RANDOLPH TO MEMPHIS
We woke up early in Munford, Tennessee at the Go Getaway Bed and Breakfast. I could smell the spinach quiche that Chris was preparing for breakfast, and both Tom and I were eager to get downstairs and try the CBD coffee that Chris had touted last night before we tucked in.
Breakfast was slated for 7:30 and we were early to the table. We grabbed some coffee and took a walk outside to explore the “Celebrate Munford” festival that was setting up on the streets just outside. Several rows of pop up tents were already standing and Chris’ husband Isaac was setting up their own tent in the yard—planning to sell some of their CBD products along with the festivities.
We walked up and down the aisles of tents—me in my slippers and Tom barefooted. Music was starting down the street and people stopped us to ask where we got our mugs of coffee! It’s a big day ahead for Munford – we’re sorry we can’t be here to enjoy it, but Memphis, Tennessee awaits . . .
We returned to the Go Getaway dining room ready for breakfast. Chris was also ready but not for breakfast – she was ready to talk! We sat down with another cup of CBD coffee and she shuttled between kitchen and dining room, sharing pieces of her story with us.
We learned about the CBD business, about her current academic pursuit (college degree #4), her time in the Navy and her son Joshua (who welcomed us into the house last night) being born during the time she and Isaac were stationed in Spain.
As the conversation waxed on, and breakfast appeared nowhere in sight, Chris leaned into the table and took a seat—at this point, I thought, oh! We are never getting breakfast! But she quickly stood back up, and Isaac joined us in the dining room. Breakfast was just around the corner—spinach quiche, bacon, sausage, bananas, sunny D, and continued conversation…
Now altogether seated at the dining table, Isaac, Chris, Tom and I shared a meal and learned about this generous couple. How they came to find themselves in Munford after traveling the world with their careers in the Navy, naming and decorating the rooms in their B&B for the places they were stationed – England, Panama and Spain.
The funny thing about Chris (well, there are lots of funny things and she’ll keep you laughing when you’re in her company). But one funny thing is the fact that despite being in the Navy, she doesn’t know how to swim. Not only that, but she hates being on a boat or really any moving vessel or vehicle. We are in for a story . . .
She told us how she first joined the Navy and took the “float test”—this involved jumping of a REALLY HIGH diving board, she said (all the while Isaac is shaking his head, saying it was a NORMAL height diving board)… nevertheless, according to Chris, it was super high, and she felt like Rodney Dangerfield up there about to plummet down to the water like weighted object. She crossed her arms over her chest and didn’t hesitate. She jumped off and like a pencil jettisoned into the water all the way to the bottom of the pool, where she stayed! Until someone came to rescue her, that is. She then had to take a six or eight week course in learning how to float—not swim—just float. And fortunately in the Navy, they let you use all sorts of equipment to aid your floating endeavor, including your dungaree’s AND your hat, which are both endowed with flotation properties if used correctly! Ingenious!
While in the Navy, Chris spent most of her time on a barge, while Isaac was stationed on an air craft carrier (a BIG boat, he says, goading Chris again!). But Chris explains how she was traumatized during an intense storm on the barge one day, sheets of rain coming down, wind blowing you sideways on this boat with no sides, just a platform on top of the water, and all the while, she’s having to tie up rigging in the middle of it all, being constantly knocked off her feet and nearly thrown in the water.
Knowing that about Chris, one can understand this next story a bit more, despite her being a a former member of the Navy. Much later in life she went to Myrtle Beach to celebrate a birthday with a friend. The friend wanted to go out on a “banana boat,” so they signed up, but not ten minutes into the cruise, Chris was keeled over in the boat yelling out to “abort mission” she was so seas struck. She tells the story now with great humor, but I imagine getting a laugh out of her in that moment would be impossible.
Isaac tells another story of a fishing trip they took in Panama, where Chris was the only active navy member on board and also the first on board to get sick! The group wasn’t having a great day fishing actually, however once Chris got sick over the bow, the fish totally started biting! Several other people starting getting sick after Chris, and once the trend caught on, they ended up netting upwards of 40 fish on the day!
