I made Mendi’s MySpace page!

The Big Foot regular I mentioned in the previous post – the one who came up and said “I hear it’s Tube Top Month” – has updated her MySpace page. Her headline now reads “I made Downtown Paul’s Blog!” and under “Who I’d Like to Meet,” she wrote, “I met Downtown Paul last night, so I’m golden in this department.”

Wow. I didn’t realize knowing me was a big deal, but thank you.

Also on MySpace… I got a message saying, “Club 616 wants to be your friend!” That’s the club where I hung out for the majority of the 1990s… it hasn’t existed in physical form in seven years… and now it’s popped up on MySpace. Guess it’s a good way to reconnect with all the club’s old regulars, most of whom are in their thirties by now. I wonder how often they change the music on their page. If I visit 616’s MySpace page on Sunday, I better hear some disco.

Plans for tonight: I’m about to head up to the Saucer to drink a beer or two, then I’ll hit the Peabody rooftop by 7:30. After the rooftop, I’ll probably head back to the Saucer. Or, perhaps I’ll stop by Big Foot… as generous as they were last night, they deserve all the business I can give them. Besides, Thursday along with Monday and Tuesday are good nights to go to Big Foot, because on those nights there is the least chance of The Most Annoying Woman On The Planet showing up.

Got some information on the Friday night Gibson rooftop parties, which are being called Finally Fridays. They ran an ad in the Flyer this week reading, “the ‘largest’ roof party in the Memphis.” That’s their typo, not mine. Here’s a link to their website. Cover is $15, or VIP access for $50. Has anyone been to one of these yet? I gotta tell you, after seeing their ad copy, their website design, and their cover charge, I’m not particularly inclined to go.

Downtown is beginning to see the annual influx of Eastern Europeans who come here for their summer break. No Romanians yet, though, at least none that I’m aware of.

Ahhh… it feels good to have my blog back. Time for a beer! I hope they’ve got something good on Fire Sale tonight.

Thursday update

If you’re looking for info on Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis, we now have a website and an e-mail address. The website is currently just a splash page but I’ll have some kind of newsletter mechanism in place by this weekend. From this point forward all business related to downtown crime will be conducted there. If you want to see my crime posts that kicked this whole thing off, check the archives on or about Monday, June 5 and read forward from that date. And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

– Last night was the 1-year birthday party for Big Foot Lodge, and as usual Sean put on one hell of a bash. The party featured $2 you-call-it drinks, but I went for quantity over quality and went with $2 34 oz. cups of Bud Select. I sipped my beer and watched the angry lobsters in Big Foot’s tank fight it out as best they could, given that their claws were taped shut. They all seemed to be ganging up on one lobster in the corner, and by the end of the evening, he was lying on his side, dead. Lobsters are some mean critters. I don’t feel so bad about eating them after seeing that.

– One of the other Big Foot regulars who I had not met before came up to me and said, “So, I hear it’s Tube Top Month!” And she was reprazentin’ in a white tube top. Glad to see my blog is making a difference. I had actually seen her before, surfing MySpace pages. I went back to her page just now and discovered a comment one of her girlfriends left on Monday: “I may have to hit up the pint nite tonight… you going? I really hope this gal will be working… she’s my favorite!” and there was a picture of me in my Halloween costume, when I dressed up as one of the Flying Saucer waitresses. Too funny.

– Met a lot of other cool people too… Hugh Jass, nice to finally meet you after seeing you out at clubs for more than a decade. Let me know if the anniversary party happens… I’ll give it some publicity on the blog.

– Dammit… lunch hour’s over already. Time to shut down the laptop and head back to work, so it’s going to be a short post today. I will mention one event coming up this weekend… the Orpheum will be showing This is Spinal Tap on the big screen Saturday night as part of their classic movie series (and they’re really stretching the definition of “classic” this time). I’ll leave you with some lyrics from the Spinal Tap soundtrack:

Big bottom
Big bottom
Talk about mud flaps,
My girl’s got ’em

Big bottom
Drive me out of my mind
How can I leave this
Behind…

Hey! Spinal Tap wrote a song about the girl I danced with at Raiford’s last weekend. How cool is that?

