Your Spirit Animal, Memphis — The High Point "Murder Owl."
I asked readers to review a list of popular Memphis creatures and beasties, old and new, that have captured our attention, won our hearts, or made us say "WTF." From this list, I asked them to choose Memphis' first official unofficial Spirit Animal. And, for reasons I'll get around to shortly, I think you've all chosen wisely indeed.
Admittedly — and to get ahead of critics, already skeptical of a process omitting #PipeKitty
(too young) and Mohan
the unapologetic Sumatran tiger (too soon) etc.
— voter turnout wasn't spectacular. It's been scientifically proven that's what happens when you post bullshit Spirit Animal polls on a Friday afternoon, but even taking all this into account, we're talking about Memphis, a place where we've installed City Councilcritters based on less representative samples. Surely that all equates to some kind of tragic legitimacy. Even if it doesn't here's a link to the results anyhow.
So what does it mean to choose the High Point Owl
— AKA Murder Owl — as the city's Spirit Animal? Maybe not what you think. But before getting into that let's look at some of the animals you didn't choose.
Al Green's Cows (Bulls, etc.
) seemed like boring underdogs in a race filled with exotic beasties like Alleged Albino Raccoon and Hugh Manatee. But for being run-of-the-mill cattle, these gifted escape artists who jump fence and go visiting every time Green takes his show on the road, are far from ordinary. Al keeps saying, "Let's stay together." The Cows keep saying, "Nope." Like Zimm the Escape Monkey, they want to be free, but there's even more going on here. Unlike Zimm
, who possesses some small measure of zoo celebrity, these cows are eclipsed by fame and stripped, in some regard, of their own unique bovinity. According to at least one person Al Green's cows have visited they will "take over your yard and stare at you like you're dumb." They're more Otis/Aretha than Al. All they really want's a little respect.
confuses us. He's not a guy in a Grizz suit, he's a fucking bear and, as Stephen Colbert has pointed out many times,
bears are as great a potential threat to humanity as the eventuality of sentient robots. Midtown Coyote
and Barksdale Beaver
reflect a special kind of neighborhood loyalty, splitting the famously liberal region like Bernie and Hill. Either one could have been a contender, not both.
's name (christened by Drake
's partner Zeke
, back in the day) says it all. His tragic story of dislocation and struggle still tugs at the heartstrings of those who remember. He was a foreigner — clearly not one of us — but for a moment, he was all of us. The best of us. Stuck in a sewer.
The Alleged Albino Raccoon
proved to be more relatable than Balmoral Bobcat. Raccoons and opossums are like neighbors who sometimes get into the garbage and tear out your ductwork. Exasperating as they may be at times, we get to know them — watch them raise their children, and their children's children. And, as for the "alleged" part, who hasn't wondered if people see us for what we really are?
Zimm the Escape Monkey
seemed like an odds on favorite to win. People admired the little monkey's spunk, tenacity, and sheer desire to be her own little dude. People are increasingly tired of old, limiting definitions and cages of all kinds. Zimm's a real swinger, and for all the propaganda, London's never had much
on Memphis, if you knew where to look.
So why Murder Owl
? What is it about this storied bird — a creature that captured the imagination of artists
— that speaks to Memphis? Since the owl stirred up more startled terror and chaos than actual harm, it probably doesn't have anything to do with Memphis' reputation for violence and crime. Perhaps, just the opposite, since Murder Owl's most famous "victim" was controversial DA Amy Weirch
, who described it as the biggest thing she'd ever seen
in her life with a "wingspan the size of a Buick." In light of this eyewitness testimony from one who knows the value of eyewitness testimony, I'm going to put forward a theory that Murder Owl represents lurking, hidden truth obscured by misrepresentation. Or maybe he/she's a symbol — like Batman — that there's true, natural justice in the world, small now but hiding and waiting for the right moment to reveal itself as something enormous, mythic.
Zimm's just got to be Zimm.
Either way, owls are badass, and Murder Owl's so badass somebody should record some theme music
Long story short: The (some) people have spoken, Memphis. Your Spirit Animal is —- MURDER OWL!