Nashville has treated Memphis like Little Brother for as long as I can remember, so sometimes it's easy to forget that Memphis is the bigger city — just barely. It won't be that way for much longer, according to 2014 population data recently released by the Census Bureau. Right now, Memphians outnumber Nashvillians by only about 20,000. Nashville's population is growing and ours is just ... sitting there. It dropped by .25 percent last year — not a lot, but obviously we would prefer that the population grow, not shrink.
So, we've got some work to do. But we already knew that. Of course, the public policy and urban planning experts in our daily paper's comment section claim to have exclusive insights into where folks are going and why, but that's a topic for another day.
So Nashville's finally poised to surpass Memphis. Big deal. Enjoy this cookie as a token of my not caring.
As a Memphian, I know I'm supposed to roll my eyes and say, "Ugh, Nashville ... the worst! More like Trashville, right? 'It City'? Are you sure they didn't mean to say, 'It's shitty?'"
Hating on Nashville is as much a part of life in Memphis as jaywalking, waiting in line at Jerry's, or getting heat exhaustion at the Elvis Week candlelight vigil. Rumor has it there's a secret ingredient in our delicious water that allows the Nashville hate to flow more freely.
Meh. I can't do it. I don't hate Nashville anymore. In fact, to paraphrase one of my favorite Don Draper lines, I don't think about it at all.
Sorry, no time. Too busy enjoying Memphis.
Standing on the top floor of a BBQ Fest mega-tent, sipping a Memphis Made kÖlsch as the sun slipped behind our giant glass pyramid newly filled with alligators and tourists and hunting supplies, the last thing on my mind was "Oh man, I wonder what Nashville is doing right now!"
- Clewisleake | Dreamstime.com
When I was waving my Growl Towel and yelling "FIRST TEAM DE-FENSE" at the tippy-tip-top of FedExForum, I never paused to imagine what the fans chant at Predators games. If they chant anything at all.
As I bounce from barre class to brunch at Second Line to a hair appointment at Gould's or a matinee at Studio on the Square, I don't ask myself what in Nashville compares to Overton Square.
Remind me, why are we "rivals" again? The two cities have little in common beyond the highway that connects them. Nashville is "country" and Memphis is "soul." Nashville's brand-new, never-worn, and Memphis is gently used one-of-a-kind vintage. Emphasis on one-of-a-kind. Think about it: What do they have that we don't have or even want for that matter? An eponymous TV show? Been there, done that, would rather not talk about it. Jack White? By all means, they can have him — and Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman too. A neighborhood called SoBro? Nah, bruh. The Titans? LOL. Trader Joe's? It's just a grocery store, y'all. Yeah, I said it. (If anyone from TJ's happens to be reading this: Just kidding! We'd love a location in Memphis. Pretty please. ASAP. Thanks.)
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." As a city whose unofficial motto is "Memphis vs. Errrbody," we could probably benefit from President Roosevelt's advice. Let's compare Memphis today to five, 10 years ago. Maybe the population is stagnant, but Memphis is growing in a different way. And it's been a thrill to witness. Entire neighborhoods are being reborn. We're figuring out how to turn old, forgotten things like the Tennessee Brewery, Hotel Chisca, and the Crosstown building into new, useful things.
Every time I cross a "New Restaurant To Try" off my list, another one opens. More touring bands and musicians are playing in Memphis instead of just flying over en route to bigger cities. We've got a basketball team that owns the fourth-longest streak of postseason appearances in the NBA. We even have a respectable — nay, good — college football team now! Around this time next year we'll have an IKEA, an H&M, and a Cheesecake Factory. Scoff all you want at chain corporate retail and dining, but the money their employees earn spends just the same as anybody else's. Those brands would not be expanding here if they didn't see potential.
Potential, in Memphis? Believe it! Once we learn how to enjoy having nice things instead of waiting for them to be taken away from us, watch out. The New York Times might not be ready to christen Memphis the "It City," but that's not really our style. It kinda sounds like a jinx, to be honest.
Memphis doesn't need a rival. The past is our only rival, and we're kicking its ass. Congrats to you, Nashville. You're off the hook.
Jen Clarke is an unapologetic Memphian and digital marketing strategist.