I’ll be on the Peabody rooftop tonight for their weekly party. If you see me up there, say hello!

If I find out about more stuff to do this weekend, I’ll make another post later today.

Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis site now up

I just set up the new Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis website at http://www.saferdowntownmemphis.com. Right now it’s just a front page with a link to our e-mail address (and not the most attractive page at that – I had a lunch hour in which to create it), but we plan on adding news and updates no later than this weekend.

Okay… now that the site is up, from now on that will be the place to go for information on crime in downtown Memphis and opportunities to do something positive in response. And starting tomorrow, my blog will go back to being my PERSONAL blog. Meaning, I’ll be going back to talking about pigeons and what the bums are drinking this week and tube tops and Romanians and who won trivia this week at the Saucer (the Rapscallions came in fourth last night in my absence, in case anyone cares). I may do a “welcome to my blog” orientation type of post since I’ll be picking up a lot of new readers from the Flyer article. And I may continue to comment about crime, but will be doing it as Paul Ryburn, downtown resident, not as Paul Ryburn, co-founder of Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis (that takes a long time to type… we should have come up with a shorter name).

But right now, I’m heading out to celebrate – eventually I will end up at Big Foot Lodge for their 1st birthday party. See you tomorrow!

South Main Association meeting – once again, incredible progress made

Last night Mike King and I attended the South Main Neighborhood Association as representatives of our brand-new organization, Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis. For the second day in a row we found ourselves getting positive results beyond our wildest expectations. Here are some of the notes I took on the meeting:

– Fresh Air Flicks will be back at the South Main Trolley Tour in June. For those of you not familiar with this, they set up a screen in the empty lot next door to Gestures and show movies outdoors, with popcorn and refreshments available. This month’s movie will be American Graffiti. Afterward, the Minivan Blues Band will be playing at The Warehouse, which is the building behind Earnestine & Hazel’s and across GE Patterson from the Power House.

– This Saturday at the Memphis Farmers’ Market (7 am to 1 pm, corner of Front and GE Patterson) there will be red tomatoes, sweet corn and Japanese eggplant in addition to lots of other produce. The South Main Association will be there selling cookbooks and T-shirts at their booth.

– Soul Knows No Color, a group of Memphis City Schools kids who attend classes at Overton during the summer, will put on a performance at the Orpheum Thursday, June 29. There will be an art auction before the show. I was in the back of the room and couldn’t hear very well, so if anyone has more details on this please let me know. I did hear that there are 165 kids on the waiting list to get into this arts program. When you have kids who WANT to go to school in the summer, that’s a good sign. Kudos to MCS.

– There’s concern that a new development group may be planning to demolish the historic Chisca Hotel at Main and Linden. The Chisca is famous as the location where a DJ first played Elvis’ 1954 hit “That’s All Right Mama” on the radio. A new development group out of Chicago has drawn up a site plan for a Hilton Garden Inn that didn’t have half the Chisca in it. They do have the capability of building their hotel without demolishing the Chisca (they’re being allowed to close off Mulberry to create a continuous piece of land from Main to Second), but we don’t know that they’ve given up on demolition. They’d have to go to the Landmarks Commission to get permission to demolish, but even if they do the City Council could reverse the decision.

– Shelton Clothiers, on the Main Street Mall just north of Peabody Place, will have its first anniversary party from 5-9 pm Friday, June 23. There will be live music, and food from the Majestic. You can sign up at sheltonclothiers.com and get an invitation to attend. I’d like to personally ask you all to come out and support Shelton – we talked to the owner for a while last night after the meeting, and he gave Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis his complete support, even offering to set up a meeting for us with Peabody Place security.

– Then my neighbor Paul Morris got up to speak about panhandling. Paul leads the Center City Commission’s Just Say No to Panhandling effort. Below are some notes from his talk.

– The Just Say No effort is divided into three prongs: education, social services, and enforcement. $7000 was raised and half went to education (e.g. the Just Say No signs that are all over downtown), and the other half went to social services.

