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The Daily Memphian | The Early Word
The Early Word: Was bridge fiasco individual error or systemic failure? Plus: Midtown goes Barcelona

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, July 21, aka National Hot Dog Day.

We’ll get back to that in a minute, but while you’re bracing yourself, it’s also Duwayne Burnside Blues Hour day at Railgarten, where the North Mississippi blues royalty will lay down hill-country grooves starting at 6:30. Around the same time, the Brooks Museum of Art will be hosting University of Memphis professor Dr. William McKeown for one of its “Cafè Conversations.” 

And now, with a nod to James Brown, let’s take it to the bridge.



The infamous crack that shut down the Hernando DeSoto Bridge. (Courtesy Tennessee Department of Transportation Information Office)

Meet Monty Frazier: Who’s Monty Frazier? He was the Arkansas bridge inspector who got fired after the Hernando DeSoto Bridge was shut down in early May. Was Frazier alone to blame for missing a fracture that evidence shows was there since at least 2014, or was he the fall guy for a systemic failure? A Daily Memphian investigation takes in thousands of pages of relevant emails and photographic evidence, and includes Frazier’s first interview since his termination. 

Come together: The Memphis Police Department announced that it’s ramping up its “Slow Down Memphis” initiative to pump the brakes on recent vehicular misbehavior in the Memphis area, partnering with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.


The view over Tom Lee Park looking north into Downtown Memphis June 8, 2020. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

And away we go: The Army Corps of Engineers has given final approval on the redesign of Tom Lee Park, and demolition work is now set to begin on Thursday. Bill Dries captures an interesting debate at the City Council meeting on this topic about parking, walking, access and urban vibrancy. It’s relevant to Tom Lee Park, but also beyond. This continued later, as the Council approved the centerpiece of the Downtown parking plan.

New normal for now: Playgrounds and field trips are back for Shelby County Schools this fall, but with COVID cases back on the rise and the Centers for Disease Control suggesting mask usage for school-aged students, masks will be back, SCS superintendent Joris Ray announced on Tuesday.




Dr. Michelle Taylor, Mayor Lee Harris’s pick for Shelby County Health Department director speaks with a reporter on Monday, July 19, 2021 Vasco A. Smith Jr. County Administration Building. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

In-between undergrad at the Mecca (that’s Howard University) and medical school, the future Dr. Michelle Taylor took a detour that wasn’t Plan A: Becoming a Memphis public high school teacher, at Central and Fairley, respectively. Now Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’ nominee to take over the Shelby County Health Department, Taylor plans to draw on that experience in her new job. “In finding something to do, I ended up teaching a group of kids who taught me more,” she tells Jane Roberts




Chef Kelly English will draw on his time living in Barcelona for his upcoming, Catalan-themed restaurant Pantà. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

Midtown is Barcelona-bound: Coming to Midtown later this year: Not one, but two Catalan-inspired bars. Somebody alert Marc Gasol. (Ok, I’ve already tried.) One, Pantà, will be Kelly English’s new concept for the current Overton Square location of Restaurant Iris, as Iris preps a move east. The other, Tonica, will be from Ecco owner Sabine Bachmann, just down the street from her Evergreen neighborhood fine-dining fave Ecco. A “nice dive bar” with “really good food”? Sign me up, Kelly. 

Have a hot dog: Happy National Hot Dog Day. It’s always national something day, so why not? Memphis is known for many things, food-wise, but hot dogs isn’t really one of them. Nevertheless, Jennifer Biggs and I persisted, crowning some of our favorite Memphis tube steaks. (It’s also National Arcane Slang Day.)


The Memphis Grizzlies face a big decision on Justise Winslow, with a $13 million team option to bring him back next season. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Let’s talk hoops: A quiet Grizzlies summer gets noisier starting next week, as the annual NBA draft segues into free agency. But before the latter, the Grizzlies face a big decision with forward Justise Winslow, on whom the team has a $13 million option for next season. In the latest in my recent series of deep-dive columns on the Grizzlies’ offseason, I look at the Winslow question and the wider free agency and trade considerations related to it. Meanwhile, Drew Hill talks to trainers Trey Draper and Mo Wells, who have been working out Ja Morant in Miami this summer. 



Memphis made the list:


As they say: No lies were told. 

Thanks y’all. Andrew Smith will take the Early Word baton tomorrow as we try to survive a week without O Captain, Our Captain, Mary Cashiola.