September 14, 2000



Mr. M@M


Bah! Let's drop this little charade, shall we? It's giving me a headache. While it's true that I did begin writing many of these entries back in August, the truth is that I'm finishing them in September and I'm getting tired of trying to make ancient history sound like current events. The rest of my Memphis entries will reflect the dates they're written, not the dates they describe.

What can I say about Mike Reed, the Man About Murfreesboro, that hasn't been said before? Well, plenty, it turns out, because I'm the first fellow journalizer he's met in person. No one's ever summarized his in-person persona online before, so my trenchant observations here will serve to establish The Real Mike for the online community at large. It's an awesome responsibility, this, but it's tempered with the knowledge that, for Mike, I was the representative of All Journaldom and, frankly, I suspect I let you all down.

Physically, Mike wasn't what I expected. I'd seen his picture on Archipelago's photo page back when I too was featured there, back in the halcyon days when I was a functioning, producing member of that august ring, and from that small and grainy photo I'd formed a mental image of Mike as a biggish guy with the build to have played football in high school and maybe college. I pictured towering height and broad shoulders and a solid, imposing presence -- and, as a nod toward Glory Days and the passage of time, I had also factored in an ex-footballer beer gut. But it turns out I had him confused with someone else. Mike Ditka, perhaps.

Rather than being a big barrel of a man, Mike's actually sort of a Tupperware of a man. He's not towering; neither is he particularly broad-shouldered. What he is is a kinda average kinda guy, of average height and average weight and average build. The only thing that stood out about him was -- and forgive me for saying this Mike, but the impression keeps coming back to me over and over again -- there's something about his moustache/goatee (or "van dyke," as Mike would have you call it) that calls to mind a fox terrier. This is not to say that Mike is "alert, quick of movement, keen of expression, on the tip-toe of expectation at the slightest provocation," as the Official Standard for the Wire Fox Terrier demands ... but then I don't know him that well. Considering that I just summed him up as a burpable food storage container crossed with a lapdog ... well, maybe you should just move along, folks. I've clearly lost it.

I also met Mike's family: his wife Dollie, the epitome of the classic southern belle, and their young son Max, who has no future as a quarterback. Dollie is a lovely and charming woman and it's clear that Mike has had the good fortune to marry far above his station. Max is a cute and fun little guy who smacked me squarely in the forehead with a toy football from about two feet away. I liked them all right off the bat. We made a little small talk while Max demonstrated his toy helicopter and did target practice on my face with his football, then we hit the road and went out to dinner.

Now, given all the noise Mike makes in his journal about how Murfreesboro is the cultural center of the universe, I was expecting something pretty damned impressive -- Spago, maybe, or Tavern On The Green, perhaps even Denny's. You know, something fancy. Cultural center of the universe and all that. Well, apparently they do things a little differently over there at the Cultural Center of the Universe, because what I got was "Puffing Billy's Neighborhood Pub," which happened to be conveniently located in a bowling alley. I'm not complaining, mind you, it's just that ... well, it's the Cultural Damn Center of the Universe, fer Chrissakes. I wasn't expecting plastic forks. Or a shoe rental counter. The food was pretty good, though. And the company was excellent.

(Ed. Note: Day 99 in the writing of this entry: Aaaauuuggghhhh!!! Enough! I'm so sick of this entry that I could puke! I'm finishing it NOW, in one frantic typing binge. No more procrastination, no searching for just the right phrase, no looking at it from anyone else's point of view, no editing, just slam-bam-thank you-ma'am/sir/person-of- indeterminate- gender writing!)

Following dinner was a guided tour of Murfreesboro from the shotgun seat of the Reeds' Rav4. There was a whirlwind blitz of the campus where Mike works ("Look up there, see the 3rd window from the right? That's my office."), a circling of the courthouse where Andrew Jackson is rumored to have announced his candidacy from horseback, a drive-by of Civil War Battlefield #9,327 (they're nutty for their Civil War battlefields down there), and -- my favorite part of the tour -- a minimart that's supposed to be the geographic center of the universe or somesuch. Mike tells me this market also happens to be the crime epicenter of Murfreesboro, where you can buy today items that were stolen only yesterday.

There was some debate between Mike and Dollie about what exactly the legend surrounding the place was -- both versions centered around "If you do X here, you'll never leave Murfreesboro." Mike argued X was merely entering the store, while Dollie alleged that you had to actually eat something you'd purchased there. I interrupted to suggest that we please drive somewhere else -- anywhere else -- now, lest I be trapped in Murfreesboro myself. I had a wife and daughter to get back to and I didn't want to risk the grasp of a you'll-never-leave rumor extending to the parking lot to snatch me up.

We ended the evening back at the Casa de Reed, where we drank coffee on the veranda and talked about this, that, and the other thing, and I fought desperately to stay awake. Not because they were boring, far from it, but because I was exhausted, what with the late night the night before and the long drive down and the long drive back ahead of me. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open. I felt like -- still feel like -- an asshole for it. I'd come all this way to meet them and they were being friendly and nice and charming and here I was falling asleep. Dick.

I eventually fessed up to being too tired to be interesting and we called it a night. Like I said earlier, I think I let All Journaldom down with my performance and probably gave Mike and Dollie the impression that I didn't think much of them or their town. So, apologies to All Journaldom for being a poor representative, and to Mike and Dollie for being a poor guest. Not all journalizers are like me, Mike and Dollie -- some of them can actually carry a conversation.

But was that the end of my day? No, it was not. I still had another dinner to do with D back in Nashville. But I'll get into that in the next entry, due some time in ... oh ... December, maybe. Of 2012.