– The panhandlers and the homeless are two different groups. The true homeless rarely bother anyone and find social services and use them. The people we see panhandling usually have places to live (I heard a great story related to this point that I’ll turn into a separate blog post) and see their panhandling revenue as extra income to spend on drugs and alcohol.

– It takes two to panhandle. If we all say no to panhandlers, they’ll have no reason to be on the streets. You’re saying no to the behavior, not the person. Instead you can redirect your generosity to social services. Social services provide a legitimate reason for us to say no.

– For the third leg, enforcement, Paul’s group has met with Inspector Mhoon of the South Main Substation several times, and has also talked with District Attorney Bill Gibbons about creative ways to enforce laws panhandlers violate (both the panhandling ordinance and other laws).

– One roadblock is that panhandling is a city ordinance. By state law, violations of city ordinances can carry a maximum of a $50 fine and no jail time. Now, there are ways around that. If a panhandler is cited for a $50 violation, he has to show up in court. If he doesn’t, then he can be charged with contempt of court which IS a state charge, and one that can land him in jail. Cops can also look for other state laws to charge panhandlers with – for example, if they touch you, that’s battery, which can send them to jail.

– Paul said that studies in other cities indicate that the #1 solution to the panhandling problem is not arresting people, but a walking police presence. That’s why we MUST push MPD to follow through on their promise from Monday’s meeting to have walking patrols on the streets of downtown.

– Then Paul did something absolutely incredible and fantastic and wonderful. He said, “One thing I’m really excited about is a new organization that just got started to do something positive about crime down here – Paul Ryburn and Mike King are starting a new group called Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis.” And Mike got to come up and give a 30-second plug for our new organization. THANK YOU PAUL M.! We had no idea he was going to do that.

– Immediately afterward, I saw a woman get Mike’s attention and they went to a back corner of the room to talk. What’s that about, I wondered. Before the end of the meeting, I’d find out.

– Officer James Boyland then took the floor to continue the panhandling discussion. He said that a lot of panhandling violations get dismissed in court – the assistant DA will tell them that those are minor violations that aren’t worth the trouble to prosecute (i.e. they’ll cost more to prosecute than the $50 revenue the fine will bring in). Recently MPD picked up a bum who was cursing at people, disturbing the peace, and generally disturbing the quality of life for residents and tourists downtown – and the DA dropped the charges and he was back on the street. Does anyone know who we should talk to in the DA’s office to complain about the dropping of these charges?

– Someone asked about scalping. Scalping is considered vending inside the downtown historic district, and therefore the scalpers must have a permit if they do business within 300 feet of an area bordered by the river on the west, Third on the east, Mill on the north, and GE Patterson on the south (he wasn’t positive about the south boundary, may be Carolina).

– My good friend Monte Hawes was introduced as the coordinator of South Main’s Neighborhood Watch program. I tracked him down after the meeting and made plans for him to meet with us sometime in the next week.

– Then they announced that next month’s South Main Association meeting will be on July 11, at the Happy Mexican. Margaritas… yum! Then she announced the featured speakers… Kevin Kane of the Convention & Visitors Bureau will be speaking on tourism… and MIKE KING OF RESIDENTS FOR A SAFER DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS will be speaking about community involvement to fight crime! That’s why Mike got pulled aside earlier in the meeting… to get put on next month’s agenda. I was stunned when I heard the news. This organization has been around for less than a week and we already have a speaking engagement in front of one of downtown’s most important groups.

– After the meeting, it took us an hour to get out of there. People kept coming up to us, wanting to talk. Everyone was offering their support. Real estate agents and developers were asking what they could do to help – just having them on board is quite a bit of help, and I’m thrilled that they see that this is to their long-term benefit. Business owners were offering meeting space, contacts – even money. Which brings me to a question… right now, I’m guessing we can’t accept their money, as the IRS would look upon it as personal income. What do we need to do to file for nonprofit status? When I was on Mpact’s board I remember seeing their 501(c)(3) paperwork, but I never actually had to deal with any of it. If you’ve been through this and know what we should do, e-mail us at saferdowntownmemphis@gmail.com.

