planning

Memphis

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City of the blues, Elvis and ribs.

It is not unusual to see a sign ” Gone Bluesin` “ on a closed store.

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The city is progressing and they have made great efforts to improve walkability, the overall look of downtown, and the riverside. However something was very odd during our walk.

The whole city seemed empty.

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Among the skyscrapers, giant hotels, office buildings, and banks, this carefully planned downtown was empty on this gorgeous summer Saturday. Only  a  few homeless people were chilling on park benches and couple joggers passed by. It did not get better at night time either. After our visit to the famous Beale Street, we walked home. It was a bad idea. Tens of suspicious looking men were in the downtown area, drunk, hungry, and many of them were ready for trouble. A few of them did not want us to pass peacefully. Suddenly I understood why the heart of the city is so empty. Locals do not come here because they know it is unsafe. I looked up crime statistics in Memphis. It turned out that crime is very high and couple weeks ago someone got hurt and robbed where people did not want us to pass. It was two blocks from Beale Street, which is well watched by cops, but none of the other downtown areas had cops. The next day was a sunny day again. Last night`s story seemed like a bad tale because the city looked pretty and friendly again. Memphis turns into a monster at night time.

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The city lost some key characters; many local places were replaced by giant chain hotels and restaurants. Tourists are everywhere but none of them are locals. For example: in the famous B.B. King Blues Club on Beale Street the singer asked the crowd to raise hands if she/he is from Memphis/Tennessee. Nobody raised his hands.

Memphis is the heart of blues music and African-American culture that I admire. This culture is new to me because I am an emigrant. I was sad not to encounter them more. Investors took charge of the city, shaping it and sanitizing it. I do not agree with that entirely. Locals from poor to rich should have a chance to be present. This could happen by giving them different tax breaks, lowering rents, and making changes in existing zoning.

Blues music, and a blues city; what Memphis is it can not be separated from everyday life- struggles, love and self development. These streets need people, true people. Without it it is just a well maintained, well planned “Blues Amusement Park”, a creation of investors and other people who want to get easy cash from the legends of Memphis.

Memphis is in my heart. The good news is: blues is not for sale.

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