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It might be a cliché to say, “open your eyes” and take a look around in a city you’ve lived all your life, or six months, or a year. It might be overdone to say take the road less traveled in towns where roads seem to hug interstates and, instead of diverging like the famous Robert Frost poem, we are left with popular neighborhoods, hip street corners, and squares that boast the New Thing. The stories you are about to read are not necessarily of the obscure, the weird, or the unknown, but they are not particularly trendy or hip. They might not even be eccentric for some. Despite all of what it is not, off the bluff is asking you to open your eyes, take a look around, and take the road less traveled. in this issue, you’ll learn about people who choose to style their entire wardrobe in thrifty chic, prowling for sales in the throes of secondhand shops. Have you ever seen those tiny libraries popping up around town? We’ve got it covered — right along with sharing the inspiration of a beat poets, celebrating community with Caritas Village, and leaping forward with a local parkour group. You’ll also discover some local favorites of urban exploration, pushing the boundaries and toeing the line of legality and historical preservation. We’ve only just begun. There’s enough mainstream to go around. We just decided to stray from the road a little.






Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Pusateri Oxford comma lover. Managing Editor Courtney Smith Married to sports. Design Editor Denzel McArthur Creative executioner. Assistant Design Editor Shelby Smith Cheeky. Quirky. Inquisitive. Photo Editor Joshua Cannon Jeezus. Copy Editors Leah Beth Bolton Creator. Renaissance woman. Jasmine Morton Stylish. Smart. Sweetheart. Production Editor Jamesa Alston Eccentric. Fashion lover. Distribution and Circulation Editor Netasha Alston Hair and beauty guru. Free spirit. Staff Photographers Lisa Babb Skeptical Idealist. Freddy Hodges Ferro. Quick. Spontaneous. Staff Writers Hunter Field Sarcastic. Cantankerous. Lexi Kinder Coffee addict. Outdoor (Wo)man. Patrick Lantrip Mercurial mallemaroker. Robert Soden Attentive. Easy-going. Straight-forward.


VEG OUT New Midtown drive-thru mixes fresh with funk By Lexi Kinder

Memphis gems are sometimes found where you’d least expect them. Located at 2886 Walnut Grove Road near the University of Memphis is a new hip health restaurant called Love Shack. Specializing in vegan, vegetarian and organic drinks,Love Shack has been serving the Memphis community for about eight months. The name is by no means deceiving. Love Shack looks very much like a shack — a very clean and precious shack, but still a shack. Dimly lit with only lights that hang down from the ceiling, the décor aptly fits the style of the establishment. The walls are tinand the windowpanes are made out of wood. Nearly everything on the menus is healthy. In addition to coffee-based drinks, they also offer smoothies, juices and teas, all made with fresh ingredients. They also offera couple of food items, like “cheezy kale chips” and fresh fruits and veggies.The menus are written out on chalkboards and fresh veggies are on display. Incense are burning, plants are growing — it’s very cozy, with four seats up at the counterand a few other tables scattered around the place.