– I’m working furiously to pull a website together for the organization, since Mike told everyone it would be up in 48 hours. I have the site’s front page done and at this point am just waiting for the server settings to take effect so I can transfer the files up. As soon as all that’s done, all official communication will go through that site, and this will go back to being my personal blog.

That’s all for now. Look for an official announcement of the new site in the next day or two.

More details: Very positive meeting with MPD

As I said in my earlier post, Mike King and I, now calling our group Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis, met with three police officers – Inspector Mhoon and Major Currin from the South Main Substation, and Deputy Chief Cole from the main office – and we could not have been happier with the outcome.

One of the main ideas we proposed was community involvement. We need to educate the community, we explained, to report every crime, every instance of suspicious activity, no matter how small. We need to teach people where the dangerous areas are that need to be avoided. We need to teach the public how to help the police by serving as additional eyes and ears.

The cops LOVED it. “The big problem is, there’s a disconnect between the police and the citizens of downtown,” said Major Currin, who before long asked us to drop the “Major” formality and call him “Johnny.” “With your passion, what you’re proposing is going to close that disconnect. Our joy and happiness occurs when the citizens see what we see.” I could tell that our new friend Johnny was genuinely touched by our commitment to make downtown safe again.

Coming in, we were expecting to hear “no” and to be given the run-around about budget concerns. Not once during the meeting did that happen. One of the requests we made was for more walking patrols at night, especially on the Main Street Mall between Adams and Beale, since there is pedestrian foot traffic coming from apartments, condos and hotels in the area. Within seconds all three of them responded, “That’s a great idea! Yes, I think we can do that! Yes! We love it!”

We then brought up the issue of panhandling. The cops explained that the current laws are not strong enough to chase the panhandlers out of town. If they get arrested, they’re back on the street within hours, and the $50 fine is just a cost of doing business. “But the other initiatives you’re proposing are going to sweep the panhandlers away,” said Deputy Chief Cole. “You walk around downtown and see a panhandler every block? They’re going to start seeing a cop every block.”

We asked them if they knew about the South Main Association meeting tonight at ReMax (500 S. Main) at 6:30, and that Paul Morris will be speaking about panhandling. “We know Paul,” said Inspector Mhoon with a smile. They then discussed it for about five seconds, and Major Currin – Johnny – then said, “I’ll be at that meeting.”

(Mike and I will be at that meeting too. TRIVIA TEAM: This means I won’t make it to the Saucer until about the time the third round starts. Someone else is going to have to get there by 7 to register us, get a scorecard, get our usual seats, etc.)

Not once did they ask that I stop writing about crime downtown on my blog, or on the new Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis site that hopefully will be up by the end of the week. They did ask us to tell everyone that they’re only a phone call away, at 525-9800 (the South Main Substation number), and if you have crimes or suspicious activity to report downtown you’re welcome to call that number instead of the main non-emergency line. A supervisor is always on duty, and if you don’t feel like you got the response you wanted from the person answering the phone all you have to do is ask for the supervisor.

The officers also pushed the Citizens’ Police Academy as a way to get involved. It’s a 9-week course in which citizens get a first-hand look at all areas of policing, and they also build personal relationships with the officers. Upon graduation citizens are qualified to go on ride-alongs in police cars and have a thorough understanding of how the Department works. I plan on finding a way to arrange my schedule so I can attend a 9-week session, and I know Mike does too and we plan on recruiting a few other key downtowners to go through it with us as well.

The meeting was scheduled for an hour, but lasted over an hour and a half, plus another 20 minutes we spent informally talking to Johnny/Major Currin who walked us to the parking lot. By that time he was already thinking ahead to two months from now, and thinking how good it will feel when we look back and celebrate all the progress we have made.

Overall, we were just flabbergasted by positive MPD was, and how happy they were that we were there, and how willing they were to work with the community. “This is going to be the start of something bigger than either of us realize,” Mike commented later in the day.

