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william

Why I like -- and dislike Nashville & Memphis (II)

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Here is my take on the good and bad of Nashville and Memphis.

Of note, I've lived in Nashville or the general area about 39 of my 43 years. I was born in Memphis (my parents attended then-Memphis State College) and I have visited the city numerous times over the years (including a visit this past May).

Nashville

The Good

- impressive collection of colleges and universities with Vanderbilt (strong family ties there) as a world-class anchor

- state capitol and Metro gov. (insanity from elected officials always looms)

- interesting mix of people (from all over the country and, to some extent, the world)

- the hills and trees

- significant number of recent and upcoming infill projects are transforming the city's urban core

- quality parks system

- exploding coffee shop and restaurant scenes

- funkiness of Five Points, 12South, The Gulch, Germantown, Elliston Place, Hillsboro Village, The Curve, Jefferson Street, Berry Hill and Woodbine

- main library downtown

- Shelby Pedestrian Bridge

- WMOT jazz station

- proximity to two very interesting towns: Franklin and Murfreesboro

- West End Avenue

- The Nashville Scene

- two daily newspapers

The Bad

- some historic urban neighborhoods with great houses BUT with streets lacking sidewalks and/or curbs

- the "hillbilly" factor (people parking cars in their yards, painting their mailboxes UT orange, etc.)

- the "comprehensive high school" system that ruined neighborhood high school spirit

- neighborhoods severed from downtown by the interstate system

- sprawl

- excessive number of ugly commercial buildings in the urban core

- citizens collectively have inflated sense of self and look down noses at Memphis

Memphis

The Good

- wonderful collection of public/buildings (libraries, schools, police stations, etc.) and homes

- the trolley system

- South Main Arts District

- Midtown

- built environment orderliness (sidewalks, curbs, street signage, mailboxes on porches, etc.)

- a small, comprehensive zoo in an urban park

- University of Memphis (family ties)

- The Grizzlies and UofM Tiger basketball

- downtown living movement

- The Memphis Flyer

- Libertyland

- Brooks Art Museum

- Civil Rights Museum (a must-see)

- the Mississippi River

- Cooper-Young District

The Bad

- topographically flat

- simmering racial tension

- citizens collectively have had low self-esteem for their city

- because of location, overwhelmed by SEC yahoos (Ole Miss, Miss. State, Ark. and UT)

William Williams

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Can anyone please tell me the deal with Nashville looking down on Memphis. I'm a Memphian, and its not that we have low self-esteem, we are just very critical of our great city. I love traveling to Nashville and am very proud that Memphis isn't the only large metro area in the state. Both cities have so much to offer. What is the deal? Can someone from Nashville please explain this to me?

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Hillbillys--------j/k. Never been to Memphis but Nashville was ok. I did come with a stereotype but that was deminished right after i arrived. To many XXX places everywhere though which kind of made it a little on the down side

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Can anyone please tell me the deal with Nashville looking down on Memphis. I'm a Memphian, and its not that we have low self-esteem, we are just very critical of our great city. I love traveling to Nashville and am very proud that Memphis isn't the only large metro area in the state. Both cities have so much to offer. What is the deal? Can someone from Nashville please explain this to me?

I have no idea. I have never been there, and I make no preconceived judgments. The only thing that would make me dislike Memphis at the moment would be if I knew a bunch of rude and conceited people from Memphis, but everyone I know there is great. I would love to visit Memphis someday and see what it has to offer.

For everyone else, I don't know why. I think it might be because it isn't quite as wealthy as Nashville. I don't care. Money doesn't make people good. It can, however make people bad, which might be goin on in Nashville.

I would love it if some of you would maybe tell us more about Nashville, and possibly get some pictures here. That would help me.

I hope I kinda sorta answered your question a little bit.

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To many XXX places everywhere though which kind of made it a little on the down side

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yeah I agree. I had heard at one time that Nashville had more churches per capita AND more adult oriented businesses per capita than any other major city in America. Not sure how true that was/is.

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Nash is beginning to enforce some laws to get rid of many adult establishments. Massage parlors were scattered about all over, but now, they're gone. Adult businesses are confined to a specific area near downtown unless grandfathered in which results in a few places along Dickerson or Nolensville Rd. You won't see them anywhere else now. If you'd seen the city of the '70s, you'd understand how few there are now.

