Friday, July 8, 2016

Memphis TN Vacation– 6th Day – 6/16/2016 (Mr. Kim’s comments in italics)

(Internet Photo)

The motif of the day turned out to be “British people in Memphis”.  It was truly odd.  Our first encounter of the day was at breakfast.  Our other meals in Memphis had been at extremely modest places – little cafes and absolute dives.  We’d run out of pre-researched places for breakfast and just Googled “best breakfast in Memphis”.  A number of articles recommended Paulette’s.  It is a lovely little place in the riverside planned community of Harbor Town (which is where I’d live if I lived in Memphis and had lots of money).  The restaurant is attached to the lovely looking River Inn (where I’d stay next time, if I had a lot of money). 

It is definitely swanky:

And the food was great!  A nice touch – bread basket on the table before you even order:

I had French toast, which was prefect:
I am extremely picky about French toast.  I don’t like it really custardy inside – it just feels like uncooked eggs to me.  I like it crisp on the outside and cakey on the inside.  And that’s exactly what this was like.  But I only ate one piece.  Because that sausage was phenomenal.  I am often bowled over by the quality of link sausage that some restaurants manage to get.  It is usually fatter than the links that I find at grocery stores and so much tastier.  Wish I could find out where it comes from.

Mr. Kim started with Irish oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts:
And ended with Eggs Benedict w/ country ham:
…with just the right amount of oozy yolk goodness!

At the table next to us were two ladies.  We exchanged the usual nods and somehow got to talking.  I detected English accents and asked where they were from.  Turns out that they are sisters – one lives in Philadelphia and the other in London.  Ms. London was visiting her sister and they were touring Tennessee.  I have this reverse prejudice when meeting Europeans in the US.  I always wonder why they are here when they have all of Europe at their door step?  I know.  Anyway, they were absolutely loving Memphis and asked if we’d been to Graceland.  We had to confess that we hadn’t actually toured it, but only hung over the gates to take pictures like trashy paparazzi.  They raved about it.  (???)  In our subsequent conversation, it turned out that Ms. London had friends who live in Beer in England.  This is the little village that my Aunt Mary lives in.  Less than 2000 people live there, and here I found another soul with a connection, 1000 miles from my home and 5000 from her own.  How random is THAT?  Anyway, they were delightful ladies and I was so glad to have met a couple of British ladies in Memphis, Tennessee, of all places.  Little was I to know…(moire non, as my friend Rachel says).

Inside Harbor Town is a wonderful little grocery named Miss Cordelia’s.  How lucky these folks are to have such a place within walking distance.  Harbor Town is really fantastic – good restaurants, a well-stocked grocery and the Mississippi River at their front door. 

After breakfast we walked across to the river for a postprandial stroll.   

A nice man agreed to take our picture:
(Once again, I forgot to remove my glasses!)

Since this was our last day (half day, really) in Memphis, we spent the rest of it driving around and visiting one more special place.  This is the Memphis Pyramid:
It is incredibly huge – 321 feet tall and the sides at 591 feet long at the base.  It was built as an arena, but is now used as a Bass Pro Shop (yep) and houses retail, a hotel, restaurants, a bowling alley, an archery range and has outdoor observation decks.  Crazy. 

Our last real stop in Memphis was someplace very special:
Sun Studios – where Elvis recorded his very first song.  (See – we didn’t entirely ignore The King.)  And where people like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others have recorded over the years.  It is a remarkable place and lots of fun and we took LOTS of pictures.  Sun is where our second bizarre British-related experience happened.  When you walk into the studios, there is no lobby or front desk.  You walk right into what looks like a gift shop/soda shop:
(Internet Picture)
…because that is what it is.  There are dozens of people milling around – waiting for their tour to start, shopping, having a soda and sitting at the few tables.  Including us – Mr. Kim had bought our tickets and we had a while to wait.  And all around me, to the exclusion of any other are English accents.  Every single person that I could hear talking was speaking with an English accent.  I was feeling deeply perplexed.  We sat down at an empty table and a couple of folks asked if they could join us.  They, too, had The Accent.  So, of course, I asked where they were from and if they were with rest of the group.  Turned out that they were a father and daughter, also from England.  She lives in Liverpool and he in either Norwich (town) or Norfolk (county).  They were NOT with the group (which turned out to be another bunch of Brits on a bus tour of the US), but did ask us if we’d been to Graceland and raved about it.  They were really lovely folks and told us a bit about their past as musicians.  He’d been in a rock band years ago that toured in the States and she had actually performed at the Blue Bird CafĂ©, a famous Memphis venue.  They were very interested in our trip to England in 2011, but sadly did NOT know my Aunt Mary in Beer (lol).  These were the last Brits that we ran into in Memphis.  It was wonderful and peculiar, all at once!