I also received an e-mail from the lieutenant in charge of the Entertainment District Unit (EDU), a special unit that patrols downtown from 7 PM to 3 AM. He invited us to come by their HQ and say hello, and I plan on taking him up on that sometime in the next week.

I do want to address one other issue – the subject of cruising on the weekends. Inspector Mhoon told us that they had made over 100 cruising-related arrests and citations last weekend. Trouble is, if there are 13,000 people out cruising, those 100 hardly make a dent. I think the crusing issue is one that is going to have to be dealt with not by the police, but through the City Council and other legislative bodies. Once again, I call on the developers to take the lead. Come downtown on a Saturday night between 10 PM and 3 AM… take a look at what is going on (particularly on Union, Second, Peabody Place, Front, Beale, and Riverside) and ask yourself, would YOU pay $300,000 for that quality of life? If not, help us lobby the City Council to take steps to curb the cruising problem. The existing laws clearly aren’t enough.

Our new organization, Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis, plans to take steps to raise awareness of the cruising problem. We already have a volunteer who has set up a webcam in his window overlooking the intersection of Front and Peabody Place; later in the week I’ll post the URL and you can see the madness for yourself. We also plan on using our new camcorder to paint a picture of what happens on Saturday nights for those who don’t get downtown to see it for themselves.

I’m excited, encouraged and optimistic. Once again, please direct e-mail related to this issue to saferdowntownmemphis@gmail.com, and look for the new website to be up soon.

MPD hits a home run

This is going to be a very short update, as I’m tired and really need to get to bed. Just wanted to report that we met with three senior MPD officers, and their reaction was positive beyond our wildest expectations. They listened; they never told us no or “that’s not possible”; they not only agreed with much of the plan we proposed, but used their experience to expand it. This is going to be the beginning of a wonderful partnership between the downtown citizens and the police.

The meeting was so positive that we actually cancelled our Channel 5 interview, because we didn’t want to undo any of the good will we had just brought into being.

I’ll post fuller details soon, hopefully at lunch if nothing comes up. In the meantime, if you want to be part of the new citizen-police partnership or if you have ideas, e-mail saferdowntownmemphis@gmail.com.

Monday update: Progress report

Very quick Monday update to let everybody know what is going on…

First of all, we now have an e-mail address that can be used for correspondence related to the Downtown Memphis crime problem. That address is saferdowntownmemphis@gmail.com. We have also bought an Internet domain which will be used to distribute information. I’ll give you the URL as soon as I can pull a quick website together.

Mike King and I met yesterday afternoon and developed a 5-point plan to address the crime issues downtown. The plan is designed to be positive, proactive, and to work with the approval and support of MPD.

A deputy chief at MPD and two of the top people at the South Main Substation are working to schedule a meeting time ASAP, today or possibly tomorrow. MPD has promised that our concerns will be addressed immediately, and so far they have been as kind and accomodating as they possibly can be. We look forward to a positive working relationship with the police.

I have to stress once again: All crimes and all suspicious activity, no matter how minor, must be reported. We can’t expect MPD to help us if they don’t know where the problems are occurring.

We are also working to schedule an interview with Channel 5 sometime today. Two of the crime victims have agreed to speak on camera, and they may interview me as well (although I’d be just as happy if I was left out – I’m a writer, not a speaker). Again, we plan to emphasize that we want to be positive, proactive, and that we plan to promote community involvement as part of the solution.

Saturday night I went to Raiford’s, and walked home about 2:45 in the morning. I walked up main,and when I reached Beale, I cut over to Second, believing Second to be a safer route home than the Main Street Mall. The intersection of Second and Peabody Place was complete anarchy. The cruisers had completely taken over. Cars were completely ignoring traffic signals, lurching through the intersection at will. Pedestrians who dared walk in front of the cruisers in an attempt to cross the street (even if they had the walk signal) were cursed out. Cars cut across 3 lanes of traffic, making split-second decisions to turn left out of the far right-hand lane, nearly causing several accidents. A group of four or five Caprice Classics and Buick Roadmasters with 24″ rims circled the block three times during my 5-minute walk home, in clear violation of the cruising ordinance.