The heavy concentration of churches isn't really anything unusual for a large southern city. East Nashville was purported to have one of the highest concentrations at one time, but city wide, I have no idea. There just seems to be churches all over wherever I go.

And pardon my candor, but if dancing around the issue of why Nashvillians feel uncomfortable with Memphis makes everybody feel better, then I guess that's okay. It's not right, and perceptions are influenced by part fact, part perception, but that's the way it is. (see related topic on this subforum). The question should be "Why is that white, middle and upper middle class Nashvillians (white being a clear majority) have a problem with Memphis? Most don't have the opportunity to see the part of Memphis that has re-defined itself, so old stereotypes, mostly racial in nature, prevail. I don't think that's right, but that won't make it go away. Think about it, when rich, white Nashvillians talk about Memphis, they're not talking about road systems, parks, public transportation, urban revitalization, bluff lofts, Harbor Town, St. Jude's, the zoo or whatever. They see hip-hop, barbeque, the Ford family, Elvis, corrupt government figures, mile after mile of depressed area, and decades of extreme white flight. It's regrettable, but face it, this is the way this country works, the whole darn thing. It's not just a tale of two counties.

Maybe that wasn't the most PC of comments, but in my opionion, PC has hindered open dialogue to the point where most discussions, which once involved unabashed truth, are now mired in a mask of dishonesty rendering them mostly useless and unenlightened.

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I have no idea. I have never been there, and I make no preconceived judgments. The only thing that would make me dislike Memphis at the moment would be if I knew a bunch of rude and conceited people from Memphis, but everyone I know there is great. I would love to visit Memphis someday and see what it has to offer.

For everyone else, I don't know why. I think it might be because it isn't quite as wealthy as Nashville. I don't care. Money doesn't make people good. It can, however make people bad, which might be goin on in Nashville.

I would love it if some of you would maybe tell us more about Nashville, and possibly get some pictures here. That would help me.

I hope I kinda sorta answered your question a little bit.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Every statistic that I have ever seen shows Memphis and Nashville just about tit for tat when it comes to wealth, Nashville's per capita income being slightly larger However, I do believe that the wealth gap in Memphis is larger. The rich seem to get richer while the poor seems to get poorer. Maybe the perception that Nashville is richer than Memphis is the reason we get such a bad rap.

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And pardon my candor, but if dancing around the issue of why Nashvillians feel uncomfortable with Memphis makes everybody feel better, then I guess that's okay. It's not right, and perceptions are influenced by part fact, part perception, but that's the way it is. (see related topic on this subforum). The question should be "Why is that white, middle and upper middle class Nashvillians (white being a clear majority) have a problem with Memphis? Most don't have the opportunity to see the part of Memphis that has re-defined itself, so old stereotypes, mostly racial in nature, prevail. I don't think that's right, but that won't make it go away. Think about it, when rich, white Nashvillians talk about Memphis, they're not talking about road systems, parks, public transportation, urban revitalization, bluff lofts, Harbor Town, St. Jude's, the zoo or whatever. They see hip-hop, barbeque, the Ford family, Elvis, corrupt government figures, mile after mile of depressed area, and decades of extreme white flight. It's regrettable, but face it, this is the way this country works, the whole darn thing. It's not just a tale of two counties.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I have been saying the same thing for a while now. The attitude of much of Nashville towards Memphis is almost identical to that of many white Memphians - to be more specific, whites who live in the Memphis metro area in place such as east Shelby County and N. Mississippi. That opinion is that Memphis is just one big black ghetto.

Sure enough, we have many blighted neighborhoods in Memphis. But the perception is worse than reality because people consider ANY black neighborhood to be a slum.

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I grew up in Lafayette so Nashville was always the "big city" to me even when they had only the L & C tower. It might as well have been the Empire State Building to a 2 year old in the mid sixties.

And I also went to Memphis. They both have appeal to me as follows:

Memphis is a typical southern river city sort of like a slightly smaller version of St. Louis. No offense but St. Louis is bigger and looks it. When I go to Memphis I smell barbeque and see a New Orleans type of atmosphere with blues being sung on the street corners. I see old southern architecture and a charm that is unbeatable. Memphis has a lacking skyline but what they do have consists of some reallly phenominal buildings built back when architecture meant something. The trolleys are a treat.

