Friday evening update: Handling-Panhandling in the news and other notes

First and foremost, check out the news story Eyewitness News 24/30 did on our Handling-Panhandling group. They interviewed the group’s co-founder Mike King, a Downtown business owner, and a tourist who was hit up within 5 minutes of being in Downtown Memphis.

I just got home from the first night of my high school reunion, held in the River Market district of Downtown Little Rock. I walked a good mile tonight, all around the district and elsewhere downtown, and did not even see a bum. No panhandling whatsoever that I could perceive.

I heard that Little Rock did have panhandlers/bums up until recently, when there was a Tae Kwon Do convention here in town. There were about 10,000 Korean guests and they even built a structure in Riverfront Park for the event. Around that time all the bums mysteriously disappeared from Downtown Little Rock. That was three weeks ago. Wasn’t that about the time panhandling got significantly worse in Downtown Memphis? I can’t prove anything, but I’m just saying.

I think it’s time to share the wealth. Let’s round up all the bums and put ’em on a one-way bus to Germantown. Hell, let’s send ’em some pigeons, too. Let them enjoy all the fruits of Downtown Memphis.

There are places within 3 blocks of Little Rock’s River Market district where you can park for $2.25 all day. Not for one hour… ALL DAY.

Went to the Little Rock Flying Saucer after the reunion event was over. Something called “Skinny Dip” from Fort Collins, CO was the Fire Sale. I didn’t notice it until after I ordered a Blue Moon – $4.25 for a Blue Moon? That’s 50 cents more than Memphis. What’s up with that?

Next Wednesday’s “buy the beer, keep the glass” night is Duvel, which indicates they have Duvel on tap. If that’s the case, I know a guy who needs to move to Little Rock. He really really really needs to move.

Trivia Bowl at the LR Saucer is on Tuesday as in Memphis, but it starts at 8:30. Maybe Memphis should implement that start time… it would weed out the “waaaaaah I can’t stay up late” babies.

I’ve got to say, the waitresses at the Memphis Saucer are considerably hotter than the ones at the Little Rock Saucer. And even though I haven’t seen the Little Rock trivia guy, I’ve got to say… okay, Little Rock would probably win that one.

None of the waitresses from the Little Rock location are from Romania. That sucks.

The band took the stage at 9, and within the first four songs they played that “oh my my, my my hell yes, got to put on that party dress” song. Is that the official song of the Saucer worldwide? Other than the Dempseys I’d be hard-pressed to think of one Saucer band who DOESN’T sing that song.

Here’s a big problem I have with the Little Rock waitresses – you know those aprons they wear, to hold their coasters, wallet, etc.? Well, in Little Rock they tie it around the BACK of their skirt. This is a problem because the apron is usually longer than the skirt – it blocks the view. What’s the point of going to the Saucer if you don’t at least have a CHANCE of seeing some panties? I don’t get that.

On the way home I drove through Taco Bell. $5.44 for a Mexican pizza and two bean burritos? Isn’t that a little bit high?

Home in Little Rock now. My mother has the thermostat set on 75 and I’m about to broil. I keep mine on 67 in the summer. Air conditioning is one area where I positively refuse to be environmentally friendly.

There must have been 15 billboards between Memphis and Little Rock that quoted scripture or mentioned Jesus.

That’s all for now. Not sure if I’ll be posting tomorrow or not.

Panhandling story on the evening news tonight

Looks like there’s going to be a story on panhandling on ABC 24/UPN 30 tonight. I’m about to leave town for my high school reunion, but they’re interviewing Mike King, co-founder of the Handling-Panhandling online forum/Google group, this afternoon.

Glad to see this matter finally getting some attention. I’ve been interviewed by the Commercial Appeal so we should see a panhandling story from them as well in the near future.

Happy weekend everyone… back in town early Sunday afternoon.

Quick Thursday update

I’m heading out of town this weekend for my high school reunion, so I’ve kept up with what’s going on this weekend a little less than usual. Here are a few notes:

– The Orpheum will show Gone with the Wind Friday night as part of its classic movie series. This week there won’t be a special post-party planned at the Westin, simply because the movie is so blasted long. However, the Westin wants everyone to know that their lobby bar will be open and you’re invited to stop by.

– Also, don’t forget that this coming Monday is the last Monday of the month… which means it will be time for Downtowners’ Night at the Westin again. Free appetizer buffet (and it is a NICE spread they put on), happy hour drink prices.

– Friday night is the Rock for Love festival at the Gibson Lounge.

