Cool Aid



It all started with lunch at Celtic Crossing.

In late April, my friend, photographer Christian Patterson, was in town on assignment. He was shooting recording studios around the country, and being a former Memphian, knew the importance of both Sun and Soulsville. We're sitting outside, Memphis' stifling heat having graciously held off unleashing its fury longer than usual, and Christian is filling me on his new digs in Brooklyn, upcoming art shows, and future projects. Then the talk turned to the magazine.

I'm rattling off photo essay subjects and ideas for upcoming issues, when I casually mention how I'd love to score an interview with homegrown Saturday Night Live star Chris Parnell, but had yet to begin the arduous process of tracking down agents and publicists, and fighting through the red tape and restrictions usually involved with celebrity profiles.

Christian's face lights up. "Would you like his email address and phone number?"

Would I?

Turns out that Parnell is a fan of photography, and a month earlier, had purchased one of Christian's pieces. "He's a really nice guy. I don"t think he'd mind if you sent him an email."

Armed with this valuable new info, I headed back to the office to write the first of many emails to Chris Parnell. I dashed off an interview request, and waited, checking my email every 30 seconds or so, like a little kid watching the clock on Christmas Eve.

By looking at the cover, you know what his response was. Not only did we set up an interview, he agreed to a photo shoot. Christian had it exactly right when he described Parnell as a nice guy. I'd add humble, polite, well spoken, and needless to say, funny as hell. Could things get any cooler around here?

Once Parnell was on board, the concept of the "cool issue" began to take form. It's July in Memphis, and there's nothing cool about that. What if we tried to make one of the hottest months just a bit more bearable? The brainstorming was underway.

What's cooler than a funky, mom-and-pop ice cream & burger joint? We fanned out across the area, seeking the best the side-of-the-road shacks had to offer. Though there are plenty of upscale ice cream shops around town dishing out some mighty fine products, the character of these places -- not to mention the characters that own them -- can"t be replicated. Sadly, many of the places we remembered from years past have quietly disappeared, unable to compete with the big guys. Seeing these businesses go away? Not cool at all. Pay them a visit this summer. You won't be disappointed.

When Preston Lauterbach pitched a music story about the chitlin' circuit to us, we knew we had a winner. Having had the pleasure of dining last summer with Preston and his wife, I knew he was incredibly knowledgeable about the blues, and music in general (not to mention the owner of one of the most infectious laughs I've ever heard). I figured Preston's insights on the oft-overlooked genre would be enlightening, but didn't expect the page-turner to take me to the front row of a circuit show with such ease. The guy knows how to put a story together. Couple his storytelling with Justin Burks' stellar photography, and you've got a package so hot it's cool.

We liberally sprinkled cool throughout the issue. Polar bear keeper at the zoo? Wildly cool. Singing tour guides and a vintage bus named Miss Clawdy? Backbeat cool. The hippest summer sandals? Cool from the floor up. Sipping absinthe? Cool you might not remember.

Watching this issue take shape over the last two months? Memphis cool. Enjoy.

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