Thursday, August 6, 2009

How stupid are we?

Question: Why was Memphis put on the map? Why does Memphis even exist?

Some of you might believe that the City's founders were thinking, "Hey, wouldn't this be a great place to start a music revolution? Let's put a city here, and in a hundred years or so some blues and rockabilly singers will surely find us and make their homes here, and then produce some music, and then we'll be a famous city! We'll be the Home of the Blues, Rock & Roll, Soul, or all three. Maybe one of them singers will even be named Elvis."

Good try, but I'm afraid not. That's not the real reason Memphis was born. I'll give you a little hint.

I order electronics parts and gadgets over the Internet. I've finally learned that when I order something, I needn't ask and pay for next-day or two-day delivery, even if I want it in a hurry. I should simply choose ground. Why? Because the part will more than likely arrive in one or two days anyway.

Why is that? Because Memphis is a major hub and distribution center. So major, in fact, that a lot of companies put their inventories in warehouses right here, even if the rest of their operation is in California or India. It saves half the trip. And that means, for Memphians like me, the order will never even get on one of those blue airplanes. It will go straight onto a truck from South Memphis to my house.

But you know, Memphis didn't get to be a major distribution center just because FedEx came to town. It goes back a long way. Not just back to railroads, but all the way to the beginning of the City. The City's founders realized that here was a perfect spot, sitting high on a bluff and relatively safe from flooding, but still right next to the Mighty Mississippi, to be a great transportation hub and gateway to the west. Commercially, that's was a great thing to be. And so Memphis was born.

Where am I going with this? Hang in there.

If Memphis' raison d'ĂȘtre was to become a major distribution center, then what is the oldest and most important symbol of that fact? You guessed it: The Great Memphis Landing, all that is left of which today is the stretch that we now call the Cobblestone Landing.

But here's the coolest part: It's not just a museum relic. 150 years old (the Cobblestone part) and it's still in use to this very day. Riverboats still land and embark from there--carrying more tourists than cotton of course, but does that really matter? Does that make it less cool?

In spite of all its alleged hazards and disrepair, we have probably the best-preserved example of a still-in-service, still-active, still-enjoyed Cobblestone Riverboat Landing in the United States.

But not much longer. Some people think it's just a nuisance. Some people think it's ugly, and about only reason to keep it around is that it's on a historic register someplace, so we have to. Some people think we'd all be better off shutting it down and building a shiny new red boat dock to replace it.

And some people think that if we really have to be stuck with such a nuisance, we'd best put a sidewalk around the perimeter (with appropriate interpretive signage) so people can stand around it and look at those Cobblestones--if they really want to.

And maybe these same people are hoping that after twenty years or so, we'll be so bored with just looking at it, we'll finally move the signs and a few of the Cobbles into an air conditioned museum somewhere--and get rid of the rest of the darn thing altogether.

I say, how stupid is that? How stupid that we Memphians, who owe the very existence of our City to that Cobblestone Landing and what it represents, would ever even consider such a thing. For shame!

If you agree with me, then right now before you forget put August 11th, 5:30 to 7:30, 330 North Main Street, on your calendar. It may be your last chance to speak up and do your part to help stop some of us from doing something utterly, profoundly stupid.


Anonymous said...

Like most of you anti-Riverfront Development Corporation, you don't have your facts straight and don't present the full picture of the RDC's plan for the Cobblestone Landing. You pull little snippets from here and there to make the RDC look bad. First things first: according to the RDC plan, people will still be able to access the cobblestones! Also, some boats will still be docking there.

Do you really think that once the Cobblestone Landing is cleaned up it will become this active distribution center? Come on! Show me the facts that prove that Memphis will support this historic activity. Is there actual demand?

I am all for preserving and appreciating this historic site, but THAT WAS THEN. You and the FFOR spend so much time and energy railing against the RDC simply because you have it out for them. You are a fearmonger, implying that the Landing is on the verge of extinction. They are going to IMPROVE it so that people can safely hang out there! I know, I know, you want to keep parking cars on the landing (don't really understand that logic when FFOR is always railing against parking on the riverfront) and want all the riverboats, many of which will now dock at Beale Street Landing, to keep docking here. Well, some still will. But ultimately what this is about is that you are still stuck in this place of wanting to stop the Beale Street Landing project. Wake up--they are building it right now!!

Come on, all these people are not happily using the cobblestones as you imply. But they will actually be able to hang out on them when they are restored.

Do something productive with all your RDC hate and make positive changes in our city! As a regular citizen, I am SO TIRED of you guys.

Mike said...

Anonymous, you have been misled by the RDC's marketing.

The boats won't be "docking" there. Memphis Queen Lines may be allowed to "park" (not dock) one or more of their boats in the harbor near the Cobblestones, for two simple and inescapable reasons:

1. BSL provides no parking for boats. The riverboat has to park somewhere else because homeland security regulations will only allow it to be at the red steel boat dock for the time it takes to board and deboard.

2. Historic status of the river boat itself.

In the original draft of the plan (Feb 2008), RDC was considering building a small canoe/boat dock at the foot of Jefferson Davis Park. They have since removed it from the plan. What does that tell you?

Let me remind you that the plan itself precludes docking of boats, by filling the lower area with rip rap. If you were a boater you'd know that rip rap is deadly to boats.

I am telling you the unvarnished truth, not fearmongering -- or marketing you. It is time for you and the rest of Memphis to wake up to some hard truths...and stop buying into slick marketing.