Back to the studio tour!  It was a great tour – lots of wonderful stories and fantastic music.  Our guide Jason was an enthusiastic and personable young man who really communicated his passion for the place and its history.  We got to see the broadcast studio of the WHBQ radio station (it had been disassembled and moved here to Sun) where disc jockey Dewey Phillips played Elvis’ first real record “That’s All Right” and basically ‘broke the internet’.  He got such a huge call in response that he played it repeatedly for 2 hours:

Lots of wonderful memorabilia:

We also got to see the actual studio where all the magic happened:
…and, as we were astonished to discover, is STILL happening.  Sun Studios isn’t just a museum, it is an active recording studio.  When the tourists clear out, the artists arrive and jam sessions start.  There are podcasts available online (just Google ‘Sun Studio podcasts”) to hear some of these.  I hadn’t heard of many of these folks, but then there are the big guys who come here to record for sentiments’ sake, apparently.  They include U2, John Mellencamp and Chris Isaak.  We got some good pictures (some I digitized in black and white for effect):

This is a picture of the so-called ‘Million Dollar Quartet”:
(Internet Picture)
This impromptu jam session took place in December of 1956 and included Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.  Can you imagine?  Gives me shivers!

They give you the opportunity to ‘sing’ into the (reportedly) actual microphone used by Elvis and others.  Mr. Kim couldn’t resist:

Another cool sign down the street from the studio:
I’m thinking of printing out all the cool signs and doing a collage.  Our next stop was The Cake Gallery that The Child had found for us.  Gorgeous and delicious cakes:
This was the best we tasted!

On our way out of town we drove through Aunt Mildred’s old neighborhood and the cool Cooper-Young area.  Couldn’t resist this sign:
“Pizza Pies”.  Is there anywhere other than the South where they still refer to it as ‘pie’?  Also this great train trestle decoration:

We had lunch at The Pancake Shop.  You will laugh at our reaction to lunch.  We certainly did.  After days of eating rich, fatty, heavy foods, we just wanted simple and plain.  And cold.  No hot food for us that day.  We both started with the same delectable salads:
Iceberg, shredded cheese, tomatoes, bleu cheese dressing and saltines on the side.  It was fabulous.  We were moaning and groaning.  So perfect.  Mr. Kim had a wonderful ham club:
That’s REAL ham.  Not deli – cut off the bone ham.  Tennessee ham.  I had the simplest thing on the menu – tuna salad on rye:
With ooky battered onion rings.  I should have asked.  I don’t like battered rings, only crumb or flour coated rings (which are getting harder and harder to find). 

We have no more pictures from this day.  And no more stories, either.  We spent the rest of the day in the car traveling through Tennessee on our way to a quick visit to see my grandmother in Reidsville NC.  But, as always, we had a great time.  I’m a big car-trip girl.  I know lots of people have horrible memories of family car trips and comedians make a living off their memories of them, but I’ve always loved them.  I can remember our drives to NC to visit my grandparents or frequent trips to Ocean City MD or Chincoteague VA for vacations.  This was, of course, long before cell phones or sometimes even good strong radio signals.  We’d sing and talk and laugh and discuss things.  Ted taught me “I’ve Got a Loverly Bunch of Coconuts” and “Knees Up, Mother Brown” on those trips.  I tortured him with grape-flavored Big Buddy bubble gum (he detested the odor).  We all tortured Momma with disgusting talk about gross stuff.  And these days, even with cell phones and Satellite radio, I still love road trips.  They are concentrated time just for us.  As a family, we have our best talks, we laugh hysterically at stuff that only WE find funny and, with Jessica and me at least, something bizarre always seems to happen.  For instance, while we don’t spend a lot of time in high-crime areas, she and I have seen MULTIPLE arrests. 

