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Paul Gerald

Steretypes, generalizations, and self contradictions.

Tell you what, go grab any 100 Americans -- ANY -- and show them both cities. What percentage chooses Memphis to live in? I grew up in Memphis and live in Portland, and here are 10 reasons why the exact opposite of what you say is true:

crime; how many murders in Memphis this year?
racial tension
effectiveness of city government
number and quality of restaurants
number and diversity of cultural attractions
effective city planning that encourages healthy neighborhoods
overall prosperity of the city
access to outdoor recreation
city parks

Just another strong opinion from out West.

Paul Gerald

Upon further reflection, I apologize for the nasty tone of my email. I would delete if I could. You're a cheerleader for Memphis, which is completely appropriate, and you chose to leave Portland for your own reasons. I am a cheerleader for Portland, and I chose to leave Memphis for mine. We're both allowed our opinions, and there's no right or wrong answer.

And I misspelled stereotypes.

B Erv

As the guy who baited Paul with an email titled -- Take that, Portland! -- allow me to wade into this.

My essential point is that comparing Memphis to Portland is sort of like trying to compare, say, the planet Mercury to some planet two galaxies over.

I'm cheered by the embrace of Memphis, but also an admirer of how Portland turned things around. I like to think that if cities are like stocks, then Memphis is way undervalued at the current moment and Portland is probably overvalued (for good reasons).

I also think this study sheds some light on the issues Paul trumpeted as to Portland's advantage:


I can build a house made out of paint and brick up on the wall,
it only takes a gentle breeze for brick and paint to fall.
I don't see this comparison forwarding Memphis, just an inappropriate comparison.
We should NOT be selling Memphis under false pretenses.


1. Lower cost of living means lower property values. It means less to do in the city. It means less of the competitiveness that makes a city great. That isn't an advantage.

2. The lower commute time is because a lot of people can't afford to drive, and are out of work. Is that an advantage?

3. Never been to the zoo.

4. I've been handed tracts from religious nuts who won't mind their own business. The religious nuts who won't mind their own business make sure that you can't get liquor on a sunday, and are constantly attacking strip clubs and adult businesses. The fact that people with an environmental cause around here mind their own business means that nobody cares enough to want anything to change. I wouldn't consider apathy to be a good thing.

5. Yes, the weather is nice here. I'll grant you that one.

6. The hospitality only seems to extend to those who fit a certain social norm. If you're a gay couple, or a black family moving into a white neighborhood or vice versa, or if you just look funny, forget it. I'm not a native Memphian, and I never got any sort of hospitality here. In fact, people have seemed kind of standoffish to me. The hospitality thing is a nice myth.

7. Diversity? Just because we have a handful of people here from other parts of the world does not make it diverse. This city is mostly people who were born here and lived here all their lives. There are black people, white people, many Mexican immigrants and a handful of "other." In cities further north, that "other" would be thriving communities of Slavs, of Irish, of Italians, Jews, Cubans, you name it - with ethnic restaurants and shopping and all the like. Around here, everything is the same, and those who fall outside of the sameness stay pretty quiet. I do like the Greek festival though, and that is well worth seeing.

8. You have got to be kidding me. That is an advantage? We have "real" homeless people?? What the hell kind of advantage is that? At least the disenchanted teenagers have not had a lifetime on the streets to make it very difficult to become functioning members of society again - as in, once those kids get past that phase, they likely will at least be self-sufficient tax-paying citizens. I don't see that happening for the homeless of Memphis... how exactly is THAT an advantage?

9. There are lots of cities that have good music, and BB King tours to them, too. My hometown had a lot of talented artists, too.

10. Authentic? Making their way the only way they know how? So what, you mean that people in other cities are fake? Does educating yourself and succeeding in life take away your soul or something?

This was a nice attempt to gloss over how ugly this city is. However, anyone with eyes can tell you that it's just a pretty facade.

El Burro

I'm one of the people who got off on the wrong bus stop... d'oh. I was actually pleased with Memphis, compared to the city I moved from, ten years ago. However, I moved from a very low-rate city, and I've watched the apparent upward trend Memphis had in the late '90s crumble and turn into a downward spiral.

This list, in my opinion, does more to reinforce my judgement than to convince me otherwise ("real" homeless people!? Poster above was spot on analyzing each item). Every time I see a list of Memphis's virtues, it usually rings as false or offers such weak points that it always has this effect. That said, the zoo is actually nice. If a good zoo is your prime consideration on where to move, eye Memphis and San Diego, and make an analysis. :-)

What about those of us who are from Memphis, moved to Portland to live/escape Memphis for 7 years and returned to Memphis for plenty of reasons?

Everyone will have their own justifications for why one place is better than another. I happen to agree that I do not find Portland to be my end-all be-all for any reason and would much rather live in Memphis. There are even plenty of other places I'd rather spend time VISITING than Portland!

