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Last week I mentioned that I had stared into the face of terror by attending an open mic poetry night at a local nightclub, followed by coming very close to the actual entrance to Bellevue International Airport . . . I mean, Bellevue Baptist Church. Fortunately, I was not detained in traffic by the Sheriff’s Department while the Bellevidians made their exodus from the church to their respective all-you-can-eat troughs like the doctor who was made to wait the other day while en route to respond to an emergency call. More recently, but right up there with those two in terms of sheer mesmeric power, I witnessed several people wrestling in pudding in an inflatable swimming pool. Yes, pudding wrestling, which I hope becomes the next wave of ways to spend the summer hours having a little fun. And it was all for charity. For kids. The Snack Pack Master Challenge, as I like to call it, was a fine gesture and -- while the chocolate pudding melted quickly under the July sun, making it look like . . . well, like something we don’t want to describe in too, too much detail -- quite a show. Especially when a friend of mine, whose name we’ll protect here, threw down his cane and jumped in the pudding tub with some younger wrestlers of the opposite sex. It was, in a word, fabulous. Almost as good as the time I watched a bunch of female impersonators duke it out in a vat of Jell-O. And now I’m tired of writing about that. On a more serious note, I’d like to make an observation if I may. And ask a question. Who are all these people out there screaming that Memphis has the worst city schools system in the country and that if we don’t throw several billion dollars at it we’re all going to die horrible, violent deaths? Somehow I feel that they are 1) people whose children go to county/private schools and who have never stepped foot in a city school, 2) people who don’t have kids and just want something to bitch about, 3) people who still think they can outrun living among minorities if they just keep moving closer to and beyond the bright glow of Wolfchase, and/or 4) lemmings who voted for George W. Bush and believe anything they hear and should go ahead and follow one another off a cliff and into a large body of water. Well, maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Sure, the city schools have their share of problems, not the least of which has nothing to do with teachers and kids but with some of the people on the board, who need to have their e-mail access taken away if they are going to be ugly about things. But I must say that I happened to be at Alonzo Locke Elementary School on the last day of school this year. Locke is in one of, if not the, poorest neighborhoods in Memphis, just across the street from the new Presley Place transitional housing units for homeless families and other disenfranchised people trying to improve their lives (thank you, Lisa Marie; you are the very incarnation of your father’s sweet soul). I have never met nicer, more caring teachers. The school was cheerful and festive and bright. The kids were about the happiest kids I’ve ever seen, all giggles and smiles and good manners and friendly and wide-eyed and beautiful and smart. Maybe not all of the schools are that stupendous, but if Locke is at all representative of the schools that are “so horrible” that we should be embarrassed, then everyone who’s out there whining without any information to base it on should pay a visit. Hell, I went to Memphis City Schools and look at me. Well, maybe that’s not such a good idea. And maybe I’d best get down off this soapbox before I fall and break something. I’m old.

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