Nashville looks and appears more modern and certainly looks bigger. Having been to St. Louis on several occasions, Nashville looks as big. Instead of trying to be who they are though, they seem to be trying to be trying to race Charlotte for the title of Atlanta wannabe. But they do still have that southern hospitality and instead of blues being sung and barbeque, I see Nashville as more of the hillbilly city with cowboy hats and the smell of cornbread.

For the pros and cons of each city, they are like bookends for the state of Tennessee. Both at opposite ends in many ways but both have a equal but different role to play in the progress of TN.

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Every statistic that I have ever seen shows Memphis and Nashville just about tit for tat when it comes to wealth, Nashville's per capita income being slightly larger  However, I do believe that the wealth gap in Memphis is larger.  The rich seem to get richer while the poor seems to get poorer.  Maybe the perception that Nashville is richer than Memphis is the reason we get such a bad rap.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

In 2000, the per capita income in Davidson Co. was $23,069 and for Shelby Co. $21,587. Fairly close. However, the per capita income for blacks in Shelby (now 50% of the population) was just $13,000 - worse than blacks in Nashville or the national average. For every other racial group - whites, hispanics, asian, etc. - per capita incomes in Shelby were better than those in Davidson.

The per capita income for whites in Shelby is $29,000 vs. $13,000 for blacks. Obviously, an enormous income gap. This is indicative of the national trend for black/white income dispairity, only worse. If black Memphians could close just half the income gap and reach around $20,000 or so, Memphis would probably surpass Nashville in per capita income.

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William, Im impressed. I read the thread title and thought, oh goodness another nashvillian bashing Memphis. but I am pleasently surprised you didnt. or rather, were balanced and fair in the pros and cons of both cities.

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i agree with ricky, I am in Nashville but I love Memphis. I was so glad that Memphis got that Tyson and Lewis Fight. If Nashville doesnt get it then I hope Memphis does

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I'm glad this topic was brought up. Allow me to share my views and perceptions of the Nashville/Memphis rivalry.

I'll be the first to admit that, as someone who grew up in Nashville, I have at times "looked down" on Memphis or not appreciated it for its differences. I did spend a month in Memphis working on an academic program and I was kind of suprised at some of differences in the cities - both positive and negative. Memphis "felt" slower - more traditional Southern city with a very laidback pace and focused on preserving its history. To me, Nashville seemed speedy by comparison - more new business-oriented, about change, and "New South" in the vein of ATL. I think it's just recently that Nashville has started to embrace its history.

I would say that some Nashvillians like to think city as Tennessee's most cosmopolitan city and center of progress and that Memphis is perhaps a city past its prime. Of course, that's completely untrue. There are a great deal of wonderful developments and changes going out in Memphis much like Nashville. But the city may get marred by the stereotypes, historical problems, and some politic mess like TN Waltz.

Unless you consider the honky tonk image as harmful, Nashville hasn't faced the problem of really being stigmatized. This, along with it being the state capitol, has made many view Nashville rather than Memphis as one of the South's rising mid-sized stars alongside Jax and Charlotte. Memphis folk should NEVER sllighted. There so many aspects of Memphis culture that make it unique in ways Nashville could only dream. The great developments are there like in other towns only they fly under that radar. As far as which is "best," I think its simply a matter of what you want out of your city. TN is one of the few Southern states blessed to have two very distinct cities of virtually the same size balancing each other out.

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I woke up this morning, made the coffee and was a bit anxious to see what you guys' reactions would be to what I said. What I saw imprssed me so much. From WW's initial comments, to the reactions to my plea for honest discourse. It shows so vividly how front and center perceptions can become a mindset when the realities are left in the dust many times. The Memphis/Nashville comments here shows us that we understand the differences and the need to look beyond what the mainstream has to say. I call it insight and the reason I love this forum so much is just because of that. Urbanplanet (and our group) has the opportunity to be a college class in a (forum) world of kindergartens. Each of your comments hit an important point right on the head. I've rooted for Memphis for a long time for the reasons ya'll listed here. cdarr, Plasticman, and aries...great posts.

