Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I Chose Memphis: Liz Dagget

So, no sooner did I send out the request for readers to submit their own "Why I Chose Memphis" accounts than the responses started pouring in. Here's the first from Liz Dagget (pictured left), Assistant Professor in the Rhodes College Art Department and Director of CODA (Center for Outreach and Development of the Arts). In her own words, here's why Professor Dagget chose Memphis:

"I originally came to Memphis because I was offered a lottery scholarship to a state school, and knew right away that Memphis was more my style than Knoxville. But after graduating, and getting my MFA elsewhere, I had nothing to tie me down and could have moved anywhere. I looked into teaching at the American University in Dubai, and had several possibilities in New York freelancing, but I came to Memphis, where I had no prospects, and luckily stumbled into an awesome job at Rhodes. But why did I choose Memphis?

If you talk to strangers, there is no better place in the world. I talk to strangers. I find people interesting. And sometimes I film these interesting people and their stories. And let me tell you that it is virtually impossible to go to the Piggly Wiggly on Avalon and not have a bizarre conversation about things such as how to get skunk stink off a cat. The people you meet in Memphis are not quiet, “normal” people who have 9-5 desk jobs and then go home and watch CSI and therefore have nothing to tell you about except their latest purchases from Pottery Barn. Oh no, these people can and will tell you about the 1960s, their views on race relations, their crazy neighbor, and their award-winning sweet potatoes. They’ll tell you how to best cook a ham hock right there in the meat isle of the Piggy Wiggly even if you didn’t ask. And it’s awesome.

There are few big egos here. Your Congressman will recognize you, and you can thank him for creating the lottery scholarship that brought you to Memphis in the first place (thanks Cohen). You will know Ernest Withers, not just from the history or headlines, but as the man you used to talk to at the Walgreen’s photo counter when you were both waiting on photos. It is possible for a handful of people to really make a difference in people’s lives: whether it is immortalizing a young person in a huge mural, or creating hopping green spaces. You’ll see great musicians as you are both out walking your dogs.

It’s comfortable. Where else can you have a huge yard for your $450 rent and be 10 minutes away from the opera? I don’t spend a lot of time in my car commuting, and Memphis is an affordable place. This allows me to be able to focus on the big, important questions in life, such as who has the best BBQ. No one cares if you are tan or what you wear, or really, if you have money. In other places, when you meet people, they first ask you what you do. I find that in Memphis instead people first ask “how are you?” And then you can really tell them and they really listen. And then the great stories begin.

P.S. I don’t care how many publications call this city ugly or horrible. In fact, this will keep out the ordinary, the feeble, and the easily-swayed. If you are meant to be a Memphian, you will come, and you will know.

Thanks, Liz! I'm confident that more people will choose Memphis not only because of you, but also because of the amazing work that CODA does for this city. Keep the stories coming, readers!

Check out all of the "Why I Chose Memphis" stories!

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