$8 cover in advance, or $10 at the door, with all proceeds benefiting the Church Health Center, one of the most deserving charities on town. Eight bands will perform, including Snowglobe, Two Way Radio, the Third Man, Pezz, The Subteens, Joey Whitlock, Holly Cole, and Jump Back Jake. There will be a silent auction by Rachel Hurley, who writes Rachel and the City. The show will also serve as the release party for Makeshift Music’s latest compilation, Makeshift 5.

– Musician Jeff Golightly e-mailed to let me know that his band The Everyday Parade will perform at The Memphis Pops Festival, an all-day event at the Hi-Tone on Saturday. Jeff is best known for doing Beatles and British Invasion covers, but The Everyday Parade is different – all originals. The Pops Fest runs all day long and celebrates over 100 years of Memphis pops music. “Come early and get your eat on,” says the festival’s MySpace page, nothing that they’ll be serving the finest hot dogs and hamburgers in town.

– Hmmm… what else is going on… I see that my favorite blogger/MILF is interviewing for a job Downtown next week. I hope she gets it… maybe I can get her in the habit of stopping by for “nooners” during her lunch break. I’ve decided I don’t care if she pretends she’s with Peyton Manning… because I’ll pretend she’s Romanian.

– Speaking of Romania… Eastern Europe is experiencing some record hot weather. Romania’s capital Bucharest (the answer to a Tuesday night trivia question) has had highs of 99 or above for the past nine days, including one day at 106. Their normal high is only 84. Meanwhile, the mountain town of Cluj-Napoca, where the ’05 and ’06 Romanians were from, has been above 90 the past week, and normal for them is only the mid-70s.

Now, Memphians can handle 90s-106, but there’s a difference: We’re used to it, and more importantly, we have air conditioning. Most towns over there don’t, because usually they don’t need it, and besides, it’s a poor country. That kind of heat is a much more serious crisis over there than it would be here. Hmmm… I bet the girls in Romania aren’t wearing a whole lot in the way of clothes right now… kind of makes me wish I was in Romania.

– Party lineup tonight according to the websites: Mean Green Music Machine at the Peabody, Daddy Mack Blues Band at the Madison, Garry Goin and G3 with Q107.5 at EP’s, Danielle Peck and Carolina Rain at Country on Beale with KIX 106. Lineup subject to change – these places need to update their websites when it does, but as we found out last week, they don’t.

– Bands, Beer, and Bums: The Court Square Concert Series, featuring bands every Wednesday night in Court Square, returns August 15 and runs through October 17. They’ve shifted it to later in the year because of the heat, I guess. Good idea.

– The Handling-Panhandling Google group is up to 78 members. We’ve already had one major success: We’ve uncovered Sharp Dressed Bum’s identity and discovered that he has an outstanding warrant. So, hopefully SDB will trade in his snazzy outfit for the standard uniform at Club 201 in the days to come. If you’re fed up with the aggressive career panhandlers in Downtown Memphis or other parts of the city, click the link and tell us your experiences and we’ll invite you to join.

… That’s all for now. Leaving for Little Rock tomorrow morning. I’ll be back early Sunday afternoon, which means I’ll miss John D’s pearls of wisdom about Formula One racing at brunch at the Majestic. However, I should get back in time to watch John drink his usual Bud Light at the Saucer.

I’ll have Internet access from the road, so most likely I’ll be blogging this weekend.

This is what happens when aggressive panhandlers are allowed to loiter outside your store all day

Every morning, I walk two blocks down the Main Street Mall to Jack’s Food Store to grab my morning Mountain Dew. And almost every day, there are three or four panhandlers standing in front of Easy Way next door. “Gimme change!” they’ll shout as I pass by.

Well, this morning I made the walk to the store, and what did I see?

Note the second window pane from the left. Here’s a closer look:

You can click the image above for an even closer look. As you can see, the window has been completely smashed in. You’ll also notice that the glass is still there, suggesting that whoever smashed the window was not trying to break in to commit burglary – they just wanted to vandalize the place.

My guess is that one of the panhandlers who constantly loiter outside got pissed off (they’re never in good moods – Easy Way tends to get some of the most surly bums in the city) and vented their frustrations on Easy Way’s window.

Not sure whether to blame Easy Way itself, for not being more aggressive in getting authorizations of agency against these people… or the police, for knowing Main and Jefferson is a problem corner and failing to do anything about it.

People have e-mailed me about applying Broken Windows Theory to panhandling… in Easy Way’s case, looks like it’s more than just a theory.

Best trivia question ever

Pictured above is one of the trivia questions – the BEST QUESTION EVER, as a matter of fact – from trivia last night at the Flying Saucer. In case you can’t read it, it says, “What is the capital of Romania?” Needless to say we got this one right. The Rapscallions ended up with a second-place finish, bringing our gift certificate stash to a whopping $35.