BOUNDS A parkour group is taking Memphis one jump at a time By Hunter Field


Almost every Sunday, they invade Overton Park. The stares and strange looks don’t bother them because they’re too focused on not breaking an arm or leg. They’re “traceurs” and “traceuses,” which refer to anyone who practices the act of moving from one place to another as creatively as possible — parkour. Jonathan McCarver, a 30-year-old computer programmer, runs the website and Facebook page for the largest group of Memphis traceurs and traceuses. He began practicing parkour or free running around six years ago. “It’s just a whole lot of fun,” McCarver said. “I’ve always been a climbing and movement person, so parkour was a perfect fit for me.” The group meets in several different spots mainly on Sunday. Overton Park is the most popular spot, but they frequent Olive Branch Park, University of Memphis’ campus,and various spots scattered around downtown Memphis. Some Friday nights they get access to a gym with trampolines, pads, and foam pits at Dulin’s in Cordova. A good spot consists of obstacles low enough to jump or climb but large enough to pose a challenge. “Stuff like picnic tables are great to practice on,” McCarver said. “What you really want to look for is strong walls like handicap railing. We try to clear the gap or jump from wall to wall. Sometimes you can throw in a flip.” The most common move freerunners perform is running and jumping over obstacles and using their hands for a boost. With many of the jumps coming from great heights, learning how to fall into a roll is a must for the freerunners. Friday nights at Dulin’s offers the group a great chance to practice rolls and jumps without risking injury. The facility has lots of padding and a foam pit to try practice riskier moves. Much of the Memphis group gained interest in the sport when the French film “District B13” was released. The movie follows an undercover cop trying to infiltrate a terrorist gang in Paris. The movie features chases with popular parkour moves. “The movie really got me interested,” McCarver said. “It didn’t really show me new hobby as much as put a name to what I was already doing.” McCarver decided to search for other freerunners throughout Memphis. He found the abandoned website, and he began to get the group active again. They now try to meet at least once a week. “It’s mostly just for fun,” McCarver said. “But sometimes it can turn into work with sponsorships and stunt work. That type of stuff is rare, but some of us have looked into it.” YouTube videos of parkour went viral in 2005. The videos look a lot like urban gymnastics, but McCarver warns against expecting those types of moves from locals. “I always compare it to skateboarding videos,” McCarver said. “Those videos show you the best guys in the world. Some of us are pretty good, but not as great as some of those guys in the videos.” Many videos of the Memphis freerunners can be found at or on their Facebook page



Too busy for a trip to your local library? Look no further than your neighborhood, Memphis.

The Little Free Library movement, a project based on the idea of promoting literacy for free, is spreading across Mid-South communities. The idea came to fruition in 2009, when founder Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisc., built a small replica of an old schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother. He put the schoolhouse outside his home and filled it with books. After his friends caught on to the idea of “leave one, take one,” he decided to expand his mission. Bol teamed up with Rick Brooks, co-founder of the movement, and began promoting the idea of Little Free Libraries throughout the world. The mission of the Little Free Library organization, according to their website, is “to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide” and “to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.” The team was inspired by Andrew Carnegie, who supported the establishment of 2,509 public libraries at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. By August 2012, a year and a half before their actual target date, the pair had far exceeded their goal of creating 2,509 libraries. By January 2014, they expect between 10,000 and 12,000 Little Free Libraries to be registered throughout the world. Across the Midtown area, the libraries are popping up left and right. Laura Lemly, a junior kindergarten teacher at Grace St. Luke’s Episcopal School, started her own Little Free Library in 2012 in front of her home at 1628 Carr Ave. “I saw an NBC report on the libraries and then I kept seeing written reports pop up in the news, too,” Lemly said. “The idea immediately peaked my interest since I’m a teacher. After talking with the school librarian, I knew this would be something I would love to see in Memphis.” Lemly’s library was the second Little Free Library in Memphis to be registered with the organization. However, it’s the first library in the city to be geared exclusively toward children’s literature. “We don’t call ourselves owners, but rather, stewards,” Lemly said about establishing the library. She shares “stewardship” with the librarian at Grace St. Luke’s. The news of Lemly’s library eventually caught on in her neighborhood and now she says it’s a staple. “We have a lot of neighborhood families that take advantage of the library now,” Lemly said. “Many children have made this their path to and from school just to get books.” There are now more than a dozen libraries registered throughout the city. Lemly is thrilled the idea is spreading. “It is nothing but positive,” she said. “We’re happy to keep children reading.”


1319 Vinton Little Free Library at 1319 Vinton, Memphis, TN 38104 Crosstown Arts Little Free Library 427 N. Watkins, Memphis, TN 38104 Little Free Library Peabody Peabody, just east of Cooper. Little Free Library New York North of Young Ave., Memphis, TN 929 Harbor View 929 Harbor View, on Mud Island. 220 Tillman 220 Tillman, Memphis, Tenn. 38112 Harbert Little Free Library 1525 Harbert Ave. Memphis, TN 38104 198 Wills 198 Wills, Memphis, TN 38112 Arlington Elementary School 11825 Douglass St., Arlington, TN 38002 Fogleman YMCA Little Free Library In the lobby of the downtown YMCA on Madison.