I don’t think cruising in and of itself is the biggest crime problem downtown, but I do believe that would-be criminals see that violations of the cruising ordinance, the noise ordinance, traffic laws, etc. will be tolerated, and they see an environment in which more serious crimes will be tolerated as well.

We have bought a camcorder and are going to start videotaping some of the sh*t that goes down on the streets on weekend nights, to show to anyone who doesn’t believe there are problems down here, and also to the police and city officials. Apologies for the language but I’m upset and just don’t feel like finding a nicer way to say it.

I can’t believe I just apologized for using foul language in my own blog.

That’s all for now… looking forward to a day of productive meetings and interviews, and to getting the Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis website set up, so that I can have my blog back for my own personal expression.

More details to come soon.

Saturday update: Coffee additives, stamping out seriousness, 38103 shirts and more

– This morning I rode the elevator up to my apartment building’s rooftop deck. One of my neighbors was up there, sitting at one of the patio tables, with a styrofoam coffee cup. “My coffee’s ruined,” he told me.

“Why?” I asked.

He explained that he had picked up the cup of coffee, and as he brought it to within a foot of his face, he heard a -SPLAT!- He looked to see what happened.

Pigeon dropping, a direct hit in the center of his coffee cup.

I suppose this is one thing you don’t have to worry about if you live in Germantown or Collierville.

– I’ve been dealing with responses to my downtown crime post all week. By Thursday evening I was highly stressed out, not only due to that but also because of the allergy medicine I’ve been taking and my tendency to overindulge in Mountain Dew as a means of staying awake. So I went to the weekly Peabody rooftop party Thursday night. Venus Mission was playing and it was exactly what the doctor ordered. For the first time in several days I was able to relax, loosen up to the music I listened to when I was growing up. I even busted out some of my classic disco moves when they played a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” I had a great time.

It reminded me of one of my core beliefs, which I had kind of forgotten the past few days: Being overly serious is the kiss of death. Any activity goes more smoothly if approached with playfulness. It’s hard to imagine bringing an element of playfulness to a topic as serious as neighborhood crime, but damn it, I’m going to. I’m taking my blog back. I’ll still crusade against crime when needed, but my life is going to be fun. And my blog is going to be fun to read once again.

“Stamp Out Seriousness” – Dr.Bob

Last Sunday before all the crime posts started, we got a little crazy with a can of whipped cream at Sleep Out’s. Pics were taken. I’ve refrained from posting them up until now. I’m going to post them soon. I’d post them now but I don’t have the USB cord with me to get them out of the camera. Will it hurt my credibility when people come here to read about downtown crime? Maybe. I don’t care. This is my personal blog and I will be myself, all of myself, all of the time. Take it or leave it.

– I want to make a comment about the Peabody rooftop party: I wouldn’t have had such a great time there if Belz Enterprises had not pumped millions of dollars into downtown redevelopment over the past 30 years. I appreciate and respect everything they have done over the past 30 years to make downtown the community it is.

I also have enormous respect for what Henry Turley has done in Uptown. He could have concentrated solely on building high-end condos and grabbed all the money he could. But instead, he created a development that included all sectors of the Memphis community – high-end homes and people on public housing; owners and renters. Inclusiveness is a trait I appreciate and I see it all over Turley’s development.

My point is this – I’m not anti-developer. When I mention developers’ names when I talk about crime in these posts, I’ve been accused of “calling them out,” but I prefer to think of it as calling ON them. Someone who has sunk millions of dollars into downtown is more able to get things done than a guy who rents an apartment and writes a blog. Also, the developers are the people with the most to lose (if you consider money the ultimate measure of loss) if crime is allowed to take permanent hold in downtown. This is a problem for all of us – those with a financial connection to downtown, and those with an emotional connection. We must all work together to solve it.

