A walk down Beale Street in Downtown Memphis

August 5th, 2010 10:57 am
Walking down Beale Street in Downtown Memphis is an experience akin to walking into an open air concert that you can’t find. Behind giant glass windows and red brick are restaurants with live bands and crowds in a festive mood. The cobblestone and concrete pavement of Beale enters into WC Handy Park and while it does not weave and roll on for miles, the short strip reminds you of why Memphis can be considered the Home of Rock and Roll and the Home of the Blues. The Blues, that melancholy sound of graveled voice men and women, wailing about lost love, hot nights and hard work was especially provocative on Wednesday. In the middle of the day on one of the hottest days of the year, there were thousands of people making their way into the FedEx Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies.

On this day, with the lines of heat wavering mirage-like from the concrete, up into the midday sky, the thousands of people entering the Forum were not there to celebrate the Grizzlies recent NBA draft picks or to hear a concert, they were there to join the family of Lorenzen Wright. The giant of a man who played high school basketball at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, the man who played collegiate basketball at the University of Memphis, the father who played professional basketball in many places including for the Memphis Grizzlies. A man who had contributed to many of the cities needs with both financial support and with mentoring was being eulogized at the age of 34.

Walking on Beale Street is often a joyous occasion, but the walk was longer yesterday as Lorenzen’s face looked down from a static projection on the billboard. No one could avoid looking up to see his brown face staring, looking out over the city as if to ask his murderers, “I’m here look at me? Why did you do this?” His children, who should have been spending their day at a water park on this hot Memphis afternoon, dressed in dark suits, skirts, brown faces, each small curve traced with lines from tears peered out into the crowd. Their faces were canvases of emotion, children with anger, sadness, understanding that this moment and time was not right. Very un-childlike, expressions, they should have been playing.

Walking down Beale Street, loud music, neon shades of red, green, blue, the aroma of ribs, all of the imagery, stimuli that creates happiness; created a paradox for those entering the FedEx forum to celebrate the life of a man who was lost to another violent death in Memphis, Home of the Blues.