Memphis Flyer - 9/23/2021

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OUR 1700TH ISSUE 09.23.21

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CONTENTS

CARRIE BEASLEY Senior Art Director CHRISTOPHER MYERS Advertising Art Director BRYAN ROLLINS Graphic Designer

Thursday September 23 8pm

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JESSE DAVIS Editor SHARA CLARK Managing Editor JACKSON BAKER, BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN Senior Editors TOBY SELLS Associate Editor MAYA SMITH Senior News Reporter CHRIS MCCOY Film and TV Editor ALEX GREENE Music Editor SAMUEL X. CICCI, MICHAEL DONAHUE, JON W. SPARKS Staff Writers ABIGAIL MORICI Copy Editor JULIE RAY Calendar Editor LORNA FIELD, RANDY HASPEL, RICHARD MURFF, FRANK MURTAUGH, MEGHAN STUTHARD Contributing Columnists AIMEE STIEGEMEYER, SHARON BROWN Grizzlies Reporters ANDREA FENISE Fashion Editor KENNETH NEILL Founding Publisher

As I type these words, it’s Tuesday morning, September 21st. I’ve made several false starts on this column, looking over what I’ve written and deciding to start over. I had hoped to use this space to acknowledge some high points for Memphis over the past week or so. I’m sure we could all use a moment to celebrate, and I don’t want to become one of those people who spouts anger or doom-and-gloom on a weekly basis. The three-day mission of Inspiration4 marked the first all-civilian flight to orbit the Earth, and one of the crew was Hayley Arceneaux, a former patient of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and current St. Jude physical assistant. The mission raised $210 million for St. Jude. If that’s not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is. In other good news, the University of Memphis Tigers beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs at the Liberty Bowl last Saturday. I don’t know much about football, but people seem pretty excited about that turn of events. Go Tigers! Also last weekend, I drove past the Luciann Theatre on Summer, its marquee lit up and glowing. The Luciann is the as-yet-undecided business making its home in the former site of the Paris theater, itself the former site of the former Luciann Theatre. Whatever confusion with names — or what the building’s eventual use will be — is, to me at least, secondary to the knowledge that a cool, old building in a too-little-celebrated part of town will be put to use instead of being torn down. William Townsend, the Luciann’s owner, discusses potential options for the space in a great Memphis Business Journal article, published last summer, by Jacob Steimer. Memphian Carmeon Hamilton’s Reno My Rental premiered on discovery+ and HGTV on Saturday, September 18th, and seems to be getting a lot of well-deserved attention. I hope the show brings Hamilton all the support and success. Finally, philanthropists Hugh and Margaret Jones Fraser and the Carrington Jones family of Memphis donated 144 acres to T.O. Fuller State Park. So, yes, that’s all good news, and I think we should all take a moment to celebrate it. But the news this morning is not so good, and I felt a little sick to my stomach trying to will the bad to the back of my mind in order to write more about the celebration-worthy successes I’ve mentioned above. Images have surfaced depicting U.S. Border Patrol agents chasing and apparently whipping Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. They are not pretty pictures. Men mounted on horseback seem to snarl at the barefoot men and women they tower over. It is as clear an abuse of power as I’ve ever seen, not to mention that it’s, put simply, inhumane. Seeking asylum is legal. It’s a basic human right, and it’s a foundational principle of this country. Or at least, we like to say it is. The Department of Homeland Security has vowed to investigate. Meanwhile, Senator Marsha Blackburn has made hay, tweeting about the crisis, the security of the border, and that old standby, “The solution to ensure this doesn’t happen is to build the wall.” I know that it’s how the political game is played, but there is something incredibly cruel about labeling human beings with nothing more than the clothes on their backs as “threats.” These are people, human beings. I don’t claim to have a solution, but pointing fingers at the U.S. immigration system when it’s time to fundraise without ever attempting to make it work for those who need it is no solution at all. In other distressing news, The Tennessean’s Brett Kelman reports that Tennessee state government is recommending that the monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid be denied to vaccinated patients with the disease. This will not apply to vaccinated Tennesseans who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, which is one small mercy at least. On the one hand, unvaccinated people who contract Covid are more likely to need that highly effective treatment. Of course, the surest way to prevent being hospitalized with a severe case of the disease is to be vaccinated. It reminds me a little bit of an unvaccinated friend who is helping several Covid-positive members of her church. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We’re taking precautions. We’re taking N E WS & O P I N I O N supplements.” Doubtless, those supplements THE FLY-BY - 4 are not approved by the FDA, but she reNY TIMES CROSSWORD - 6 POLITICS - 7 fuses to take the Pfizer vaccine, which does FINANCE - 9 have FDA approval. It does not make sense. COVER STORY This week’s column has been a bit of a “DRY RUN” roller coaster, I know, but so has the last BY BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN - 10 week. I hope we can all take a moment WE RECOMMEND - 14 to acknowledge the good — and that it MUSIC - 15 CALENDAR - 16 gives us strength to keep doing the work FOOD - 19 to make sure the good news is not ever in FILM - 20 short supply. C LAS S I F I E D S - 22 Jesse Davis LAST WORD - 23 jesse@memphisflyer.com

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ST. J U D E I N S PAC E St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was a central focus of the all-civilian Inspiration4 mission to space last week. Memphian, St. Jude physician’s assistant, and former St. Jude patient Hayley Arceneaux served as the mission’s medical officer aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience capsule. The mission began with liftoff on Wednesday. On Friday, St. Jude patients got a once-ina-lifetime chance to speak to Inspiration4’s astronauts POSTED TO TWITTER BY as they @INSPIRATION4X VIA @JOHNKRAUSPHOTOS circled the Earth in low orbit. Patients asked the astronauts about their POSTED TO YOUTUBE BY ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH sleeping HOSPITAL bags, what they do for fun in space, whether or not POSTED TO YOUTUBE BY ST. there are JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL cows on the moon, their favorite space food, and whether or not there were aliens POSTED TO TWITTER BY @INSPIRATION4X in space. Arceneaux then gave the patients a tour of the Dragon’s cupola, the largest window ever in outer space. The crew safely splashed down Saturday. The mission raised $210 million for St. Jude after a $50 million donation by SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

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Questions, Answers + Attitude Edited by Toby Sells

W E E K T H AT W A S By Flyer staff

Masks, Litter, & Tax Breaks Judge strikes down Lee’s mask order, report tracks trash along Mississippi River, and Harris takes aim at tax breaks. MAS K MAN DATE One reason a federal judge struck down Gov. Bill Lee’s mask opt-out order in Shelby County is that students wearing face masks in school is more efficient, easier, and cheaper than Lee’s plan to protect disabled students. U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl Lipman’s ruling issued last week says that Shelby County’s mask mandate for students is legal. The ruling strikes down Lee’s order that allowed parents to opt their children out of the mandate. This means that all students have to wear a mask at school in Shelby County as of Monday.