Sometimes, the brightest spots in Memphis are found where you least expect them. One such place is Caritas Village on the corner of Harvard Avenue and Merton Street in Binghampton where a group of volunteers are striving to put an end to many of the negative aspects associated with the city’s reputation. Founded by Onie Johns almost a decade ago, the mission of Caritas Village is to “break down walls of hostility between races, the rich and poor, and provide a positive street-corner alternative for neighborhood children.” The Latin word caritas means “love for all people,” which perfectly sums up what Johns and her staff have accomplished over the years with the Village. Through the main door and to the left of the main hall is a clean, brightly-colored, and spacious area that could be described as an art-infused coffee shop with a living room built in the middle. The walls are lined with art by resident artist Frank D. Robinson, known for creating pieces out of randomly found objects and works out of his studio upstairs. New pieces by other local artists are swapped in each month while keeping enough room opened for projects done by the neighborhood children. The menu offers a surprising variety of home-cooked options such as soups, salads, burgers, quesadillas, and paninis that have been described by certain patrons as “legendary.” Nestled near the center is a circle of comfortable couches and chairs with a shelf nearby housing a wealth of magazines, books, and board games for children or adults who are young at heart. Caritas Village is a nonprofit organization that started off small shortly after Johns sold her house in Germantown to move into the neighborhood. “It all started as a ‘ministry of presence,’” says Johns, who began by serving community meals and holding Bible studies out of her new Binghampton home. “It was about building relationships and getting to know the people. Within a two block radius, there are black, white, and Latino families — some with two to four children in each household with single parents — and we try to bring them all together.” Since December 2006, the Village has been able to use any overage made by the coffee shop to fund its after-school programs for neighborhood children. The money also goes toward the four other houses in the area that they offer to those in need of an affordable place to stay. According to Johns, only a handful of the staff members are paid while the rest are simply volunteering out of kindness. “Every day, I’m still amazed by God and the wonderful people that walk through these doors,” she said. “We open these doors and incredible things happen.” The Village offers a multitude of events and classes Monday through Saturday that give neighborhood children and others in the neighborhood a chance to learn more about the arts. Robinson teaches a free Thursday night art classes while the other days of the week offer more options like creative writing, drawing classes, crafts, choir, and even yoga. Those who haven’t gone to check out this wonderful hole-in-the wall should drive to 2509 Harvard Avenue and see for themselves.

Saving Pennies


It Takes a Village

Binghampton Community Center Serves Up Fellowship, Food and Culture By Robert Soden


Thriving Thrifitng Tales By Jasmine Morton

We know that Memphis is home to some of the best thrift stores, so we set out to prove how one man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure.But with dozens of thrift shops spread across the city, scoring fashionable finds isn’t always easy. So we decided to stick with four of our favorites. People everywhere are embracing the benefits of thrifting. With tons of thrift shops popping throughout the city, we have found four of our favorites that are full of surprises and hidden treasures. First stop is Mid-South Outlet located at 3432 Summer Ave. This store has many vintage pieces. If that is your style, then this is the thrift shop for you. We met Bobby Galabiz, a junior biochemistry major at Middle Tennessee State University. He has been thrifting with his mom since he was a little kid and says he enjoys it. “I’m really excited to go to the Goodwill later for the First Saturday Sale,” he said while he waited on his mom to finish shopping. Galabiz was wearing a 1990s-style jogging jacket that he found at Mid-South Outlet for just $10.Next up is City Thrift, which is located at 5124 Summer Ave. Here we met a mother of two, Dana Williams-Randolph, and her 16-year-old son, Davalon. He’s a sophomore at Central High School and a patient at St. Jude. “We’ve only been thrifting for about a month, and we’re addicted,” Dana said as she pointed to a cart full of clothes. “This store has some nice stuff,” Davalon added. Davalon found a simple white T-shirt, a smooth velvet cardigan, and corduroy slacks. Dana was wearing a tan and brown sleeveless turtleneck sweater paired with a tan corduroy jacket for those cool fall days. Their outfits were under $20 each. We ventured into Bartlett to the Goodwill located at 6895 Stage Road, where we met Lorann Potter, a junior French and communication disorders major at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Potter found several cozy sweaters and a nice pair of form fitting jeans. She added some great pieces to her fall wardrobe for an even better price. Like Galabiz, Potter has been thrifting since she was a little girl. “My mom goes to thrift shops a lot, so I just tag along with her,” Potter said. Our final stop was the Salvation Army Family Store located at 2679 Kirby Whitten Road. We ran into two Southern guys, Spencer Price, who works at a car body shop, and Ben Durdan, who does industrial work. Price found a plain blue T-shirt for $3, and Durdan found a green and pink Ralph Lauren polo for $6. We also found 10-year-old Trey Rucker. His mom bought him a blue and white striped Ralph Lauren polo, dark washed jeans, and a cool sports jacket all for just $22. At the end of this thrift shop adventure, we ran into Bobby Galabiz once again at the Salvation Army, shopping for blazers. Thrifters in Memphis shop around to get good deals. This time, he found a chocolate brown blazer with gold buttons for $8. After a day of thrifting in the city, we learned that you can get a lot of things with just a little money. The key is to go to several thrift shops and look for the best deals.