We hope to see more Romania questions from Pete the Trivia Guy… my only complaint is that this should have been the 20-point final bonus question, not a 4-point second round question. If any beautiful Romanian girls who live in Memphis read this blog, we’d like to invite you to come be part of the team, so we can get Romania questions right in the future.

Panhandler pic of the day

Taken on Beale Street about 4:30 PM Sunday afternoon:

We all know this guy… this is the sad sack who wanders along Second Street looking as bad off as he possibly can. Well, Sunday he was wandering down Beale – I’m thinking he may live somewhere south and east of there. Someone gave him a sandwich, and he leaned against the concrete blocks outside Silky’s to eat it. Then he curled up on the blocks for a nap.

Absolutely ridiculous. If you were from out of town and this is the first thing you saw when you came to Memphis’ most famous entertainment district, would this leave you with a good impression of the city?

Got a lot more pics from Sunday, but I’m busy working so they’ll have to wait ’til later.

One more night with Hollywood Raiford

If you miss dancing to the tunes spun by legendary Downtown DJ Hollywood Raiford, you have one more chance to catch him.

Raiford will be spinning him at The Phoenix Club’s Luau at the Botanic Gardens, Friday August 17. $30 ticket includes beer and libations. Not a bad deal. I’ve never been to any of the Phoenix Club’s events, but I know it’s a great organization and they raise a lot of money for the Boys & Girls Club. Definitely worth our support.

Heh… I have a feeling that the Phoenix Club is going to see an influx of new partiers at this event… people who miss Raiford. I may have to make it out to this one. Since it’s a luau theme, I certainly have the attire.

New online forum: Handling-Panhandling Google group


It has become clear that the downtown community is fed up with the panhandling problem. I have received a massive number of e-mail responses to last week’s posts on panhandling, all of them expressing frustration and saying, “Why can’t we all work together on this?” They’re right – we need to get everyone involved. Residents, business owners, downtown employees, civic leaders, political candidates, the police.

So Mike King and I got together and created an online forum where we can all do just that. It’s a Google group called Handling-Panhandling and we foresee the following things happening there:

  • Sharing ideas on how existing laws can be enforced better
  • Suggestions on improvements to existing laws
  • Sharing information on known problem panhandlers – photos, where they hang out, their M.O., and most importantly their NAMES. If we can learn their names, business owners will be able to file Authorizations of Agency against them, and we’ll be able to check to see which ones have warrants.
  • Venting frustrations! A place to post your panhandling stories. The Center City Commission’s security coordinator needs these from you, in order to illustrate how bad panhandling has become.
  • Politicizing the issue, and forcing mayoral and city council candidates to state what they would do to fight panhandling if elected.

We created the forum Friday and invited about 20 people to join – we wanted to keep the initial number small while we tested for a few days. It’s now ready to be opened up to the public. We already have some important people on board – people who work with the Center City Commission, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, business owners, members of the media. We hope to get civic leaders and the police on the group very soon. Most importantly, we hope to get YOU on the group, if panhandling has affected your life in some way.

We’re implementing a couple of controls to keep the quality of the discussion high: First of all, when you sign up to join, you have to explain why this issue is important to you. Just a couple of sentences is enough – we just need to hear that this issue matters to you personally for some reason.

Second, we’re implementing a code of conduct, posted below. Read over it, and at the bottom of this post you’ll find a link to join.


Welcome to the Handling-Panhandling Google group. This is a place where Downtown stakeholders – residents, civic leaders, business owners, community organizations, visitors, etc. – can come together to share information and work together on solutions to the panhandling problem Downtown. In order to keep the quality of information high, we ask that everyone observe the following rules of conduct:

  • Off-topic posts – those not about panhandling – will be deleted. This is not a place to discuss other problems Downtown (e.g. cruising) or to promote events, businesses, websites, etc. that are not related to panhandling.
  • This group is about the career and aggressive panhandlers who degrade the quality of life Downtown. It is not about the legitimate homeless who are truly in need/want of assistance to turn their life around – that’s an important topic as well, but it’s off-topic for this group. The career and aggressive panhandlers generally are not homeless.
  • Please respect your fellow group members. It’s fine to discuss and disagree, but personal attacks on fellow group members (including civic leaders, who we hope will join this list) will not be tolerated.
  • Remarks that are racist in nature will absolutely not be tolerated. These posts will be deleted, and their authors banned immediately.
  • Group managers reserve the right to delete posts, warn users, and when necessary ban users in response to posts that violate the rules above or the spirit of the group in any way.

In summary – let’s all respect each other on this list, and work together to effect positive change.

To join the group, go to Handling-Panhandling on Google Groups. Mike King and I, who worked with the police last year as part of Residents for a Safer Downtown Memphis, will be the moderators. Thanks and we hope to see you there.