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R IVE R LITTE R PHOTO: SHELBY COUNTY GOVERNMENT Plastic is the top trash left behind PHOTO: WINAI TEPSUTTINUN | DREAMSTIME.COM in the Mississippi River corridor, according to a new report from Clockwise from top left: Outdoor-focused festival announced; ArtsMemphis awards the Mississippi River Cities and nearly $1 million in grants; Harris scorns tax breaks; school mask mandate enforced. Towns Initiative (MRCTI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In April, citizen-scientists collected litter in St. Paul, Minof Memphis’ outdoor assets. The three-day festivity is schednesota; St. Louis, Missouri; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for uled for Downtown Memphis on November 5th-7th. the beginning phase of the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Attendees can expect plenty of competitive running, biking, Initiative. They collected 75,184 pieces of litter, and 75 percent and kayaking events, alongside other leisurely programming. of that — 660 pounds — was plastic. The top items included cigarette butts (filters are made of HAR R I S O N TA X B R EAKS plastic), plastic food wrappers, and plastic beverage bottles. Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris took aim at city and county These were followed by plastic foam fragments, aluminum tax breaks earlier this month and pulled no punches, calling cans, hard plastic fragments, and plastic bags. components of it “made up” and “laughable.” Harris spoke candidly about the issue during a panel conART M O N EY vened by the Beacon Center, a Nashville-based free-market ArtsMemphis has awarded $900,000 to 45 arts organizathink tank. Harris has been publicly against tax breaks for tions for operating support and another $70,650 to 26 groups some time and said (as he did again last week) that investing in through the Arts Build Communities (ABC) grant program. infrastructure like schools, roads, and law enforcement would The operating support grants have long been central to do more to lure companies to Shelby County. ArtsMemphis’ mission of helping to grow a sustainable arts community. The unrestricted funding comes from local AD D I N G AC R EAG E individuals, foundations and corporations, the Tennessee Arts Tennessee State Parks officials last week announced the addiCommission, and the National Endowment for the Arts. tion of 144 acres to T.O. Fuller State Park, a donation to the park by philanthropists Hugh and Margaret Jones Fraser and F I E LDA Z E F I E LD DAY the Carrington Jones family of Memphis. Visit the News Blog at memphisflyer.com for fuller versions of Discover Memphis Naturally announced the launch of its these stories and more local news. outdoor-focused Fieldaze festival to showcase the wide range


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Crossword ACROSS

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1 Hosp. hookups 4 Sneaky scheme 8 Two-by-four, for one 13 Part of XXX 14 Churchill prop 15 Not so cordial 16 Knickknack 18 Painter’s primer 19 Accustom (to) 20 Excessive sentimentality

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22 The Falcons, on a 44 Rose Bowl, e.g. scoreboard 45 Severe displeasure 23 Some steak 47 “Jeez!”

orders 24 Shameless audacity

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Sacramento now smells like “smoke and homeless people” and, perhaps, we should “cull” the 5 percent of society “that give the other 95 percent a bad name.” These were but two public statements from key witnesses in a four-hour hearing on state bail reform in Nashville, Tuesday. Neither of these statements brought public repudiation from any House or Senate member in the room. A joint session of House and Senate members of the Tennessee General Assembly convened Monday and concluded Tuesday last week to hear from a long slate of witnesses on bail reform in Tennessee. The two days of hearings were largely pro-bail-industry affairs with a conservative-leaning, lock-’em-up, tough-on-crime philosophy. Many seemed interested in nitty-gritty topics like bracelet-monitoring tech and sharing stories about local cops letting someone go on bond only to make trouble again. Few, it seemed, were interested in an overhaul of the money bail system itself that, largely, allows those with money to walk free until their trial and those without money to sit in jail. Jeff Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition, said he’d traveled the country talking about bail reform. “Last week, I spent in lovely Sacramento, California, which smelled like smoke and homeless people,” Clayton said. Again, not a single legislator spoke a word against this insulting remark, including state Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) who presided over the hearing. Memphis-based Ernie Arredondo, president of the West Tennessee executive board of the Tennessee

(l to r) Jeff Clayton, Mike Bell, Nick Wachinski, Stephen Owens Association of Professional Bail Agents, suggested, perhaps, just getting rid of a chunk of society, comparing them to garden pests. “Let’s say 95 percent of people are doing well,” he told the panel. “We just need to find a way to cull the other [3 percent, 4 percent, or 5 percent] that give the other 95 a bad name.” Kansas state Rep. Stephen Owens was finished with his testimony and well into question time when he was served a serious reprimand by Bell, with anger in his voice.

Few, it seemed, were interested in an overhaul of the money bail system itself. “It almost cast a cloud on your testimony that you didn’t start out with, ‘I’m vice president of the bail bondsman association of Kansas. That I make my money in the bail business and I make my money in the monitoring business,’” Bell told Owens. “If chairman [state Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson)] hadn’t looked it up online, we would have never known that. “You come back before this committee again, at least in the Senate, I want you to lead with that before you say anything else.” Owens explained that he gave up his position with the association when he was elected but admitted he remained in the bail industry.


POLITICS By Jackson Baker

Slicing and Dicing Political districts prepare to come under the surgeon’s scalpel. greater sway. Republicans involved with the process are said to be giving serious consideration to a slice-and-dice formula for Metro Davidson County’s District 5, the bulk of which, at present, consists of Nashville’s urban core and has been as dependably Democratic for Cooper as it was for his predecessor, Bob Clement, and had been for previous Democrats as far back as historical memory stretches. Various GOP proposals currently being looked at reportedly involve splitting the Nashville urban core into several longitudinal slices, each of which could be paired with a generous portion of the surrounding and overwhelmingly Republican suburban “doughnut” areas, giving GOP contenders strong chances of prevailing in any or all of the newly configured districts. The demographics and geography of Memphis and Shelby County make

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a similar reapportionment virtually impossible in this end of the state. Cohen is virtually assured of a Democratic voting base in any potential redistricting of the 9th, but the GOP strategy, if successfully implemented, could make him the sole Democrat representing any area of the state in Congress. Democrats — and some Republicans — have cautioned that the slice-and-dice strategy could backfire and that several of the potential new hybrid districts to be carved out of pieces of Nashville could turn into politically competitive urban/ suburban areas in the same way that so much of Atlanta’s adjacent suburbs did in the 2020 election — and in the same way that Tennessee House of Representatives District 96, spanning part of Memphis and Germantown, has done in the last two election cycles, electing Democrat Dwayne Thompson to what had been a dependably Republican seat.