Once forming the easternmost border of the major drain systems. However, when draining it city until 1901, Lick Creek now composes a helps to remember the popular catchphrase: “When it rains, no drains!” series of storm drains that snake their way through backyards and parks in Midtown and North Memphis. Currently, it marks the border of the Old Forest at its most recognizable entry point in Overton Park. While there are no buildings, Lick Creek is a great place to go “draining” — one of urban exploration’s more popular sub-genres where, instead of buildings, explorers are in


currently still in business, the Watkins Company ceased production at its Memphis plant, which primarily produced soap and fly srpay, in the late 1960’s.


Erected in 1908, this building holds the distinction of being one of the few local buildings designed by a notable architect of the time. George Washington Maher, who was a former co-worker of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed several buildings across the country for the J.R. Watkins Medical Company in his classic prairie school style in the early 20th century with square lines and a flat roof. Located at 70 W. Crump Blvd, this a basement and six-story building also features two-story elevator tower on the east side. Although


For most people, breaking into a building is a crime — for others, it is simply a hobby. Though it may go by many different names in many different countries, the worldwide phenomenon known as “urban exploration” provides potential infiltrators with a modern outlet toexpress their desire to explore.Each city provides a unique urban environment for explorers, and Memphis with its rich history — and sometimes not-so-rich economy — is

Where do spelunkers go when there are no caves?

By Patrick Lantrip


Originally founded in 1877 as The Memphis Brewing Company, this historic landmark at 495 Tennessee St. was once one of the largest breweries in the South during its near century of production. Most famous for is post-prohibition product Goldcrest, this 67,000-square-foot building now remains dormant after ceasing all brewing operations in 1954. Every few years, this landmark finds itself in the news when a potential investor’s interest piques in the Romanesque Revival-style building. However, the estimated $12 million in renovations alone tends to scare off potential redevelopers. The building was also featured in the 1992 movie “Trespass” starring Ices T and Cube.

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Not long after her first steps, Mariko Julia Bean started traveling the world. Soon after she spoke her first words, she began to use them to describe all of her life experiences. Her childhood was like a swift breeze that carried her across the world. Before living in Memphis, she traveled from Hawaii to little-known parts of Arkansas — but it was living in Japan that ignited her desire to read. As she sat on her grandfather’s knee, who was a writer, he would read her his work. Bean believes not only that her grandfather influenced her to write, but that writing was an inherited trait passed to her through blood. For Bean, writing goes hand-in-hand with her daily life. It isn’t a hobby, but a necessity. It is just as pertinent as breathing. Whether it is a simple trip to the gas station for a pack of cigarettes or talking to a loved one, she is constantly digesting her interactions with other people — no matter how big or minute — and twisting them into poetry. “My voice keeps changing along with my life experiences,” she says. “I used to sound really angsty, but now I’ve grown more hopeful and optimistic. There's no specific way I use my words — they're constantly changing.” In fourth grade, Bean won an essay writing contest, but it wasn’t until later that she found a way to structure her writing. She considers her senior year of high school to be when she started translating her life experiences into a hobby of words.