I find a couple of items on your list a bit week, particularly #8 given I worked at Outside/In for the first 2 years I lived there and well, that is a disgusting stereotype you paint. I'd say the minority of those homeless kids were there by choice and it wasn't some luxurious existence for them as some loved to believe. If you think that being addicted to both IV meth and black tar heroin isn't "real", well, I don't know what to say.

However, I strongly agree with your stances on Cost of Living, Music, Diversity and OHMYGAWD, Weather. Memphis rules over Portland so hard in these categories it is ridiculous.

Anyone who can slam Memphis for a "lack of true diversity" can get off at the next curb, s'il tu plais. Try Portland and then come back to Memphis. It annoys me to no end when people in Memphis think "Diversity=a selection of Ethiopian restaurants". Sure, if you think several Thai restaurants=Diversity, awesome, Portland may be for you. But if you think you will get in more than deep, or heck, even SURFACE, 10 conversations, that don't include ordering food, with a person of another race or ethnicity than "White, Liberal, Likely from the West Coast", you got another think comin'!

Memphis is awesome. More people just need to deal with it, own it, make it what you want and quit bitching. There are problems EVERYWHERE. No place is perfect. It took me 20+ years of running around and away from Memphis to finally discover that.

Forget it

Screw Memphis. I'll never go back. It's the apitomy of ignorance, hopelessness, criminal mentality and racial tension. I live in Portland now, and yeah I won't be here forever, but after miraculously surviving Memphis after witnessing countless victims endure the actions of Memphians for 27 years, I won't be back.

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I moved to the Bluff City from Portland, Oregon with my husband, our four-month-old son and three-year-old daughter in August 2005. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in Portland, and then returned for a four-year tour of duty – during which I became a mother. What I failed to understand while living there is that for many progressive parents, Portland is Mecca. It is the end-all, be-all for those who picture themselves riding their bikes to work, enjoying excellent public transportation and beautiful city parks, or sipping coffee in a child-friendly, environmentally-friendly, locally-owned and operated café. All these things are true, but it doesn’t make the city perfect. While Memphis has an issue with permanence, Portland has an issue with authenticity.

Memphis Lover

To the poster who analyzed each item on the list: You make a couple of good points, but I find many of your analyses flawed, and you sound kinda bitter. I don't care to address them all, but just for example...

#2: Better commute times don't equal joblessness. It could (and does) mean the interstates are just built a little smarter. For instance, they completely rerouted two intersecting freeways (a spot once notorious for bottleneck traffic; the locals called it "malfunction junction") to help traffic flow more freely. That, among many other factors, makes driving a lot easier. How you directly tied freer flowing traffic to joblessness, I don't know.

And as for your response to #6... Memphians are very hospitable. I'm a black native Memphian, and I recently moved into a building with lots of well-to-do white people, and I've never felt anything but welcome. Not that Memphis doesn't have its issues--racial issues, etc. But I don't wake up and leave home thinking about these things. When I leave every morning, I look at the park to my right and the busy street to my left. I walk through the parking garage past Volvos, Lexuses, Corollas, Priuses, and motorcycles (we all live together :-), and drive through a beautiful neighborhood past people of multiple races and classes jogging, sometimes with dogs or strollers or a child running next to them. When out and about my neighborhood, I encounter rich people, not rich people, panhandlers, kids, and trannies; and most of them say hello (or "Hello, can you spare some change"). Your experience seems to be specific to you; because nearly everyone I know who comes here comments on how open and friendly the people are. As with any city, again, there are issues. But of all the cities I've been to, the people in Memphis are the warmest.

#7... What about the Italian festival, Israeli festival, Indian festival?... Ever been to "A Night in Africa"? During Memphis in May, do you participate in the dozens of cultural activities and exhibits they host at the museums, parks, libraries, and theaters? Ever visited the Museum of Asian and Judaic Art? Did you know there are completely Jewish communities in Memphis? Do you realize how quickly the Indian and Middle Eastern communities in Memphis are growing?
So there aren't completely Slav or Cuban neighborhoods. If article was comparing Memphis to Chicago or NYC that would mean something. But relative to MOST other places in the country, Memphis is extremely diverse. A Hispanic friend of mine who lives in a town near Seattle is always amazed when I talk about Memphis. She says there are hardly any black people where she lives. Once, on a road trip , my parents stopped in a little town to go to McDonald's. The kids were all staring at them, because they hadn't seen black people in person before. That's a reality. Large Northern cities are exceptionally diverse, yes. But that's not what the author was comparing Memphis to.

#10... By real she mean GENUINE. Which is true. Because the same people who will strike up a conversation while waiting in line with will also run to your aid if you have a car accident or if they see your house is on fire. If you drop something, they'll pick it up for you. Genuinely kind people. The kindness doesn't stop at hello. And while I probably would have used different verbiage than the author, make no mistake, there are plenty of educated people here. I've got two Masters degrees. Most of my friends have at least one degree. Doctors, professors, attorneys, executives. We have good jobs; we are "educated and succeeding in life" as you put it, and we live right here in this friendly city. So I guess you could call me a real person "making it the best way I know how."

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