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Republican hands is the simultaneous population drain in districts still held up to this point by Democrats, especially in Shelby County, where the county seems certain to lose a seat apiece in state Senate and the state House. Where the Republicans hope to show some real potentially game-changing ambition is in the area of congressional redistricting. For the last several years they have possessed seven of the state’s nine congressional districts, failing to gain only the urban areas of Memphis and Nashville, Districts 9 and 5, which have been represented by Democrats Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper, respectively. Although redistricting efforts are technically proceeding under the aegis of a bipartisan commission of legislators, the group, like the legislature itself, is heavily dominated by Republicans, and the GOP’s word will hold corresponding

NEWS & OPINION

The most recent rumors coming out of Nashville, unsurprisingly, have to do with the matter of redistricting. The talk is mainly on the part of the state’s Republican officeholders, who for years have enjoyed control of every statewide office that counts, including a supermajority of the seats in both chambers of the legislature. So hard and fast is GOP domination of the General Assembly, and so notable is the continuing population surge in the suburban “doughnut” counties surrounding the state capital of Nashville that the Republicans hope to gin up their numerical domination even further. Corresponding with the rising population figures in areas of metropolitan Nashville already in

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n the bond market, the most recently debt throughout history and its continuing issued Treasuries are known as “on the influence on the human experience. run.” They are the most liquid, most • The Education of a Speculator by desirable, and slightly more expensive Victor Niederhoffer than the exact same bonds that are not hot I have a hard time even describing off the presses. Victor Niederhoffer’s first book. It’s an As a habitual contrarian, today I want to investing book, but it’s also a rambling recommend some “off-the-run” books for lope through not just the markets but also you. These are some of the more strange, squash, horse racing, checkers, deception, unusual, and meaningful books I’ve come attraction, music, the depths of the human across as an avid reader of investment soul, and much more. Niederhoffer literature. famously worked with George Soros, wears • Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob loud pastel clothes, goes shoeless, and gets Lund Fisker all his news exclusively from the National Without question, this is my No. 1 Enquirer. He probably would be known most recommended and gifted book, and as one of the greatest fund managers of all I’ve read it myself countless times. Fisker time had he dialed in his risk management trained as a physicist and retired from and avoided blowing up his fund (twice!). salaried work after just a few years as a I wouldn’t emulate his trading style, but postdoc. He reportedly continues to live there is something irresistible here to even a vibrant and rich life on less than $7,000 the most conservative long-term investor. per year — and For bonus Vic, try has done that for his Twitter feed almost 20 years PHOTO: FAHRUL AZMI | UNSPLASH @vicniederhoffer. now. He has sailed, It’s refreshingly traveled, explored unfiltered, unedited, hobbies, and even and often completely worked full-time unintelligible. at a hedge fund • Inside the Yield for a few years for Book by Martin fun, not because he L. Leibowitz and needed the money. Sidney Homer While his lifestyle With stocks, you isn’t for everyone, own a tiny piece his approach to of the company personal finance and and your stock life is mesmerizing, closely follows the and I feel my mindset adjust each time I company’s fortunes. Bonds are different read about it. Fun fact: He is the reason — there’s a lot of math. There’s also a lot the financial independence community is of choice — most companies have dozens known for eating lentils, though he does of different bond issues to consider, and not eat them today. there are about a million unique municipal • Capital in the Twenty-First Century bonds out there. When people say they by Thomas Piketty want to understand bonds, I direct them It’s unfortunate that this book, about here. As the dot matrix graphics suggest, how wealth inequality evolves in capitalist it was written just when bond investing economies, is so politically divisive. After was catching up to the computer age, yet reading it, I had a much more intuitive the lessons are timeless. If you read and grasp of the fundamental meaning understand every page of this book, you’ll of capital and how its quantity and be well on your way to understanding distribution has waxed and waned over bonds better than virtually any amateur the centuries. While I don’t agree with all and most professionals. Gene Gard is Co-Chief Investment Officer his conclusions, I highly recommend it — especially to those who don’t think they will at Telarray, a Memphis-based wealth management firm that helps families agree either. A bonus recommendation: navigate investment, tax, estate, and I have the exact same feelings about the retirement decisions. Ask him your question late David Graeber’s book, Debt: The First at ggard@telarrayadvisors.com. 5000 Years. It’s a fascinating exploration of

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Dry Run

September 23-29, 2021

A LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO TROUBLE ON NONCONNAH CREEK. COVER STORY BY BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN

I

’m sitting in a kayak somewhere between Lamar and Airways Boulevard. There are two barbs from a fishing lure’s rear treble hook embedded in my left calf. The lure’s front treble hook is snagged on the backpack in the bottom of my boat. To simplify, I am attached to my backpack by a fishing lure. It hurts. A lot. I’m too tired to panic, but I am starting to wonder why I am here — and how I will get out. How It Started It’s a story that began with a simple pitch to my editor: I’ll float Nonconnah Creek from somewhere in East Memphis all the way to McKellar Lake. It will be a quirky lark, and it could be interesting to see what I find in and along the Wolf River’s unsexy sibling, a creek that follows I-240 through the southern underbelly of Memphis. A couple freelancers wrote about it for the Flyer a dozen years ago, but things have probably changed since then. I pitched it as a fun urban adventure. He went for it, probably because I’m quite the smooth talker. While planning my trip, I quickly learned that getting onto Nonconnah Creek is not an easy thing. There are no access points, no parks, no trails, no obvious spots where you can slide a boat in. After much searching on Google Maps, I finally spotted a nondescript motel near Perkins Road that appeared to have a parking lot that backed up to the creek. When I drove there, I discovered the lot was only 30 feet from the stream, with no fence to impede a launch. I figured it might be dicey if security cameras caught me, but knowing I could be in the water in five minutes made me confident I’d be paddling before anyone could ask questions. I just needed a getaway driver. For that, I enlisted my stepson, Roman, who cheerfully drove me to the lot around 8 a.m. last Tuesday. It all went off without a hitch — no motel gendarmes, no hassles — as we schlepped my kayak down to the creek. I tossed in a backpack filled with four cans of water, three power bars, two bananas, a rain jacket, two phone chargers, sunscreen, and a small box of fishing lures. And I stuck a spin-casting outfit in the rod holder. As I waded in and pushed off, Roman

PHOTO: BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN

Above left: The first rock-pile traverse of the day at Perkins. PHOTO: ROMAN DARKER

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Left: The author naively enters the stream.


PHOTO: BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN

The culprit in question: a three-inch jointed Rapala.

