Part II: Life in Memphis
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If you enjoy this tale you'll probably
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|We hit Memphis a bit after
10 PM. We opted for a shortcut through town instead of the highway
and were shocked at the number of empty and abandoned buildings, signs
that were faded and out of date, and slums. After living in Atlanta
with property value skyrocketing and every building being transformed
into loft space, it's weird to see beautiful buildings standing empty
even on the edges of the downtown areas that have been revitalized.
We scored on the hotel, the Radisson right downtown, a block from
the famed Beale Street and across the street from the Peabody Hotel
but a big cheaper. The World Cup match was the next morning so we
called it an early night.
After the game we met the clients for lunch at Rendezvous, a famous
Memphian barbecue place. Memphis style ribs are a dry-rub barbecue
pork, cooked with seasoning but no sauce. They're good, but I think
wetter is better.
We walked around town in the afternoon, getting a better look at Memphis.
There is some absolutely gorgeous architecture, art deco lines here,
lovely decorative details there, gargoyles jutting out of towers over
there, but you can't go more than a few blocks before you run into
an abandoned building here, a burnt out building there, a slum over
there. The downtown baseball park has helped spread the revitalization
that begun at the Peabody mall and Beale Street, but that's just a
strong toe-hold in a town who's better days were obviously more than
three or four decades ago. "This ain't retro, this is just old!"
we noted on one of our drives around town.
We visited the National
Ornamental Metal Museum in the evening and admired their small collection,
not really worth the admission but I had to give it a look. And it
is a fantastic location in the midst of an abandoned military campus
overlooking the Mississippi river.
||Friday night we went to
work, handing out a few thousand cans of delicious and refreshing
Minute Maid lemonade, pink lemonade, and sugar free Minute Made light
to fans as they left Autozone Park, the stadium where Memphis' minor
league baseball team, the Redbirds, plays. The team and stadium are
the only not-for-profit pair in the league, donating all profits to
inner city school baseball programs and such. The park itself is very
cool with games for the kids (or for those who've finally realized
baseball is boring as hell), and $5 lawn seats where you can bring
your own picnic. They also have a full bar and a variety of foods,
including barbecue nachos from Rendezvous - chips drowned in pulled
pork and melted cheese, "a heart attack in a box" SW called
it. Looks good to me! The game was sold out so afterward the throngs
swarmed us and took every can of delicious and refreshing Minute Maid
lemonade, pink lemonade, and sugar free Minute Made light as if they
were the last beverages on earth.
|We had to get up hideously
early Saturday morning to head to The Memphis Motorsports Park for
another round of handing out delicious and refreshing Minute Maid
lemonade, pink lemonade, and sugar free Minute Made light to thirsty
NASCAR fans. These fans were of a different sort than the night before.
A lot of those attending the Redbirds game were out for a Friday night
date before heading down to Beale Street to party, mixed in with plenty
of families with kids. The NASCAR crowd is considerably more the mullet
and beer gut contingent, each one in a t-shirt displaying their favorite
racers, past and present. Soon the temperature soared amidst the acres
of concrete and blacktop and we couldn't even get the delicious and
refreshing Minute Maid lemonade, pink lemonade, and sugar free Minute
Made light on ice before folks would grab and guzzle it.
|We gave out the last cans
just as the race kicked off. We watched a few laps of the race, pickup-shaped
race cars whizzing by at 1000 mph and 10,000 decibels in the 100,000
degree weather, but without any wrecks it's about as exciting as baseball
but without the kids games or barbecue nachos to relieve the
boredom. So we packed up the Volkslemon and headed back to the hotel
for a much-needed nap.
||Then we had dinner at
Automatic Slim's downtown where we blew the per diem (and then some)
provided by our sponsors on an absolutely wonderful meal. I started
off with mango and coconut encrusted shrimp rolled up in a spring
roll. Good, but not the best spring roll I've ever had - just the
||SW started off with the
"bruschetta de dia", toasted bread with tomatoes, olive
oil, basil, and grilled chicken. Also good, but it could've done without
the chicken. I think the better appetizer was the simple bread and
olive oil with herbs they brought before we ordered anything.
||For our main dishes, I
opted for the blackened lamb chops served on a bed of black beans
and onion rings, a damn fine plate of food.
||SW had a chicken linguine
in coconut ginger crème sauce that had her groaning in delight
||A couple of stiff drinks
(Jack Daniels, of course) washed it all down, followed by a chocolate
cake layered with strawberry ice cream that was very tasty. Overall,
I thought the food was excellent but the prices hefty and had we not
been on a "business" trip I wouldn't have felt it worth
it, but after an early and arduous morning we felt entitled to some
We went up to Beale Street,
Memphis' answer to Bourbon Street, a couple of blocks where they cordon
off traffic so you can wander from bar to restaurant to bar to club to
bar in a drunken stupor. They don't have an open container law in effect
in the area so you can carry your drinks with you and enjoy some of the
lively street performers.
There were some excellent bands
playing right on the sidewalk, but we wanted comfortable seats and a bartender
so we headed indoors to the Rum Boogie Café. A cover band was doing
spirited versions of Memphis R&B, all Stax and Sun Records hits.
I pasted this shot together from several I took from up on the balcony.
We had originally intended
to get off the beaten tourist path and various folks had provided us lots
of info in advance, but with full bellies and tired feet we lacked the
motivation to go far so we just wandered from bar to bar up Beale. We
hit Black Diamond, one of the few places on the strip that's recommended
by reliable degenerates, but it was nearly empty so we took our drinks
on up to some random bar where some random band was playing the same random
R&B tunes you hear coming out of every other joint on the strip. Eventually
we ended up back at Rum Boogie for more drinks and friendly conversation
with a couple of degenerates from Chicago before calling it a night.
Before we move on to Graceland,
let's talk some more about other stops in Memphis.
|We dined at Isaac Hayes',
a trendy upscale soul food restaurant in the Peabody mall. We were
warned in advance that the service was terrible and they featured
live jazz. Unfortunately both were accurate, but fortunately even
with the poor service we got in and out early enough to avoid the
jazz. The food was tasty when it finally showed up. I got the ribs,
a bit juicier than Rendezvous, with a side of excellent collard greens
and baked beans.
|SW opted for the beef
brisket. I gave it a nibble and confirmed my theory that Texans don't
know the right animal to barbecue. But SW said it was a damn fine
||Across from our hotel
is the opulent Peabody Hotel, a beautiful old building with marvelous
detail, all lovingly restored. But the Peabody is probably less famous
for it's architecture than the ducks that live there. Each day at
11 AM and 5 PM the ducks are brought down from their rooftop quarters
to parade through the lobby and splash into the lobby fountain to
the delight of kids and parents alike. It's really not much to see,
were it not for the crowd that gathers and their incredible reaction
- you'd think they'd never seen ducks before, not on TV, not at the
lake, not even in drawings. They fight for position along the edge
of the red carpet and when the elevator doors open the cameras flash
like a storm of paparazzi.
|Peabody's lobby also features
Lansky' Brothers, "Clothier to the King." They have clothes
from the-later-Elvis-esque tacky to the-early-Elvis-ish classy, with
some wonderful stuff at both ends but all of it priced out of my range.
||A couple of miles up the
street you can visit Sun Studios. We'd been warned against paying
the hefty tour admission fee and I'd seen pictures of the studio itself,
so we were satisfied with a visit to their overpriced gift shop. But
it was an essential stop on our Everything Elvis tour.
"These people could put us out of
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