So our haul from Memphis to Bristol was long, but fun!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Memphis TN Vacation– 5th Day – 6/15/2016 (Mr. Kim’s comments in italics)

This was a bit of a somber day, but one I wouldn’t have missed for anything. 

We started off by trying to go to Roxie Grocery, a breakfast spot that was recommended to us by The Child.  But it was padlocked and clearly not opening any time soon.  So we ended up going back to The Cupboard for a delicious breakfast.  It’s funny – I almost never eat breakfast at home.  I am usually just not in the mood.  But on vacation, I always want breakfast – a big one with eggs, pig-something, grits and biscuits!  Even at the beach, where it’s hot and you’d think all I’d want is maybe fruit and toast.  

The majority of our day was spent at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.  The Lorraine Motel is the place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, just 2 months before Bobby Kennedy.  I remember that terrible year and those events even though I was only 9.  We lived in Alexandria, VA, just outside of Washington, DC.  The day after Dr. King was killed the riots started in Washington.  I remember my mother calling from work that afternoon and saying that she might be late because of the ‘trouble’.  She didn’t have a car and the bus system was disrupted.  I think she ended up getting a ride home from someone, but she was still late.  I was so frightened and confused.  My mom, unlike the rest of her family, was a Democrat and pretty liberal and that was how she was raising me.  I knew about the problems that our country faced with regards to race (at least as much as a child could) and I knew about Dr. King.  I was too young to remember the March on Washington, but knew about and was stirred by his “I have a dream” speech.  I knew about non-violence and couldn’t understand why people were being violent when they were sad about Dr. King.  I was much too young to understand frustration and what years of being mistreated and oppressed can do to a person.  As an adult, I can conceive it, but, being white, I can’t really KNOW it. 

Years later, in high school, I did a year-long term paper on Three Pacifist Leaders in History: Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  I really researched, for the first time, the history of race in America and the miracle of Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement.  It opened my eyes and broke my heart, both that people could be so cruel to their fellow man and that Dr. King and the non-violence movement could exist in the midst of so much hate.  I learned of recent lynchings (and for the first time, realized the meaning of the song “Strange Fruit”), of the Ku Klux Klan (which I had thought was pretty much moribund) and of what could be accomplished when people got together and said “this must stop”.  I was astounded by the courage of the people in the movement.  And by the courage of Dr. King, who knew he was a target and even spoke about not being here for the journey. 

I should say that there are two periods of history that disturb me to the point that I avoid reading about them or watching movies or TV programs about them.  Those are the Holocaust and the years leading up to the Civil Rights movement.  Even thinking about these times causes extreme anxiety and so, childishly, I tend to evade them.  I haven’t seen the Holocaust museum in Washington yet, even though it has been open since 1993 and I’ve been up there numerous times.  I haven’t even been to the one in Richmond VA – WHERE I LIVE.  So, as you can imagine, going to the Civil Rights museum, the actual spot where one of my heroes was killed was not high on my vacation wish list.  But I knew that I needed to go, that it was an important place – both historically and to me. 

Before we even got to the museum, we sighted this Historical Marker nearby.  It set the somber tone:

If the day before I’d wandered through Stax with a smile on my face, this day I walked through the museum clutching a tissue with tears running down my face.  Mr. Kim and I hardly spoke to one another – we each went at our own pace and came together occasionally.  And we took hardly any pictures.   Neither did anyone else.  I snapped one in the first gallery, but the tone and mood of the place quickly penetrated.  Taking pictures here would be as appropriate as taking them at a funeral. This is the sign at the motel and a picture of the motel balcony with a permanent wreath:

I can’t see that balcony without seeing the image of everyone one it pointing to where the shot had come from and Dr. King crumpled on the cement. 

