As we look ahead to a new year, I have asked some Memphians who care deeply about their city’s future for their resolutions or reflections for 2024. I am deeply grateful for their thoughtful submissions.   

Today’s post is by Chris Davis, Memphis troublemaker and former staff writer for the Memphis Flyer and Memphis magazine, and one of my favorite thinkers.

Chris Davis:

I sat down to write a list of New Year’s resolutions for Memphis but it felt presumptuous. I’m not Memphis in all its particularities. So the best I can offer is a personal list and hope it resonates. Happy New Year, everybody!

1. This is an election year and Elon Musk owns Xitter so in 2024 I solemnly resolve to take even more care than usual to ensure I’m not sharing bad information on social media. I will remind myself that the media’s main bias isn’t political but economic, which is much worse. I will further remind myself that a not-for-profit status is no guaranteed inoculation against economic bias. No matter how tempting, I will never be caught using the unhelpful expression “wrong side of history” like history has omega points and resets. And above all else, I won’t feed the trolls. That’s probably more than one resolution, but I’ve never resolved to improve my organizational skills.

2. In 2024 I resolve to count more bunnies. That’s code for “bike more.” I never knew how many rabbits there were in Memphis until I started driving less and biking every day. They’re everywhere and counting them make me ridiculously happy. I sometimes see a dozen or more bunnies doing bunny things along the bluff behind the Pyramid and just as many on the trail connecting Tom Lee and Martyr’s Parks. But I could alter my regular North/South habits and make East/West trips more often. I’ve ridden from Downtown to Shelby Farms almost entirely on dedicated bike lanes, and there are so many more bunnies on the Greenline. And possums. And deer. As much as I love riding Bearwater Greenway, the River Park system and Big River Crossing, this is the bunny trail I want to visit more often in the new year.

3. In 2024 I resolve to keep trash bags in my bike bag and pick up litter where I see it. Bunnies weren’t the only thing I noticed when I started biking more and driving less. Memphis is filthy. Litter has gotten worse over the last several years and I’m tired of saying, “somebody should do something about this.” I’m even more tired of people who pretend this isn’t a problem — you know who you are.

4. In 2024 I resolve to enjoy new festivals in Tom Lee Park and old festivals wherever they land, but mostly I resolve to buy Gonerfest passes early instead of hoping I get lucky after it’s already sold out. I usually get lucky, but waiting for luck is stressful and this annual celebration of Rock & Roll has grown from something cool and fun into something kind of extraordinary. The 20th anniversary in 2023 was pure joy… and I almost missed it. Again.

5. In 2024 I resolve to sample more local eateries. Like so many people I stopped going out as often during the pandemic and the city changed while I wasn’t paying attention. My kids recently took me to Hive, a coffee shop and bakery on South Front for tea and pastry and while I was standing there staring at the enigmatic “Chocolate Blackberry Cube,” and the most beautiful croissants I’ve seen this side of Paris, I realized I used to write about the food scene in Memphis and now I just barely recognize it. That needs to change.

6. In 2024 I resolve to stop misidentifying the results of problems as the actual problems. For example, Memphis has development and transportation problems that are constantly identified as “parking problems.” I’m usually pretty good about not making these mistakes but still prone to all the pressures and pitfalls that make the Asch Conformity Test the most troubling of all psychological experiments. This comes with the co-resolution not to prize expert opinion and authority over the particularities of place.

7. In 2024 I resolve not to mistake online activity for activism. Gotta show up.

8. I resolve to be more excited by the potential of our new art museum landscape than I am worried about the changes. Very soon — but never soon enough — things will be different. We’ll have a new, custom-fit cultural amenity overlooking the river parks and we’ll have the National Ornamental Metal Museum expanding in Midtown. The future’s gonna be different, but it’s gonna be nice.

9. In 2024 I resolve to start a moral panic. I’ve never started a panic before, but I was a kid during the first big rounds of occult panic during the 1970s so, for me this is a nostalgic resolution. We had such good panics in 2023 too, having started the year with lots of drag-related hysteria when the Tennessee legislature took aim at the greatest obstacle to public health and wellbeing in the history of civilization: excessive fabulousness. But, as Memphians learned later in the year, for a good old fashioned moral panic, you need to shout at the Devil.

10. In 2024 I resolve to love Satan better, and try my best to become a more Satanic person. Obviously, I’m not talking about any actual personification of evil or even the consolidated legion of Abrahamic figures traditionally regarded as the great enemy or King of the fiery pit. I certainly don’t see this new aesthetic focus as being a threat to, or in conflict with anybody else’s sincerely held religious beliefs and, just so we’re crystal clear, I’m not really talking about Milton’s Satan either since, for reasons that may not be fair or universal, his hyper-individualist “better to rule in Hell,” ethos reminds me just a little too much of the worst in American capitalism and the self-absorbed chaos of 1/ 6. So, none of that. I’m more interested in the Promethean “light bringer.” Or the “perpetual outsider.” Or the many-tongued advocate who questions authority and his own role in authority. That’s the kind of literary Satan I’ve got in mind. But, most of all, I want to focus on the Satan of Anatole France’s The Revolt of the Angels who, given the opportunity to conquer Heaven, makes another choice saying, “War engenders war and victory defeat. God conquered becomes Satan. Satan conquering will become God. May the Fates spare me this terrible lot. I love the Hell which formed my genius. I love the Earth where I have done some good, if it be possible to do any good in this fearful world where beings live but by rapine.” France was a Socialist too, if that helps to ignite the panic!

11. In 2024 I resolve to be less silly and more thankful and I’ll start by thanking Tom Jones for indulging this silliness and also for his tireless advocacy on behalf of smarter cities and local journalism.

I hope this isn’t too lightly undertaken or too satanic for Smart City.