I spent a lot of early times on these forums listening to guys from other states bashing our entire state, but as aries pointed out, it's so cool to have two large cities with such distinct personalities under our umbrella we call home. When I think of cities of distinction, with national/international reputations for identity, I think of Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Francisco, NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Miami and a few others, but the fraternity of cities with that good fortune isn't a large one, and for that we should embrace what we have here in this state. And let's certainly not forget Chattanooga, who's reputation is as another shining star for Tennessee.

As Charlie Daniels always says, "ain't it great to be alive and be in Tennessee." A wise man he is, indeed.

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In 2000, the per capita income in Davidson Co. was $23,069 and for Shelby Co. $21,587.

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I would say that some Nashvillians like to think city as Tennessee's most cosmopolitan city and center of progress and that Memphis is perhaps a city past its prime. Of course, that's completely untrue. There are a great deal of wonderful developments and changes going out in Memphis much like Nashville. But the city may get marred by the stereotypes, historical problems, and some politic mess like TN Waltz.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Whether or not Memphis is past its prime depends on whether or not you think its problems can be solved, or at least mitigated. Much of Memphis' future rests on the social and economic future of African-Americans, not just in Memphis but nationally. If the plague of crime, drugs, under-education, illegitimcy and idleness that disproptionately afflicts the black population can be substantially overcome, Memphis would be as vibrant as any city in the country. Otherwise, its future is not so good.

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I grew up in Lafayette so Nashville was always the "big city" to me even when they had only the L & C tower.  It might as well have been the Empire State Building to a 2 year old in the mid sixties. 

And I also went to Memphis.  They both have appeal to me as follows:

Memphis is a typical southern river city sort of like a slightly smaller version of St. Louis.  No offense but St. Louis is bigger and looks it.  When I go to Memphis I smell barbeque and see a New Orleans type of atmosphere with blues being sung on the street corners.  I see old southern architecture and a charm that is unbeatable.  Memphis has a lacking skyline but what they do have consists of some reallly phenominal buildings built back when architecture meant something.  The trolleys are a treat.

Nashville looks and appears more modern and certainly looks bigger.  Having been to St. Louis on several occasions, Nashville looks as big.  Instead of trying to be who they are though, they seem to be trying to be trying to race Charlotte for the title of Atlanta wannabe.  But they do still have that southern hospitality and instead of blues being sung and barbeque, I see Nashville as more of the hillbilly city with cowboy hats and the smell of cornbread. 

For the pros and cons of each city, they are like bookends for the state of Tennessee.  Both at opposite ends in many ways but both have a equal but different role to play in the progress of TN.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

lafayette,Indiana? Im goign to school in West Lafayette right now(purdue)

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So, while Memphis could do better in providing more economic opportunity for its black citizens, it probably doesn't do as badly as might be thought, particularly considering it has the highest black percentage of any metro and is in a poor state, and region on top of that.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree with this statement for the most part...I think Memphis gets a bad rap as being a city of "poor blacks" when in fact blacks in Memphis aren't much worse off than in other parts of the country...especially when incomes are adjusted for cost of living. The problem for Memphis, relative to Nashville, is that black incomes trail white incomes by such a wide margin; since Memphis has a much larger black population than Nashville, its average income will be weighted much more heavily towards the lower number ($30k for blacks) than the higher number ($50k for whites).

It's interesting how the dispairity between black/white per capita income ($13k vs $29k) is greater than for household income ($30k vs $50k). I would speculate that the average household size is larger for blacks than whites, but I can't locate those figures.

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lafayette,Indiana? Im goign to school in West Lafayette right now(purdue)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think he means Lafayette, TN, which is in Macon County. I think folks over there, or at least some of them, pronounce Lafayette different from how folks from Lafayette, IN or LA do. More like La-fae-it.

@Ricky - I have a huge number of pictures of downtown Lafayette, IN and some of its surrounding residential areas that I took this past June. PM me and I'll give you the link to another forum they are on, or I guess I could post them over on the Midwest section here. PM either way.

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I think he means Lafayette, TN, which is in Macon County. I think folks over there, or at least some of them, pronounce Lafayette different from how folks from Lafayette, IN or LA  do. More like La-fae-it.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Lafayette LA was always pronounced "Laugh-yet", the French way. lol

When I was a kid in Memphis, I dated a girl from Lafayette County MS (Oxford), where I learned that like TN, it's pronounced La-fae-it.