Nonconnah Road, I-55 (at least two), and Highway 61. Yikes. Surely the water will get deeper, I hoped, knowing if it didn’t, I could be in for a very long day. How It’s Going The creek between the Perkins and Getwell bridges had pools of paddle-able water interspersed with a shallow channel snaking between gravel bars that I had to wade, pulling the kayak behind me. It was beginning to dawn on me that I should have checked the creek’s water level more thoroughly than I did. It had seemed fine at the motel lot. Downstream, it appeared, not so much. I was spending more time wading than paddling. After one exhausting 10-minute drag, feet going six inches into the mud with every step, I came to a long, deep pool — no gravel bar in sight. The Google map said I was getting near the Getwell bridge. I plopped into the kayak with a sigh of relief and began to paddle. I spotted some minnows being chased in the shallows, so I tossed a small Rapala lure near the nervous water. It was immediately whacked by a 10-inch largemouth, which jumped and ran and finally slipped the hook. I cast again and hooked another bass, which I got to the boat and released. My mood improved immensely. Finally, I was paddling and catching fish, just as I’d hoped I would be. Things were looking up. A great blue heron

glided past. Surely a good omen. Nope. The Getwell bridge was another nightmare — 50 yards of arduous rockpile leading to a drop of three feet into the next pool. Beyond that pool, 100 yards downstream, I could see an immense gravel bar. I was beginning to understand that reaching McKellar Lake was probably not in the cards. I’d been on the creek for almost three hours and was approximately one-sixth of the way there. At this low water level, Nonconnah wasn’t a stream. It was a series of still pools and gravel bars. I pulled out my phone and looked at the Google map. The next two bridges were quite a ways downstream — first Lamar, then a mile or so later, Airways — both busy, multi-lane highways. Even if I could somehow drag an 80-pound kayak up to either road, there was no place to wait for pickup. I was beginning to realize that Nonconnah Creek was going to be just as hard to get off of as it was to get onto. Just past Airways on the map was Nonconnah Boulevard, a smaller road — not a highway — as I recalled. After that, it was a long way to the next bridge. Nonconnah Boulevard would have to do, somehow. I texted Roman and told him the new plan and that I’d call when I got there. There was a sense of relief in the decision. The goalpost had been moved closer, and I was halfway there. Making things better was the happy discovery 20

PHOTO: BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN

An abandoned railroad bridge below Lamar provides another obstacle to be portaged around. minutes later that the bridge at Lamar had no rock-pile. I paddled blissfully under the road, thanking the stream gods as the pools seemed to grow longer and the sandbars fewer. An osprey, chased by two kingfishers, skirted the treetops. Welcome to the Hotel California It was early afternoon and I was thinking writerly thoughts — about how I might reconfigure my Nonconnah Creek story in light of the fact that it had changed from a fun float to McKellar Lake to a grueling slog about a fourth of that distance. I was thinking about fresh headlines: “Nonconnah? Not Gonna!” Or maybe, “Nonconnah, the Hotel California of Creeks.” Because, you know, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Like that. Still, I was feeling better, a burden lifted. I was paddling more than I was wading, and I only had another hour or so to go, with any luck. I slammed another can of water, ate a banana, and decided, what the continued on page 12

COVER STORY m e m p h i s f l y e r. c o m

snapped some pics. McKellar Lake was 11 miles away. I told Roman I’d meet him at the Riverside boat ramp in Martin Luther King Jr. Park, probably around 2 o’clock, figuring on a leisurely two-miles-an-hour paddle, including time to dawdle and fish and take pictures. Piece of cake. “I’ll text you when I’m near there,” I said. “Thanks for bringing me.” “Have fun!” he said. The water was slightly murky at the put-in, three to four feet deep in most places, but you could easily see the bottom. There didn’t seem to be much flow. Wildlife was abundant. Turtles fell like stones from logs. A night heron calmly watched me pass by from a low branch, showing no fear. At the first bend I flushed eight wood ducks and a white egret from a gravel bar. I felt like David Attenborough should be narrating this trip. Except for the plastic bags. If you aren’t opposed to plastic bags, paddling Nonconnah Creek will change your mind. There’s pretty water and lots of wildlife, but hanging from countless limbs and branches are plastic bags, left during high water, festooning the shoreline like ghostly Halloween decorations. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Anyway … think about it. Twenty minutes in, I spotted the Perkins Road bridge ahead — and a massive pile of rocks beneath it, all the way across, dry as dust. I made a note on my phone recorder: “Looks like I’ll have to spend a few minutes dragging the kayak over a pile of rocks.” Fifteen minutes later, I was finally back in the water on the other side. My shirt was soaked through with sweat. I broke out a can of water and inhaled it. Hopefully, not all the bridges between here and McKellar Lake were going to be like this one, I thought. Mentally counting, I could think of eight: Getwell, Lamar, Airways (two),

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continued from page 11 hell, why not fish? I will say this about the stretch of Nonconnah Creek between Lamar and Airways: It has very good fishing. I caught one feisty bass after another. I was actually enjoying the day again. After a few hundred yards of this, I tossed the Rapala near a submerged log about 30 feet away and was startled by a huge eruption. The biggest fish I’d seen so far lunged to the surface but missed the lure. Hurriedly, I tossed the Rapala back to the same spot and jerked it a couple of times. It got stuck on a log underwater. Dammit. I gave the rod a hard jerk and watched the Rapala shoot like a bullet into the kayak, simultaneously hooking my calf and my backpack. There are moments in life when something so ridiculous happens so suddenly you don’t realize its import. It takes a minute. I sat there observing the absurdity of my situation, unable to move without making it worse, stuck in the middle of a creek with no one around to help or commiserate with me — or even laugh about it. In this situation, as any fisherman will tell you, there are two basic options. One is to force the embedded hook-points out through the skin, flatten the now-exposed

barbs with a pair of pliers, and then slide the hooks back out. The other is to just rotate the hooks as far back out as possible, then jerk them out the rest of the way, barbs be damned. I didn’t have any pliers, so option two was pretty much it. I used my pocketknife to cut away the backpack from the other end of the lure. The Rapala hung from my calf, like a leg earring. I paddled to the shore to get firm footing for the coming pain festival. I sat

PHOTO: BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN

A black-crowned night heron surveys the hapless paddler.

