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A ride through Memphis on the 4th of July

Andrew B Hall

There are some times that Memphis reminds you what an amazing community it is.

Being a solo guy in Memphis on the 4th of July, I wasn’t quite sure how to celebrate. I met up with a friend early in the day, had some barbecue, went into work for a little while to keep a big project on track, and then when evening rolled around, I wanted to go watch fireworks.

But where?

I thought about Mud Island, the Redbirds game, Germantown, and the Hi-Tone, but the thought of doing any of those by myself held little appeal. In the end, I struck upon the idea of driving through Memphis and seeing the celebrations happening throughout the city.

First, I headed downtown on I-40, catching the fireworks on Mud Island and somewhere seemingly in south Memphis, near the river. I pulled off on Madison Ave. and stopped off in a McDonald’s to get a drink. My first impression, of a brightly lit sign but only a few dim lights around the building, was that it was closed. I realized as I approached that the employees had turned down the lighting so they could watch the fireworks. Likewise, the customers in the drive-thru had dimmed or turned off their headlights and were watching alongside. The teenage girl at the window quietly watched the fireworks to the south through a row of trees, a hard façade temporarily dropped.

I went south on I-240 and drove toward midtown through Orange Mound, and there I saw a car pulled to the curb, blocking a lane. When I got closer I saw a large family gathered in the front yard and roman candles burning in the street with small children sitting on the curb watching wide-eyed.  A police car slowed as it passed and I thought for a moment they were going to stop to reprimand them for fireworks in the street, but then I saw the two policemen smiling as they watched the children just like I had.

I headed over to Parkway and saw a beautiful home with a tall wrought-iron fence.  A much smaller family was outside open gates, launching fireworks from the sidewalk.  The fireworks boomed and sizzled overhead, flashing their patterns across the block of stately old homes.

In the end, the smell of cordite and a sense of community hung over the city.

Nothing ever lasts in life, and today, we may have woken up, gotten our Starbucks, or smoked our first jay, or taken our first drink, or put on a badge, and who knows, the gate may be back up again.

For last night though, we were a city together and it was something special to behold.