People have speculated that one of the root causes of downtown crime is the teenaged cruisers who clog the streets on the weekends and hang out in Tom Lee Park. Let’s see… Tom Lee Park is on Riverside Drive. The new South End Memphis development will be right down the street. When the cruisers get kicked out of the park and decide to make some mischief, what will be the most accessible neighborhood? If the South End developers truly plan on promoting their properties as a “walking community,” as touted in their website intro and in numerous ads and on billboards around town, they better take action NOW to work with the city to develop solutions to the crime problem.

– I do not intend to leave the crime posts up forever. Assuming the problem is addressed in the next few months (which I am confident it will be), it would be horribly unfair of me to leave the posts up and have people doing Google searches in 2007 find posts about crime which are no longer relevant. As soon as I feel safe walking the streets again at night, the posts will be removed.

– I pay approximately a thousand dollars a month to rent a place downtown. The same unit in Midtown or East Memphis, with the same amenities, would rent for $750-800. Downtown condos are selling at a hefty premium compared to condos selling in other parts of the city. The way I see it, we’re not only paying for the living space and the amenities, we’re paying for lifestyle. I’m paying for the ability to walk to get groceries, to get a good meal, to see sports, to meet up with friends. And I’m paying for that ability to walk day and night. The viewpoint “well, of course you shouldn’t walk the streets at night, that’s unsafe” is completely unacceptable to downtowners. I’ll admit, my friend should have known better than to walk alone through an alley. But I should be able to walk the 8 blocks down Main Street from my home to Raiford’s without fear of being attacked.

– By the way, it looks like I’ll be going to Raiford’s tonight. I’ll meet up with friends at the Saucer and we’ll walk down there together. I’ll probably stay later than they will, so when I leave I’ll make a judgment call about whether it’s safe to walk home. If not, there are usually cabs waiting outside, or I’ll get a ride home in King’s limo.

I’ll be decked out in full Raiford’s attire for those of you who have never seen me in it.

Hopefully some of the female patrons of Raiford’s will be observing Tube Top Month tonight.

– I can’t resist mention that I beat the people I’ll be going with tonight, Tracy, Pete, Nigel, and Tiffany, at 3 straight games of NTN trivia earlier today at Sleep Out’s. I think everyone at Sleep Out’s is getting pretty sick of my trivia victory dance. I need to get that dance on digital video for posting on my site.

– It does appear that I may have misspoken in an earlier post when I said that Belz owns the Peabody Place parking garages. I received an e-mail claiming it was owned and operated by someone else; however, the sender of this e-mail refuses to identify himself by anything other than a cryptic AOL screen name, so I don’t consider him a credible source of information. If anyone can clarify let me know, and I’ll post a correction if necessary.

– This blog has received a record number of hits for the week. My previous record was 1,009 hits in a week; as of this post we’re at 1,192 hits with a day and a half to go (the tracking service I use considers weeks to run from Monday to Sunday).

Of those 1,192 hits, six have been from Romania.

– People have asked where they can get a “38103” T-shirt (that’s the downtown zip code) like the one they’ve seen me wear. I got mine at a South Main art gallery which has since shut down. However, I’ve heard they’re now being sold at the Memphis Farmers’ Market, at Front and GE Patterson on Saturday mornings from 7 am to 1 pm.

– I’m sitting here at the Saucer typing this, and the bartender just told me there are rooftop parties on top of the Gibson Lounge every Friday night from 9 to 3. Why didn’t I hear of this? Did some quick web searches and can’t find info, can anyone provide the 411?

– Attn Kat: You went dressed as a ho to a “Golf Pros & Tennis Ho’s” party Thursday night, and I don’t see any pics on your site yet. This matter needs to be corrected ASAP.

– May not make it to Sleep Out’s in the morning. I have a meeting at 1 PM and want to be in good mental condition for it.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your weekend, and be careful if you come downtown.

The second wave

We’re back to regular posting. If you’re looking for my “Crime in Downtown Memphis” post, scroll down. I may bump that post back to the top early next week.