on the gravel, slipped the blade of my pocketknife under the bend in the impaled hooks, took a deep breath, and popped it away from my leg, quick and hard. It hurt, but it didn’t bleed much, and I had a bit of a “fuck yeah, I did that” moment. Then I poured fizzy water on it and ate a power bar and got back to paddling. It looked like I’d been bitten by a tiny rattler. Nailing the Landing There were three roads to go under at Airways, but the water was high enough under all three that it made me think that the wading-and-dragging sections were finally behind me. I did note that all three bridges were at least 40 feet above the water and that there were no discernible paths up to the roadways through the undergrowth. I hoped Nonconnah Boulevard would be different, thinking it would be somehow poetic if I could end this misadventure on a street named after the creek I was on. Twenty minutes later, I was sitting in my kayak on Nonconnah Creek underneath Nonconnah Boulevard. Nonconnah possibly understand the joy I felt when I saw that this bridge was lower, closer to the creek, and that the angle of the terrain to the top was not overgrown and considerably more reasonable than any I’d seen so far. I left the kayak and clambered

up the slope, paddle in hand as a walking stick. At the top, just under the bridge itself, I found a flattened grassy road of some sort. Eureka! As I emerged from under the bridge, I surprised three people sitting in the bed of a pickup truck with a gas company logo on it. They looked at me as though I were strange or something. Go figure. “I need to bring my kayak up from the creek,” I said. “Is there a place around here I can put it until my ride gets here?” “Sure,” said one of the guys, pointing. “That office building parking lot right there ought to be okay.” This was the best news I’d had for a while. I went back down to the kayak, texted Roman my location, and laboriously dragged the boat up the slope to the parking lot. It was 3 p.m. I’d been on Nonconnah Creek for seven hours and gone about four miles, wading and dragging a kayak about half of that distance. I was as exhausted as I’ve been in many a year. Friends, I do not recommend this float to you, unless the water level is at least a foot higher. And even at that, I recommend you start at Lamar, where the creek gets a bit deeper and the fishing is good, and you can get out in fairly short order. This is not a stream to mess around with. Take it from someone who messed around with it.

FAB FRIDAYS Laser light shows in the Planetarium, Friday nights in September Memphis Museum of Science & History

September 23-29, 2021

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Elton John 7PM Queen 8:30PM & Bowie 10PM


upcoming events 2021

2022

• 9/27-10/1 - Bad Apple Blues Guitar Workshop • 10/1-2 - Mighty Roots Music Festival • 10/2 - Bad Apple Blues Festival • 10/6-9 - King Biscuit Festival, Helena, AR • 10/10 - Cat Head Mini Blues Fest • 10/10 - Super Blues Sunday • 10/14-16 - Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival • 10/14-17 - Deep Blues Fest • 10/28-31 - Hambone Festival • 12/31–01/01 - Ground Zero New Year’s Bash

• 1/28-30 - Clarksdale Film & Music Festival • 4/21-24 - Juke Joint Festival & Related Events • 4/24 - Cat Head Mini Blues Fest • 5/7 - Clarksdale Caravan Music Fest • 5/28 - 4th Red’s Old-Timers Blues Fest • 5/27-28 - Goat Fest VIII • 5/27-28 - Ground Zero Blues Club 21st Anniversary • 8/12-14 - 34th Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival

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Live music at

steppin’ out (& stayin’ in)

We Recommend: Culture, News + Reviews September 23rd - 26rd

September 23th - 6:30pm Duwayne Burnside Blues Hour

Film Noir

By Julie Ray

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a derivative of Plato’s words “our need will be the real creator” from the Republic, a Socratic dialogue about justice and happiness. What does this ancient Greek philosophy have to do with the Black Film Festival this week? Everything. But first things first. For $10, viewers can see well-known Black films — $20 for Red Carpet VIP tickets on opening night, featuring Harriet (7 p.m.) at the Pink Palace. Amazing Grace screens on Saturday (7 p.m.) at Crosstown Theater. Just Mercy (2 p.m.) and Best of Enemies (7 p.m.) will close the festival at Playhouse on the Square, followed by a panel discussion. The most innovative and interesting aspect of the festival will be on Friday at 7 p.m. in the UC Theatre at the University of Memphis. That is where the New Film Makers’ Production, featuring six independent short films, will be screened. “Last year we had a glitch,” says Dorrit Gilliam, COO of the Gilliam Foundation. “On Film Makers’ Production night, instead of screening each short film in its entirety, we mistakenly only had one montage of clips from each film.” Necessity is the mother of invention. Gilliam did some quick thinking, pivoted, and brought all the filmmakers on stage to talk about their films instead. “It was a huge success with the audience,” says Gilliam. “And we’re bringing it back this year.” This year, the films will be shown in their entirety, about 10 minutes each, and the new component will be rolled over from last year giving filmmakers a platform to talk about their films and backstories. WLOK BLACK FILM FESTIVAL, VARIOUS LOCATIONS, VISIT WLOK.COM FOR MOVIE SCHEDULE, THURSDAY, SEPT.23, THROUGH SUNDAY, SEPT. 26, $10 PER EVENT, $20 VIP RED CARPET.

Photo courtesy of filmmaker Gary Moore, writer, director, and producer of The Suburban Itch, a story about flipping the script — what happens when a white man is stopped by police for running in a Black neighborhood?

September 30th - 8:00pm 40 Watt Moon

September 23-29, 2021

9/22 - 6:30pm

Duwayne Burnside Blues Hour

9/23 - 9/26

Goner Fest

9/29 - 6:30pm

Duwayne Burnside Blues Hour

9/30 - 8pm

40 Watt Moon

railgarten.com

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2 1 6 6 C e n t r a l Av e . Memphis TN 38104

VARIOUS DAYS & TIMES September 23rd - 29th Pink Palace Crafts Fair Memphis Botanic Garden, 751 Cherry, Friday-Sunday, Sept. 24-26, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., $10 Shop for unique, eclectic arts and crafts including woodwork, leatherwork, pottery, jewelry, paintings, sculpture, woven goods, and more. Benefits Museum of Science and History. Memphis Bacon & Bourbon Festival Metal Museum, 374 Metal Museum, Friday, Sept. 24, 6-9 p.m., $39 Featuring creative bacon-inspired dishes of all kinds from some great Memphis restaurants, plus a vast array of distilled spirits to tempt your taste buds. 21 and up.

Freak Show Growlers, 1911 Poplar, Friday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m., $20 Go on a journey of miraculous discovery through the world of the strange, the odd, the bizarre, the macabre — where the most unusual people entertain. 18 and up. Walking in Memphis at the Creek Shops of Saddle Creek, Poplar and West Farmington, Saturday, Sept. 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free Enjoy Memphis-themed chalk art, live music, a makers’ market, and more showcasing all things 901.

Eat To Live Vegan Fest Paradise Entertainment Center, 645 E. Georgia, Saturday, Sept. 25, noon-5 p.m., $15 Experience plant-based food, products, health and wellness information, and entertainment by Dr. Franco Taylor, Dr. Sebi’s Niece, Official Grey, NLE Choppa, and more. Latin Fest Overton Square, 2101 Madison, Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 25-26, noon6 p.m., free Kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month with Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Group for a family-oriented festival featuring live Latin music, Latin food and drinks, crafts for kids, vendors, and fun.