The museum is truly a wonder and a national treasure.  The museum encompasses the motel, including a glassed in walk-through of his actual room set up how it must have looked that evening.  Attached to that is the real ‘museum’ part with incredible exhibits spanning the history of African-Americans and the civil rights struggle in this country.  Starting in Africa and going up through the present day, including human trafficking and child labor and female rights suppression across the world.  To say that it is complete and awe inspiring is not enough.  Nothing that I could say would explain the impact of it.  Every single person in the US should tour it and experience it. 

The other part of the complex includes the rooming house where the fatal shot came from.  This building is filled with exhibits detailing the search for the shooter and subsequent investigations.  Seeing that room, set up to look exactly like it looked the day that James Earl Ray aimed at Dr. King is heartrending.  The evil that people are willing to do from fear and prejudice is horrifying. 

It takes about four hours to really walk through it and look at everything.  Think of that – there was so much to see and read and experience within the confines of a small motel’s shell.  It was exceptionally well planned out, neither preachy nor incendiary, though this could easily have been either.  The museum ends as many do – with a path through the gift shop.  As with the photos, I couldn’t see profaning the place by walking out with an MLK I have a dream t-shirt or a wall plaque of a burned out bus.  We did buy an illustrated book on the museum itself for later viewing.  Most everyone was somber and reflective after the walk-through.

And then we went to dinner.  It is a little ridiculous how quickly the mundane follows the profound, huh?  But that’s the way life works.  Dr. King’s motel room had newspapers strewn around, half-filled coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays.  A life to get back to when he stepped back into his room.  Except he didn’t – and life changed for so many. 

Dinner was at Payne’s BBQ:
This place was highly recommended by the folks at  Just a neighborhood joint like so many of the places that we went to.  These places are the kind that the South abounds in.  Little places that seem to be hardly worth a glance, a bit shabby and in sketchy neighborhoods.  But if you take a chance, you are likely to find something truly special.  We certainly did at Cozy Corner and we did again this day at Payne’s.  “Where’s my BBQ?”:

I had to try the tamale:
I grew up eating canned Hormel tamales.  Everyone in my mom’s family ate them.  I didn’t know anyone else that liked them, or even knew what they were.  My mother’s family only.  This made no sense to me – we were of Italian extraction and they all were brought up in the South – the Mississippi Delta region, NOT Texas or Arizona.  When I grew up and started learning about food and food culture, I finally put it together.  Tamales are a HUGE thing in the Delta.  There are lots of theories as to why, but it seems that tamales have been part of the Delta food culture since at least the 1920’s.  The Delta includes towns like Clarksdale, Rosedale and Shelby - towns that I grew up hearing about.  THEN I got it.  Turns out that those canned ones are a little mild.  This tamale was a LOT meatier and a good bit spicier than the canned ones.  It was delicious, but I couldn’t finish it!  We also went for a chopped sandwich and ribs:

The sauce was fantastic.  Almost as good as Cozy Corner’s.  And the mustard slaw is one of our favorites, too.  We discovered mustard slaw at a little cement block box of a place somewhere in NC and fell in love.  It is the perfect BBQ slaw.  The ribs were gorgeous – meaty, fatty and porky!  That is a half portion!  We were still eating it when we got home (NEVER travel without a cooler!).  We found these cookies at Payne’s and also at a little corner store we stopped at for drinks:
I wish I’d bought a case.  I figured if they were made by somebody’s momma, they’d be good.  Check out that ingredient list: flour, sugar, butter, vanilla and baking soda.  They were the perfect, simple cookie – deep butter and vanilla flavor and crisp! 

We made one more stop, this time in downtown at the Cake Gallery.  Kim was doing her pre-shopping to plan on what we would come back for as we were leaving town.  This boutique appears to serve sandwiches and light lunches (we were not there at the right time for this) and delightful layer cakes in interesting flavors.  Kim made mental notes on what to buy later, and picked up some cookies for our long drive back to the hotel in Arkansas (about 5 miles away.)

Back to the hotel to organize and pack up.  We are sorry to leave Memphis – we truly fell in love with the city and hope we get to come back sometime!