmas parties and none of us intended to make it a late night. Several of the gang left early and by 12:15 it was down to Mikey the Camera Nazi and myself. “So you said you were tabbing out after your finish your beer too,” he asked me.

“Well, I’m thinking about having one more,” I replied. People were starting to wander in and out through the door to EP’s, and I had a feeling the night might get interesting if I stayed just a little bit longer.

“Asshole,” said Mikey, realizing I had just talked him into staying for one more beer too.

Sure enough, about 1 it got interesting. A friend of mine, who has been a blog reader for several years, came through the EP’s door. I knew she had wanted to live Downtown for quite some time, and the last time I talked to her, in mid-October, she had told me she had finally found an apartment about a block from mine and would move in December 1. So I asked her how the new apartment was and she was just GLOWING. She told me all about it, its cool, funky amenities, decorating ideas she had.

Then she asked Mikey and me a question. “So I’ve been down here three weeks. But I’m not quite sure what to do. I mean, you guys seem to have something fun and interesting to do every night down here. How do I get involved in that kind of stuff? Should I join the Downtown Neighborhood Association? Are there other organizations you’d recommend?”

“No. Don’t join DNA,” I told her. “Nothing against DNA, they’re a great organization. But I joined them when I moved down here in 2002 and it did not exactly lead to a full and exciting social calendar. I only started to really meet people and have fun when one of the Sleep Out Louie’s regulars invited me to Sunday brunch. Then I met his friends, and his friends’ friends, and they told me about other cool places to hang out, and it took off from there.

“Look,” I continued. “I know you read my blog. Not trying to sound like I’m bragging, but I’m gonna be honest… you want to find cool, fun places to hang out where you can meet Downtowners and make friends? Note the places I mention in my blog and GO THERE.” Mikey nodded his head in agreement.

We told her that the Saucer would be opening at 5:00 on Christmas, and we’d be there at 4:55, peering through the glass, waiting for the manager to come unlock the door. “You should join us,” we said. “Also, trivia is at 7. Be on our team.” Within the next few minutes, we also invited her to our regular Sunday brunches. Then I asked what she was doing for New Year’s Eve, and invited her to join the gang for dinner at the Majestic and the private party we’re going to afterward.

She was so excited. Mikey the Camera Nazi took off at 2, and I stayed and talked to her for another hour after that about the fun places to go Downtown, places Downtowners don’t go, tips to stay safe, ideas for her apartment, and so on. The next hour flew by and then it was 3 and the lights came on and security kicked us all out.

That story illustrates why I go out. The PEOPLE. I love getting to know the people Downtown and connecting them to other people Downtown. Yes I was sipping a beer but that wasn’t the main point.

Sunday I had to drive home to Little Rock. Before I left I walked to the Saucer to say Merry Christmas to the brunch crew. “Come on, Paul, at least have one beer before you go,” some of them said. If it was all about the drinking, I probably would have taken them up on that offer, and then had one more and another and so on until I would have been too drunk to make the drive, which would have made my mother VERY upset. But I had no desire to do that. I later found out they stayed at the Saucer until 9 and then moved to the Tap Room after that, and I was a little sad that I was not there with them. But I was sad that I was missing out on time spent hanging out with four of my good friends, not the alcohol.

I keep a full bar in my apartment. Mainly it’s there so I have something to offer friends when they come over. Otherwise I rarely touch it. What’s the point of drinking if you aren’t being social? That’s also why I didn’t feel the need to go buy a 12-pack for the fridge in Little Rock. I’ve been drinking Mountain Dew most of the day, and have now switched over to ice water so the caffeine won’t keep me up.

When I did the Memphis Magazine interview, I went through her standard list of questions, and afterward she asked if there were any questions I thought she should’ve asked but didn’t. “Yeah, one,” I replied. “I’m surprised why you didn’t ask why I choose to live Downtown.” And I made it clear that it’s not the restaurants or the bars or the nightlife, but the people, that make this place my home.

Coming soon: Personas, part 2: This blog and feminism.