MUSIC By Alex Greene

PHOTO: COURTESY GONERFEST

Quintron and Miss Pussycat

Accidentally All-American! Eric Friedl talks lineup and location changes to the usually international Gonerfest. Looking over the schedule for Gonerfest 18, taking place September 23-26, I was flabbergasted to see all of the performers will be from the continental U.S. The festival known for sounding a clarion call to every punk, skunk, lunk, and hunk (and lovers of innovative music) across the world had gone nationalistic on us! Then I realized, no, it’s just a Covid thing (sigh). Still, this Gonerfest will be like no other, so I hit the speed dial to Goner HQ to get the skinny. Who should answer but Eric the Erstwhile Oblivian? Memphis Flyer: It’s odd that the international aspect of Gonerfest is missing. I didn’t realize that until I dove into the schedule. Eric Friedl: Yeah, we didn’t really either. We thought, “Okay, the bands are going to be local or driving in,” but we quickly realized that our international fans were going to miss out on this one. Hopefully they’ll be there on the livestream. We’ve sold a bunch of tickets to the stream. And there’s a handful of Canadians determined to come. I think they have to go through mandatory quarantine afterwards, but they’re willing to do that. Very impressive, their dedication to do this. So it’s all American bands and all American fans! [laughs] Which is a little bit different. And the response has been really overwhelming.

All the performances are at the Railgarten outside stage. Did using only one venue limit the possible attendance at all? Well, we actually have a bigger capacity. We looked at the space and said, “How many people can you get in there?” They told us, and we were like, “Well that’s more than we’ve ever had at any Gonerfest!” We capped it at half capacity, but it’s still bigger than any ticket sales we’ve ever had. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds. People are going to have space to hang out, and everybody that wants to come gets to come. Have you had to refund some tickets as Covid has changed the situation for some people? Yeah, we’ve refunded. We sold out and stopped selling tickets, but then we refunded tickets and made those available again. So right now there are tickets available. We are going to do some walk-up sales for each night, like 50 tickets. So if people do want to get a ticket, there are golden passes at gonerfest.com. If we have them, we’ll sell them at the gate. What are some of the highlights this year? Wreckless Eric’s playing — he loves coming down here! Kings of the Fucking Sea has members of the Quadrajets,

The Ettes, and The Little Killers. They’re a full-on, heavy duty rock band. So that’s one extreme. Then we’ve got The Exbats from Tucson, who are a father/daughter team, and that’s more ’60s jangly stuff. The drummer, Inez, sings. We’ve got Sweeping Promises from Boston, who are like the new wave of new wave. Their new record has gone bananas in our underground underground. And then you’ve got the Memphis folks that people come to see. Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks, Alicja [Trout], and the Reigning Sound Memphis lineup, along with Nots, Model Zero, Ibex Clone, Big Clown, and Aquarian Blood. They’re something special for people from out of town. Quintron and Miss Pussycat recorded their last record with less Quintron and organ and more full-on rock band, with lead guitar and all this kind of jazz. So they’ve been itching to play with this lineup. And we’re ending it with the Wilkins Sisters, the late Rev. John Wilkins’ daughters, who backed him up when he would perform. They’re going to be the last act on Sunday. We have so many bands playing a short, sweet little set. All of them should be featured more than they are at Gonerfest. If anyone came upon them in a club show or something, they could spend more time with them and really get into their thing. Visit gonerfest.com for more information on Gonerfest 18.

49th The Marston Group, Mobile Mini, Marge Palazzolo & Friends of the Pink Palace

CRAFTS FAIR

RISE WITH THE FEVER. Yellow Fever, the plague that almost killed Memphis, returns to tell its stories in person. Meet history at Elmwood, October 8-9. Go to ElmwoodCemetery.org for tickets and details, or call 901.774.3212.

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CALENDAR of EVENTS:

September 23 - 29

Send the date, time, place, cost, info, phone number, a brief description, and photos — two weeks in advance — to calendar@memphisflyer.com or P.O. Box 1738, Memphis, TN 38101. DUE TO SPACE LIMITATIONS, ONGOING WEEKLY EVENTS WILL APPEAR IN THE FLYER’S ONLINE CALENDAR ONLY.

A R T A N D S P E C IA L E X H I B ITS

Claudia Keep

Exhibition of paintings. Through Nov. 6.

Local Authors Book Signing and Sale

Eat To Live Vegan Fest

TOPS GALLERY

“On Christopher Street”

LUCIUS E. & ELSIE C. BURCH, JR. LIBRARY

MEMPHIS BROOKS MUSEUM OF ART

Tributaries: Tiff Massey I “Everyday Arsenal”

Works inspired by African standards of economic vitality. Through Sept. 25. METAL MUSEUM

ART HAPPE N I NGS

Muddy Friday: Candle Luminaries with Becky K. Blackburn Brighten your home with a custom luminary. $75. Friday, Sept. 24, 6:30-8:30 p.m. ARROW CREATIVE

September 23-29, 2021

F EST IVA L

Mid-South authors will gather to promote their latest books. Saturday, Sept. 25, 3-5 p.m.

Portraits of transgender residents by Mark Seliger. Through Jan. 9.

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B O O K EVE NTS

Your Legacy: An AllIndie Virtual Event

African-American history, written by Schele Williams and illustrated by Tonya Engel. Tuesday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m. NOVELMEMPHIS.COM

C O M E DY

Dustin Sims

Sunday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. Second performance at 10:30 p.m. $30. GROWLERS

Memphis Will

Friday, Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m. Second performance at 10 p.m. $17. CHUCKLES COMEDY CLUB

Plant-based food, products, and entertainment. $15. Saturday, Sept. 25, noon-5 p.m. PARADISE ENTERTAINMENT CENTER

Gonerfest 18

Thirty bands in four days. $20/ streaming, $30/performance ticket, $100/festival pass. Thursday, Sept. 23-Sept. 26. RAILGARTEN

Latin Fest

Kick off Hispanic Heritage Month with live Latin music, Latin food and drinks, crafts for kids, vendors, and fun. Saturday, Sept. 25, noon. OVERTON SQUARE

Memphis Bacon & Bourbon Festival

Featuring bacon-inspired dishes, plus a vast array of distilled spirits. 21+. $39. Friday, Sept. 24, 6-9 p.m. METAL MUSEUM

Tune into the Memphis Flyer Radio podcast! A weekly podcast from the pages and people of the Memphis Flyer. Available wherever you stream your podcasts!