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Think about it, when rich, white Nashvillians talk about Memphis, they're not talking about road systems, parks, public transportation, urban revitalization, bluff lofts, Harbor Town, St. Jude's, the zoo or whatever. They see hip-hop, barbeque, the Ford family, Elvis, corrupt government figures, mile after mile of depressed area, and decades of extreme white flight.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You left out from the mix gangsta-thuggish NBA and college basketball. lol

I remember when Memphis got the Grizzlies, a sportswriter for the Tennesseean made a remark along those lines. :lol:

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Great topic, i've been dying to put my 2 cents in but I think William was right on with his pros and cons for both cities so i'm not sure how much I have to add. First of all, I was born in Memphis as well but my family left within a year. This was in 1980 and I think the city was a much different place back then but i'm not going to speculate on that. Suffice it to say, I was exposed to a lot of negative perceptions of Memphis and I do think that a lot of close-minded Nashvillians look down on Memphis as some sort of blighted, crime and corruption filled hell-hole. And, like ItsjustDave said, this perception is largely racially motivated. Anyway, here's some pros and cons for the cities.

Nashville pros:

-It's growing in diversity(the south and southeast sides are becoming really ethnically diverse and vibrant places. Tons of restaraunts and markets featuring cuisine from Mexico, Ethiopia, Asia, the Middle East, etc. This part of town is becoming really cool, fast. You can stop and eat lunch on Harding Place near I-24 and the customers will regularly be white, black, middle eastern, Indian, asian, and latino; all at the same time. That's something i'm not used to, having lived in the south my whole life but I find it encouraging.

-The universities: a young, progressive population, alot of whom will stay in the south and hopefully continue building our cities into more open, progressive, tolerant, and economically successful places.

-The music scene; country is becoming a little hipper with the likes of Gretchen Wilson and... and hopefully these old, traditional, bottom line obsessed studio slicksters will retire and the music will keep getting better. Plus, the music scene is diversifying as a lot of indie rock acts come here to record and work with our session players(Jack White, Frank Black, Silver Jews to name a few recent ones) so maybe our white, redneck, honky-tonk stigma will start to fade. City Hall just opened in the Gulch!

-I could keep going but this is getting a little long so i'll move on for now.

Nashville cons:

-No sidewalks and the different areas/neighborhoods are too spread out and isolated from each other. How stupid was it not to include any consideration for pedestrians as Nashville expanded? Doh.

-Segregation. While we're not as segrated as a lot of southern cities(Memphis cough cough), I think it's problematic that more than half of metro school students come from poverty. Rich people, leave your kids in public school!

-Traffic, bad drivers, bad public transit.

Memphis pros:

-This city is cool. It's gritty, it's real, it's authentic(ahem Nashvegas). It's down home, laid back, friendly, it's the south.

-It's gridded, it's got sidewalks everywhere, it's flat, it's easy to find your way around.

-It's a sad city with a lot of troubled history, lots of famous and important people died there but this history charges the city with meaning and feeling(seriously).

-The music; Sun Records, Stax, r&b and the blues, Al Green, Isaac Hayes, garage rock, some sequined jumpsuit wearing king, etc.

-Great, architecturally interesting and varied neighborhoods that are more integrated with there commercial areas.

-I couild go on but I'd like to hear some others chime in.

Memphis cons:

-It's hotter than Hades.

-It's dirty and trashy in a lot of places(well, so's Nashville, I just forgot to mention)

-John Calapari is a tool.

-You could cut the racial tension with a knife and bake a nice cake right there on the boiling hot sidewalk.

-The whites look down on their own city like we Nashvillians do. That's so lame.

Alright people, quit regurgitating statistics about black poverty levels and such and lets have some opinions on the original topic, please.

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Oh my god, I forgot to mention Memphis' rap scene. Duh. The originators of crunck, Three Six Mafia. Project Pat, should he ever get out of jail. 8Ball and MJG. Now if we could get some lyrics espousing the value of education, respect and love for our fellow men and women, and moderation in drug and alcohol use to go over those phat beats. Peace.

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