There were several other stories on the morning, including some mishaps while flying and driving, not to mention the big reveal of Isaac’s wedding anniversary gift to Chris of two first class tickets to Atlantic City in the coming months—Chris says she’ll need to take two anxiety pills for that voyage! Nevertheless, we all made it through breakfast unscathed and without seasickness. As we made our way out the front door, snapping a few pics and a group selfie of course, Isaac pulled us all together for a final blessing, praying over our journey and well-being before we left. These two people were truly hard to part with for all the right reasons.
On to Memphis and Chickasaw Bluff #4 . . .
Our navigation wasn’t good today. We tried to stay close to the river along the bluff bottom but the road turned to gravel and sand – not good for our skinny tires. Tom tried to strike out ahead for a mile or two, but eventually the gravel turned to thick sand, and he came tumbling down—our first crash landing of the trek. Covered in sand from head to toe, rim to rim, and trunk to hood, we stopped our forward progress and drove back upriver to take a different approach. We’d need to cover a lot more miles to make it to Memphis today, and now we’d be at least an hour behind schedule. Hopefully our “voices” would be accommodating.
Back on the paved road, following very closely to the designated “MRT” signage where possible, we made our way toward Memphis. Eventually, this safe route met up with our planned route, and I hopped on the bike at route 388, a four lane divided highway that dead ends outside of Memphis somewhere. Traffic was light, the shoulder was wide, hills were frequent and rolling to say the least. The headwind picked up as the day went on, and by the time I turned off 388 into city streets outside Memphis, I was pushing it. I made it the last leg into town on the riverside trail system—very scenic and in some stage of development. The last jaunt over the bridge was a chore, then under and onto the path against the flood wall. A lot of scooters out.
Finally in town, bikes stowed, toweled off, destination mapped. Tom and I are headed to the south side to meet up with Rebecca Hutchison at the Stax Museum. Rebecca is the director of Soulsville, Memphis—a neighborhood alliance located around the Stax Museum, which is currently organizing a monthly marketplace in the courtyard outside the museum for area entrepreneurs and artists to sell their wares. Honestly, Rebecca is just kind of amazing. She left a 20 year job at the City of Memphis to take an 18 month grant funded position to work for this neighborhood, knowing it was temporary, but also knowing it was needed and the kind of work SHE REALLY NEEDED TO BE DOING. After fulfilling that grant, she’s continued to work with the Soulsville neighborhood, where she lives, on a volunteer basis, while also pursuing other CDC (community development corporation) opportunities in nearby neighborhoods. Memphis is in a process of tearing down old public housing projects and implementing rebuild projects in these areas. Rebecca felt it was necessary to have an outside voice involved in making sure these processes took everyone’s voice into account. Through her CDC she is making that possible. We got interrupted in our conversation with Rebecca because the marketplace was coming to a close and she had to touch base with each of her vendors. We knew her relationships with each of these folks was the most important thing, so we let her do her thing. We will be sure to reach out at a later date and talk more, checking in on how her projects are doing. We can’t wait to hear.
After talking to Rebecca, we went to nearby neighborhood Orange Mound, Memphis to meet Auntrion Bradford at The Collective’s CMPLX Gallery. Auntrion moved to Memphis from St. Louis in 2002. He’s an artist now, but wasn’t exposed to the arts when he was young—his parents were more focused on academics. It wasn’t until he went to University of Memphis and got involved in a performing arts group that the arts really opened up for him. But even before then, he loved dance, having seen “You Got Served” and “Rise” when growing up, which were transformative influences on him at a young age. In college though, with training, he started to integrate African dance with Hip-Hop and develop a sense of style all his own. He also began to be involved in the broader art community. He joined the Collective, a group of young black artist focused on supporting artists of color in the Memphis community, and over time the group has grown and flourished.
Auntrion has truly adopted Memphis as his home now. He experiences the racial issues of Memphis as his own. He was recently assaulted by a white woman in his own Midtown neighborhood for basically just being black. The lack of support and focus on black artists in this community that is majority black is astounding according to Auntrion. This is a city that looks like him, he says, but oftentimes acts like he does not exist or is a criminal. Through his work with the Collective and his dance company The Bradford Dance Collaborative, Auntrian is trying to rise above these oppressive forces and make Memphis a place that speaks for and not against people of color.