CALENDAR: SEPTEMBER 23 - 29 Mid-South Fair

Petting zoo, fair food, rides, attractions, contests, and more. Thursday, Sept. 23-Oct. 3. LANDERS CENTER

Soulful Food Truck Festival

More than 100 vendors, 35 food trucks, game zone, and music. $5. Sunday, Sept. 26, noon-6 p.m. TIGER LANE

S P EC I A L E V E N TS

42nd Blues Music Awards

Livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. Wednesday, Sept. 29, 4 p.m. BLUES FOUNDATION

Rally to Raise Gala

Fundraiser benefiting Tennis Memphis. $100. Friday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m. MEMPHIS BOTANIC GARDEN

FI LM

All the Streets Are Silent

A collision between two subcultures: skateboarding and hip-hop. $5. Thursday, Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m. CROSSTOWN THEATER

Hispanic Film Festival: Los Lobos

S P O R TS

Attitude MMA Fights XX

Two days of combat sports action. $40. Friday, Sept. 24-Sept. 25. AGRICENTER INTERNATIONAL

Friends of the Poor Walk/Run

Benefiting St. Vincent de Paul Food Mission. $25. Saturday, Sept. 25, 9-11 a.m. CHRISTIAN BROTHERS HIGH SCHOOL

Memphis Redbirds vs. Charlotte Knights Enjoy baseball and promotional events. Tuesday, Sept. 28-Oct. 3. AUTOZONE PARK

T H EAT E R

Meemaw’s Ratchet Barbeque

Comedy about Meemaw. $30. Through Sept. 26. THE EVERGREEN THEATRE

King Henry VI: The Wars of the Roses

Civil dissent blooms into a war. Through Sept. 26. TENNESSEE SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

The Lifespan of a Fact

PRCA Rodeo Championship

Features roping, barrel racing, bull riding, and more. $23. Saturday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m. AGRICENTER INTERNATIONAL

Questions the concept of fact versus fiction and journalistic integrity. $27. Through Oct. 10. CIRCUIT PLAYHOUSE

The Secret Garden

September Spectacular

Hunter-jumper show. Friday, Sept. 24, 8 a.m. GERMANTOWN CHARITY HORSE SHOW

An orphan is sent to live in her distant family’s gloomy mansion. $35. Friday, Sept. 24-Oct. 10. THEATRE MEMPHIS

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a film. Tuesday, Sept. 28, 6:30-8:30 p.m. UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS, UNIVERSITY CENTER THEATER

Killer

Memphis-based Black filmmaker A. D. Smith presents the premiere. $25. Thursday, Sept. 23, 7 p.m. ORPHEUM THEATRE

WLOK Black Film Festival

Featuring Harriet, Amazing Grace, Just Mercy, and

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Job fairs every Thursday at Southland.

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Claudia Keep’s solo exhibition, on display at Tops Gallery, highlights the intimacies of the everyday world. more at various locations. $10. Through Sept. 26. WLOK.COM

FO O D AN D D R I N K All funds raised will go directly toward rhino conservation through the National AAZK. $100. Friday, Sept. 24, 7-10 p.m. MEMPHISZOO.ORG

Want to earn your $2,000 sign-on bonus? Come work at Southland. You’ll get a great starting salary and be part of the

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friendliest staff in the industry. To see what opportunities are

901 Poetry Open Mic

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11 AM to 3 PM, on the second floor in the Kennel Club.

Freak Show

Or visit dn.careers/southland to apply for positions online.

Open mic series. $9.01. Monday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

The most unusual people entertain. 18+. $20. Friday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Wine for Rhinos

GROWLERS

Spillit Slam: Day and Night

Celebrating the fall equinox with stories about sunup and sundown. $10. Saturday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m.

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FOOD By Michael Donahue

Bigger is Better BluffCakes is the home of the giant cookie.

Chloe Sexton She was a producer for WREG News Channel 3 after moving to Memphis. Seeing one of her cakes, a colleague asked her to make one for her. “People followed me because she shared it on Instagram.” Sexton discovered journalism wasn’t it. “It wasn’t going to make me happy. The hours were a lot of it, but the biggest portion was mental health. It was taking a huge toll on me. Our highest crime hours were the ones I was working. My assignment was to send photographers to knock on people’s doors on the worst days of their lives.” She got a job in marketing as a content specialist. But her husband, Tyler Sexton, a Memphis food and beverage industry veteran, created bluffcakes.com as a wedding present. After losing their jobs during the pandemic, the Sextons focused on

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BluffCakes. People had trouble finding “decent baked goods,” so Chloe promoted her products on social media. And it took off. She posted videos on TikTok. “My platform was growing. I had reached at least 50,000 followers [she now has 400,000] by August 2020.” Chloe began raising money for movements with her baking. “We raised funds for the George Floyd memorial fund … and for the local chapter of Black Lives Matter.” She lost customers but gained more. “If your money comes with hatred, I don’t want it. I made that abundantly clear.” And, she says, “We went viral on TikTok the first time for doing that. The same thing happened when I offered free delivery for Biden-themed cupcakes during the election.” Chloe began playing around with her giant cookies recipe and put the first ones on social media on January 1st, 2020. “Somewhere around the end of January the cookies went viral.” Her husband called while she was doing a live video and said, “You have no idea what is happening now. Orders won’t stop coming in.” “It didn’t stop for 48 hours. It ended up being around 700 orders. About 14,000 cookies.” By March, Chloe made BluffCakes her full-time job. In addition to her chocolate chip and other standbys, she created new cookies, including the Tipsy George, a collaboration with Shotwell Candy Co. “This one is a brown sugar-based cookie dough with pecans and chocolate chips. In the center is the Shotwell bourbon maple pecan caramel.” Chloe and Tyler, general manager of the upcoming Big Bad Breakfast, and two employees, now work out of Memphis Kitchen Co-Op. “We’re doing about 1,200 cookies a week now. And we’re selling them out so fast every single week.” They did an Easter cookie order for Simpson, who had a “Honey, I Shrunk the Easter Bunny”-themed celebration, Chloe says. “We are working on a custom order today. This is for Lance Bass from NSYNC. They’re for a baby shower.” Why did Chloe choose BluffCakes as her business name? “I love everything about Bluff City. We had already known for a long time Memphis was going to be our forever home and I was fully invested in that.”

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hen Chloe Sexton bakes a batch of cookies, look out. “The average chocolate chip cookie your mom made was about two ounces on a good day,” Sexton says. “Ours are around seven.” Sexton’s giant cookies are the signature item for her online business BluffCakes. People love them. “I think it’s just the shock … or awe of it. People’s stomachs are bigger than their eyes. Like when you go to Disney World. You eat far more than you could on a regular day. It dazzles you a bit. And you eat it all.” Sexton counts some big names, including celebrity Jessica Simpson, as giant cookie customers. A native of Gainesville, Florida, Sexton, 27, discovered her knack for baking after she made molasses cookies at 14 and began entering baking competitions. But “baker’’ wasn’t her original ambition. “I was going to be the next Anderson Cooper. It was journalism all the way.”

