Memphis, TN – morning
Well, I’m in Memphis doing a little laundry before I leave town, and you can’t leave the machines unattended. Well, I mean, you _can_, but the signs are written in a manner that suggests possible gunplay if you try it. So I brought along the laptop and I’m getting updates done.
Late late late last night I ended up writing about Graceland, I guess it was something that just wouldn’t wait until morning. I’m kind of interested to see how people react to it. It’s easy to be funny (and this is what most people have said they enjoy about the updates) when situations are existentially meaningless, but I just couldn’t make light of what happened at Graceland. So we’ll see if anybody thinks I can write about serious stuff.
The rest of the day was great, too. I went downtown, despite the warnings of the the folks who run the KOA here to keep my doors locked and windows rolled up the entire trip (yeah, right. I’ve got no AC in the Tracker. If I kept the windows rolled up my head would have exploded) and be sure to park in a guarded garage if I hoped to ever see my car again (well, my bike is on top, and the first three garage parking areas were too low-ceilinged for me to get in. So I just parked on the road. Everybody’s still alive and well).
First stop, Beale St. Pleah. It might have been hot stuff at one point, but now it’s all overpriced bar/restaurants and more of the snow-globe ashtray variety gift shops (what does a “gift” like that say to someone? “I have no taste and I thought you wouldn’t either?” “I was on my way home, and remembered at the last minute that I’d better get you something?” “I really shouldn’t be allowed to spend money without supervision?”). To be fair, I was there in the middle of the afternoon, and some of the bar/restaurants were presumably overpriced because they had live music at night. So perhaps Beale jumps, jives, and wails at night. But it was doodley-squat during the day.
Union Ave was next on my list. The Peabody Hotel is there, and I stopped in to see the famous ducks. There they were, in the fountain in the lobby bar, which was, by the way, packed with people having cocktails. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I’d done my share of hotel lobby boozing it up on the company’s dime while business traveling, but thinking about it now, it was only about 1:30 in the afternoon. Do these people ever work? Of course, look who’s asking _that_ question… I mentally noted that the duck procession was scheduled to head upstairs at five.
I walked down Main St. for awhile. Nothing. Truly, it was mostly buildings for lease. I saw maybe five people. Well, actually, I did see one cool store, a vintage guitar shop. They did, in fact have a reverse-body Firebird, but they wanted $3250 for it. I rarely see those guitars, but that still seemed high. My suspicion was confirmed when I noticed several Fender Mustangs priced between $800 and $1000. They were more like $400 to $600 guitars. And besides, none of the three people working there so much as condescended to say hello to me. Guess I’ll take my $3250 elsewhere.
I wanted to see Sun Studio, but I didn’t know where it was. I thought it was supposed to be right there on Union Ave. Luckily, I noticed a sign: “Memphis Tourism Office.” Bingo, they had maps and booklets of all variety.
Turns out Sun _is_ on Union Ave, just way way _down_ Union Ave. I decided to make the pilgrimage and get some exercise in the process.
A half hour of walking and about four gallons of sweating later, I was there, and just five minutes before the next tour was supposed to start. In I went.
Sun Studio is three rooms. There’s an entry room, the studio itself, and the control room. And the tour didn’t go into the control room (All the equipment in there had been updated, the tour guide said, and so was not historically significant). That brought the cost of the tour to a grand total of 4 dollars per room.
NOTE: between last paragraph and next, many hours and miles went by, and we’re now coming to you live from St. Louis. Really, I can see the arch… But now back to our regularly scheduled update.
They tried to make up for the lack of area on the tour with audio: the guide would point to a picture of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin’ Wolf, or whoever, then play some of the recording session, one tape generation away from the original master, right there on the studio monitors. It was pretty neat, but in order to get to everything in the half-hour “tour,” you sure didn’t get to hear much of any given song.
I probably would have given them eight bucks to just go stand in the studio awhile, so I wasn’t particularly unhappy that that, essentially, is what happened. But as we were leaving, I got the feeling that not everyone there shared my viewpoint on this.
Another half-hour walk, back into the city. I had about an hour and fifteen minutes until the duck march, so I thought I’d do the RiverWalk on Mud Island. Mud Island is a long skinny bit of business about two good Frisbee throws into the Mississippi from Memphis. The Memphis Belle sits in retirement there, along with the RiverWalk, a few shops, and a museum.
At this point in my journey and my day, I was about museumed out. Add to that only just over an hour in the future, I wanted to check out those ducks. Add to that I was beginning to do some math in my head and I realized what I’d spent so far today, so I decided on asking for the four dollar ticket that just got you onto the island, rather than the eight dollar ticket that allowed museum access as well. I stated this as simply as I could: “One adult, no museum,” and handed her a ten. After I turned around, I realized she’d given me the eight dollar ticket and two singles, rather than the four dollar ticket, a one and a five (I must have hallucinating at this point in the day, I swear I saw a five when she was handing me change). So she screwed up a full 25 percent of my four word request. From where I was standing, it was pretty much the important part, too. I was pretty worn down, and decided not to fight about it.
I went upstairs and got on the “monorail.” I have no idea who thought this gondola hanging on a wire could be accurately described as a monorail. More of a no,norail. If that bothered me, you could tell I was getting a little tired and cranky at that point.
I did the museum first, figuring to get some value for the extra four bucks. The first room was yada yada yada. The plaque on the wall leading to the next room said something like enjoy our re-creation of an 1800s side-wheeler. Through the door was maybe 20 by 30 foot room, with a piano at one end, a little stateroom with two bunk beds, and a little bar with vintage bottles. “How swell,” I smirked to myself as I walked out the other side of the “re-creation”…
And onto the bow of the boat. The room I’d come from was the second of three stories of a huge indoor steamboat. Well, the front end of the steamboat, anyway. But still, they did some nice work on that. I was impressed. I went up to the pilot’s room, and down to the engine room. Nifty.
Later, not having learned my lesson, I was rather blase about their “through the next door is our Union Gunship re-creation,” which was actually just a low-ceilinged room with big wooden cannon pointed out the windows. “Phhh,” I phhhed, until turning the corner to realize it was another multi-story roomful, the gunboat was almost complete on the outside, and there were Rebel cannon on a section of fort across the way. Again, most nifty.
Nothing else in the museum compared to those displays, unless you count the turn-of-the-century Gibson Archtop guitar, the first vintage guitar I’d actually seen (Graceland had a reproduction displayed, but at least it was in the original leather, personalized guitar cover Elvis often used. Sun had nothing but repros. And they were all for sale, which sat rather ill with me for some reason). That was pretty cool.
By now I’d realized that I was going to miss the duck procession, so I took my time around the Memphis Belle and the RiverWalk. The RiverWalk is actually pretty cool, too: it’s a half-mile long scale model of the upper Mississippi, with real running water, geographically accurate contours, and maps of the cities alongside.
I took a bunch of pictures and headed back to RV sweet home. Cleaned up, had some decent ribs, and got out a guitar.