You may notice that I temporarily removed some of the remarks I made in my early-this-morning post. I want to stress that I did not take them down because I was asked to, or threatened in some way. I decided to remove those comments (at least for a while, while I do some thinking) after an e-mail from a friend whose opinion I respect, another blogger who in the past has suddenly found herself in the middle of unexpected controversy.

She made me realize something: My purpose in making these posts should not be to scare my readers; it should be to inform my readers and let them come to their own conclusion. So that’s what I’m going to do from this point forward.

That does not mean I’m going to shut up. If I hear about crimes being committed, I’m going to say where it happened. If it happened near a condo building or downtown business, I may well say it happened near that building or business. If the people who own those condos or businesses don’t like it, TOO BAD. This is a problem. Do something.

A lot of these new condos are promoting a “walking community,” where pedestrians walk to get the goods and services they need. I do not believe the developers were lying when they created those ad campaigns; up until recently, downtown was a walking community. But due to the recent uptick in crime and presence of gangs, it no longer is. At least in my opinion. You can read my crime post and make your own judgment.

It’s interesting – after I started posting about crime, I got the first wave of e-mail in response: “Paul I’m so glad you’re getting this out in the open. Something needs to be done. You may want to talk to __________ who works at _________. Thank you thank you and fight the good fight for us.”

This afternoon the second wave started coming, e-mails like: “What gives you the right to scare everyone away from downtown? I talked to [some “important” person downtown, a developer or CCC member or business owner] and he says downtown is safe.” Some of these e-mails also included attacks on my credibility, which I won’t bother quoting.

To them I respond: Ask the “important” person you talked to this – what is the last time they walked the streets of downtown (especially Union, Second, the Main Street Mall, and Beale) between the hours of 10 and 2 on a weekend night? And if they answer “never” or a long time ago, how can they claim to know what’s going on at those times, to the extent that I do given that I’m actually out there?

The attacks on my credibility don’t bother me. Those people don’t know me, so they couldn’t possibly be reacting to me. They’re reacting to a perception inside their own heads of who they think I am based on extremely limited information. I don’t feel the need to defend myself, but I will say this, just for the benefit of those of you who have never met me: I was a faculty member at the University of Memphis for five years. I served two years on the board of directors of Mpact Memphis. And there are at least a few people who think a lot of my blogging – like the people at the Commercial Appeal, who offered me a position as their Deal of the Week blogger two months ago. I love downtown. I’ve lived down here for four and a half years. I’m passionate about it. I want to see downtown grow and expand and attract many more residents and visitors. But I am not willing to sweep the safety issue under the rug, even if it hinders that growth in the short term. At least I’ll be able to sleep well at night knowing I did everything I could to prevent my friends and neighbors from getting attacked.

A note about the reporter from Channel 5 who contacted me – when someone forwarded him the article about downtown crime, he didn’t really believe it either. Then he saw who wrote it – me. He and I have worked together personally on projects for Mpact Memphis, projects which promoted the city and gave it a better name. Based on that he knew he was dealing with a reliable source. I got the inroads to the police director and city councilman from a friend who knew me personally, with whom I had worked on Downtown Neighborhood Association projects. Again, at least some people think I’m credible.

Hmmm… so maybe I did feel the need to defend myself a little bit.

I’m going to reverse my previous position and issue a challenge to anyone who will take it: Come downtown this weekend, after dark. Walk down Union. Walk down Second. Walk down the Main Street Mall. Walk down Beale. Come to your own conclusion about whether it’s safe. Personally, I think you’ll find it’s a much different downtown than it was even two months ago. If you do take me up on my challenge, please, do your walking as a group, keep your eyes open, and stay out of alleys.

I will continue to post about crime as I hear it, but this blog is going to begin to slowly drift back to the way it was a week ago, where I talk about my life downtown and what’s going on that’s fun to do. I’m suspending the June theme for a little while because I want people who’ve never seen this blog before to take my posts seriously. Hopefully by mid-month this blog will be fun to read again, and not so depressing.

I still plan to be on the Peabody rooftop about 7:15 for some R & R, and again extend the offer to my readers to meet me up there.