19


FILM By Chris McCoy

Sharknado Rules Gonzo horror Malignant succeeds because IDGAF.

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hat is the appeal of a movie like Sharknado? It’s bad, everyone involved knows it’s bad, and the audience knows it’s bad. Nevertheless, the original 2013 Sharknado was one of the biggest hits in Syfy network history and spawned five sequels. The cultural theorist in the corner pipes up to say, “It’s camp!” And that’s true enough. But I think it’s simpler than that. The title tells you what you’re going to get — a tornado full of sharks — but it also tells you that this movie doesn’t give a fuck. It’s not trash that’s going to pretend to not be trash. It rejects your notions of “intelligence” and “decency” in favor of the sheer, undeniable pleasure, represented by a tornado full of sharks eating people who thought they were safe on dry land. Which brings me to Malignant. It’s a film that lacks a solid, Sharknado-style hook, but it does have director James Wan, the co-creator of torture-porn progenitor Saw and the guy who made the warmed-over Exorcist vibes of The Conjuring into a billion-dollar franchise. Kudos to him for trying something fresh, but what, exactly, is the hook for Malignant? Wan knows how this works; Saw is a trashy film about watching people saw their own limbs off. Turns

out, looking for the hook is part of the hook! Checkmate, Sharknado! Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis) is a pregnant woman in an abusive relationship with her husband Derek (Jake Abel). She desperately wants to have a baby, but she’s had three miscarriages, for which Derek blames her. During one particularly terrible argument, Derek slams Madison’s head against the wall, and she locks herself in their bedroom. While he’s sleeping off his drunk on the couch, a killer appears and stabs him in the head. When Madison awakes, she sees her husband has gotten what he deserves and is then attacked by the mysterious, hirsute killer, who looks like Cousin Itt joined Ministry in the mid-’90s. When Madison wakes in the ICU, her sister Sydney

Annabelle Wallis stars as Madison Lake, whose visions of shocking murders become her reality. (Maddie Hasson) informs her that she has lost yet another baby. Enter the FBI (or the police or some other law enforcement body. Whatever. Malignant DGAF) in the

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persons of Shaw (George Young) and Moss (Michole Briana White). The investigative team has doubts about Madison’s explanation as to how her hubby got a chef’s knife in his cranium. Sydney sets out to prove Madison’s innocence. I could go on about the plot, but it’s not going to help it make sense. There’s a mystery surrounded by red herrings — but is it really a red herring if the writer has no idea what’s supposed to be happening? Malignant seems like it’s pasted together from leftover scenes and gags cut from better movies. Sydney seems to be a refugee from a sitcom. Madison lives in a creepy old Vic-

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THE LAST WORD By Ashley Insong

Pandemic Confessions of a First-Year Teacher

THE LAST WORD

Ask any experienced or veteran teacher for advice and one thing you will always hear is “never take work home with you.” But what nobody really says is that avoiding “taking work home with you” also means trying not to carry the weight of secondary trauma, PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, and constantly changing policies, all of which are proven to affect teachers at high rates. Sure, teachers can stay at school after hours to finish grading papers or complete lesson plans for the week, but part of being a teacher, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, also means taking extra time and effort to show ourselves grace, focus on our mental health, and practice self-care. During the third week of school, I told my writing class that they would have homework to make up for the work we could not get to in class. Maybe I made the wrong move. “Ms. Insong, please don’t give me any more homework,” a student said to me while in tears. “There is no one to help me with my homework at home. My big sister isn’t here anymore.” “What do you mean?” I responded. “She got Covid and passed away in May. She was the only one who could help me with my homework. Now I don’t have anyone PHOTO: LIQUORICELEGS | DREAMSTIME.COM to help me with my homework.” She continued to cry. My eyes began to water. After my class left to transition, I stepped out of class to unload the bricks that weighed on my chest. I cried, too. Family members are in the hospital. Loved ones have suddenly passed away. Parents have lost their jobs. People are struggling to make ends meet during this strangely uncertain time. We are forced to accept and adjust to today’s reality. Students and teachers are afraid of more than just the virus. We are also afraid of the effects it can have on our futures. For students, a loss of a parent or guardian can lead to other challenges such as loss of household income and homelessness — just to name a few. If students don’t show up to school, teachers could possibly lose their jobs. Students are trying to stay focused while coping with issues beyond the classroom, and teachers are trying their best to do the same while finding ways to help students regulate their emotions and make up for the time lost in the classroom. Hearing the reality firsthand, especially from children, can take a toll on school workers. I found that taking care of my mental health and practicing self-care is essential to staying healthy and present in the classroom. In the media, self-care is often painted as having a glass of wine after a long day at work or taking yourself out to dinner — and although these are all enjoyable pleasures, getting wine drunk for the night won’t solve all your problems. Self-care is a daily practice that encompasses much more than that. Just like therapy, it won’t work unless you stay committed and you do the work. According to the National Institute of Mental Illness (NAMI), there are six elements of self-care: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, and professional. It is recommended that people spend at least two to three hours a day practicing self-care. One of the biggest and most effective acts of self-care is saying “no” and maintaining healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries in the professional setting can look like saying no to extra tasks when you know you already have a lot on your plate. Even as a professional, working hard to reach deadlines and objectives, it’s important to remember that it is okay to pause and breathe. Step out of the classroom for a few minutes when you are overwhelmed. Remember that whatever energy you bring into the classroom, your students will feel, too (and vice versa). With the mental and emotional effects of Covid-19 in mind, some schools in Memphis have taken action to make social-emotional learning (SEL) a part of daily lessons. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) states that “SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” SEL is proven to lead to longterm positive outcomes. In the classroom, social-emotional learning can be as simple as “temperature checks” in the morning. In other words, asking students how they are feeling this morning, acknowledging those feelings, and then giving them the tools to self-regulate. One thing I wish I learned as a child, is that it is okay to not be okay. So yes, let’s teach our children and students that. We are overwhelmed. We are tired. We are afraid. We are human. Students and teachers aren’t always going to show up to the classroom happy, prepared, and focused every single day. Some days, we will be exhausted. Some days, we will cry. Some days, we will be angry and frustrated and some won’t understand why. But if we give our students a safe space to express themselves, if we give them the tools to cope with their emotions in healthy ways, and if we, as teachers, take the time to be open-minded, flexible, and do the inner work, too, we can grow and learn to be okay together. Ashley Insong is a starving artist who is working toward being a bestselling author while teaching full-time and freelance writing part-time. She enjoys singing and writing poetry and short stories about love, self-discovery, and her Filipina heritage.

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In schools today, teachers and students learn how to cope with the mental and emotional effects of Covid-19.

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