I’d take it out multiple times a day, turn it over in my hands, read the press materials—then put it back. Flannery O’Connor’s prayers. Flannery O’Connor’s prayers. In her handwriting. To peer over her shoulder and read what she’d written to God, and God alone?
In the early 1990s, New Life Fitness & Massage kept its lights on twenty hours a day, closing at five every morning and reopening at nine. Everyone in Oak Grove knew it was a brothel. Fort Campbell, one of the nation’s largest Army posts, sits on top of the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and New Life stood right outside its northern gates next to Interstate 24. Many of its clients were Screaming Eagles: paratroopers from the famous 101st Airborne Division. Most of the others were truckers off the highway and locals of all stripes; some say judges and other dignitaries would come up from Nashville, an hour down the highway, to be ushered in and out covertly.
The author reflects on his all-consuming obsession with the White Stripes: "But now—a husband and father of two young boys, a mortgage holder soon to be bushwhacked by forty? Is it not shameful, obsession in this strata of life? Shameful because irresponsible. Irresponsible because every real obsession is an expensive, fatiguing time-suck. How does a grown man come to obsess over a rock band unless something fundamental is lacking in his psyche and soul?"
Maybe the least expected of the factors that went into making ska in those years, and the one many would argue that most nearly approached it in sound, leading most directly to its birth, came not from Jamaica at all, or even from the Caribbean, but from West Tennessee, and more specifically from South Memphis, and more specifically than that, from the band called the Beale Streeters, and most specifically of all from the right hand of their pianist and sometime singer-songwriter, a Memphis native named Rosco Gordon.
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue.
Well, then, this is what I am: adopted Southerner; no longer a part of the church in which I was raised, but still Protestant, albeit an increasingly reluctant one; saddened by what the “church” has become, both the right-wing fundamentalist variety and the watered-down, meaningless palaver that will have nothing to do with Christ or orthodoxy or even the Bible itself; grieving the shuttering of historic places of worship and hoping to document their histories before they become lost.
A Points South essay from the 100th issue.
In chronicling the civil rights movement, one inevitably develops an interest in how racial crimes are remembered in the community where they happened—in the way they gradually turn into folklore—and in Memphis, I have discovered, a sense of fatedness clings to the King assassination.
I was twenty-three and had been working at WDIA for one year, as long as the station had been on the air. Unexpectedly, Bert asked me to move a little closer to him on the seat. I edged over and waited but he didn’t speak. After a long moment he whispered, just loud enough for me to hear, “What do you think of programming for Negro people?”
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2018 issue.
We are hunting Jerome Boyatt, a Plateau fugitive who remains elusive even after his surrender and brutal death more than eighty years ago. In 1933, when he was twenty-two years old, he got into a gunfight with two county lawmen sent to arrest him at a logging camp where he was selling moonshine. He killed them both. Then Jerome hid in the rugged country around his home, No Business, a community laid along a creek hollow that joined the Big South Fork River. The manhunt for him, and the vengeance that marked it, count among the Plateau’s most infamous events.
A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue
Like many other locals, I had never valued the glades. I had never learned to see past the scraggly trees and the rocky fields. A chance Google search one day told me about the wildflowers, these endemic species that carpet the barrens and are found nowhere else in the world. I started hiking the Flat Rock State Natural Area. I dove into deed research, seeking to know more about the people who used to carve a living out of the limestone.
Reverend King and Elvis and Mr. Crump are just our famous ghosts, the public phantoms we share. Like everyone else, Memphians have their own private ghosts. Mine is tall and skinny and bald and wears black glasses—the same ones that are back in style.