A life in Words. The lyrical world of a poet - By Joshua Cannon

From boy problems to everything in-between, these issues now had meaning. After years of putting what’s in her heart on paper, there are repeating methods that she sees in her poetry. “I usually write after having a heart-to-heart with someone or when I'm really feeling a certain emotion,” she says. “I write when I'm trying to reconcile with and make sense of all that’s jumbled in my head. I write when I need an answer. There's something magical and inexplicable about the entire process.” Labeling her poetry is a challenge for Bean, but she calls her work “confessional.” She draws her inspiration from places of nostalgia such as aging memories. She is fascinated with the human condition — be it a friend crying on the curb or a waiter at a restaurant. According to Bean, mentally stepping into someone’s shoes and empathizing with their troubles is a gift that only writing can give. “It's pretty remarkable what words can do,” she says. “It’s remarkable what power they hold.” One of Bean’s favorite aspects of poetry is called “spoken word.” It is reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s beatnik slam poetry that, during his day, drew people into barely lit clubs to hear other’s read aloud their work. For Bean, speaking her poetry gives her writing a pulse and brings it to life. Bean claims that she is unapologetic in her writing and doesn’t view it as a struggle to be as good or better than the writers around her. She writes for herself and insists that every aspiring poet should do the same. “Uncompromising voices are vital,” she says. “Especially if you have the intention to communicate to other people or yourself. There's no real communication without unabashed honesty. Don't be afraid of not sounding good enough. Writing, and art in general, is not a competition. Expressing yourself is not a competition.” Bean can often be seen at Java Cabana in the Cooper Young neighborhood of Midtown sipping coffee and reading aloud her latest romanticized experiences. She currently runs a blog where you can view much of her work at

my shirt is soaked in beer and my hair is limp like the weeping willow in the neighbor’s yard that summons forth rumors and urban legends about haunted houses and ghosts. my feet are propped on the dashboard and i can hear the rain hitting soft against the windows i’m letting the ash from my cigarette shower my inner thigh like a loverwith slow fingers,

SUSPENSE BY Mariko bean

who turns making love into suspense. i left the party early because i couldn’t stand seeing everyone feign apathy while texting their ex lovers underneath the table i couldn’t stand listening to makeshift conversations that eventually lead up to sighs of private grief because here’s what we do we kiss our ex lovers on the cheek and thank them for being a good friend and as they beg you to take them back you tell them that you can no longer love someone who has no bedside manners (you just needed someone who knew how to politely break sad news) after that, you barge into freedom ignorant to the fact that no, you can’t break windows just to open doors.

my heart slams itself against my chest like soda cans exiting vending machines, i’m drenched in the liquored confessions of human beings with an affinity for deeming themselves monsters and my hair is still falling limp like the weeping willow, and i still can’t sleep because i’m thinking about her ghost. i left the party early so i could go home just in time to witness my mother notice how i’ve started to wear the delinquent fragrance of marlboros instead of the perfume she bought me for my birthday. my heart slams itself against my chest like rain against windowpane, i’m thinking about all those nights we spent in your car and how i felt the honeymoon phase waning as you beamed with the blissful ignorance of a child, desensitized to the pain of impending doom in the room of a teenager’s heart. your fingers crept up between my thighs and initiated the kind of love-making that feels like suspense.





Poet just wants others to think By Tasha Alston Almost 20 years ago, a young El Hakim heard the poet Gil Scott Heron for the first time and thought, “I can do that.” Hakim experienced a series of events that made him want to start writing spoken word in 1994. He first started reciting for his friends in 1995,and the following year, he decided to take his talent to the mic for the first time at a venue called the Precious Cargo, a coffee shop that was located in Uptown before it closed. “From there I was able to develop my skill and attract performance bookings as well other opportunities,” Hakim said. Unlike most spoken word artists, he isn’t trying to relay a message —

Hakim just wants his listeners to think.

“I don’t approach what I do from the perspective of sending a message. My intention is to provoke thought in general and inspire critical thinking in particular,” Hakim said. Hoping to go nationally one day, Hakim recently submitted an audition video to a TV show to gain more exposure for himself and his art. He says his artistic goal is to “explore international opportunities,” he said. During one of his most recent open-mic nights, at the Rumba Room downtown, he recited one of his most poems called “The Bluff City Blues” and the reaction of the crowd spoke volumes to its words. He broadcasts his work on YouTube on the “elhakimism” account and also has a CD on Bandcamp. His advice for spoken word artists is to practice their craft. “Don’t try to pattern yourself after anyone else,” Hakim said, “Develop your own authentic style of expression. Spend time cultivating your craft. Practice, practice, practice —then have fun doing it.”